Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to three counts of premeditated murder during his term of service in Afghanistan. As part of a plea deal, that reportedly took five months to negotiate, Morlock will testify against other members in his infantry unit in exchange for no more than 25 years in prison. Currently, the 22 year-old Alaska native is being held in solitary confinement and will appear before a military Judge at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.
Even though news of the Afghanistan “Kill Team,” as members of the second infantry 5th Styker Brigade like to call themselves, earned media attention almost a year ago, the publication of new horrific photos appeared on Monday in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the same publication who helped distribute WikiLeaks stolen documents.The pictures released by Der Spiegel show disturbing images of Morlock along with some of his other members of his infantry posing with dead bodies while smiling into the camera.
“The actions portrayed in these photographs remain under investigation and are now the subject of ongoing U.S. court-martial proceedings, in which the accused are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. We apologize for the distress these photos cause,” said the Army in a statement made Monday.
In addition to the obvious concerns over the mental state of the U.S. military abroad, government officials are also concerned that the pictures could be used for propaganda purposes. Der Spiegel’s decision to publish the photos could give the Taliban political ammunition and make it harder to win the support of the Afghan people.
A full investigation is still underway within the U.S. army in order to make sure that such disturbing behavior does not manifest itself again. Morlock’s mother believes the army should take responsibility. “I think the government is just playing these guys as scapegoats. The leaders dropped the ball. Who was watching over all this?” said Audrey Morlock to the Seattle Times earlier this week.
Although it is not clear how much Army Col. Harry Tunnel, leader of this particular infantry division knew, reports of his aggressive strategy towards the “enemy” have reportedly been noted and investigated. Tunnel reportedly had trouble alternating between playing the role of protector to the Afghan people and as an aggressor towards the enemy. Although it is unclear how much this affected the officers charged with these war crimes, his leadership style is being investigated.