The Marine Corps officer who filed a complaint against the commandant for intervening in the Taliban urination cases against eight Marines is now the target of reprisals from superiors, his attorney says.
Retired Marine Col. Jane Siegel, who is representing Maj. James Weirick, said superiors have subjected the major to retaliations since it became known that he filed a whistleblower complaint against Gen. James Amos, the commandant and Joint Chiefs of Staff member.
“Headquarters Marine Corps is undercutting a hero,” Col. Siegel said. “He did the right thing, and they are trying to bury it and him.”
Maj. Weirick, a staff judge advocate at the Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va., accuses Gen. Amos of violating the military edict against unlawful command influence by urging guilty verdicts to the general overseeing the cases.
The major also told the Pentagon’s inspector general that Gen. Amos’ legal advisers unlawfully classified most of the evidence, including potentially embarrassing emails at headquarters, to keep the material away from defense attorneys.
Earlier this month, Maj. Weirick sent an email to a lawyer who had worked on Gen. Amos’ staff, urging him in pointed language to cooperate with investigators.
Marine higher-ups responded Tuesday with a series of retaliations against Maj. Weirick, Col. Siegel said.
• Marines escorted Maj. Weirick out of his office and seized his government computer.
• He was transferred to a nonlegal job as a training officer.
• His new commander suggested that he get a mental health evaluation and report for an interview with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, to whom he refused to talk.
• The major was ordered not to communicate with officials, including Gen. Amos, and was denied leave.
• He was told to turn over his licensed personal firearms kept at home, which he did.
• The Corps also is doing a risk assessment to determine whether Maj. Weirick is a danger to himself or the base.
“These steps are all designed for a single purpose and that is to undermine the credibility of Maj. Weirick, the credibility of his complaints to the [Defense Department inspector general] and to push him very close to the very edge of being able to drum him out of the Marine Corps,” Col. Siegel said. “I’ve been practicing military justice exclusively for 40 years, 25 of which were in the Marine Corps, and I have never seen anything quite this destructive carried out by people who I considered to be heroes, the commandant of the Marine Corps.”
Seizing his computer is a way to find out what he has been telling the inspector general during its investigation, she said.
Col. Sean Gibson, spokesman for the Quantico command, confirmed that Maj. Weirick had been relocated and ordered to cease certain communications.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further on the specifics,” he said. “The Marine Corps is well aware of obligations to service members who have made protected communication to the inspector general.
“The Marine Corps has and will continue to meet these obligations. The Marine Corps has taken legitimate steps as the result of a recent incident that is unrelated to his previous protected communications,” Col. Gibson said.
The “recent incident” is a sharply worded email Maj. Weirick sent Sept. 21 to Peter Delorier, a retired lieutenant colonel who worked on the commandant’s legal staff at the time of events cited by the major in his formal complaints. Maj. Weirick urged Mr. Delorier to “come clean.” At times, the major referred to himself in the third person.
He referred to Mr. Delorier’s former bosses at the Pentagon, saying: “None of them, can stop Weirick. You know this. They have not done it thus far, what makes you think they will in the future? This will not stop until all the wrongs are righted and those responsible are held to task. You know this is true.
“I know you from a decade ago in Okinawa. You are not like them. You are not dishonest. You want to do the right thing. You were just caught up in the pressure and you did not know what to do. It is not too late; it is never too late to do the right thing. You want to do the right thing. You want to be honest. You want to be honest like you were when you were a company commander. You know how important this is. You always preached the importance of honesty and integrity.”
‘Accountable to the fullest extent’
Col. Siegel said retaliation against her client began long before he sent that email.
In May, Maj. Weirick filed a hotline reprisal complaint with the inspector general after he learned that Gen. Amos’ legal staff wanted him investigated for contacting the office of a senator on the Armed Services Committee.
Afterward, the Marine Corps inspector general opened an investigation of Maj. Weirick, who contends that whistleblower protection laws allowed him to contact a member of Congress.
Col. Siegel said that probe was given to the Navy inspector general and may be transferred to Gen. Amos’ staff.
Col. Siegel said that in another instance, the rules counselor on Gen. Amos’ staff accused Maj. Weirick of breaching attorney-client privilege for including in his inspector general complaint conversations he had with the commanding general at the time, Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills.
She criticized the accusation as being bogus because her client obtained permission to include those facts in the complaint.
These events preceded Maj. Weirick’s office eviction on Tuesday.
