Death of Abdul Wali

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Abdul Wali
DiedJune 21, 2003 (aged 28)
Cause of deathInjuries from torture
Known forTorture victim
David Passaro
Born1966 (age 55–56)
Criminal statusReleased
Conviction(s)Assault resulting in serious bodily injury (18 U.S.C. § 113)
Simple assault (18 U.S.C. § 113) (2 counts)
Criminal penalty8 years and 4 months imprisonment

Abdul Wali was an Afghan man who died in US custody on June 21, 2003 at the age of 28. At the time of his death, he had been held for three days at the US base 10 miles (16 km) south of Asadabad, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on suspicion of involvement in a rocket attack on the same base, after voluntarily handing himself in. The cause of his death was at first reported to be a heart attack, but this came into question when three members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division came forward to testify that CIA contractor David Passaro assaulted Wali. Passaro, a former U.S. Army Ranger, allegedly beat Wali for two consecutive nights, causing grievous injuries including a fractured pelvis. Prosecutors would charge 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. Among other injuries, Wali suffered a suspected fractured pelvis that would have made it impossible for him to urinate. 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 vigorously thrust a flashlight into Wali's abdomen.[1][2] 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.[2]

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, an upward departure from sentencing guidelines. Passaro had faced a maximum of 11.5 years in prison.[3]

During Passaro's trial, his ex-wife, Kerry, said he physically and emotionally abused her during their marriage. She later told a reporter that she wasn't surprised by what Passaro had done.[4]

The judge told Passaro that he was very lucky there was no autopsy or else he likely would've been charged with murder.[5] Passaro was released from prison on January 26, 2011.[2][6] Passaro is the first and only person connected with the CIA to have been convicted in a post-September 11 abuse case.[7][8] He was also 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.[9] Passaro believes his prosecution was political, he 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."[10]

Wali's story in part was told on National Public Radio by Hyder Akbar for a 2003 show on the program This American Life. Akbar had escorted Wali to the US forces as a sign of protection and good will; his father Said Fazal Akbar was then Governor of Kunar Province where the incidents happened. Said Akbar has stated that Wali's death became a tool for terrorist recruiting and "created a huge setback for Afghanistan's national reconciliation efforts."[2]


  1. ^ "Court upholds CIA contractor's detainee abuse conviction". AFP. August 12, 2009. Archived from the original on January 30, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Weigl, Andrea (February 14, 2007). "Passaro will serve 8 years for beating". The News and Observer. Archived from the original on July 7, 2009.
  3. ^ "FindLaw's United States Fourth Circuit case and opinions". Findlaw. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  4. ^ WRAL (July 21, 2004). "Passaro's Ex-Wife Tells Story Of Infidelity, Abuse :". Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  5. ^ "Ex-CIA contractor jailed for beating detainee". NBC News. Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  6. ^ "CIA worker is jailed over beating". BBC. February 13, 2007. Archived from the original on February 16, 2007. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  7. ^ Thompson, Estes (August 16, 2006). "Jury begins deliberations in case of ex-CIA contractor accused of beating Afghan detainee". SignOnSanDiego. Associated Press. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012.
  8. ^ Ackerman, Spencer (July 31, 2014). "CIA admits to spying on Senate staffers". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 31, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  9. ^ Thompson, Estes (August 7, 2006). "Ex-CIA contractor on trial in beating". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 3, 2018. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  10. ^ Roane, Kit R.; Klein, Peter; Checler, Anne (April 20, 2015). "Anatomy of an Interrogation". Retro Report. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.

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