updated 10/16/2006 10:49:16 PM ET 2006-10-17T02:49:16

The highest-ranking officer charged with crimes at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq allowed prisoner abuses and then lied about it, a general who investigated the scandal testified Monday.

Maj. Gen. George Fay, who wrote a report on mistreatment of detainees at the prison, testified at a hearing to determine whether the director of the prison’s interrogation center should be court-martialed.

Fay said his investigation found that Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan was in charge of the center, despite Jordan’s insistence to Fay that he was just a liaison between the center and superior officers.

Fay said Jordan knew about some of the abuses and did not stop them. He said Jordan “told us a story that was deceptive and it was misleading, and he tried to avoid responsibility for his role at Abu Ghraib.”

Jordan, 50, of Fredericksburg, Va., is charged with 12 offenses, including one count of cruelty and maltreatment for allegedly subjecting prisoners to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs. He faces a maximum of 42 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

Fay said that when he asked Jordan if he had seen prisoners stripped naked, Jordan told him he had, but that the nudity had nothing to do with interrogations.

‘A confusing situation’
Under cross-examination, Fay acknowledged that Jordan had reported some abusive episodes. He also testified that the Pentagon’s rules regarding harsh interrogation techniques, such as the use of dogs, had gone through several rapid changes in late 2003, confounding workers at Abu Ghraib.

“It was a confusing situation,” Fay said.

Defense attorney Maj. Kris Poppe said in opening statements that Jordan was thrust into an unfamiliar, ill-defined role in an ad hoc command structure. Poppe said most of the abuses at Abu Ghraib were committed by rogue military police soldiers who were not under Jordan’s command.

“In the end, we believe the story will show to you that Col. Jordan did not commit criminal misconduct,” Poppe told hearing officer Col. Daniel Cummings.

Prosecutor cites negligence
Prosecutor Lt. Col. John P. Tracy said Jordan had embarrassed the Army by ignoring the abuse. He said Jordan had not personally committed egregious acts but that his negligence created an atmosphere conducive to mistreatment.

Jordan, a military intelligence reservist, was director of the interrogation center from mid-September through late November 2003, when prisoners were physically abused, threatened with dogs and sexually humiliated. He is now assigned to the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Jordan’s supervisor at Abu Ghraib, Col. Thomas Pappas, was reprimanded and fined $8,000 for once approving the use of dogs during an interrogation without higher approval. Several other officers have been reprimanded for their roles in the abuse.

Eleven lower-ranking soldiers have also been convicted in the scandal.

The Article 32 hearing — the military’s equivalent of a grand jury proceeding — is expected to last three to six days at Fort Meade.

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