Friday, June 02, 2006

Military Investigators To Exhume Bodies Of Haditha Victims

The administration apologists should know that the U.S. military is taking the Haditha massacre inquiry much more seriously than do the keyboard commandos.

The military wouldn't be exhuming the bodies of the victims over a bucket of hogwash.

Criminal investigators are hoping to exhume the bodies of several Iraqi civilians allegedly gunned down by a group of U.S. Marines last year in the city of Haditha, aiming to recover potentially important forensic evidence, according to defense officials familiar with the investigation.

A source close to the inquiry said Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials have interviewed families of the dead several times and have visited the homes where the shootings allegedly occurred to collect as much evidence as possible. Exhuming the bodies could help investigators determine the distance at which shots were fired, the caliber of the bullets and the angles of the shots, possibly crucial details in determining how events unfolded and who might have been involved...

NCIS officials said the Nov. 19 incident was not reported to them as a criminal case until nearly four months later -- on March 12 -- and the failure of the Marine Corps to request assistance from investigators sooner could create legal complexities.

The delay already has presented many hurdles for investigators, who have had to rely on dated information, witnesses and suspects who had months to tailor their stories, and a lack of fairly routine forensic evidence that should have been collected at the time the civilians were killed, according to Defense Department officials, defense attorneys and sources close to the criminal probe...

The NCIS is an independent criminal investigative agency that is not in the military chain of command. Its probe has included as many as 50 special agents, forensics investigators and support personnel operating in Iraq and in the United States, the largest homicide investigation of its type since the war in Iraq began in 2003, according to Navy officials...

Sources close to the case said the military is assembling a team of experienced prosecutors for the Haditha shootings case. Defense officials said the Pentagon and the Marine Corps are taking the investigation very seriously...

A separate investigation has found several failures in the aftermath of the shootings, according to top officials familiar with the probe. These include Marines giving false statements and officers in the chain of command not providing proper oversight in the weeks and months that followed. That probe, by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell, is expected to be finished this week.

The "delay" in reporting the killings seems to be a benefit to those who instigated the cover-up. The resultant degrading of the evidence will be helpful when these cases get to the adjudication stage.


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