RALEIGH, N.C. – A former CIA operative accused of beating an Afghan prisoner who died in custody wants to subpoena the U.S. attorney general and the former head of the CIA (search) to prove he acted under government authority, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.
The court documents were unsealed in the case of David Passaro (search) following a petition by The Associated Press, The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Washington Post. The news organizations said in a request filed last month that the government was engaged in a secret prosecution of Passaro, a former Special Forces soldier.
Passaro, 38, is charged with four counts of assault. He is accused of beating Abdul Wali with his hands, feet and a large flashlight while he was interrogated for two days at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in June 2003. Wali had turned himself in to U.S. forces, who sought him as a suspect in rocket attacks on the base. He later died in custody.
Passaro is the first civilian prosecuted on charges of mistreating a military detainee in the U.S. war on terrorism.
In the documents supplied to the media Tuesday, Passaro indicates he intends to use a "public authority" defense, arguing he acted under the authority of President Bush and the CIA — specifically then-Director George Tenet.
Tenet and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search), formerly Bush's counsel, are among those Passaro wants to call as witnesses.
Passaro's attorneys want the court to order the CIA and Justice Department to release documents "that address the capture, detention, and/or interrogation of members of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or other terrorist organizations or combatants operating in Afghanistan."
Defense lawyers also sought recordings or documents of satellite phone calls related to Wali's surrender, questioning and death.
There was no indication in the documents released Tuesday that U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle has ruled on any of the defense requests.
The judge seemed perplexed Tuesday as to why the documents were not in the public file even after a court security officer determined they were not classified. Once the officer reviews documents and determines they're not classified, they immediately should be made public, he said.