Michael Behenna Goes Home

GREAT NEWS!  First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, the young Army Ranger officer sent to prison for killing a known al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, walked out of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., this morning, bound for his hometown of Edmond, Okla., barely a month after being granted parole by the U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board in Washington, D.C.

Behenna, 30, spent five years behind bars after being sentenced to 25 years and, later, having that term reduced to 15 years.  While there, he and Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, the man whose life story is chronicled in my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, became good friends behind bars at Fort Leavenworth.

Since June 4, 2009, I’ve written and published more than 60 articles about his case, including the four highlighted below:

Army 15-6 Investigation Report Proves Elusive (Jan. 15, 2013);

• Is Army Protecting Someone in Officer’s Chain of Command? (Aug. 20, 2012);

• American Warfighters Deserve Same Consideration as Taliban (July 17, 2012); and

Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began (Feb. 10, 2010).

Best wishes to all, and welcome home, Michael!

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Michael Behenna Earns Parole

First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, the young Army Ranger officer sent to prison for killing a known al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, has been granted parole by the U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board in Washington, D.C., according to a news report today.  He will be released from prison March 14.

Clockwise from upper left:  Michael's family; Michael; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

Clockwise from upper left: Michael’s family; Michael; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

Behenna, 30, has been behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for five years after being sentenced to 25 years and, later, having that term reduced to 15 years.

NewsOk Behenna ParoleBelow are a handful of links to the most important articles among the more than 60 articles I’ve published about his case since June 4, 2009:

Army 15-6 Investigation Report Proves Elusive (Jan. 15, 2013);

• Is Army Protecting Someone in Officer’s Chain of Command? (Aug. 20, 2012);

• American Warfighters Deserve Same Consideration as Taliban (July 17, 2012); and

Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began (Feb. 10, 2010).

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Oklahoma Soldier’s Supreme Court Battle Will Be Costly

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been following the case of Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna since 2009. In addition, I wrote a book, Three Days In August, about Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, another wrongfully-convicted man he befriended while both served time behind the walls of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Today, I share an email from someone very familiar with his case:

Clockwise from upper left:  Michael's family; Michael; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

Clockwise from upper left: Michael’s family; Michael; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

To the thousands of Michael supporters,

My name is David Wahl. I am the father of Michael Behenna’s girlfriend Shannon Wahl and run the DefendMichael.com website.  I have known Michael for several years going back to when Michael and Shannon first started dating. I attended Michael’s officer school graduation at Fort Benning, his Ranger school graduation, and his deployment to Iraq from Fort Campbell. I was in the courtroom for Michael’s trial for premeditated murder at Fort Campbell, including the moment when a jury of seven non-combat officers convicted him of unpremeditated murder. I witnessed the stunned look of betrayal on Michael’s face. I was in that same courtroom again three weeks later when the trial judge denied a request for a mistrial on a Brady Law violation (the government had withheld evidence.) And I was in the small room at the back of that courtroom with Michael and his family for his last thirty minutes of freedom before he was taken away.

These past four years that Michael has sat in a small prison cell at Fort Leavenworth have been a tortuous journey for those closest to him – but as you can imagine, most of all for his parents Vicki and Scott. They have endured the emotional pain of seeing their son treated as a criminal at the hands of a broken and blind military justice system, of five hour drives to ‘celebrate’ birthdays and holidays in a noisy visitation center, of the heartbreak of one court ruling after another go against Michael, of bizarre prison rules that change from visit to visit and which make civilian prisons look like Club Med.

But beyond the emotional toll that the Behenna’s have carried is the financial burden of taking on the United States government that has unlimited resources at their disposal (our tax dollars hard at work.) Starting with the original trial to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces [sic] appeal which we lost by a narrow 3-2 vote the Behenna’s have spent well over $400,000 in their fight for their son’s freedom. I know that so many of you have already graciously stepped forward and lightened this financial burden, but unfortunately a significant shortfall remains. And if the Supreme Court decides to hear Michael’s case that shortfall will grow by at least another $100,000.

