FT. BRAGG, N.C. — Military interrogators testified Thursday that they saw reservist guards abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison but failed to properly report the incidents up the chain of command.
In a hearing to determine whether Pfc. Lynndie England should be court-martialed in the abuse case, interrogators said they saw guards putting naked prisoners in sexual poses and torturing them by forcing them to drag their genitals on the ground and keeping them unclothed in their cells 24 hours a day.
While several said they told fellow interrogators and questioned the behavior to the guards themselves, they failed to tell their superiors.
The third day of prosecution testimony in the Article 32 hearing scarcely mentioned England at all. Prosecutors appeared to be trying to explain how a scandal of worldwide impact could have unfolded while being carried out by what the government has characterized as a rogue band of guards.
Intelligence analyst Spc. Hannah Schlegel testified that when she first arrived at the prison, she found military police reservists kept some prisoners naked around the clock. She said she was told there were not enough jumpsuits to go around, but that the guards felt nudity helped them maintain dominance over the prisoners.
Schlegel said she and other intelligence officers asked for sheets to cover prisoners while they interrogated them because "we didn't like it at all." But instead of reporting what was happening to her own superiors, she went to the guards themselves and accepted that it was being "taken care of."
Although subordinates testified they knew of the abuse, Capt. Carolyn Wood, the top intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, testified that she was shocked when photos of guards abusing prisoners surfaced.
"Words can't describe my reaction," Wood said. "I was shocked. I was very disappointed. I was outraged."
Wood said her interrogators asked several times a week to deviate from standard procedures at the prison, but nothing on the scale of what was shown in the photos: piling naked Iraqi detainees in pyramids, posing them in sexual positions and, in a notorious shot of England, tethering one on a leash.
Wood said her people had no control over members of England's unit. She posted signs around the office reminding interrogators that "at no time will detainees be maliciously humiliated."
"The cage is completely run by the MPs," she said. "We as MI merely run a parallel mission."
The hearing will determine if England, a 21-year-old reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., faces a court-martial on 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos. If convicted, she could get up to 38 years in prison.
England's defense team, which planned to call witnesses Friday, has claimed she and other reservists were ordered by intelligence officers to stage the photos to "soften up" prisoners for interrogations. She is among seven soldiers from the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company who have been charged in the case.
Other witnesses have testified that England, who worked days as a clerk in an office part of the prison, would venture to the secure "hard site" in the middle of the night for trysts with her boyfriend, Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., who worked there as a guard.
England is now seven months pregnant with Graner's child.
Special Agent Tyler Pieron testified Thursday that Spc. Joseph Darby, the member of England's unit who turned over a computer disk with the photos in January, indicated "that Cpl. Graner was the ringleader in the abuse. ... When he wasn't there, it didn't happen as much."
Pieron, of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, said Darby blew the whistle because "he was, quite frankly, very afraid for the detainees' lives."
England faces a maximum 38 years in prison if convicted on all charges. She is one of seven reservists from the unit charged in the case. Specialist Jeremy Sivits pleaded guilty to mistreating prisoners and dereliction of duty. He was sentenced to a year in prison.
As she has throughout the three days of hearings, the round-faced, mop-topped England has shown no expression, in contrast to the smiles and winks she flashed in the prison photographs. Wearing a maternity version of the Army's green camouflage uniform, she munched potato chips during a break and supported her lower back with a blue pillow.