Time: Tue Oct 14 08:51:41 1997
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Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 08:15:58 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: "THE SUICIDE FILES"  (fwd)

>December 23, 1993
>Philadelphia Inquirer
>In May, Inquirer staff writer David Zucchino's reporting raised serious
>questions about the military's handling of the cases of 14 servicemen who
>died in recent years under suspicious circumstances. Since then, 36 members
>of Congress asked that a special board of inquiry investigate the 14
>deaths, which the military said were caused by suicide or self-inflicted
>wounds - rulings that family members and independent experts have
>And what has happened since? The Pentagon's Inspector General has limited
>its interest to four cases. And the list of young military men who died
>under suspicious circumstances has grown to 40.
>Based on the plethora of information unearthed by Mr. Zucchino and
>published in a four-part series this week, the military's attitude is
>outrageous and unacceptable. The only way to clear the air is for a
>government inquiry independent of the military to be launched immediately.
>                                     *
>Imagine the pain of these families: Sons and husbands, some of whom had
>written cheerful letters home or made plans with loved ones only days
>earlier, came back from military duty in a box with a death certificate
>marked ''suicide."
>The families usually accepted the military version until they looked a
>little closer. One mother noticed that her dead son who supposedly hanged
>himself had abrasions all over his body. A wife couldn't believe her
>husband's death was ruled a suicide before fingerprint and blood tests were
>back from the lab. Another family discovered their son's body had been
>gutted before it left El Salvador.
>When the families began asking more questions, they found themselves in a
>virtual war with a military that seemed intent on hoarding, altering and
>censoring information about how these young men died.
>Often, evidence pointed to the murder of servicemen who were investigating
>or had witnessed illegal drug activities. In many instances investigated by
>The Inquirer, the military seemed more interested in quickly disposing of a
>case rather than embarrass the local commander by looking into allegations
>of drug dealing and murder.
>                                     *
>Some of the questionable rulings were based on something called a
>''psychological autopsy," in which investigators sought to build the
>psychological case for suicide even as they botched the physical probe. The
>military should have rid itself of such autopsies as a primary
>investigatory technique after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service
>(NCIS) mistakenly used one of them to blame Gunner's Mate Clayton Hartwig
>with blowing up a gun turret on the USS Iowa, which killed himself and 46
>sailors. The explosion was determined to be accidental.
>Congress has required that the Pentagon review its procedures for
>investigating deaths ruled self-inflicted and report back to Congress by
>next July. Families also can now present to the Pentagon's Inspector
>General evidence of a "material deficiency" in a death investigation.
>Many of the families are gratified that Congress is at least questioning
>the military's methods. But they want an independent probe and they have
>formed a group called "Until We Have Answers." Everyone in America deserves
>those answers.

Paul Andrew Mitchell, Sui Juris      : Counselor at Law, federal witness 01
B.A.: Political Science, UCLA;   M.S.: Public Administration, U.C.Irvine 02
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