Army Crime Fighters Shift Focus to Wars

By Harold Kennedy

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 leaders.
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 martial.

Protecting Leaders
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 in Iraq.

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 agencies.

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 the road.

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 their mission.”

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,” Capstick said.

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.

Topics: Ballistics

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