WASHINGTON – The Army reprimanded and fined a colonel who was in charge of an intelligence unit at Abu Ghraib (search) prison in Iraq during the period of prisoner abuse, but the service chose not to press criminal charges, an official said Wednesday.
Col. Thomas M. Pappas (search), commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, based in Germany, had faced the possibility of criminal prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but a two-star general instead administered what the military calls nonjudicial punishment.
Pappas is among the highest ranking officers whose actions have been scrutinized in the abuse scandal. Only one general — Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (search) — has been punished. She was demoted to colonel.
The question of whether Pappas would be relieved of his command had not been settled Wednesday, according to an Army official who discussed the matter only on condition of anonymity because it had not been publicly announced.
Pappas was not accused of ordering abuse or participating in it, but the Army said some soldiers under his command were involved and he was faulted for two instances of dereliction of duty.
Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams, who decided not to press criminal charges, ordered Pappas to repay $8,000 in salary and gave him an official letter of reprimand. Taken together the penalties essentially stop him from being promoted in rank and thus hasten the end of his career.
Williams is commander of the 21st Theater Support Command. He was given the task of deciding the Pappas case because Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the 5th Corps commander who might otherwise have handled it, had to recuse himself in light of questions about his own role in Abu Ghraib. The Army recently cleared Sanchez and two other generals of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Pappas had the option of refusing the nonjudicial punishment and contesting the allegations in a court martial, but he chose not to, the Army official said.
The Army said it verified a finding by previous Army investigations that Pappas had failed to obtain approval from superior commanders before authorizing an unsanctioned interrogation method: the presence of military dogs during interrogations as a method of scaring prisoners.
The Army also said Pappas was derelict in his duties by failing to ensure that soldiers under his command were informed of, trained in and supervised in the application of interrogation procedures.
The Abu Ghraib abuses happened mainly in the fall of 2003. They evoked outrage around the world when photographs were published in April 2004 depicting U.S. soldiers subjecting naked Iraqi detainees to sexual humiliation and physical abuse. One senior Army investigator described the abuses as "sadistic, blatant and wanton" criminal acts. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said he twice offered his resignation to President Bush in response to the public outcry, but Bush rejected the offers and asked him to stay for a second term.
Pappas is one of the higher ranking officers whom investigators said were partly to blame for a breakdown in discipline and other shortcomings that contributed to the misbehavior.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has said it intends to hold hearings to assess whether senior Defense Department civilian and military leaders were held accountable for Abu Ghraib.
An Army investigation of Abu Ghraib, known as the Fay-Jones-Kern report, concluded that Pappas failed to execute his assigned responsibilities, failed to properly discipline his soldiers, failed to learn from prior mistakes and failed to provide continued training in the detention mission.
"The absence of effective leadership was a factor in not sooner discovering and taking actions to prevent both the violent/sexual abuse incidents and the misinterpretation/confusion incidents," the Fay-Jones-Kern report concluded last year.
That report also said the command relationship between Pappas' brigade and Karpinski's brigade was "dysfunctional," but it said the primary cause of the most egregious violent and sexual abuses was the individual "criminal propensities" of the individual perpetrators, not the commanders.
The Army has yet to announce the outcome of its review of the case against Lt. Col. Stephen Jordan, who directed the prison's interrogation center. He could face criminal charges, Army officials have said.