- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2007

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — A military jury yesterday recommended that Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan be reprimanded for disobeying an order to keep silent about a 2003 investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The sentence was the lowest punishment the jury could have ordered for the offense, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

It capped the court-martial of the only officer charged in the scandal that erupted with the release of pictures of grinning U.S. soldiers posing with detainees, some naked, being held on leashes or in painful and sexually humiliating positions. Col. Jordan, 51, didn’t appear in the inflammatory photos, but he was accused of fostering a climate conducive to abuse as director of the prison’s interrogation center.

The sentence followed a split verdict Tuesday in which the jury acquitted the reservist from Fredericksburg, Va., of charges that he failed to supervise 11 lower-ranking soldiers previously convicted for their roles at Abu Ghraib.

After the court-martial adjourned, Col. Jordan hugged his military attorneys and shook hands with some of those who testified on his behalf during the seven-day proceeding. Maj. Kris Poppe, a member of the three-man defense team, told reporters that Col. Jordan was “very relieved” by the outcome.

“We believe that for Col. Jordan, the vindication arises out of the ‘not guilty’ findings on the Abu Ghraib abuse charges, and we view that as very much a victory,” Maj. Poppe said.

Maj. Poppe said Col. Jordan will remain on active duty with the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir through February and then consider retiring from a military career spanning 28 years.

Col. Jordan and prosecutors declined to speak with reporters.

The nature of the reprimand is up to the court-martial convening authority, Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, commander of the Military District of Washington. Gen. Rowe must decide whether the reprimand will be written or oral, whether it will become part of Col. Jordan’s permanent service record and even whether it will stand. He will make those decisions after reviewing a written summary of the trial, said Lt. Col. Patricia Lewis, a deputy staff judge advocate.

Prosecutors had recommended Col. Jordan be fined and reprimanded for e-mailing a number of soldiers about Maj. Gen. George R. Fay’s investigation in the spring of 2004, after Gen. Fay had interviewed Col. Jordan and ordered him not to discuss the probe with others. In one of the e-mails, Col. Jordan asked Staff Sgt. James Beachner, an Army interrogator, if Sgt. Beachner ever saw him abuse detainees and whether Sgt. Beachner knew of any detainee abuse by soldiers under Col. Jordan’s control, a prosecutor told the jury.

The verdict suggests criminality for the abuse went no higher than former Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick, a military police reservist from Buckingham, Va., who is serving an eight-year sentence as a private. A number of officers senior to Col. Jordan were reprimanded administratively — but not convicted of crimes — for their roles at Abu Ghraib.

Hina Shamsi, deputy director of New York-based Human Rights First, said an “accountability gap” remains between the convicted soldiers and high-ranking military and government officials who sanctioned harsh interrogation techniques.

“None of the cases brought to date has given the systemic accounting the nation needs of what happened, why and how far up the chain of command responsibility lies,” she said. “It cries out for the kind of oversight and investigations that Congress can do.”

John Sifton, senior counterterrorism researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the military lacked the will to get to the bottom of the abuse.

Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell yesterday dismissed the idea that the military justice system failed to hold any officers accountable.

“I certainly have heard nothing to suggest that what has happened with regards to the prosecution of those accused in the Abu Ghraib atrocities has been handled improperly in any way,” he said at a Pentagon press conference.

Asked what the verdict says to the Iraqi people who were promised accountability, Mr. Morrell said: “I don’t, frankly, know what it says to the Iraqi people. All I know that is that we have a system in place, it’s worked for years, and presumably it worked in this case, too.

“A jury of the accused’s peers decided his fate, and they acquitted him.”

The jury of nine colonels and a brigadier general acquitted Col. Jordan of three counts: failing to obey a lawful general order by ordering dogs used for interrogations without higher approval; cruelty and maltreatment for subjecting detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs; and dereliction of a duty to properly train and supervise soldiers in humane interrogation rules.

Col. Jordan is the only officer among the 12 persons charged in the scandal, and the last to go to trial. Of the 11 enlisted soldiers convicted of crimes, the longest sentence, 10 years, was given to former Cpl. Charles Graner Jr., of Uniontown, Pa., in January 2005.

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