Questions surround the final weeks of Nicholas Berg, the 26-year-old American beheaded in Iraq last May. Now his father, Michael Berg, is banging on doors in D.C. to research the circumstances of his son's detention in an Iraqi jail prior to his abduction. U.S. military officials have said Berg was detained by Iraqi police for 13 days before being offered a safe trip out of Iraq, which he declined. But Rep. Jim Gerlach tells NEWSWEEK that even if Iraqi police had physical custody of Berg, the U.S. had "legal custody." There is no evidence Berg was allowed to consult a lawyer or contact his family for almost two weeks. Violence in Iraq escalated and Berg missed a scheduled flight home. Berg was never charged with any wrongdoing.
Berg's father blames U.S. authorities. "They told my son they had contacted his family, when they hadn't, and they risked his safety by keeping him in Iraq when he had been preparing to leave," he told NEWSWEEK, citing an e-mail Nick sent the day he was released: "I have a rock in my stomach." "Yes, there was a bit of confusion," says one State Department official about conflicting reports on who had custody of Berg. U.S. authorities say they have launched an investigation into Berg's abduction, but Gerlach has yet to learn who's conducting it.