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The Court-Martial Of Willie Brand

Tells Scott Pelley "I Am Not A Violent Person"

(Page 3 of 3)
March 5, 2006

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"And so we killed an innocent man, and thatís something else that got me as I went though this, got me very concerned as to not just what we are doing to perhaps al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like terrorists or even insurgents when we come to Iraq, but what were doing to innocents," says Wilkerson.

Wilkerson says the Secretary of State, who devoted much of his life to the Army, was enraged. As the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was breaking, Wilkerson says his boss snapped up the phone and called Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"And he essentially said, 'Don, donít you know what youíre doing to our credibility around the world donít you know what youíre doing to our image?' And for Secretary Powell to raise his voice that way was quite extraordinary. Iíve only heard him do it maybe five times in 16 years," says Wilkerson.

"What do you mean he raised his voice?" Pelley asked.

"Iím sure Secretary Rumsfeld was probably holding the phone away from his ear," Wilkerson replied.

In August, Willie Brand faced court-martial. Prosecutors said he and other guards had struck the prisoners dozens and dozens of times.

"People watching this interview are thinking, 'Look, this guy came into this facility, he was there five days and he was dead. He died in five days' time,' How did that happen?" Pelley asked.

"I donít really know how that happened," Brand replied.

"You hit him, you hit him numerous times. Did you think it was you?" Pelley asked.

"No," Brand replied.

"The Army would have us believe that you were operating outside the rules," Pelley said.

"This is what we were trained to do, and this is what we did. And not only that I was not the only one, there were many other people hitting them ó and this was going on on a daily basis and nothing was said about it," Brand said.

But Capt. Beiring says those were not his orders. He says those knee strikes were to be used only for self-defense.

"Youíve read the Army investigation, and in it some of the witnesses say one of the soldiers was nicknamed the 'King of Torture' another one had quote the 'Knee of Death.' You were there; were you not seeing this?" Pelley asked Beiring.

"No, I was not," Beiring replied. "Some nicknames, as a commander you are fairly removed from the junior soldiers, so nicknames could have occurred that I did not know about."

"Itís not the nicknames, itís how they got the nicknames that matters," Pelley said.

"I canít say for sure, I can only say I never witnessed any of my soldiers do anything that was out of line," Beiring said.

Still, a letter of reprimand has been written that blisters Beiring. It says his "command failures enabled an environment of abuse." But the charges that could have brought court-martial against him were dropped. An investigating officer said that Beiring "may not have done his duty perfectly, but he did it well." Beiring is appealing the reprimand.

Asked if he, in retrospect, has any sympathy for Habibullah and Dilawar, Beiring says, "Sure, I have some sympathy. I wish they were born Americans."

At his court-martial, Willie Brand was convicted of assault and maiming. He faced 16 years. But the jury of soldiers had it both ways. They convicted him and let him go with a reduction in rank, nothing more. So far, 15 soldiers have been charged in the Bagram abuse. The sentences range from letters of reprimand to five months in jail. No one above the rank of captain has been charged.

Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, after serving 31 years in the Army, has drawn his own conclusions about how interrogation procedures were changed in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.

How did it go wrong?

"It went wrong because we had a secretary of defense who had never served on the ground a day in his life, who was arrogant and thought that he could release those twin pressures on the backs of his armed forces, the twin pressures being a wink and a nod, you can do a lot of things that you know donít correspond to Geneva, donít correspond to your code of conduct, donít correspond to the Army field manual, and at the same time I want intelligence, I want intelligence, I want it now," says Wilkerson.

While Secretary Rumsfeld never served in combat, he was a Navy aviator and retired from the reserves as a captain. 60 Minutes wanted to talk with Secretary Rumsfeld, but the Pentagon declined our requests. Since the deaths at Bagram, chaining from the ceiling has been banned. The number of prisoners there has increased fivefold, to roughly 500. The prisoners don't get lawyers, and they can't appeal their detentions. But, the military tells 60 Minutes, it reviews each prisoner's file for release at least once a year.

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By Shawn Efran ©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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