Inside the Ring

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On Monday, as two of three SEALs were arraigned in a Norfolk military courtroom, the name Abed finally was uttered by the government.

Neal Puckett, attorney for Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, demanded that the government read the charges, which include the detainee’s name.

Petty Officer McCabe is accused of punching Abed in the gut and then lying about it. Two SEAL shipmates, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, are charged with giving false statements.

The case has triggered outrage by many pro-military advocates. Monday’s court appearance attracted more than 100 people outside the base to demonstrate in support of the three. They waved American flags and held signs of support, bringing horn honks from passing cars.

Petty Officer McCabe’s father, Marty McCabe of Las Vegas, expressed disgust over the charges.

“It just turns my stomach to have these people send him over there and put him in harm’s way, and then they don’t have his back when he gets home,” Mr. McCabe said, according to Associated Press.

“He’s been a hero - two tours of Iraq and one tour of Afghanistan - and now this is the thanks he gets,” Petty Officer Huertas’ civilian attorney, Monica Lombardi, said.

J. Michael Waller, a specialist on information warfare at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, said the charges against the SEALs are spurious and absurd.

“Al Qaeda has stated in a training manual, captured by the British, that its members, when captured, should allege that they were tortured,” Mr. Waller said. “Al Qaeda recognizes the propaganda value of such allegations as being vital to the success of its terrorist campaign.”

A fact sheet on the SEALs’ prosecution was made public by the U.S. Central Command’s Special Operations Command and states that “SOCCENT’s interest then and now is to ensure that the rule of law is followed and that our judicial process follows its course.” The command declined further comment, stating that the case remains under investigation.

The Dec. 4 fact sheet also states that the prisoner’s name would not be made public because of “the nature of the investigation.”

Mr. Waller said al Qaeda and other enemy forces rely on overzealous military prosecutors to make their propaganda for them and that prosecuting the SEALs based on a terrorist’s claims “serves no just purposes.”

“All it does is unwittingly aid and abet enemy propaganda,” he said. “This is not a My Lai massacre or Abu Ghraib atrocity. It makes one wonder whether U.S. military prosecutors are aware of how the enemy relies on them to spread their propaganda, and whether or not some of them even care.”

An FBI translation of the al Qaeda manual was posted on the Justice Department Web site, and the Pentagon publicized its contents in 2005. The translation states that “the closing chapter teaches al Qaeda operatives how to operate in a prison or detention center. It directs detainees to ‘insist on proving that torture was inflicted’ and to ‘complain of mistreatment while in prison.’ ”

Mr. Waller said that “this appears to be what is playing out here - a terrorist complained of mistreatment, and overzealous military prosecutors ran with the ball and prosecuted the SEALs.”

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About the Author


Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...

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