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Witness - Abu Ghraib suspect disobeyed orders

Thursday, January 13, 2005

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The first witness for Army Spc. Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case, said under cross-examination Wednesday that Graner routinely disobeyed orders while serving as a guard there.

The testimony from Master Sgt. Brian Lipinski could undermine Graner's contention that he was just following orders to soften up Iraqi inmates for interrogation.

Lipinski, then the top noncommissioned officer in the 372nd Military Police Company, said Graner wore his hair too long, altered his uniform in violation of regulations and refused to stay away from Pfc. Lynndie England despite being repeatedly told to do so.

"He just didn't like to follow orders?" prosecutor Maj. Michael Holley asked Lipinski.

"That's true, sir," Lipinski said.

"He wants to do his own thing?" Holley said.

"Yes, sir," the sergeant said.

England, who is awaiting trial on Abu Ghraib abuse charges, gave birth in October to a child who Army prosecutors say was fathered by Graner.

Graner, a 36-year-old reservist from Uniontown, Pa., is the first soldier to stand trial in the scandal. He is charged with offenses including conspiracy, assault and committing indecent acts and could get 17 1/2 years in a military prison.

Among other things, he is accused of stacking naked detainees in a human pyramid and later ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs. He also allegedly punched one man in the head hard enough to knock him out and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.

Lipinski also testified that Graner initially lied about the cause of face and neck injuries suffered by a prisoner in November 2003.

Lipinski said Graner and then-Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick first told Lipinski that the detainee tripped on a pile of rubble in the prison. But Graner later admitted that he slammed the prisoner against the wall, Lipinski said. The impact was hard enough to leave a smear of blood on the wall.

Lipinski was called by the defense as a way to introduce a report about the wall-slamming incident because the report included references to military intelligence officers praising Graner and others for softening up prisoners for interrogation.

He was not the only defense witness who ended up offering useful testimony for the prosecution.

Roger Brokaw, a civilian intelligence officer who worked at Abu Ghraib but not with Graner, said physical and psychological techniques were used to make detainees more cooperative, but he thought Graner and other Abu Ghraib guards were acting on their own.

"They assumed all Iraqis were terrorists and needed discipline," Brokaw said. "It had nothing to do with the interrogation process."

Brokaw, however, acknowledged that higher-ups pushed hard for useful information from prisoners.

"There was pressure on us to fill quotas," he said. "We had to interrogate so many detainees per week and produce so many reports with intelligence value per week."

He and a number of Abu Ghraib guards testified that interrogators ordered a range of techniques to soften up prisoners prior to questioning, including cold showers, sleep deprivation and yelling at them.

But the guards said under cross-examination that they were never told to do anything similar to the acts that Graner allegedly committed.

Frederick, who has pleaded guilty in the scandal and testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial, was called back to testify for the defense about the role played by intelligence officers. He said they knew about the use of force and did not tell the guards to stop.

"They told us we were doing a good job, and to keep up the good work," Frederick said.

But under cross-examination, Frederick acknowledged that he once refused to follow instructions from a military intelligence officer because that person wanted him to use too much force. He said Graner was with him when he refused.


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