Since the October 2011 release of my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August, I’ve been contacted by dozens of individuals who’ve shared troubling stories about cases involving either themselves or a close family member (i.e., husband, father, uncle, brother, nephew or friend). Today, I invite male veterans of the U.S. military — who, like those who’ve contacted me already, consider themselves casualties of the War on Men in the Military — to take advantage of a unique opportunity to proclaim their innocence.
Who? Most of the people who’ve contacted me did so after they or a loved one became the target of prosecution following alleged sexual assaults, alleged violations of the Rules of Engagement in combat zones or some other alleged breaches of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
What? Those who accept my offer will have to agree, in writing, to submit to an exam aimed at determining whether or not they are being deceptive about the subject of the crime for which they have been or are being prosecuted. In addition, they will have to agree to allow the findings of their exams — good or bad — to be made public. This ensures that a sense of real jeopardy is involved.
How? Unlike the process that allowed people like Aldrich Ames and Edward Snowden to obtain employment and high-level security clearances inside our nation’s intelligence agencies, this exam willnot involve the use of a polygraph or polygraph examiner; instead, it will involve the use of a non-polygraph credibility assessment technology identical to that currently being used by professionals at more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies nationwide. In addition, each exam will be conducted by an examiner certified in the use of the technology.
Why? I’m making this offer, because I want to give men who believe they are being unjustly prosecuted the opportunity to share their stories. Worth noting: While these exams will be provided at no cost to participants, donations to help cover the costs of these exams (minimum $400 each not including travel and lodging expenses for myself and the examiner) will be appreciated.Click on Tip Jar at right to make a donation.
NOTE: Individuals interested in taking an exam should send an email to me at BobMcCartyWrites (at) gmail (dot) com with “INNOCENCE” in the subject line. In the body of your email, please include a brief synopsis about your case and your contact information. Please DO NOT include any attachments as they will be ignored.
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.
Recently, I asked the question, Did Afghan Officials Play Deadly Role in Navy SEALs Helo Crash? Today, I ask a question about a decision made by U.S. military officials in OPERATION LEFTY GROVE, an effort during which the single-largest loss of life in the history of U.S. Naval Special Warfare took place: Why Was AC-130 Crew Not Allowed to Engage Squirters?
The images above are those of the men lost while serving their country in Afghanistan aboard a CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter — call sign “Extortion 17.”
On Aug. 6, 2011, a CH-47 “Chinook” — call sign “Extortion 17” — was shot down during the pre-dawn hours while on a mission to capture a bad guy in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. Among the dead, 30 Americans, most of whom were members of the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL TEAM SIX.
Not coincidentally, many believe, the deaths of these “quiet professionals” came only weeks after Vice President Joe Biden compromised operational security by disclosing details about their unit’s involvement in a raid on Osama bin Laden‘s compound in Pakistan.
After obtaining a redacted copy of the U.S. Central Command crash investigation report that had previously been classified “SECRET,” I was able to learn more than most about what reportedly transpired on the mission during which the good guys were hunting for a Taliban leader in the Tangi Valley who had been given the code name, “Lefty Grove.”
A sensor operator aboard an AC-130U performs preflight system checks before takeoff at Hurlburt Field, Fla. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali E. Flisek.
During the evening of Aug. 5, 2011, the crew of a U.S. Air Force AC-130 aircraft — it’s not clear which version, “H’ or “U” — left Bagram Air Base was involved in what the aircraft commander told investigators was a “direct action mission.” Shortly after arriving “on station (i.e., in the location of their mission objective),” members on the heavily-armed aircraft’s crew became aware of eight individuals “huddling up along the wall” of a building near their objective and positively identified them as possessing weapons.
“After hearing that [redacted] was going to engage those guys,” the AC-130 navigator explained to crash investigators, “we immediately asked the [redacted] if we could go overhead. That way we could be watching from a point where we would be ready to shoot if there were any additional squirters that moved off the engagement site from [redacted].”FYI: “Squirter” is a term the AC-130 aircraft commander later defined as an individual who has left the target compound but has not been declared hostile or shown hostile intent.
Further into the discussion, the AC-130 navigator explained what happened after the crew of another aircraft engaged the eight individuals on the ground.
“Then, at that point, [redacted] One engaged the eight pax north of the building, 120 meters west of the actual of the Lefty Grove target set, and we picked up two squirters that did not get hit or (were) less injured than the rest of their other folks… and we basically started following those guys off to the northwest.”
