Theodore's World: Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna ~ 25 Years For Shooting Al Qaeda Operative

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April 06, 2009

Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna ~ 25 Years For Shooting Al Qaeda Operative


1st Lt. Michael C. Behenna, left, and his defense attorney Capt. Tom Clark, right, walk in Camp Speicher, a large U.S. base near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Vanessa Gera)


Losses deeply affected Oklahoma serviceman Michael Behenna

Like many young men, Michael Behenna was eager to join the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Michael Behenna took over an 18-man platoon about two months before it was sent to Iraq in September 2007, building it into a polished unit, his father said.

Scott and Vicki Behenna said their son, a 2002 Edmond Memorial High School graduate, loves basketball, board games and genealogy.

Michael Behenna’s parents are no strangers to the criminal justice system.

His mother, Vicki, is a veteran federal prosecutor who helped convict Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Father Scott is a retired Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent who works as an FBI intelligence analyst.

But they’ve never seen anything like the events that led to their son’s conviction on murder and assault charges in a military court last month at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Michael Behenna, an Army first lieutenant from Edmond, was accused of executing a suspected terrorist last May in Iraq, but he maintains he acted in self-defense.

A government expert, who was not called as a witness, backed Behenna’s version of events, but that evidence was not provided to his attorneys until after Behenna, 25, was found guilty Feb. 27.

Behenna’s attorneys will appeal his conviction, but he remains in a federal prison in Kansas.

"It looks like we’ve got an innocent man who has been convicted,” attorney Jack Zimmerman said.

Two of the men under his command were killed and two were injured in an April 21 bomb blast. The blast also killed two Iraqis.

Intelligence reports indicated Ali Mansour was a member of an al-Qaida cell in the area. Behenna’s platoon arrested him May 5.

Mansour was released by Army intelligence less than two weeks later, despite reports he had been involved in terrorist activities.

Behenna was ordered to return Mansour to his home, but he chose to question the man himself. He wanted to find out who else was in the terror cell and who was financing it.

Behenna took Mansour and an interpreter into a culvert near an Iraq army checkpoint for his interrogation.

Mansour said he did not know anything about an al-Qaida cell, but Behenna needed one of his answers to be translated. He turned to his interpreter, but a rock flying by his head drew his attention back to Mansour.

Behenna said he shot Mansour in self-defense.


March 20th , 2009

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — An Army officer testified that he shot and killed an Iraqi detainee because he felt he was in danger.

On March 20th, 2009, 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing a known Al Qaeda operative while serving in Iraq.

1st Lt. Michael Behenna of Edmond is charged with premeditated murder, but testified Thursday he did not intend to kill Ali Mansour Mohammed. He admitted mistakes while he was interrogating the detainee. He said he should not have stripped the man and pointed a gun at him, but he was trying to scare him into giving information. Behenna said he looked away and then saw Mohammed moving his hands toward the gun.

Edmond soldier Michael Behenna may get fewer years

March 21, 2009

A military judge in Kentucky refused Friday to order a mistrial in the case of an Edmond soldier found guilty of murdering an Iraqi detainee.

First Lt. Michael Behenna had testified at trial that he shot Ali Mansour Mohammed twice last May in self-defense during an interrogation.

A military jury last month chose a 25-year sentence for Behenna after convicting him of murder.

“We think the judge erred,” Zimmermann said. “MacDonell’s conclusions will be very useful in his appeal.”

Military law mandates that murder sentences be automatically reviewed in the Army Court of Appeals in Washington.


Below is a brief recap of the relevant aspects of Lt. Behenna’s case.

Military News

September 2007: 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna deployed to Iraq for his first combat experience

April 21, 2008: Lt. Behenna’s platoon was attacked by Al Qaeda operatives. The attack resulted in death of two of Lt. Behenna’s platoon members, two Iraqi citizens, and wounded two additional soldiers under Lt. Behenna’s command.

May 5, 2008: Known terrorist Ali Mansur was detained at his home for suspected involvement in the attack on Lt. Behenna’s platoon

May 16, 2008: Army Intelligence orders the release of Mansur
Lt. Behenna, who lost two members of his platoon just weeks earlier, was ordered to transport Mansur back to his home
Lt. Behenna attempts a final interrogation of Mansur prior to his release
During the interrogation, Behenna is attacked by Mansur and is forced to defend himself. During the altercation, the terrorist is killed.
Lt. Behenna failed to properly report the incident

July 2008: The U.S. Army charges Lt. Behenna with premeditated murder for the death of Al Qaeda operative and terrorist Ali Mansur.

February 23, 2009: Lt. Behenna’s trial begins
Government and defense experts agree on the trajectory of the bullets killing Mansur
Prosecution expert Dr. Herbert MacDonnell initiated contact with defense attorneys explaining his agreement with the testimony of Lt. Behenna and his presentation to prosecutors supporting Lt. Behenna’s version of events.
Dr. MacDonnell is not called to testify in the case
Jack Zimmermann, defense counsel, asks prosecutors if they have any exculpatory evidence that should be provided to the defense (referring to Dr. MacDonnell’s demonstration). Prosecutors deny having any such evidence.
Prosecutors withholding of this evidence allowed them to argue that Lt. Behenna executed Ali Mansur while seated when the forensic experts, including Dr. MacDonnell, agree that Ali was standing with his arms outstretched when shot

Lt. Behenna is convicted of unpremeditated murder and assault.

Dr. MacDonnell contacts prosecution requesting that the information provided in his demonstration be given to the defense.
Prosecutors provide such information after a verdict was rendered, but prior to sentencing.
At the request of the presiding judge, Dr. MacDonnell provides his information to the court via telephone
The judge orders both sides in the case to file briefs relating to a possible mistrial
After reading the briefs the judge set an additional hearing and ordered additional briefs, including one from the defense requesting a new trial.

On March 20, the judge denied defense motions to declare a mistrial and to order a new trial
Lt. Behenna’s attorneys are appealing the verdict
Lt. Behenna is currently serving a 25-year sentence


Wild Thing's comment.......

This angers me so much, if our troops are going to have to worry about being prosecuted for every shot fired, every move they make it is only going to put them in more danger then they already are. God forbid we should abuse the civil rights of terrorists, sheesh!

Of course had the terrorist shot our kid, it would have been perfectly acceptable and the ACLU would have rushed to his defense. There is something radically wrong in this nation. The question is how long the American people will “shrug!” Dear God help people to wake up in this nation.

Our troops are being sacrificed by the scumbag politicians to garner favor with our enemies. May hell be full of corrupt, treasonous politicians.

There is a website for Michael to show support for him and this travesty of justice that has happened.

Defend Michael

Posted by Wild Thing at April 6, 2009 07:50 AM


That judge did step over the line. You can't fight a war with rules on who or what you have to kill or when. I hope that the appeal will work and he will be set free. I just hate how they can kill as many of us as they please but if we kill one of them, we're brought up on murder charges! What kind of priorities does that say we have? It's enough that he has to live with the fact that he had to kill someone for the rest of his life. Now his future is ruined. You think Obamanation will pardon him? NO way. Poor kid

Posted by: Lynn at April 6, 2009 08:14 AM

Ummmmmmm...isn't that what he was supposed to do: kill the enemy? Why is it we can't just SUPPORT our troops in the field and free them from wondering if pulling the trigger will land them in jail? Hesitation may cause the death of one of ours...and that IS NOT acceptable.

Posted by: PeteSuj at April 6, 2009 09:16 AM

With the Liberals in the Military, Press and Congress they keep desparately looking for a My Lai in this war, to dump on the part of the Military that actually does its job.

Sounds to me it was clearly a matter of self-defense, not intentional or anyting else. Clearly an abortion of justice.

Posted by: Mark at April 6, 2009 09:18 AM

Goddamn JAG lawyers. Rear echelon, non combat pieces of vulturous puke and residue. Vice President Joe Biden's son is a JAG lawyer. He will never hear a shot fired, but he will probably screw over some better men than himself, come home from Iraq with a basic load of "I was there" ribbons and follow his draft dodging father into politics.

My one experience with a JAG lawyer was that he lied to me while supposedly representing me for disability retirement. A DAV officer gave me the true poop and helped me immensly.

Now our president and Congress are busting their sorry treasonous butts to give citizenship rights to captured terrorists at Gitmo while this Ranger officer gets the shaft for killing scum. Lt Behenna deserves to be set free now.

