Category: Archive

Botched investigation?

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

But according to a leading Irish human rights group, the investigators ignored a central witness and a number of additional key witnesses in the case.
The Washington Post reported Monday that the U.S. military had concluded its investigation into a video that appeared to show private security contractors shooting at civilian vehicles in the Baghdad area.
The video was attributed to employees of Aegis Defense Services, a private contracting company run by former British army colonel Tim Spicer.
Spicer remains a highly controversial figure in Northern Ireland due to his command of the Scots Guards Regiment when unarmed Belfast teenager, Peter McBride, was fatally shot in the back by regiment members in 1992.
The Washington Post reported that army investigators had failed to find probable cause in what the video showed to be the machine-gunning of civilian cars.
No one would be charged with a crime as a result of the investigation, an army spokesman told the Post.
The spokesman said that agents with the army’s Criminal Investigation Division had reviewed the facts available concerning the incident to determine if there was any potential criminality that fell within the division’s investigative purview.
“The review determined that no further investigative effort on the part of Army CID was warranted,” the spokesman said.
Details of the investigation have not been made public beyond statements released to the Post. However, the findings will be shared with the British and South African governments.
Aegis, which has a $293 million Pentagon contract for its work in Iraq, is British run while the alleged triggerman in the shooting incidents is South African.
Army investigators said they believe that British and South African officials will come to the same conclusion as the CID.
The Pentagon mounted its investigation into the contents of the video earlier this year.
In a letter to New York’s Sen. Charles Schumer — who had earlier expressed unease over the video contents in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — a top Pentagon official said at the outset that the U.S. Department of Defense was “disturbed” by the scenes in the video.
The video, which first appeared late last year on a Website run by former Aegis employees, shows four separate clips in which automatic fire is directed from the rear of an SUV at civilian cars.
In one of the clips, a Mercedes car traveling behind the SUV is hit and rams into another car stopped on the road. People are seen running from the car struck by the Mercedes — but nobody gets out of the Mercedes itself.
The video clips are accompanied by a recording of the Elvis Presley song “Mystery Train.”
While events in Iraq are a long way from Belfast, memories of Spicer and the Scots Guards are still all too fresh.
The Pentagon’s deal with Spicer was recently raised with the Bush administration’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, by the Derry-based Pat Finucane Center.
And Jean McBride, mother of Peter McBride, met with Reiss and the U.S. Consul General in Belfast, Dean Pitman, last month.
“There is a direct link between what happened on the New Lodge Road in 1992 and what is happening in Baghdad today,” Paul O’Connor of the PFC told the Echo after the meeting.
O’Connor said that during the meeting, Reiss had confirmed that Aegis was being investigated.
In recent days, Reiss has been informed in an email letter by the PFC that it was contacted by an individual “who wishes to provide vital information to the trophy video investigation” being carried out by the Pentagon.
“This man has informed us that he is a former Aegis employee, Mr. Rod Stoner. He has informed us that he was present in the vehicle when the shooting occurred and that he was responsible for posting it on the website.
“He has also informed us that Aegis showed no interest in interviewing him during their internal investigation which apparently ended earlier this year. Most disturbing of all is his allegation that Aegis have refused his repeated requests to be put in contact with those within the Pentagon responsible for the investigation into the video.
“Mr. Stoner has also informed us that it is his understanding that none of those present in the vehicle have been contacted by the Pentagon, or indeed by any official investigating the video. If true this would suggest that a cover-up has taken place of matters concerning serious criminal wrong doing, including murder,” the letter to Reiss added.
The PFC said it remained concerned that the Pentagon might not take the appropriate action and was therefore copying its email to a number of legislators and other interested parties.
The center said it was not itself in a position to establish the accuracy of the allegations that had been made.
“But we wish to take this opportunity to repeat our long held belief that the U.S. government should not have awarded such a contract to an individual who has sought to justify the murder of an unarmed innocent teenager on the streets of Belfast.”
Copies of the email letter to Reiss have been sent to Consul General Pitman, Irish foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern, Lt. General Stanley Green, Inspector General of the U.S. Army and a number of U.S. legislators including Senators Schumer, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy and John McCain.

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