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General urged use of dogs at Abu Ghraib
By Stuart Grudgings
May 25, 2006

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The former commander of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay urged the use of dogs to the "maximum extent possible" to control detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, but did not order their use in interrogations, a witness said on Thursday.

The testimony came on the fourth day of the military trial of army dog handler Sgt. Santos Cardona, who is accused of taking part in abuse of detainees at the Iraqi prison that the U.S. government blames on rogue low-ranking soldiers.

Defense attorneys are trying to prove that Cardona, who faces 16 years in prison if convicted on all charges, and other soldiers were acting on orders from their superiors.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, former head of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, was sent to Iraq to try to improve information gathering as the insurgency intensified after the March 2003 invasion.

Ten soldiers have so far been convicted of abusing prisoners, including sexual humiliation and the use of snarling, unmuzzled dogs in late 2003 and early 2004 after Miller arrived.

"All I can recall is him encouraging using them (dogs) to the maximum extent possible," retired Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, who was in command of Abu Ghraib before September 2003, told the court in a military base in Maryland.

"I don't recall him saying anything about interrogations."

Despite evidence of pressure from above to extract more information from prisoners, there are few signs that senior army leaders or administration officials will be charged with condoning the abuse. The U.S. government was severely embarrassed when photographs showing prisoners being abused and sexually humiliated by U.S. military personnel were leaked in 2004.

Miller, the highest ranking officer to testify in the scandal, said on Wednesday he never suggested using military dogs in interrogations of Iraqi prisoners, undercutting Cardona's defense. Cardona is charged with dereliction of duty and assaulting and threatening Iraqi detainees with his Belgian shepherd dog.

Prosecutors say Cardona and another dog handler, Sgt. Michael Smith, who was convicted on similar charges in March and sentenced to 179 days in prison, were "corrupt cops" who terrified prisoners into urinating and defecating on themselves.

Capt. Carolyn Wood, who was an intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, testified there were clear rules against the use of unmuzzled dogs handed down in a memo from Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and which were signed by all personnel at the prison.

"Using an unmuzzled dog goes against the CG's (commanding general's) policy," she said, when asked if she would have approved the use of dogs against detainees.

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