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Video from Eddie Gallagher trial shows Navy SEALs smoking and joking near alleged victim's body
Shortly after Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher allegedly murdered a wounded ISIS prisoner, about half a dozen of his SEAL teammates watched as one SEAL flew a drone around their compound and hovered it just inches over the dead man's body.
It was yet another ethical lapse for the men of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon, many of whom had just taken a group photograph with the deceased victim after their commander had held an impromptu reenlistment ceremony for Gallagher near the body. Although some expressed remorse in courtroom testimony over their participation in the photo, video footage from later that morning showed a number of SEALs acted with little regard for the remains of Gallagher's alleged victim.
The video — which was shown to the jury and courtroom spectators last week in the trial of Gallagher — was recently obtained by Task & Purpose.
The scene was filmed on Special Warfare Operator 1st Class T.C. Byrne's helmet-mounted camera just hours after prosecutors allege that Gallagher murdered the prisoner while he and others were giving him medical aid.
It shows a number of SEALs watching as Byrne pilots a DJI quadcopter drone from the ground of their compound in Mosul, Iraq, on May 3, 2017. Covered by a blanket, the right arm and both feet of the dead fighter can still be seen.
As Byrne pilots the drone, other members of the platoon watch and smoke cigarettes. Then as the drone hovers over the body, the platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, walks down the stairs of a nearby building towards his men and then looks back toward the drone.
Portier, who has been separately charged for allegedly failing to report Gallagher, smiles as a laugh can be heard from someone off-camera.
The drone flies low and slow over the body, at times mere inches from the man's face, in what Gallagher's defense attorney Tim Parlatore described in court as the SEALs' "bouncing a drone off the ISIS terrorist's head."
"I do not remember seeing that. I do not remember the drone stuff," SEAL Chief Craig Miller testified when asked if he remembered "playing with a drone" after the alleged murder.
Miller himself was filmed by Byrne in a separate video shortly after the alleged killing, learning how to pilot the drone under the direction of former SO1 Dylan Dille. This video was also obtained by Task & Purpose.
"Craig make it do a trick," Byrne says as he's walking behind Miller, who then turns back and smiles.
Although the videos do not show Gallagher, they offer some insight into the demeanor of some of the SEALs who would later testify against him. They are part of a cache of documents, photos, videos, and other evidence that jurors will review as they consider Gallagher's fate.
Miller was one of two eyewitnesses to the ISIS fighter's death that morning who have testified in court.
"I kept walking and I saw him stab the prisoner in the neck," SEAL Chief Craig Miller testified, noting what he described as a bloody scene. "It looked similar to a baby throwing up."
Moments later, Miller testified, he sought out Portier inside a bombed-out building on their compound and told him what had just happened. "That was completely fucked," Miller apparently told Portier, according to NCIS documents.
Later that evening, according to Miller, a number of SEALs met to discuss the events of that day. Gallagher's alleged crime was the main point of discussion. "I told them what I saw and I asked if anybody was okay with it," Miller testified, adding that as the meeting came to a close, Gallagher walked in and pulled him aside.
"Eddie the guys are not good with this," Miller testified that he told Gallagher. After being asked which guys, Miller said, "I'm not good with it."
Gallagher, a veteran SEAL, is accused of stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter and firing a sniper rifle at civilians in Iraq. He has pleaded not guilty.
Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.
The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.
During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.
"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."
"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."
Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.
Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.
Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."
"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.
For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."
Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.