The Real News And Real Views, Disgusting As They May Be.
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On Monday, Spc. Jeremy Morlock is scheduled to be the first of five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to face an Article 32 hearing, where prosecutors will try to show there is enough evidence of their alleged involvement in the murder of Afghan civilians to proceed with court-martial trials.
By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter
Along with his rifle and armor, Spc. Jeremy Morlock relied on a bag of prescription medications to help get through a treacherous year in Afghanistan, where his body was rattled by bomb attacks.
In May, when Morlock was questioned about alleged war crimes, his prescription drugs included two anti-depressants, one potent muscle relaxer, two sleep medications and a pain reliever infused with codeine, according to a list provided by his defense attorney.
In two interviews with investigators, the 22-year-old Alaskan made a series of stunning allegations that implicated him and four other soldiers in what Army prosecutors assert were premeditated plans to murder three Afghan civilians.
These statements now form a central part of the Army's case against the five soldiers.
In a hearing scheduled for Monday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Morlock's civilian defense attorney, Michael Waddington, is expected to argue that his client's statements should be discounted because they were given while Morlock was under the influence of some of these drugs.
"We pulled at least 10 prescriptions out of his bag. They were giving these out like candy," Waddington said. "His memory of events is very foggy." Other lawyers who have reviewed the statements, one of which was on videotape, said Morlock sometimes sounded confused and the information he provided was sometimes contradictory.
He is to be the first of five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to face an Article 32 hearing, where prosecutors will try to show there is enough evidence to proceed with courts-martial.
These trials likely would be the most high-profile prosecutions of U.S. war crimes to result from the nearly 9-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The cases also are being monitored closely by Army officials who fear the Taliban insurgency could use them to sow mistrust of U.S. soldiers in the middle of a major push to gain control of Kandahar province, where the crimes are alleged to have occurred.
Morlock is accused of involvement in all three slayings.
In two of the incidents, grenades were thrown at the victims and they were shot, according to charging documents. The third victim also was shot.
The soldiers are accused of killing the three Afghans while on patrol, and anyone who dared to report the events was threatened with violence, according to statements made to investigators
Morlock also faces charges of drug use, obstruction of justice and other crimes. Prosecutors are expected to use his statements — along with details offered by other soldiers — to build their war-crimes case.
A new sergeant
Morlock and the four other soldiers accused of the crimes were part of what was then the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry, which arrived in Afghanistan in summer 2009 in the early phase of the Kandahar campaign.
Patrolling on foot and in Stryker vehicles, the soldiers early in their deployment encountered numerous bombs buried in trails or roads.
Morlock suffered traumatic brain injury from four concussive events, according to Waddington.
By last fall, still early in the deployment, the soldiers were emotionally and physically fatigued, according to the statement of Spc. Adam Kelly, a platoon member. There are also allegations that some soldiers, including Morlock, began to smoke hashish.
Around Thanksgiving, Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, a Billings, Mont., veteran of two previous deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, arrived in Morlock's platoon to replace a wounded sergeant. Morlock, in his statement to investigators, said Gibbs began to talk about "stuff" he had gotten away with in Iraq, and felt out platoon members to see if they would be willing to stage killings of Afghans.
In three separate incidents — in January, February and May of this year — Morlock alleges, civilians were murdered while the soldiers were on patrol. The deaths were made to appear as justified killings of Afghan civilians, he said.
By May, Morlock's brain injuries had prompted doctors to approve a medical evacuation, Waddington said.
But before that could happen, Morlock was intercepted by two criminal investigators. They were following up on a tip from another soldier, who, after being beaten for telling about hashish use, said Morlock and others had committed murder.
During Morlock's two interviews, some details of key events change.
In the first interview, for example, he said he was not sure if Spc. Michael Wagnon had knowledge of a February murder. But he claimed in a second interview that Wagnon was an accomplice to the crime, according to Colby Vokey, a civilian attorney who represents Wagnon.
"His statements are all over the map," Vokey said.
During these interviews, several sources say, Morlock believed he was acting as a whistle-blower and was shocked by the charges.
He told his family he now felt he was being "thrown under the bus," according to one source. He also was fearful of retribution from Gibbs or other members of the platoon for his comments, another source said.
Like Morlock, Gibbs' charges include three counts of premeditated murder. The other three soldiers — Wagnon, of Las Vegas; Pfc. Andrew Holmes, of Boise, Idaho; and Spc. Adam Winfield, of Cape Coral, Fla. — face one such charge.
Alaska friends shocked
The allegations against Morlock staggered his friends in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of south-central Alaska, where he grew up and excelled as a high-school athlete.
As captain of his hockey team in Houston, Alaska, Morlock had a reputation as a tough player who could exert a punishing toll on an opponent. In a matchup with Wasilla High School, the game plan called for Morlock to bait and harass the opponent's star player, Track Palin, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's son.
Lashing back in frustration, Palin drew a foul that landed him in the penalty box. Morlock then helped Houston win in overtime. "He could get under your skin — even sometimes my skin," said Morlock's former coach, Jamie Smith. "But he was one of those kids who, if he respects you and you give him an order, he's going to do it."
Smith, who has known Morlock about 14 years, said Morlock could be a "little crazy" but was honest almost to a fault. Smith recalls that Morlock, at the tail end of his senior season, was cited by police for underage drinking then suspended from a tournament.
"He could have bit his lip and kept quiet about it, but he came right up to me and said, 'Coach, I screwed up this weekend, and I don't want you to hear from somebody else,' " Smith said
But another former hockey coach, Sean McCoy, says Morlock had a violent temper.
McCoy cited an incident that occurred in the 2004-2005 hockey season, when as a junior in high school, Morlock joined in a practice session with middle-school players.
Booted off the ice for bad behavior, McCoy said, Morlock went into a locker room and assaulted a younger player. Morlock punched, squeezed the jugular and slammed the young boy's body up again the wall, narrowly missing a protruding coat hook, according to McCoy.
"It was definitely meant to hurt and intimidate, and for no reason," McCoy said.
He said his team contacted Wasilla police, who came to the locker room to investigate but declined to press charges.
Smith said he learned of the incident but discounted it as a minor scuffle.
Morlock joined the Army after his 2006 graduation from high school. While stationed in Washington state, he got married. By summer 2008, the marriage turned rocky amid allegations of abuse by both parties.
On June 19 of last year, Morlock was charged in Auburn Municipal Court with fourth-degree assault for allegedly throwing a beer glass at his wife, and pressing a lighted cigarette against her chest.
In a statement to Auburn police, his wife said she was concerned for her safety and contacted her husband's Army supervisors.
Morlock was convicted of a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $518 fine. The incident was not deemed serious enough to bump him from Afghanistan duty.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Seattle Times researcher David Turim contributed to this story.
US Covert Paramilitary Presence In Afghanistan Much Larger Than Thought
The WikiLeaks reports, which cover the escalation of the Afghan insurgency from 2004 until the end of 2009, include many descriptions of the activities of ...
Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/09/cias-afghan-kill-teams-expand-u-s-war-in-pakistan/#ixzz10mz2CLoO
Let there be no doubt that the U.S. is at war in Pakistan. It’s not just the drone strikes. According to insider journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, the CIA manages a large and lethal band of Afghan fighters to infiltrate into Pakistan and attack al-Qaeda’s bases. What could possibly go wrong?
Woodward’s not-yet-available Obama’s Wars, excerpted today in the Washington Post and the New York Times, unveils a CIA initiative called the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams, a posse of anti-Taliban and al-Qaeda locals who don’t respect the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The teams are practically brigade-sized: a “paramilitary army” of 3000 Afghans, said to be “elite, well-trained” and capable of quietly crossing over in the Pakistani extremist safe havens where U.S. troops aren’t allowed to operate. The CIA directs and funds the teams.
Administration officials didn’t just confirm the existence of the teams — they bragged about them. “This is one of the best Afghan fighting forces and it’s made major contributions to stability and security,” says one U.S. official who would only talk on condition of anonymity — and who wouldn’t elaborate.
