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tv   Nightline  ABC  May 26, 2017 12:37am-1:07am EDT

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, torture tapes. elite iraqi soldiers leading the fight against isis hailed as heros on social media, praised by the u.s. military. but footage from a whistle-blower telling a very different story. graphic scenes of torture and murder caught on camera. these soldiers beating civilians. >> this is just torture for fun. >> smiling through sadistic acts of violence with no intelligence value. >> this is happening all the time? >> it's happening all the time. plus, pay more? payless car rental promising a low price online but the better business bureau issuing a warning. complaints for extra fees customers say they didn't want. we took hidden cameras to the rental counter. >> that's not included in the rate. >> what we found what you should
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know before renting a car. first the "nightline 5." >> mm, this new beneful grain free is so healthy. good chicken. here come the accents. blueberries and pumpkin, wow. spinach, that was my favorite bite so far. >> new beneful grain free. out with the grain, in with the farm-raised chicken. healthful, flavorful, beneful. only tylenol rapid release gels have laser-drilled holes. they release medicine fast for fast pain relief. tylenol. >> and number one in just 60 seconds.
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good evening. we begin with an abc news investigation in a place where cameras rarely go, inside the fight against isis. this story involves a photo
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journalist embedded with iraqi soldiers working with america to take down isis. but what this reporter witnessed on the front lines was far from heroic. he saw these u.s. allies torturing and murdering civilians, behavior that's being described as nothing short of sadistic. here's abc's chief investigative correspondent brian ross. >> reporter: in the fight to destroy isis, these elite iraqi soldiers have been appraisprais the u.s. as helping to lead the charge. these are the men of what's called the iraqi emergency response division. the erd. their battlefield exploits captured in this combat video licensed by abc news. >> they are against isis. >> reporter: the hours of video and still photos are the result of great battlefield courage by this iraqi photo journalist, ali akadi, who was embedded last year with the emergency response division.
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but tonight akadi is showing another kind of courage, blowing the whistle on soldiers he followed and became friends with. revealing for the first time graphic scenes of torture and murder of civilians. some too horrific to be broadcast. it all raises the question of whether the u.s. is turning a blind eye. >> was this happening all the time? >> this is happening all the time. >> reporter: arkadi is an award-winning photo journalist whose work for the respected agency 7 shows the human side of war. the victims. the orphans. the soldiers. >> i'm photo journalist from iraq -- >> reporter: invited to travel with the emergency response division, his original idea was to feature these two iraqi soldiers as heroes. a captain from the sunni sect of islam. and a corporal from the shia sect. so your idea was to show a positive story. >> yeah. >> people from both sides of the religion. >> yeah. >> working together against
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isis. >> yeah. >> reporter: arkadi went everywhere. night and day. with the erd. from fallujah to mosul. as time went by they began to trust you? >> yes. i like the people's personalities, very good guys. it was a very, very good group. >> reporter: but it was on this night raid outside mosul last november when arkadi says he began to realize the soldiers he was following were no heroes. entering the home of a family, they ignore a crying mother and her children. you're scaring the children, she says. they pull the husband outside and begin to beat him. claiming he and his wife once helped isis. and then the soldiers, including captain omar nazar, the sunni officer who arkadi was going to focus on for his positive story,
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forced the captain to repeat a pledge of loyalty to the isis leader abu bakr al baghdadi. according to arkadi, the captain wanted him to later edit the tape so it would appear the man knew the isis pledge without prompting in order to justify killing him. >> they knew you had this video? >> yeah. >> they knew if it got out, there would be trouble? >> yeah. >> reporter: and it got worse. the very next day, arkadi and his camera were present when the unit methodically prepared to torture this man, a sheep herder whose teenage sons were suspected of working for isis. as a senior officer gives the directions, "when i tell you to kick, you let him go." the soldiers close the curtains but allow arkadi to continue filming the ugly scene. >> it's extremely disturbing. >> reporter: we showed the
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footage to sara lee woodson of human rights watch. >> it's terrible torture, horrible torture. this is actually happening under command authority. this is someone with some level of authority who has the jurisdiction to tell soldiers what to do, telling his soldiers how to torture this detainee. >> reporter: seemingly confident the photo journalist would never expose them. >> not shy at all, in fact, they're smiling. and frankly, there's not even a pretext here of torture in the name of obtaining intelligence. this is just torture for fun. >> sadistic? >> sadistic. >> reporter: in a statement to abc news, the emergency response division said the video images are fabrications created by isis to make iraqi soldiers look bad. but later in a remarkable phone call with abc news, captain nazar admitted the video was real and said he had nothing to apologize for. that he can tell in ten minutes or less, who is and who is not isis.
