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Congressman, attorney come to fired Marine whistle-blower's defense

Oct. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Walter Jones
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. (Harry Hamburg / AP)
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An outspoken member of Congress wants the Pentagon’s investigative body to address the Marine Corps’ decision to fire a whistle-blower for sending a strongly worded email to one of the commandant’s former advisers. Meanwhile, a civilian attorney with military ties has asked the Navy Department to censure a senior Marine Corps official who compared the whistle-blower’s email to last month’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

On Monday, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent a letter to the head of the Defense Department Inspector General’s office asking him to investigate “attempts to discredit” Maj. James Weirick. Weirick, a Marine attorney, filed his own complaint with the IG in March, alleging Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and members of his legal staff interfered with military justice in order to ensure Marines were punished for a 2011 war zone scandal.

Weirick was removed from his post Sept. 23, issued a military restraining order, and asked to submit to a mental-health evaluation and surrender his personal firearms. The order cited an email Weirick sent to Peter Delorier, a former legal adviser for Amos who is named in Weirick’s IG complaint. In the email, Weirick begged Delorier to “come clean” about his role in the alleged miscarriage of justice by Amos’s office, saying that when it comes to professional consequences, no one can “protect you from Weirick.”

“Each time I read [Weirick’s email] I see nothing that constitutes a threat and I am truly amazed by the terrible overreaction by the USMC,” Jones says in his letter to Defense Department Inspector General Jon Rymer. “Apparently, there are very few who are willing to tell the truth, and I refuse to let this man’s career and reputation be ruined for simply doing what is right.”

Jones’ district in eastern North Carolina includes Camp Lejeune, which is home to the scout sniper unit at the center of this controversy. Last year, video surfaced online showing four Marines with the unit urinating on the remains of dead insurgents in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The congressman previously petitioned the IG to investigate Weirick’s allegations that Amos, Delorier and Delorier’s former supervisor, Robert Hogue, were inappropriately involved in the urination cases.

A spokeswoman for the DoD IG, Bridget Serchak, has said the IG cannot comment on the matter.

Civilian attorney L. Lee Thweatt, a former Marine and one-time colleague of Weirick’s, also came to the whistle-blower’s defense. On Tuesday, he wrote to Paul Oostburg Sanz, who heads the Navy Department’s office of general counsel. In his letter, Thweatt objects to comments made by Hogue, Amos’ senior legal adviser, referencing the Navy Yard massacre, which left 13 dead, including the gunman.

Hogue’s written statement, published Tuesday by Marine Corps Times, indicates Weirick’s email triggered warnings in light of the Navy Yard shooting. “Against the backdrop of that tragedy,” he wrote, “I am very concerned for the safety of my clients and staff given the bizarre nature of the communications in this case.”

Thweatt’s letter to Oostburg Sanz says Hogue deserves professional censure for making remarks intended to tarnish the reputation of a “good and decent man.” He called on Oostburg Sanz to “put a stop to these tactics immediately.”

“The cannibalization of that terrible tragedy to serve the commandant’s desires here is abhorrent and offensive, not just to Major Weirick and his family, but to the victims of the family who mourn the Navy Yard tragedy, and to every other decent and honorable person serving in the Navy-Marine Corps team, both currently and in the past,” he wrote.

Thweatt said he had not received a response from Oostburg Sanz’s office as of Wednesday. Marine Corps Times contacted the Navy Department seeking comment, but was directed to the Division of Public Affairs at Marine Corps headquarters. A Marine spokesman there, Capt. Richard Ulsh, said the Marine Corps was unaware of Thweatt’s correspondence to Oostburg Sanz.

Through his attorney, Jane Siegel, Weirick has said he is complying with all requests from his command and undergoing a voluntary mental health exam this week. He also awaits the results of a force preservation council review. The council was convened to assess whether Weirick poses a risk to himself or other personnel, Siegel said.

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