By Josh White and Scott Higham
The Washington Post
11 June 2004
U.S. intelligence personnel ordered military dog handlers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to use unmuzzled dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees during interrogations late last year, a plan approved by the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the facility, according to sworn statements the handlers provided to military investigators.
A military intelligence interrogator also told investigators that two dog handlers at Abu Ghraib were "having a contest" to see how many detainees they could make involuntarily urinate out of fear of the dogs, according to the previously undisclosed statements obtained by The Washington Post.
The statements by the dog handlers provide the clearest indication yet that military intelligence personnel were deeply involved in tactics later deemed by a U.S. Army general to be "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses."
President Bush and top Pentagon officials have said the criminal abuse at Abu Ghraib was confined to a small group of rogue military police soldiers who stripped detainees naked, beat them and photographed them in humiliating sexual poses. An Army investigation into the abuse condemned the MPs for those practices, but also included the use of unmuzzled dogs to frighten detainees among the "intentional abuse."
So far, the only charges to emerge have been against seven MPs and do not include any dog incidents, even though such use of dogs is an apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Army's field manual. The military intelligence officer in charge of Abu Ghraib later told investigators that the use of unmuzzled dogs in interrogation sessions was recommended by a two-star general and that it was "okay."
The newly obtained documents reinforce the picture that the abuse falls into two categories: sexual humiliation and beatings at the hands of MPs, and intimidation using dogs that is clearly tied to military intelligence. The sexual abuse happened weeks and even months before the dog incidents, some of which appear to be part of an organized strategy by military intelligence to scare detainees into talking, according to the statements.
Sgts. Michael J. Smith and Santos A. Cardona, Army dog handlers assigned to Abu Ghraib, told investigators that military intelligence personnel requested that they bring their dogs to prison interrogation sites multiple times to assist in questioning detainees in December and January. Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who was in charge of military intelligence at the prison, told both soldiers that the use of dogs in interrogations had been approved, according to the statements.
"I have talked to Col. Papus [sic] and he said it was good to go," Smith told an investigator on Jan. 23.
Neither Smith nor Cardona has been charged in connection with the abuse at Abu Ghraib. "It's all under investigation," said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman.
The men could not be reached yesterday to comment. Two officers at the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service said that a military lawyer has been assigned to Cardona and that a message seeking a comment would be relayed to the attorney. The officers said they did not know whether a lawyer from the Army's defense service had been assigned to represent Smith.
In Army memos regarding interrogation techniques at the prison, the use of military working dogs was specifically allowed -- as long as higher-ranking officers approved the measures. According to one military intelligence memo obtained by The Post, the officer in charge of the military intelligence-run interrogation center at the prison had to approve the use of dogs in interrogations. There is no explanation in the memo of what parameters would have to be in place -- for example, whether the dogs would be muzzled or unmuzzled -- or what the dogs would be allowed to do. The Army previously has said that the commanding general of U.S. troops in Iraq -- Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez -- would have had to approve the use of dogs.
Human rights experts said the use of dogs at Abu Ghraib violates longstanding tenets regulating the treatment of prisoners and civilians under the control of an occupying force, including the Army's field manual, which prohibits "acts of violence or intimidation" by American soldiers.
"Using dogs to frighten and intimidate prisoners is a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, an international organization based in New York. "It's a violation of U.S. policy as stated in the Army field manual, and it's a violation of the prohibition against cruel treatment."
The dog teams at Abu Ghraib were part of a security detail that also searched for weapons, explosives and contraband. The general in charge of military prisons in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib, said the dog teams were under the control of military intelligence but had no training or experience in helping with interrogations.
Cardona's dog, a tan Belgian Malinois named Duco, was trained to be part of a narcotics and patrol team. Cardona told investigators he also helped military intelligence with two interrogations and later was summoned by military police to draw information out of a detainee on Tier 1 of the prison, site of the worst documented abuse.
Smith said military intelligence personnel asked him to instill fear in detainees. He said that he would bring his dog, a black Belgian shepherd named Marco, to the tier specifically to scare prisoners after they were pulled out of their cells. At the behest of interrogators, he said, in some cases he would bring the barking dog to within six inches of the prisoners.
"Is using the dog in this manner an allowable tool by the MI interrogators?" an investigator asked Smith.
"Yes," he replied.
