Strife at prison is shown

Witnesses say Abu Ghraib leaders disagreed

October 19, 2006|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN REPORTER

The Army command of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was "absolutely broken," with leaders refusing to work together and disagreeing over what interrogation tactics should be allowed, according to testimony in a military hearing yesterday.

The witnesses in the investigation of Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the highest-ranking officer charged in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, gave conflicting explanations for the nudity of detainees, with some saying it was accidental and others that humiliation was an interrogation strategy.

During a third day of testimony at Fort Meade, Sgt. Hydrue Joyner, a military police officer, asserted that some prisoners were naked at Abu Ghraib because they didn't want to wear clothes.

"We had some detainees that were mental cases, if you will ... that chose not to wear anything," Joyner told investigating officers in a telephone call from Washington.

Joyner later testified, under oath, that prisoners were naked because their prison-issued jumpsuits had fallen off. "The jumpsuits were deteriorating, falling apart ... so some wrapped themselves as best they could or didn't have anything," Joyner said.

But another witness, Capt. Donald Reese, who was in charge of protecting prisoners at Abu Ghraib, said he found the "very frequent" nudity of Iraqis "shocking" and part of a strategy to get prisoners to talk.

"I said, `Why didn't anybody have any clothes on?'" Reese said in written testimony that was read by prosecutor Capt. Jon Pavlovcak. And Jordan responded, "`it's an interrogation tactic that we use.'"

Reese said he objected to sleep deprivation as another strategy to get Iraqis to talk and refused to let the military police officers under his command practice it, although he said Army intelligence officers favored the tactic.

Reese demanded that the military intelligence officer leading most interrogations in Iraq, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, put the sleep deprivation order in writing, and Pappas complied, Reese testified.

The Army granted Pappas immunity for his testimony against Jordan, who was his subordinate. Pappas was fined $8,000 and given a letter of reprimand for allowing military intelligence officers under his command to use dogs improperly.

Testimony has differed over whether Pappas or Jordan was in charge of the interrogations at Abu Ghraib.

Lt. Col. Jeff Hamerick, who was assigned to protect U.S. forces at the overcrowded Iraqi jail, said the leadership problems at Abu Ghraib were complicated by internal tussles.

"It was broken there - absolutely broken, the leadership was," Hamerick testified over the phone from South Carolina.

Brigadier Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the U.S.-run prison system in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib, and Pappas, who was in charge of military intelligence in Iraq, "would not work together," Hamerick said.

"It was a dysfunctional relationship" between the military intelligence and the military police brigades, Hamerick said.

Leaders of the two forces, which were supposed to cooperate in detaining and questioning thousands of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, couldn't agree over who should protect the prison's walls from outside attack. So one of the four walls went unprotected, Hamerick said.

Although mortar attacks and gunfire aimed at U.S. guards was common - and at least one gun was smuggled into the prison - commanders couldn't agree on who should man empty prison guard towers, Hamerick said.

"I was looking at the morale," of the American soldiers, Hamerick said. "They said, `We are forgotten about here, nobody cares about us. ... Don't matter what you ask for, you aren't going to get it.'"

Stephen Pescatore, a private contractor then with Arlington, Va.-based CACI International, hired by the government to interrogate Iraqi prisoners, tried to shift sympathies from the abused detainees to U.S. forces who ran the jail.

"I was really kind of appalled at the situation," Pescatore testified over the phone from Arizona. "I didn't think that we'd treat soldiers that way unless I'd seen it myself."

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