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Soldiers Made Game of Scaring Prisoners
Associated Press | March 15, 2006FORT MEADE, Maryland - An Army dog handler charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said he was competing with another canine team to frighten the prisoners into soiling themselves, a Soldier testified at a court-martial Tuesday.
The testimony on the second day of the trial was the most damaging evidence the government has presented against Sgt. Michael J. Smith.
Human rights advocates say the trial could help clarify who approved the harsh treatment that they say amounted to torture. Defense attorneys in other Abu Ghraib cases have argued that the approvals stretched to the Pentagon.
Sgt. John H. Ketzer, who had worked as an interrogator at the prison in Iraq, testified that he followed the sounds of screaming to a cell where Smith's black Belgian shepherd was straining against its leash and barking at two cowering, teenage male detainees in a part of the prison reserved for juveniles and women.
Ketzer said Smith laughed as he told Ketzer shortly thereafter, "My buddy and I are having a contest to see if we can get them to (defecate on) themselves because we've already had some (urinate on) themselves."
Under cross-examination, Ketzer said he had thought Smith was just joking about the contest.
Ketzer's testimony came a day after a prosecutor, Maj. Matthew Miller, told jurors in his opening statement that Smith and another dog handler, Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, were rogue military policemen.
"We contend that there is no Soldier who would honestly and reasonably believe that this conduct was lawful and authorized," Miller said Monday.
Smith, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is accused of using his dog to harass, threaten and assault detainees in late 2003 and early 2004 - the same period during which guards at Abu Ghraib subjected inmates to sexual humiliation and other abuses documented in widely seen photographs.
Smith faces up to 24 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all 13 counts.
Cardona's trial is set for May 22.
Private Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, who was convicted in 2004 of abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners, testified he spoke with the dog handlers outside an interrogation booth about the approval from Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who was commander of military intelligence at the prison.
"They said it was all right - Col. Pappas had authorized the use of dogs as long as they wore muzzles," Frederick said.
A defense attorney, Capt. Jason Duncan, countered that Pappas' instructions were aimed at getting information from a detainee whom interrogators considered a valuable source - a perception that Duncan said had been communicated at least as high as Pappas' commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.
Pappas, who was commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, has been reprimanded and fined for his role in the scandal. He is among the potential defense witnesses.
Sanchez had authorized the use of muzzled dogs for interrogations in September 2003, and then modified the policy in October to require prior authorization.
Duncan said Steven Stefanowicz, a civilian contractor who directed interrogations, had pressed for approval to use dogs after a prisoner said to have been captured along with Saddam Hussein was brought to Abu Ghraib. Another detainee, Ashraf Abdullah Al-Juhayshi, was alleged to have been an al-Qaida agent.
"Everybody, to include Colonel Pappas, General Sanchez, was told the guy was al-Qaida and he's a great resource to us, so requests were made to use the dog as an interrogation technique on him," Duncan said.
Prosecutors presented as evidence Monday a series of photographs showing Smith restraining an unmuzzled dog that appears to be snarling at Al-Juhayshi.
The nine American Soldiers convicted so far in the Abu Ghraib scandal have all been low-ranking Reservists.
Smith is charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with five counts of maltreat of detainees, four counts of assault, two counts of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, one count of dereliction of duty and one count of indecency. The indecency allegation is that Smith had his dog lick peanut butter off the genitals of a male Soldier and the breasts of a female Soldier while another sergeant videotaped the act.
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