Defense Witness Says Abuse in Iraqi Prison Was Ordered


New York Times

January 13, 2005

FORT HOOD, Tex., Jan. 12 - The military police at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq received direct orders from at least three interrogators to treat detainees harshly in the weeks leading up to the night that a group of soldiers put naked and hooded prisoners in sexually humiliating positions and photographed them, one of the police soldiers involved testified in a military court here today.

The orders started with instructions to leave detainees naked, force them to do calisthenics or use "pressure points," applying pain to sensitive areas. And as the weeks wore on, the tactics changed.

"It became more aggressive," the soldier, Pvt. Ivan L. Frederick II, testified, so much so that on one occasion the military police even refused to follow an interrogator's orders to mistreat a detainee.

Testimony from Private Frederick and others about orders formed the backbone of the defense argument as lawyers for Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr., accused of being the ringleader of the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, began presenting their case in his court martial here today.

Private Frederick, now serving eight years as part of guilty plea in the case, recalled one civilian interrogator cursing as he handed off a Iraqi detainee, saying he didn't care what the military police did to him: "Just don't kill him."

The detainee, nicknamed "Gilligan" by the soldiers, was draped in black cloth and forced to stand on a meals-ready-to-eat box with wires attached to him, in a photograph that has become iconic of the abuse scandal.

Interrogators, Private Frederick testified, taught the soliders to use "goose neck come along," twisting detainees' arms in extreme positions behind their heads. Military intelligence officials consistently praised the military police, he said. "They would tell us we were doing a good job, to keep up the good work."

Defense lawyers presented the jury with a written report given to Specialist Graner in mid-November, weeks after the photographs at the center of the abuse scandal were taken, saying that the military intelligence officer in charge of the intelligence unit, Lt. Col. Steve Jordan, "says you are doing a good job."

Lawyers for Specialist Graner have argued consistently that he believed he was acting under legal orders - a viable defense under military law, even if the orders were in fact illegal - when he put the soldiers in the positions seen in the photos.

The lawyers argue that the government should be prosecuting higher-ranked officers and military intelligence - so far, the only military intelligence soldier punished is low level. Colonel Jordan and others have been implicated in a Pentagon investigation, but have not been charged.

But the prosecution has argued that there is no evidence that any interrogators gave the soldiers orders or permission to put detainees in the positions seen in the photographs, or to beat them in the way several detainees have testified.

Several of the defense witnesses backed up that argument in their statements today.

Roger Brokaw, a retired military interrogator who was at Abu Ghraib, said that he asked military police soldiers to stop putting hoods and handcuffs on detainees as they escorted them to interrogations. "The M.P.'s wouldn't do it," he said, "They said no, we have to show them who's boss."

"From my conversations with the M.P.'s, they assumed that all the Iraqis were terrorists and needed discipline," he said.

Mr. Brokaw told prosecutors that no interrogator would have condoned pyramids of bodies, forced masturbation or nudity, and that he thought harsh treatments did not work. "Whenever you use harsh treatments you are more likely to get false information just to stop the treatment," he said.

And in the weeks around the time the photographs were taken, he said, higher-ranked officials several times restricted what interrogation techniques could be used, making them less harsh.