Civilian Charged In Prison Abuse

David Passaro
CBS
A contractor working for the CIA has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges stemming "for brutally assaulting an Afghan detainee," Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday.

David A. Passaro, 38, of Lillington, N.C., was arrested Thursday morning in Fayetteville and was expected to appear before a federal magistrate later in the day.

An indictment returned by a grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., charged Passaro with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapons and two counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Each count carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

Ashcroft said Passaro was working with the U.S. military at a base near Asadabad in northeastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border — an area "in which remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban have been active."

The detainee, Abdul Wali, was a suspect in rocket attacks on the base. He surrendered voluntarily and on June 19-20, 2003, Passaro interrogated him.

"It is alleged that Passaro beat Wali repeatedly using his hands, feet and a flashlight," Ashcroft said. Wali died on June 21, 2003.

Passaro's ex-wife told CBS Affiliate WRAL in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. that her ex was a violent man.

"I wasn't surprised,'' said Kerry Passaro. "Because he's a very violent person. He's a very violent person. He was in Haiti, too, and I'm sure he did stuff there. And he's, I don't know how to describe it, but he was abusive to the kids, abusive to me."

The case was among three referred by the CIA inspector general to the Justice Department for prosecution. Ashcroft said the Pentagon has also referred a case. Those investigations are ongoing, and will be coordinated by the U.S. attorney of Virginia's eastern district.

In other developments:

  • At the request of CIA Director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directed Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of occupation forces in Iraq, to imprison an admitted terrorist without reporting him to the International Red Cross.
  • The Senate voted Wednesday to make clear that the United States will not use torture against detainees. That followed disclosures last week of Bush administration memos contending the government may not be bound by international anti-torture principles in the war against terror.
  • The Senate, by a 54-43 vote, defeated legislation that would have forced the Defense Department to cut back on its use of civilian contractors, who are accused along with military troops of having mistreated Iraqis at a prison outside of Baghdad.
  • A National Guard commander told a mental health counselor to change an evaluation to show that a serviceman who accused fellow soldiers of abusing Iraqi prisoners was mentally unfit, another soldier says. The commander has refused to comment on the allegation.

    The military said Monday that it is changing procedures at its jails in Afghanistan following a review prompted by prisoner abuse allegations, although it declined to give details of the changes.

    The military is acting on the interim findings of an American general who visited American jails across the country, without waiting for his final report, spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said.

    "We're taking action on those (findings) as they come forward, evaluating them, implementing some of them, deferring some of them and planning some of the rest of them out," Mansager told a news conference in Kabul.

    He declined to describe the report's suggestions or the changes made.

    The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, ordered the review last month as the scandal over detainee abuse in Iraq drew new attention to alleged mistreatment in Afghanistan, including three deaths in custody.

    Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Barno's deputy operational chief, visited all of the about 20 American holding facilities, most at bases in the south and east where 20,000 U.S.-led troops are battling Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.

    Jacoby will give his final report to Barno in the coming days, and some of the findings will be made public by early July "after a review process," Mansager said.

    "It'll come out as a consolidated, cohesive and comprehensive package," he said.

    Earlier this month, Barno pledged rapid action if Jacoby finds faults in the secretive prison network, but said details of techniques used on suspects will remain classified.

    Two detainees died at the U.S. military's main Bagram base, north of Kabul, in December 2002. Both were ruled homicides after autopsies found the men had died from "blunt-force injuries."

    The military says it has made a number of unspecified changes to its prisons as a result of the deaths. But it has yet to release results of its criminal investigations.

    The death of another detainee in eastern Afghanistan in June 2003 is also under investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency, and the military is probing allegations of mistreatment brought by two former detainees last month — including beatings, the use of hoods and sexual abuse.

    The military says some 2,000 prisoners have been held at the jails since U.S. troops entered Afghanistan in late 2001. At least 390 are currently in custody.

    Facing pressure to open jails to outside scrutiny, the U.S. military announced last week it would allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit its holding facility in the main southern city of Kandahar. It has previously allowed the group access only to the jail at Bagram.

    The U.S. military has so far refused to allow Afghanistan's human rights commission into any of its prisons.

    The investigation of Afghan prisons followed revelations of apparent sexual abuse, and the death of at least one detainee, at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Connections between the U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan have come to light, including the fact the some of the interrogators at Abu Ghraib previously worked in Afghanistan.