In Jordan, life in prison can mean 20 years, with time off for good behavior.
A Jordanian soldier was sentenced Monday to life in prison after being convicted of killing three U.S. military trainers last year, but some said questions lingered about his motive for the shooting at a Jordanian air base.
Jordan has ruled out terrorism in the November shooting in which the convoy of the U.S. Army Green Berets came under fire at the base entrance.
The defendant has said he felt no animosity toward Americans and opened fire because he believed the base was coming under attack.
However, relatives of the slain U.S. troops have described security camera footage that they say shows him shooting for six minutes, reloading and aiming at the Americans, even as they identify themselves as friendly forces.
After a “not guilty” plea, the Jordanian soldier, 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha, was tried by a military court in Jordan’s capital of Amman for the killings of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Missouri; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas.
During the monthlong trial, he watched the proceedings silently while standing in a cage in the courtroom.
He did not react Monday when the judge announced the verdict and the maximum possible sentence, life in prison with hard labor. When he was led out of the cage, he said: “I have all the respect for the king, but I was doing my job.”
Relatives of two of the U.S. soldiers sat quietly as the judge read the ruling.
Charles Lewellen, 53, whose son was killed, later told The Associated Press that the verdict “won’t take the pain away,” but that it proved “what we have been saying all along … that he murdered our sons.”
Some of the relatives criticized Jordan’s handling of the case and said the defendant should have received the death penalty. Jordan allows the death penalty, but it is usually handed down in terrorism cases or in a murder coupled with another crime.
The Americans were killed Nov. 4, as their convoy waited at the gate to the al-Jafr base in southern Jordan. Jordan initially said the Americans triggered the shooting by disobeying entry rules, a claim that was later withdrawn.
The trial “confirmed that the deceased U.S. service members followed all established procedures when accessing the base the day of the incident, as we have noted before,” the U.S. Embassy in Jordan said.
According to the surveillance video described by the relatives, Lewellen and McEnroe were the first to be hit by gunfire. Moriarty and another soldier jumped out of their cars to take cover and returned fire from their pistols, according to the descriptions of the video. They yelled that they were friendly forces, the relatives said.
The defendant kept shooting, they said. He was seriously wounded in the exchange.
The video was shown to the family by U.S. law enforcement, but has not been released to the public.
Some of the relatives have questioned why the video was not screened at the trial and why the court did not ask a surviving U.S. soldier to testify, despite what they said was his willingness to do so.
Moriarty’s father, Jim, wrote in a letter Monday to the Jordanian Embassy in the U.S. that the “successful prosecution” was a “good first step, but it is only the first step.”
In Jordan, life in prison can mean 20 years, with time off for good behavior.
Defense lawyer Subhi al-Mawas said he would appeal Monday’s court ruling.
As Foreign Affairs reported, “they were hunted down and executed at close range.” A fourth US soldier was able to wound the shooter, bringing the attack to an end.
After Trump took office Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe’s father published a letter asking the new US president to “reconsider our relationship and aide to an ally who murders our soldiers and then lies about it.”
Perhaps more significant is that the whole episode threatened to expose never before known details of the ground level nuts and bolts of how the CIA’s program to destabilize and topple the Syrian government worked. While the program began to be the subject of vague references in major US media in 2013, specific names and locations of military units, persons, and places involved had never been known or understood until just before and after the tragic attack in Jordan. Even as of 2014, as reports and rumors of CIA training camps in Jordan’s vast deserts were abundant, and as some enterprising journalists literally stumbled around Jordan looking for the whereabouts, locations and details remained a complete mystery.
Training Jihadists for Syria Operations: Whistleblowers Speak
One month before the attack at King Faisal Air Base, a Green Beret associated with covert operations in Syria spoke out to a prominent military news site called SOFREP, blowing the whistle on details surrounding the CIA’s use of jihadists to overthrow Assad:
“Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘F–k this.’ Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘F–k it, who cares?’
The lengthy whistleblower report (member restricted) circulated widely among special forces veterans and professional analysts, but never reached a broader public audience and was ignored in mainstream press as it sat behind a members only access site founded by a well-known Navy Seal for the purpose of ‘insider’ news and discussion impacting the special forces community. The report revealed that American Syrian rebel trainers (in Jordan and elsewhere) belonging to the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group had been tasked with assisting a CIA covert mission, but they knew full well that they were being ordered by the Obama administration to train jihadists and ISIS sympathizers in the push to topple the Syrian government. They warned blowback was coming as the CIA was violating America’s own counter-terror laws.
Below are excerpts broken into sections from SOFREP’s multi-part investigation (member restricted) into the joint CIA/Army Special Forces (“inter-agency”) program. The total investigative series includes some 30+ printed pages of program history and details. It is unclear to what extent various elements of the program remained in place after Trump took office.
1) The three slain Green Berets were working under a program in which the CIA refused to properly vet trainees and allies:
2) The CIA merely watched ISIS grow as its top priority had always been regime change in Syria:
3) Advanced weaponry went to al-Qaeda in Syria:
4) The Obama White House and the intelligence bureaucracy sought legal loops holes to prevent prosecution of US officials for training terrorists as part of the covert Syria program:
The legalities in arming groups which are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the State Department are murky and complicated. If the orders are written the “right” way and lawyers are in sync at the White House and Department of Justice, they can be signed off on. Otherwise, the case can be made that support for the rebel programs are essential, admonishing the asset and personnel trained, while claiming that they will be monitored. The case would be that dubious groups have to be trained in the name of regime change in Syria, a regime that has backing from Russia, China, and Iran.
A curious loophole in 18 USC 2339, which makes it illegal to provide material support to terrorist organizations, is exception J which states that:
No person may be prosecuted under this section in connection with the term “personnel,” “training,” or “expert advice or assistance” if the provision of that material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization was approved by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Attorney General. The Secretary of State may not approve the provision of any material support that may be used to carry out terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
Exception J probably provides enough of a legal loophole for the CIA to train terrorists once DOJ and the White House of signed off on paperwork carefully written by a team of lawyers.
The White House and the Department of Justice have to be providing paper to the CIA for these actions, as senior management at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia won’t move without adequate protection for themselves. In this scenario, the CIA treats their Special Forces trainers as de facto expendable assets, using them to train known jihadists, when it was only a matter of time before something went wrong.
Read it all. And this prior post: