Meet David Passaro, the Only CIA Guy Prosecuted for Detainee Abuse

As I said in my last post, bmaz and I are about to let loose a slew of posts on David Passaro, the only CIA guy prosecuted for detainee abuse. I first decided to look into Passaro’s case given that he was prosecuted in relation to the death of an Afghan detainee, Ahmed Wali, in June 2004, whereas the CIA guy in charge of the Salt Pit was not prosecuted in relation to the death of Gul Rahman seven months earlier. Why, I wanted to know, was Passaro tried and convicted but Gul Rahman’s killer has, thus far, avoided any consequences for Rahman’s death.

As we’ll eventually see, Passaro’s lawyers tested many of the theories John Yoo laid out in his OLC memos.

Passaro was indicted in June 2004, not long after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. He was tried and found guilty of assault in August 2006. He appealed his case to the Fourth Circuit, which last August rejected most of his appeal but remanded his case to the District Court for resentencing (his resentencing hearing was Wednesday and it’s quite likely his sentence will be lowered to the five years he has already served). Though Passaro appealed his case to the Supreme Court, they denied him cert. That means his case–and his failed effort to rely on some of Yoo’s theories–is legally binding for the Fourth Circuit, which just happens to cover both North Carolina (where JSOC is located) and Virginia (where CIA is located).

We’ll cover all those details in follow-up posts. In this one, I just wanted to introduce you to Passaro and the events he was convicted for.

Passaro is around 44 years old now (so was 37 when he served in Afghanistan). Though none of the court filings provide much detail about Passaro’s service, he is a former US Army Delta Special Forces medic, during which service he underwent SERE training. In 1990, he worked briefly as a cop in Hartford, CT, but got fired after being involved in a brawl (court filings mention one alleged and one other verified example of violent behavior on Passaro’s part). Ultimately, in 2002, he was hired as what is called a contract paramilitary specialist. He describes being trained in renditions–during which, playing the detainee, he underwent physical abuse–before heading to Afghanistan, but the government says he was not trained in interrogations. In Afghanistan, he worked with Afghan militia conducting patrols, gathering intelligence, and capturing “terrorists.”

Passaro started as a CIA contractor in December 2002. He arrived in Afghanistan around May 17, 2003, briefly worked somewhere else, then moved to Asadabad firebase in early June. By the time he moved to Asadabad, Passaro was reporting to a CIA field officer with no military experience and no prior foreign assignments who had arrived at Asadabad just a month before Passaro.

The Asadabad firebase is a 200 meter square mud fortress with 10-foot walls located 5 miles from the Pakistani border, northeast of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. By 2003, 225 people were stationed there, including members of the 82nd Airborne, Special Forces, CIA, CIA contractors, and (in a number of filings) people from an “Other Government Agency” that doesn’t appear to be the CIA. The firebase had been coming under rocket attacks that used white phosphorous starting in March 2003. Abdul Wali, whom Passaro was convicted of assaulting, was suspected of participating in those rocket attacks.

Passaro repeatedly pointed to some kind of classified information (probably intelligence from human sources) to support his claim that US forces knew Wali to be associated with the rocket attacks, and emphasized that Wali had been designated a force protection target before he was arrested; the government referred to him as a suspect who insisted on his innocence. On June 18, 2003, Wali turned himself into the the Americans through the intervention of the son of the Province’s governor, Hyder Akbar. No one did a medical intake exam of Wali when he turned himself in, though they did take a digital photo of him. There is some dispute over whose custody–DOD or CIA–he was in over the three days he was in US custody. In addition, there is some dispute about whether the head of the Special Forces team, Brian Halstead, or Passaro, ordered Wali to be sleep deprived and subjected to stress positions (they call the technique the “iron chair,” which is basically the kind of wall-sit you might do in a gym for very limited periods, though Wali was forced to maintain the position for an hour or more). It appears that three or four people, in addition to Passaro, interrogated Wali before his death, the identity of one which Passaro didn’t know. About 24 hours after he was detained, on June 19, Special Forces turned Wali over to the CIA; Passaro’s CIA supervisor asked him if “we wanted to take a crack at him.”

According to the government, when Passaro started questioning Wali, he told the guards, “his rules were different,” his “only rule was not to cause permanent injury.”

While the interpreter who attended Passaro’s interview claimed, at one point, that Passaro never touched Wali, someone (it appears to be the same interpreter) testified that Passaro slammed Wali’s face against the wall, kicked Wali, slammed him onto the ground, then subjected him to an hour of “iron chair.” When Wali could no longer hold that position, Passaro hit Wali with his Maglite flashlight. Passaro kicked Wali in the groin.

The next day, June 20, Wali started showing signs of delirium and complained of stomach pain. The government says even after Wali was in this condition, Passaro continued to beat him, this time using the Maglite to blind him before hitting him.

