No tie to abuse, defense argues

Abu Ghraib hearing concludes

October 21, 2006|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,sun reporter

A defense attorney for Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the first officer to be charged with crimes at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, argued at a military hearing yesterday that not even a "blurry line" connected Jordan with the physical and sexual abuses that occurred at the prison.

But prosecutor Lt. Col. John P. Tracy said Jordan failed to carry out his duties as head of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib. Tracy said Jordan neglected to train and supervise the 70 people working for him and subjected Iraqi detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by military working dogs.

"He was put there because other individuals in positions of leadership thought he could do the job," Tracy said. "He didn't do the job."

The closing arguments at Fort Meade ended a week of testimony in the case. Army Col. Daniel Cummings will now consider whether there is enough evidence to court-martial Jordan. The military has brought 12 charges against the 50-year-old officer, and he could face up to 42 years in prison.

Yesterday, defense attorney Maj. Kris Poppe summarized the testimony of witnesses who said that Jordan had nothing to do with interrogations at Abu Ghraib and that his duties were to provide for the welfare and safety of soldiers in a dangerous and chaotic environment. Poppe said Jordan had no knowledge of the abuses at the prison, which ignited outrage around the world.

"No direct line, no dotted line, no blurry line - there has been no line drawn between Lt. Col. Jordan and any act of abuse," Poppe said in his closing.

He painted a grim portrait of Abu Ghraib, saying that the prison was understaffed and that soldiers were worn down by mortar attacks and prisoner uprisings.

A command chart depicted Jordan as the chief of the interrogation center. But when Jordan arrived at the prison in September 2003, his priority was to focus on the morale, welfare and security of the soldiers, said Poppe.

"You don't court-martial a soldier for taking care of troops," Poppe said.

Jordan, of Fredericksburg, Va., is the latest soldier to be charged with crimes at Abu Ghraib. Officers have been reprimanded and demoted, but none until Jordan faced criminal charges.

The investigating officer in this week's Article 32 hearing will make a recommendation to Maj. Gen. Guy C. Swann III of the Army Military District of Washington, who is expected to decide by early November if Jordan will be court-martialed or face other disciplinary action.

Yesterday, Jordan's lawyer said his client should not be considered guilty by association. "A few soldiers at Abu Ghraib committed vile acts," Poppe said. "The rest of the soldiers performed their duties under harsh conditions. ... If we can't thank those soldiers for their service and sacrifice, we can at least not condemn them for being there."

stephen.kiehl@baltsun.com

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