Factor Investigation: Murder Accusations Against U.S. Troops in Iraq & Afghanistan?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Mar. 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Investigation" segment tonight, you may remember that on March 16, "The New York Times" ran a front-page headline which said: "U.S. Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May be Homicide."

Now, “The Factor” came on that same night and said "The New York Times" report was misleading. One of our military analysts, Colonel David Hunt, put the number at four, not 26.

Subsequently, we asked the Army to clarify the situation. How many alleged murders are under investigation by military authorities? A simple question. But the answer has been very, very difficult to obtain.

Joining us now from Boston is Colonel David Hunt, the author of the upcoming book on terrorism, "They Just Don't Get It." And from Washington, Jed Babbin, former deputy Undersecretary of Defense during Bush the elder's administration. Mr. Babbin is in close contact with the Army about this matter and is the author of the book, "Inside the Asylum."

Mr. Babbin, I — after almost three weeks of investigation — still do not know how many potential homicides there are within military ranks in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do you, sir?

JED BABBIN, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE ASYLUM": Well, I think I know, Bill. I spent quite a number of hours today trying to dig into it.

The long and the short of it is there were something like 87 deaths. Of them approximately 30 are being classified as possible homicides.

The problem that you and I are having is that the Army and the Navy are using the term "homicide" to not just cover murder but to cover justifiable homicide, self-defense, and a whole variety of other things.

When the "Times" is reporting that 17 homicides are not going to be prosecuted, they are taking something that is just really literally a fiction and trying to foist it off, saying that investigators are not going to bring these cases to trial because these guys are being let off for murder. That's just simply not what the statistics say and what my sources are telling me is something very different.

O'REILLY: All right. So "The New York Times" contends that 26 murders took place, and they couch it by using the word "may." We've got to be fair here. They said may.

BABBIN: Right.

O'REILLY: Now, in your opinion, Mr. Babbin, was that a misleading headline? Was it erroneous, or was it accurate?

BABBIN: Well, I think it's misleading at best. I think what the "Times" is trying to do is put things in the worst possible light. And they know better. I am assuming that they have access to the same kinds of figures and data that I do, because they're not kept proprietarily by the DOD [Department of Defense].

O'REILLY: Let me stop you. From what you have seen, your research, how many outright murders do you believe?

BABBIN: I believe there may have been as many as half a dozen or a dozen.

O'REILLY: All right.

BABBIN: And those are being prosecuted right now. We have something...

O'REILLY: Between six and 12...

BABBIN: Roughly.

O'REILLY: Because Colonel Hunt put the number at four.

Now Colonel, do you want to weigh in on this? Are you standing by your number four? Or what do you — what do you say?

COL. DAVID HUNT, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, sure. Here's what I think the story is. There were 70,000 detainees between Afghanistan and Iraq the last three years. A hundred and eight or so have been — detainees have died in captivity, for either being (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at Abu Ghraib, died of natural causes.

There have been 500 charges of somebody doing something bad to a detainee in three or four years. Of that 500 or 108, you've got less than a quarter, 25, who are continuing to be investigated.

The four I gave you two weeks ago was still a good number. That was talking about people that had been charged for murder. Now the number may be between four and nine.

And you're right. The problem is there is no repository at the Department of Defense or the government that rolls these numbers up. Jed's got a great background and got the Army's numbers. The Navy didn't have any as of two weeks ago. Now they may have one, a Marine lieutenant who may be charged with shooting two people at a checkpoint.

O'REILLY: Right.

HUNT: So the problem is, the story, I think, is 70,000 going down to less, some number between four and 12.

O'REILLY: All right. So what we've narrowed it down to on this broadcast is between six and 12 murders —murders. Like you go and get the death penalty, or you get life in prison. That's what we have. That's half of what "The New York Times" implied, which anybody reading that article, unless you were an expert, would have said, "Jeez, 26 murders."

And you know, 70,000 detainees. OK. So good, I'm glad we established that.

Now Mr. Babbin, do you believe "The New York Times" — see, they're going to say, "We weren't wrong." Do you believe that they, the reporter and the editors that put this on page one, they want the world to think U.S. soldiers are murdering detainees?

BABBIN: Yes, I do, simply because you see this reporter particularly, Doug Jehl (search), popping up again and again in this sort of story, misleading about what the Defense Department is doing or not. Basically following the orders of the managing editor there, Jill Abrahmson (search), who as I am told by my sources in the media, are quite the ideologues at the "Times" and are really pushing an anti-Bush, anti-Rumsfeld agenda over there.

O'REILLY: What does the Army think about this, Colonel Hunt? If Mr. Babbin is correct and you have a reporter and an editor pushing an agenda — and I don't know that to be true. I don't know those individuals at all. —What does the Army and the DOD think about that?

HUNT: Here's — the issue is — there's two things in this. One, a friend of mine is a lawyer and talked about prosecutorial discretion. That's why the 17 were not taken to court. It was a prosecutorial discretion on the part of the government.

The issue with the DOD and the Army is they don't trust "The New York Times." The A.P. did the same thing, by the way, a couple of days ago. Only "The Wall Street Journal" even came close to getting this story right. And the issue quite frankly is the angle.

You don't hear 70,000 detainees down to nine or 12 possible murders. You get this number of 26, which was crap three weeks ago, and it's crap now.

O'REILLY: OK. But "The New York Times" in subsequent reporting, Colonel, has implied again that there's a cover-up going on, and the Army doesn't want to prosecute these things as murder.

HUNT: We had 500 cases investigated very professionally, and we came down to fewer than 25, 17 of the 25, for prosecutorial discretion. Just like...

O'REILLY: Yes, but that could be a cover-up, you know? It could be.

HUNT: No, absolutely not. This is when the investigator goes to the commander, general or colonel, and says "this is what I think we found." There are further investigations. It could be any number of reasons.

Because you don't prosecute does not mean it was a murder you didn't prosecute. It could have been the kid could have gotten some lesser kind of charge.

O'REILLY: There could have been all kinds of circumstances. All right, Mr. Babbin, I've got one more question for you. Because of the intensity of this situation, why isn't the Army, the Pentagon, and the Defense Department more aggressive in trying to counter what "The New York Times" is reporting, sir?

BABBIN: I wish I knew, Bill. They really should, and they should be speaking in very clear terms. There is a very small number of cases that are possible homicides in terms of murder. Most of them are already in the military justice process. People are being tried. People are being convicted. The story from the "Times" is simply not true.

O'REILLY: All right. But the Army has got a responsibility to this country to get that message out to the folks, because it hasn't been easy dealing with that.

Gentlemen, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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