David Passaro

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David Passaro (born 1966) is a former CIA contractor and U.S. Army Ranger who was charged with assault in connection with the June 21, 2003 death of Abdul Wali. Wali died in Afghanistan while in the custody of the United States government for questioning. Passaro was found guilty of one count of felony assault with a dangerous weapon and three counts of misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced to serve 8 years and 4 months in prison.[1] Passaro is the first and only person connected with the CIA to have been convicted in a post-Sept. 11 abuse case.[2][3] Passaro believes his prosecution was political, he recently told Retro Report "I believe 100% that Abu Ghraib, when it kicked off and finally came to public's awareness, that they had to show they were going to hold the CIA accountable, so they had me."[4]

Said Akbar, governor of Kunar province, has stated that Wali's death became a tool for terrorist recruiting and "created a huge setback for Afghanistan's national reconciliation efforts."[1]

Court case[edit]

Passaro was charged on June 17, 2004. He was the first civilian to be charged in connection with in Iraq and Afghanistan and the first American charged under the USA Patriot Act, which extended the jurisdiction of U.S. federal courts to include certain violations of the law committed by military contractors overseas.[5] Wali had voluntarily turned himself in at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan on June 13, 2003 after learning that he was wanted for questioning in connections with rocket attacks against the base.[2]

During the trial, much of the court record was placed under seal for security reasons and several agents testified in disguise using fictitious names.[6]

Prosecutors charged that Passaro ordered soldiers not to allow Wali to sleep, limited his access to food and water and subjected him to two consecutive nights of interrogation and beatings. Witnesses testified that during one session Passaro, while wearing combat boots, kicked Wali in the groin hard enough to lift him off the ground, threw Wali to the ground, beat Wali on the arms and legs with a heavy Maglite flashlight, and that Passaro also vigorously thrust a flashlight into Wali's abdomen.[7][8] After the second night of beatings, Wali begged the soldiers to kill him and moaned a phrase that meant, "I'm dying." Wali died on his fourth day in custody. He repeatedly denied any involvement in the rocket attacks.[8]


The jury, which deliberated for about eight hours, found Passaro guilty of three counts of simple assault and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, lesser charges than prosecutors had sought. He originally faced up to 40 years in prison, but was sentenced to fewer than 8 years.[6] Passaro's conviction was upheld on August 10, 2009, and his sentence was increased to 8 years and 4 months of incarceration.[7]


In 1984, Passaro graduated from Tolland High School in Tolland, Connecticut. In 1990, Passaro graduated from the police academy in Hartford, Connecticut. At the time of his arrest, Passaro was on leave from a civilian Army medical job at Fort Bragg and performing contract work for the CIA.[9]


  1. ^ a b Weigl, Andrea (2007-02-14). "Passaro will serve 8 years for beating". The News and Observer. 
  2. ^ a b Jury begins deliberations in case of ex-CIA contractor accused of beating Afghan detainee
  3. ^ Ackerman, Spencer (31 July 2014). "CIA admits to spying on Senate staffers". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Retro Report. "Anatomy of an Interrogation". www.RetroReport.org. Retro Report. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Ex-CIA contractor on trial in beating
  6. ^ a b Thompson, Ester (2006-08-17). "Ex-CIA contractor found guilty of assaulting Afghan detainee who later died". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  7. ^ a b "Court upholds CIA contractor's detainee abuse conviction". AFP. 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  8. ^ a b "Passaro will serve 8 years for beating". The News & Observer. 2007-02-14. Archived from the original on June 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  9. ^ Trial's weight hinges on ruling: Outcome of a hearing today dictates whether Passaro's trial is high-profile or routine, News & Observer, December 16, 2005