Navy Won’t Punish Vice Admiral Stripped Of Security Clearance During ‘Fat Leonard’ Probe

U.S. Navy photo

Fretting about his possible role in the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal, in late 2013 the Navy stripped the security clearance of its top spy, destroying the career of Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch.

On Friday, the Navy closed its review with what it called appropriate administrative action for Branch, the former director of Navy intelligence.

Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and Director of Naval Intelligence (N2/N6), talks about the future of information warfare and answers questions by attendees during WEST 2016.U.S. Navy photo

The U.S. Department of Justice — which has handled the prosecution of those who took bribes from contractor Leonard Glenn Francis and his Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia — brought no charges against Branch.

“The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch and forwarded his matter to the Department of the Navy’s Consolidated Disposition Authority,” said Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka in a written statement. “After completing a thorough and detailed review of the evidence, the CDA took appropriate administrative action. This matter is closed.”

Administrative action can include a non-punitive letter of reprimand or an oral counseling chiding a sailor for questionable conduct. Unlike other judicial or military sanctions, administrative action cannot take pay and privileges from a shipmate.

“We are very proud of my 37 years of service in the Navy,” Branch said by telephone. “The last three years were extremely difficult for my family and me, but we are glad now to turn the page. I look forward to being able to continue to serve the Navy and our nation as a civilian.”

Helmed by Adm. Philip Davidson, the disposition authority has been sifting through hundreds of cases that federal prosecutors passed on. Federal investigators have uncovered widespread instances of Francis defrauding the Navy on contracts after lavishing officers with teams of prostitutes, pricey resort stays and envelopes stuffed with cash.

Vice Adm. Ted Branch is briefed on the Industrial Human Augmentation System (iHAS) as he tours exhibits during DoD Lab Day at the Pentagon, May 14., 2015U.S. Navy photo

Federal prosecutors and Navy leaders have charged 40 sailors, Department of Defense civilians or Fat Leonard associates in the scandal, including Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, the Navy’s former director of intelligence operations. He has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial in federal criminal court on conspiracy, wire fraud and bribery charges.

Federal investigators grilled Branch in November of 2013, forcing the Navy’s leadership to make hard decisions about Branch’s case, said former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Mabus said by telephone that investigators assured Navy leaders in late 2013 that they had substantial evidence pointing to Branch’s wrongdoing and that they would soon make a decision on charging him.

“Obviously, both of those things weren’t true,” said Mabus, adding that “the way it was handled wasn’t fair to Ted Branch and wasn’t fair to the Navy.”

Mabus and his admirals felt that they couldn’t fire Branch from his intelligence post, but they also fretted that he was close to classified information and they needed to protect that. So they left him in his job but wouldn’t clear him to hear or analyze intelligence data.

What he thought would be settled in weeks ended up dragging on for months, then years.

“As time went on, they (at the Department of Justice) questioned us, ‘Why aren’t you replacing him?’ But we were in a horrible position,” Mabus said. “They made us aware of potential problems, but we had no grounds to relieve him.”

Branch retired from the Navy on Oct. 1 and lives in Coronado.

A highly decorated career aviator recognized repeatedly for combat valor over the skies of Grenada, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq, he now directs a program at the San Diego-based nonprofit group CyberTECH that’s designed to spark technological innovation.


©2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less