CIA/MOSSAD? Nicholas Berg

by John Robles 

A large number of anomalies surround the life and death of Nicholas Berg. A Jewish man, 26 years of age and a U.S. Citizen, he traveled alone in Iraq. Family and friends described Berg as an adventurer, high spirited and intelligent. A Washington Post report notes, "Berg was a weight lifting enthusiast and amateur comedian who had traveled abroad to help people improve their lives. Among his trips was a visit to the West African country of Ghana, where he taught villagers to make bricks and returned emaciated because he gave away most of his food."

Berg visited Iraq from December, 2003, to January, 2004, and then again starting March 14, 2004. Berg was purportedly looking for electrical contracting work building radio towers. He could not find work, though there was reportedly plenty.

On March 24, Iraqi officials arrested Berg at a checkpoint in Mosul and jailed him, because of his Jewish last name and the Israeli stamp in his passport. (See Washington Post report - reg req'd - or CSM Terrorism & Security update for May 13, which excerpts stories about Berg from various media.) Berg told friends in Baghdad that the Israelis thought he might be a spy. (See Telegraph article, "Beheaded American was arrested as a spy because of his Jewish name.") On April 05, 2004, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq. The next day, April 6, Nick Berg was released. On Saturday, May 8, Berg's body was found outside of Baghdad on a highway overpass. On May 11, 2004, a video of Nick Berg's execution, seemingly by beheading, was posted on the Muntada al-Ansar website, which is now offline.

There are conflicting reports about Berg's whereabouts in Iraq. According to an email to the Berg family from Beth A. Payne, a U.S. consular officer in Iraq, the U.S. military were holding Berg. This was apparently for 13 days. Iraqi police denied holding Berg. In contrast, the Telegraph article above notes, "Dan Senor, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, insisted Mr. Berg was arrested and held by Iraqi police." The timeline of Berg's captivity and the timing of the release of the video are suspicious. If Payne was correct, why did the U.S. military hold Nick Berg for two weeks? Why did the U.S. military deny this?

The video of the killing has many flaws including problems with time skips, audio dubbing, and the characteristics, appearance and speech of Berg and the killers. People from Middle Eastern cultures believe that Middle Eastern people were not involved in this video, based on the mannerisms, accents, behavior and appearance of the killers. A close inspection of the video suggests that Westerners may have been involved.

For a number of reasons, it does not appear that the Jordanian terrorist Abu Masab Al-Zaraqawi, who was voice identified by the CIA (and whose name was on the tape), was involved. He has a poorly functioning prosthetic leg and a hand tattoo, which should have been observed. Neither were. The accent of the speaker in the video was not Jordanian. Why has the CIA seemingly lied about the analysis of Al-Zarqawi's voice and his role in the killing?

Considering the many discrepancies and contradictions noted below, it seems possible that the Berg killing is a poorly crafted psy-ops exercise. This video was possibly constructed by U.S. operatives to impact the extremely volatile political developments in the U.S. and the international condemnation around the Abu Ghraib torture photos. The torture photos are mentioned in the speech in the video, though Berg may have been killed before the photos were circulated.

The majority of the points below are summarized and excerpted from eight summary articles that culled points from news articles and blog posts. (See links at end.) I compared, combined and edited the various points. Further, I added more points based on my viewing of the video (see Wizbang! Blog: Berg video site list) and by reviewing various news articles. I also added a few points based on comments at kuro5hin.org.

Some of the points below are compelling. Some are weak or may turn out to be insignificant or coincidental. This is a work in progress, an early overview of discrepancies. There are too many discrepancies and contradictions to dismiss doubts about the video and the official U.S. stories about Berg. Additional inquiry and fact checking are needed as the Berg story unfolds or, rather, unravels.

