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May 26, 2004
Going To The Dogs

According to a Washington Post article today, military intelligence specialist Col. Thomas Pappas claims that the idea of using dogs during interrogations in Abu Ghraib came from the commanding general of the detention facility at Guantnamo. However, buried below the jump is an admission by Pappas that he disobeyed orders in unmuzzling the dogs:

A U.S. Army general dispatched by senior Pentagon officials to bolster the collection of intelligence from prisoners in Iraq last fall inspired and promoted the use of guard dogs there to frighten the Iraqis, according to sworn testimony by the top U.S. intelligence officer at the Abu Ghraib prison.

According to the officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, the idea came from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who at the time commanded the U.S. militarydetention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was implemented under a policy approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top U.S. military official in Iraq.

When reading this, keep two things in mind. First, Gen. Miller was not in Pappas' chain of command -- Miller went to Iraq as an advisor to the Sanchez operation and did not give any orders. He left recommendations based on his experiences at Guantnamo and expected Sanchez' command to parse them and integrate what applied to the Iraq program:

Pappas, who was under pressure from Taguba to justify the legality and appropriateness of using guard dogs to frighten detainees, said at two separate points in the Feb. 9 interview that Miller gave him the idea. He also said Miller had indicated the use of the dogs "with or without a muzzle" was "okay" in booths where prisoners were taken for interrogation.

But Miller, whom the Bush administration appointed as the new head of Abu Ghraib this month, denied through a spokesman that the conversation took place.

"Miller never had a conversation with Colonel Pappas regarding the use of military dogs for interrogation purposes in Iraq. Further, military dogs were never used in interrogations at Guantanamo," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq.

Even had Miller told Pappas that using unmuzzled dogs brought great results and in fact was the best procedure for interrogations since the invention of good cop/bad cop, Miller didn't have the authority to either order or pressure Pappas to use it. Pappas' chain of command ran through Sanchez's office, which he knew had to approve any unusual interrogation methods. Pappas even speaks of his frustration with Sanchez's limitations:

Pappas added that it "would never be my intent that the dog be allowed to bite or in any way touch a detainee or anybody else." He said he recalled speaking to one dog handler and telling him "they could be used in interrogations" anytime according to terms spelled out in a Sept. 14, 2003, memo signed by Sanchez.

That memo included the use of dogs among techniques that did not require special approval. The policy was changed on Oct. 12 to require Sanchez's approval on a case-by-case basis for certain techniques, including having "military working dogs" present during interrogations. That memo also demanded -- in what Taguba referred to during the interview as its "fine print" -- that detainees be treated humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

But Pappas told Taguba that "there would be no way for us to actually monitor whether that happened. We had no formal system in place to do that -- no formal procedure" to check how interrogations were conducted. Moreover, he expressed frustration with a rule that the dogs be muzzled. "It's not very intimidating if they are muzzled," Pappas said. He added that he requested an exemption from the rule at one point, and was turned down.

Apparently, Pappas wants us to believe that he felt justified in using unmuzzled dogs in accordance with the recommendations of someone outside of his chain of command but didn't feel compelled to follow a direct order from his commanding officer. Pappas also tries to convince us that a trained military interrogator had no idea what constitutes violations of the Geneva Convention, an argument you may be able to make with reservist MPs but not with the active-duty intelligence specialists. Pappas' statement serves no one but his own interests, and even suspended Gen. Janis Karpinski notes that the MI command ran its own operation at Abu Ghraib without much consideration for establish command -- to her own detriment.

As I have written before, the Abu Ghraib abuses seem more clearly to be the result of a discipline breakdown, with the addition of manipulation by Pappas and his team. Blaming Miller for his own failures when Miller had no authority to direct his actions does not lend Pappas any credibility, even if the Post thinks that it does.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 26, 2004 6:48 AM

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