The Behenna’s are a proud family and asking for financial support is not something they are comfortable doing, especially given how many people are in need today, including so many fellow Oklahomans devastated by the recent tornadoes. So I humbly ask each of you who believe in Michael’s cause, to consider giving a few dollars to his legal fund, which can be found on his web site at DefendMichael.com.  If each one of the thousands of supporters of Michael gave $20 then the Behenna’s would be able to cover most of the current deficit. Donations can be made through PayPal on Michael’s web site, or if you prefer you can mail a check directly to his Michael’s defense fund at:

Michael Behenna Legal Defense Fund
c/o Jack Dawson, co-trustee
100 Park Avenue, Second Floor
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102-8099

Please know that your support for Michael, whether in the form of a donation, a card, or a letter, is appreciated more than words can say. For Michael and his parents this difficult journey has only been possible because of the outpouring of support from all of you. It has sustained them in their darkest hours, of which there have been many. Finally, please keep Michael in your thoughts and prayers as we await the ultimate decision by the highest court in the land on whether they will hear Michael’s case.

I remain, now and forever, a proud supporter of a young man who some day I hope will be my son-in-law.

Respectfully,

David Wahl
DefendMichael.com

Order Books Graphic LR 6-15-13

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Parents of Imprisoned Army Officer Send Update

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been following the case of Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna since 2009. In addition, I wrote a book, Three Days In August, about Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, another wrongfully-convicted man he befriended while both served time behind the walls of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Today, I share an email update (below) from Lieutenant Behenna’s parents, Scott and Vicki Behenna:

Clockwise from upper left:  Michael's family; Michael; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

Clockwise from upper left: Michael’s family; Michael as a Soldier; Michael as a youngster; and Michael and his girlfriend, Shannon.

To all the thousands of Michael supporters,

Michael’s case, including the Petition, the Government Response, and the Reply to the Government Response, is now complete and before the Supreme Court. The Supremes have set Michael’s case to be initially discussed at their conference on May 30th which is ironically during the 50th Anniversary of Brady vs Maryland (the Supreme Court case demanding that prosecutors disclose all beneficial information to the criminally accused). During the conference, four out of the nine Supreme Court Justices must vote to hear the case in order to grant certiorari. If certiorari is granted in Michael’s case it would be the first time the Supremes would have granted a service member’s appeal from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). Needless to say, anxiousness will abound for the next few weeks and prayers are certainly welcome. We should have the Court’s decision sometime during the first week of June. If the Court grants certiorari, Michael’s case would proceed through a briefing process, oral arguments, and a decision by the Supreme Court hopefully before the end of the year.

We can’t thank you enough for all the encouraging cards and letters that you sent to Michael for his birthday. As Michael told us this past weekend it is these cards and letters that help him navigate the sometimes helpless and hopeless thoughts that have haunted him these past four years behind prison walls. He reads every card and letter sent to him, but given his prison schedule of work, exercise time, meals and early lights out he unfortunately does not have time to send out very many thank you notes. For this he sends his apologies and hopes a day will come soon when he can thank all of you in person.

If you did not see the Mother’s Day tribute to Vicki last Sunday in the Oklahoman, hopefully the attached video and article will describe the huge appreciation we have for all your support and what your individual words of encouragement have meant to Michael and our whole family.

Vicki’s Mother’s Day Video

Vicki’s Mother’s Day Article

Bless you all for your support of our son,

Scott & Vicki Behenna
DefendMichael.com

I pray for this young man’s swift release.

Order Books Graphic LR 6-15-13

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Army Officer’s Attorneys File Supreme Court Petition (UPDATED)

I’m not an attorney, but it appears a new team of those legal experts has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of former Army Ranger 1LT Michael C. Behenna, an Edmond, Okla., native about whose case I’ve written more than 60 posts since June 4, 2009.

NewsOk Behenna 1-7-13

Click to link to NewsOk.com article.

Today, according to a report at NewsOK.com, the five-attorney team’s petition argued that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the top military appeals court, issued a wrong and dangerous decision last year when it confirmed Lieutenant Behenna’s conviction of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone.  If the report is accurate, the attorneys appear to have overlooked and/or ignored at least three key items crucial to this officer’s defense.

GENERAL AUSTIN’S MEMO

Lt Gen Austin Memo Pg 1 10-23-08

Page 1 of Memo

Apparently ignored was a two-page memo I obtained from a confidential source in December 2009.  It concerns the declassification of information that was to be used in two courts-martial, one of which was U.S. vs. Behenna, that contained information about Ali Mansur, the Iraqi man Lieutenant Behenna admitted killing in self-defense.