Points are included on these topics: Suspicious Circumstances and Timeline; Timing of Killing and Videotape Release; Videotape of Berg, His Decapitation, and Location; More Videotape Anomalies; Identity of Killers of Berg and Their Possessions; and, Berg's Previous Activities and Return of the Body

Suspicious Circumstances and Timeline

1) A Jewish man and U.S. citizen traveling alone in Iraq?
Why did a private Jewish American citizen choose to wander around Iraq by himself? He also had a passport stamp from Israel - very unsafe to travel with.

2) Berg wanted to return home
In his last email on April 6 to his family, Berg stated he wished to return home as soon as possible. The FBI claim he refused an offer of help to get home (perhaps because of danger to get to airport).

3) Three FBI visits
The FBI made three visits to the Berg while he was in custody in Iraq. This suggest U.S. authorities were concerned about more than Berg's well-being. They may have had their own suspicions about what the young American was doing in Iraq.

4) FreeRepublic website listed the Berg business as an "Enemy of the State".
Nick Berg's father, Michael Berg, signed an anti-war petition online and included the business name. (Note that Nick Berg himself was pro-Bush and pro-war.) This occurred a week before his son's second departure to Iraq. As a result of this statement the Berg business was put on a right wing enemies list. The FreeRepublic website listed the Berg business as an "Enemy of the State." This may have been linked to the thre visits by the FBI during Nick Berg's containment by the Iraqi Police and then presumably by (or under supervision) of the US Military.

5) Family sues in U.S. and Berg released next day in Iraq
On 5 April, Berg's family filed a suit in federal court in Philadelphia - contending that their son was being held illegally by the US military in Iraq. The next day he was released and left to get himself home.

6) U.S. custody
Berg's last known whereabouts was in U.S. custody. On April 1, Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular officer in Iraq, sent an e-mail to the family of Nick Berg. It stated that Ms. Payne had located Nick, and he was currently in custody of the US military. She wrote, "I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly." (See: The Unanswered Questions of Nick Berg's Murder at antiwar.com.) This is distinct from the next point...

7) Denial of custody
The US military has stated that Berg was never in US custody and that he had been in custody of the Iraqi police. The Iraqi police adamantly deny he was ever in their custody. (See again: The Unanswered Questions of Nick Berg's Murder.) If this is so, we have to conclude that either the email from Ms. Payne was incorrect or that the US military has been lying.

8) Apprehension of Berg
Berg was mysteriously captured while still wearing jumpsuit. Either he escaped from U.S. captors or U.S. let him out -- with orange suit and all -- to be immediately apprehended by "terrorists" (before he had a chance to change). Or, the captors somehow came across a U.S. military prison jumpsuit. (More on this is below.) This scenario contradicts the following:

9) Was Berg at hotel several days to April 10?
Staff at Al-Fanar Hotel in Baghdad apparently told The Associated Press that Berg stayed there for several days until April 10. A U.S. consul contract worker checked at the hotel on 4/14 and staff there did not remember Berg.

10) Family blames detainment by U.S. military for Berg's death
The last time the family heard from Nick Berg was on 9 April. He had planned to return home at the end of March. His headless body was found near Mosul on 8 May. "That's really what cost my son his life, the fact that the United States government saw fit to keep him in custody for 13 days without any of his due process or civil rights," Michael Berg said.

Timing of Killing and Videotape Release

11) Berg is killed before torture photos released but video tape refers to photos?
To quote "Fishy Circumstances and Flawed Timelines Surround American's Beheading)":
"me and a friend were discussing recent news events and trying to piece together the information presented to us, thought you might want to look into this further, they said in the news that Nicholas Berg was killed 2 weeks ago (i think), however in the video the culprits who killed him said they were "avenging iraqi prisoner abuse" but those photos weren't released until last week, so my question is how is that even a possible motive if he was killed prior to the abuse photos being released?? maybe i am misinformed but thought id ask the question to someone who would look into it."

