17 June 2004
CIA Contractor Indicted for Abuse of Afghan Detainee
Ashcroft says indictment reflects dedication to
justice, rule of law
A 38-year-old North Carolina man has been indicted for assaulting
an Afghan detainee while working as a contractor for the Central
Intelligence Agency at a U.S. military base in Asadabad, Afghanistan.
According to a June 17 statement by Attorney General John Ashcroft,
a federal grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina, has indicted David
Passaro on two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two
counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury.
According to the indictment, Passaro was working at the Asadabad
Base in June 2003, in support of U.S. military personnel, when
a local man, suspected of participating in rocket attacks against
the base, surrendered himself at the front gate.
The Afghan national, Abdul Wali, was placed under detention. Over
the following two days, Passaro allegedly assaulted Wali with his
hands and feet and with a large flashlight. Wali died in his detention
cell on the third day of his detention.
In announcing the indictment, Ashcroft stated, "In the reports
of abuse of detainees by United States personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan
over the past two months, the world has witnessed a betrayal of
America's most basic values by a small group of individuals. Their
actions call us to the defense of our values -- our belief in decency
and respect for human life -- through the enforcement of the law."
He added, "Those who are responsible for such criminal acts will
be investigated, prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished."
Ashcroft said, "Today, we see a nation dedicated to its ideals
of freedom, respect for human dignity, to its insistence for justice,
and the rule of law."
Following is the transcript of Attorney General Ashcroft's statement:
Attorney General John Ashcroft
Passaro Indictment Announcement
Thursday - June 17, 2004
Good afternoon. Joining me today are Assistant Attorney General
Christopher Wray of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Frank
Whitney of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
This morning, a federal grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina,
has indicted a contractor working on behalf of the Central Intelligence
Agency for brutally assaulting an Afghan detainee on a U.S. military
base in Afghanistan.
David A. Passaro, age 38, a resident of Lillington, N.C., faces
two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of
assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Each charge carries
a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. I
note that an indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant
is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Passaro was arrested this morning in Fayetteville, North Carolina,
and he is scheduled for an initial appearance before a federal
magistrate judge in Raleigh today. The charges Passaro faces relate
to his alleged activities in Afghanistan working as a contractor
on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
As the indictment details, Passaro was in Afghanistan working
in support of United States military personnel at a base near the
town of Asadabad. The military base was called Asadabad Base.
Asadabad is located in the northeastern province of Kunar. It
is a mountainous region, and Asadabad is about five miles from
the Pakistani border. During the past two years, U.S. Army Special
Forces units and Air Force bombers have been active in the area.
It is an area in which remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban remain
As alleged in the indictment, on June 18, 2003, a local Afghani
man named Abdul Wali, who was suspected of participating in rocket
attacks on the Asadabad Base, surrendered voluntarily at the front
gate of the base. Defendant Passaro allegedly assisted military
personnel in detaining Wali, who was held in a detention cell at
The indictment alleges that beginning on the day after Wali's
detention began, Passaro began interrogating him about the rocket
attacks. During these interrogations on June 19th and 20th, 2003,
it is alleged that Passaro beat Wali repeatedly, using his hands
and feet and a large flashlight. Wali died in a cell on Asadabad
Base on June 21, 2003.
Authorities immediately began an investigation, and the CIA formally
referred the case to the Department of Justice last fall. After
the Criminal Division determined that venue was in the Eastern
District of North Carolina, the matter was sent there earlier this
year for a grand jury investigation.
The American people are familiar by now with the images of prisoner
abuse committed in our detention facilities overseas. Today, a
wholly different - and more accurate - picture of our nation emerges.
Today, we see a nation dedicated to its ideals of freedom, respect
for human dignity, to its insistence for justice, and the rule
Regarding other prisoner abuse allegations, I can report that
the Justice Department has received one referral from the Department
of Defense, and additional referrals from the CIA. These are ongoing
investigations; I cannot offer further details at this time.
I have assigned all of our other ongoing prisoner abuse cases
to a prosecution team at the United States Attorney's Office for
the Eastern District of Virginia. Any new referrals will also be
assigned to that office whose jurisdictional boundaries encompass
the Pentagon and the CIA. The Eastern District of Virginia has
shown consistently its ability to handle complex cases involving
national security, classified information and military intelligence
and associated personnel.
I also note that this case would have been more difficult to investigate
and prosecute were it not for the USA PATRIOT Act. The Act expanded
U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against
U.S. nationals on land or facilities designated for use by the
United States government.
In the reports of abuse of detainees by United States personnel
in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two months, the world has
witnessed a betrayal of America's most basic values by a small
group of individuals. Their actions call us to the defense of our
values - our belief in decency and respect for human life - through
the enforcement of the law.
President Bush has made clear that the United States will not
tolerate criminal acts of brutality such as those alleged in this
indictment. The types of illegal abuse detailed run counter to
our values and our policies and are not representative of our men
and women in the military and associated personnel serving honorably
and admirably for the cause of freedom.
Those who are responsible for such criminal acts will be investigated,
prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished.
I thank Chris Wray, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal
Division and U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney and his team in the Eastern
District of North Carolina for their leadership and work in this
criminal matter. I also note with appreciation the investigative
efforts of the CIA's Office of the Inspector General.