Saturday, April 29, 2006

Army colonel charged in Abu Ghraib scandal

Army colonel charged in Abu Ghraib scandal
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army on Friday charged Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, who headed the interrogation center at Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail, with maltreatment of detainees, interfering with investigators and other counts, making him the highest-ranking person charged in the scandal.

The Army Military District of Washington said Jordan faced 12 criminal counts relating to seven different charges. Prosecutors said he subjected detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by military working dogs and later lied about it to investigators.

Ten low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in military courts in connection with the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib. Two officers senior to Jordan at Abu Ghraib have been disciplined by the Army, but neither faced criminal charges.

The charges against Jordan include cruelty and maltreatment of detainees, dereliction of duty, wrongful interference with an investigation, making false official statements, willfully disobeying a superior officer and others. Jordan is a reservist currently on active duty assigned to the Army Intelligence and Security Command, the Army said.

Images of the abuse, including naked detainees stacked in a pyramid and others cowering before snarling dogs, first became public on April 28, 2004 -- two years ago to the day before the charges were brought against Jordan.

Jordan was in charge of the military's Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib in the fall and winter of 2003 at the height of the detainee abuse. It was a chaotic time when the jail's detainee population was ballooning and the insurgency was intensifying.


"It's gratifying that the military is beginning to focus on the role of more senior officers in the torture scandal. But this is but a step. The problems are just so clearly systemic that they need to be looked at more comprehensively," said Hina Shamsi, a lawyer with the rights group Human Rights First.

The Abu Ghraib scandal triggered international condemnation of the United States and undermined America's public image as it waged the war in Iraq. Abu Ghraib, located outside Baghdad, previously was a notorious torture center under deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Prosecutors said Jordan disobeyed orders from generals during the investigation not to have contact with others involved in the scandal, failed to properly train and supervise subordinates and ensure that they acted lawfully, and used methods on prisoners without higher approval. They also accused him of filing fraudulent receipts for car repairs.

Shamsi called for close scrutiny of the roles of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon civilian leaders in crafting policies that may have led to torture and abuse, as well as on Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time whom last year the Army cleared of wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

"One of the critical remaining questions is the doctrine of command responsibility that says that commanders are responsible for the acts of their subordinates if they knew or should have known that wrong was occurring and didn't do anything to prevent it," Shamsi said.

The Army last year removed from command, fined and reprimanded Col. Thomas Pappas, former military intelligence chief at Abu Ghraib. Also last year, it demoted to colonel and relieved of her command former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the former top officer at the prison.

The next step in the military justice system for Jordan is a hearing to decide whether the case should proceed to a court-martial.