12) Text with video mentions "shameful pictures"
The text posted to the website along with the video the translation of the Arabic statement, cites "shameful pictures." Here is a translation of the Arabic statement (at the Northeast Intelligence Network) made with the video: "And the shameful pictures and the news of the evil humiliation of the Islam people men and women in Ghareb 's father prison then where the jealousy and where the zeal and where the anger about the Allah's religion and where the jealousy for the Muslims sanctities and where the revenge for the honors of Muslims and Muslims is in the crosses prisons."

13) Wag the dog timing
There is extremely convenient 'wag the dog' timing at the height of furor regarding U.S. torture of Iraqis.

14) Torture photo timing
CNN poll question: 'Is the Berg killing a reason for withholding any remaining Iraq prisoner abuse pictures?' Bush has been reported to be struggling with question of whether the Pentagon should release additional torture photos. Given that the alleged decapitation of Berg was allegedly prompted by the first wave of torture photos, Bush could now cite 'national security' issues for withholding additional materials.

Videotape of Berg, His Decapitation, and Location

15) Orange jumpsuit
Berg shown in video wearing orange jumpsuit known to be of U.S. issue. The orange jump suit "appears" to be identical to the jumpsuits used at Guantanamo. (Compare with pictures at Guantanamo.) The orange jumpsuit was standard US military issue to men in custody. It is unlikely Berg would continue wearing a U.S. custodial uniform if he had been released by the military as they claim. The fact he was still wearing the suit is both anomalous and suggestive. One wonders: Was there an immediate transfer of Berg from the US military to unknown persons, preventing Berg from discarding his US prison garb?

16) No blood at decapitation
When Berg is decapitated, there was almost no blood. If Berg were still alive at this point, with the cut starting at front of throat, blood would have been spraying everywhere. Berg's severed head, the floor, Berg's clothes, and even the hand of the 'Arab' who decapitated Berg had no visible blood on it. When the executioner holds up Berg's head immediately following what is represented as an actual decapitation of a living person, there is no significant blood flow from the neck or blood splatters showing anywhere on the executioner.

17) Berg did not move
Berg seems limp just before the beheading. It is not clear if he was moving after the time skip in the tape. While on the ground, Berg's body didn't seem move except in response to the captors movements. Although held down, Berg would have tried to instinctively wiggle and writhe away from captor's grip and use of a knife. (That is unless he was long dead after the cut in the tape.) A surgeon would very likely testify that the beheading did not cause the death.

18) Berg may have been dead just before beheading
The lack of spurting blood and lack of movement suggests Berg was already dead at the time of the alleged decapitation. During the beheading, Berg's eyes are not seen. Camera angle made it impossible to see if Berg's eyes were open or glassy. Berg very probably was killed before the staged beheading. Did the captors have no stomach for the beheading of a living person?

19) Straight cut on the neck
The cut on Berg's neck seems to be too straight to have been done crudely and with such speed by a man wielding a large knife. Anybody who has carved a turkey knows there is something wrong with the supposed beheading. The suspended head looks more like Berg had been neatly beheaded by a guillotine.

20) Is the person in the video Berg?
Some viewers believe the person in the video only vaguely resembles Berg. (Note: presumably the family can and will identify Berg's voice and appearance.)

21) Chair
The chair that Berg was seated in during the filming was the exact same kind as seen in a color photo taken at the Abu Ghraib Prison. One blog mentioned this was "a standard issue military chair." However, these chairs might be abundant in Iraq. (See photo comparisons at link in next point.)

22) Walls and baseboard at the killing site same color as some in Abu Ghraid prison
However, many walls may be similar in Iraq. To quote Marc Perkel (It's The Same Chair!!!! OMFG!!):
"I have some more pics but the walls are the same yellow color and the baseboard is the same color as Abu Ghraib prison."

More Videotape Anomalies

23) The videotape was quite blurred.

