Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
SEAL Team 6 member charged with impersonating someone to get nude photos
A member of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6 who was named its Sailor of the Year in 2016 has been charged with pretending to be someone else over text messages so he could get nude photographs from women.
Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Howard faces a general court-martial at Naval Station Norfolk, although his civilian defense attorney is seeking to have the case dismissed during a hearing next week.
The case is thrusting the ordinarily secretive naval special warfare community into an uncomfortable spotlight once again.
On Wednesday, a platoon of San Diego-based SEALs was sent home early from Iraq "due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods." And earlier this week, Navy Times reported that members of Virginia Beach-based SEAL Team 10 routinely used cocaine and were able to cheat drug tests before they were caught last year.
Howard's case began with a broader investigation into spoofing — the practice of disguising a communication to make it appear its from a trusted source — at Naval Special Warfare Development Group, according to defense attorney Michael Waddington.
He said someone was using a program to send text messages from fake phone numbers to SEALs and others in the Virginia Beach-based command, which is also known as DEVGRU, or more popularly as SEAL Team 6.
"If you want to embarrass DEVGRU and create a lot of dissension in the ranks it would be so easy to text different people," he said. "This goes beyond this asking for photographs."
Charge sheets accuse Howard of pretending to be multiple people to request the pictures of naked women.
But Waddington said Navy investigators didn't find any nude pictures on Howard's phone, that Howard passed two polygraph tests and the only thing linking him to the messages is that whoever sent them said he or she was once stationed in San Diego and liked to work out with kettle bells. Waddington said that description could apply to any number of SEALs and that whoever wrote it also could've just made it up.
Howard is originally from Texas and was based on the West Coast from 2008 to 2014, according to records provided by the Navy.
Waddington said the case should be dismissed, in part, because he believes the Navy effectively made up charges that aren't specified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, such as "impersonating a person" and "requesting nude photographs under false pretenses." Each of the specifications Howard has been charged with are under General Article 134, which covers "all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."
Waddington has also filed a motion claiming unlawful command influence from Naval Special Warfare Development Group for telling Howard's teammates about the case in a Powerpoint presentation and discouraging them in an email from cooperating with his defense. He said none of Howard's SEAL teammates have been willing to communicate with him since he was "thrown out of his unit" and put on "trash detail."
That lack of cooperation is problematic for Howard, in part, because Waddington wants to use good military character as part of his defense, noting that Howard has won numerous medals, including the Bronze Star with Combat V for valor.
"They have completely obstructed our ability to even defend him. The command can't interfere with someone's right to due process," he said.
If the case is not dismissed, Howard plans to plead not guilty to all charges.
"We're fighting this to the end," Waddington said.
©2019 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.