Damn the evidence, full speed ahead!

An update on the SEAL 3 courts-martials: the prosecution’s paper-thin case has taken several more blows recently, but the prosecution limps forward, nonetheless. From The US Report:

At a Scottsdale, Ariz. rally on Saturday, Petty Officer Matthew McCabe – the only SEAL actually accused of striking the detainee – announced that he passed an independently-administered polygraph on March 16.

Additionally, one of the two charges against fellow SEAL Jonathan Keefe has been dropped, as the investigator failed to inform Keefe of his right to remain silent. The same NCIS investigator admitted that he also failed to inform Julio Huertas – the third charged SEAL – of his right to remain silent, so his charges could be dropped as well.

And McCabe’s attorney also informed me that last week the defense’s key witnesses – four SEALs and a Navy Corpsman – were granted immunity and would testify on behalf of the accused SEALs.

All that remains now is the word of a terrorist, who is trained to fake abuse, and a Master-at-Arms Third Class who has given five conflicting statements.

Posted on March 30, 2010 at 11:38 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military · Tagged with: , , , ,

Falsification charges dropped against SEAL Keefe

Recent developments have further weakened the case against three Navy SEALs charged with assaulting an al Qaeda detainee. One development will impact the case for all three—the inadmissibility of a statement given by Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe.

At a Scottsdale, Ariz. rally on Saturday, Petty Officer Matthew McCabe – the only SEAL actually accused of striking the detainee – announced that he passed an independently-administered polygraph on March 16.

Neal Puckett, McCabe’s attorney told The US Report, “No military polygraph was administered.”

SEALs captured Ahmed Hashim Abed without firing a shot in a 2009 nighttime raid. Abed is believed to be responsible for the grisly 2004 ambush in Iraq where four security contractors were murdered and their bodies mutilated. Once in U.S. custody, Abed claimed to have received  injuries that court documents state amount to a punch in the stomach.

More than 150 supporters attended the event despite the venue’s limited seating. Congressman John Shadegg (R – Ariz.), one of the event’s speakers, stated that trying these SEALs in a case like this is “creating our own demise.” Shadegg is one of 77 co-sponsors of HR 977, a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.). HR 977 honors McCabe, Huertas, and Keefe for their “heroic actions.” The bill was introduced in December, and has been referred to committee.

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SEAL 3 courts-martials are drumhead trials

In September, 2009, members of SEAL Team 3 captured Ahmed Hashim Abed, the man believed to be the mastermind of the 2004 Fallujah ambush where four Americans were murdered and their bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge. Although Abed was armed, the SEALs apprehended him without firing a shot.

However, the military has brought charges against three of the SEALs involved in Abed’s detention. As the al Qaeda training manual instructs, Abed has claimed that he was abused. According to court documents, his injuries amount to a punch in the stomach.

Rightfully so, the convening authority of the courts-martial has since deemed that Abed will not be present at the trial, and his statements will not be allowed as evidence.

But in the meantime, the military has offered no corroborating evidence, such as photos or medical reports, to support the prosecution. All it appears they have now is five conflicting statements by a sailor that claims to have witnessed the incident. There is also a chain of custody issue: Before being transferred to U.S. custody, Abed was initially detained at an Iraqi facility. If Abed truly was struck, how can the military know for sure that the alleged injury didn’t take place during his stay with the Iraqis?

The SEALs were initially offered an Article 15 hearing. Although it carried lesser punishments, accepting the hearing would have been viewed as an admission of guilt. Instead, the SEALs chose to have a trial by courts-martial, where all the evidence would be considered, but the punishments are significantly more severe.

These fine operators have experienced far more pain and suffering during any given moment of any training evolution than what this terrorist has alleged. How can we invest years and millions of dollars honing the skills of these elite warriors, only to ruin their careers over accusations of our enemies?

If the SEALs wanted to rough up Abed, they could have done so prior to or during his capture. But they didn’t. Then they could have accepted the Article 15 hearing and perhaps continued serving in their unit. But they didn’t.

The American public is against these trials. Congress has sent multiple letters to our military and political leaders. Members of the special warfare community have privately expressed that this trial has already negatively affected the way they do business. Does our leadership really want to put the words of an al Qaeda operative over our country’s national security?

It is a travesty that the military allowed this trial to go forward. Basing a case on the word of a terrorist, conflicting statements, chain of custody issues, and no corroborating evidence is a slap in the face of our fighting forces. This courts-martial will serve to embolden our enemies, and will undermine the effectiveness of our armed forces.

