Abu Ghraib command structure detailed

October 20, 2006|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN REPORTER

Although Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan was listed as "chief" of the interrogation center at the Abu Ghraib prison, one of his subordinates testified yesterday that Jordan was not the person he went to when he had questions about interrogating prisoners.

Instead, Chief Warrant Officer Edward J. Rivas III said he sought answers from Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who commanded the military intelligence brigade based at Abu Ghraib.

Jordan faces a dozen charges stemming from the sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners and is the highest-ranking American and the first officer to be charged in the Abu Ghraib investigation. Pappas, who outranks him, was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony against Jordan.

Attorneys representing the government and Jordan are expected to make closing remarks today at Fort Meade. Major Gen. Guy C. Swan III of the Army Military District of Washington is expected to decide within two weeks whether to court-martial Jordan.

Lt. Col. Patricia Lewis noted that although Jordan is the last in a string of soldiers to be charged with misdeeds at Abu Ghraib, others could be charged as new details about the facility come out.

"I would hesitate to say that this is absolutely it," said Lewis, deputy staff judge advocate with the military district office.

In court yesterday, attorneys for Jordan, 50, of Fredericksburg, Va., continued to portray the defendant as a diligent soldier who wanted to do right but was hampered by a prison that was outdated and in serious disrepair.

Defense witnesses testified that instead of focusing on intelligence gathering, Jordan was forced to worry about setting up showers and mending walls.

"There were areas of the building that were dilapidated and eroded," said Rivas, who was interviewed via telephone from Fort Dix in New Jersey. "The grounds were just like the desert."

Rivas, like other soldiers who testified before him, said Jordan did his best to make life at Abu Ghraib comfortable for those who worked there, including treating them to Burger King hamburgers purchased from a new restaurant near the Baghdad airport.

"We were doing interrogations in a tent; there was no fortification," Rivas said. "There were buildings but we couldn't use them because they hadn't been cleared."

But Rivas was less certain about Jordan's official responsibilities at Abu Ghraib, something that prosecutors tried to clarify in order to back up the government's claims that Jordan failed to properly supervise interrogators and lied to investigators about his knowledge of abuse, including forcing prisoners to go without clothes and pose in degrading positions.

After Rivas testified that he "didn't see [Jordan] as being in operational control" of the prison, prosecution attorney Lt. Col. John P. Tracy showed Rivas an organizational chart that he said depicted Jordan as "chief" of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib - a chart Rivas acknowledged seeing and giving to Tracy.

Still, Rivas testified later that Jordan was not someone he went to when he had questions about interrogations. Instead, Rivas said he went to Pappas, who commanded the military intelligence brigade based at Abu Ghraib.

Pappas was fined $8,000 and reprimanded for his role in the scandal. He testified earlier in the week in Jordan's military trial.

"If Colonel Pappas wasn't there, who did you go to?" Tracy asked. "Wasn't it Colonel Jordan?"

"No, sir," said Rivas.

But retired Col. Steven Boltz testified that he appointed Jordan as head of the JIDC in 2003 because he knew Jordan had the right skills for the job. Boltz, who testified via telephone from Heidelberg, Germany, where he is a special projects officer, said that as the head of the center Jordan was "responsible for the overseeing of interrogations and unit operations at Abu Ghraib."

Boltz also said there was tension between Pappas, whose brigade was already conducting interrogations at the prison, and Jordan. Boltz said the two men disagreed about what Jordan should focus on: quality of life issues such as food and shelter, or intelligence-gathering.

"That's where the conflict and the tension came," said Boltz.

In the end, Boltz said, the decision was made to remove Jordan as head of the JIDC, in part because conflicts between him and Pappas were causing problems for other soldiers.

"The personality conflict was divisive to soldiers," said Boltz. "It was dividing their loyalties."

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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