Charges Sought Against Officer at Abu Ghraib

Times Staff Writers

Army investigators have recommended that criminal charges be filed against a supervising military officer in the abuse of detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, according to Pentagon officials and legal documents obtained Thursday.

Charges against Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, who was the top Army supervisor at the prison where detainees were frequently abused and sexually humiliated, would mark the first instance in which the Pentagon has sought to hold an officer criminally liable for the scandal that ignited a sharp anti-U.S. furor in the Arab world in 2004.

Nine low-level members of an Army Reserve military police unit have been convicted in connection with the abuse.

A Pentagon official said the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command had reviewed allegations against Jordan and recommended that he be charged with offenses that might include dereliction of duty and making false statements to military investigators about incidents at the prison outside Baghdad.


In addition, documents in upcoming courts-martial of two Army dog handlers accused of threatening detainees with their animals show that Jordan’s immediate supervisor, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, has been granted immunity from prosecution so he can testify in “any court-martial resulting from the investigation into alleged offenses committed by Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan.”

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Jordan is the next guy in the scope. They’re looking to prosecute him.”

In the cases against the dog handlers, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, a top detention commander who led a team of experts to Abu Ghraib in 2003 to overhaul interrogation procedures, invoked his right against self-incrimination when called to testify.

Miller’s attorney denied that the move suggested possible wrongdoing.


The Pentagon official said that Miller, once considered a rising star in the Army, was planning to retire.

Jordan, who could not be reached for comment, has been reassigned to duty in Washington. His commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Guy C. Swan III, must decide whether to act on the Criminal Investigative Command’s recommendations to bring charges. If action is taken, Jordan could face a court-martial and a possible prison term.

Alan Chaset, a Washington lawyer who represented Jordan after revelations of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, said that the officer had been waiting for months to learn whether he would be prosecuted.

“It’s moved from the CID stage, and I wish I could speculate, but I have no specific information” about whether he will be charged, Chaset said.


At Abu Ghraib, Jordan supervised the interrogation task force. According to accounts by those around him, Jordan failed to follow Army guidelines on the legal rights of prisoners, not reporting abuses he witnessed, The Times has previously reported.

He was described as someone who worked to exhaustion, sometimes losing his composure and contributing to the chaotic situation at the crowded, understaffed facility.

Jordan earlier invoked his right against self-incrimination when called to testify against lower-ranking soldiers in pretrial hearings in the Abu Ghraib case. In sworn statements, however, he has said that Pappas gave him too much authority and never properly supervised him. Pappas in his own sworn statements has called Jordan a “loner” and said “I failed in not reining him in.”

In nonjudicial punishment, Pappas last year was formally reprimanded and fined $8,000 for his role at the prison. He did not face criminal charges. His immunity deal in the dog handlers’ case was reached Tuesday, the same day that Miller invoked his right against self-incrimination. Miller’s decision and Pappas’ immunity offer were first reported Thursday by the Washington Post.


Miller’s visit to Abu Ghraib in 2003 has been the subject of intense scrutiny, and several officers implicated in the scandal -- including Pappas -- have said that Miller recommended using military guard dogs to intimidate prisoners during interrogations. Miller has denied doing so in statements to military investigators.

Maj. Michelle Crawford, a lawyer for the general, wrote in a statement to reporters Thursday that Miller stood by his previous testimony to investigators and to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Crawford added that neither she nor Miller were aware of Pappas’ immunity deal when Miller invoked his right against self-incrimination.

Last year, an investigation into abuses at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, recommended that Miller be reprimanded for failing to monitor abusive interrogation sessions. Miller was the commander of the Guantanamo prison at the time the interrogations occurred.


The recommendation for a reprimand was rejected by Miller’s supervising officer, Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock.