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Polygraph Used to Abort War Crime Investigation (Read 1788 times)
Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Polygraph Used to Abort War Crime Investigation
Dec 15th, 2004 at 6:47am
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According to documents recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, investigators of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) relied on polygraph results to terminate an investigation into the alleged execution of three Iraqi prisoners of war in April 2003.

The investigation began on 13 June 2003 when a marine assigned to Combat Services Support Company 135, 1st Force Service Support Group (FSSG) reported to NCIS that at a unit party the previous evening (12 June 2003), "a member of the unit...told several other unit members...that he and two other Marines had been ordered...to execute three Iraqi enemy prisoners of war." The executions were alleged to have been carried out on or about 6 April 2003 while the marine's unit was stationed in an abandoned pharmaceutical plant south of Baghdad. The marine named the officer, a major, who allegedly ordered the executions and further alleged that when he protested, the officer threatened to have him executed too if he did not carry out the order. The marine said that the bodies of the executed prisoners were disposed of in an 8-foot deep hole. The name of the officer who allegedly ordered the executions has been redacted from the publicly released documents.

That same day (13 June 2003), NCIS interviewed five other individuals who were at the party, all of whom confirmed having heard the story in sworn statements. According to the statement of one close friend of the Marine, to whom he had earlier confided that he had not been able to sleep because of recurring nightmares, the Marine's story had gone as follows:

[redacted] words follow: "Remember when I talked to you in Al Kut (Iraq) about seeing the dead bodies and the eyes, that was part of the story. I didn't tell you the whole story, but what I really was seeing in my dreams...(as his eyes were tearing)...we went to do a mission (Operation Walmart). There were three (Iraqi) civilian EPW's [enemy prisoners of war] that we picked up (from south side of the area somewhere) and were taken to the back of the building (pharmaceutical plant) and we ([redacted], a grunt and a third Marine--maybe an MP...[redacted] and 2 LCPLS) had to bag and gag them, on orders from the [redacted]. Once we bagged them, we had to dig 3 shallow graves, about 8 feet deep or so. The Major posted sentries at either end of the building before we went back so noone [sic] would come back there. I thought that was weird because there was noone else back there besides us four [redacted], 2 LCPLS and [redacted] and the EPW's. The [major? (redacted)] told us, "You guys will shoot these individuals now and I said, "Sir, this is wrong, I don't think we should do that." The [major? (redacted)] told me, "You were given a direct order by me, either you take and you do it or you'll be in that same hole with them." (At that time, we all teared up hearing the story) [redacted] went on to say: "We were by the holes, the [major? (redacted)] would look at the sky, see the flash of light, and count down '5-4-3-2-okay shoot', because there was about a 4-5 second delay between the flash of light and the sound that would hit your area. The [major? (redacted)] did this a couple of times to finish the job. The bodies were placed were placed [sic] into the shallow graves, we covered the bodies over and brought a Hummvee [sic] to the rear of the building and drove back and forth over the gravesites to make it look like a path for vehicles and to cover any indication it was a gravesite."

[redacted] told me after that, the [major? (redacted)] would keep them off the road, wouldn't put them on the road during convoys. The [major? (redacted)] kept them at the rear with other personnel. At this time in his detailing of the story, [redacted] is visibly shaken, has tears and at that time, I walked away from them because I was so disgusted with the [major? (redacted)]. I collected myself and told [redacted], "I am not mad at you, I am just pissed off at the [major? (redacted)] and that I wasn't there with you to help you guys out." After that, the conversation was pretty much over, so we just stopped talking about it.

On Friday, 13JUN03, First [Lieutenant? redacted] was apprised of the situation and asked all of us who witnessed [redacted] conversation how we would rate it on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the most believable...we all said "10."

On 13 June 2003, NCIS also interviewed the Marine who said he had been ordered to execute the prisoners. According to NCIS, "Following advisement of rights and signing of a waiver" the Marine "provided an explanation concerning his statements the previous night." The marine "stated that the alleged execution of EPWs [enemy prisoners of war] never took place, and stated it was a story he made up. [The marine] stated he made up the story to tell his friends.  [The marine] stated unlike his colleagues, he didn't have good stories to tell about his deployment to Iraq. [The marine] stated he was intoxicated, and thought up the story while at the party."

Five days later, on 18 June 2003, the marine agreed to submit to a polygraph "test" regarding the alleged executions and was polygraphed that day. The polygraph examination was administered by a polygrapher assigned to NCISPS MCAS, Mirarmar, California. The examination included two relevant questions:

"Did you shoot any Iraqi EPW's [sic]?

Did you shoot any Iraqi EPW's [sic] while in Iraq?"

Following "quality control" of the polygraph results by NCIS headquarters, "no opinion could be rendered by the examiner. During the post-test interview, [the Marine] did not provide any explanation for the test results."

But later that day, NCIS polygraphed the Marine a second time, asking the same relevant questions. This time, "[f]ollowing chart evaluation, and prior to NCISHQ Quality Control Review, in the opinion of the examiner, [the Marine] was being truthful when responding to these relevant questions."

However, the polygraph report indicates that the polygrapher actually suspected countermeasure use (controlled breathing) during the second polygraph examination. The  polygrapher reports, "On the same date, [redacted] addressing the same issue, was administered. Upon completion, in the opinion of the examiner no deception was indicated at the relevant questions. [Redacted] [w]as terminated prior to completion due to distortions in pneumograph tracings. The examinee was counseled regarding controlled respiration and the in-test process was resumed. Subsequently, [redacted] was terminated for the same reason. The examinee was counselled again regarding controlled respiration and agreed to comply with instructions. Improvement was noted in subsequent tracings."

Amazingly, despite suspecting that polygraph countermeasures were being used, the polygrapher decided to "pass" the subject. The examiner's decision was apparently endorsed by a reviewer at NCIS headquarters.

Based on the "passed" polygraph, NCIS terminated its investigation. According to Paragraph 5 of the Report of Investigation, "Based on the results of the polygraph examination, no further investigation is deemed necessary. This investigation is closed." (emphasis added)

It appears that no attempt was made to identify and interview the other two marines who allegedly were also ordered to carry out the executions, or the officer who allegedly ordered this alleged war crime. Nor was any inspection of the alleged crime scene made.

The following documents from this investigation (Case Number 13JUN03-0125-7XMA) are available in PDF format from the American Civil Liberties Union website:

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« Last Edit: Dec 15th, 2004 at 8:09am by George W. Maschke »  

George W. Maschke
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