Dated Oct. 28, 2008, and marked “For Official Use Only,” the memo was signed by Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, then-commanding general of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, and outlined specific intelligence information about Al-Qa’ida operatives in Iraq.  It contains two descriptive sections of information as well as a “recommendation” section.

The first descriptive section (below) is dated April 27, 2008.  Because it contains portions of other documents, it appears to not follow in alphabetic or numerical order:

SUMMARY:  ON 20 APRIL 2008, MEMBERS OF THE AL-QA’IDA IN IRAQ IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES CELL CONDUCTED AN IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE ATTACK ON THE COALITION FORCES CONVOY IN THE VICINITY OF SALAM VILLAGE, SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, IRAQ.

TEXT:  20 APRIL 2008, ADIL ARAK ((DAHIR)) TNU, SA’ID ARAK ((DAHIR)) TNU.  KANAN FANNR ((THARTHAR)) TNU, SAHAB THARTHAR ((MUTLAK)) TNU, AND ARIF HAMID (AFFAN)) TNU EMPLACED AN IED AT SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, IRAQ.

2.  THE FOLLOWING INDIVIDUALS ARE MEMBERS OF THE AL-QA’IDA IN IRAQ IED CELL OPERATING IN SALAM VILLAGE, AND ALBU TOMA SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE –

A.  ADIL ARAK IS THE LEADER THE AL-QA’IDA IN IRAQ IED CELL.  ADIL MAKES AND EMPLACES IEDS.  ARAK RESIDES IN SALAM VILLAGE.

F.  ALI MANSUR TRANSPORTS EXPLOSIVES AND INFORM ADIL ABOUT THE CF PRESENCE IN THE AREA.  ALI IS AN IRAQI POLICEMAN WORKING AT THE THP IRAQI POLICE STATION IN ALBU TOMA.

Lt Gen Austin Memo Pg 2 10-23-08

Page 2 of memo.

It’s important to note that Mansur’s name appears in paragraph “F” above.  Beginning at the bottom of page one of the memo and continuing at the top of page two, Mansur is identified as one who transports explosives and informs Adil Arak, the leader of the Al-Qa’ida In Iraq IED Cell.

The second section is dated May 18, 2008, and contains a subject line — “INSURGENT CELL IN ALBU TOMA, SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, IRAQ (U)” — followed by two paragraphs of text that appear not to be directly related to Lieutenant Behenna’s case.  They are followed by two sections in which it is explained that numerous intelligence and security officials recommended the information listed above be declassified.

THE FORENSIC EXPERT IGNORED

Culvert 3 Low-Rez

Click to view story, Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began.

Also apparently ignored by the attorneys was the military justice system’s serial refusal to consider the input of a forensic expert who examined the evidence in the deadly shooting incident and concluded that, yes, Lieutenant Behenna acted in self-defense.

Details of his never-heard-in-court testimony can be found in two articles — Army Officer Kills Al-Qaeda Operative, Imprisoned After Prosecutors Ignore Own Expert Witness and Photos Show Scene Where Trail of Injustice Began — I published Dec. 7, 2009, and Feb. 10, 2010, respectively.

A COLOSSAL FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP

Finally, the attorneys appear to have ignored a colossal failure of Army leadership that allowed Lieutenant Behenna to be put in a position from which only bad outcomes could, and did, result.

I highlighted details of that failure in an Aug. 20, 2012, post, Is Army Protecting Someone in Officer’s Chain of Command?  An excerpt appears below:

While I realize Army officials cannot allow junior officers to get away with willfully disobeying lawful orders, I also realize someone in Lieutenant Behenna’s chain of command dropped the ball when he ordered the then-24-year-old officer to escort Mansur back to his hometown.

Why?

Because the Iraqi policeman was a prime suspect in an improvised explosive device attack two weeks earlier that had killed two members of Behenna’s platoon.  But that’s not all!

When Mansur was in custody and being questioned about his terror activities, four different Army intelligence officers reportedly failed to ask the Iraqi about the IED attack, about a threatening phone call he allegedly made to Behenna, about another attempted attack months earlier, and about several trips he had made to Syria.

While consideration of any one of the three items listed above should have derailed the prosecution’s case against Lieutenant Behenna, the combination of the three should have slammed the door on efforts to railroad this young officer.  Instead, he sits behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., serving a 15-year sentence.

