Pappas Relieved from Command; Army Says Karpinski Demotion Unrelated to Abuse

By Leon Worden
Signal Multimedia Editor

Friday, May 13, 2005

*MEDIA—MANDATORY CREDIT: The Signal newspaper of Santa Clarita, Calif.

he former intelligence leader at Abu Ghraib prison was relieved of his command this week, the Army said Thursday — a day after it announced he'd been reprimanded and fined $8,000 for his failed leadership in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
    The punishment comes a year after an Army investigator determined that Col. Thomas M. Pappas, then-commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, was "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuse."
    The same Army investigator ascribed similar culpability to three others at Abu Ghraib — Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, who ran interrogations; Steven A. Stefanowicz, a civilian interrogator; and Canyon Country resident John B. Israel, a civilian translator.
    The Army has not said whether it will initiate court-martial proceedings against Jordan (who is still in the Army, despite media reports to the contrary). As civilians, Stefanowicz and Israel are subject to federal laws and international treaties. The Justice Department has refused to say whether it is investigating them.
    Meanwhile Thursday, the Army said last week's demotion of onetime military police commander Janis L. Karpinski was unrelated to the detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib.
    "The demotion had nothing to do with the Abu Ghraib incident itself," Army spokeswoman Pamela L. Hart told The Signal in an e-mail interview.
    President Bush approved Karpinski's demotion from one-star general to colonel on the recommendation of the Army inspector general who upheld two unrelated charges against her.
    Inspector General Stanley E. Green cleared her of culpability at Abu Ghraib, saying in his report, "no action or lack of action on her part contributed specifically to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib."
    But Green upheld an allegation of shoplifting and a broad, unspecified charge of dereliction of duty.
    On the dereliction charge, "Col. Karpinski was demoted for actions pertaining to her leadership failures — for what she didn't do to take care of her command," said Hart, the Army's chief spokeswoman for personnel matters.
    "In addition, her validated shoplifting was also a factor," Hart said. "As a general officer, she would have been obligated to report prior offenses on her security questionnaire, which I do not believe was the case."
    Karpinski has repeatedly denied the allegation of stealing a cosmetic item from a store on an Air Force base in Florida in 2002.
    She told The Signal this week that she was in the store when her cell phone rang in her purse. She placed the purse on a store counter and removed her cosmetics from it as she fished out her phone. As she returned her cosmetics to her bag, store personnel evidently spotted her and believed she took something that was not hers.
    She said a security guard pulled her aside and went through her purse. She said store personnel determined that that the cosmetic item in question, a bottle of facial cream, was her property and had been "clearly partially used." She was allowed to leave with her purse and its contents.
    Karpinski said she was neither arrested nor charged — and that there was no allegation of shoplifting until two years later, after she returned from Iraq on April 15, 2004, and the prisoner abuse story had broken.
    She said her repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act to determine the basis for the shoplifting allegation were "either ignored or resulted in no information." She said her legal officers were allowed to review the Army inspector general's files for documentation, and "there was nothing to substantiate the allegation of shoplifting."
    "They had nothing about Abu Ghraib to use against me," Karpinski told The Signal on Thursday, "so they pull this flaky allegation out and use it to demote me? ... To save face? To mislead the American public yet again?"
    An Army Reservist at home in South Carolina, Karpinski said she believes she is being used "as a scapegoat but they can't find anything to use, despite numerous efforts and investigations."
    "They certainly made every effort to make it appear as if I was being punished for Abu Ghraib," she said. "Pappas gets relieved and I get demoted. What about the other leaders? Why is it OK for them to claim they knew nothing, and yet they clearly did, and they get absolved? This is tantamount to bigger leadership failures, but perjury only counts against the little guys — and so, too, do leadership failures."
    Pappas was given the choice of a full court-martial proceeding, where he could present extensive defense testimony, or accepting an administrative decision. He chose the latter.
    Now stationed in Germany, Pappas was "punished for two instances of dereliction of duty and has been relieved of command in actions resulting from investigations of interrogation operations at the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq in 2003 and early 2004," the Army public affairs office said in a statement.
    "The action alleged that Col. Pappas failed to ensure that subordinates were adequately informed of, trained upon, and supervised in the application of interrogation procedures. He was also alleged to have failed to obtain the approval of superior commanders before authorizing a non-sanctioned interrogation technique, specifically, the presence of military working dogs during the questioning of a detainee," the statement said.
    It said the maximum possible penalty for the two charges were 30 days' house arrest or 60 days' restriction, a written reprimand and forfeiture of $4,087 per month, representing his pay, for the two months in which the offenses occurred. Pappas received a reprimand and was fined $4,000 for each of the two months. The Army said the fine will not be suspended.
    Following the ruling, made by Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams, Pappas was relieved of command of his military intelligence brigade by Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. forces in Europe.
    Williams had conducted the non-judicial proceedings after 5th Army commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Pappas' superior, recused himself.
    In February 2004, Pappas told an Army investigator he believed he had the approval of Sanchez — then-commander of U.S. forces in Iraq — to use military dogs and other harsh techniques to interrogate prisoners.
    At the time, intelligence officers were seeking information about insurgent attacks, Saddam Hussein's hiding place and missing weapons of mass destruction.
    Sanchez had approved a laundry list of interrogation techniques in the fall of 2003 but specified that the harshest, such as the use of military working dogs, required his personal approval on a case-by-case basis.
    In May 2004, Sanchez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he never approved harsh interrogation tactics. In April he clarified in a Signal e-mail interview that he neither saw nor approved any requests from intelligence officers to use the harsher methods.
    Although such a request from Pappas to Sanchez appears among the documents in an Army investigation, it is unsigned. No signed approval by Sanchez has been proved to exist, and an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union — which is suing Sanchez, Karpinski, Pappas and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for alleged human rights violations — refused to say whether there is any such signed memo among the documents it has obtained from the government.
    In a report released last week, the Army inspector general determined that allegations against Sanchez of "improperly communicating interrogation policies" and dereliction of duty were baseless.