Local News

CIA Worker: Passaro Admitted Hitting Prisoner During Interview

Posted August 8, 2006

— An ex-CIA contractor charged with beating an Afghani detainee who later died admitted to a fellow agency employee he assaulted the prisoner while questioning him about rocket attacks on a remote base housing U.S. and Afghan troops, the employee testified Tuesday.

"He told me that he had struck him," CIA contractor Randy Wilson said during the first day of testimony in the trial of David Passaro. "I was quite surprised about that."

Passaro is charged with beating Abdul Wali over two days in June 2003 while working for the CIA. He is the first U.S. civilian charged with mistreating a detainee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He said he thought Wali was going after someone, one of the other persons present during one of the interviews," said Wilson, who like two other CIA employees testified in disguise Tuesday and used a pseudonym.

Passaro is not charged in Wali's death, but with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of assault resulting in serious injury. If convicted, the 40-year-old from Lillington faces up to 40 years in prison.

The two other witnesses -- a career CIA agent and an agency contractor -- told the court CIA contractors hired to work in places like Afghanistan weren't trained in interrogation techniques and weren't given special rules allowing them to beat detainees.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Sullivan, Gary Wagner said he is a 16-year employee of the CIA who approved training for contract employees. All interrogation was conducted by career CIA agents, he told the court.

"Did the training include anything about special rules to beat prisoners?" Sullivan asked.

"Absolutely not," Wagner said.

During opening statements Monday, Sullivan said Passaro told soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who witnessed Wali's interrogation that they couldn't touch detainees, but that special rules allowed him to do it.

There were four people in Passaro's December 2002 training class, said Randy Miller, a retired Army Special Operations Command sergeant major. Miller said he was in Passaro's training class and that the training included marksmanship, off-road driving, surveillance and detecting surveillance and security, but nothing about interrogating prisoners or physically assaulting detainees.

During Monday's opening arguments, Sullivan said Wali was chained to the floor and wall of a cell as Passaro kicked him, and struck him with the flashlight and his fists. His attorneys said the former Special Forces medic never hit Wali, and gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the day he died.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle didn't detail what had been done to alter the appearance of the witnesses, but all three had full hair, thick mustaches and glasses.

"This is a public trial and the publicness of the trial will remain intact," Boyle said. He ordered a courtroom sketch artist not to draw the witnesses' faces.

The government is prosecuting Passaro under a provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows charges against U.S. citizens for crimes committed on land or facilities designated for use by the U.S. government.

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