The Pentagon inspector general has confirmed to Congress that an investigation is underway into whether Marine Corps higher-ups retaliated against an officer who accused the commandant, Gen. James Amos, of meddling in a prosecution.
In letters to House and Senate members in recent weeks, the inspector general’s congressional affairs office wrote that the Directorate of Whistleblower Reprisal Investigations has two probes underway. Gen. Amos has denied any wrongdoing.
The inspector general is trying to determine whether senior officers retaliated against Maj. James Weirick, a judge advocate at the Quantico, Va., Marine base. He was stripped of his duties last year.
Maj. Weirick had said publicly that the inspector general was probing his retaliation complaint, and the letters provide the first confirmation and delineate the investigations’ parameters.
Maj. Weirick originally filed a whistleblower complaint of unlawful command influence against Gen. Amos and his staff. He said the commandant attempted to dictate punishment in the cases of Marines charged with wrongdoing in a video of snipers urinating on Taliban corpses in July 2011 in Afghanistan.
Maj. Weirick also accused Gen. Amos‘ office of illegally classifying evidence that made it difficult for attorneys to defend the accused, including Capt. James Clement, who faced court-martial at the time.
After Maj. Weirick sent a pointed email to a potential witness in his complaint case, Marine superiors lowered the boom. Robert Hogue, the chief civilian legal counsel to Gen. Amos, told the Marine Corps Times that he had read the email, in which Maj. Weirick referred to himself in the third person, as potentially threatening on the scale of the Washington Navy Yard massacre last year.
Maj. Weirick was removed from his legal duties, was directed to get a mental health evaluation, and was urged to turn in his licensed personal firearms, which he did.
“It is demoralizing that the IG DOD investigation has taken so long,” Maj. Weirick said Sunday. “Over a year now. Also, as a whistleblower, I could not have expected Mr. Bobby Hogue, of the commandant’s office, to make disparaging remarks about me in the press, comparing me to the mass murderer from the Washington Navy Yard. This, despite the fact that mental health professionals determined I posed no risk. This type of treatment will only discourage other whistleblowers from coming forward.”
He paid for a private licensed psychologist who reported later that month: “Maj. Weirick did not exhibit any signs of a mental disorder” and “He expressed no violent attitudes, nor suicidal or homicidal ideation.”
Maj. Weirick has received good fitness reports and has been selected to promotion to lieutenant colonel.
The inspector general’s letter to Congress says the two investigations are looking into whether the major was kept from communicating his accusations to members of Congress and whether he was the subject of reprisals for conducting what are supposed to be protected communications with lawmakers. As of last week, inspector general agents were conducting interviews.
The inspector general reviewed but did not open a formal investigation into Maj. Weirick’s charge of unlawful command influence. A congressional source said the inspector general decided the military judge presiding over the case had jurisdiction.
In the end, the judge was taken out of play. The Marine Corps suddenly dropped the criminal charges against Capt. Clement, which headed off a trial at which defense attorneys planned to call Gen. Amos as a witness.
Maj. Weirick has garnered some allies in Congress, where Gen. Amos appears to remain popular. Several former military judge advocates wrote a joint letter asking the Senate and House Armed Services committees to investigate Gen. Amos, but no such probe is apparently underway.
The case also has put the top brass in opposing corners.
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who originally oversaw the urination investigation, told Capt. Clement’s defense team that Gen. Amos gave him the unusual order to “crush” the eight defendants and kick them out of the Corps. He said he refused.
In February, Gen. Amos broke his silence and told National Public Radio that he did not make those remarks during a one-on-one meeting with Gen. Waldhauser in February 2012.
Gen. Amos told NPR: “I have never, ever, said that I wanted them crushed and kicked out. I don’t recall at all saying that. What I do recall is there was some motivation on my part — without getting into the exact matters of the meeting — there was some motivation on my part that I questioned some early decisions by the commander. And once I left that meeting, I went, ‘OK. That probably wasn’t the right thing to do [as it] relates to undue — what we call undue command influence, the influence that a commander, a senior commander can have on the junior commander.’
“And so immediately, to correct that, I moved that case to another three-star general, and then I stayed completely out of it.”
Three months after he removed Gen. Waldhauser, Gen. Amos signed off on a memo from a three-star general outlining how he intended to dispose of cases in the urination investigation. The memo was obtained by Capt. Clement’s defense attorneys.
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