- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — A former commander at Abu Ghraib yesterday provided yet another interpretation of how dogs were to be used at the military prison in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum is a retired military police reservist who was directly in charge of Abu Ghraib from July 2003 to early September. He was superseded by Col. Thomas Pappas, an intelligence officer.

Col. Phillabaum testified at Fort Meade that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller had “encouraged the use of dogs as much as possible” to set the conditions for interrogations, but Col. Phillabaum said he didn’t remember Gen. Miller specifying how the dogs were to be used.

Col. Phillabaum was a defense witness for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler and military policeman accused of having his dog bite one detainee and harass another at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004. Sgt. Cardona’s attorneys contend that the rules and command structure at Abu Ghraib were hopelessly muddled.

Col. Phillabaum’s testimony yesterday contrasts with Gen. Miller’s testimony Wednesday.

Gen. Miller, who was in command of the U.S. military prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and later Iraq, said that although military dog handlers were supposed to help interrogators, they weren’t necessarily supposed to help with interrogations.

Gen. Miller, testifying for the first time in a legal proceeding stemming from the Abu Ghraib scandal, said he never recommended using dogs for interrogations despite his belief that Arabs had an instinctive fear of canines.

Testifying for about 50 minutes as the first defense witness, Gen. Miller told the jury in a firm but amiable tone that he was sent from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq in late August 2003 with a team of 17 experts to review detention and interrogation operations that weren’t producing enough “strategic intelligence” about the Iraqi insurgency.

Gen. Miller’s Sept. 9, 2003, report to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, recommended a reorganization that included using military police to set conditions for interrogations by providing interrogators with what Gen. Miller called “passive intelligence” about the prison habits of detainees.

Five days later, a memo signed by Gen. Sanchez allowed soldiers to “exploit Arab fear of dogs” during interrogations. The phrase was removed from interrogation rules that were later circulated at Abu Ghraib.

The rules also allowed muzzled dogs to be used in interrogations with Gen. Sanchez’s approval.

Gen. Miller said under direct examination by defense attorney Harvey Volzer that he was aware “that there is a cultural fear of dogs in the Arab culture.”

But Gen. Miller said he never recommended using dogs in interrogations.

“I found that military working dogs were effective in custody and control, and so I found they were very useful at Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

A military investigation into FBI reports of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo recommended that Gen. Miller be reprimanded for failing to oversee an interrogation of a high-value detainee that was found to have been abusive. A top general rejected the recommendation.

Prosecutors rested Wednesday after calling 19 witnesses in three days.

Sgt. Cardona, 32, of Fullerton, Calif., is charged with assault, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees and lying to investigators. He faces up to 161/2 years in prison if convicted on all nine counts.

Prosecutors say Sgt. Cardona abused detainees for his own amusement and the enjoyment of other soldiers characterized by prosecutors as a small band of “corrupt cops.”

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