November 25, 2019

NavSec Firing Should End Gallagher Saga

What Gallagher was accused of was troubling. So are questions about integrity of the process.

Sunday night, news broke that Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was fired by Defense Secretary Mark Esper over a “lack of candor” involving a reported private proposal involving the case of Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher. We previously covered the Gallagher case, including disturbing questions about misconduct by those investigating not just Gallagher but also Major Mat Golsteyn.

Don’t get us wrong, the allegations against Gallagher were very disturbing, but it should be noted that he was acquitted of all of the charges except one, in which he posed for a selfie with the corpse of an ISIS terrorist. Given what we know of ISIS atrocities, the conduct Gallagher was proven to have engaged in via the military justice system seems like spitting on the sidewalk.

As a result of being convicted on the single charge, Chief Gallagher was sentenced to some time in prison and to be reduced in rank. President Donald Trump reversed the reduction in rank, and Gallagher was freed with only time served in pre-court-martial confinement. Then, the Navy opened administrative proceedings against Gallagher in the form of a review board.

In essence, it appears that the Navy was trying to take another shot at punishing him for the allegations that prosecutors could not prove in a court-martial. President Trump, though, publicly insisted that Gallagher would not lose his Trident Pin.

Whether you agree with that sort of decision or not (and there is a case to be made given the seriousness of the allegations against Gallagher), if you believe that the president, as commander-in-chief, has the right to make these sorts of calls, then that should have been the end of it. Especially given the legitimate questions about the integrity of the process — no thanks to Navy prosecutors trying to spy on not just Gallagher’s attorneys but the Navy Times as well. (For the record, there are combat veterans within our own editorial ranks who believe Trump should stay out of military discipline issues.)

Yet Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and some admirals seemed to resist following Trump’s directive, and reportedly made his private proposal. After about 72 hours of controversy that built up (to include reports that Spencer and Rear Admiral Collin Green, the top SEAL in the Navy, had considered resigning, the secretary of the Navy was fired by Defense Secretary Esper — and rightly so.

We are aware of reports of problems in the Naval Special Warfare community. However, given that special operations forces have had to shoulder the bulk of the burden in the Global War on Terror, we have to wonder how much is because of 18 years of war and constant deployments.

That said, the concern about President Trump’s involvement rings hollow, particularly in light of actions Barack Obama took to intervene in military actions and disciplinary cases. Recall that Obama secretly exchanged five of the most dangerous Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, for the release of deserter, Bowe Bergdahl. Six soldiers were killed in actions related to the search for Bergdahl, and those Taliban terrorists were back in action soon after their release.

But is was Obama’s midnight pardon of Army traitor Bradley “Chelsea” Manning, on Obama’s last day in office, which is most disgraceful. Manning was convicted of stealing 750,000 classified documents and providing them to WikiLeaks before being dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 35 years in prison. He was a traitor who should have been executed but instead walked free, compliments of clemency from Obama.

Those cases received virtually no resistance from Democrats and the Leftmedia outlets – unlike the protests regarding the Gallagher case.

Recall that Obama also removed then-General James Mattis as commander of United States Central Command for far less than what we’ve seen in the Gallagher case. That discipline was met by deafening silence from Democrats and the mainstream media.

As we noted earlier this month, Mattis was not the only case in American history where a removal of a general with a distinguished combat record from a military position was deemed necessary. Yet somehow, even if defiance of Obama over policy had emerged, whether over Bergdahl and/or Manning, or other foreign policy moves we regarded as blunders (withdrawing from Iraq, the Iran nuclear deal, the Russia “reset”), we suspect it would not get the same level of deference from the media as what we’ve seen in the Gallagher case.

What Gallagher was accused of was troubling. But so are the very real questions about the integrity of the process that emerged from the conduct of the Navy prosecutors and the reported actions of Secretary Spencer. Those concerned about protecting integrity seem to miss two key points: President Trump didn’t send malware-ridden emails to defense attorneys and the press; Navy prosecutors did. President Trump didn’t steal valor; one of those investigating Major Golsteyn did.

The phrase “lack of candor” has turned up elsewhere in connection with investigations where investigators have engaged in questionable conduct. America needs accountability from Navy leadership in the wake of this case, just as it is needed in other cases.

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