Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Emerging Face of America

I can't put the image out of my head: the Afghani man whose name showed up on a terrorist list, encouraged by the governor of the province to go to the Americans and clear his name. When the man expressed his concerns, the stories of American torture, the governor dismissed them and offered to send his son along. At the American base, the man, Abdul Wali, met the incarnation of his fear--the thing that would murder him--and never returned. His suffering went on for days. No one heard, or cared. No one cares much even now.

After nearly half a day, the story made it to the virtual front page of the NYTimes:
A North Carolina jury today convicted a former Central Intelligence Agency contractor of felony assault for severely beating an Afghan prisoner who died soon after.

The contractor, David A. Passaro, 40, a former Army Special Forces medic who went to work for the C.I.A. in Afghanistan in 2003, is the first civilian to be convicted as a result of numerous allegations of prisoner abuse in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the broader campaign against terrorism. He faces a maximum of 11½ years in prison.

The trial, in federal court in Raleigh, N.C., near Mr. Passaro’s town of Lillington, included testimony from clandestine C.I.A. officers who wore disguises to protect their identities, and it drew close attention from human rights advocates.

Witnesses said Mr. Passaro repeatedly hit Abdul Wali, a local farmer suspected of firing rockets at American troops, using a heavy flashlight and his fists. They said Mr. Wali was in such pain that he pleaded to be shot, and he died the day after a second day of abuse by Mr. Passaro.
One of the many obtuse defenses mounted by Passaro's legal team was this:
Mr. Passaro’s lawyers said he was not trained in interrogation and was under pressure to stop the frequent rocket attacks at the remote base near the Pakistan border. They said Mr. Passaro had attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Mr. Wali after he lost consciousness.
So a man who had been a police officer, who was trained as a medic, with a history of violence and sadistic behavior, was simply clueless as to the effect he was having when he kicked the prisoner in the groin so hard he flew into the air (hard enough to rupture his intestines or fracture his pelvis and render him unable to urinate), or when he repeatedly smashed him with a 2 foot long metal flashlight as he was chained to the floor, and all of it done with an eye to causing the minimum detectable damage (woman- and child-beaters are especially good at causing excruciating pain and debilitation where it can't be seen.) For 2 days. While Wali begged to be killed.

Let's look at exactly what Passaro's "training" consisted of.

A year before the trial, he was arrested for attacking his girlfriend:
David Passaro, 38, is charged with assault on a female, injury to personal property and misdemeanor larceny.

U.S. Marshals also detained Passaro on a federal warrant of violating the conditions of his pretrial release.

Harnett County Sheriff's deputies responded to a domestic dispute report at Passaro's Lillington home Thursday afternoon and met his girlfriend, Bonnie Heart, at a neighbor's residence.

Heart, a former Wake Forest police detective, told deputies that Passaro threw her into a hallway and pushed her into a door and a glass storm door during an argument over some phone calls.

Heart also alleged that Passaro threw her cell phone and other property into the yard and pulled earrings from her ears and threw them into a trashcan as she was trying to drive off, authorities said.
Back in March of this year, the judge let him out to prepare a defense in the upcoming trial under this condition:
Boyle ordered Passaro to post a Lillington property as bond, wear an electronic monitor and not to have any contact with his ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, and child.
Why? Because:
Prosecutors said in court documents made public Tuesday that they want Passaro's stepson, 26-year-old Matthew Michael Newman, to testify about how Passaro beat him until he was a teenager. It will be up to a judge to decide whether Newman, his mother and his sister can testify about childhood abuse.

Prosecutors argue that Passaro's prior conduct with his stepson will help prove to the jury that the former Green Beret knew what he was doing when he used a flashlight to beat Wali during an interrogation.
He knew what he was doing because he used his stepson as training bait:
Prosecutors detailed the similarities between how Newman says Passaro beat him and how Passaro is charged with beating Wali.

Newman, a former Marine, told federal officials that Passaro would interrogate him about minor household mishaps from a spill to a damaged screen door. Newman says Passaro would beat him with a stick wrapped in cloth to avoid leaving marks on his body. Newman says Passaro also would beat him with a spoon, a hammer and a flashlight on the elbows, upper arms, legs and outer thighs -- locations that lessen the likelihood of leaving marks, prosecutors say.

