FORT MEADE, Md. – The commander in charge of Guantanamo Bay prison visited Abu Ghraib (search) in 2003 and recommended the use of military dogs during interrogations, the former warden in Iraq testified Wednesday at a hearing for two Army dog handlers accused of prisoner abuse.
"We understood that he was sent over by the secretary of defense," Maj. David Dinenna testified.
He said teams of trainers were also sent to Abu Ghraib "to take these interrogation techniques, other techniques they learned at Guantanamo Bay (search), and try to incorporate them in Iraq."
The former warden's testimony follows defense claims that using unmuzzled dogs to terrify Abu Ghraib inmates was sanctioned high up the chain of command and wasn't just a game played by two rogue soldiers, as the government claims.
Investigations into detainee abuse have led to charges against several soldiers at the prison but have found no fault with high-level leaders such as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search), although critics charge the military has been unable to properly investigate its top-level leadership.
The then-commander of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who later went to Iraq to oversee detainee operations and is now in a Pentagon position unrelated to prisons.
Dinenna's testimony came at the end of a two-day preliminary hearing to determine whether the dog handlers, Sgts. Santos A. Cardona and Michael J. Smith, should face a court-martial.
Prosecutors say the two used their dogs in a competition to frighten prisoners into urinating on themselves in December 2003 and January 2004.
Maj. Matthew Miller portrayed the defendants as "walking around the Abu Ghraib hard site prison on their own, doing the criminal misconduct." The hard site is where detainees targeted for interrogation were held. Many of the photos that sparked a scandal over U.S. treatment of detainees were taken there.
Defense lawyers contended their clients were following orders.
"They did what they were instructed to do," said Harvey J. Volzer, civilian attorney for Cardona, 31, of Fullerton, Calif.
The investigating officer, Maj. Glenn Simpkins, will take up to two weeks to consider the evidence and make a recommendation.
One interrogator, Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Aston, testified that the only clear instruction about how dogs were to be used during interrogations at Abu Ghraib came from Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the prison.
Pappas said dogs could be used during interrogations if they were muzzled, Aston said.
Pappas was reprimanded and fined in May after stating he had failed to get approval from his commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, before approving limited use of dogs.
Cardona and Smith, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are charged with cruelty and maltreatment, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, aggravated assault, dereliction of duty and making false official statements.
Cardona faces a maximum 16 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all nine counts against him. Smith, who also is charged with committing an indecent act, could be imprisoned for 29 1/2 years if convicted on 14 counts.