November 16, 2009
Posted: 01:34 PM ET
By Abbie Boudreau
A group of 13 soldiers left Iraq holding on to a secret – the murders of four detainees at a Baghdad canal. They were told not to say a word, and for nine months, they kept quiet.
Then, one of the 13 soldiers reported the crime and the secret was out.
But what if that soldier hadn't come forward and reported the murders? What if years had gone by, and these young soldiers were still holding on to this battlefield secret?
Especially for the 20-somethings who are fighting this war – how do they keep a secret in a day and age where people from their generation are encouraged to live such public lives?
They are taught from a very young age to "talk it out," and why it's unhealthy to "keep it all inside." And now, with easy access to social networking sites, it's almost expected for people to splash their private lives, and personal photos all over the pages of Facebook and MySpace. We share our lives with just about anyone who will listen – we expose our fears, our likes and dislikes, and even our secrets to a community of on-line strangers.
Yet, for soldiers who might come home, holding on to real secrets – big deal secrets – What happens? Where do they turn? And how do the secrets affect them?
Posted: 01:28 PM ET
By Scott Zamost
For months, we wanted to hear from John Hatley.
John Hatley, Former First Sergeant
He's the former first sergeant who had the idea to take four Iraqi detainees to a Baghdad canal and, along with two other sergeants, kill them.
SIU Correspondent Abbie Boudreau and I traveled to Germany over the summer where we interviewed Hatley's wife, Kim, and his attorney David Court. We told them it was important to hear from Hatley since he never testified during his court martial. Our only request: He should tell us what he wants the public to know.
Hatley is now serving a 40-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth after being convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. After numerous requests, one day in September, a two-page single-spaced typed letter arrived in the mail at CNN.
Hatley began, "I've been contacted numerous times through third party sources that you have requested a statement from me. Obviously, I'm sure you understand my apprehensiveness in making a statement to the media, but there are some issues I would like to take this opportunity to address."
He wrote of the "frustration" with the Army detainee policy that allowed the enemy to be released two or three days later because there was not enough evidence to hold them. "An additional insult is that the units that capture these individuals are the same ones responsible to pick them up and release them. We've repeatedly found ourselves fighting the same enemy again and again."
He writes that the detainee rules have "extensive flaws" that the enemy "consistently exploits these to facilitate their release."
While he does not specifically address what happened, he does state: "I assure you the military spared no expense in the prosecution of my soldiers and me. If they would have spent half the time, effort and money in prosecuting the enemy as they had in prosecuting us, I assure you we would have never found ourselves in our current situation."
Finally, he says he loves and prays for soldiers oversees and wishes them a safe return. He writes: "Also, don't worry about us, we'll be fine. As they'll understand, this is probably the safest place we've been in the last 10 years."
Filed under: Special Investigations Unit