General OK’d dog use in Iraq prison, testimony says

WASHINGTON – Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller told top officers during an advisory visit to Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison that they needed to get dogs for use in interrogations, and he advocated procedures then in use at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony Wednesday.

Maj. David DiNenna, the top military police operations officer at Abu Ghraib in 2003, said that when Miller and a team of Guantanamo Bay officials visited in early September 2003, Miller advocated mirroring the Cuba operation.

“We understood he was sent over by the secretary of defense,” DiNenna testified.

DiNenna said Miller and his team were at Abu Ghraib “to take their interrogation techniques they used at Guantanamo Bay and incorporate them into Iraq.”

DiNenna’s testimony at a hearing for two Army dog handlers provided additional confirmation that the Guantanamo teams brought their aggressive interrogation tactics to Iraq in the weeks before abuse was reported there.

While methods employed at Abu Ghraib – including hooding, nudity and placing prisoners in stress positions – have been characterized by defense officials as rogue, abusive horseplay on the night shift, some of them had been authorized for experienced interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.

Dogs, seen menacing detainees at Abu Ghraib in grisly photographs, were also used in Guantanamo under Miller’s command.

The defense teams for Sgt. Santos Cardona and Sgt. Michael Smith argued during their two-day hearing at Fort Meade, Md., that the dog handlers were doing their jobs when their dogs bit a naked detainee whose cell was being searched for contraband. Defense lawyers portrayed their clients as following orders – from both military intelligence and military police officials – they believed to be appropriate.

“They were told to listen to the interrogators and to do what they told them to do,” Harvey Volzer, a civilian attorney representing Cardona, said after the hearing.

Maj. Matthew Miller, a prosecutor in this week’s preliminary hearing, said Wednesday that there is “copious evidence” that Cardona and Smith abused detainees beyond the scope of their duties.

The use of military dogs to exploit fear in detainees was approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for use on a specific detainee in Guantanamo in late 2002 and early 2003.

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