one's interesting and we haven't seen it linked
about, except on a very obscure site. The author is
an Australian private eye. His analysis doesn't
depend on facts so much as on logical reasoning --
our guess is that he's closer to an explanation of
what really happened than anybody else so far. The
evidence that the video was filmed within Abu
Ghraib prison itself -- with all that that implies
-- may be the surest reason why the Bush regime is
so anxious to see it torn down as son as possible.
23 May 2004
working hypothesis and a resolution for the orange
article aims to shed light on the apparent
execution by beheading of Nicholas Berg.
I believe that most of the available evidence
surrounding the case suggests that it was a
'black operation'by US psychological warfare
specialists, the purpose of which was to provide
the media with a 'moral relativity' argument to
counter the adverse publicity over torture at
Abu Ghraib prison.
observers have drawn attention to features of the
evidence -- particularly the video of the beheading
released by the supposed terrorists -- which do not
add up. I find some of these features to be
explainable without reference to a conspiracy by US
security agencies. Most, however, are best
explained by the black operations scenario. Even
so, many puzzling anomalies remain.
At a certain point in any investigation, in
order to make sense of disparate, contradictory
facts and to filter out background noise, an
investigator must adopt a working hypothesis which
integrates the main clues.
My hypothesis begins by trying to explain why,
throughout the execution video, Nick Berg is
wearing an orange jumpsuit of the type issued at US
military prisons such as Guantánamo Bay.
Most commentators have been surprised by this.
Some have rationalised it as a piece of mimicry by
the executioners designed to taunt the US and drive
home their point that the US imprisons and
humiliates Arabs and Muslims.
might seem like the only reasonable explanation,
but nagging doubts remain.
How would the terrorists have got their hands on
such a jumpsuit? Is it reasonable to think that
they carried one around just in case they got lucky
and grabbed an American?
Alternatively, does it seem likely that, having
grabbed Berg, one of them had a bright idea and
sent his mum to the markets for some fabric and got
her to run up an orange jumpsuit?
Under the circumstances, both explanations are
highly improbable. Remember, these people are
supposedly members of an Abu Massab al-
Zarwawi's terrorist cell. They're operating
underground to carry out suicide bombings and the
like. In order to do that they'd themselves be
dressed like ordinary Iraqis. Dressing Berg in a
facsimile of the US prison uniform or even a real
one for his execution seems like an awful lot of
trouble to go to -- time-wasting nonsense that
could unnecessarily expose them to the danger of
discovery. Why would they not keep Berg in the
clothes in which he was kidnapped or, if they had
had to dump these, in anonymous Iraqi street
(That's another problem with the 'terrorists' in
the video: why are they dressed in black uniforms
with ammunition tabards and keffirs? Al- Sadr's MA
militia do dress like that, but al-Zarwawi's boys
aren't militia, they're underground
But if it seems very far-fetched that
al-Zarwawi's group would have filmed Berg in an
orange jump-suit, why in heaven's name would the
CIA PsyOps boys have done so? Surely in setting up
a piece of fakery they would ideally have stuck to
the simple and obvious and kept Berg in his own
AS I said above: to make sense of
[and] contradictory facts and filter
out background noise, a working hypothesis which
makes sense of the main clues is necessary. What
follows is mine.
I have made use of 'Videoman's' excellent
analysis of the execution video available at
the LibertyForum site.
Videoman identifies 8 separate shots (A to H)
and assumes two cameras were used (I call them
Camera 1 and Camera 2).
By the time the CIA PsyOps boys, dressed as
terrorists, cut off Berg's head he was already long
dead. As noted by various qualified observers there
was no spray of blood. I further doubt whether even
the hardest of the CIA hard boys would come at
hacking off someone's head while they were
They had no alternative but to do the deed with
Berg dressed in the orange jumpsuit because, to
dramatise the horror of the supposed event, they
had to have footage that unequivocally showed him
to be alive before his throat was cut. In the only
such material available to them, Berg was dressed
in the jumpsuit.
I believe that footage showing Berg in the white
plastic chair, unrestrained and calmly giving his
name and family details, was shot as routine
investigative documentation by CIA and/or FBI
interrogators while Berg was imprisoned -- either
at a US run facility or perhaps by the Iraqis,
depending on who's story you believe -- after he
was picked up by Iraqi police in Mosul.
