An Army investigator testified Tuesday that Pfc. Lynndie England and other members of her unit told him that photos of naked Iraqi prisoners piled in pyramids and other humiliating poses were taken "just for fun."
As a military hearing started to determine if England should be court-martialed for her actions at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Paul D. Arthur testified that when he interviewed her, three months before the prison photos became public in April, she told him the shots were taken while "they were joking around, having some fun, working the night shift."
Arthur said he believed the reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company, based on Cresaptown, Md., were responding to the stress of being in a war zone.
"It was just for fun, kind of venting their frustration," Arthur testified.
England is one of seven reservists from the 372nd who have been charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.
At the Fort Lee Army base in Petersburg, Md. more than 100 members of the 372nd returned home Monday from Iraq to a patriotic welcome, with their commanding officer saying their accomplishments shouldn't be overlooked.
Family members in bleachers screamed and waved flags as the reservists marched into an old airplane hangar, many with solemn expressions on their faces. A giant American flag hung from the rafters and a military band played patriotic songs. Some in the crowd held signs with message like "We love our MP's" and "God bless that you're safe."
The soldiers did not speak with the media, although the Army said some members will be available later this week. There was no mention of the prison abuse scandal during the ceremony.
England's hearing is designed to gather evidence that will be used to decide if she will be court-martialed. The Article 32 hearing is the military equivalent of a grand jury in civilian court, but it is open and the defendant attends it.
Defense lawyers have said England was following orders when she was photographed mocking the detainees and that the U.S. government has made her a scapegoat for an incident that stirred anger in the Arab world.
But Arthur said that although England initially told him military intelligence officers allowed the reservists to take the photographs for use in interrogating other prisoners, there was no indication that ever happened.
"No one said they were going to turn them over to military intelligence," he testified.
In cross-examination, England's military lawyer, Capt. Jonathan Crisp, pressed Arthur about whether military intelligence officers ordered the reservists to take the pictures.
Arthur said officials continue to investigate the use of military intelligence techniques at the prison, but added that in his interviews with 372nd members, "none of them stated that (military intelligence) specifically told them (to do this), except for the statement I got from Pfc. England."
England's demeanor as she arrived for the hearing contrasted with the images of a jaunty young woman shown in the photos. England was visibly pregnant beneath her green camouflage uniform and wore a black beret. Her expression was serious and subdued, and she looked down as she approached the courthouse and dozens of reporters and photographers.
One of the prison photos shows England, from Fort Ashby, W.Va., smiling, cigarette in her mouth, as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi. Another photo shows her holding a leash that encircles the neck of a naked Iraqi man lying on his side on a cellblock floor, his face contorted.
England, 21, is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison.
Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, another soldier in England's unit, also has been charged with abuses and was involved in a romantic relationship with England; he faces adultery charges for allegedly having sex with England last October. England's lawyers have said Graner is the father of the child she is expecting.
Arthur, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib to monitor prisoner interviews for the Army, was the first witness called by the prosecution.
He said he was alerted to problems at the prison on the night of Jan. 13, when Spc. Joseph Darby of the 372nd gave him a compact disk containing the now-infamous photos, which were mixed with tourist-type photos of Iraq, and told him that prisoners were being abused. He said he started waking members of England's unit and questioning them within two hours.
A Fort Bragg spokesman, Col. Billy Buckner, told reporters that the prosecution has 25 potential witnesses.
Witnesses on a list the defense released earlier this year included Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top generals, although military officials say it is doubtful they will appear.
The question is where the path leads," Eugene Fidell of the National Institute of Military Justice told CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. "Will there be evidence adduced at the Article 32 investigation that leads to others up the chain of command?
"And I'm sure that we'll all be following that to see if the dots that everybody has sort of discerned actually connect."
Meanwhile, the general who headed the U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that there had been a conspiracy to prevent her knowing about prisoner abuse there.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was suspended by the Pentagon in May, has denied knowing about any abuse at the prison until the photographs surfaced at the end of April. U.S. investigators have not implicated Karpinski directly in any of the abuses.
Karpinski echoed that sentiment in her interview Tuesday with British Broadcasting Corp. radio. She said had information suggesting officials took action to keep her in the dark about the mistreatment.
Asked whether she believed there had been a conspiracy at senior level to stop her knowing what was going on, Karpinski said: "Correct."
"From what I understand ... it was people that had full knowledge of what was going on out at Abu Ghraib who knew that they had to keep Janis Karpinski from discovering any of those activities," she added.
Asked whether she thought the conspiracy reached up to the Pentagon or the White House, she said: "The indication is that it may have."
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