US Navy SEAL back in court for hearing over war crimes

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who has been charged with murder in the 2017 death of an Iraqi war prisoner. (AP)
Updated 22 May 2019

US Navy SEAL back in court for hearing over war crimes

  • Navy officials have declined to comment on the allegations, and much of the court record has been sealed

SAN DIEGO: A decorated Navy SEAL platoon leader charged with war crimes in Iraq was due back in a San Diego military court on Wednesday for a hearing focused on his lawyers’ allegations that prosecutors engaged in illegal snooping on the defense team and news media.

The hearing comes less than a week before Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher is scheduled to go on trial in a court-martial charging him with murdering a helpless, wounded Daesh militant in his custody and shooting unarmed civilians.

But defense assertions that the Navy prosecutor, together with agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and presiding judge, have engaged in wrongdoing could lead to a substantial delay in further proceedings against Gallagher.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including premeditated murder, two counts of attempted murder and obstructing justice.

US President Donald Trump weighed in on the case publicly in March when he ordered Gallagher moved to less restrictive pre-trial confinement “in honor of his past service to our country.”

The New York Times reported days ago that Trump was reviewing Gallagher’s case for a possible pardon, along with several other US military personnel accused or convicted of war crimes.

Gallagher’s private attorney Timothy Parlatore denied knowing anything about a pardon. “We’ve not asked for one,” he told Reuters on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Navy judge, Captain Aaron Hugh, hears arguments over Parlatore’s motion to question the lead prosecutor, NCIS agents and the judge himself under oath.

Parlatore’s defense was focused for now on what he alleges is prosecutor misconduct. He has accused Navy lawyers of conducting illegal surveillance of defense attorneys and reporters by way of electronic tracking software secretly embedded in emails that were sent to the defense.

The software ostensibly was used in an effort to pinpoint the source of confidential information leaked to the press.

Navy officials have declined to comment on the allegations, and much of the court record has been sealed.

NCIS has previously issued a statement saying it used “an audit capability” in its investigation of leaks but insisted it did not involve “malware” or other technology to infect or compromise a computer system, said Brian O’Rourke, spokesman for US Naval Base San Diego, where the proceedings take place.

The stakes could not be higher for Gallagher, 39, a career combat veteran and two-time Bronze Star recipient who began his Navy service as a medic. The case stems from his latest deployment to Iraq in 2017.

Gallagher asserts he is wrongly accused and that fellow SEAL team members testifying against him — several under grants of immunity — are disgruntled subordinates who fabricated allegations to force him from command.


Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

Updated 16 September 2019

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

  • Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union

LUXEMBOURG: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep skepticism from European capitals with just six weeks to go before departure day.
After a weekend in which he compared himself to comic book super-smasher Hulk, the British leader will enjoy a genteel working lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg with the EU Commission president.
Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
A UK spokesman said Johnson would tell Juncker that “progress has been made, given that before the summer recess many said reopening talks would not be possible.
“The UK needs to enact the referendum result and avoid another delay; the UK wants to deliver Brexit and move on to other priorities, and EU member states’ leaders want to renegotiate an orderly Brexit.”
But Brussels has played down talk of a breakthrough, insisting Johnson has yet to suggest any “legally operable” proposal to revise a previous withdrawal accord.
As he shook hands with Johnson, Juncker declared himself “cautiously optimistic” and insisted that “Europe never loses patience” despite the tortuous Brexit saga dragging on over three years.
Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, gave a more downbeat assessment, repeating the bloc’s long-standing complaint that London has simply not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the so-called “Irish backstop” section of the divorce deal.
“The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented,” Tuppurainen said.
“So far I haven’t seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker’s native Grand Duchy, said last week he has “no reason to be optimistic.”
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson’s demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to go if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31 — a scenario that businesses warn would bring economic chaos.
Johnson, in turn, boasts that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
“Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal — the right deal for both sides — then the UK will come out anyway,” Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
A UK spokesman said that Britain would refuse an extension even if one were offered.
It is difficult, then, to see what might come from the lunch. There is no plan for a joint statement, but Barnier will meet Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay for separate discussions.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Barclay indicated that any post-Brexit transition period could be extended past 2020 in order to resolve issues with the border.
Johnson, meanwhile, compared himself to Marvel comics hero Hulk, the rampaging mutant alter-ego of a mild-mannered nuclear scientist.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be,” Johnson told the Mail on Sunday.
Johnson’s strategy faces resistance at home, where rebel and opposition MPs have passed a law aimed at forcing him to seek a Brexit delay.
Britain’s Supreme Court will rule this week on a bid to overturn Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament and limit time to debate the crisis.
Barnier will address the European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday as MEPs vote to reaffirm and reinforce the EU Brexit stance — and insist that the backstop must stay.
After his lunch with Juncker, Johnson is due to meet Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The pair will hold a joint news conference.