Who will screen the interrogators?
For all the commentary over convicted former CIA interrogator David Passaro’s legal struggles, no one seems to have asked why the guy was hired in the first place.
Cynics might ask, who better to beat information out of al-Qaeda suspects than a former cop and Green Beret with a history of violence?
But if Ahmed Wali, the Afghan prisoner who died in Passaro’s custody in 2003, gave up any useful intelligence, he took the secret to the grave with him.
According to news reports, Passaro couldn’t get through his probation period as a Hartford, Conn., policeman in 1990 before he was fired for fighting.
A police spokeswoman told WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., that he was arrested by Connecticut state police, convicted of breach of peace, and fined $100 fine.
Passaro's ex-wife, Kerry Passaro, of Fayetteville, N.C., said her husband "had assaulted a neighbor and was violent throughout their marriage,” according to WRAL.
A year later, during his next marriage, deputy sheriffs were called twice to Passaro’s house “to investigate domestic fights and again to look into a complaint that Passaro fired a gun at a neighbor's dog,” the television station said.
The next year Passaro, a former Green Beret and Delta Force medic who had gone through the punishing SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training, was contracted by the CIA as a paramilitary specialist.
In court papers, “he describes being trained in renditions–-during which, playing the detainee, he underwent physical abuse–before heading to Afghanistan,” according to emptywheel blogger Marcy Wheeler, who has followed the case closely.
The government says he was not trained as an interrogator before he was shipped off to a remote firebase near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Asadabad was not an environment conducive to chilling out. Indeed, in Wheeler’s telling, the mud fortress, only 200 meters square and under frequent rocket fire, sounds like the bar scene in Star Wars.
"By 2003, 225 people were stationed there, including members of the 82nd Airborne, Special Forces, CIA, CIA contractors, and … people from an ‘Other Government Agency’ that doesn’t appear to be the CIA," Wheeler wrote.
Given the nature of work at the base -- capturing, interrogating and, as an optimum goal, “flipping” militants -- Passaro shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near prisoners, much less left alone in a room with them.
In 2004, Passaro was charged with assaulting Wali, an Afghan suspected of participating in rocket attacks, by kicking him and beating him into unconsciousness with a flashlight. Passaro, the only CIA employee to be prosecuted for mistreating detainees, was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to eight years and four months in federal prison.
Last week, his sentence was reduced by about 18 months on a legal technicality. Considering time already served, he could on the street in the near future, beginning three years of supervised release.
“The gloves are off,” Cofer Black, the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center in 2002, was telling his charges.
But for David Passaro, the gloves had come off years before.
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