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Bergdahl’s Lawyers Want Gen Abrams Off The Case For Burning Evidence
U.S. Army Forces Command's Gen. Robert Abrams burned evidence in the case for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl - a revelation discovered in an interview with the defense lawyers earlier this week, pushing the lawyers to file a motion to disqualify Abrams.
"Gen. Abrams' inexcusable and baffling conduct plainly disqualifies him from serving as a (convening authority) and requires that the referral be vacated so some officer who will take the time to read defense submissions and not destroy evidence can function on Lt. Col. (Mark) Visger's measured report," according to the motion filed by the defense on Friday.
Lawyers for Bergdahl filed the motion arguing that Abrams should be disqualified as the convening authority, which referred the case to court-martial earlier this year, because he was significantly involved with Bergdahl's case before referral, declined to read comments from Visger's report recommending no jail time and burned letters that could have been relevant in the sentencing phase. The lawyers want Abrams' referral to be vacated and an officer who has not had previous involvement in Bergdahl's case to make a fresh decision on disposition.
Paul Boyce, spokesman for Abrams, didn't comment specifically on the motion, but said it is part of a series of legal motions in Bergdahl's court-martial that will take place on Fort Bragg.
"We continue to maintain careful respect for the military judicial process, the rights of the accused and ensuring the case's fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case," Boyce said.
Bergdahl is charged with desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.
The court-martial was initially scheduled to begin this past Monday, but it was pushed back to Feb. 6 during a motions hearing in May. Officials said the court-martial is expected to last two weeks.
The defense team requested an interview with Abrams on June 16, but a few days later was told by a staff judge advocate that Abrams had declined.
The defense lawyers secured an interview with Abrams on Monday, about a month after Col. Jeffery Nance, the military judge overseeing Bergdahl's case, urged Abrams to comply for an interview.
The interview lasted about an hour. It was unsworn and not recorded, according to the defense.
From the interview, the defense gleaned information that Abrams had been participating in briefs regarding Bergdahl, including advising rescue efforts of Bergdahl, long before he was appointed as the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command.
Abrams, who was briefed about Bergdahl in his capacity as commander of the International Security Assistance Force-Regional Command South in 2012, was appointed to Forces Command in August 2015. He referred the case to court-martial in December 2015.
"Gen. Abrams' pre-FORSCOM involvement in pertinent events and access to information makes him a fact witness and disqualifies him from acting as a convening authority," according to the defense's motion. "Someone in authority should have thought of this before he was picked to relieve Gen. (Mark) Milley as FORSCOM commander and thereby succeed him as convening authority."
The defense team also argued that before he recommended the case for court-martial, Abrams didn't read objections and comments from Visger's report, which said jail time would be inappropriate for Bergdahl.
Finally, the defense team said Abrams destroyed evidence when he burned more than 100 letters he received from members of the public regarding the case. The letters could have been relevant in the sentencing phase of the court-martial and should not have been burned, according to the defense's motion.
Last week, the lawyers asked for oral arguments to show how they believe Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, meddled with the case so much that Bergdahl can't receive a fair trial. They asked the judge to remove the case from the court calendar or, if he won't remove it, to limit Bergdahl's sentence to "no punishment."
McCain has repeatedly made comments about the case and indicated that if the military justice system doesn't punish Bergdahl, the committee will hold a hearing. One of Bergdahl's lawyers, Eugene R. Fidell, has accused McCain of exerting "congressional influence" in the case.
Both motions are scheduled to be discussed during the next preliminary hearing at Fort Bragg on Aug. 22.
Bergdahl walked off a remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban for nearly five years. He was released in May 2014 in exchange for prisoners being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
He has said he walked off his base to catch the attention of military brass. He wanted to warn them about what he believed were serious problems with leadership in his unit.
©2016 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?