Then the AC-130 aircraft commander interjected with an important note.
“Really quick, an important point I think at this juncture is, we had requested to engage those two individuals, and we were denied,” he said.
Another individual, identified only as “IE” in the report, offered more details, explaining that the original engagement planned for those eight individuals on the ground was a “hell fire engagement,” but “they elected to go to the 30-millimeter due to CDE constraints.”FYI: CDE is short for “Collateral Damage Estimate.”
What happened when they pushed for 40mm engagement as a weapon that would result in zero CDE?
“We were denied that,” he explained. “We were just requested to maintain track on those two squirters that were moving west.”
After some discussion of how typical mission communications play out, members of the AC-130 crew were asked by crash investigators to “kind of walk through what happened next.”
“Basically, like we said, we were passing periodic updates to [redacted],” the AC-130 navigator explained. “The first one we passed was when the squirters were 200 meters away and, really, it was about every 200 to 300 meters we were passing along updates.
[Redacted] I guess you talk to [redacted],” he continued. “They said they didn’t want us to engage; what he passed to us was that they wanted to follow those guys and figure out where they stopped. And then find out exactly where they were and then basically use that as a follow-on after they were done clearing and securing the actual Lefty Grove site.
“So, basically, we kept following them until they were about two clicks away and then they finally stopped under a piece of terrain, a small tree grove,” the AC-130 navigator explained before being asked by the deputy investigating officer to point out the grove on a graphic.
At that point, the AC-130 aircraft commander began describing how and where his crew followed the squirters to a point where they picked up six additional personnel and how his crew passed along their observations. He also went on to explain that additional squirters had been identified in the objective area.
Eventually, the AC-130 navigator explains how the crew of Extortion — which, crew members noted later, became known to them as “Extortion 17″ only after they started seeing emails days later — enters the scenario.
“So we watched the squirters go into the building,” he explained. “At this time [redacted] had moved out to escort Extortion into the HLZ [redacted] — after we got all information passed to us about where the HLZ actually was going to be and their route of flight.”FYI: “HLZ” is short for “Helicopter Landing Zone” or, depending on the circumstances, “Hot Landing Zone.”
The building inside which the squirters had taken refuge, according to the AC-130 navigator, was about 600 meters southeast of the HLZ where the crew of Extortion 17 planned to drop off members of SEAL TEAM SIX.
After some discussion of the communications that took place between air and ground elements, the AC-130 aircraft commander confirmed for the deputy investigating officer how responsibilities for watching the squirters and visually escorting Extortion 17 into the HLZ had been assigned.
Additional discussion about details of the mission followed, and the AC-130 commander described his final communications with the crew of Extortion 17 while also noting that it was a “zero illum” night. Total darkness.
“They called three minutes out, so we are trying to figure out, we’ve got the HLZ, we are getting ready to put the burn on and we are just sitting there waiting,” the AC-130 aircraft commander explained. “A normal one minute, we are waiting two minutes for that one minute out call to put the burn on and just waiting, and we don’t know exactly what is going on.”
He went on to explain that his crew thought about making contact with Extortion 17 but decided against. Why? Because, in case they were trying to work something out, he didn’t want to bother them during “this critical phase of flight.”
After noting how the crew of Extortion 17 changed their run-in heading (a.k.a., “direction of approach”), the AC-130 aircraft commander said the one-minute-out call came and his crew began to “put the burn on” — or unleashed fire to protect the helicopter as it was about to land in the HLZ.
“Shortly after the burn came on,” he explained, “I saw three RPG shots, kind of just ripple — one, two, three — coming from the south to the north. I was in the southern part of the orbit and…what I saw was either the first or second one make an initial hit, and just a massive explosion, and it just seemed to be stationary, and it just dropped.”
After reading the 55-page document containing the transcript of the crash investigation team’s conversation with an AC-130 gunship crew involved in OPERATION LEFTY GROVE, I’m convinced that orders based on Rules of Engagement (i.e., political correctness-based fear that an attack against suspected enemy combatants would result in “collateral damage”) prevented that crew from doing their job and likely resulted in the senseless deaths of 30 American warriors in Afghanistan. And I’m not alone.
The video below features the audio track of a talk radio appearance during which Charlie Strange shared his feelings — about losing his son, Navy SEAL Michael Strange, in the crash and about the findings of the crash investigation report — with Dr. Michael Savage, host of The Michael Savage Show.