The footage looks so routine because it was
routine. Berg was arrested, his clothes were taken
away, he was given the jumpsuit and then
questioned. Quite probably he was asked a series of
questions during the three 'interviews' we know
took place, and his responses were videotaped in
much the same way as police interrogations are
audio and/or videotaped in most countries.
After being interviewed three times in thirteen
days, Berg was then warned to leave Iraq, released,
and (according to some reports) booked on a flight
out of Baghdad. The CIA knew exactly where he was
and what his movements would be.
It does not take a great deal of imagination to
see what may have happened next. The word goes out
that the President needs a high- profile terrorist
atrocity to counteract the gathering media
firestorm over Abu Ghraib. The PsyOps boys are
working against a deadline. Assessing their
prospects, they decide that Berg is a highly
suspicious character. There's a weird story on the
files about his email account being used by
Moussaoui, his parents are high-profile
opponents of the war, he's been running around Iraq
unsupervised and visiting Iraqi in- laws in Mosul.
Even if the man isn't actually al-Queda, he's an
They pick up Berg as he leaves his hotel and
kill him (perhaps accidentally). Then they set
about constructing the beheading video. It is also
possible that Berg met his death at the hands of
the resistance, but that his intact body was
quickly recovered by US forces.
NOW, let's go back to my basic point: To show Berg
alive, the PsyOps team only had some routine
interrogation footage to work with. There was no
alternative but to use that footage, so, with some
ingenuity, they set about crafting a fake execution
The final product
distributed on the internet opens with two shots
each from a different angle. The video clock
shows they were apparently shot about 11 hours
apart, one at 1.26 pm and one at 2.18 am.
The first shot (Camera 1) lasts for only three
seconds and in it, Berg is sitting in the white
plastic chair and is seen from left front. All he
manages to say is 'My name is Nick Berg, my
father's name is Michael --.', before the cut to
the second camera, positioned directly in front of
him and apparently recording 11 hours later (or, at
2.18 am some days later or, perhaps, earlier) takes
over. Berg continues: '-- my mother's name is
Suzanne --' Berg is not restrained and appears calm
Why was this rapid-fire editing required and why
the apparent time- lapse? If the terrorists shot
the video, why didn't they just tell Berg to state
his details again?
I would contend that this opening two-shot
sequence is cut together from fragments from two
videos of different interrogation sessions,
conducted by the FBI and/or CIA, almost certainly
from near the beginning of those videos, and
probably recorded with the same camera.
Here's how I believe it might have happened:
The interrogation team set up their camera on a
tripod, with the clock accurately calibrated, and
began recording at around 1.26 pm. Standing out of
shot so as not to be identifiable, they introduced
the video. Try to imagine the scene. Things might
have developed something like this (dialogue
actually heard in the video in bold):
Interview with a suspect handed over to us by
Iraqi police on [date, time]. State your
My name is Nick Berg, my father's name
is Michael --
Where do you come from, Mr Berg?
From this point the interrogation continued with
questions in English from an unseen interrogator
with an American accent. The questions and answers
concerned Berg's activities as a contractor, his
Iraqi contacts, his relatives in Mosul, why he had
grown an Islamist-style beard or any number of
In other words, all but the first three seconds
of Nick's reply clearly and obviously depicted a
routine police-type interview and were useless for
the purpose of showing him alive, but apparently in
the custody of terrorists.
There was a second interrogation (probably, but
not necessarily, subsequent to that depicted in
Shot A), this time at 2.40 am. Again, as a matter
of routine, the interrogators would have introduced
the video. It might have gone something like this
(dialogue actually heard in the video in
Interview with a suspect passed to us by Iraqi
police on [date, time]. State your name
I told you that before. Why are you
keeping me here. I'm a US citizen.
Don't make it hard on yourself, just answer the
Berg remains silent for a while then
simultaneously both men speak --
Are you going to --
[giving in]: 'My father's name
is Michael, my mother's name is Suzanne --'
The interrogator's voice overlapped with the
first part of Berg's reply so only the footage with
the words '-- my mother's name' etc, were usable.
The rest of the tape was unusable for the same
reason the rest of the first tape was unusable.
I can also imagine several other reasons why the
first part of Berg's reply in this shot could not
be used. One would be that somebody who was
identifiable as an American accidentally walked
into the shot.
So the PsyOps team had only these two fragments
to play with. The first fragment was too short, but
if it were spliced together with the second there
would be 13 usable seconds.
