Is the U.S. Army
running a classified
American snipers to
"bait" Iraqi citizens?
The American Spark
U.S. Snipers 'Baiting' Iraqis, Testify Soldiers
By Cliff Montgomery - Sept. 26th, 2007
U.S. Army snipers tracking down so-called "Iraqi insurgents" were ordered to "bait" Iraqis with a suspicious
object, such as a detonation cord, and proceed to kill anyone who picked up the object, says the defense
attorney of an American soldier facing charges of premeditated murder.
Gary Myers, an attorney for Sergeant Evan Vela--who may soon be formally charged with planting evidence on
one of his victims--told reporters on Monday that his client was only acting "pursuant to orders."
"We believe that our client has done nothing more than he was instructed to do by superiors," Myers told the
Associated Press (AP) during a telephone interview.
Myers added that the testimony and sworn statements of two other suspected Ranger snipers attest that the
U.S. Army is maintaining a classified program which encourages American snipers to "bait" possible targets,
and assassinate anyone who takes the bait.
Vela's father, Curtis Carnahan of Idaho Falls, Idaho, echoed Myers' statements in a separate AP interview.
The Army refused to comment on the existence of such a program to AP on Monday.
But the answer AP did receive is typical doublespeak from a Bush Administration official.
"To prevent the enemy from learning about our tactics, techniques and training procedures, we don't discuss
specific methods targeting enemy combatants," claimed Paul Boyce, a spokesman for the Army.
But those versed in rhetoric--not to mention Natural Law and democratic right--know that such an argument is
the sophistical tactic of the sweeping generalization: a false argument which maintains that an often valid idea,
in this case secrecy during a time of suspicion and war, should be taken as an absolute, even in cases calling
for a different response.
For over 200 years, we've been in numerous wars, and have had to contend with enemies both foreign and
domestic. And never once have the American people--or at the very least, their representatives in Congress
and the Judiciary who hold the proper security clearances--surrendered their inherent oversight rights and
duties. There is no reason to start doing it now.
The dangerous and tyrannical sweeping generalization of absolute secrecy destroys every American's security.
In politics, a totally ignorant populace is a totally dominated one.
The court transcript of a hearing held for two of the accused snipers contains numerous references to a
classified Army "baiting" program, but gives few details. AP obtained a copy of the court transcript from Vela's
The Washington Post first exposed the existence of this "baiting" program. The Post cited a sworn statement
given by Captain Matthew Didier, a Ranger sniper scout platoon leader.
"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,"
declared Didier in his statement.
"Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted
to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against
U.S. forces," he added.
That an Iraqi instead may be exhibiting the very human characteristics of curiosity about a suspicious object in
a violent land seems never to have occurred to Capt. Didier--or anyone else in the Army command, for that
And let's not even mention that the questionable nature of such a program makes it ripe for such abuses as
The Post added that the Army program was created by its Asymmetric Warfare Group, which is charged with
creating more efficient methods for Army commanders struggling against unconventional opponents and their
tactics, including roadside bombs.
The work of the Army's Asymmetric Warfare Group is certainly needed; it's the possibly abusive nature of this
classified program that is at issue here.
Take this as an example: Just months after the start of the Army's "baiting" program, three snipers from
Didier's platoon were formally charged with premeditated murder. The soldiers are charged with planting those
'baiting' items to make questionable shootings appear legitimate, says the Post.
The Post makes sure to add that it doesn't look as if the three alleged murders were part of any classified Army
program. All the same, defense attorneys argue, the questionable program may have unjustly blurred the legal
limits for U.S. troops trying to control an occupied nation.
One of the suspected soldiers, Spec. Jorge Sandoval Jr., is slated to undergo his court martial for
premeditated murder today in Baghdad. Vela and Staff Sergeant Michael Hensley are facing similar charges.
The three currently are assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry
Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. The unit is based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
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