Abu Ghraib officer faces 12 charges

Former head of interrogations center is highest-ranking official to be prosecuted


WASHINGTON -- The Army filed 12 charges yesterday against the former head of the interrogation center at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, making him the highest-ranking officer to face criminal prosecution in the abuse scandal.

Only one of the charges accuses Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan with direct involvement in the abusing of Iraqi prisoners, alleging that he subjected detainees "to forced nudity and intimidation by military working dogs."

The other charges largely mirror findings of an initial 2003 Army investigation into the prison by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who found that Jordan misled investigators and was lax in his training and supervision of soldiers under his command. Those failures "resulted in the abuse of Iraqi detainees," the charges state.

An Army spokesman said Jordan, an Army reservist who has been on active duty for 3 1/2 years, could face 42 years in prison if convicted on all charges. The lawyer assigned to his case did not return calls seeking comment.

The charges mark the first time a commissioned officer has been criminally charged in the Abu Ghraib case and is the latest sign that legal pressure against senior officers tied to the abuse scandal is intensifying.

Last week, a military judge ordered Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to testify at the court-martial of another soldier accused of abuses at Abu Ghraib next month. Miller had been sent by the Pentagon from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Iraq to improve intelligence gathering and interrogation techniques at Iraqi prisons,

He has invoked his rights against self-incrimination in the past but is expected to testify in what could be the most highly anticipated court appearance in the case to date.

The only other officer to be officially reprimanded thus far is Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commander of the military intelligence brigade at Abu Ghraib and Jordan's immediate superior, who was fined $8,000 and relieved of his command but not criminally charged.

Ten low-ranking soldiers have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the scandal, including dog handler Sgt. Michael J. Smith, who was convicted last month. Pappas, testifying in the case under a grant of immunity, acknowledged that he incorrectly approved the use of a military dog in a prison interrogation because he misunderstood guidelines put in place by his commanding officer.

When the prison abuse was made public in April 2004, it enraged Iraqis and the Muslim world and prompted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to twice offer his resignation to President Bush.

In addition to the charge of cruelty to prisoners, Jordan was charged with two counts of disobeying orders, three counts of dereliction of duty, and four counts of either lying to investigators or interfering with their inquiry. He also was accused of two fraud charges for claiming expenses on auto repairs for more money than they cost.

At Abu Ghraib, Jordan supervised the interrogation task force. According to accounts by those around him, he sometimes worked to exhaustion, losing his composure and contributing to the chaotic situation at the crowded, understaffed facility.

Peter Spiegel writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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