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>> translator: we have made mistakes but they were all directed toward the enemy, isis, and i'm proud of those mistakes. >> it's no different than what isis does, on the same moral equivalency of what they do. >> reporter: we showed the video to retired green beret lieutenant colonel scott mann, who served in iraq and elsewhere as a counter againinsurgency ad and helped train special operations officers. >> if you're asking if there's a place for that on the modern battlefield, absolutely not. this is the powder keg for strategic failure. this is the narrative fuel that groups like isis look for. >> this is really counterproductive in the fight against isis? >> it's totally counterproducti counterproductive. >> reporter: so the new revealing footage we obtained raises questions of what u.s. military officials know or tolerate. on this night, the torture by the erd unit of two iraqi brothers was led by a soldier described to arkadi as the unit's liaison with the u.s. military.
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the torturer himself told arkadi that american soldiers taught him this so-called interrogation technique, applying the point of a knife to a sensitive spot behind the ear. the two brothers, one a car salesman, the other who owned a falafel stand, were supposedly under suspicion as isis supporters. although arkadi says the soldiers knew they actually had escaped from isis. they're not isis? >> they're not isis. >> reporter: a few days later, arkadi received this cell phone video from an erd soldier showing the dead body of one of the brothers who was tortured. on the video, a soldier says "we took revenge." in our phone call, captain nazar said his group has instructions not to take prisoners. >> translator: we do not want prisoners from isis, i'm telling you, we don't take prisoners." >> what should the u.s. reaction be the official pentagon response to these images we sent to them? >> well, it should be rep ra
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hengs, the same we feel right now. based on what i've seen here, that can't be allowed to persist. and there should be punishment for anyone that's connected -- this is a violation of law and warfare. >> reporter: in a statement the american embassy in baghdad told abc news the u.s. has not provided military aid, arms or assistance to the emergency response division. apparently because of previous human rights violations. yet the footage we obtained shows erd soldiers with the very anti-tank weapons the u.s. has been providing to iraqi forces. and earlier this year, a senior u.s. military official in baghdad, colonel brett sylvia, publicly praised the erd in a briefing for reporters back at the pentagon. >> they have proven to be a very effective fighting force. this is the first time that we have advised them, and it has been a really fruitful partnership in all regards. >> reporter: the two soldiers who invited arkadi to follow them, captain nazar and corporal
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haydr ali, have developed a folk hero status in iraq, the subject of a social media video called "happy baghdad" produced by arkady. at one point arkady became very close with the two men. to his shame, arkady admitted to us after our interview that he himself did go along twice and struck captives. but now arkady has fled iraq, breaking out his graphic video, his family in hiding after receiving death threats from the two soldiers he once considered friends. do you think they would kill you? >> yeah, why not? it's easy. >> would you ever be able to go back to iraq? >> i don't know. really, i don't know. >> reporter: of all the images ar arkady showed us, the most disturbing may be one the soldiers themselves recorded on a phone and sent to him.
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it shows two soldiers chasing down a handcuffed prisoner and then carrying out a brutal field execution. >> that's extra judicial killing. i don't even have words for it. >> that's a murder? >> that's a murder. >> reporter: in our phone call, captain nazar told us human rights don't apply to people that he suspects of being isis. >>. >> translator: he's not human, he's a monster. >> isn't that murder? >> translator: no, it's not considered murder. >> is there now going to be an investigation? >> translator: i'm already a star. ali would make me a bigger star by doing this. why? my country is longing for someone who would help it get rid of terrorism. >> reporter: the soldiers thought their secrets were safe with arkady. tonight they are learning they are not. for "nightline," brian ross, abc news, new york. >> our thanks to brian ross for that report. up next on "nightline," a
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we use hidden cameras at the counter of a remts car company after customers complained of charges for services they say they didn't want. sometimes costing them hundreds of dollars. what abc's geo benitez and his team saw. >> hello, how are you? >> reporter: we go undercover at a payless car rental location. >> and just the car right now, no extra whatever. >> reporter: no extra fees.
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we're getting charged a daily insurance fee even though the bill says it's optional. >> it's mandatory, that charge. >> it comes with the rate. >> reporter: abc decided to rent cars from payless after customers said they were hit with unexpected fees. richard alexander rented from them in vegas for six days. did your quoted price, $217? >> i thought it was a great teal. >> what happened? >> i was given a bill for $528. >> reporter: payless with more than 200 locations worldwide is the target of a proposed class action lawsuit by alexander and other plaintiffs who allege payless uses deceptive practices to charge customers additional fees. alexander says in his case it began when he accepted what he thought was supposed to be a free upgrade. >> i specifically asked them, $217, right? i was told yes. i told him that i did not want any added insurance. >> reporter: he says he initialled the contract where he was told but only later realized he had been charged for that insurance that he didn't want.