On June 21, Wali started asking the guards to shoot him. He was sluggish and appeared to be hallucinating. He collapsed (the government says Passaro kicked him after he collapsed), and within two hours, he died. The US turned Wali’s body over to his family and never did an autopsy.

In the aftermath of Wali’s death, the Governor of the Province (who, after all, had facilitated Wali’s arrest) stated publicly that his family had a history of heart troubles, which probably contributed to the death. It appears Wali’s death caused some tensions with local Afghans. At the same time, both CIA and DOD were providing different narratives of what happened to Wali as both agencies conducted their own investigations, and the commander of JTF-180 in Afghanistan, General John Vines, was accusing the CIA of “trying to leave a body on his doorstep.” Within a month, George Tenet was involved, trying to soothe the US Ambassador to Afghanistan (who had not been informed in timely fashion) and General Vines.

As DOD and CIA investigations began, Passaro returned from Afghanistan and continued to work in a civilian role at Fort Bragg–in a position his pre-indictment lawyer says required either Secret or Top Secret clearance.

It’s unclear precisely how and when the parallel DOD and CIA investigations into the death ended up focusing exclusively on Passaro. Apparently, at one point CID closed their investigation for lack of evidence, but reopened it in May 2004, as the Abu Ghraib story was breaking. That suggests the CIA Inspector General referred Passaro for criminal charges, because he received a target letter on February 10, 2004.

We’ll get to his legal defense in follow-up posts. But it’s of interest that he remained, working at Fort Bragg with some kind of clearance, from the time he got the target letter until he was indicted on June 17, 2004. During that time (as described by his pre-indictment lawyer), he realized he might be arrested at any time, and was collecting documents in preparation to defend himself. Just over a week after he was indicted, US Marshalls seized a briefcase of his with two folders of legal materials inside.

It no doubt helped that he was indicted at the same time as the Bybee One memo became public, which led to a focus on the legal justifications the Bush Administration had laid out for torture. But between that, his SERE training, and his presence at Fort Bragg, Passaro appeared to have a very good idea how he might defend himself for having beat a guy so badly during interrogation that he died.

85 replies
  1. phred says:

    How can anyone pretend that Passaro was in anyway involved in interrogation? Nothing you have described here suggests he was qualified to interrogate anyone. He sounds like a hired thug whose role is to beat the crap out of someone. Haven’t we been told all along that torture was supposed to produce better intelligence? Passaro’s conduct clearly makes that claim out to be a lie.

  2. Mary says:

    His only rule was to not cause permanent injury – yeah, it sounds like he was very familiar with what he needed.

    Or thought he needed. Under a torture statute or war crimes act – with no other criminal statutes applicable.

    I’m waiting for the rest – anything to distract from the prospects of Kagan on the Sup Ct.

    The one thing Stevens is going to do is to show up the fallacy of the hysteria that we have to vote for Democrats to save the Sup Ct. Sotomayor and Kagan aren’t saviors for the Sup Ct and worse yet, the framing has been allowed to be moved during the Obama admin so that torture girl Kagan is going to be deemed to be the left wing.

    • phred says:

      Agreed. After the FISA Amendments Act, the only argument I could make in support of Obama and his Dem compatriots was to try to maintain a balanced Supreme Court. But with our Republican-in-Democrat clothing Unitary Executive, I no longer have any illusions about the continued rightward shift of the court.

  3. orionATL says:

    given how damaging a charged employee or contractor could be to the “clandestine” in cia’s clandestine torture program,

    i am amazed passaro was charged,

    especially given the overt facts – kicking, and i guess what you would have to call with grim humor, battery with a flashlight.

    passaro’s behavior seems comparatively mild compared to cia’s go-to techniques – waterboarding, dousing, boxing, slamming, hanging, drugging.

    • emptywheel says:

      THey apparently at first intended to keep the CIA’s involvement secret, such that in the pre-indictment period Passaro and his lawyer didn’t talk directly with CIA. Then Ashcroft announced the indictment with one of his trademark big press conferences, noting prominently the tie to CIA.

      Then there was a period during fall of that year where they were going to treat the case differently–perhaps they were going to charge him with torture or something, I’m not really sure (many of the filings on this are sealed). As you’ll see, he launched a “public authority” defense (as well as a jurisdictional one and a version of a Commander-in-Chief one) so that might have made them rethink how they were going to proceed.

      Ultimately, he was only found guilty of one felony charge of assualt–the other three were found to be misdemeanors. And as I said, there’s a very good chance that his resentencing will make him a free man shortly.

