Gannon University knew before it hired David Martine full time in 2013 that he had previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. At the CIA, he worked in such roles as chief of overseas operations for polygraph and interrogation. His jobs had him working in Iraq after the U.S. invasion.
At Gannon, in Erie, Pa., Martine drew on that experience to teach courses in criminal justice, interrogation and terrorism. The university boasted of his background and expertise in promoting its criminal justice programs and Martine's public appearances. He taught three and sometimes four courses a semester, working on an annual contract. He didn't have nor seek tenure.
Martine's employment ended suddenly this month. He says he was called to the human resources office the day after an article (caution: article features several graphic photos) ran in Newsweek about his work in Iraq and subsequent investigations into what happened to a specific prisoner known as the Iceman who died while being detained by U.S. authorities.
While Martine disputes some parts of the Newsweek article -- and a tone he says portrays him as "a monster" -- he says Gannon didn't give him any chance to offer his views. He says he was told that he should resign and cease all contact with students and colleagues. His Gannon email was immediately eliminated, as was his faculty web page. In an interview Sunday, Martine said he agreed to resign because "I don't want to be where I'm not wanted," but that he was stunned to be barred from communicating with students or even planning a transition for his three courses this semester.
Martine said he remains angry that the university -- which has given him high teaching reviews throughout his career there -- would treat him in this way. Why, he said, should he be ousted in the middle of a yearlong contract for an article about things he is alleged to have done (and disputes he did) in Iraq while serving in U.S. government agencies?
"I would welcome having my record at Gannon viewed under a microscope," he said.
And he added that it was shocking that Gannon -- attended by both of his parents and an institution he has admired -- is treating him this way, without even asking him what really happened in Iraq. While he disagrees with his portrayal in the magazine article, he notes that lengthy investigations of his work never resulted in his indictment, let alone conviction of any crime. And he said that work in Iraq was necessary and a service to his country. "I am not apologizing for working to defend our country, and for trying to stop people from killing people," he said.
As recounted in the Newsweek article, Martine was not present when Manadel al-Jamadi, who was suspected of leading bombings in Baghdad, was brought to the Abu Ghraib prison for interrogation, and where he died shortly after arriving. Martine was called in to figure out what to do about the death, and the Newsweek article suggests that some believe he tried to cover up U.S. culpability. Martine said he and others decided that they should move the body, pretending al-Jamadi was still alive, to avoid violence that Martine said he feared would erupt if word spread immediately of al-Jamadi's death. Ice was used to make al-Jamadi appear alive, and the ice was needed because of extreme heat in Iraq so that the body could be preserved for an autopsy, he said.
There was no attempt at a cover-up, Martine said.
He did admit to one allegation in the Newsweek article -- a detail that portrayed him as callous. Martine said he dubbed the corpse "Bernie," a reference to the film Weekend at Bernie's, in which a dead body is moved about as if still alive. "I unfortunately own that fact," he said.
But Martine said the article was unfair to him in suggesting a cover-up and including many graphic photos from Abu Ghraib that show prisoners being abused. Martine said those photos show real abuse of prisoners but had nothing to do with what he did in dealing with al-Jamadi's death, and unfairly link to those two unrelated situations. (Newsweek's editor-in-chief, Jim Impoco, in a subsequent article, said that Martine was covered fairly. “There is no question that Newsweek treated the subject matter fairly,” he said. “We stand behind the article, which was the culmination of extensive reporting and numerous interviews.”)
An irony of the situation, Martine said, is that he opposes the torture of prisoners, even when the United States is fighting violent groups. "We cannot become what we are fighting against," he said.
He declined to discuss specifically the interrogation techniques he favors, citing the need for "the enemy" not to know "the limits" Americans impose on themselves.
Martine said that, whatever one thinks of the decisions he made in Iraq, a university should not ask for his resignation without hearing him out about his record, or on the basis of a single magazine article having nothing to do with his work at the university.
A Voluntary Departure?
Gannon released a statement late Sunday afternoon calling Martine's departure "voluntary" on his part and saying that "we acknowledge the Newsweek article," but saying nothing about why Martine was asked to resign.
Via email, Keith Taylor, Gannon's president, said, "I’m certain that, both in the public and private sectors, there have been many cases where information has been brought to light that would have a material bearing on employment. While I will not address specific aspects of Mr. Martine’s resignation, I will tell you that the university made every effort to ensure that Mr. Martine was qualified for employment at Gannon. His appointment was based on the facts that we could discover and good-faith statements made by Mr. Martine at the time of his hiring."
As to Martine disputing parts of the Newsweek article, Taylor said, "That is an issue for him to manage with them."
And asked about seeking the departure of an instructor with strong teaching reviews, for allegations having nothing to do with the university, Taylor said, "As you know, teaching reviews are only one of many factors that are taken into consideration in employment. You can be sure that Gannon University did not act rashly in our decisions to employ Mr. Martine nor to accept his resignation. We did our due diligence in exploring a variety of concerns related to Mr. Martine and we were confident in the facts we had at the time these difficult decisions were made by the university and now by Mr. Martine."
Read more by
Today’s News from Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes
What Others Are Reading