The U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command—which usually concentrates
on bringing that service’s own lawbreakers to justice—now is employing
its detective skills against enemy combatants in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere,
according to the unit’s deputy commander, Col. Paul R. Capstick.
The command was created during the American Civil War to investigate major
crimes involving the Army. The unit originally was called the Criminal Investigation
Division, and still is known widely as CID.
CID, now headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., continues to look into criminal
cases involving such serious charges as murder, rape and fraud on military bases.
In the aftermath of 9/11, however, the command is playing a key role in the
war on terror, Capstick told National Defense. Army investigators are:
- Digging through mass grave sites in Iraq.
- Interrogating enemy prisoners of war and detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and
the terrorist detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- Searching for leaders of the Iraqi insurgency, Taliban and al Qaeda.
- Seeking evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
- Providing Secret Service-style protection to top Defense Department and Army
The head of the command, Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, last fall was named the
Army’s first provost marshal general in almost 30 years. In this “dual-hatted”
role, Ryder reports directly to the Army chief of staff. This enhances the ability
of the PMG and CID to conduct criminal investigations independently, free from
actual or perceived undue outside command influence, Capstick said.
As PMG, Ryder oversees all law enforcement, corrections, physical security,
criminal investigations and criminal intelligence matters for the entire Department
of the Army. Also, the PMG serves as the Defense Department’s executive
agent for the Enemy Prisoner of War, Detainee and Corrections Program. He monitors
and reports anti-terrorism, force protection and criminal intelligence, and
provides domestic threat information to senior Army leaders and major command.
At Fort Gillem, Ga., near Atlanta, the command is building a new $30 million
forensic laboratory. The current facility is a fully accredited criminal-investigation
laboratory, the only one in the Defense Department, Capstick said. It is comparable
to the facility operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but it is housed
in a World War II-era warehouse.
The new building will have 88,662 square feet of space, including labs for
DNA analysis, administrative offices, evidence storage, classrooms, conference
halls and a firing range for ballistics testing.
Since 2001, the lab has received $3.6 million for new investigative equipment.
In November, for example, the lab awarded a contract for SAGEM Morpho Inc.,
of Tacoma, Wash., to install an automated fingerprint identification system.
The system can store images of any size at resolutions from 500 to 1,000 dots
per inch. It also can archive an entire arrest card—including the 10 rolled
fingerprint images, palm print, plain impressions and demographics—and
reproduce the entire card from the database on demand. Each arrest card and
subsequent bookings are linked and maintained as discrete elements of the individual
records, thus eliminating the need for a separate archival system.
In addition to the lab, the CID maintains the U.S. Army Crime Records Center,
at Fort Belvoir, supporting the command, Army and law enforcement agencies of
federal, state, local and foreign governments. The CRC receives, safeguards,
maintains and disseminates information from 2.5 million Army law enforcement
reports. Every year, the CRC responds to approximately 2,000 requests for information.
The center also manages the Army’s law-enforcement polygraph program.
CID is part of the Army’s Military Police Corps, Capstick said. Most
MPs perform functions similar to those of uniformed city police, such as responding
to 911 calls, enforcing traffic laws and providing base security, he explained.
CID agents are different, he said. CID’s traditional mission is to investigate
serious crimes in which U.S. soldiers are either suspects or victims. “We
have 1,500 folks,” Capstick explained. “Half are special agents.
They are like FBI agents or city detectives.”
Currently, for example, CID investigators are looking into the murder of PFC
Amanda Gonzalez at an Army base in Hanau, Germany. A reward for information
leading to the apprehension and conviction of the murderer was increased in
July 2003 from $20,000 to $50,000.
CID expects eventually to solve the case. The command has very high “solve
rates,” Capstick said. In 2002, according to the most recent figures,
95 percent of all its murder cases were solved, as were 92 percent of assaults,
75 percent of rapes and 71 percent of thefts. Overall, 83.6 percent of all CID
cases in 2002 were solved, compared to 21 percent for all reported criminal
cases in the nation as a whole.
A major reason for the difference: “We have a different environment,”
Capstick said. “The Army community is close. We all know each other. There’s
more control on a military base than in the average U.S. community.”
CD has a separate unit of 100 civilian investigators who specialize in major
procurement fraud. That unit’s mission is to recover misappropriated Army
property, protect delivery of goods and services, enhance personnel safety and
enhance combat readiness, Capstick explained.
In 2003, the procurement fraud unit recovered $132 million. “That exceeded
CID’s budget for the year,” he said.
In June of that year, a lengthy CID investigation culminated in the sentencing
of an Army colonel who was based in South Korea to 54 months in federal prison
for soliciting bribes in exchange for influencing the award of contracts.
In 2000, CID established another unit to investigate computer crimes, Capstick
said. This group seeks to catch “hackers” and foreign information-warfare
specialists attempting to penetrate or disrupt Army computer networks.
A major shift in CID responsibilities followed the 9/11 attacks. Several agents
were in the Pentagon when the hijacked airliner hit, and others—stationed
nearby at Fort Myer, Va.—responded immediately.