Most of Congress are lawyers and that pretty well represents and defines too many members of the legal profession.

Posted by: TomR at April 6, 2009 12:58 PM

Lynn, I agree so much. These kind of things get in the mind of the rest of the troops too.
This is so upsetting to see this happening to our heroes.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 6, 2009 06:17 PM

PeteSuj, you are so right....."Hesitation may cause the death of one of ours".

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 6, 2009 06:19 PM

Mark, your right about what the liberals trying to do.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 6, 2009 06:23 PM

Tom, oh wow how horrible that happened to you, thank God for the DAV officer. Tom that is so bad what they tried to do.

I agree totally with your description of JAG lawyers.

Posted by: Wild Thing at April 6, 2009 06:27 PM

All American Wars since the turn of the twentieth century have rules of engagement. Rules of engagement are acceptable and the rules are the controlling legal authority on the battlefield. Everything done within those rules is the law.

ACLU lawyers would like to prosecute pilots but not Truman for dropping the nuclear bombs. That is not the way law works. Those two nukes probably saved millions of Japanese who would have died in an invasion and maybe a million Americans that would have died too. It was Truman's decision to make and his decision made it legal.

Posted by: Avitar at April 6, 2009 06:41 PM

Avitar - I understand ROE. I have been there. They are in place when you are dealing with at least a semi civilized enemy. That is not the case in this WOT or whatever pussified name the new administration has given our war with radical islam.

Bear in mind what the enemy has done to our men it has taken prisoner. While we are now offering citizenship to captured terrs, they have tortured, killed and mutilated our troops.

Posted by: TomR at April 6, 2009 07:25 PM

Avitar, the United States Military is the only standing Army in the world that even has rules of engagement as strict as ours.

The way I read it the leutenant was attacked he has a right to self-defense, and should have that right especially in the Military. They couldn't hang the Haditha Marines so they went after this young leutenant and nailed him to a cross for doing his job, that job is to kill the enemy. No but these liberal assholes want us to hold hands with the bastards.

This is a goddam war not a friggin game and good men die because of these moronic ROE's. It got so bad there that soldiers at checkpoints were taking buckets of rocks to throw at the terrorists to stop or provoke in order to defend themselves. In other words the bad guy has to shoot first.

The press is still looking for a second My lai and they can't find one. so they make it up, and push for war crimes trials, these kids have done nothing wrong except be good soldiers.

The rules of engagement in Iraq are glorified ROE's used by police in this country. You can not be effective in a combat zone using thes restrictive rules of engagement.

AS far as the Japs go I could care less how many died because of the A-bombs, they started that damn war and got it back in full measure. By all accounts the fire bombing was even worse. And when did the Japs apologise to the chinese, who they raped, butchered, and shot like dogs.

The first rule of war, there are no rules. We are trying to fight a war by Lefist Socialist rules where there is an equal outcome. Bullshit, we are there to kick ass, win and come home. That is the way we were trained. The trouble with Iraq, is it is too much visual, too many people can watch and critique who have no business critiqueing anything less than two cats fornicating. This is where the trouble comes in. And this enemy knows all the Rules of Engagement that we are bound to.

A lesson we seemed to have lost after the Second World War, "If they don't stink stick'em"

Posted by: Mark at April 6, 2009 09:38 PM

Another gross injustice. I'm sick and tired of everything being compared to My Lai, I don't condone what happened at My Lai but fully understand why it happened. ROE's in that area precluded engaging the enemy which hid amongst the villagers and were being supported by them, not unlike the Muzzies of today. Lt. Behenna was protecting his people and himself unlike setting back and having your fellow men maimed and killed with impunity because some dickweed JAG in the pentagon has no freaking idea of the situation on the ground and has never been under fire.

We're dealing with death cultists and the only way is to exterminate them.

As Tom points out they have not returned a single captured American or ally, they've been summarily tortured and butchered, they never have played by our Rules Of Engagement or the so called Geneva Convention.
We'll never know how many POW's were forfeited in WWII, Korea and Vietnam because of Communist loving leaders like McCain and Kerry.

Posted by: Jack at April 6, 2009 09:48 PM