  4. Gitcheegumee says:

    Fri, 2009-08-21 00:44.
    Blackwater: CIA Assassins?
    By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

    In April 2002, the CIA paid Blackwater more than $5 million to deploy a small team of men inside Afghanistan during the early stages of US operations in the country. A month later, Erik Prince, the company’s owner and a former Navy SEAL, flew to Afghanistan as part of the original twenty-man Blackwater contingent. Blackwater worked for the CIA at its station in Kabul as well as in Shkin, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they operated out of a mud fortress known as the Alamo. It was the beginning of a long relationship between Blackwater, Prince and the CIA.

    AfterDowning Street

    NOTE: I read in the thread story that Passaro was a CIA contractee. Did he work for Blackwater?

    • emptywheel says:

      I asked Scahill that directly earlier this week. He says he has no evidence that he was BW. Curiously though, he tried to call Cofer Black as a witness, which is odd unless he was BW.

      • bobschacht says:

        yeah, but before Cofer was BW he was CIA, most recently (per Wiki):

        Black was the United States Department of State Coordinator for Counter-terrorism with the rank of Ambassador at Large from December 2002 to November 2004. The point man for the U.S. government’s international counter-terrorism policy in the first term of the Bush administration, he resigned shortly after George W. Bush was elected to a second presidential term.

        Bob in AZ

  5. Jim White says:

    Could the difference in why Passaro was prosecuted while the Salt Pit killer wasn’t be due to the breaking of Abu Graib? Was there a realization that there was more attention on prisoner treatment after the photos were published? I think so, because the response was identical: prosecute someone low down on the totem pole and then move on with the policies that allow the situation to repeat.

    Semi OT: I just put up a new diary where I’ve found a Joint Chiefs publication that seems to give the official policy that allowed long term detention of civilians at Guantanamo.

    • emptywheel says:

      Not really, bc they were still weighing Salt Pit charges at the same time they were charging Passaro, in conjunction with the end of the IG Review.

      The two biggest differences, IMO, are 1) that Passaro was a contractor, which made it easier in some ways to segregate his behavior from what CIA endorsed, and 2) that it was assault rather than negligent homicide, which again, made it easier to segregate off certain actions (particularly, hitting Wali with the flashlight, though it appears the govt didn’t prove that in the trial) from accepted torture techniques).

      • klynn says:

        Wouldn’t an autopsy be needed for negl hom?

        I think they knew that detail when they dropped the body off. Is this even asked in the case?

        • emptywheel says:

          Oh, it was a big deal.

          They turned the body over immediately, potentially bc that’s what the Provincial governor wanted (remember, he was on the hook for cooperating with us on this front). Then, in August 2003, some CIA and DOJ people met with a top Navy pathologist about whether it’d still be possible to exhume the body and perform an autopsy, which he said would be totally possible, particularly the weather conditions in Afghanistan at the time. But DOD offered a bunch of excuses–they didn’t have a pathologist in the country, they didn’t want to inflame the local population (though the family had given permission for the body to be disinterred for an autopsy–and it was never done.

          I haven’t read the court transcripts, yet. But it seems like the jury decided there was only proof that Passaro kicked Wali, not that he beat him w/the flashlight. But they concentrated on the flashlight bc that would get them to a real charge even without the evidence of an autopsy.

      • Mary says:

        Another element of him being a contractor is that OLC cannot issue opinions to or for the benefit of non-gov actors (including contractors)

        • crossword says:

          Yeah, he was acting “unlawfully”. Alone. Rogue. A bad apple…that’s the narrative.

  6. harpie says:

    Thanks Marcy and bmaz. It will be very interesting to how the series develops. One aspect I’m interested in is how his SERE and rendition training may have affected him psychologically and emotionally. Is there any test of emotional stability these people have to pass before they’re set loose?

    I keep remembering Taguba’s words in his report about Abu Ghraib:

    “[…] the horrific abuses suffered by the detainees at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) were wanton acts of select soldiers in an unsupervised and dangerous setting. There was a complex interplay of many psychological factors and command insufficiencies […] during the period August 2003 to February 2004.”

    There are two minor typos you may want to fix:

    “In Afghanistan, he worked [??] Afghan militia conducting patrols […]”

    “and emphasized that Wali had been designed a force protection target before he was arrested”

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks for the typo corrections.

      Yeah, I’d be more interested in his earlier service. Like I said, he’s about 44 now, so if he enlisted out of high school (I think he has a GED, and was doing college coursework in prison, so presumably no college degree), he’d have enlisted in 1984 or so. He got an honorable discharge. After that, it looked like he had a hard time landing a long-term job: in addition to the failed attempt to be a cop, he also worked for UPS for a period. The unauthenticated example of abuse (there are reasons to doubt it, bc it came from an estranged wife only in the context of this case; the judge refused to admit it in the trial) is that he abused a step-son in the 1988 to 1995 time frame in ways that may have reflected his prior service.

