Vet Says His Superiors Tried to Silence Him
SACRAMENTO (CN) - An Iraq war veteran claims in court that his superiors drugged and kidnapped him to keep him from telling the press about Abu Ghraib prison abuses - and that Saddam Hussein's still-missing WMDs were made in the U.S.A.
Those are just two of the disturbing claims Frank Ford makes in a federal complaint, which mirrors a lawsuit he filed earlier this year in Sacramento Superior Court. His attorney said the state complaint will be dismissed soon, in favor of the federal case.
In the federal complaint, Ford accuses the defendants - including the California Army National Guard, the United States of America and fellow soldiers Victor Artiga, Merle Madera, Timothy Ryan and Thomas Pappas - of violating the Constitution, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and of torture, false imprisonment and medical malpractice.
Ford claims he served with the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion, through the California Army National Guard, and went to Iraq as a counterintelligence noncommissioned officer in 2003. While in Iraq he was under the command of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.
He claims that in April 2003 and during the course of his duties as a counterintelligence agent he "personally observed weapons of mass destruction (hereafter 'WMD') to wit: [Classified], in an Iraqi underground storage bunker at Balad Air Force Base, with markings on them indicating that they were manufactured in the United States of America. Plaintiff Ford promptly notified his higher command, defendants herein," according to his complaint. (Parentheses and brackets in original.)
In a declaration filed in his state case, Ford identifies the WMDs as "twenty-nine P400-VX weapons of mass destruction."
"According to [U.N. weapons inspector] Hans Blix, the WMDs were made in the United States and brokered and shipped by the Carlyle Group and shipped from Houston, Texas to Iraq for use on the Anfal Kurds and the Iranian armed forces," Ford claims.
VX is a nerve agent whose production and stockpiling was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.
Shortly after discovering the WMDs, Ford says, he recruited a confidential informant (CI) to provide information for U.S. forces.
"I was told by [defendant] LTC Ryan, my commander, that we had unlimited funds available to pay our Iraqi sources, who were operating in great danger at all times," Ford says in a second state court declaration.
He claims in his federal complaint that his informant provided him with information "that led to the capture of $40,000,000 in United States currency and the currency of other countries. Plaintiff Ford turned this money over to his higher command. Later, when plaintiff Ford asked his higher command for money to pay CIs for information, plaintiff was told that he would have to use his own money. Plaintiff Ford is informed and believes that the money he turned over was embezzled and used for personal use by United States personnel."
Ford claims that when his informant told him he thought he knew the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein but was unable to deliver him to U.S. forces, things turned ugly for the man.
"On two occasions he was severely beaten by United States personnel and plaintiff cared for him as a trained corpsman. On the third occasion that plaintiff's CI was beaten, he died as a result of additional beating and torture and plaintiff was unable to revive him," Ford says in his complaint.
"Frank knows who beat the informant," Ford's attorney J. Jeffries Goodwin told Courthouse News in an interview Tuesday. "It was members of his own unit. They were guys he worked with."
Torture is a recurring theme in Ford's complaint. He says he was based at the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Allegations of human rights violations at the prison - including physical, psychological and sexual abuse, torture, reports of rape and sodomy, and murder - committed by U.S. military personnel culminated in the removal of 17 soldiers and officers from duty. By 2006, 11 soldiers were convicted in courts martial, imprisoned and dishonorably discharged for their roles in the abuse.
"In May of 2003, while at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, plaintiff Ford was asked to care for prisoners as a former U.S. Navy corpsman and U.S. Army medic, which he did," the complaint states. "Plaintiff Ford personally witnessed and treated many other Iraqi prisoners that had been abused and/or tortured by United States personnel. On June 7, 2003 plaintiff Ford reported to defendants Artiga and Ryan that the torture was wrong, illegal, counterproductive and that the entire counterintelligence/interrogation team should be replaced.
"On June 15, 2003 defendant Artiga relieved plaintiff Ford from his position on a THT [Tactical Human Intelligence Team], took away his M16 rifle while Ford was still in an active combat zone, and referred plaintiff Ford for a psychiatric assessment.
"On June 17, 2003 Ford filed formal charges for illegal torture and abuse by and against his team and demanded 'Whistleblower' protection," Ford says in the complaint.
Ford claims he was seen by defendant Dr. Madera a day later, on referral from Artiga, for the purpose of ruling out psychosis.
