Officer's Role at Abu Ghraib Played Down
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the only officer charged in connection with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, did not train, supervise or work directly with interrogators who questioned detainees, the prison's top military intelligence officer testified yesterday.
Testifying for the prosecution in Jordan's court-martial at Fort Meade, Col. Thomas M. Pappas said that Jordan's duties centered on improving the quality of life for soldiers at the austere base outside Baghdad and improving the flow of intelligence information -- not on the interrogations or harsh methods of eliciting information approved for use at the time.
Pappas, who headed military intelligence efforts at Abu Ghraib in 2003 and was reprimanded for his role in the scandal, testified on cross-examination that he had advised Jordan to "let the experienced interrogators run the interrogations."
Jordan, who had no experience questioning detainees, was not responsible for supervising the military police soldiers who worked at the prison, Pappas testified. They operated under a separate chain of command, he said.
Pappas's testimony appeared to undermine prosecutors' assertions that Jordan was in charge of interrogation operations at the facility in Iraq. That, the government contends, would have required him to train and supervise interrogators and ensure compliance with regulations.
It also goes to the heart of two dereliction-of-duty charges against him. Prosecutors have maintained that Jordan's ineffective leadership created an atmosphere that led to abuse by military police soldiers, leading to the infamous photographs taken in the prison's "hardsite" facility.
"The abuses were concentrated at the hardsite. The hardsite was under the control of military intelligence. Lieutenant Colonel Jordan was in charge of the interrogators," Lt. Col. John P. Tracy, a prosecutor, said during his opening statement. ". . . Lieutenant Colonel Jordan's tenure at Abu Ghraib was a short period of time. During that period of time, a lot of things went wrong. A lot."
Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, who was in charge of interrogation operations at the facility, testified that Jordan did monitor some interrogations and took part in one interrogation of an alleged criminal detainee. Wood said she saw nothing wrong with his participation.
Jordan's court-martial has produced a new government theory in the Abu Ghraib cases. Military prosecutors are working to link Jordan's military intelligence role with the abuse that soldiers are known to have committed, after years of government lawyers arguing that the abuse was committed solely by rogue military police soldiers who were not connected to interrogation efforts.
Jordan's defense team has argued that he had no role in supervising interrogators or military police soldiers. Yesterday, Pappas, a prosecution witness, agreed.
"Lieutenant Colonel Jordan had no command authority over anyone at Abu Ghraib," said Maj. Kris Poppe, one of Jordan's defense lawyers, who later told jury members that his client had worked hard to improve soldiers' lives. "Lieutenant Colonel Jordan was a strong leader. The evidence will not show that Lieutenant Colonel Jordan abused any detainees or that he was present when any detainees were abused."
Pappas also played down prosecution arguments that Jordan was in charge of an inquiry into a shooting at the prison, during which Iraqi police officers were strip-searched and dogs were used to comb cells for contraband. Jordan faces a charge of cruelty and maltreatment for that episode, but Pappas said he witnessed two hours of the investigation, saw the dogs, and found no abuse or reason to believe anything was wrong. Pappas said military police led the probe.
Unlike Jordan, who is facing trial nearly four years after the alleged abuse, Pappas received a reprimand and a fine for his admitted approval of the use of dogs in an interrogation. Janice L. Karpinski, a former one-star general who commanded the military police soldiers at Abu Ghraib, was reprimanded and demoted.
Defense lawyers have chosen not to address the most serious charge against Jordan -- that he allegedly contacted another soldier about a 2004 investigation into the abuse cases after a two-star general ordered him not to do so. That charge carries a maximum possible sentence of five years, more than half the total maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years that Jordan now faces.
The jury of nine colonels and one brigadier general is scheduled to hear testimony this week and possibly next week. Jurors have been active, asking questions of witnesses as allowed in military trials. The jury's president -- or foreman -- is Brig. Gen. Louis W. Weber, vice director of the Army staff at the Pentagon.