      One more thing. The judge in this case was reasonably sympathetic to Passaro’s arguments that he was similar to a cop who had a person in custody, and as a result of that, accidentally overextended his force. But he lost the judge when he twice broke the terms of his release. The first time involved beating up his girlfriend, the second time involved being out after curfew in a single car accident in which alcohol was involved (he skipped the scene of the accident and the woman he was with–not the same person as his earlier girlfriend–appears to have been driving and was not over legal limits for alcohol).

      His record in prison has been completely clean, but outside of prison, he’s obviously got some issues.

  7. tjbs says:

    I’m interested to see where you go with this.

    First impression would be the firewall of contractor rather than a CIA agent.
    That was something George sr. was adamant about, plausible deny-ability.
    It seems, from your account, he was close to the violent extreme and was hired for that special quality.

    Everyone who got their jollies by torturing, cowardly erected firewalls for their own protection, especially the principles.You always need a fall guy, a patsy so to speak.

    • MadDog says:

      I think in this case where both the CIA and the Special Forces are already identified as being present, the “OGA” is more likely to be NSA folks for Signals Intelligence or even more likely, the DIA’s Directorate of Human Intelligence folks.

      Regarding the DIA’s DH, per Wiki:

      …DH conducts worldwide strategic HUMINT collection operations in support of DoD, national intelligence requirements, and military operations. It deploys teams of linguists, field analysts, case officers, interrogation experts, technical specialists, and special forces…

      (My Bold)

      • crossword says:

        Close. It’s AOA, the human and signals intelligence unit that falls under JSOC. Don’t be fooled by the website, it falls under JSOC. They used to be called ISA — Intelligence Support Activity — or GRAY FOX. They were TF-ORANGE in the McChrystal days.

        • crossword says:

          General Vine was a careerist. He doesn’t care what OGA does, as long as it doesn’t impact him personally. It was happening in his backyard, so he made a lot of noise. This was the early days of OEF; there were careers to be made.

          Just ask the 4-star who had a public battle of wills with a sitting President recently.

        • MadDog says:

          That still doesn’t negate DIA’s involvement.

          Remember, this was the timeframe when the greatest number of detainees were being turned in/captured.

          DIA’s DH or DHS as it was known then, was heavily involved as the primary DoD component responsible for detainee interrogations in Iraq, Gitmo, and I’m betting, in Afghanistan as well.

          And while I’ll buy your point at # 32 for the post-9/11 usage of OGA for JSOC, I’m still leaning in the DIA direction since “Special Forces” (a la JSOC-owned folks) were specifically identified, whereas folks like the DIA’s DH/DHS are still nominally “black”, and specifically, an “agency”.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s what I was wondering–but they do identify Special Forces as being there explicitly. Would they still refer to JSOC as OGA in that context?

      • crossword says:

        OGA is a blanket euphemism for CIA, DIA and JSOC personnel in the field.
        It traditionally refers to CIA, but has grown to encompass DIA and JSOC post-9/11.

        It worked so well for the JSOC task forces that inside the beltway types started referring to said task forces in official correspondence on the Joint Staff, in the NSC directorates and the Secretary’s office as OCF — Other Coalition Forces — with -I denoting Iraq, -P denoting the Philippines, and -A for Afghanistan.

        • emptywheel says:

          Oh, I see. That actually happens here, and I thought Passaro was trying to point to the presence of someone from another country onsite. But I guess that was him pointing to JSOC.

        • crossword says:

          There was a concerted effort in “the early days” to get reservists with paramilitary and ‘gator skills in forward-deployed contractor slots.

          The idea was:

          status as contractor + CIA/DIA/JSOC employment = no UCMJ prosecution

          Reservists can only be charged under the UCMJ if they’re recalled to active duty. Which would never happen if you were a contractor or on loan to an intelligence agency.

          Passaro got the hammer, in my opinion, because he was not working for CIA, he was working alongside CIA — for a JSOC task force, specifically TF-5. And they didn’t want that revealed. Many people believe there is a parallel detention and rendition program run by JSOC, separate from CIA’s, replete with separate black sites, separate aircraft, separate logistics train and separate interrogators.

        • crossword says:

          I need only point you here:

          With General Stanley McChrystal, who commanded JSOC from 2003-2008, running the war, forces–and commanders–accustomed to operating in an unaccountable atmosphere now have unprecedented influence on overall US military operations, opening the door for an expansion of secretive, black operations done with little to no oversight. “The main thing to take away here is a recognition and acceptance of the paradigm shift that has occurred,” says the former CENTCOM employee. “Everything is one echelon removed from before: where CIA was the darkest of the dark, now it is JSOC. Therefore, military forces have more leeway to do anything in support of future military objectives. The CIA used to have the ultimate freedom–now that freedom is in JSOC’s hands, and the other elements of the military have been ordered to adapt.”

