The progressive translator

The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum, a clearinghouse, where progressive translators and other interested persons may discuss issues of concern, including, but not limited to, political aspects of translation, translation theory, the policies and structure of the ATA, and activism at the local group level.


Ken Kronenberg is a German translator specializing in medicine, patents, and 19th- and 20th-century diaries and letters. The views and positions taken by guest bloggers are not necessarily those of Ken Kronenberg or the Progressive Translator.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tal-afar airbase translator committed suicide in 2003

The following item was published on the KNAU (Arizona Public Radio) website on October 31.

Alyssa Peterson Suicide
Kevin Elston

10/31/06 (2006-10-31) Army specialist Alyssa Peterson was an Arabic speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at the Tal-afar airbase in far northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border. According to the Army's investigation into her death, obtained by a KNAU reporter through the Freedom of Information Act, Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.

Instead she was assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards. She was sent to suicide prevention training. But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle.

Alyssa Peterson graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona, before being deployed to the Middle East in 2003.
The link now points to a "correction" and the initial story can no longer be accessed.

The story certainly touched a raw nerve. The army, of course, denies any connection between the interrogations and her suicide. It sounds bad when stories like this leak out. Interesting that "all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

Although we may never know with certainty whether Alyssa Peterson killed herself rather than carry out interrogations she objected to, what appears clear is that she got herself into a situation from which she could not extricate herself.

There does appear to be a suicide note. What do you suppose the chances are that Kevin Elston's filing under the Freedom of Information Act to view that suicide note will be successful?

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