24) A quickly disappearing video source?
A Reuters journalist in Dubai first named the Muntada al-Ansar al-Islami website as the source for the video - at www.al-ansar.biz. Although the site has now been shut down, Aljazeera.net had looked at the site within ninety minutes of the story breaking - and could find no such video footage. But Fox News, CNN and the BBC were all able to download the footage from the Arabic-only website and report the story within the hour.

25) Tape editing
The video tape is obviously spliced together and heavily edited: Going from a) Berg sitting in chair talking about family, to b) Berg sitting on floor with hooded "militants" behind, to c) blurry camera movement, to d) almost motionless Berg on floor as head cut off.

26) Long time jump in datestamp
There is a significant time jump on tape from a datestamp in the tape of about 2:44:40 to about 13:45:47. There could have been two cameras recording this event. However, there were changes in dress after the fact that would lead to the idea of an elapsed time.

27) Scream dubbed in: Screaming starts while Berg is not moving and before he is touched
Whatever the mismatch in the speaker and video (next point), videotape cognoscenti have said the scream was amateurishly dubbed into the tape. The writer of this K5 article reviewed this issue closely: The screaming starts (at 4:31 - on the copy I viewed, not the time stamp) about 5 to 6 seconds before Berg is touched (at 4:36) and he is moved to his side. He is just sitting there like a lump. While the screaming commences for (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 seconds), his head doesn't move and his mouth doesn't appear to move (though the tape is blurry), nor does he seem to be physically screaming at any time. Yet the audio plays a loud vigorous screaming. The exact same dubbed screaming continues after the long time jump and a bit of a time gap with silence and after some cutting on the head, during which Berg is not moving. This screaming seems clearly dubbed and is highly incongruous with Berg's lack of activity.

28) Handling of papers on video
"Terrorist" reader flips through pages of 'statement' at one point. He keeps ending up on the same page for awhile. As noted below, this would very likely produce a gap in speech, which is out of sync with the smooth timing of the spoken statement.

29) Audio is dubbed: Tape of speaker and video are out of sync
Audio experts note the tape is clearly dubbed. The speaker recording is different from executioner video recording, due to lag between audio and video.
From "In the Absence of Truth from the White House, Conspiracy Theories Emerge About the Nick Berg Murder" at buzzflash.com:
"Analysis of Execution video -- I propose that the executioner's voice (according to my analysis of listening closely to the audio feed) is not that of the killer's. When listening to the executioner's voice on the tape one first notes that there is a 2-3 second lag in the "time" between audio and video, audio leading. This is consistent with the argument that the video camera and tape recorder are actually two different recording devices. What convinced me that the executioner could not be the "voice" behind the document, read prior to Nick Berg's execution, is the lack of consistency seen between the video and audio recordings, even if the 2-3 second delay is considered. A careful viewing of the video shows the executioner on "several occasions" fumbling with the 2 pages that he held, and at times reading the same page over again -- or so it appears. At least 4 times during the video the executioner is "turning over" pages, holding the pages "apart" as if confused, and all of this adds up to one conclusion. There should have been a "pause" or "2-3 second delay" in the reading of the documents during the physical handling of the documents -- but none is found that is long enough to account for it. Conclusion: The executioner is not "reading" the document. Someone else is. The executioner is trying his best to "lip sinc" the reading, but fails miserably on close inspection. The "smooth" reading of the document is entirely inconsistent (according my analysis of the video) and therefore cannot be the same person that is recording into the audio device."

30) Berg identification - why?
Berg goes to great trouble to identify himself, providing information about his family. Why? To elicit greater sympathy? Or to provide a positive ID. FBI visited Berg family in an attempt to 'verify his identity'. The guy in video looks little like Berg photos provided by family.

31) Woman's scream, instead of Berg?
The alleged scream on heard on the tape has been interpreted as a woman's scream by viewers. (The scream did not seem to this K5 article's author necessarily to be in a woman's voice.)