“He was so rudely escorted out of his office by his colonel that he did not have time to remove personal photos of his wife, uniform items or anything,” Col. Siegel said. “He was at the uniform store this morning buying uniform apparel because he is not allowed, even with an escort, to retrieve anything from his office.”
Central to the charge of unlawful command influence is the case of Capt. James V. Clement, whose cadre of Marine snipers were accused of urinating on four dead Taliban fighters. They made a video that was uploaded to YouTube in January 2012, sparking White House denunciation and a criminal investigation. The administration sent clear signals that it wanted the Marines punished.
“Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent,” said then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, now on the Pentagon’s joint staff, was appointed as the “convening authority” to oversee charges against eight Marines in the urination incident.
Two pivotal events happened in February 2012.
First, Gen. Amos met privately overseas with Gen. Waldhauser and commanded him to “crush” all defendants. Gen. Waldhauser refused.
Later, acting on a tip from Maj. Weirick, the defense team learned of the Amos order by interviewing Gen. Waldhauser. The attorneys consider such an order a blatant example of unlawful command influence.
Gen. Amos also ordered Gen. Waldhauser to court-martial all the accused and discharge them — orders that Gen. Waldhauser refused.
A sea of changes
A spokesman said Gen. Amos had second thoughts about his intervention and replaced Gen. Waldhauser with Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, who was in charge of Combat Development Command at Quantico.
But the commandant’s legal officer never notified the replacement, or the defense team, about why Gen. Waldhauser was removed. Capt. Clement’s defense team considers this a cover-up that unraveled because Maj. Weirick came forward and allowed them to obtain a statement from Gen. Waldhauser.
Col. Jesse Gruter was Maj. Weirick’s superior at Quantico and supports the major. Col. Gruter filed a court statement saying he tried to find out why Gen. Waldhauser was dismissed, but was told by Gen. Amos’ legal adviser at the Pentagon that it was none of his business and he should not try to find out why.
Several weeks after Gen. Waldhauser was removed, Gen. Amos’ legal staff made another move that defense attorneys contend was part of a cover-up.
Gen. Amos’ counsel, Robert Hogue, issued a sweeping order to classify the publicly available video and the criminal investigation, according to court records. This made it much more difficult for defense attorneys to force disclosure of witness statements, internal headquarters emails and other evidence because the prosecution could deny on grounds the material could not be aired in an open courtroom.
“I was surprised by the classification because our — mine and my deputy, Maj. James Weirick — analysis of the application did not support classification of the videos,” Col. Gruter said in his declaration. “This was also the opinion of every security manager with whom we had discussed the matter.”
Col. Gruter said that after his complaints became known at headquarters, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, the Corps’ top attorney, telephoned and told Col. Gruter that he would be replaced as legal adviser to Gen. Mills.
Maj. Weirick considered the blanket classification illegal. He watched all this unfold as Capt. Clement was nearing a court-martial on a charge of dereliction of duty for not supervising his men.
The captain said he had no knowledge of plans to urinate on corpses or make the video. He denies any wrongdoing.
Maj. Weirick decided to take the step of filing a whistleblower’s complaint with the Defense Department’s inspector general against the commandant. The inspector general’s senior officer’s division has been conducting an inquiry.
“This incident involves the attempted, and in many ways, successful unlawful command influence by Gen. Amos to influence the outcome of cases involving Marines accused of urinating on human remains in Afghanistan,” Maj. Weirick told the inspector general.
As a pretrial hearing was to begin Sept. 11 and Capt. Clement’s attorneys were set to call witnesses to describe Gen. Amos’ intervention, a new convening authority suddenly dropped all criminal charges. Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck had replaced Gen. Mills, who had assumed another command.
A spokesman said Gen. Glueck reviewed the case and decided it did not merit criminal charges. Defense attorneys say the action avoided embarrassing the commandant during hearings that would focus on his actions.
Gen. Glueck ordered an administrative board of inquiry, set to meet Oct. 15, to decide whether Capt. Clement should be retained or separated from the Corps.
John M. Dowd, Capt. Clement’s lead civilian attorney, said that to this day Marine prosecutors are denying defense requests for witness statements because they are classified.
Charles Gittins, a former Marine officer who practiced military law and who has been following the case, said one email to a potential witness asking him to “come clean” is not harassment.
“The Marine Corps is an embarrassment,” Mr. Gittins said. “Shoot the messenger. They have real problems with violations of law and regulation and unethical conduct at the most senior levels, which continue to be unaddressed, so they choose to go after the whistleblower. Typical. The lack of moral courage and ethics at the senior-most levels of the Marine Corps is breathtaking.”
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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