The Navy attempted to use tracking software to spy on civilian and military defense attorneys for two Navy SEALs charged in connection with the death of an Islamic State fighter and a journalist covering the cases, one of the SEAL's attorneys said on Monday.
"You can't do this without a warrant," said Timothy Parlatore, who represents Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher. "There's a big difference between what a marketing firm can do to check the demographics of its customer base and what the government can do to directly target and track the email communications of a private citizen."
In total, 13 people received an email on May 8 from Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak that included an image that, if opened, would have allowed the Navy to see with whom they communicated, Parlatore told Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump's affection for the military runs so deep that he has repeatedly served as an advocate for service members accused or convicted of murder.
Not only has he pardoned a former Army lieutenant who was convicted of killing an Iraq detainee, the president has also voiced support for two other service members accused of murder while their cases are still pending.
On May 6, the president pardoned Michael Behenna, who had served prison time after being convicted of killing an Iraqi detainee in 2008. Oklahoma's attorney general had requested a pardon for Behenna last year, arguing that prosecutors had withheld evidence supporting Behenna's claim that he killed the detainee in self-defense, according to the Associated Press.
While the president acted within his Constitutional powers, he also risks creating the impression that the United States condones war crimes, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham, a former military attorney who now teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
"Killing a prisoner you've stripped naked and threatened with a gun ain't a moral or lawful act: It's murder," VanLandingham told Task & Purpose. "One pardon of such a war crime isn't a pattern, and hopefully such pardon will be the only such condonation of a war crime that many, many other soldiers and Marines and sailors in Behanna's shoes had greater moral courage and integrity not to commit."
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has vowed to ask President Donald Trump to pardon a Navy SEAL accused of killing a wounded ISIS fighter if the SEAL is found guilty at court-martial.
Hunter, a Marine veteran, said he is confident that Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher is innocent of charges against him, but he also believes, "The U.S. military justice system is not a fair one."
Hunter has long been an advocate for service members whom he says are victimized by the military justice system, though he has faced legal troubles himself. Last year, he and his wife were indicted in federal court for allegedly misusing campaign funds. A trial date has been set for September.
"Eddie needs his day in court," Hunter said Wednesday at a press conference. "I hope that he can have a fair trial. I don't trust the Navy to give him a fair trial, but I think that with all the focus on this case, he stands more of a chance of getting a fair trial than he would have if we had not brought to light what I think are all the injustices against him."
When Task & Purpose asked Hunter if he would ask the president to pardon Gallagher in the event that the SEAL is convicted, the congressman replied: "Absolutely."
The civilian attorney for Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher said he will show lawmakers video footage on Wednesday that destroys prosecutors' case against his client.
Gallagher is accused of killing a wounded ISIS fighter during the 2017 battle for Mosul, but helmet camera footage from other members of his platoon show Gallagher actually tried to save the fighter's life, said Timothy Parlatore.
"It shows that Chief Gallagher's immediate reaction was not to murder him but rather to help him," Parlatore told Task & Purpose on Monday. "After all that, why would he take out his knife and stab him?"