Trouble was, they'd been shot at different times
(as shown on the tape). Here the different camera
angles came to their rescue. What if there were two
cameras recording the scene, one with the clock
carelessly set to the wrong time? Only problem was,
two cameras would have to be used (or appear to be
used) for the rest of the execution performance and
the time difference between them maintained.
All the subsequent shots were set up after Berg
was dead and almost certainly in the same room
where he was interrogated during his period of
incarceration (Abu Ghraib?).
His body was dressed an identical jumpsuit to
that shown in the interrogation recordings, and
propped up in position. Shot C (From the
terrorist's speech to Berg being pushed over for
the kill) was then recorded. This footage was
subsequently modified frame by frame to make Berg's
body move very occasionally, as if alive (I differ
from Videoman's analysis on this point, since I
don't think Berg was alive in this shot). Using
commonly available software such a modification is
relatively simple and adequately convincing, if
effectively disguised by the process which turns a
high resolution video into a grungy low- resolution
version for the internet.
Of the identified five shots that follow, four
are from Camera 1 and only one 4 second shot from
Camera 2. It would be a simple process to shoot the
whole video with a single camera and change the
clock setting for two shots (C and G) to give the
appearance that the terrorists used two cameras,
thereby disguising the time-difference problem the
fakers had started out with.
hypothesis has the following
- It explains the jumpsuit.
- It explains the time discrepancy
- It explains why Berg is unrestrained and
appears relaxed in the first two shots
- It is not inconsistent with the known facts
of Berg's movements in Iraq.
- It suggests some profitable lines of
Why not record the pseudo-terrorist's speech
while Berg was still alive, then kill him, then
record separate shots of his head being cut
To get the full force of the horror of an
(apparently) living human being waiting,
unknowingly, to having his throat cut, it was
necessary to do this in a single shot, at least up
to the point of the first knife cut. The
alternatives were to do it while he was actually
alive or to shoot it after he was dead and rely on
simple image manipulation to give the appearance he
was alive. For various reasons (not least of which
perhaps being that the participants were
understandably squeamish about cutting somebody's
throat), they decided the second was the better
alternative (but unlikely) jumpsuit
The only remotely plausible alternative scenario
I can think of is that, upon release from his 13
day incarceration by US forces (or the Iraqi
police, if you prefer to believe that story or to
make a distinction), Berg was allowed to keep his
jumpsuit as a souvenir ('Hey, you wanna keep the
jumpsuit buddy? Might get you a laugh at the
barbecue when you get home'). Berg had the jumpsuit
on him when captured by the terrorists and putting
him in it to kill him appealed to them.
This scenario not only seems far-fetched, it
also leaves us to explain why the terrorists would
have gone to the trouble of using two cameras and
of doing complex editing to create the sequence
composed of shots A and B, when they could simply
asked him to say who he was again.
lines of inquiry
What are the standard interrogation procedures
used in these circumstances by the FBI and or
the CIA? Do they include videotaping the
interrogation? Personally I'd be astounded if
they didn't, after all, the careful
reexamination of an interview for nuances of
speech, body language etc, is a powerful
investigative tool. In this respect, has any of
the photographic and video material viewed in
closed session by US lawmakers depicted an
Were tapes made at the three known interviews of
Nick Berg by the FBI? Who did the interviews?
Where are they?
Were the orange jumpsuits issued in Iraq? To the
Iraqi police, or only at US run facilities like
Abu Ghraib? (There is, now, one photo in the
public domain showing an Iraqi prisoner at Abu
Ghraib in an orange jumpsuit, although it is of
a different style to the suit Berg is
If video cameras were issued to interrogators,
what brand(s) were issued, and are their
on-screen clocks consistent with those seen in
the execution video.
Whereabouts in Iraq was Nick Berg imprisoned by
US and/or Iraqi police?
US readers might profitably pursue some of these
questions with their congressman or
decapitation video was filmed inside Abu Ghraib
The Sunday Times
(London): Beheading of Berg - now it's a
Report: Berg was
Arrested Twice at Oklahoma University in Spring
about the 9/11 hijacker's airline ticket
purchase from the OU library
Nick Berg's father: George
Bush never looked into my son's eyes
At least: Fifteen
Anomalies Surrounding Death Of Nick
of Michael P. Wright
US businessman Nick
Berg executed on camera | Mr Irving's
Expanding the Taguba report: Israel's
role in training US army in torture