"The true facts are that defendant Artiga wanted to silence Ford and to get him out of the theater," Ford says in the complaint.
"Defendant Dr. Madera was coerced by defendant Artiga, who subjected defendant Madera to illegal command influence, and unwillingly arranged for the aeromedical evacuation of Ford.
"On June 21, 2003 plaintiff Ford was, against his will, kidnapped, drugged and strapped to a stretcher. He was then flown out of Iraq to Germany without orders or being listed on the manifest. Ford was accompanied, under guard, by defendant Dr. Madera who was sent for the sole purpose of monitoring plaintiff Ford's communications. Defendant Madera stated to Ford that 'you have been kidnapped to shut you up because [defendant] LTC Ryan is terrified of what you have to say," the complaint states.
Attorney Goodwin says his client has corroboration, in the form of a heavily redacted CID memo dated June 16, 2004, that Madera's commanding officers forced her to ship Ford off to Germany. The memo is attached to Ford's federal complaint as Exhibit B:
"On 4 Mar 04, this office telephonically interviewed Dr [redacted] who stated CPT [redacted] Commander of SGT [redacted] (NFI), went to her commander to influence her decision to send SGT [redacted] back to the U.S. As a result, her chain of command put 'undue pressure' on her which did influence her decision to send SGT [redacted] back to the U.S. Dr [redacted] then stated that because of the media attention the detainee abuse has been getting and the fact that several newspaper companies have been attempting to contact her, she requested a Patient Privacy Release Form from SGT [redacted] be obtained. She was instructed that CID is only interested in the coercion piece, but she insisted on the form to cooperate further," the memo states.
Upon his return to the United States, Ford says, he underwent a mental health evaluation at Brooke Army Medical Center's Department of Behavioral Medicine in San Antonio, and received a clean bill of health on July 2, 2003.
"There is no overt evidence of any psychiatric disorder at this time," Dr. Thomas Hardaway wrote on his mental health evaluation of Ford, attached to the complaint as Exhibit A. "There is nothing on my initial screening evaluation indicating any overt pathology or personality problems."
Ford says he waited nearly a decade to file a complaint against his superiors and the California Army National Guard on the advice - and direct orders - of the Guard's Adjutant General.
"Plaintiff Ford is informed and believes that any applicable statute of limitation defense is waived by defendants, and each of them, because in July of 2003 plaintiff Ford was in the Office of the Adjutant General, California Army National Guard, Sacramento, California when he, Ford, was ordered by LTC Dana that he, Ford, should not institute civil legal action against the California Army National Guard, or any of its officers regarding the state directed torture program (SDTP) underway at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Ford was told by his superior officer that the reasons for Ford to stay quiet and to suppress the information he had was that it would damage the war effort and jeopardize the lives of United States personnel in Iraq. Ford was reminded that he had a security clearance and that he could be prosecuted for leaking classified information. Furthermore, LTC Dana told Ford that the release of Ford's information would damage ongoing intelligence operations and that he, Ford, must wait until all United States military personnel were out of Iraq. Plaintiff Ford understood this to be a lawful order. Plaintiff Ford remained a member of the Individual Ready Reserve until June 28, 2011 and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice," Ford says in his state complaint. LTC Dana is not a party in either action.
Attorney Jeffries acknowledged that his client faces an uphill battle in taking on the U.S. government, and the Army, especially since his story resurrects the depravity that took place at Abu Ghraib prison a decade ago.
"Everyone in the government is staying mum about it," Goodwin said. "We've since found documents asked for under [the Freedom of Information Act]. They were lost, misfiled by the same CID officer who tried to cover up."
Ford's other FOIA requests have gone unanswered. "No response. Four filed, all outstanding," Goodwin said.
Ford leads a quieter life these days, working for the California Department of Corrections at Folsom State Prison. He's close to retirement. But Goodwin says that his client is afraid for his life.
"All the pictures from Abu Ghraib - he knows these people. He worked with them," Goodwin said. "When he threatened to go to the press [in 2003], his captain said he was psychotic, had him drugged and shipped him out. This is what the Soviets used to do.
"He's concerned about being killed," Goodwin said. "He's more worried about that than being prosecuted. Whether by U.S. forces, Iraqi forces, Al Qaida or what have you, Frank worries about being killed for what he knows."