Local News

Passaro's Lawyers Claim Bush Suspended Interrogation Rules

Posted December 16, 2005 6:31 a.m. EST

— A who's who of national intelligence officials could come to Raleigh for a high-profile trial.

The case involves a Harnett County man charged with abusing an Afghan detainee who later died.

Friday, a judge heard arguments about who David Passaro's attorneys can call as witnesses.

Passaro's attorneys cited President George W. Bush as a reason Passaro had legal permission for the type of interrogation he is accused of. They claim that Bush suspended Geneva Convention rules involving interrogation following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The hearing on Friday dealt with rules of engagement. Passaro's attorneys said that he had legal authority to do what he is accused of doing, but they don't admit that Passaro did anything.

Lawyers for the government argued before U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle that no government policy exists to support Passaro's alleged actions.

"There is no actual authority in existence to condone the behavior of Mr. Passaro," Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. Candelmo repeated several times during the hearing.

Boyle is to determine whether Passaro's trial rises to the level of a "public authority defense," which could result in current and former high-level U.S. officials being called to the witness stand during a trial. Otherwise, the trial would be for simple assault.

The case has been continued until next Friday.