FORT MEADE, Maryland – A general visiting Abu Ghraib prison urged guards and interrogators to use dogs "as much as possible" with detainees, a former supervisor testified Thursday.
The statement by Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, a military police reservist who ran the Iraq prison in summer 2003, differed from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller's testimony a day earlier that he encouraged the use of dogs only for custody and control of detainees.
Both men testified at the court-martial of Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler and military policeman accused of having his Belgian shepherd bite one detainee and harass another at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004.
The jury also heard stipulated testimony — statements agreed to by both sides — that rumors were circulating at the prison during that period that Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and his then-top deputy Paul Wolfowitz were scrutinizing intelligence coming out of Abu Ghraib.
Thursday's testimony supported the defense theory that harsh interrogation techniques, including the use of dogs, were sanctioned at the highest levels of the Pentagon and communicated ineptly through a muddled chain of command to low-ranking MPs who felt obliged to take orders from freewheeling civilian contractor interrogators.
Phillabaum said Miller, then commander of the U.S. detention center for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, mentioned dogs during a meeting with Abu Ghraib supervisors in early September 2003.
"General Miller encouraged the use of dogs as much as possible," said Phillabaum, testifying as a defense witness.
Under cross-examination by Maj. Christopher Graveline, chief prosecutor of the Abu Ghraib abuse cases, Phillabaum said Miller "encouraged the use of dogs as much as possible in the normal operations of the confinement operations."
Neither Phillabaum nor Miller testified that the general ever recommended using dogs for interrogations. The use of muzzled dogs in interrogations was permitted, though, by a memo signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, on Sept. 14, 2003, five days after Miller's visit.
The same memo advised that having a canine present "exploits Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations." Miller testified Wednesday as a defense witness that he was aware of the supposed Arab cultural phobia. The phrase was removed from interrogation rules posted at Abu Ghraib on Oct. 12, 2003.
Phillabaum lost responsibility for general oversight of Abu Ghraib to Col. Thomas Pappas, an intelligence officer who arrived at the prison in September 2003 as part of Miller's reorganization plan for producing better intelligence about the Iraqi insurgency. Pappas testified Wednesday that Phillabaum was "an ineffectual leader."
In May 2005, Pappas was reprimanded, fined $8,000 and relieved of his command of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade for failing to get Sanchez' required approval for a one-time use of a dog for an interrogation. Pappas is the highest-ranking officer disciplined for the improper use of dogs at the prison.
Phillabaum was reprimanded and relieved of command of the 320th Military Police Battalion in April 2004 for his role in the abuse scandal.
Cardona, 32, of Fullerton, Calif., is charged with assault, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees and lying to investigators. He faces up to 16 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all nine counts.
Ten low-ranking soldiers have been convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, in many cases by forcing them to assume painful or sexually humiliating positions.