By Larry Shaughnessy
(CNN) - Starting Monday, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will hear details of the military prosecutors' case against him regarding a deadly shooting spree in Afghanistan in March.
Sixteen civilian villagers died in the rampage, and six others were injured. The attack triggered protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan and condemnation from Afghan President Karzai and President Barack Obama. The Taliban threatened revenge.
On the night of the shooting, Bales was seen leaving a small base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province alone. He later returned and turned himself in to fellow soldiers. Bales allegedly told his roommate at the base that he'd been killing Afghan civilians, but his attorney, John Henry Browne, denies thi FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
A group of legal and military experts will examine how major criminal accusations against service members in deployed areas are handled, under a new directive authorized by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and announced Friday.
"We know that over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed area," Panetta wrote in a memo announcing the makeup of the newly formed Defense Legal Policy Board.
"The abuses have been rare among our professional fighting force, but they became huge flash points that threatened to undermine our entire mission."
Jeh Johnson, the Department of Defense's top lawyer, said the action is "part of the secretary's ongoing interest in accountability, particularly in deployed areas."
By CNN Wire Staff
In amended charges presented Friday, U.S. military authorities accused Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales of illicit steroid and alcohol use in addition to 16 counts of premeditated murder for allegedly gunning down villagers in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Bales' lawyer, John Henry Browne, responded to the changes by saying he is "so relieved" that military prosecutors "came out publicly with the steroid use."
"Steroid use is going to be an issue in this case, especially where Sgt. Bales got steroids and how he got steroids," Browne told CNN.
The U.S. military said that, in March, Bales left his outpost in Afghanistan in the middle of the night and single-handedly attacked two villages. The incident further riled relations between Washington and Kabul, intensifying the debate about whether to pull American troops ahead of their planned 2014 withdrawal.
By Barbara Starr
Army criminal investigators have now completed their first visit to the outpost where Staff Sgt. Robert Bales served and the two villages where he is alleged to have killed 17 Afghan civilians, according to a US official.
The official declined to be identified or discuss what evidence had been gathered due to the sensitivity of the investigation. The Army will also not say when investigators were there or if they are going back, due to concerns over their safety in the vicinity of the villages.
It was the first visit by U.S. investigators, who had been staying away out of respect to angry villagers. CNN's Nic Paton Walsh reported last week that the American investigators had not been able to return to the crime scene. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
U.S. military investigators may travel as early as this week to the Afghan villages where an American soldier is alleged to have shot and killed 17 civilians last month in a shooting rampage.
It would be the first visit by U.S. investigators who had been staying away out of respect to the villagers angry about the shooting.
The military is coordinating details of the visit with the Afghans, a U.S. official told CNN.
By Nick Paton Walsh
U.S. military officials have yet to gain access to the sites in which 17 Afghans were killed in Kandahar, an obstacle that could impede efforts to prosecute the American soldier accused of the multiple homicides.
U.S. personnel had not been able to collect DNA from the sites or access the areas, although DNA collected by Afghan investigators may have been received, an official said.
However, DNA has been found in blood on the clothing of the suspect, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.
"We do not have access to the crime scene," said the U.S. official, who has knowledge of the investigation but did not want to be identified discussing an ongoing inquiry.
Reporter Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network has become the first western journalist to visit the villages where a U.S. soldier allegedly killed 17 people.
In a remarkable report she talks with some of the survivors and some Afghan guards on duty at the military camp from where Staff Sergeant Robert Bales left on his alleged killing spree.
The video at the top of this story is Hakim’s account of her journey to the remote villages near Kandahar and what she was told.
In an exclusive interview airing 7pET on Erin Burnett OutFront, the lawyer for Robert Bales says his client doesn't understand the charges he is accused of. Bales was charged last week with 17 counts of murder in the March 11th killings in Afghanistan.
"He doesn't really have a good handle on what's going on," John Henry Browne tells CNN's Erin Burnett.
By Barbara Starr
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is suspected in the shooting deaths this month of 17 Afghans, sneaked off his remote outpost twice during his alleged 90-minute rampage in two Afghan villages, two senior U.S. officials told CNN Monday.
The officials said that, after the March 11 shootings in one village in Kandahar province, Bales sneaked back onto his base. They said Bales was seen at that point by fellow troops. FULL POST
As the U.S. military pursues charges against the Army sergeant accused of killing Afghan civilians in what commanders say was a freelance rampage, there continues to be a discrepancy between the official count of those killed and the murder count Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with.
The word of 17 murders first leaked Thursday evening. Earlier that same day the commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan made no mention of the number being higher.
"Just as tragic, we're now investigating what appears to be the murder of 16 innocent Afghan civilians at the hand of a U.S. servicemember," Gen. John Allen told the Senate Armed Services Committee. FULL POST