Civilian had beat Afghan detainee, who later died
Los Angeles Times
Aug. 18, 2006 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - A civilian CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan detainee who later died in custody was found guilty of assault Thursday, becoming the first person affiliated with the spy agency to be convicted in a post-Sept. 11 abuse case.
David A. Passaro, a 40-year-old former police officer sent by the CIA to Afghanistan, was accused of beating Abdul Wali during an interrogation in 2003 by hitting him with a flashlight and kicking him. Wali, suspected of firing rockets at a U.S. military base, died from his wounds.
Passaro was not accused of murder but instead was charged with several counts of assault. The jury found him guilty of felony assault and three misdemeanors. Although he could face up to 11 1/2 years in prison, under federal sentencing guidelines he is likely to serve between two and four years. Earlier in his career, Passaro was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of beating a man while serving as a police officer in Hartford, Conn., a prior offense that could increase his prison time.
Witnesses at the trial in Raleigh, N.C., testified that Passaro had said that, as a CIA contractor, he was allowed to use interrogation techniques that soldiers were not. But prosecutors argued that CIA contractors were not allowed to use physical force without the approval of superiors and that Passaro was not authorized to use physical techniques.
Passaro's defense attorneys tried to argue that top officials had allowed tougher interrogation techniques, but much of that was cut off by the judge.
At least 20 other cases involving CIA agents or military contractors have been referred to the Department of Justice, according to human rights organizations. But advocates said Thursday that it was unlikely that anyone would be indicted in those cases. In an e-mail to CIA employees, Gen. Michael Hayden, the agency director, condemned Passaro's actions and said they were inconsistent with the "the normal conduct of CIA officers and contractors."