WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Wednesday revoked awards given to several military prosecutors in the court-martial of a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner but convicted of unlawfully posing for photos with his dead body.
Wow! Folks, get a load of this article. The President of the United States, Commander of this country’s Armed Forces had to step in and do the job for two of his Rear Admirals. Rear Admiral Lindsey and Bolivar, as Commanding Officer of US Navy Region Southwest (San Diego), were the Convening Authorities for Chief Eddie Gallagher’s court-martial. Admiral Lindsey was replaced by Admiral Bolivar at a change of command in March of this year.
In Chief Gallagher’s case the prosecutor was taken off the case because he got caught improperly using spy ware to track defense lawyers’ email. Hmmm…so much for defense attorney/client privilege in the US Navy. In civilian terms that is called prosecutor misconduct.
The court-martial found Chief Gallagher not guilty of the murder charge. They did find him guilty of taking a photograph with a dead terrorist and the chief is awaiting sentencing for that charge. Chief Gallagher was fighting in Mosul where the battle raged for years. Causality reports vary but besides over 9000 Iraqi and Kurdish combatant deaths there are an estimated 40,000 civilians killed and another 1 million civilians displaced. In other words, there were bodies everywhere and finding a body free shot is difficult in a battlefield like Mosul.
The Convening Authority (CA) for a military general court-martial decides on the disposition of cases to investigation, send to trial, and also selects the members of a court-martial. The findings of the court-martial are actually recommendations that can be accepted, modified or even completely dismissed by the CA. All authority for the court-martial including the judge, prosecutor and the sitting court-martial board members are delegated from the CA. The military justice system is designed like this because the commander is required to maintain the good order and discipline of their command.
Because the CA holds authority over the judge, jury, defendant and prosecutor, it is the CA responsibility to maintain the good order and disciple of the court-martial. Prosecutor misconduct should not be tolerated because it undermines the trust and the fairness that holds the legitimacy of the military justice system together. In Chief Gallagher’s case, when the prosecutor misconduct “spyware” was discovered, the CA should have immediately reacted with some form of strict censor. The judge did order the chief prosecutor replacement but that did not preclude the prosecutors reporting senior from submitting awards for the prosecutor’s misconduct. Where was the CA when these medals were written, submitted and approved?
Folks, our senior military leadership is abusing and scapegoating our warriors and the military justice system for the sake of political prosecutions. It is time for investigations and the re-education of leaders on ethics and the trust and fairness that needs to be established in the military justice system.
Don’t believe me? Read this article: Navy Orders Probe into actions of Judge Advocate General Corps Leaders
Article contributed by:
LtCol Bob Weimann, Chairman of the Board of Directors