- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AP) Two U.S. pilots charged with manslaughter in the mistaken bombing of Canadian forces in Afghanistan last year had been told beforehand that friendly forces might be on the ground, an Air Force intelligence officer testified yesterday.
Capt. Evan Cozadd, an intelligence officer with the 183rd Fighter Wing, said Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach had been told during briefings that the situation on the ground was uncertain.
"We couldn't speak with any degree of certainty who they were looking at," Capt. Cozadd said during a hearing to determine whether Maj. Schmidt and Maj. Umbach should be court-martialed.
"They could be friendlies?" a prosecutor asked.
"That's correct."
But, as has happened often during the six days of this hearing, defense attorneys cross-examining Capt. Cozadd and other prosecution witnesses could bolster their claim that the two men were victims of poor information and glitches in communication on the night of April 17.
Maj. Schmidt and Maj. Umbach, the mission commander, feared they were under fire from al Qaeda or Taliban forces when Maj. Schmidt, flying an F-16, dropped the 500-pound bomb south of Kandahar, killing four Canadians and wounding eight.
Capt. Cozadd acknowledged that he did not know Canadians were conducting live-fire exercises in the area known as Tarnak Farms.
Earlier, Maj. Marshall S. Woodson III, an officer on the ground who was relaying radio orders to pilots, said that he had never heard of Tarnak Farms. He said he did not believe that Lt. Col. Craig Fisher, whose orders he was relaying, had heard of Tarnak Farms either.
"If they had called in and said, 'We're over Tarnak Farms,' you would have had no idea where they were, is that right?" a defense attorney asked.
"That's correct," Maj. Woodson said.
Defense lawyers used transcripts of recordings made at the time of the accident, along with cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, to show that Maj. Umbach and Maj. Schmidt were not advised that friendly troops might be below them until at least 4 minutes after first reporting signs of weapons being fired on the ground and moments after Maj. Schmidt released the bomb.
Soon after spotting the ground fire, Maj. Schmidt asked permission to open fire with his 20 mm cannon. He was told to stand by; there is no indication in the transcript that he was explicitly told not to fire.
Less than two minutes later, Maj. Schmidt radios that he is "rolling in, in self-defense," after spotting what he believes is artillery fire aimed at him. Thirty-five seconds after that, he declares, "Bombs away."
Only seconds later, Maj. Woodson is heard telling the flight crew, "Be advised Kandahar has friendlies," and ordering them out of the area as quickly as possible.
The hearing, which began last Tuesday, is presided over by an officer who will make a recommendation on whether the men should face a court-martial. If convicted in a court-martial, the two could get up to 64 years in a military prison.
Journalists and witnesses are watching the proceedings from separate rooms on large television screens, which frequently are switched to a cable news channel when classified information is being discussed.


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