[R-G] Was Rummy behind beheading?? Inquiring minds want to know
Wtcqd2000 at aol.com
Wtcqd2000 at aol.com
Fri May 14 09:31:14 MDT 2004
Updated: 07:50 AM EDT
E-Mails State Berg Was in U.S. Custody
Government Says Messages Were Wrong; Moussaoui Link Was Probed
By JASON STRAZIUSO, AP
WEST CHESTER, Pa. (May 14) - Family members provided e-mails Thursday that
say Nicholas Berg was held by the U.S. military before he was kidnapped and
beheaded, but the government contends the messages were based on erroneous
Berg's family has called on the U.S. government to tell all it knows about
its contacts with the 26-year-old businessman in the weeks before his body was
found last weekend in Baghdad and a gruesome video that showed his beheading
was posted on the Internet.
To back its claims that Berg was in U.S. custody, the family on Thursday gave
The Associated Press copies of e-mails from Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular
officer in Iraq.
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''I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S.
military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will
try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact
person you can communicate with directly,'' Payne wrote to Berg's father, Michael,
on April 1.
Payne repeated that Berg was ''being detained by the U.S. military'' in an
e-mail the same day to Berg's mother, Suzanne. The next day, Payne wrote that
she was still trying to find a local contact for the family, but added that
''given the security situation in Iraq it is not easy.''
U.S. officials say Berg was detained by Iraqi police March 24 and was never
in the custody of American forces. Berg is believed to have been kidnapped days
after Iraqi police or coalition forces released him April 6.
The government says the e-mail from Payne was false. State Department
spokeswoman Kelly Shannon said Payne's information came from the Coalition
Provisional Authority. The authority did not tell Payne until April 7 that Berg had been
held by Iraqi police and not the U.S. military, she said.
A copy of an e-mail to Suzanne Berg from a U.S. consular officer in Baghdad,
provided to the Associated Press by the Berg family.
''As Mr. Berg had been released, the consular officer did not convey this
information to the family because he was released, thankfully,'' Shannon said.
''And we thought he was on his way.''
Berg's brother called on the government to come clean about its contacts with
the slain American before he died. The family has blamed the government for
keeping him in custody for too long while anti-American violence escalated in
''They're trying to deflect attention to a couple weeks down the road when no
one's paying attention,'' David Berg said. ''I think President Bush needs to
be a man about this and tell the truth. I think most, if not all, Americans
can figure out who's telling the truth and who's lying.''
Meanwhile, the family said Berg had been questioned by the FBI more than a
year ago about a contact he had with a terrorism suspect in 1999, while he was a
student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
A senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said
the terror suspect appears to have been acquainted with Zacarias Moussaoui, an
al-Qaida adherent now in federal custody and awaiting trial on conspiracy
charges stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The official said an e-mail address traced to Berg had been used by the
unidentified individual with purported terror connections, but a 2002 investigation
showed Berg had never met the individual and had not given the e-mail address
to that person.
Michael Berg told reporters Thursday that his son was cleared of any
wrongdoing. He said Nicholas Berg met the suspect while riding the bus to classes, and
had allowed the suspect to use his computer.
A private memorial for Berg was scheduled for Friday at a West Chester
synagogue. Family members declined to discuss burial arrangements.
More on This Story
· Mosul Police Chief Denies Detaining Berg
· Berg's Father Blames Bush, Rumsfeld
· Firm Shuts Down Web Site Showing Beheading
· Latest on Prisoner Abuse Scandal
· Latest on Violence in Iraq
· AOL Search: News From Iraq
The Bergs said they want to know if the government had received an offer to
trade Iraqi prisoners for Nicholas Berg. On the videotape of his death, Berg's
killers made a reference to a trade offer, but U.S. officials have said they
knew of no such offer.
Michael Berg said he wanted to hear President Bush address the issue.
''I would like to ask him if it is true that al-Qaida offered to trade my
son's life for the life of another person,'' Michael Berg said. ''And if that is
true, well, I need that information. ... and I think the people of the United
States of America need to know what the fate of their sons and daughters might
be in the hands of the Bush administration.''
Associated Press writers Curt Anderson and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington
contributed to this report.
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