Marines May Have Covered Up Haditha Evidence A story in Friday's New York Times alleges that U.S. Marines may have destroyed evidence sought by military officials investigating the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians -- including women and children -- in the town of Haditha last November.
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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, a Lebanese villager gets help from Hezbollah to rebuild his war damaged home.

First though, U.S. Marines may have withheld or destroyed evidence related to the killings of 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha last November.

That's the lead story in today's New York Times. The paper says investigators have discovered that the Marine unit's log book for that day was tampered with and a video was held back from investigators.

David Cloud of the New York Times is here. And David, what happened to that log book and the video?

Mr. DAVID CLOUD (Reporter, New York Times): Well, it appears that the log book of the day covering the death of the Iraqis, the pages are missing from the log book. And investigators haven't been able to find where they went.

And in addition, there were questions during the investigation about aerial video taken on the day of the incident. Initially the Marines said it was unavailable. Later when a senior general intervened, the Marines turned it over.

BRAND: And remind us again what happened that day in November in Haditha.

Mr. CLOUD: There was a squad of Marines in three Humvees who were driving on the outskirts of Haditha. There was a roadside bomb that detonated underneath one of the Humvees, killing a Marine. The rest of the members of the squad dispersed around the area, into houses. Their defense attorneys now say that they felt they were under insurgent attack, continuing insurgent attack. Iraqis who were in these houses were killed as the Marines went through them.

In the end there were 24 Iraqi casualties and there was a press release issued the following day by the Marines that essentially said that 15 of them had been civilians and the rest were insurgents. It now looks like, according to many people familiar with the investigation, that all of them - if not all of them - were civilians who had no role in the attack.

BRAND: So the pages that are missing from this log book, what would have been in them? Would it have detailed everything that happened that day?

Mr. CLOUD: We don't know for sure because they're missing, obviously, and no one has seen them. But the purpose of the log book, yes, is to record major incidents: contact with the enemy, IED attacks of this sort, and keep a running record for the unit of what happened and presumably it might have - I mean, this is speculation - but it might have recorded casualty numbers and that sort of thing.

BRAND: Now, some of the Marines involved in the Haditha incident have been accused previously of hindering the investigation. Are they under suspicion for removing the pages in the log book?

Mr. CLOUD: The report that I'm - that I wrote about today does talk about the squad leader being on duty shortly after the November 19th incident, although it does not draw any conclusions about who might have been responsible for removing the log book. So it's a matter that's left uncertain and unaddressed in the report.

BRAND: Are there suspicions that this would go high up the chain of command?

Mr. CLOUD: I don't think so. I don't think the suspicions are that the logbook itself was tampered with, but again, that's speculation on my part.

What we've been told is simply that senior commanders in the unit didn't aggressively investigate the incident enough, despite the signs that something may have been amiss.

BRAND: And what happens now with the overall investigation?

Mr. CLOUD: There's a continuing criminal investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service which will make a report to a marine general who will have to decide whether to bring criminal charges or other disciplinary action against members of the unit that was involved and, for that matter, officers in the chain of command.

That is an ongoing thing and we have no particular visibility about when they might make a decision.

BRAND: So no one's been charged yet.

Mr. CLOUD: Correct.

BRAND: David Cloud is with the New York Times.

Thanks for joining us.

Mr. CLOUD: My pleasure.

BRAND: And you can follow a timeline of the Haditha incident. Access NPR coverage of this investigation and locate Haditha on a map of Iraq. Just go to our website, NPR.org.

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