President Trump grants full pardon to former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna

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President Trump grants full pardon to former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna

This is a long and fairly complicated story, so I'll start at the end, and fill in as many things as I can.  Either people are really aware of the Behenna case and have been working towards this for years, or they don't know exactly what happened.  But I'll start with the email I received from the White House last night:

Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) for former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna of Oklahoma.

In 2009, a military court sentenced Mr. Behenna to 25 years in prison for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone.  After judgment, however, the U.S. Army’s highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Mr. Behenna’s claim of self-defense.  Additionally, the Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible in 2014—just 5 years into his sentence.  Upon his release, dozens of Patriot Guard motorcycle riders met Mr. Behenna to escort him back to his home in Oklahoma.

Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public.  Thirty-seven generals and admirals, along with a former Inspector General of the Department of Defense, signed a brief in support of Mr. Behenna’s self-defense claim.  Numerous members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, Oklahoma’s then-Governor Mary Fallin, and current Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter have also expressed support for Mr. Behenna.  Further, while serving his sentence, Mr. Behenna was a model prisoner.  In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency.

Various news organizations covered it, but none particularly thoroughly, I think because it caught most people unawares.

This entire case has been fairly loaded with controversy since basically Day 1, and I don't want to rehash a lot of it here, however the best recitation of what actually happened that I have been able to find is on the SCOTUS Blog website.  (SCOTUS Blog, as the name implies generally covers things at the Supreme Court, and at one point even they took a look at the case.)  

From their discussion:

On May 16, 2008, just a few weeks after the IED attack, Michael Behenna shot and killed an Iraqi man named Ali Mansur. A draft intelligence report from April 27 of that year identifies Mansur as an explosives transporter for the local Al Qa’ida cell, and as an informant to the cell leader.  Some weeks before the attack, Behenna had received a call from someone named Ali warning him to avoid Albu Toma or else harm would come to his platoon. Additionally, a source that had tipped Behenna off to an explosive device planted along the road the platoon used (which was avoided) had also mentioned Mansur’s name in connection with those plans. On May 5, 2008, Behenna met with the local sheikh, with whom he was friendly, and the sheikh identified Mansur as a terrorist.  Based on this intelligence, Mad Dog 5 subsequently went to Mansur’s house, where Behenna isolated Mansur in a room and ordered him to lie down on his stomach. Mansur cooperated. Mansur did not, however, provide the information that Behenna asked for when Behenna began questioning him.

Mansur was turned over to Army intelligence officers, who interrogated him – although not about the IED attack.  Mansur was detained for ten days, during which he said little of interest; the declassified report from the interrogation describes his hobby of buying and selling cars.  Behenna was frustrated with the lack of information gleaned about the attack when he reviewed a transcript of the initial interrogation and requested that Mansur be interrogated again.  Intelligence officials agreed, and Behenna was present for the second interview, although he was not allowed to directly question Mansur. The second interview did not yield any additional information about the source of the attack....

Later, Behenna did his own interrogation, and it did not end well

Behenna ordered Mansur to sit on a slab of cement and began interrogating him. After one to two minutes of questioning with no answers to his liking, Behenna took out his Glock pistol and pointed it at Mansur, an action that a military judge would later call an “assault.”  Sensing the imminent threat of shots, and fearing that he might be in the line of a ricocheting bullet, the translator moved outside of the culvert, about thirty feet away from Behenna and Mansur.   With his gun trained on Mansur, Behenna told Mansur again (in Arabic) that he would die that day unless he told Behenna who was responsible for the IED attack that killed his men, “This is your last chance,” Behenna told him, although at that moment he only had the authority to release Mansur, and not to intimidate, question, or kill him.

“I will talk,” Mansur said in Arabic.  Behenna was unfamiliar with the words Mansur used and turned to the translator standing outside the culvert for an explanation. As he turned, Behenna heard a piece of cement strike the culvert behind him.

At this point, Behenna’s story departs from the account provided by his translator. At his trial, Behenna testified that after he heard the concrete strike the culvert, he turned back to Mansur, who had stood up and was reaching for Behenna’s handgun. According to his translator, however, Mansur remained seated and made no sudden movements, although he said in trial that he “didn’t see exactly” what happened.  Either way, before Behenna could get the translation of what Mansur said, he fired two lethal shots – one to the chest, one to the head – into Mansur.

Either way, this was something that impassioned folks for a long time.  I doubt this will completely resolve the controversy, but it will tamper it down somewhat I expect.

Posted in N/A | 8 comments
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It's a shame that the lieutenant had to spend those years in prison for killing an enemy, but I guess that is what a politically correct military does at times. Kudos to President Trump !

Lt Behenna should not have been punished

Thank you Lt. Behenna for defending our country against. the Muslim evil. Thank you pres. Trump for seeing justice.

Thank you president trump for doing the right thing.

President Trump, As a 100% Totally Disabled Service Connected military veteran I’m extremely grateful you pardoned Lieutenant Beheena. God bless you, your family, and America.

It's about time someone gave a full pardon to our President Trump. Few like him come by our way in a life time. This country has been sold out to such a degree over so long a time, that it takes a TRUMP to put it right.

Sounds like he made a mistake and should count his lucky stars he is out. He overstepped his bounds I'm sorry to say.

The rules of war ! How absurd. If Ali Mansur would have killed Lt. Beheena he would have been highly regarded and not imprisoned.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.