FORT MEADE, Maryland – Military dog handlers at Abu Ghraib were supposed to help interrogators but not during actual interrogations, the two-star general who reviewed operations at the prison in Iraq testified.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller testified for the defense Wednesday at the court-martial of Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler and military policeman accused of having his dog bite one detainee and harass another at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004.
The offenses are not alleged to have happened during interrogations but defense lawyers contend the rules and command structure at Abu Ghraib were hopelessly muddled. The court-martial is to continue Thursday.
Miller, testifying for the first time in a legal proceeding stemming from the Abu Ghraib scandal, said he never recommended using dogs during interrogations, despite his belief in a supposed Arab fear of canines.
Miller, who commanded the U.S. military prisons in Guantanamo Bay and later Iraq, told jurors he was sent from Guantanamo in late August 2003 with a team of 17 experts to review detention and interrogation operations that were not producing enough "strategic intelligence" about the Iraqi insurgency.
Miller's Sept. 9, 2003, report to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, recommended a reorganization that included using military police to set conditions for interrogations by providing interrogators with what Miller called "passive intelligence" about the prison habits of detainees.
Five days later, a memo signed by Sanchez allowed soldiers to "exploit Arab fear of dogs" during interrogations. The phrase was removed from interrogation rules that were later circulated at Abu Ghraib.
Questioned by defense attorney Harvey Volzer, Miller said that he was aware that there is a "fear of dogs in the Arab culture," but that he never recommended using dogs in interrogations.
"I found that military working dogs were effective in custody and control and so I found they were very useful at Guantanamo Bay," he said.
A military investigation into FBI reports of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo recommended that Miller be reprimanded for failing to oversee an interrogation of a high-value detainee that was found to have been abusive. A top general rejected the recommendation.
Prosecutors rested earlier Wednesday after calling 19 witnesses over three days.
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.
Prosecutors say Cardona abused detainees for his own amusement and the enjoyment of other soldiers characterized by prosecutors as a small band of "corrupt cops."