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November 23rd, 2009
10:10 AM ET
November 20th, 2009
09:06 PM ET

Band of Brothers

Clint Van Winkle
Special to AC360°

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart...
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

I've struggled coming to terms with CNN’s The Killings at the Canal special investigation that highlights the murders of four insurgents at the hands of U.S. soldiers. At first I felt betrayed by the soldiers' actions, and then my feelings moved towards empathy. I've walked in their boots, so to speak. I know what it is like to have to make decisions that impact the lives of many. I never took my duties lightly and always tried to do the correct thing. And while internet tough guys and armchair generals will take it upon themselves to second-guess the actions at the canal, the men and women who have "been there" will reserve judgment. Those who have tasted battle know where second-guessing leads. Combat is measured in seconds. Indecisiveness gets people killed. Hesitation gets people killed. And for a Marine/soldier, the worse loss is the loss of a brother/sister-in-arms.]

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Filed under: Killings at the Canal
November 20th, 2009
04:19 PM ET

Killings at the Canal: Part Three

Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit

A former Army sergeant who revealed the murders of four Iraqis at a canal in 2007 says he has no regrets about breaking his silence.

"I did the right thing," Jess Cunningham told CNN's "AC360°." "I'm not going to hide behind false brotherhood."

Nine months after the March 2007 murders, Cunningham told his Army lawyer what had happened at the canal. Eventually, three sergeants would be convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.

"These men are not heroes. They're not saviors," Cunningham said.

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November 20th, 2009
02:55 PM ET

Army general defends rules for detainees

Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit

The military released 77,000 of about 87,000 detainees locked up during the Iraq war because there was not enough evidence to hold them, CNN has learned.

"In most cases, if we don't have anything, eventually they'll be released," said Brig. Gen. David Quantock, who oversees detainee operations in Iraq.

Quantock said "many cases are driven purely on intelligence."

"Intelligence does not win a fight in a courtroom. It doesn't win the fight in a courtroom in the United States. It doesn't win in Iraq."

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Filed under: Killings at the Canal
November 20th, 2009
09:40 AM ET
November 18th, 2009
03:54 PM ET
November 18th, 2009
11:28 AM ET

Wives say sergeants are heroes, not criminals

Johana Mayo said her husband has been punished enough.
Johana Mayo said her husband has been punished enough.

Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit

The wives of three Army sergeants in prison for premeditated murder say their husbands are war heroes who should not be in prison.

"I can sympathize with them that they felt like there was nothing else they could do," said Jamie Leahy, wife of Sgt. Michael Leahy, a 28-year-old medic.

She said her husband and the other two sergeants were heroes for protecting other soldiers. Leahy, 1st Sgt. John Hatley and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo killed four Iraqi men whom they had taken into custody at a canal in Baghdad, Iraq.

During the investigation of the killings, Leahy told Army investigators that the same men they had captured would be shooting at them again if they had released them.

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Filed under: Killings at the Canal
November 17th, 2009
02:20 PM ET

Killings at the Canal: Holding on to secrets

Abbie Boudreau
Special Investigations Unit Correspondent

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 twenty-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.

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November 17th, 2009
02:12 PM ET

Killings at the Canal: Convicted of murder

Former First Sgt. John Hatley.
Former First Sgt. John Hatley.

Scott Zamost
Senior Investigative Producer

For months, we wanted to hear from John Hatley.

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.

Special Investigations Unit 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."

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