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The Mysterious Case of Jack Idema: Was the Former Green Beret a Bounty Hunter for the US in Afghanistan?

StorySeptember 23, 2004
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Two weeks ago an Afghan court convicted two former U.S. soldiers and an Emmy Award-winning journalist and sentenced them to 8-10 years in prison for torturing Afghan prisoners in an illegal, private jail. Their U.S. attorneys are accusing the Afghan court system of conducting a sham trial. At the trial the attorneys attempted to introduce video evidence that indicates one of the defendants, Jonathan “Jack” Idema had close ties to the Pentagon and made personal calls to the office of Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who has a history of leading special operations. But the Afghan judge refused to play the video. Today, in a broadcast exclusive, we air these tapes and speak with an attorney in the case, the brother of the jailed journalist as well as officials from the Pentagon and inside Gen. Boykin’s office. [includes rush transcript]

We’re going to spend the hour today looking at a story that hasn’t gotten much attention here in the United States. Last Wednesday, a court in Afghanistan convicted three Americans of torturing Afghans in an illegal private prison. The alleged ring leader of the operation is a former Green Beret named Jonathan “Jack” Idema. He was sentenced to 10 years, as was another former US soldier Brent Bennett. An Emmy-award winning journalist who spent extensive time filming the men received an 8-year sentence. On the surface, the story appears to be a case of private bounty hunters operating independently. In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: “The Afghan government held the trial in accordance with Afghan law. Their decision was handed down by an Afghan court after a full trial had been conducted.”

But Jack Idema, the former Green Beret tells a very different story. He says he was working with the US military with the approval of the Pentagon and the Afghan government. His lawyers have produced videotape showing Idema meeting with several key commanders of the Northern Alliance. Among them, the commanders of the Northern Front, the Southern Front and a number of commanders from Eastern Afghanistan. The tapes also show Idema meeting with the Afghan Minister of Defense Marshal Fahim. On the tape, Idema is describing to the Minister an assassination plot against Fahim that Idema says he has uncovered. Idema also had in his possession a letter of introduction addressed to an Afghan commander. The letter was on army stationary and signed by a New York based officer.

During the trial Idema’s attorney planned to play a video shot by Caballero as part of his documentary project in an attempt to establish a connection between Idema and the Pentagon.

But the judge ordered the screening to be stopped before a portion that purportedly shows Idema calling the office of the controversial General William Boykin. In the video, Idema speaks with a Pentagon employee named Jorge Shim who promised someone from the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, would call Idema back on his cell phone.

  • Jonathan “Jack” Idema speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan to Jorge Shim of Gen. William Boykin’s office.

We contacted Shim yesterday and he confirmed that he had spoken to Idema on more than one occasion.

  • Jorge Shim, employee at Gen. William Boykin’s office

At the trial attorneys for Idema and Caraballo also attempted to show another clip of Idema speaking with someone identified as Shim”s supervisor from General Boykin’s office. Idema made the call after wanted posters for his arrest were put up around Kabul. During the conversation the unnamed official indicates the Pentagon is attempting to put up a firewall between his boss — that is General Boykin — and Idema in order to shield Boykin from more press criticism.

After Democracy Now obtained copies of these tapes yesterday we contacted Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Conway to clarify the connection between the Pentagon and Idema. Conway said “We did not employ, sanction or sponsor Mr. Idema.”

  • Lt. Col. Christopher Conway, Pentagon spokesperson

While Conway claimed that the relationship between Idema and the Pentagon was largely one sided, attorneys for Idema have released a video that appears to show Idema making arrangements with a Pentagon official about handing over a suspected terrorist that he had caught.

Democracy Now! asked Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Conway about this and he confirmed that Idema had indeed helped the Pentagon capture a suspected terrorist. But again Conway denied any formal relationship between Idema and Pentagon.

In our studio today we speak with attorney Robert Fogelnest who as just returned from Afghanistan as well as Edward Caraballo’s brother, Richard.

  • Robert Fogelnest, attorney for journalist Edward Caraballo. In April and May of this year Fogelnest worked in Kabul with Legal Aid Afghanistan where he mentored, trained and supervised a team of eight Afghan public defenders. He is the former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
  • Richard Caraballo, brother of jailed journalist Edward Caraballo

Articles Written by Juan Gonzalez on the Case:


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