Abu Ghraib charges near

Colonel oversaw interrogation


WASHINGTON --The Army plans to charge Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, former head of the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, with dereliction of duty, lying to investigators and conduct unbecoming an officer, the officer's lawyer said yesterday.

Jordan would be the highest-ranking officer at Abu Ghraib to face criminal charges in the abuses at the prison. Ten low-ranking soldiers who served at the prison outside Baghdad have been convicted.

The highest-ranking officer convicted in any of the prisoner abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan is Capt. Shawn Martin of the Army, who was found guilty in March of kicking detainees and staging the mock execution of a prisoner. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail and fined $12,000. Other more senior officers have been reprimanded, fined and relieved of command.

Samuel Spitzberg, a former Army lawyer who was Jordan's attorney in Baghdad in 2004, said a military lawyer for the Military District of Washington had alerted him to the impending charges but that he had not seen the exact details. Spitzberg, an assistant district attorney in Albany, N.Y., said he expected to return to active duty to defend the officer again.

"We've not had an opportunity to review the evidence and look forward to doing that and determining whether there is a direct link with the abuses at Abu Ghraib," Spitzberg said in telephone interview.

Jordan, a reservist who has remained on active duty for three years, is stationed in the Washington area, said Spitzberg, who added that the officer was not making any public statement.

An Army spokesman, Maj. Wayne Marotto, said in an e-mail message, "The disposition of alleged offenses against LTC Jordan are still under consideration by the chain of command."

If Jordan is charged, the next step would be the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding to determine whether he would face court-martial, administrative punishment or no penalty.

Jordan was the director of the joint interrogation and debriefing center at Abu Ghraib from the time it was established in September 2003 to December 2003, as demands for better intelligence to combat the rising insurgency were growing in Washington and at the U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad.

Jordan said he was ill equipped to oversee the interrogations task force at Abu Ghraib. He was a civil affairs officer by training, and his assignment had been to set up a database at the interrogations center for tracking information gleaned from the prisoners.

"I've no training on the military side of what constitutes interrogations operations," Jordan told Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, a senior Army investigator.

A second panel, headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, concluded that Jordan was a weak leader lacking experience in interrogation and that he ceded core responsibilities to subordinates. The panel also said he failed to train and supervise appropriately.

A third investigation, by three Army generals, recommended in August 2004 that the Army punish the top two military intelligence officers at the prison, Colonel Jordan and his immediate superior, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, saying they bore responsibility for what happened even though they were not directly involved in abusing prisoners.

Pappas was fined $8,000 and given a written reprimand for dereliction of duty, but no criminal charges were fiiled.

In June 2004, the commander of the military police company whose members have been charged with abusing prisoners testified at a hearing in Iraq that one night in November 2003, someone he called Jordan was part of a group of people in a room at the prison with the bloodied body of an Iraqi prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, who had died during interrogation.

It was not clear from the testimony of the commander, Capt. Donald Reese, whether he was referring to Colonel Jordan. Reese testified that the people in the group were discussing what to do. While the group was gathered around the body, he testified, the man he identified as Jordan ordered a lower-ranking officer to "get some ice out of the chow hall" to store the body.

The body of the Iraqi detainee, pictured wrapped in plastic and packed in ice, became one of the most infamous and enduring images to emerge during the prisoner abuse scandal.

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