Chris Carter
Director, The Victory Institute

Courts-Martial for Navy SEAL Heroes Still Planned Despite Pressure, Questions

A top military commander has stated that courts-martial for three Navy SEALs charged with allegedly mishandling a terrorist detainee will continue despite pressure from both Congress and the American people.

The three SEALs were part of the platoon that captured of Ahmed Hashim Abed, a top al Qaeda leader during a nighttime raid in September. Abed is the suspected mastermind of a 2004 ambush who killed four Blackwater security contractors – including a former SEAL – in Fallujah, Iraq.

Petty Officer Matthew McCabe is the only SEAL accused of actually assaulting Abed, and also faces charges of dereliction of duty and making a false statement. According to the Newport News Daily Press, court documents state that McCabe’s alleged assault amounts to a punch in the stomach.

Petty Officers Julio Huertas and Jonathan Keefe also face charges of dereliction and making a false statement. Huertas has a third charge that is pending investigation.

The trial is still set to continue despite a massive outpouring of public support. Thirty thousand Americans have signed Congressman Dan Burton’s (R – Ind.) online petition calling for the military to end the prosecution. In December, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R – Calif.) sent a letter signed by 33 members of Congress to Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting intervention. Later that month, Rep. Burton sent another letter, this time signed by 40 representatives asking that the charges be dropped. Over 98,000 people have joined a Facebook group supporting the SEALs, and over 114,000 have signed an online petition at Human Events.

“Instead of medals and commendations, our heroes are being met with twisted jurisprudence,” wrote Rep. Burton. “This sends a backwards message to our men and women in the military who are charged with carrying out dangerous missions and must often use aggressive force in dealing with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command Central and the convening authority of the case, responded to the Rep. Burton’s letter on December 15th, stating that he is more concerned with an alleged cover-up than he is with Abed’s “relatively minor” injuries.

Gen. Cleveland wrote that Abed’s “alleged injuries were inflicted several hours after the operation had ended, and while in the custody and care of the U.S. at Camp Schweidler’s detainee holding facility.” But how could medical personnel determine exactly when Abed so-called injury took place, and how could they know that the injury wasn’t self-inflicted, or as a result of his capture?

“If the injuries were insignificant, why are the reputations of 3 expert warriors on the line?” asks Kay Day at The US Report. Indeed, Gen. Cleveland could have simply let the matter go, but opted for non-judicial punishment, which the sailors declined; accepting the punishment could have ended their career in special operations.

But did the alleged abuse even take place?

Lesson 18 of al Qaeda’s training manual says to convince the judge that the member was tortured and to complain of mistreatment to the court. It could be that Abed was just doing what he was trained to do – continue the battle from the courtroom (apparently the only environment that SEALs are vulnerable), whether the allegations are true or not. Unfortunately, it appears that the Pentagon is willing to risk the careers of three of the nation’s best warriors in order to find out as anyone above Gen. Cleveland could put an end to the trial as well.

Consider the effect this has on not just the special operations community, but also our conventional forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today’s battlefield has become an extension of the courtroom for our troops and has already had a significantly negative effect on our warfighting capabilities.

Day also asks, “Did military politics and political correctness perhaps play a role in their raising the allegations?”

Entirely likely. Especially when we consider the military’s PC reaction to November’s Fort Hood massacre, where Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire, killing 13 and wounded dozens more. Rather than asking commanders to be on the lookout for more jihadist activity from within the ranks, Army Gen. George Casey asked them to watch for a backlash against Muslim soldiers. Gen. Casey also said that “as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” As to military politics, the current administration’s view of “engaging the enemy” is not done at gunpoint, but diplomatically. Therefore, it behooves military leaders to behave accordingly in order to earn their stars.

Worse than a perceived loss of the Gen. Casey’s beloved “diversity” is the loss of our military’s desire to serve and fight. The Pentagon must take into consideration the loss of morale and unit integrity that today’s Armed Forces experience because of cases like these. A soldier that is expected to fight both on the battlefield and in the court room can not win a war.

As of this writing, the trial is set to begin January 19th. Legal defense funds have been established to help the SEALs fight this battle. See here and here.

[Originally published at Family Security Matters]

SEALs Tired of Watching Their Back says source

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.

Legal defense funds have been established by the Maritime Tactical Security group and Free the SEALs to help the SEAL3 defend themselves in this political battle.

[Originally published at The US Report]

Posted on January 8, 2010 at 13:31 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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