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SEAL Officer Accused Of Covering Up War Crimes Heads To Court-Martial
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — A Navy SEAL officer accused of failing to properly report alleged war crimes carried out by one of his men was arraigned on Tuesday in San Diego.
After being informed of his rights, Lt. Jacob Portier did not enter a plea or choose whether he'd ask for a jury or bench trial, since his civilian attorney has raised questions over a protective order in the case.
"Let me be clear: He'll be pleading not guilty because he is innocent," his attorney Jeremiah Sullivan said after the hearing. Sullivan has argued that the investigation into Portier and his unit, SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon, should be classified in order to protect past and future SEAL operations.
"Parading these warfighters around puts them at risk," Sullivan said. The question of whether to restrict information in the case should be worked out sometime next week, according to a timeline discussed by the judge on Tuesday.
Portier is accused of dereliction of duty, failure to obey a lawful order, and making false official statements, according to a charge sheet previously released by the Navy. Prosecutors allege Portier failed to properly report the alleged actions of his subordinate, SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who has been accused of murdering a wounded ISIS fighter and shooting at innocent civilians in Mosul, Iraq in 2017.
Portier also allegedly carried out a reenlistment ceremony for Gallagher near the corpse. When asked about it by a superior, according to the charge sheet, Portier said "there was nothing criminal" about it, but "it was just in bad taste."
Sullivan told reporters that Portier "never ordered" his men to pose next to the body of a dead ISIS fighter, but disputed the criminality of holding a reenlistment ceremony in a combat zone. "There is nothing more honorable than a warfighter being able to reenlist on the battlefield," Sullivan said.
Military prosecutors dropped one of the charges prior to Tuesday's hearing, which alleged that Portier had knowledge of the alleged murder and "wrongfully concealed" evidence to authorities. "That's a big deal," Sullivan told Task & Purpose of the dropped charge.
When asked whether Portier was potentially being charged as a way for the government to "flip" him to testify against Gallagher, Sullivan told Task & Purpose, "there's nothing to flip on here. He will testify honestly and truthfully."
Meanwhile, Gallagher's trial is scheduled for Feb. 19.
WATCH: A Navy SEAL Is Accused Of Committing War Crimes In Iraq
The Navy has fired five senior leaders so far in August – and the month isn't even over.
While the sea service is famous for instilling in officers that they are responsible for any wrongdoing by their sailors – whether they are aware of the infractions or not – the recent rash of firings is a lot, even for the Navy.
A Navy spokesman said there is no connection between any of the five officers relieved of command, adding that each relief is looked at separately.
'We are a people organization' — Army leaders push renewed focus on soldiers amid rise in sexual assaults and suicides
After months of focusing on modernization priorities, Army leadership plans to tackle persisting personnel issues in the coming years.
Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Tuesday at an event with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that what people can to hear service leadership "talk a lot about ... our people. Investing in our people, so that they can reach their potential. ... We are a people organization."
Two U.S. military service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Resolute Support mission announced in a press release.
Their identities are being withheld pending notification of next of kin, the command added.
A total of 16 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan so far in 2019. Fourteen of those service members have died in combat including two service members killed in an apparent insider attack on July 29.
Two U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been killed in non-combat incidents and a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was declared dead after falling overboard while the ship was supporting operations in Afghanistan.
At least two defense contractors have also been killed in Afghanistan. One was a Navy veteran and the other had served in the Army.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's paramilitary groups on Wednesday blamed a series of recent blasts at their weapons depots and bases on the United States and Israel.
The statement from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella grouping of Iraq's mostly Shi'ite Muslim paramilitary groups, many of which are backed by Iran, said the United States had allowed four Israeli drones to enter the region accompanying U.S. forces and carry out missions on Iraqi territory.