Defense Focuses on Abu Ghraib Toga Party as Key to Who Was in Charge

Defense attorneys focused on a Halloween toga party at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as they tried to establish who was in charge when detainees there were abused.

The attorneys, representing Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, said Col. Thomas Pappas, then commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, resided at Abu Ghraib and was directly in charge of an interrogation center at the complex when he attended the morale-boosting event in 2003.

Johnson, the highest-ranking officer charged with crimes at the prison, was nominally the center's director, but he wasn't responsible for the forced nudity and intimidation by dogs that some Abu Ghraib prisoners endured, the defense contended Tuesday.

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The Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, is to determine whether Jordan should be court-martialed for any of the 12 charges he faces, including cruelty and maltreatment. He could be sentenced to up to 42 years in prison if convicted.

The timing of Jordan's responsibilities at Abu Ghraib is important because four of his alleged offenses are said to have occurred between Sept. 17 and Dec. 24, 2003, when he was supposedly in charge of a newly created centralized interrogation center.

In testimony Wednesday, Army Sgt. Hydrue Joyner remembered Jordan for his small kindnesses.

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Joyner, testifying for the defense, was a reserve military police soldier guarding prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003. He said Jordan once let Joyner call home on his satellite telephone to wish his son a happy birthday. He said he never saw Jordan participate in the interrogation of prisoners.

Pappas testified Tuesday that Jordan, a civil affairs officer with military intelligence training, had been sent to Abu Ghraib to run the center as Pappas' deputy.

That leadership of the center was "in transition" for some time until late November, when Pappas took control, he said. Pappas said he moved his headquarters to Abu Ghraib on Nov. 19.

But defense witness Maj. Mike Thompson, who testified by telephone from Jacksonville, Fla., said that within a week of Jordan's arrival in mid-September, word came down that Pappas was in charge of the center.

"There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Col. Pappas was the (Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center) commander. No doubt whatsoever," said Thompson, a military intelligence officer who assisted with operations at Abu Ghraib in 2003.

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On the night of the party, Thompson said some officers went to Pappas' quarters and asked him to speak to the troops.

"Colonel Pappas came in and spoke to them to try to lift their spirits," Thompson said.

Thompson said Pappas had quarters installed in a building at Abu Ghraib sometime between Sept. 20 and Halloween. Although Pappas didn't stay there every night, his operations chief, Maj. Maurice Williams, had told Thompson that Pappas, not Jordan, was in charge of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center, Thompson said.

The center was created as part of a reorganization aimed at extracting better intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.

Pappas has not been criminally charged. He was reprimanded and fined $8,000 for once approving the use of dogs during an interrogation without higher approval. Several other officers also have been reprimanded for their roles in the scandal.

Eleven lower-ranking soldiers have been convicted of crimes at Abu Ghraib.

Jordan, 50, of Fredericksburg, Va., is now assigned to the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.