Former CIA contractor David Passaro beat an Afghan detainee two nights straight, hurting the man so much that he begged guards to shoot him, a prosecutor said Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael “Pat” Sullivan said in opening statements of Passaro’s assault trial that Passaro probably fractured Abdul Wali’s pelvis by kicking and hitting him with a 2-foot flashlight. “After two solid nights of beating him, Wali died,” Sullivan told jurors.
Passaro, 40, of Lillington, has been charged with assaulting Wali in June 2003 at a U.S. military outpost near Asadabad, Afghanistan. Wali was a suspect in rocket attacks on the outpost.
Passaro’s federal public defender, Joseph Gilbert, gave the jury a very different account. The two sides differed over how many times Passaro interviewed Wali.
Gilbert said Passaro interviewed Wali only twice — once with his supervisor and once at Wali’s request in his holding cell.
“Dave is guilty only of trying to serve his country,” Gilbert said.
Passaro’s case has gotten international attention because he is the first person associated with the Central Intelligence Agency to be tried on charges of abusing a detainee. He is also the first civilian prosecuted under the Patriot Act, which extends federal prosecutors’ reach to U.S. bases overseas.
On Monday, Passaro’s defense suffered a blow to its ability to argue that the Bush administration and the CIA allowed such harsh tactics. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle denied a request to subpoena former CIA Director George Tenet and former counterterrorism chief Cofer Black.
The judge also refused to let the defense call John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who co-authored “the torture memo.” The administration paper redefined torture as only actions that resulted in organ failure, impairment of a bodily function or death. By comparison, the Geneva Conventions forbid “physical or mental coercion” of detainees.
Sullivan’s opening argument gave the most detailed account of what the government says happened during those four days at the Asadabad base: