Government Again Shows Its Inconsistency On Punishing The Mishandling Of Classified Documents

from the please-fill-out-IR-451(a)-'INTERNAL-RETALIATION'-form-completely dept

Mishandling classified material can result in a variety of punishments, depending on who you are. If you’re a presidential candidate, the routing of hundreds of sensitive documents through an unsecured, private email server might result in a few conversations with the FBI, but not in any criminal charges. If you’re a retired general, routing classified material to your biographer/mistress might result in criminal charges, but not any time served. If you’re a whistleblower taking your complaints to the press, you’ll likely see some jail time to go along with your destroyed career.

And if you’re a Marine Corps officer trying to warn others of trouble headed their way, you’re more likely to be treated like Jason Brezler than Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus, or even former CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Brezler is facing dismissal from the Marine Corps for mishandling a classified document — one containing information about an allegedly corrupt Afghan police chief who had already been kicked off a US base by Brezler himself.

[T]he local police chief, Sarwar Jan, turned into a problem.

“Sarwar Jan, he was a threat to not only the Afghans but our own Marines,” Brezler says.

The chief was maybe linked to the Taliban. He was also alleged to be a pedophile who preyed on local boys — something alarmingly common among Afghan warlords.

Recently there’s been a debate about whether U.S. forces should tolerate Afghan allies who keep kids at their barracks. Back in 2010, there was no policy. Brezler couldn’t fire Sarwar Jan, but he could kick him off the base.

“We put Sarwar Jan on the next helicopter. And, once he left, we could have probably had a parade the next day through the bazaar. The Afghans were absolutely elated,” he says.

After returning stateside, Brezler received an email from an officer located in Afghanistan informing him that Sarwar Jan was once again residing in the base Brezler had kicked him out of — and had brought a group of underage boys with him. Brezler attached a classified report detailing the allegations against Jan and hit “Reply All.”

The allegations about Jan weren’t all that unusual. The sexual and physical abuse of minors is considered standard operating procedure by many Afghans in powerful positions.

Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.

In some cases, Marines have been told to ignore the behavior. In other cases, they’ve been punished for trying to prevent it. Brezler’s concerns about Jan’s arrival at another base were never addressed. Instead, the Marines chose to go after him for sending a classified document to other Marines. Brezler even went through the proper channels, reporting himself for mishandling sensitive information. He was told it was just “minor spillage” — something that happened occasionally but generally without serious repercussions.

Less than three weeks after Brezler’s warning went out (and was apparently ignored), a 17-year-old Afghan male who had been living in Jan’s quarters stole a weapon and killed three unarmed Marines. When the Marine Corps resisted turning over information to the victims’ families, Brezler sought the help of Rep. Peter King. King took this info to the media and that’s when things got worse for Brezler.

And that’s when the U.S. Marine Corps got serious — about investigating Jason Brezler.

“Almost a year had gone by from the time, he had moved on, the Marine Corps had moved on,” says lawyer Mike Bowe. “A news story comes out that reveals that he’s talking to Congressman King about these murders, and three days later he is sent to a Board of Inquiry to be kicked out of the Marine Corps.”

The inquiry was retaliation, Bowe says, for embarrassing the Marine Corps brass. He says there were hundreds of similar cases of “spillage” the same year, and only two were punished. A Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded it was not retaliation.

At this point, the Marine Corps is offering him an honorable discharge — a “thanks, but no thanks” for his attempt to warn his fellow soldiers about the long list of allegations against police chief Sarwar Jan. Brezler sued for full reinstatement as a Marine and the discharge has been put on hold pending a possible jury trial later this year.

There are a handful of disturbing aspects of the Marine Corps’ dismissal of Brezler, not the least of which is its decision to ramp up its efforts to rid itself of him after it had been publicly embarrassed by a US congress member. It also highlights the absurdity — and danger — inherent to the military’s weirdly-selective non-interventionist policy: one deployed by an outside force playing World Police within its borders (decidedly interventionist) that draws the line at preventing the sexual abuse of minors on its bases by local officials.

The decision to go after the messenger — one that self-reported his mishandling of sensitive information — shows the government, by and large, cares more about protecting itself from embarrassment than solving its problems.

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Comments on “Government Again Shows Its Inconsistency On Punishing The Mishandling Of Classified Documents”

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20 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Just... let that sink in

Sexual abuse of minors by ‘allies’? Brass tells the rank and file to look the other way.

‘Escorting’ individual guilty of said sexual abuse off base? No worries, he’ll be right back with more kids before you know it.

Victim snaps and guns down some people? Not a problem, just stonewall telling the families of those killed any details to avoid having to admit to the standard practice of overlooking the crimes of ‘allies’.

Reporting any of this to someone who might embarrass the Marines, as opposed to the higher ups in the organization who will just brush it under the rug? Oh you better believe the hammer is coming down on you.

Might be time to update that motto of theirs.

‘The few. The not-so-proud. The accessories to crimes that would get someone thrown into a cell for decades in the US. The Marines.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Reputation is never not a factor.

Government will absolutely LET you get away with murder, rape, pillaging, economic disaster engineering…. as long as you cannot make the government look bad doing it, and especially if you play any hand in making sure the government looks better than they would otherwise.

Every Nation gets the Government it Deserves.

Ninja (profile) says:

So the guy went through the proper channels, kept this inside as much as possible and was promptly ignored. Then when he got to Government – emphasis: Government – representative that has the power to oversee such abuses and rightfully lambasts the ones that should have done something the guy is persecuted.

Most transparent and whistleblower friendly administration my ass. The clear message is: throw shit in the fan as anonymously you can an let the public outrage do the job. Not worth going through official channels or being a true patriot.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Don't the USMC riflemen totally have an honor-over-all thing

…that is completely incompatable with letting some boy-fiddling warlord continue to live at all? I remember some specific stuff about protecting the innocent that would make it difficult for ordinary grunts to not perforate this Sarwar Jan dude.

How did Jan get to double up and Brezler who tried to manage him get betrayed by the Corps? That’s not very Semper Fi.

mcherm (profile) says:

Where is Congress?

Where is Congress in this? I know most everything is partisan in Washington these days, but regardless of whether you are for or against protecting those who sexually exploit young boys, surely the members of Congress realize that if people are retaliated against for providing information to members of Congress that there will be no one willing to share information with them.

Congress should exercise it’s constitutional duty of oversight and should use that to pressure and embarrass those members of the military leadership who allowed this persecution to take place. It should do so for the sake of its own power, even if they can think of no *other* reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

This sort of thing is not as uncommon as you might think.

During WWII mercenaries were used by the French. Their pay only came from the spoils of war. American soldiers were instructed not to interfere with acts of rape and mayhem perpetrated by them, since that is how they were compensated.

I imagine similar arrangements have been made in every war before or since.

In the 60’s it is exactly this kind of thing that was national news. Now… Crickets. It’s the same shit going on, now as then. What changed?

I think the difference is tyranny is now more diffused. Protesters get 3 strikes before they become a political prisoners. 9/10 news media sources are all the same source, but they APPEAR to be antagonistic to one another.

The 1st amendment has been converted into an opium den. Only those that that go cold turkey ever leave, and there are few of them indeed.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Whistle-blowing charges in a nutshell

This is a perfect example of why those who say there’s no problem with current whistle-blowing law.

You might be a thief.

You might be a torturer.

You might even be a mass murderer.

That all [*shrug*] and, “No problemo, here’s a broom, there’s the rug.”

Talk to the media, though; embarrass your boss; report wrongdoing: and they will hound you to death for misusing the toilet paper in the latrine.

Because there just is nothing like retaliation against the guy who’s making waves, to save the wrongdoer’s day.

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