Passaro also demonstrated to Newman the technique of shining a flashlight to temporarily blind a person and then striking him with the flashlight. On one occasion, Newman says Passaro ordered him to use the technique on a child who had stolen Newman's candy.
A real specimen of American manhood--an ex-cop, complete with a scared ex-wife, a record of assaulting a neighbor, and the usual cast of dopey bystanders who thought he was "a real nice guy".

So the convictions weren't as stiff as they could have been:
After about eight hours of deliberations, a federal jury found Passaro guilty of three counts of simple assault and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, lesser charges than prosecutors had sought. He faces up to 11 1/2 years in prison, and no sentencing date was immediately set.
Originally he had been charged with 2 counts of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent of bodily harm, and 2 counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, facing up to 40 years in jail and a million dollar fine. What happened? It looks from here like a failure of will:
Justice Department officials have said one obstacle to more severe charges was the absence of an autopsy, which they said was not performed on Mr. Wali because his family opposed it.
Absence of an autopsy? Prosecutors didn't even need a body to convict Tom Capano of murder:
In a crime that had no body, no gun and no witnesses, Capano was convicted of shooting Fahey, 30, the scheduling secretary to then-Gov. Tom Carper, because she was breaking off a secret affair with him. Capano dumped her body in the Atlantic off Stone Harbor. She was last seen alive dining with Capano in an Old City restaurant.
The difference between the Capano case and Passaro's is this: witnesses observed the injuries, listened to Passaro bragging about what he did, and actually watched him in action. There were pictures of Wali's body. In Capano's case, there was none of that.

So they found him guilty of one felony count of assault, and 3 misdemeanors.

Here's a misdemeanor:
A North New Portland woman accused of helping her daughter make cookies laced with the laxative Ex-Lax appeared before a judge Monday and pleaded innocent to a single charge of misdemeanor assault.
But Passaro should be used to misdemeanor assault charges. It's the typical charge brought against abusive men in DV cases, when they're charged at all. It's a big ho-hum. He can do it standing on his head.

Now, since the unimaginative gentlemen prosecuting this case failed to bring murder charges, let's look at a charge they could have brought, and in keeping with the whole war on terrorism agenda so dear to Bushco:

Violation of TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113B >
§ 2332b.

Acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries

(a) Prohibited Acts.—
(1) Offenses.— Whoever, involving conduct transcending national boundaries and in a circumstance described in subsection (b)—

(A) kills, kidnaps, maims, commits an assault resulting in serious bodily injury, or assaults with a dangerous weapon any person within the United States
; or
(B) creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to any other person by destroying or damaging any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United
States or by attempting or conspiring to destroy or damage any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States; in violation of the laws of any State, or the United States, shall be punished as prescribed in subsection (c).
(2) Treatment of threats, attempts and conspiracies.— Whoever threatens to commit an offense under paragraph (1), or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished under subsection (c).

(b) Jurisdictional Bases.—
(1) Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are—

(D) the structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property is, in whole or in part, owned, possessed, or leased to the United States, or any department or agency of the United States;
(E) the offense is committed in the territorial sea (including the airspace above and the seabed and subsoil below, and artificial islands and fixed structures erected thereon) of the United States; or
(F) the offense is committed within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

(c) Penalties.—
(1) Penalties.— Whoever violates this section shall be punished—
(A) for a killing, or if death results to any person from any other conduct prohibited by this section, by death, or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life
(B) for kidnapping, by imprisonment for any term of years or for life;
(C) for maiming, by imprisonment for not more than 35 years;
(D) for assault with a dangerous weapon or assault resulting in serious bodily injury, by imprisonment for not more than 30 years;

(2) Consecutive sentence.— Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall not place on probation any person convicted of a violation of this section; nor shall the term of imprisonment imposed under this section run concurrently with any other term of imprisonment.

People think this man has been railroaded; scapegoated; used as a distraction from other, worse things, and he probably has. But he threw up a bullshit pretense of protecting my country and used the example set by the loathesome fungii in the White House to cover up his longstanding cruelty and sadism, and he needs to be held to account.

This shabby excuse for a trial doesn't even come close.

(Post was altered on 8/18/06 to emphasize specific clauses of the above statute.)

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