32) Mistranslation of Al Qaeda connection
On the first day of Nick Berg's execution, it was reported on several major news networks that al Qaeda was connected to the killer's statement, which turned out to be false. The US Intelligence translation still retains this "reference" to al Qaeda, which does not exist. The U.S. government translation of one statement made on the film is: "Does al Qaeda need any further excuses?" This is a falsification. The actual statement urged fellow insurgents to get off their hind ends and do something. One assumes the translator used by the US military is a native speaker of Arabic, so this may not be an innocent flub. Did the US government intentionally link an alleged al Qaeda group into the murder of Nick Berg? Note: the word on tape was al qaed, with quite a different meaning from al Qaeda.

Identity of Killers of Berg and Their Possessions

33) Western body posture and mannerisms of "terrorists"
The "terrorists" have Western-style body posture and mannerisms. They seem to be at parade rest at times.

34) "Terrorists" were fat
Several of the men in the film were fat by Iraqi standards. If they were Feyadeen or Mujahadeen, they probably have been living underground since the first days of the occupation. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been shown on news stories as they have marched and demonstrated. One would be hard pressed to point out a single fat man among these thousands.

35) White hands of "terrorists"
Some of the "Arab terrorists" have pasty-white hands and (other exposed) skin. One would be hard pressed to find Arab men with pasty-white hands. (See: Nick Berg Conspiracy Theories Abound.)

36) Wrong accent
Al-Zarqawi is/was Jordinian. Arab linguists have said the man posing as Al-Zarqawi did not speak with a Jordanian dialect. Others have suggested the man reading the written statement may not have been a native speaker of Arabic.

37) Change in masks by beheader
To quote a K5 comment:
"The guy who holds up the head at the end has a white mask and no vest. The guy who pulls out the knife and starts cutting is in a black mask. The only guy with a white mask is wearing a green vest"

38) Voice id
Al-Zarqawi's identification by the CIA was based on "probable" voice id of the videotape.

39) Al-Zarqawi's missing leg
Al-Zarqawi was missing one leg. Al-Zarqawi allegedly wears a prosthetic device, according to previous CIA reports. (See: IHT Protrait of Al-Zarqawi.) There is no evidence that the killer wore a prosthetic device. Further, Al-Zarqawi had been outfitted with an artificial leg that did not fit or function properly. He was unable to walk or stand normally. No man in the group showed evidence of such infirmity.

40) Missing tattoos?
Large green tattooed "dots" are known to be on the back of Abu Musab Zarqawi's left hand. These tattoos cannot be seen in the close up video of the execution, though the back of his hand is fairly visible. (See: IHT Protrait of Al-Zarqawi.)

41) Al-Zarqawi dead?
Numerous indigenous sources have said Al-Zarqawi was killed by a US helicopter attack months ago when he was unable to move quickly enough to escape the targeted house. While others managed to exit the house in time to survive, he died in the collapsed building.

42) Gold ring on killer's hand
The man in the videotape who is purported to be Zarqawi seems to be wearing a gold ring. Note: This is a questionable point. To quote Healing Iraq (healingiraq.blogspot.com) as quoted at this angryfinger.org post (Nick Berg Conspiracy Theories Abound): "Islam does not specifically forbid that men wear gold, in fact the Quran and the Hadith have encouraged men to 'adorn' and 'embellish' themselves (dying hair, perfume, etc.) .... the practice of wearing gold ornaments is discouraged by Muslim clerics, "Gold is the ornament of women". Socially it is not acceptable in the Arab world for men to wear gold, although this has changed lately and many young men do (engagement and wedding rings are mostly gold)."

43) Why anonymous?
Al-Zarqawi's face is very well-known. If Al-Zarqawi was the perpetrator, why did he bother to cover it the whole time? If Al-Zarqawi is trying to build a resistance movement, why did he not uncover his face at some point? (If it was another terrorist impersonating Al-Zarqawi, why is the CIA identifying the voice as Al-Zarqawi's?)