Initially, they helped control the scene and rescue victims. Later, they recovered
bodies, personal effects and classified documents, and gathered evidence for
the ongoing investigation into the attack.
When U.S. forces went into Afghanistan, CID agents followed close on their
heels. They accompanied units on combat missions in order to gather evidence
against Taliban and al Qaeda activities, and to investigate charges of wrongdoing
by U.S. personnel.
In April of 2003, for example, criminal investigators joined a task force of
troopers from the 82nd Airborne Division and Special Forces to gather information
and evidence about an ambush in the Afghan city of Sangin that left two U.S.
service members dead and one seriously injured.
Task force members questioned more than 50 local residents who might have had
some knowledge of the ambush. Four were flown to Kandahar for further questioning.
In Iraq, CID agents went to work quickly, documenting the scope of the former
regime’s war crimes, tracking down insurgents and interrogating prisoners,
Capstick said. Investigators are searching an estimated 500 mass grave sites,
where as many as 1.3 million Iraqis may have been executed since Saddam Hussein
took power in 1979.
“Our people are securing and preserving evidence at the scene,”
Capstick said. “The evidence is pretty graphic—blindfolds around
skulls with bullet holes, hands still bound together, parts of skeletons.”
The process is slow, because the sites were hidden and few of the remains have
any sort of identification with them, Capstick said.
CID agents are interrogating many of the 5,000 enemy prisoners of war, unlawful
combatants and suspected criminals in U.S. custody at Baghdad’s international
airport. “We have both CID agents and staff judge advocates vetting or
screening each of the EPWs,” Army Col. John Della Jacono, deputy chief
of staff for the Coalition Forces Land Component commander, told reporters.
Many of those in custody, he said, turned out to be noncombatants “at
the wrong place at the wrong time.” Others were low-level enlisted personnel.
Those were released, Della Jacono said.
Senior officials on specific lists and unlawful combatants were not released,
he said. “We also are holding any of those we deem to need further interrogation
by MI [military intelligence] screening teams and CID. These include 38 of the
55 most-wanted leaders of the former regime.
“And we do have a small population of criminals. We have thwarted some
bank robberies in progress. Once [the thieves] are apprehended, they are categorized
as criminals, and they are segregated from the EPW population.”
When interrogating prisoners, agents must stay within the rules. In August
2003, Army Lt. Col. Allen B. West, with the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit,
Iraq, interrogated an Iraqi policeman who allegedly was involved in a plot to
attack West’s unit.
When the Iraqi refused to cooperate, West allegedly threatened to shoot him
with his pistol, firing two shots near the man. At that point, the detainee
began to talk. But the incident was reported. A preliminary CID investigation
charged that West’s actions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The case is being handled under Article 32 of the UCMJ. A hearing has been
held, and an investigative officer will recommend one of three courses of action:
Dismiss the case, press charges administratively or proceed to a full court
The CID Protective Services Unit provides personal security for the office
of the secretary of defense, joint chiefs of staff, Army secretary and chief
of staff, and other senior defense officials, as directed by the director of
the Army staff, Capstick said. The unit, for example, has been detailed to protect
L. Paul Bremer III, chief administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority
This unit is very similar to the U.S. Secret Service, which protects the president,
Capstick said. To do its work, the unit maintains liaison with the Secret Service,
FBI, Naval Criminal Investigation Service, Air Force Office of Special Investigations,
Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence and other intelligence and law enforcement
Like the Secret Service, PSU agents provide protection for their assigned officials
on a day-to-day basis. They also travel with those officials when they are on
When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz traveled to Baghdad in October,
for example, his hotel was attacked by rockets, which killed one American and
wounded 15 people. PSU agents traveling with Wolfowitz “reacted quickly,”
Capstick said. “They moved him to a safe location and continued on with
The ongoing conflicts are keeping the unit busier than they would like, and
as a result, “we are looking at a ‘plus up’ for the PSU,”
In fact, he said, CID agents in all fields are currently in short supply, Capstick
said. “We rely upon our reserve and National Guard-component agents. Without
them, our work would be a lot tougher.”
To meet its additional responsibilities, the command is recruiting additional
agents, he noted. To qualify, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen already serving
in the Army, hold the rank of sergeant or below, with two years of service and
not more than 10. An applicant also must achieve a general technical score of
at least 110, have no court martial convictions, possess 60 semester hours of
college credit, be in good physical shape with normal color vision. In addition,
he or she must be prepared to serve at least 36 months after completing basic
agent training, and able to obtain and maintain a top-secret clearance.
After serving in an enlisted capacity for two years and achieving a four-year
college degree, an agent can apply for an appointment as a warrant officer.
Agents receive basic law-enforcement training at the U.S. Military Police School
at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Advanced schooling includes such specialties as polygraphs,
counter-narcotics and economic crimes. CID agents also attend the FBI National
Academy, at Quantico, Va.; the Canadian Police College and George Washington
University, in Washington, D.C., where they can earn a master’s degree
in forensic science.