UPDATE:  Since July 19, 2012, I’ve tried to use the federal Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the Army Regulation 15-6 Investigation Report (AR 15-6) from the Army about the incident involving Lieutenant Behenna.  As of this morning, when I contacted FOIA officials at Army Central Command, I am still waiting for a copy of the report.  Sadly, it seems, no one in the Army can find a copy of the report.  More details appear in the post mentioned in the second paragraph of the “LEADERSHIP FAILURE” section above.

UPDATE 1/08/2013 at 10:14 a.m. Central:  I owe an apology to the attorneys representing Lieutenant Behenna at the Supreme Court level.  It appears I jumped the gun and assumed that NewsOk.com’s failure to mention the crucial elements highlighted above, which I deemed necessary for the petition to succeed, meant that the attorneys also failed to include them in the petition.  Since publishing this post, I was able to obtain a copy of the petition and see I was wrong when I doubted the attorneys.

UPDATE 1/29/2013 at 5:30 p.m. Central:  The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the U.S. Justice Department to respond to the appeal filed by 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who is seeking to have his conviction of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone overturned, according to a news report today.

"Three Days In August" Promotional PhotoBob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon.

A Soldier, A Blue-Star Mom and Charlie Rangel Walk Into A Bar…

A soldier, a blue-star mom and Charlie Rangel walk into a bar….

Sgt. Derrick Miller

Now that I have your attention, please keep reading.

Army Sgt. Derrick Miller is an African-American soldier who served valiantly in the United States Army until something horrible played out, changing his life forever.  Some of the details appear below as they are spelled out on the website, Free Derrick Miller:

During a combat mission in a hostile area of Afghanistan in September 2010,  SGT Derrick Miller’s attention was drawn to an Afghan national who had penetrated the defense perimeter set up by the US Army. The Afghan man was identified by another soldier who recognized him from a detainment the previous day. The man in question was the driver of a truck reported by military intelligence as transporting members of the opposition to a nearby combat firefight. US military intelligence let the trucks pass.

SGT Miller was sent to question the Afghan national after observing the suspicious behavior of the man as he reconnoitered their defense perimeter. It appeared that the man was gathering information and since he was already identified as an enemy combatant, SGT Miller was acting instinctively to protect his unit by detaining this man.

During the questioning, which took place in an open area with another US soldier and an Afghan interpreter present, SGT Miller asked the man why he was within the perimeter. The man claimed to be an electrician who was responding to a downed power line but later he claimed to be there to fix a water pump. He had no tools with him. The man had also been accompanied by two men whom he claimed were his sons and helpers. Both of those men had returned to the village without having performed any electrical work. They were not present during SGT Millers questioning. During the harsh questioning, the Afghan insurgent attempted to grab SGT Millers weapon, and was shot and killed in the struggle.

Regardless of political bent in this election year, Americans need to step up and fight for wrongly-imprisoned soldiers like Sergeant Miller and Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna.  And they need to stand alongside others no longer in prison, including Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Stewart, the man whose life and wrongful conviction are chronicled in my book, “Three Days In August,” endorsed by some very special Special Operations veterans.

The key is to take action!

One thing you can do to help is write to your members of Congress and threaten them with a loss of your vote if necessary, but do whatever it takes to make sure you’re fuming mad about the the way this soldier has been dealt so-called “military justice.”

For a long list of other things you can do to help Sergeant Miller, including writing a clemency letter for him, visit this page at FreeDerrick.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The story above stands as a corrected version of an earlier piece.

 Bob McCarty is the author of “Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice,” a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, “The CLAPPER MEMO,” is set for release this fall.

Army Estimate: Two More Weeks on FOIA Request

As things stand right now, Army officials are on what might be a record-setting pace when it comes to responding slowly to my Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of an unclassified Army handbook, “Inside The Wire Threats — Afghanistan,” published by the Centers for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

As I reported in a post July 18, a source within the Army FOIA community told me that my wait for a determination ranks among the longest imposed on anyone by Army officials during the past three years. More details of my FOIA quest are outlined in my post, Army Freedom of Information Act Request Reaches 105 Days.

Yesterday morning, however, I received an update in the form of an email from Anastasia Kakel, a FOIA official at Fort Eustis, Va., home of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

“I estimate a response to you in two weeks,” she said.

If her estimate proves accurate, I should know something by Aug. 78 — Day 120.

I’m waiting with bated breath.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.