Thursday, November 02, 2006

Necessary post

As I described on my blog I'm doing very little blogging this week so I can have more time to work on the election. However there is a story out locally today that absolutely can't get lost in the shuffle so I'm posting a link


Sun Staff Reporter
Thursday, November 2, 2006 12:36 PM CST

A Flagstaff soldier who died in Iraq committed suicide after she refused to participate in interrogation techniques being practiced by her U.S. Army intelligence unit, according to a report about an Army investigation aired by a Flagstaff radio station.

U.S. Army Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson, 27, died Sept. 15, 2003, in Tel Afar, an Iraqi city of about 350,000 residents in the northern part of the country.

At the time, the U.S. Department of Defense listed her cause of death as a "noncombat weapons discharge."

Spc. Peterson's mother, Bobbi Peterson, reached at her home in northern Arizona, said she became aware of the KNAU report Wednesday. Neither she nor her husband Richard has received any official documents that contained information outlined in the KNAU report.

Until she and Richard have had an opportunity to read the documents, she said she is unable to comment.

Spc. Peterson had been assigned to C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which is based in Fort Campbell, Ky. She was in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedon, functioning as an Arabic-speaking intelligence specialist.

On Tuesday, a KNAU Public Radio reporter, who had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports of the criminal investigation into Peterson's death, aired a report that Peterson had committed suicide.

According to KNAU, an Army investigation found that Peterson had objected to interrogation techniques that were being used on prisoners.

"She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage," stated the KNAU report.

She was subsequently assigned to monitoring Iraqi guards at the base gate and was sent to suicide prevention training, stated the KNAU report. And on Sept. 15, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle, according to KNAU.
The KNAU report also stated that Army spokespeople for Peterson's unit refused to describe the interrogation techniques and that all records of the techniques have been destroyed.

The Peterson family told the Arizona Daily Sun in 2003 they did not want to know how she died beyond the Army's general classification of the death. They declined to discuss the matter further and asked the Daily Sun to respect the family's privacy. The Daily Sun agreed to the request.

At Fort Campbell, Lt. Col. Ed Loomis said that Peterson's commander did not release the document cited in the KNAU report. Fort Campbell did honor an FOIA request by a Flagstaff radio reporter 15 months ago, but the report it released contained the results of a non-criminal investigation initiated by Peterson's commander.

The information cited in the KNAU report likely came from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Loomis said.

"We did not provide that because Criminal Investigation Command is a separate law enforcement entity that investigates felony crime independent of the chain of command," Loomis said.

Calls placed to a spokesperson at Criminal Investigation Command in Fort Belvoir, Va., were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Peterson's body was returned to Flagstaff in late September 2003, where she was buried with military honors at Citizen's Cemetery.

She had graduated from Flagstaff High School in 1994 and had a talent for learning languages. While attending Northern Arizona University, Peterson, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, took a two-year leave to go on a mission in Holland. She eventually returned to NAU and received a bachelor's degree in psychology in May 2001.

Right after graduating from NAU, she entered the U.S. Army and studied Arabic and was deployed to Iraq in mid-February 2003.

You can make of it what you will. It disturbs me to no end that any soldier felt that our 'interrogation techniques' were so horrible that she had to kill herself to avoid carrying them out.

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