Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller told top officers during an advisory visit to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison that they needed to get military working dogs for use in interrogations, and he advocated procedures then in use at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.
Maj. David DiNenna, the top military police operations officer at Abu Ghraib in 2003, said that when Miller and a team of Guantanamo Bay officials visited in early September 2003, Miller advocated mirroring the Cuba operation.
"We understood he was sent over by the secretary of defense," DiNenna testified by telephone. DiNenna said Miller and his team were at Abu Ghraib "to take their interrogation techniques they used at Guantanamo Bay and incorporate them into Iraq."
DiNenna's testimony at a preliminary hearing for two Army dog handlers provided additional confirmation that the Guantanamo teams brought their aggressive interrogation tactics to Iraq in the weeks before abuse was committed there. While methods employed at Abu Ghraib -- including hooding, nudity and placing prisoners in stress positions -- have been characterized by senior defense officials as rogue, abusive horseplay on the night shift, some of them had been authorized for experienced interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. Dogs, seen menacing detainees at Abu Ghraib in grisly photographs, were also used in Cuba under Miller's command.
The defense teams for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona and Sgt. Michael J. Smith argued during their two-day hearing at Fort Meade, Md., that the dog handlers were doing their jobs when their dogs bit a naked detainee whose cell was being searched for contraband. Defense lawyers portrayed their clients as following orders -- from both military intelligence and military police officials -- they believed to be appropriate.
"They were told to listen to the interrogators and to do what they told them to do," Harvey Volzer, a civilian attorney representing Cardona, said after the hearing.
Cardona and Smith, who face potentially lengthy sentences should they be convicted at court-martial, were charged this summer after an initial criminal investigation in early 2004 found that allegations of abuse against them were unfounded, according to their attorneys. It was only after photographs of the two dog handlers surfaced publicly that they again faced legal scrutiny.
Maj. Matthew Miller, a prosecutor in this week's preliminary hearing, said yesterday in a closing statement that there is "copious evidence" that Cardona and Smith abused detainees beyond the scope of their duties. "The pictures, to a large extent, speak for themselves," he said.
The investigating officer, Maj. Glenn Simpkins, is expected to make a recommendation on the dog handlers' cases within the next two weeks. The case could go to a court-martial, could result in administrative punishment, or could be dismissed.
The use of military dogs to exploit fear in detainees was approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use on a specific important detainee in Cuba in late 2002 and early 2003.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller was later sent to Iraq for 10 days with a team of 17 Guantanamo Bay interrogators and analysts beginning Aug. 31, 2003. A spokesman said Miller was on leave and could not be reached for comment.
DiNenna also supported claims made by Janis L. Karpinski, then a brigadier general in charge of U.S. prisons in Iraq as the commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, that Miller said he wanted to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib.
DiNenna said Miller used that term in an outdoor meeting at the prison's Camp Vigilant -- a meeting that included DiNenna, Karpinski and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who was the top military intelligence officer there and later ran the prison. At that meeting, DiNenna said, Miller made it clear he wanted Abu Ghraib to reflect the Guantanamo facility.
"He said they used dogs at [Guantanamo], how they were effective at [Guantanamo], and asked why we didn't have working dogs," DiNenna testified. "He was going to talk to [Lt. Gen. Ricardo S.] Sanchez and get us the resources we needed."
The dogs, which had been requested previously to help with security, arrived a few weeks later.