Recent developments have further weakened the case against three Navy SEALs charged with assaulting an al Qaeda detainee. One development will impact the case for all three—the inadmissibility of a statement given by Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe.
At a Scottsdale, Ariz. rally on Saturday, Petty Officer Matthew McCabe – the only SEAL actually accused of striking the detainee – announced that he passed an independently-administered polygraph on March 16.
Neal Puckett, McCabe’s attorney told The US Report, “No military polygraph was administered.”
SEALs captured Ahmed Hashim Abed without firing a shot in a 2009 nighttime raid. Abed is believed to be responsible for the grisly 2004 ambush in Iraq where four security contractors were murdered and their bodies mutilated. Once in U.S. custody, Abed claimed to have received injuries that court documents state amount to a punch in the stomach.
More than 150 supporters attended the event despite the venue’s limited seating. Congressman John Shadegg (R – Ariz.), one of the event’s speakers, stated that trying these SEALs in a case like this is “creating our own demise.” Shadegg is one of 77 co-sponsors of HR 977, a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.). HR 977 honors McCabe, Huertas, and Keefe for their “heroic actions.” The bill was introduced in December, and has been referred to committee.
Republicans in Congress, led by Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.), have advocated for the SEALs for months.
Additionally, a judge has ruled that the statement of fellow SEAL Keefe is inadmissible in court since an interrogator did not advise Keefe of his right to remain silent. Since the judge excluded Keefe’s statement, the falsification charge is dropped.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that the same NCIS agent that interviewed Keefe also interviewed a second SEAL – Petty Officer Julio Huertas – and also neglected to inform the SEAL of his right to keep silent. Huertas’ charge could be dropped as well.
Huertas and Keefe would still face a dereliction charge for allegedly failing to protect the detainee. McCabe is the only SEAL charged with striking the detainee.
Additionally, Major General Charles Cleveland, the convening authority of the three cases, has granted immunity to five witnesses – four SEALs and a Navy corpsman – who are anticipated to provide contradictory statements to those of Abed and the Navy Master-at-Arms who was guarding Abed at the time of the alleged abuse.
According to McCabe’s lawyer, McCabe’s trial is currently set for May 3 in Norfolk, Va.. The trials for Keefe and Huertas start in April. (by Chris Carter/March 30, 2010)
[Disclosure: The Author has advocated for the charges to be dropped against the SEALs and has raised money on their behalf.]