To read other articles about Extortion 17, click here.
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.
Billy and Karen Vaughn slammed President Barack Obama and the Rules of Engagement put in place on his watch as being largely to blame for the death of their son, Special Operations Chief Aaron Carson Vaughn, a member of U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six who died along with 29 others on Aug. 6, 2011, after their helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17,” was shot down in Afghanistan.
“It would be fair to say we became tragically aware that perhaps the cruelest, most-deceitful acts of this Administration have been perpetrated against the very ones who fight to defend and protect it,” said Karen Vaughn, speaking recently before a distinguished audience of combat veterans and elected officials in St. Augustine, Fla.
The fallen SEAL’s mother would go on to describe President Obama’s Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan the night her son died as “criminal” and blame Vice President Joe Biden for placing targets on the backs of members of SEAL Team Six via his comments about the unit being responsible for the death of Osama Bin Laden May 2, 2011.
After his wife spoke, Billy Vaughn recalled how a three-star admiral told grieving family members — parents and spouses of the fallen warriors — that their decision-making was based on wanting to win “the hearts and minds” of the enemy rather than defeat him.
“Aaron did not join the SEAL Challenge Program after September 11, 2001, to win their hearts and minds,” the father explained. “He joined, and was trained, to defeat the enemy.
“America’s enemies throughout the world must know that America is strong and that we will lead,” he continued. “For there to be peace as much as is humanly possible, America’s enemies must know that their is resolve among our leadership.
“We must let our warriors use the force that is necessary to defeat the enemy and allow as many of them as possible to return home safely to those that love them,” he said before concluding, “America needs a commander-in-chief who has our military’s back, and that is not President Barack Obama.”
Vote wisely, folks.
To learn more about the Vaughns and the organization they founded in the wake of their son’s death, visit http://ForOurSon.us.
During media interviews about my just-released book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight for Military Justice, I’m often asked why ordinary Americans should be interested in the story of former Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart and his fight to clear his name after being wrongfully convicted by an Army court-martial panel. On the book’s website this morning, I shared an excerpt from the book (below) that goes a long way toward answering that question:
In recent years, America’s fighting men and women have faced an ever-increasing barrage of legal battles stemming from their actions on battlefields and in combat zones around the world. Perhaps most notable is the case of Army Ranger First Lieutenant Michael Behenna.
On July 31, 2008, Lieutenant Behenna was charged with the premeditated murder of Ali Mansur, a known Al-Qaeda agent operating near Albu Toma, an area north of Baghdad. Seven months later, the leader of the 18-member Delta Company, 5th platoon of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry Division was convicted of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years confinement—later reduced to 15—at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
One expert called to testify during Lieutenant Behenna’s court-martial contends to this day that Army prosecutors committed a Brady violation when they suppressed evidence favorable to the lieutenant’s defense and, in doing so, violated due process and his right to a fair and impartial proceeding. The real “kicker” in the case lies in the identity of the person from whom the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct came. Surprisingly, it wasn’t someone on the defense side of the courtroom. Instead, it was the Army’s own witness, a renowned forensics expert.
Prosecutors flew Dr. Herbert Leon MacDonell from Corning, New York, to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for the trial, but never allowed him to testify. Why? Because, during the trial, he had the opportunity to examine key pieces of evidence prosecutors had not shared with him prior to his arrival at the proceedings. When he told prosecutors that his examination of that evidence had caused him to change his mind and believe Lieutenant Behenna was telling the truth, they opted against having the court hear his testimony—words that likely would have resulted in a favorable outcome for the young officer.
As this book went to press, the lieutenant, his friends and members of his family were awaiting the final ruling in his appeal process. Worst-case scenario: He’ll be released from prison March 19, 2024—at age 40.
Sadly, Lieutenant Behenna is not alone when it comes to unjust prosecution of men and women in uniform.
Another case involved a group of men who came to be known as the “Haditha Marines.”
Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Chessani, commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, was responsible for approximately 2,000 American and Iraqi forces. At about 7:15 in the morning November 19, 2005, a squad of Colonel Chessani’s Marines was leading a convoy when it was ambushed by an enemy using a roadside bomb and small arms fire from nearby houses. The bomb detonated under a Humvee, killing one Marine and injuring two others. An ensuing house-to-house battle between insurgents and an outnumbered Marine “fire team” resulted in the deaths of 24 Iraqis, including 15 civilians.
