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CNN LIVE TODAY

Interview with Scott Silliman

Aired January 14, 2003 - 11:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Scott Silliman is a law professor at Duke University. He is also a former military lawyer, and he has been following this case quite a bit. He joins us now from Durham, North Carolina to talk about the pilot's case and whatever else may be happening in this Article 32 hearing -- good to see you again, Scott.
SCOTT SILLIMAN, FORMER AIR FORCE ATTORNEY: Thanks, Leon. Good to be with you and Daryn again.

HARRIS: Now you've talked about this issue with the "go pills" once before. What do you think of it now that we've had time to examine what's been going on here. The families are all saying, as well as the pilots themselves are saying they were forced -- if nothing else just by camaraderie or just by -- just by expectations that they're supposed to take these pills as pilots.

SILLIMAN: Well, Leon, this is an issue, obviously, that's going to be looked at in this Article 32 investigation, which, as your reporter said, is the equivalent of a grand jury investigation with one fundamental difference. Of course, the two crew members and their attorneys are present and they are able to offer their own evidence.

But I think the Air Force is going to suggest in the hearing that the use of these "go pills" has been going on since World War II and that pilots are not required to take them. It's strictly voluntary. The paperwork seems to suggest that, and further, that anytime these pills are prescribed, it is only after the pilots have actually gone through ground testing to see whether there is any possible side effect that's a result of these pills.

HARRIS: Yes, but Scott, it seems like what we are hearing -- that's what the paperwork says, but what the people involved here are saying is that yes, it's voluntary, but it is voluntary like a code of silence is amongst the police forces across the country, that sort of thing.

SILLIMAN: Well, again, that's something that is going to have to be brought to the attention of the convening authority, General Carlson in his determination on whether the facts in their totality merit taking the charges to a trial by court martial, or whether there's some other disposition.

This whole question of the "go pills" though, Leon, I think is -- I'm sorry. The issue of the "go pills" is really a matter raised by the defense. The question is on the operative facts. The rules of engagement call for them not to descend into the threat environment, but climb away. Whether their judgment was clouded by the use of these pills, that's something to be considered by this very seasoned Air Force judge who is the investigating officer.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you about this. There's also some politics at play here. The families are alleging, and so are the defense attorneys as well, we should say, that the reason why the Air Force is going after these two pilots is all politics, it is because the U.S. needs Canada right now to maintain their support in Afghanistan, and possibly in Iraq as well because they say hundreds of Afghans have been killed. No one has ever been brought up on charges for that. However these two Canadian troops lose their lives, and then, all of a sudden, it's an issue here.

SILLIMAN: Well, Leon, let me remind your viewers that back in 1994, the Air Force pursued criminal charges when we had a couple of helicopters that were shot down in Iraq, and the question there was, was there sufficient negligence to merit criminal charges. That's exactly the question that's being looked at now. And again, no decision has been made to go to trial yet, still left to General Carlson as to whether the facts support the charges. So that is what is happening at Barksdale.

HARRIS: All right. We'll have to leave it there, and we will follow this case as it does continue. Scott Silliman, Duke University. Thank you very much. On another note, it's just not fair for one school to have the No. 1 team in women and men's college basketball.

SILLIMAN: What can I say, Leon.

HARRIS: Take care, Scott. See you later.

SILLIMAN: Bye now.

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