Marine cover up
Why is he being sued?
Inquiry Suggests Marines Excised Files on Killings
By DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: August 18, 2006
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 — A high-level military investigation into the killings of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last November has uncovered instances in which American marines involved in the episode appear to have destroyed or withheld evidence, according to two Defense Department officials briefed on the case.
The investigation found that an official company logbook of the unit involved had been tampered with and that an incriminating video taken by an aerial drone the day of the killings was not given to investigators until Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, intervened, the officials said.
Those findings, contained in a long report that was completed last month but not made public, go beyond what has been previously reported about the case. It has been known that marines who carried out the killings made misleading statements to investigators and that senior officers were criticized for not being more aggressive in investigating the case, in which most or all of the Iraqis who were killed were civilians. But this is the first time details about possible concealment or destruction of evidence have been disclosed.
The report’s findings have been sent to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which is investigating members of the unit involved in the killings, as well as higher-ranking officers in the Second Marine Division. No charges have been brought yet.
The report, based on an investigation by Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell of the Army, does not directly accuse marines of attempting a cover-up, but it does describe several suspicious incidents, according to the Defense Department officials.
It says that the logbook, which was meant to be a daily record of major incidents the marines’ company encountered, had all the pages missing for Nov. 19, the day of the killings, and that those portions had not been found, the officials said.
No conclusions are drawn about who may have tampered with the log. But the report says that Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the leader of the squad involved in the killings, was on duty at the unit’s operations center, where the logbook was kept, shortly after the killings occurred, the officials said.
Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer for Sergeant Wuterich, declined to comment.
Investigators were also initially told by Marine officers that videotape taken by the drone was not available, one of the officials said. The officials added that the marines produced the tape only after General Bargewell had completed his inquiry and they had been asked again to produce it by General Chiarelli.
The report has been closely held within the Defense Department, and the officials who agreed to discuss it did so because they said they thought it should receive wider public attention. They agreed to speak only if their names were not published because they had not been authorized by superiors to discuss its contents.
The deaths occurred outside the town of Haditha after a three-vehicle convoy of marines was hit by a roadside bomb, killing a lance corporal. The squad then began going through houses nearby, killing Iraqis found inside in what defense lawyers have said was a justifiable use of lethal force by marines who believed they were under concerted attack by insurgents.
The Marine Corps issued a press release the next day saying that 15 of the civilian deaths had been caused by the bomb explosion. But several officers in the unit have said they knew even then that marines had killed all 24 of the dead Iraqis, 9 of whom were suspected insurgents.
Since then, the idea that any of the victims were insurgents has been challenged, both by Iraqi survivors and by some American military officials familiar with the case, noting that the victims included 10 women and children and an elderly man in a wheelchair. They have said that evidence suggests that the marines overreacted after the death of their fellow marine and shot the civilians in cold blood.
posted by Steve @ 12:13:00 AM