Interview with Retired ARMY CID Agent and Forensic Expert Ross Gardner: Part 2
Picking up where we left off…
F4F: What kinds of police powers does an agent have on base? For example, if a General or other high ranking officer were a suspect, could you arrest them as easily as if they were a private or sergeant?
RG: This is an interesting one to answer. In the 70′s due to inappropriate command influence from senior officers on installations, the CID Command was set aside as a separate command. It answered directly to the CID HQS (headquarters) in the state of Washington. This prevented unwarranted local command influence when investigating anyone, particularly senior officers. In restructuring the military over the past few years, that has been undone and as I understand the Command is effectively back under the control of the Provost Marshall, the senior MP on the installation, who by the way works for and answers to the local Installation Commander.
Under either system, nothing is done in the military without the chain of Command being aware. Thus if a senior officer were under investigation, someone in the chain of command (maybe as high as the Pentagon) would be aware and if an apprehension were pending, they would also know of it. Not that they gave approval, but you just didn’t trash (disrespect) the local commander by doing things and then letting him find out the hard way, particularly apprehending one of his senior officers.
So the short answer is yes. Officer or enlisted, the authority to apprehend is the same. If someone is in the act of violating the law, MP’s, MPI or CID have a duty to act. Senior officers (field grade and general officers) rarely get involved in situations that require on-the-spot apprehension (DUI might be the only true exception). It just isn’t the nature of the beast, but nothing precluded it. Younger company grade officers were a different story. I’ve seen arrogant company level officers try and obstruct on-going investigations, violating crime scenes and such. They were apprehended on the spot and not always in a way that took their rank into consideration. CID Agents used to have a simple warning for those who thought they were going to direct our operational decisions on the street based on the fact they out-ranked us: ” Sir do not mistake your rank with my authority.”
F4F: Some of the better known stories involving ARMY investigations include Lee Child’s books featuring Jack Reacher, The General’s Daughter, Basic, The Presidio, etc. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see depicting military investigations in books or on television?
RG: The single biggest mistake I think is they show CID Agents as Officers. Although at one point in time there were actually a small contingent of commissioned officer agents, that program was short lived. The majority of working (on the street) agents are either enlisted, E-4 through E-7 or Warrant Officers WO-1 through W4. The senior enlisted are still agents (E-8 and E-9) but they work at BN, Group or Command. Senior Warrants are fewer on the street, and most W-4 and CW5 are at BN, Group or Command levels as well. There is a contingent (an ever growing contingent) of civilian Agents who work in the Procurement Fraud area. They hold 18-05 positions (gun toting federal agents) but they are primarily conducting major fraud investigations at Depots or operating out of WA (the state of Washington). If you ever saw (the movie) Off Limits with William Defoe, although dramatized it represented the CID of the time (Viet Nam era) pretty well.
F4F: Does every ARMY base have a CID unit or are they limited to certain bases? Also, how many CID agents are there in the ARMY?
RG: Every post typically has an assigned CID agent. There may be some changes in that regard, due to restructuring of the military over the past few years, but as a general rule if you have a post there is at least a CID Branch Office. This might be 1, 2 or 3 agents assigned to handle that post. The BO (branch office) would be supported by either a Resident Agency (RA), also known as a CASE or TASE. All three are a slightly larger contingent for small posts. The BO might be supported directly by a Battalion or Field Office. This larger organization, the BN (Battalion) supports the smaller RA’s and BO’s and conducts investigations on the larger bases. A CID Battalion is different from any other BN in the Army. It is much smaller in terms of manpower (often the size of a large Army company) and its people are distributed in a wide geographic area of operation (the RA’s and BO’s). Larger posts such as (Fort) Bragg or (Fort) Benning have a BN supporting them. There you could find 20 or more CID agents. In some odd circumstances if there is a grouping of small installations in a relatively small area (say within 100 miles of each other), the BO would be at one post, but support all.
The total number of Agents Army wide is a number I’m not absolutely sure of. I believe it is now in the area of about 900-1000. At one point in time after the cold war there were about 1400 active duty Special Agents (not counting the Procurement Fraud Civilian Agents). But CID went through a major restructuring during Quicksilver in the late 80s as the Army itself downsized.
F4F: Military court proceedings are different than civilian courts. Can you talk a little about those differences like the judge, jury, and defense lawyers?
RG: In some ways a military court is no different than a civilian court. But in other ways they are completely different. The biggest difference lies in the type of court. A summary courts martial can be held for minor offenses by a unit. Thus the Commander acts as the judge. A company officer is the prosecutor. The types of action and punishment a summary court can assign are limited. This concept allows a commander to control minor infractions within his unit without having to drag everything up the chain of command.
A Special Courts Martial and the General Courts Martial are for more serious offenses and consist of a typical judge, prosecutor and defense counsel, with a jury of peers. The jury however is always senior to the accused in rank. In a General Courts Martial, which is reserved for the most serious offenses, the accused can also hire civilian counsel to co-represent him with the military defense counsel.
One oddity to the military system of justice is the Article 32 hearing. Think of it as a form of probable cause or a preliminary hearing. A senior officer ( and it doesn’t have to be anyone with legal experience) is assigned to hear the evidence. The Staff Judge Advocate prosecutor presents a summary of the evidence against the accused in the form of witnesses and evidence and the defense has the opportunity to cross examine. The defense may also offer witnesses at the hearing. The Art 32 Officer hears the arguments and can himself ask questions of any witness and then based upon the testimony and evidence decides if sufficient reason exists to move forward with a trial. F4F Note: I have testified as an expert witness in two Article 32 hearings and it was an eye opening experience! One oddity was that the “judge” was a high ranking officer. There was a JAG prosecutor (Major) and a civilian defense attorney. At one point the defense counsel objected to some testimony I was giving, arguing that I had not laid the proper foundation as an expert in that field. The “judge” turned to the prosecutor and asked if the defense counsel could object to which the prosecutor said “no”. I don’t know who was more shocked, me or the defense, because we both sat in silence for a few seconds not knowing how to proceed. I broke the ice and just continued with my analysis and that was that. Very unexpected.
F4F: Are there any books (biographies, true crime, or fiction) that you could recommend for someone to learn more about the ARMY CID and it’s history?
RG: There are not a lot of good books written about CID. The Command has a web site that speaks to the missions and organization, its history etc.
Thank you Ross for an informative peek inside the world of a CID Agent!