Friday, March 13, 2009

Sailor Acquitted in Detainee Abuse Case

As the Florida Times Union reports, here, and Navy TImes report, here, the last Navy sailor accused of wrongdoing in the Camp Bucca detainee abuse incident was acquitted yesterday of all charges. Machinist Mate Second Class Jonathan Armstrong was acquitted of charges that he and another Petty Officer, according to the report, "pushed the [detainee] to the ground and then punched and kicked him while [Chief Petty Officer] Necaise held him down." According to the FTU, "Armstrong defended himself by saying that in beating the man he was obeying the order given by Necaise, the guard duty officer in the area where the sailors worked."

Here is the thing about this case that disturbs me a little bit, MM2 Armstrong was assigned to Naval Shipyard Norfolk Submarine Repair Complement and was an individual augmentee to the Camp Bucca prison force. Essentially that means that Armstrong was not a prison guard or security officer by training and that he either volunteered or was volunteered to take over the duty of guarding detainees at one of the largest US military detention facilities in Iraq for 9-18 months. I am not excusing any one's conduct in any of these incidents, but Armstrong's presence at Camp Bucca was akin to the U.S. BOP walking down to the local auto repair center and asking for volunteers to go to Leavenworth, Kansas because there was a shortage of prison guards at SuperMax. While I am sure plenty of commenters will disagree with portions of that analogy (which I am leaving in because I like commentariat &*%$ storms), is it really surprising that MM2 Armstrong didn't know what to do or how to react when a detainee spit on him?


Anonymous said...

He was given training in detainee ops so the analogy of a mechanic working at BOP is incorrect. It's like taking a mechanic, training him to be a prison guard and then putting him in BOP.

Anonymous said...

I expect the testimony was something like "I fix pumps on the ship. The navy said I had to go over there. The chief said to punch the guy, so I did."

"Do you always do what the chiefs say?"


"Didn't you know not to hit persons in custody?"

"No, and the SPs hit you when you cause trouble at the dock getting back into the boat."

I would have let him walk.

Anonymous said...

He was given training in detainee ops so the analogy of a mechanic working at BOP is incorrect.

Please don't claim that slapdash training somehow makes the guy a prison guard.

I was given training in first aid, but I wasn't a medic. I was given training in PMCS, but I wasn't an auto mechanic. I was given training in security, but I wasn't a prison guard.

Anonymous said...

"I expect the testimony was something like..."

I expect you didn't hear any of the testimony. Nice drive by.

Anonymous said...

"that slapdash..."

Any clue what the training was? No you don't, it was significant and more than a 1 hour power point presentation. Then again it is easy to be a trial attorney by reading the newspaper.

Cloudesley Shovell said...

One thing for sure, no officer of any serious rank will ever face real consequences for any of the detainee abuses that have occurred.

When things go well, it's all thanks to the inspired leadership from on high. When things go to hell, it's all thanks to a few disgruntled E-5s.

Anonymous said...


You are wise. Just look at Chessani.

Cloudesley Shovell said...

I was talking about the detainee abuse cases. Abu Ghraib and all that.

Can you point to a senior officer who suffered any serious consequences as a result of the detainee abuse cases? I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Yrs humbly,

Anonymous said...

Why should any of the senior officers associated with Abu Ghraib be punished? Everybody knows that the criminal behavior at Abu was hatched by a bunch of savvy junior enlisted Soldiers from West Virginia.

Anonymous said...

An Army Reserve 1 Star got demoted and retired. She was in charge of all Iraqi detention centers. Maj Gen Miller of both GTMO and Abu Ghraib infamy was forced to retire. And the Marines prosecuted and convicted a Major in the Camp Whitehorse detainee abuse cases.

I believe also that either an Army Reserve 0-5 or 0-6 got an Article 15, grade determination and was retired. But, that's about it.

I represented one of the Whitehorse defendants - they had a one hour block of instruction, period.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what this accused received for training prior to deployment but standard training of Navy personnel supporting detainee operations is 2 months. THat is longer than BOP basic prisoner training and longer than the Navy's corrections course.

Anonymous said...

Actual Detainee Ops training that the Navy receives is 1 week. The other 7 weeks of the 2 months mentioned before is Combat Operations: weapons, convoy training, hand-to-hand combat, land navigation and other training.

Anonymous said...

To continue from the last comment...I am not saying that 1 week of training is an excuse for their behavior. They should have know better, the rest of us did. In this case, the poor leadership of one individual led to this unfortunate situation.

Anonymous said...

I was part of this Navy Battalion. As far as training goes: 1.5 weeks were dedicated to detainee ops. The other 6.5? Land Nav, Rifle Qual, Urban Ops, Convoys, etc........ Form any opinion you want.