The dog handlers arrived at Abu Ghraib in late November, sometime after the abuse of detainees had been captured in photographs, including the images of the naked human pyramid and forced masturbation.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class William J. Kimbro, a Navy dog handler, said he was summoned to Tier 1 one night in November to help search a cell for explosives using his dog, Nicky, a black and tan Belgian Malinois. Earlier that night -- records indicate it was Nov. 24 -- a prisoner had allegedly been found with a weapon. When Kimbro and Nicky concluded the search, they were called to the second floor of the cellblock to search another cell.
"There was a bunch of yelling going on in the cell and my dog started going ape," Kimbro told investigators, adding that interrogators were yelling at a detainee in the corner. "I remember one of the males saying to the detainee, if the detainee did not provide the information the guy was asking about, then he would have me let . . . my dog go on him."
Kimbro said he was surprised by the comment and tried to calm Nicky down. He soon left, he said, upset that interrogators had tried to use his dog as an interrogation tool.
"I was leaving because this is not what my dog is trained for," Kimbro said in one of three statements he provided to investigators. "We do not use our dogs for interrogation purposes."
Kimbro was singled out for praise in Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's report about abuse at the prison for refusing "to participate in improper interrogations despite significant pressure from the MI personnel at Abu Ghraib."
Smith and Cardona said they complied with the MI requests because they believed the tactics had been approved by Pappas, the military intelligence officer in charge of the prison. They told investigators that they spent time on the cellblocks, allowing their dogs to bark at the detainees.
They said a non-commissioned officer from military intelligence approached them in mid-December.
"He asked us if we could use our dogs for interrogation purposes," Cardona said in a statement. "They were trying to get it cleared. We went outside and saw Col. Pappas. He told us MI wanted to use the dogs for interrogations and he told us that they had received permission to use dogs in an interview."
Smith recalled the same conversation, saying he spoke with Pappas in the parking lot the night after Saddam Hussein was captured -- Dec. 14. He said he was told that the use of the dogs was permitted.
Later that night, the two dog handlers took their dogs to an interrogation booth holding a detainee. Interrogators told them the dogs did not need to be muzzled, they said.
"When we got to the room the detainee was sitting in the doorway, with his feet in the doorway and the door was open," Smith said. "My dog and Sgt. Cardona's dog were both barking at the detainee and we never got closer than 18 inches. Neither dog had a muzzle on."
Also in mid-December, the dog handlers said they were asked by one of the MPs, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, for help in dealing with an uncooperative detainee. Part of what followed was captured in photographs that have come to define the abuse at Abu Ghraib: A naked prisoner was up against a wall, two dogs squaring off against him.
The detainee, identified in the documents as Ballendia Sadawi Mohammed, said he was suddenly snatched from his bed in cell No. 5 one night and sent into the hallway handcuffed.
"They sent the dogs toward me. I was scared," Mohammed told investigators. "The first dog bit my leg and injured me there and this was bad luck. The bite from the first dog caused me to have 12 stitches from the doctor of my left leg as a result I lost a lot of blood."
Spec. Sabrina D. Harman, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, said she saw the incident and said the detainee was bitten after he tried to run from the dog and was cornered. Cardona, whose dog apparently bit the detainee twice, once on each leg, justified letting his dog go to the end of its leash because he believed the detainee was fighting with Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr.
Military investigative records show that Frederick and Graner were key participants in the abuse. Harman, who said she saw two other inmates with dog bites around late December, also has been charged.
In early January, Cardona said, he used his dog during an interrogation at the "Wood" facility at Abu Ghraib, a collection of wooden interrogation booths set up behind the prison. Cardona said a non-commissioned military intelligence officer asked him to bring his dog into a booth and make it bark to scare the prisoner.
"I asked him if he wanted Duco to be in a muzzle and he said no," Cardona told investigators. "We went into the booth and there was a detainee in the booth with a bag over his head. Duco barked at him for about two or three minutes and they were asking the detainee questions."
On Jan. 13, Spec. John Harold Ketzer, a military intelligence interrogator, saw a dog team corner two male prisoners against a wall, one prisoner hiding behind the other and screaming, he later told investigators.
"When I asked what was going on in the cell, the handler stated that he was just scaring them, and that he and another of the handlers was having a contest to see how many detainees they could get to urinate on themselves," Ketzer said.
Research editor Margot Williams contributed to this report.