updated 3/16/2006 12:39:49 AM ET 2006-03-16T05:39:49

The Army lacked clear rules for using dogs in interrogations at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, its former military intelligence chief acknowledged during a court-martial of a dog handler Wednesday.

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004, was the highest-ranking witness scheduled to testify at the trial of Sgt. Michael J. Smith, who is charged with abusing detainees at the prison in Iraq.

Pappas, testifying for the defense under a grant of immunity, said he regretted having failed to set “appropriate controls” at the prison, where detainees were bitten by dogs, and assaulted and sexually humiliated by guards.

“In hindsight, clearly we probably needed to establish some definitive rules and put out some clear guidance to everybody concerned,” Pappas said.

Nevertheless, Pappas said under cross-examination that a photograph showing Smith’s unmuzzled dog straining at its leash just inches from the face of a terrified prisoner wasn’t consistent with any policy or guidance.

‘Fear of dogs’
The colonel provided few details about the genesis of harsh interrogation tactics that included “exploit Arab fear of dogs” — a technique recommended in a policy dated Sept. 14, 2003.

But he told the court at Fort George G. Meade that the dogs were to be used “to assist in setting conditions for interrogations,” Pappas said in the courtroom at Fort George G. Meade.

The policy required interrogators to get case-by-case approval from Pappas’ supervisor, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and required dogs to wear muzzles and to be controlled by their handlers.

Pappas said he signed one such request on Dec. 14, 2003, for interrogating one of three prisoners said to have been captured with Saddam Hussein a day earlier. Pappas said he mistakenly thought he had that authority.

In May, Pappas was reprimanded, fined $8,000 and relieved of his command of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade for failing to get Sanchez’ approval in that case.

Other testimony in the trial, which began Monday, has revealed conflicting notions among prison workers about how dogs were supposed to be used, what the approval process was and where interrogations were supposed to occur.

A dog handler who hasn’t been charged with crimes testified earlier Wednesday that he was deeply troubled when he and his dog were thrust into an interrogation in a cell crowded with four people.

Navy Chief Petty Officer William Kimbro recalled being sent into the prison around Thanksgiving 2003 to search for explosives. He said the screaming and yelling agitated his dog so much that the animal went after a member of the interrogation team, gripping her arm in its mouth. He said he quickly left after an interrogator threatened the prisoner with the dog.

‘A wrong thing to do’
“To me, it’s a wrong thing to do,” Kimbro said. “It’s wrong to use your dog in any way that the dog is not trained to do.”

Prosecutors rested their case after presenting 18 witnesses over three days.

Defense lawyers contend Smith was following his training and his instructions. But prosecutors have portrayed him and another Army dog handler, Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, as rogue soldiers who, with some of the reservists who guarded the prison, tormented prisoners for their own amusement.

Smith, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is charged with 13 offenses and could serve up to 24½ years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Cardona, 31, of Fullerton, Calif., is set to stand trial May 22.

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