The teams are an implicit concession of a paradox at the heart of the Afghanistan war: the enemies upon which the war is predicated, al-Qaeda and its top allies, aren’t in Afghanistan anymore. The drones — flown by both the CIA and the U.S. military — are one answer to their safe havens in Pakistan. (Two more drone strikes hit Pakistani tribal areas on Tuesday, bringing the total this year to at least 71.) Another is to launch the occasional commando raid across the Afghan border or rely on Special Forces, operating under the guise of training the Pakistani military, to engage in some dangerous extracurricular activity. Still another is to outsource “snatch and grab” operations against al-Qaeda to private security firms like Blackwater.
But the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams follow a more traditional, decades-old CIA pattern. When it’s politically or militarily unfeasible to launch a direct U.S. operation, then it’s time to train, equip and fund some local proxy forces to do it for you. Welcome back to the anti-Soviet Afghanistan Mujahideen of the 1980s, or the Northern Alliance that helped the U.S. push the Taliban out of power in 2001.
But that same history also shows that the U.S. can’t control those proxy forces. Splits within the mujahideen after the Soviet withdrawal (and the end of CIA cash) led to Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, which paved the way for the rise of the Taliban. One of those CIA-sponsored fighters was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now a key U.S. adversary in Afghanistan. And during the 2001 push to Kabul, a Northern Alliance military commander, Abdul Rashid Dostum, killed hundreds and maybe even thousands of Taliban prisoners. He was on the CIA’s payroll at the time.
Then there are the risks that the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams pose within Afghanistan. CIA has to recruit those fighters from somewhere. While the agency wouldn’t answer questions about how where its proxy fighters come from, the CIA also pays for a Kandahar-based militia loyal to local powerbroker Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother. Fearing that the entrenchment of such warlords will ultimately undermine the Afghan government, the U.S. military is trying to limit the influence of such warlords by changing its contracting rules. CIA may be less concerned.
After all, it’s not like the U.S. has many options for Pakistan, where hatred for the U.S. runs high, official ties to extremists are deep and political restrictions on the presence of American combat troops (mostly) prove durable. One of the larger political narratives Woodward’s book apparently presents is President Obama’s inability to either bring the Afghanistan war to a close or find good options for tailoring it to the U.S.’ main enemies in Pakistan. When the CIA comes to the Oval Office with a plan for inflicting damage on the safe havens — no matter how fraught with risk and blowback the plan is — is it any surprise that Obama would approve it?
Update, 10:42 a.m., September 23: In comments, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the military attache in Islamabad, objects to my suggestion that U.S. Special Operations Forces are engaging in direct military action in Pakistan. I thought this merited inclusion in the body of the piece:
Mr. Ackerman’s inferrence that U.S. Special Operations trainers in Pakistan are conducting anti-militant combat operations “operating under the guise of training the Pakistani military” is completely false. The U.S. military is conducting no combat operations in Pakistan. U.S. military trainers, personnel, and activities here in Pakistan are conducted at the invitation of the Government and military leadership of Pakistan. At their request, we provide training, equipment, and other forms of support to Pakistan’s defense needs. Our SOF-related training and equipment programs are typically focused on supporting Pakistani Military counterinsurgency operations – support which Pakistani Military officials have requested and which supports their energetic fight against Violent Extremists within Pakistan.
Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/09/cias-afghan-kill-teams-expand-u-s-war-in-pakistan/#comments#ixzz10Mc34bJb
Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/09/cias-afghan-kill-teams-expand-u-s-war-in-pakistan/#ixzz10myuT0Uh
U.S. Should Be Able To Shut Internet, Former CIA Chief Says --U.S. military has new Cyber Command to begin operations 1 October 26 Sep 2010 Cyberterrorism is such a threat that the U.S. president should have the authority to shut down the Internet in the event of an attack, Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said. Hayden made the comments during a visit to San Antonio where he was meeting with military and civilian officials to discuss cyber security. Hayden said the president currently does not have the authority to shut down the Internet in an emergency. [Yes, 'emergencies' such as exposing and resisting inevitable false flags, phony pandemics, and inside terror jobs.]
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