After Colonel Chessani and seven Marines in his unit were charged with murder, U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.)—a now-deceased former Marine—proclaimed the Marines overreacted and killed 24 Iraqi civilians “in cold blood.” A costly, yearlong legal battle followed.
On March 26, 2008, Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based nonprofit group that represented Colonel Chessani, summed up the environment within which the Haditha Marines were caught:
“The hysteria and media firestorm over Abu Ghraib and the Pat Tillman investigations lead to fear of a similar media reaction to the Haditha incident, causing the military’s civilian bosses to set up this shadow oversight body,” Thompson said in a news release. “This extraordinary action politicized the military justice system and was a clear signal to top generals that they were expected to hold individuals criminally responsible. The investigation turned into a quest for a prosecution—not justice.”
Eighty-three days later, a military court found Colonel Chessani not guilty on all charges. Charges against six others were dropped, and the outcome of proceedings against one remaining Marine remained uncertain as this book went to press. The Marines and members of their families paid a heavy emotional price—not to mention being out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees—for service to their country.
More recently, three U.S. Navy SEALs—Julio A. Huertas, Jonathan E. Keefe and Matthew V. McCabe—faced assault charges related to their capture of Ahmed Hashim Abed, the alleged planner of the March 2004 ambush, killing and mutilation of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah, Iraq. Abed alleged he was punched in the gut and received a fat lip while being apprehended.
Offered administrative punishment, all three warriors refused that option. Instead, they chose—at great cost to themselves and their families—to face court-martial proceedings. It was the only way to clear their names entirely of the charges against them.
Fortunately, all three were found not guilty on all counts during courts-martial in the spring of 2010.
There are, of course, many more cases of U.S. service members facing charges stemming from their actions on the battlefield.
Three Army noncommissioned officers—Master Sergeant John Hatley, Sergeant First Class Joseph Mayo and Sergeant Michael Leahy—stand as but a handful of those now serving time in military prisons. Convicted of war crimes. For killing enemy combatants. On battlefields awash with bureaucratic rules of engagement.
In this book, however, I share the appalling details of another wrongful-conviction case in which an Army Special Forces soldier was convicted of alleged crimes that took place far from the combat zones of the Middle East where he had already witnessed firsthand the horrors of war. I share the travesty of military justice embodied in the case, United States vs. Kelly A. Stewart, a case decided during three days in August.
For details about ordering the book in ebook and/or print versions, click here.
If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BloggingMachine. Thanks in advance for your support!
The mission of the event, according to event organizers, is to wholly support and work toward the release of “The Leavenworth 10,” a group of soldiers/Marines incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth for killing members of Al-Qaeda and/or Iraqi insurgents.
These decorated and committed soldiers/Marines who honorably served their country are now serving sentences ranging between 10 and 40 years, victims of untenable Rules of Engagement, demoralizing “Catch and Release” policies, and a climate of political correctness that govern our troops’ actions while trying to survive a combat zone.
It’s not too late to participate in this weekend’s events, the details of which are outlined HERE.
To read other posts about The Leavenworth 10, click here or on the graphic below.
FREEDOM RIDE FOR THE LEAVENWORTH TEN will originate in many states and culminate the morning of Sept. 4 in Leavenworth, Kan., according to Scott and Vicki Behenna, Michael’s parents, and Army Lt. Col. Allen West, a congressional candidate from Florida, scheduled to speak.
“The intent of the Freedom Ride is to bring awareness to how our soldiers are being imprisoned for killing the enemy during a time of war which one news commentator compared to ‘giving speeding tickets at a NASCAR race,’” the Behenna’s said in an e-mail today. “These soldiers, serving multiple deployments, are provided complex and ever changing rules of engagement and then have to deal with untenable ‘catch and release’ policies against an enemy the U.S. military generals have yet to figure out how to defeat.”
As more details about the ride are ironed out, they will be posted on the L10FreedomRide web site. Check back often.
If you’re not familiar with the Leavenworth Ten, check out the links to web sites below where you can learn more about each of the wrongfully-imprisoned soldiers:
UPDATE 7/10/10 at 3:51 p.m. Central: While researching more information about the Leavenworth 10, I learned that Sergeant Hutchins was freed pending the outcome of his appeall. See this story for details.