44) Iraqi denial of "terrorists"
Iraqis who have seen the videotape on Arabic news broadcasts are universally saying the men in the film are not Iraqis. Are they saying this partly because the speaker does not employ an Iraqi dialect? Where does their certainty come from?

45) Firearms Israeli, not AK-47s
Firearms experts have stated the AK-47 carried by one man was a "Galil." This actually is an Israeli-made weapon that improves on the famous AK- 47. Feyadeen and other insurgents use AK-47s.

Berg's Activities and Return of the Body

46) Berg encountered Moussaoui, an al Qaeda operative, by chance in the U.S. in 1999
The FBI has reported (CNN, FOX) that Nick Berg's e-mail account was used by the "20th hijacker" of 9-11, Zacarious Moussaoui, whose computer held evidence of the 9-11 hijackers (and could not be searched by the FBI field office because of orders from Washington). The FBI interviewed Nick Berg about Moussaoui's use of his e-mail account to send "emails" but concluded that it was entirely "coincidental." Berg had apparently given the password to his e-mail account to an acquaintance of Moussaoui who he met on a bus in 1999 in Oklahoma. (See: Berg's encounter with 'terrorist' revealed.)

47) Berg's first visit to Iraq
Source: In the Absence of Truth from the White House, Conspiracy Theories Emerge About the Nick Berg Murder in http://www.buzzflash.com letters:
"In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle P-I), May 13, 2004, A4, appeared an AP article by Robert H. Reid entitled: "Questions over beheading victim's travel in Iraq." That article, which is not online, says: "Berg first worked in Iraq in December and January and returned in March. He was inspecting communications facilities, some of which were destroyed in the war or by looters. During his time in Iraq, he worked on a tower in Abu Ghraib, site of the prison where U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi inmates."
And from The Guardian [Questions Surround Slain American in Iraq] here is a similar reference:
Perhaps Nick saw too much when he was at the prison repairing the tower. And/or maybe that work required close collaboration with the military intelligence onsite so that he learned too much.
Also, today's NY Times article entitled: "General Took Guantanamo Rules To Iraq for Handling of Prisoners" by Tim Golden and Eric Schmitt says:
"When Major General Geoffrey D. Miller arrived in Iraq last August with a team of military police and intelligence specialists, the group was confronted by chaos."
"In one prison yard, a detainee was being held in a scorching hot shipping container as punishment, one member of the team recalled. An important communications antenna stood broken and unrepaired."

48) Work vs. no work?
It has been reported all week in the media that Nick Berg was "looking for business" for his small telecommunications business. Some of his friends in Iraq who were interviewed reportedly said "business was booming." Yet others said Nick was leaving because he "couldn't find any work."

49) Berg traveled at night
It has been reported by people who knew Nick in Iraq (interviews, major networks) that strangely enough, Nick "traveled" at night. Indeed, when Nick was initially picked up by Iraqi Police (checkpoint) he was held because of "suspicious activity."

50) Berg's family was not allowed to view the body of Berg on its arrival to the U.S.



SEE: The Unanswered Questions of Nick Berg's Murder
by Anthony Gregory, antiwar.com, May 15, 2004

SEE: In the Absence of Truth from the White House, Conspiracy Theories Emerge About the Nick Berg Murder
buzzflash.com letters, May 14, 2004

SEE: Nick Berg's Iraq Timeline
at AngryFinger.org, May 13, 2004

SEE: Nick Berg Conspiracy Theories Abound
at AngryFinger.org, May 13, 2004

SEE: Fishy Circumstances and Flawed Timelines Surround American's Beheading
By Alex Jones, May 12, 2004

SEE: Fifteen Anomalies Surrounding Death of Nick Berg
from: What Really Happened.com Letters, May 14, 2004

SEE: It's The Same Chair!!!! OMFG!!
at Marc Perkel Rantz, May 13, 2004

SEE: Bloggers doubt Berg execution video
By Lawrence Smallman, May 13, 2004