By ROBERT BURNS
An Army general who supervised the detention of insurgents in Iraq and ran the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for terror suspects was lauded at a retirement ceremony Monday as an innovator and an exceptional leader.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the fourth-highest Army commendation, which is for soldiers who distinguish themselves by "exceptionally meritorious service" in a "duty of great responsibility."
Miller led a team from Guantanamo to Iraq in September 2003 to advise on detention operations at Abu Ghraib just weeks before U.S. soldiers there abused Iraqi detainees, using dogs and sexual humiliation.
Dog teams were sent to Abu Ghraib in November 2003 on Miller’s recommendation. He has said he recommended that dogs be used for detainee custody and control but not for interrogations. Lower-level soldiers, however, have asserted that Miller told them dogs had been useful at Guantanamo in setting the atmosphere for interrogations.
An Army inspector general’s investigation cleared Miller of wrongdoing in connection with his role at Abu Ghraib.
Miller submitted his paperwork for retirement in January 2006, but the Army kept him on active duty while investigations into alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib worked their way through the military justice system. In May he testified for the defense at the court-martial of Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler accused of having his dog bite one detainee and harass another at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004.
Army officials said it was decided that Miller would be allowed to retire on condition that he would testify on issues related to Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse if ever called as a witness by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Human rights groups have singled out Miller as one of the senior Army commanders who should be held accountable for the abuses. John Sifton, author of a recent Human Rights Watch report on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, said he was stunned to learn that the Army had awarded Miller the Distinguished Service Medal.
"This is outrageous," Sifton said, adding that Miller should be forced to answer more questions about his role before being allowed to retire as a two-star general.
At his retirement ceremony in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, the No. 2 Army general lauded Miller as an exemplary leader.
"The thread that runs through his experiences _ in his service as a trainer, teacher, action officer, director, commander, father and husband is clear: He is a role model, innovator and a leader," said Gen. Richard Cody, the vice chief of staff.
"In recent years our Army asked Geoff Miller to tackle two of the toughest jobs in the global war on terror," Cody added. "He responded to each of these challenges with determination and conviction."
In a statement issued by the Army, Miller said he was proud of his Army career, mentioning his tours at Guantanamo and in Iraq, where he said he led soldiers "willing to do the heavy lifting of detaining suspected insurgents and developing critical intelligence to help win the war."
Miller joined the Army as a second lieutenant in December 1971 after graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in history. He later got a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Southern California.