Alyssa Peterson

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Alyssa R. Peterson
Birth name Alyssa Renee Peterson
Born (1976-02-29)February 29, 1976
Greeley, Colorado, U.S.
Died September 15, 2003(2003-09-15) (aged 27)
Tal Afar Airbase, Iraq
Buried Citizens Cemetery
Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service July 2001 – September 2003
Rank Army-USA-OR-04b-2015.svg Specialist
Unit US 101st Airborne Division patch.svg 101st Airborne Division

Alyssa Renee Peterson (February 29, 1976 – September 15, 2003) was a United States Army soldier, with Arabic language certification, who served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne in Iraq. Peterson graduated from Northern Arizona University, after which she enlisted in the U.S. Army and attended the Defense Language Institute in California, where she learned Arabic. She also studied interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.

Early life and education[edit]

In the late 1990s Peterson became fluent in Dutch before serving an 18-month mission in the Netherlands for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Peterson later graduated from Northern Arizona University in May 2001 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. She enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 2001 and excelled in Arabic courses at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.


Peterson was transferred to Fort Campbell, Kentucky in July 2003 before her deployment to the Middle East sometime thereafter. She was assigned to C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division.[1]


Peterson died on September 15, 2003 from a "non-hostile weapons discharge" at the Tal Afar airbase on the Syrian-Iraqi frontier. Subsequent investigation revealed that she had been placed under suicide watch after refusing further participation in interrogation sessions which she said constituted torture of Iraqi prisoners.[2]

According to a report into the investigation into her death:

"We told her that you have to be able to turn on and off the interrogation mode -- that you act differently towards the people we meet with outside of the detainee facility," one fellow soldier stated. "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."[3]

Just before her death, Peterson spoke to another intelligence specialist, Kayla Williams, about her concerns. According to the Huffington Post, Williams also was forced to take part in torture interrogations during which detainees were assaulted, stripped, blindfolded, and then confronted with a female interrogator.[4] It is also reported that interrogation included cramped confinement, stress position, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box and waterboarding. She refused to participate in this, according to journalist Ann Wright, "for saying no to torture, is dead, perhaps by her own hand".[5]

Peterson's body was returned to Flagstaff, Arizona in late September 2003, where she was buried with full military honors at Citizens Cemetery.

See also[edit]



  1. ^
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2014-11-22.  "On opposite poles: two Mormons on torture"
  3. ^ Hendricks, Larry (2007-03-11). "Flag soldier died deeply conflicted". Arizona Daily Sun. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  4. ^ Mitchell, Greg (2009-04-24). "U.S. Soldier Killed Herself -- After Refusing to Take Part in Torture". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  5. ^ Wright, Ann (2009-04-30). "Two Mormons & Two Different Ethics on Torture". Common Dreams NewsCenter. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 

Further reading[edit]

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