This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 16, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight, a “Hannity & Colmes” exclusive follow-up to a story we told you about two nights ago, seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were being held in shackles at Camp Pendleton in California, while the Pentagon investigated allegations that they were involved in the death of an unarmed Iraqi civilian.
They haven't been charged with a crime, but they have been held as prisoners. And after we reported the story on this program, Sean also asked the vice president about it on his radio show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have not yet seen the final results of that investigation, and the people involved are entitled, I believe, to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. It's very important that we not draw conclusions before we've seen the full results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: And now the conditions in which they are being held have changed. A spokesman at Camp Pendleton issued us this statement a short time ago, that reads, in part:
"The level of restraint for the eight servicemembers in pre-trial confinement relating to the Hamdinia incident was formally re-evaluated by a brig classification and assignment board. June 15: A periodic review of the confinement level is conducted for all pre-trial confinees at least every 30 days, per secretary of the Navy instruction — and Department of Defense Brig regulations.
In this case, a periodic review was conducted June 15. Servicemembers were initially confined to the Camp Pendleton brig May 24th, following the review procedures above and, considering the daily review of the Marines, the sailors, their condition and behavior, the board recommended that these eight servicemembers' level of confinement be reclassified from maximum to medium in."
Joining us in a “Hannity & Colmes” exclusive, the father of one of the Marines, Terry Pennington. Mr. Pennington, thank you very much once again for being with us.
TERRY PENNINGTON, FATHER OF ACCUSED MARINE: Thank you.
COLMES: To what do you attribute the change?
PENNINGTON: There's several things that happened. The publicity that some of us parents have been able to generate about the hideous conditions under which these Marines are being confined.
Also, I believe that Sean's interview with the vice president yesterday probably had something to do with it. A third thing that occurred was Robert's defense attorney sent a letter to the commander of the western bases requesting that a reduction in the security level be accomplished.
So we're not sure what exactly the cause was of the reduction, but we do know that we're quite sure that the amount of publicity that we've been able to generate has generated enough outrage with the American public to cause them to reconsider what they're doing.
COLMES: By the way, it's Hamdania where this originally took place. I mispronounced it. How did they get in this situation in the first place? How did it wind up this way?
PENNINGTON: It wound up this way because some charges were leveled by Iraqis. We don't know who these Iraqis were specifically. We don't know if they're enemy combatants. We don't know anything about them.
But we do know that there was a severe overreaction on the part of the military as to these allegations. Many have said that what should have been the reaction was, "OK, fine, we'll look into it. You guys get back to work," or maybe, as in a police shooting in this country, where a policeman is relieved of his duty with pay and allowances until an investigation occurs. That would be fine, too.
But to overreact, ship them back to the USA, put them in maximum-security, now medium-security confinement, is just ridiculous.
COLMES: Do you blame Commandant Hagee or First Division Commander Richard Natonski for this?
PENNINGTON: I blame them for not standing up for their men. The Marines are a band of brothers. They've been a band of brothers forever. Well, the brothers include the upper commanders. None of them have said anything about the presumption of innocence.
The first one of any authority to say anything about a presumption of innocence was the vice president of the United States yesterday on Sean Hannity's radio show.
COLMES: You said, though, when you were on the show the other day there was political pressure that caused this to happen. You don't think for a second that Hagee — and you mentioned Murtha — or Natonski(ph) listened to Jack Murtha or anybody else in politics and make their decisions based on what a politician says?
PENNINGTON: I do believe that; I believe that's exactly what happened. Political pressure from the anti-war forces in this country are causing them to behave in very strange ways. You would not have seen a MacArthur or a Patton yield to this kind of pressure.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Mr. Pennington, welcome back to the program. I don't know if covering this story on radio and TV has helped. If so, I hope so.
It's very alarming to me. We're talking about your son and these other Marines, this isn't — in the course of battle, that they're out there serving this country, and they're being accused of their reactions. And they have not been charged with a crime, but to be shackled 24 hours a day and put in prison, have they also been denied the right to an attorney?
PENNINGTON: Not at this time, no. They've been assigned military defense counsel, and we've also, as families, retained civilian defense counsel. So there was a point during the early investigation where they may have been deprived an attorney. They were advised, I believe, of their right to an attorney, but such attorney was not provided during the initial investigation.
HANNITY: I believe this hypersensitivity, sir, that we're now experiencing and the military is experiencing in part is fueled by people like John Murtha, who accuse Marines of killing innocent civilians in cold blood before the investigation's even complete, or John Kerry, calling our troops "terrorists," terrorizing women and children in the dark of night. Do you agree with that assessment?
PENNINGTON: Well, John Kerry has been doing this now, since, what, 1971? He's had a lot of practice at it, and he's becoming, I think, more effective. And all of these people that are preaching this kind of hate of our military and are speaking badly of our heroes in this way are making us as families, the proud families of the few Marines, extraordinarily angry.
HANNITY: Absolutely. What do you know about the set of circumstances? We know more about the Haditha incident. We know there was an IED explosion. A Marine was split in two, and there was gunfire, and these guys were defending themselves. What do you know about this incident that resulted in your son being put in this brig and shackled 24 hours a day without a charge? What do you know about it?
PENNINGTON: I don't know a lot about it. I do know that several days passed between the alleged incident and the time anyone came forward to allege wrongdoing. They had plenty of time to cook up a story and fire it off as a weapon to get these guys off the battlefield; that's exactly what they did. By the time any investigation of the so-called crime scene was done, it had been raining. Many things had occurred to disrupt the alleged crime scene.
And if there was wrongdoing that occurred, why did it take so long for anybody to file charges? And I have a theory about that.
HANNITY: Yes, sir.
PENNINGTON: Because if you read their allegations, it looks like something that somebody from another world made up. It doesn't look like anything that an American mind would even consider.
HANNITY: If we don't give the presumption of innocence to our brave men and women who are defending these rights and these freedoms, then all our rights are going to be jeopardy, ultimately, sir. And the other thing that really disturbs me in all of this is we seem not to want to consider what they're facing on the battlefield and the conditions. There's no room for any explanation if something doesn't go right. — That's got to concern every soldier.
PENNINGTON: These guys are so well-trained and so honorable that the conditions on the battlefield I do not believe for a second would affect their sense of right and wrong and their discipline. I just don't believe it.
COLMES: All right, Mr. Pennington, thank you for being with us tonight.
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