Abu Ghraib Officer Backs Dog Handler's Methods

The Army officer who directly oversaw security at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison testified Thursday at a dog handler's court-martial that there was nothing inhumane about having a dog bark at detainees.

Maj. David DiNenna said unmuzzled dogs helped maintain order at the prison.

He was among the last witnesses to testify in defense of one of his former soldiers, Sgt. Michael Smith, who is accused of participating in abuse at the prison, where detainees were bitten by dogs and assaulted and sexually humiliated by guards in late 2003 and early 2004.

Smith's lawyers later rested their case, leaving it in the hands of a military jury, which was scheduled to begin deliberations on Friday.

Smith, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is charged with 13 offenses that could bring him up to 24 1/2 years in prison if convicted. Fellow dog handler Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 31, of Fullerton, Calif., is set to stand trial May 22.

Prosecutors say the two used the dogs to terrify inmates as part of a macabre and illegal game. Smith's attorneys say he was just following orders.

On Wednesday, Abu Ghraib's former military intelligence chief, testifying for the defense under a grant of immunity, told the court he regretted not setting "appropriate controls" there.

"In hindsight, clearly we probably needed to establish some definitive rules and put out some clear guidance to everybody concerned," Col. Thomas M. Pappas said.

He said under cross-examination that a photograph showing Smith's unmuzzled dog straining at its leash just inches from the face of a terrified prisoner wasn't consistent with any policy or guidance.

Smith's lawyers contend the alleged offenses stem from his dog simply barking at detainees.

When a detainee would become unruly, DiNenna said "you come in with a show of force — and of course, for a dog, that's barking."

"If you take a muzzled dog to an uprising, it doesn't have any effect on the situation," he said.

Pappas had told the court at Fort George G. Meade that the dogs were to be used "to assist in setting conditions for interrogations."

The technique — recommended in a policy dated Sept. 14, 2003 — required that the dogs wear muzzles and be controlled by their handlers, and that interrogators get case-by-case approval from Pappas' supervisor, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

Pappas said he signed one such request on Dec. 14, 2003, for interrogating one of three prisoners said to have been captured with Saddam Hussein a day earlier. Pappas said he approved the request, mistakenly thinking he had that authority under a revised policy he called "confusing."

In May, Pappas was reprimanded, fined $8,000 and relieved of his command of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade for failing to get Sanchez's approval in that case.

Other testimony in the trial, which began Monday, has revealed conflicting notions among prison workers about how dogs were supposed to be used, what the approval process was and where interrogations were supposed to occur.