          All those movies over the last three decades? Where the CIA is the villian?
          And CIA unilateraly reassigns military personnel to do their bidding? Well, that’s JSOC’s domain now. They do that. They run the show. Not CIA. This shift is what scares a John Brennnan just as much as a Colonel Wilkerson.

          To quote the Vice President, it’s a big fucking deal.

  8. BoxTurtle says:

    My guess: He was prosecuted because he was acting outside of any of the approved torture programs. He could not endanger higher ups.

    I’ll be interested to see whom he says gave him the orders.

    Boxturtle (Under the bus with you!)

  9. JThomason says:

    This situation is very clear to me. Only certain persons are entitled to willy-nilly physically abuse others in neo-fuedal world order.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think I’d phrase it slightly differently. Only certain persons are going to get away with killing someone after willy-nilly physically abusing detainees.

      Passaro’s lawyer said–and I think he’s absolutely right–that if Wali hadn’t died, no one would have been charged at all. It’s only when CIA and DOD got stuck with a dead body that they had to blame someone, and Passaro probably deserved his share of the blame (though not all of it), and Passaro was easy to not defend (because he didn’t have direct access to some of the bureaucratic details that would have protected him).

      One thing I didn’t mention about the base. It appears that most of the spooky types, including Passaro, were working under pseudonyms. It’s really hard to hold your chain of command responsible when you don’t know their names, as Passaro didn’t. And the CIA can and did say that he wasn’t entitled to that classified information. They also made it all but impossible to call people further up the chain of command–as I’ll describe in a later post, in addition to Black he tried to call Sulick and Kappes.

      • phred says:

        It appears that most of the spooky types, including Passaro, were working under pseudonyms. It’s really hard to hold your chain of command responsible when you don’t know their names, as Passaro didn’t.

        Huh. A person might almost think they their intention from the outset was to engage in criminal activity.

  10. Leen says:

    “On June 18, 2003, Wali turned himself into the the Americans through the intervention of the son of the Province’s governor, Hyder Akbar.”

    To think that what you described Pasarro doing to Wali was done to someone who had “turned himself into the Americans”

    No need to wonder why the numbers of people willing to try to take out American soldiers etc grew.

  11. jdmckay0 says:

    somewhat OT, but related (a lot):

    George W. Bush ‘knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent’

    George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

    The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

    Pretty much what I (and I assume most folks here) assumed. Also implicit in that is they just didn’t give a rip about justice: that ignoring it was a-ok in support of Iraq, which itself was built on more of the same.

  12. Leen says:

    “Just over a week after he was indicted, US Marshalls seized a briefcase of his with two folders of legal materials inside.”

  13. Gitcheegumee says:

    Perhaps some here are familiar with this primer on torture,but I was not, and it is salient to the context of the time frame regarding Passaro and the issue at hand:

    What is torture? – By Emily Bazelon, Phillip Carter, and Dahlia …What Is Torture?An interactive primer on American interrogation. By Emily Bazelon, Phillip Carter, and Dahlia LithwickPosted Thursday, May 26, 2005, … – Cached

    FRONTLINE: the torture question: readings & links | PBSWhat is Torture? This interactive feature from offers a rundown of the legal memos that determined U.S. interrogation policy, a primer on the … – Cached – Similar

  14. orionATL says:

    crossword @32

    “…with -I denoting Iraq, -P denoting the Philippines, and -A for Afghanistan…”

    in the phillipines ?

    jsoc considered the southern phillipines similar in importance to iraq and afghanistan?

    where does east africa fit in?

    • bobschacht says:

      jsoc considered the southern phillipines similar in importance to iraq and afghanistan?

      So.Phil. is a Moslem area and hotbed of terrorist activities:

      Terrorist Groups in the Philippines

      There are four major terrorist groups active in the Philippines today: The Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army. The first three are Islamic groups that operate primarily in the south of the nation, where most of the country’s Muslim minority live. The Communist New People’s Army operates in the northern Philippines.

      I think Abu Sayyaf has been in the news.

      Bob in AZ

  15. Gitcheegumee says:

    EW, Thank you for the reply re: Blackwater and Passaro.

    The timeframe of Passaro’s indictment(June 14,2004) brought to mind another case involving another entity,Jonathan Keith (Jack)Idema,arrested July 5,2004 in Afghanistan.

    Idema was allegedly running his OWN torture chambers, and “claimed” to work for Rumsfeld.

    Here’s a good piece from Jonathan Turley:

    Soldiers of Fortune — at What Price? – Los Angeles TimesSoldiers of Fortune — at What Price? Commentary. September 16, 2004|Jonathan Turley, … But privatization of the military comes at a price. … – Cached

    • crossword says:

      I’ve met Idema. He’s a clown. Don’t pay him any attention. Complete loser and pathological liar. Oh — and he was never SOF. EVER.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Thank you for your reply.

