ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center today announced that it will request the Secretary of Navy to investigate allegations of improper and unconstitutional interrogation methods employed by Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents against Marine witnesses. Law Center attorneys obtained the information during interviews of several key Haditha witnesses.
The Thomas More Law Center, a Christian legal advocacy group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is representing Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, who is charged with failing to investigate and report 15 Iraqi civilian deaths in connection with a Marine response to a terrorist ambush that occurred in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented, “There are disturbing reports that American servicemen were treated like POWs by their own government. In fact, more concern has been shown toward the treatment of Iraqi prisoners than towards our Marines. An investigation of these allegations is in order. ”
According to Marine witnesses, in some cases interrogations lasted up to 18 hours. During prolonged questioning sessions, Marines were not allowed to eat, drink, or use the bathroom. In some cases, Marines were kept in segregated rooms of an old Iraqi dam that were damp, dark, and “dungeon like.” These interrogation sessions occurred while the Marines were still involved in combat operations in Haditha, a hostile insurgent city.
Many witnesses reported that the questioning was accusatorial, confrontational, and at times insulting. One officer stated that agents yelled and threw things at him during his questioning. Witnesses believed that the agents had already concluded that there was wrongdoing and were not interested in information that would tend to exonerate the Marines. One witness stated that it was his perception that the NCIS agents had an agenda—they were going after the officers in the battalion.
Witness interviews revealed that Marines in Iraq raised concerns about the NCIS interrogation techniques immediately upon receiving reports from the Marines who were questioned. One senior officer from the battalion stated that when he brought these allegations to the attention of the senior NCIS agent in Iraq at the time, the agent “blew him off completely.”
Recent news stories corroborate the allegations of mistreatment on the part of NCIS agents. According to a North County Times article, in some cases NCIS agents refused to provide attorneys for suspects who asked for them. The article reported that “[s]ome of the interrogations that took place in Iraq before the regiment returned to Camp Pendleton in April took place over as long as 12 hours . . . and the suspects were not allowed to take bathroom breaks. Instead, they were given bottles to use to relieve themselves.” The article noted that “[t]he treatment of the suspects was so bad that at least two officers who were not a direct part of the investigation complained to their superiors.”
These latest revelations add to the increasing difficulties facing prosecutors. From the beginning, the case has been fraught with legal problems and inappropriate pre-trial publicity, which has prejudiced the ability of the charged Marines to obtain a fair trial. In fact, Air Force Lt. General Thomas McInerney, a 35-year veteran of the Air Force and former Joint Force Commander, has already publicly stated that all charges against the Marines should be dismissed because the Marines could not get a fair trial as a result of undue command influence. McInerney was referring to the outrageous statements of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha—statements that were made before the investigation even concluded. Murtha declared that the Marines had committed “cold-blooded” murder of civilians in Haditha on November 19, 2005 and that the officers were covering it up.
Thompson concluded, “This entire investigation has been nothing but a political witch- hunt instigated by insurgent propaganda operatives, anti-war media, and anti-war politicians. The government has spared no expense seeking to find wrongdoing on the part of our hard-fighting Marines. They should spend like resources investigating these serious allegations of investigatory misconduct. Our servicemen deserve as much.”
The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through education, litigation, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.