Md. reservist alerted officers to alleged abuses by his unit

Specialist saw photos of naked prisoners, wrote letter that sparked probe

Crisis In Iraq

May 03, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Spc. Joseph M. Darby told his wife something was going to happen with his unit, the 372nd Military Police Company, but that she shouldn't worry - he wasn't in trouble.

Far from it. According to details of an Army report released yesterday, Darby, 24, was the one who alerted officers about the alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners of war by others in his Western Maryland unit, leading to criminal charges and possible courts-martial for several soldiers and an investigation into how military intelligence officers and civilian contractors handled interrogations.

Bernadette Darby, his wife of six years, said she didn't know a thing about her husband's role in uncovering the scandal until a reporter called yesterday. But it sounded like something he would do, she said.

"Whenever he knows something's wrong, he doesn't stand by it," she said. "I'm behind him 100 percent."

Darby's name emerged this weekend in an article by New Yorker writer Seymour M. Hersh, posted on the magazine's Web site. It detailed a report Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba wrote in February that accused soldiers from the 372nd of "sadistic" treatment of Iraqi prisoners, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Six members of the 372nd, based in Cresaptown near Cumberland, are accused of a variety of acts, such as taking photos and videos of prisoners being forced to engage in sex acts, using a dog to attack them, and hooking them up to fake electrodes and telling them they could be electrocuted. Eight other soldiers from the unit face administrative charges.

Taguba's report mentions Darby twice - once in a list of witnesses and again with two other soldiers "we observed and believe should be favorably noted."

Darby, the report states, "discovered evidence of abuse and turned it over to military law enforcement." The other soldiers mentioned are a dog handler who refused to participate in improper interrogations and a military policeman who stopped an instance of abuse and reported it up the chain of command.

In his New Yorker article, Hersh quotes from the partial transcript of a military hearing in which a witness, Special Agent Scott Bobeck of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, testified that Darby saw photographs of naked prisoners and wrote an anonymous letter about the mistreatment, which he slipped under the investigators' door. He later gave a sworn statement.

"He felt very bad about it and thought it was very wrong," Bobeck said, according to the New Yorker.

Darby grew up in Somerset County, Pa., and married his wife just after graduating from high school. He is a reservist but doesn't have a civilian job at the moment. The couple lived in Falls Church, Va., but moved to Cumberland three years ago to be nearer their families. For most of that time, he has been in Bosnia or Iraq.

Joseph Darby wasn't excited to be deployed to Iraq, Bernadette Darby said, because he had recently returned from a tour of duty in the Balkans. But once he got there, he came to believe that the United States needs to be in Iraq, she said.

Bernadette Darby said she is a little nervous about how other military families will react to her husband's role in uncovering the scandal, but she said she is proud of him and would do the same if she were in his situation.

"It sickened me whenever I saw those pictures," she said. "Trust me, his whole unit, they're not all like that. The community is in an uproar about it, and it's just - they're not all sick like that. They're a good bunch of guys."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.