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Former Marine attorneys call for congressional inquiry into actions of commandant

Oct. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Twenty-seven former Marine Corps and Navy officers and lawyers are seeking a congressional inquiry into the removal of Maj. James Weirick from his position as deputy staff judge advocate and into allegations of unlawful command influence by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, above, and his senior legal advisers. Weirick made those allegations in a report to the Defense Department Inspector General more than six months ago.
Twenty-seven former Marine Corps and Navy officers and lawyers are seeking a congressional inquiry into the removal of Maj. James Weirick from his position as deputy staff judge advocate and into allegations of unlawful command influence by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, above, and his senior legal advisers. Weirick made those allegations in a report to the Defense Department Inspector General more than six months ago. (Sgt. Ben J. Flores / Marine Corps)
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Some 27 former Marine Corps and Navy officers and lawyers, including a general officer, sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services committees Tuesday, asking for a congressional inquiry into allegations of unlawful command influence centering on Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and his senior legal advisers.

The letter cites legal documentation alleging Amos deprived accused Marines of due process, made misleading statements under oath, engaged in abuse of the legal discovery process to hide evidence, and worked to tarnish the reputation of a Marine Corps whistleblower who came forward to expose the unethical activities of Marine leadership.

“Our country is entitled to trust her Marines completely, and that trust starts first and foremost with the Commandant himself,” the signers wrote.

The allegations stem from a 2011 incident in which scout snipers in Afghanistan filmed themselves urinating on the corpses of insurgents. The video was later posted to YouTube, creating an international embarrassment for the Marine Corps and prompting Amos to embark on a 2012 “Heritage Brief” tour of the Marine Corps in which he condemned the snipers’ actions.

The initial convening authority on the sniper cases, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, would later say in a sworn statement that Amos stripped him of authority to prosecute when he would not promise to ensure that all linked to the scandal were thrown out of the Corps.

Maj. James Weirick, a Marine attorney who filed a complaint with the Defense Department Inspector General alleging that Amos and his advisers had engaged in unlawful command influence, was removed from his post in late September after sending a strongly worded email to one of the advisers named in his complaint.

“To be sure, Major Weirick should be congratulated, and most certainly not condemned, for bringing these issues to the forefront,” the letter writers conclude. “We urge you to exercise your oversight responsibilities and fully explore these events so that due process, fundamental fairness, and most of all, integrity, remain more revered within the military justice system and in the traditions of the United States Marine Corps.”

Included are 28 pages of enclosures, including Waldhauser’s sworn statement, answers that Amos provided to the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary in 2012 regarding his Heritage Brief, and a Marine Corps Times story about Weirick’s firing.

The letter’s signatories include retired Brig. Gen. David Brahms, the former staff judge advocate to the commandant from 1985 to 1988, and several attorneys who have defended Marines connected to the urination scandal and unlawful influence allegations: retired Col. Jane Siegel, who represents Weirick, and retired Lt. Col. Guy Womack, who defended former Sgt. Rob Richards, one of the snipers in the video. Another signer is retired reserve Lt. Col. Charles Gittins, a longtime military defense attorney who left his practice last year saying he had “decided not to bang my head against the military justice wall any longer.”

The last of the eight Marines facing disciplinary reaction related to the scandal, Capt. James Clement, was recommended to be forced out of the Corps with an honorable discharge last week following a Board of Inquiry hearing at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

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