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and more. you were charged $159 for this lost damage waiver, $35 for the gas service option, you have another $35 for roadside protection. that adds up to a lot of money. >> it does. we returned the vehicle. the same person happened to be working. i confronted him. and his response was, "you can open up a ticket complaint. >> what happened when you opened up a ticket complaint? i got a response stating there was nothing they were going to do about it. >> reporter: complaints about add-ons, insurance, roadside protection, fuel charges despite returning with a full tank, are the main allegations by customers who claim they were charged for services they didn't want. >> payless has used deceptive business practices in order to lure customers into the shop to rent their vehicles. >> lure customers? >> lure customers in. they use low rates online to get people to use them over other rental agencies, then when you get there, they slam you with additional fees. >> reporter: the better business
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bureau giving the company their lowest mark for more than 800 complaints over the last three years. >> an "f" rating. they have sales practice issues and contract issues and billing issues with consumers. >> reporter: we sent abc producers with hidden cameras to rent cars. our rental from payless at laguardia airport checks out, no problem no extra fees. our second one from jfk also had no extra fees. but after we pick it up, our mechanic notices a major issue. >> this is a dangerous tire. they all are. >> reporter: all four tires are bald. and look at these holes. >> it's a blowout waiting to happen. >> reporter: we call payless, they send a tow truck for the car. >> the mechanic said it wasn't safe to drive. >> reporter: back at the office the producers get pushback. >> one mechanic said the car shouldn't be on the road. >> you have drove it. >> reporter: a manager intervenes. she gives us a full refund. the payless corporate office told us the pyre problem you
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describe is highly unusual, safety is the top priority, and we have followed up with a supervisor at that location. but it's the newark location where we have questions about extra fees. we go in without a reservation and ask for no extra fees. but we notice the loss damage waiver comes with the rental. >> it's mandatory? >> it comes with the total, yes. >> reporter: the contract says it's optional. we signed with a $29 daily insurance fee, plus a daily $5.99 roadside service fee that charge also appears to be optional on the payless website. we ask about the charges. the manager says we got a deal. >> now if we rate shop and we give you the actual rate, it actually increases. if i happen to alter anything it increases your price, unfortunately. >> reporter: we're going to try to rent another car and see what happens. we send two producers back to that same newark location who each want to rent an economy car with two days no extra fees.
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shannon reserved online for a quote of $138. sarah walks up without a reservation. >> i don't want any extra charges on it, though. >> reporter: but when sarah tries to remove that insurance, we get a different take from our last exchange. when they said they could take away the insurance while increasing the rate. >> we can't take it out, it's included in the rate. >> there's no way to get rid of that? what if i pay a different, a higher rate? >> there's no rate -- we can't charge you a higher rate. >> reporter: sarah passes on the rental. next up, shannon with the reservation. payless tells her they don't have any economy cars available, despite her reservation. that never came up with sarah. >> all i have is a full-sized suv. it's actually going to be a difference of $25 a day. >> reporter: $25 a day more? but wait. she reserved economy. and their own website says if they don't have that car available you'll get an upgrade at no extra cost. and she's charged that daily roadside service fee of $5.99 with no option to decline.
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a $138 quote ultimately jumps to $216. what do you think people should do to avoid something like this happening to them? >> look for a rental car company that you can trust. that has a good grade with the better business bureau. make an educated decision. don't base your purchase decision solely on the price of the vehicle. >> reporter: after repeatedly declining our request for an interview, payless sent a statement saying they could not comment on the pending litigation. as for our experiences they said, we are concerned about any negative rental experiences that you may have had at payless. we always strive to provide customers with a positive rental experience. we are investigating your concerns with your experiences to ensure that our employees' statements and conduct always remain consistent with our policies and procedures." but richard alexander is still looking for a better explanation. >> i just think it's ridiculous. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm geo benitez in newark, new jersey. >> our thanks to geo. we'll be right back.
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we want to thank you for watching abc news tonight and remind you we're online 24/7 at abcnews.com and on our "nightline" facebook page. thanks again for watching and good night. >> welcome to whiz kids week here on "who wants to be a millionaire." we've invited some of the smartest kids we could find to play with us this week, and they're hoping to make their proud parents even prouder by walking out of here with a big pile of cash. so let's play "who wants to be a millionaire." [dramatic musical flourish] ♪ >> hey, everybody, welcome to whiz kids week here on "who wants to be a millionaire."
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[cheers and applause] today's whiz kid was taking apart computers before he even lost his two front teeth. some may call him the next bill gates. i just like to call him our next millionaire. from athens, alabama, please welcome 13-year-old connor higgins. [cheers and applause] welcome back, bud. >> welcome. thank you. >> good to have you. so, you love computers, you're taking 'em apart. how old were you when you started busting up computers? >> ooh. [laughs] well, busting up computers, probably just a few years ago, but first using computers, i was two years old, and that was fun. >> and so you actually-- and you like working on the older computers. >> yeah, i love the older computers from the '80s and '90s, i think they're a lot more interesting than computers now, 'cause they were a lot more brand specific, whereas now it doesn't matter which one you buy, they all run the same operating system. big whoop, so. >> pretty awesome, and by the way, you're in the middle of a great game. you've handled yourself very well. we'll catch everybody up-to-date. you're at $3,000.

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