The US Report recently interviewed a Navy SEAL officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, on the effect the upcoming Special Courts-Martial of three SEALs has on the special warfare community. Petty Officers Matthew McCabe, Julio Huertas, and Jonathan Keefe face various charges over allegedly mishandling Ahmed Hashim Abed when they participated in the capture of the man authorities believe is a most-wanted al Qaeda leader.
Abed is the suspected mastermind of a 2004 ambush that killed four Blackwater security contractors – including a former SEAL – in Fallujah, Iraq.
Military charge sheets show allegations against the SEAL3; among them, that McCabe is accused of punching Abed in the midsection. Other charges include allegations that Huertas and Keefe covered up the incident.
“This prosecution will inevitably drive more quality SEALs out of the community,” TUSR’s source stated. “Many enlisted SEALs are already at odds end with the leadership and rules of engagement.”
Resources like the SEALs don’t just grow on trees. The Navy has just over 2,000 SEALs, which take years to train at a reported cost of half a million dollars per commando. No doubt this case – which military leaders could have dismissed entirely – provides even more insult to injury for these highly-trained warriors. In fact, the case can be stopped if Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the commander of Special Operations Command Central and the convening authority for the trial, or one of his superiors drops the charges.
“Overzealous inquiries have often found so-called abuses that were later easily explained, but often the explanations were disregarded,” said our source, who goes on to describe the legal minefield the commandos must negotiate in order to do their job: “SEAL field commanders often write detailed reports that emphasize professional conduct. Months and years later, investigators find criminal acts even though sworn and appointed leaders swear they never happened. Enlisted men are given substandard representation and threatened with years of punishment. Many are told they are being debriefed and not investigated, many are not aware that they are afforded the rights of search and questioning of all American citizens. Seven-page shooter reports have to be filled out if a SEAL handles a militant. All of which can be used against the operator in open court.”
When asked what effect this trial might likely have on future operations, our source stated that “This has already affected future operations. SEALs are hesitant to lay hands on suspected militants for fear of recrimination.”
The official U.S. Navy website states that during Operation Iraqi Freedom, SEALs were instrumental in the success of initial special reconnaissance and direct action missions including the securing of oil infrastructures; the clearing and reconnaissance of waterways; capture of high value targets, raids on suspected chemical, biological and radiological sites; and the first successful POW rescue since World War II. “[Naval Special Warfare] forces continue to conduct direct action, special reconnaissance and over watch missions throughout Iraq … They established a Foreign Internal Defense program, training and advising Iraqi Forces and have worked to prevent terrorists from conducting activities meant to disrupt Iraqi elections.”
That’s a lot to ask from such a small community. Clearly America needs these men defending our freedoms. But with their morale and unit integrity in such a steep decline, how can we expect these men to keep up such a high level of production?
“SEALs are tired of having to watch their back – not only from the enemy – but also from our own leadership,” said our source. Regardless of the legal obstacles they must overcome, the apparent lack of support from above, and of course fighting their enemies, the SEALs still manage to carry out their mission superbly.
As of this writing, the first trial is set to begin January 11.