        I have read several articles on Idema, and many reflect your opinion.

        I find the contemporaneous timing most intriguing,however.

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          On September 15,2004 Afghan judges sentenced three members of one private army to 8 to 10 years in prison for running a private jail and torturing prisoners. They claimed they worked for a Pentagon counterterrorist group led by Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, who last October called Bush’s wars a clash between Christianity and Islam. Muslims, according to Boykin worship an idol, not a ”real God.”

          Jonathan K. Idema, 48, a former Special Forces operative, provided journalists with taped conversations to show that the convicted men had at least General Boykin’s acknowledgement of ­ if not blessing for — their actions. Videos taken in Kabul by one of the team showed Idema with Boykin’s staff on two occasions, discussing rounding up terrorists. Should we give full support to Idema, who remained in fax and phone contact with high Defense officials and went on missions with NATO forces in Kabul?

          The government didn’t deny that another former Special Forces operative, now working as a mercenary, used a flashlight to beat an Afghan prisoner to death. On June 19, 2003 David Passaro, a contractor working for the CIA” got orders to extract information from Abdul Wali, and in the process murdered him. (Los Angeles Times September 16, 2004.)

          “Facts and Lies:Slogans and Truth”,Saul Landau, Counterpunch

          NOTE: It is interesting that in the Wiki entry for Idema, he purports to have communicated with DOD via Heather Anderson.

          Anderson was Stephen Cambone’s associate who was responsible for vetting hires,among other duties.

  16. orionATL says:

    from reading wiki, sounds like the creation of ssb was cheney-rumsfeld’s “fuck you” to the cia (which would fit with cheney’s alleged deep dislike and distrust of the cia).

    which in turn raises the question of why cheney and addington would have been much associated with cia activities of any sort -rendition, black sites, torture.

    it makes more sense that they would focus their attentions on the jsoc operations.

    so why was cheney-addington have bothered to spend time working the doj to get protections (bogus protections, apparently) for the cia?

    • crossword says:

      Jeff Kaye can articulate more cleanly than I — and for that matter, so can emptywheel and Rayne — but it boils down to the neocons deep-seated contempt for all things CIA.

      They — namely Addington, former Vice President Cheney, Secretaries Rumsfeld, Cambone, Feith — believe the military and DoD should have cognizance over all facets of covert, overt and intelligence actions on behalf of the US. To them, there shouldn’t even be a CIA — it should be folded under DoD, or absorbed by DIA and the branches.

      That’s what the parallel efforts and simultaneous protection of CIA were all about. They need CIA as a patsy. It’s useful. They take the blame, they get all the attention and scorn from the media and the citizenry (and Hollywood).

      They would like nothing more than CIA to go down in flames and hemorrhage personnel, and then in, say, 2014, propose a realignment of CIA resources and personnel to DoD to bring “accountability” to the intelligence community. That’s why the DNI was slow-rolled from the beginning; the DNI is useless to them, too. The end-goal is a SECDEF who controls the military apparatus and the entire intelligence community. Until then, DNI and CIA are useful idiots to them. They almost succeeded under the Bush Administration, and enough groundwork has been laid that it can become reality with a couple strokes of a pen next Republican administration.

  17. orionATL says:

    rayne @44

    so bush’s war on aids in africa, which always seemed to me much to charitable a thought for gw, was a subterfuge (or was it a bribe) for allowing the u.s. military to operate in parts of africa (out of addis abbaba?)?

    or have i misunderstood?

  18. Gitcheegumee says:

    FWIW, George Tenet abruptly resigned for “personal “reasons, on June 3,2004.

    This was just one month following the CID’s reopening the case into Wali’s death-May,2004 as per thread info- and exactly two weeks before Passaro was indicted on June 17,2004.

    I read elsewhere that when Passaro’s case documents were unsealed, he had planned to call Tenet and Alberto Gonzales as witnesses.

    George Tenet – Wikipedia

    Resignation‎: Citing “personal reasons,” Tenet submitted his resignation to President Bush on June 3, 2004. James Pavitt, his Deputy Director … – Cached – Similar

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      I found this over at DU, but I got a 404 when I went to the link:

      Tue Apr-12-05 09:42 PM

      Original message

      Former CIA Op. Would Call Gonzales, Tenet as Witnesses in Federal Trial

      RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A former CIA operative accused of beating an Afghan prisoner who died in custody wants to subpoena the U.S. attorney general and the former head of the CIA to prove he acted under government authority, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.

      The court documents were unsealed in the case of David Passaro following a petition by The Associated Press, The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Washington Post. The news organizations said in a request filed last month that the government was engaged in a secret prosecution of Passaro, a former Special Forces soldier.

      Passaro, 38, is charged with four counts of assault. He is accused of beating Abdul Wali with his hands, feet and a large flashlight while he was interrogated for two days at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in June 2003. Wali had turned himself in to U.S. forces, who sought him as a suspect in rocket attacks on the base. He later died in custody.

      Passaro is the first civilian prosecuted on charges of mistreating a military detainee in the U.S. war on terrorism.


  19. turftoe says:


    I have some very detailed and specific information on this story. If you’re going continue on with it, I’d like to have a conversation with that may help you to understand some things that you otherwise wouldn’t.

    • MadDog says:

      Though EW may be busy elsewhere at the moment, I’m betting she would love to take you up on your offer and chat with you via email on this, so hang in there.

  20. MadDog says:

    So was David Passaro “interrogating” Abdul Wali or is the CIA lying here:

    …A career CIA agent and another agency contract worker testified Tuesday that CIA contractors hired to work in places like Afghanistan were not trained in interrogation techniques and were not given special rules allowing them to beat detainees.

    Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan, a 16-year employee of the CIA using the pseudonym Gary Wagner said he approved the training received by contract employees, and that all interrogations were conducted by career CIA agents.

    “Did the training include anything about special rules to beat prisoners?” Sullivan asked.

    “Absolutely not,” Wagner said.

    During opening statements Monday, Sullivan said Passaro told soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who witnessed Wali’s interrogation that they couldn’t touch detainees, but that special rules allowed him to do so.

    A third CIA employee, using the pseudonym Randy Miller, said he and Passaro were in the same December 2002 training class for contractors. The retired Army Special Operations Command solider said the training included marksmanship, off-road driving, surveillance and detecting surveillance and security, but nothing about interrogating prisoners or physically assaulting detainees…

    (My Bold)

  21. MadDog says:

    …Though none of the court filings provide much detail about Passaro’s service, he is a former US Army Delta Special Forces medic, during which service he underwent SERE training…

    (My Bold)

    A couple of thoughts about Passaro’s background:

    Question EW – are we sure about Passaro being in the Delta Force?

    Green Beret and Army Ranger, yes. Delta Force though?

    As entry into the Delta Force itself is extremely difficult, and one of the most sought after positions within Special Operations, I question why if Passaro was actually in the Delta Force, he decided to leave.

    Based on Passaro’s Wiki entry he graduated from highschool in 1984 and by 1990 graduated from a police academey. All told, that left about 6 years to be in the Army.

    Why would someone leave the prestigious Delta Force (if he was actually in it) after such a relatively short time in the Army?

    More money? Not bloody likely as a probationary police officer:

    …A spokeswoman for the Hartford, Conn., Police Department, Nancy Mulroy, said Passaro graduated from the city’s police academy in 1990 but was relieved of duty after he was arrested by state police before completing his probationary period…

    And life as a civilian again wasn’t a bed of roses:

    …He was convicted in 1991 of breach of peace, state police said. He paid a $100 fine.

    Passaro’s ex-wife, Kerry Passaro of Fayetteville, said her husband had assaulted a neighbor and was violent throughout their marriage.

    North Carolina records show David and Kerry Passaro were divorced in 2001, and that Passaro remarried a year later. Since then, Harnett County deputy sheriffs were called twice to the rural house to investigate domestic fights and again to look into a complaint that Passaro fired a gun at a neighbor’s dog…

    And Passaro wasn’t going to make a forture working for UPS either.

    Honorable discharge or not, I’m guessing Passaro was “encouraged” to leave the Army.

    • crossword says:

      So FOIA his service record from HQDA (Army HQ in the Pentagon).

      Combat Applications Group = Delta Force

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      “Medic” is what caught my attention.

      Wouldn’t a medic know he was inflicting deadly harm?

      • crossword says:

        No, no, there’s a long history of this. SEAL corpsman (a Navy medic, enlisted, no degree but highly skilled and integrated into every Marine battalion and SEAL squadron) a couple years back refused to join JSOC and do “interrogations.”

        That’s who they recruit from — medical personnel. There is also a long history of military psychologists, etc who end up doing really devious things that certainly violate dozens of codes. That’s Jeff Kaye’s lane though.

      • emptywheel says:

        That’s one thing the govt liked to harp on. That rather than giving Wali medical attention himself, he let the medic in the unit do so. Though Passaro stated, with no rebuttal, that he tried to give the guy CPR.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      If you are directing comment,#64 at me, no I did not misread your comment.

      I understand you refer to one individual that abstained,but the inference is that there are many others who don’t-judging from the phrase,”that’s who they recruit from,medical personnel.”

