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Leaders warned Navy SEALs that reporting alleged war crimes could cost them their careers
Seven Navy SEALs were warned that reporting the alleged war crimes of their teammates and calling for a formal investigation could jeopardize their careers, a Navy criminal investigation report revealed.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward "Eddie" Gallagher has been accused of killing an unarmed ISIS fighter with a hunting knife and firing on civilians with a sniper rifle while deployed in Iraq, as well as obstructing justice by attempting to intimidate his fellow SEALs. He allegedly threatened to kill teammates that spoke to authorities about his alleged actions.
Gallagher was arrested in September 2018 following allegations of intimidating witnesses and obstruction of justice, and he was detained at San Diego's Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar. He was officially charged in January with premeditated murder, among other crimes.
In late March, after a tweet by President Trump, Gallagher was moved from the brig at Miramar to a facility at Balboa Naval Medical Center, where he is presently awaiting trial.
His direct superior, Lt. Jacob Portier, is accused of failing to report Gallagher's alleged crimes and burying/destroying evidence. Portier has pleaded not guilty.
Gallagher, a decorated SEAL who earned a Bronze Star for valor, has pleaded not guilty, and his defense is denying all charges.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward "Eddie" Gallagher(Courtesy photo)
When his teammates, members of SEAL Team 7's Alpha Platoon, met privately with their troop commander at Naval Base Coronado in March 2018 to discuss Gallagher's alleged crimes, they were encouraged to keep quiet. The message was "stop talking about it," one SEAL told investigators, according to The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the 439-page report.
Their commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, reportedly told the SEALs that the Navy "will pull your birds," a reference to the eagle-and-trident badges the SEALs wear to represent their hard-earned status as elite warfighters.
His aide, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, told them that the "frag radius" or the area of impact for an investigation into alleged war crimes could be particularly large and damaging to a number of SEALs, The New York Times reported.
The accusers ignored the warning and came forward with their concerns. Now, Gallagher is facing a court-martial trial, which is currently scheduled for May 28.
Gallagher's defense attorney Tim Parlatore told The New York Times that the Navy's investigation report is incomplete, arguing that there are hundreds of additional pages that are sealed. He insists that these documents include testimony stating that Gallagher did not commit the crimes of which he is charged.
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