  22. JThomason says:

    Continuing to look at the major movements in time and all apropos of the evolution of Woodward’s secret weapon making the issues of corporate control of XE all the more relevant in the face of the ever jurisdictionally aware Bush mode of operation complete with the insertion of the CIA petard:

    At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

    The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so “compartmentalized” that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

    The US Secret War in Pakistan, The Nation, November 23, 2009

    See also, Continuos Clandestine Tagging Tracking and Locating. US Special Operations Command, Sep. 5, 2007 and What is Woodward’s ‘Secret Weapon’ in Iraq?, Wired, Sep. 9, 2008.

    All suggesting that the prosecution of Passaro given the back ground information above may have been because of certain unmanageable features of his character otherwise putting the security of the evolution of the snatch and grab and assassination programs at risk. So forgive me for catching up as this big picture may be very clear by now to others, but the pattern is certainly coherent.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Also, #6 and #10,above (from 8/20/09) Scahill goes into detail that may be of interest to you.

  23. JThomason says:

    On OGAs:

    The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. “Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it’s JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes.” The Pentagon has stated bluntly, “There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”

    The US Secret War in Pakistan, The Nation, November 23, 2009

    • JThomason says:

      I am a bit caught up in the irony of the foreshadowing coincidence that Col Wilkerson is a major source exposing JSOC in this piece by Scahill which apparently has been incorporated in large part in the Wiki entry for JSOC. Come to think of it I believe I found it through a Wikipedia footnote.

  24. orionATL says:

    rayne @68

    thanks for lots of interesting info.

    i wondered if pepfar were involved.

    i know about that program from the public health end. it’s a huge source of money for u.s. gov public health programs in africa.

    if my understanding is correct, pepfar is run out of state (aid under state runs most of the show for usgov).

  25. orionATL says:

    well, one thing seems clear from passaro’s background;

    given his fairly long-term history of high-violence outbursts,

    he is a seriously emotionally disturbed individual.

    a person like that with ANY sort of military training is dangerous,

    so why hire such a person and put him in a high-stress environment?

    when being in a high-stress environment virtually guarantees he wil “go off” as his way of coping.

    • librty says:

      so why hire such a person and put him in a high-stress environment?

      I believe on paper, his resume, had all the qualifications they were looking for. This guy was a Delta, he’s one of the boys.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Agree that this is just the sort of around the bend person U.S. military special forces is looking for.

  26. orionATL says:

    another issue in this case that may be peripheral to ew’s thesis, but bothers the hell out of me is this:

    though suspected of raining wp down on the american’s, wali agreed to surrender himself to the americans through the intersession of the local pasha.

    normally, people responsible for such behavior do not turn themselves in to the folks they are trying to give skin grafts to,

    so there is the possibility that wali was “innocent”.

    i would think, probably i should say hope, that the first response of the us forces would not have been to ” interrogate with force”, aka torture, wali.

    so how did wali go from being a person who turned himself in

    to a person who was dead?

    and how long IN DAYS was it from the day he turned himself in until the day he died?

    as i said above, why wali was tortured is not the thrust of the passaro story.

    that thrust seems to be pointed at demonstrating that john yoo’s legal aegus was, shall we say, diaphanus.

    but still, that a man who turned himself in was murdered does not speak well for the us military.

    as i recall, a situation similar to this treachery occured in iraq during the invasion

    when an iraqui general turned hinself in and shortly theteafter died of soffocation at the hands of american toturgators (he had been rolled up in sleeping bags as i recall).

  27. librty says:

    Lots of info here.

    One thing that has always concerned me about using civilian contractors, with military personnel the UCMJ is authoritative, controlling. But I don’t believe there is an applicable control for civilians (although in this instance, this sociopath knew the UCMJ).

  28. Gitcheegumee says:

    Jerry Boykin was Cambone’s right hand man for military intelligence.

    Here are some superb links to extensive background on Boykin:

    Infiltrating the U.S. Military: Gen. Boykin’s Kingdom WarriorsBoykin’s “Kingdom Warriors” On the Road to Abu Ghraib and Beyond …… If this is true, General Boykin’s “kingdom warriors” have emerged as a powerful and ……/InfiltratingTheUSMilitaryGenBoykinsWarriors.html – Cached – Similar

    Boykin’s “Kingdom Warriors” On the Road to Abu Ghraib and Beyond … of God to General Boykin, Stephen Cambone and. Donald Rumsfeld? ……/BlackwellSonCheatsBarExam.html – Cached – Similar

    The Cranky EditorBoykin’s “Kingdom Warriors” On the Road to Abu Ghraib and Beyond … Ashcroft’s Assemblies of God to General Boykin, Stephen Cambone and Donald Rumsfeld? … – Cached – Similar

    • crossword says:

      General Boykin is an authoritative source.

      Idema is not. He’s a poser, and a pathological liar.

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