Eddie Gallagher (Navy SEAL)
Edward R. Gallagher
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Years of service||1999–present|
|Rank||Petty Officer First Class (demoted from Chief Petty Officer)|
|Unit||U.S. Navy SEALs|
|Battles/wars||War in Afghanistan |
Operation Inherent Resolve
Edward R. Gallagher (born 1979 or 1980) is a United States Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator. From September 2018 to July 2019, he was under court martial for premeditated murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice, and other offenses. He was acquitted on almost all charges on July 2, 2019, but was found guilty of posing for a photo with a casualty, considered the least egregious of the crimes. His trial included an unexpected confession from another medic who had been granted immunity, claiming he was the one who actually killed the casualty. Gallagher was sentenced to demotion from Chief Petty Officer to Petty Officer First Class and four months in prison, resulting in him being released for time served awaiting trial.
Gallagher enlisted in the United States Navy in 1999. He had eight overseas deployments, including service in both the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. He was trained as a medic, a sniper, and as an explosives expert. During his service, he was decorated for valor several times, including two Bronze Stars. He received positive evaluations from his superiors within the SEALs and served as an instructor in the SEALs BUD/S program for recruits. Gallagher goes by the nickname "Blade" with his fellow frogmen.
Gallagher also attracted controversies and investigations, although few formal reprimands. He was the subject in an investigation of the shooting of a young girl in Afghanistan in 2010, but was cleared of wrongdoing in it. He also allegedly tried to run over a Navy police officer with his car in 2014 after being detained at a traffic stop. By 2015, Gallagher had acquired a reputation as someone who was more interested in fighting terrorists and less interested in compliance with rules. In his eighth deployment in 2017, Gallagher's aggressive side was seemingly amplified, especially during the Battle for Mosul, wherein the US force mission was intended to be more advisory than direct combat. Gallagher was the subject of a number of reports from his fellow SEAL team members of actions not in keeping with the rules of war, but initially these reports were dismissed by the SEAL command structure. Only after the reports were escalated outside the SEALs were they acted upon and directed to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). On September 11, 2018, Gallagher was arrested at Camp Pendleton and charged with premeditated murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice, and other offenses. On October 18, Lieutenant Jacob Portier of Gallagher's platoon was also charged with failing to properly escalate to his superiors in the chain of command as well as destroying evidence. Gallagher pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
|Article 80||Attempted Murder|
|Article 118||Premeditated Murder|
|Article 128||Aggravated Assault with a Dangerous Weapon x2 on non-combatants|
|Article 134||Firearm, discharging-willfully, under such circumstances as to endanger human life at non-combatants|
|Article 134||Obstructing Justice (three counts)|
|Article 134||Wrongfully pose for an unofficial picture with a human casualty|
|Article 134||Wrongfully complete reenlistment ceremony next to a human casualty|
|Article 134||Wrongfully Operate a drone over a human casualty|
|Article 112a||Wrongful Use of a Controlled Substance – Tramadol Hydrochloride|
|Article 112a||Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance – Sustanon-250|
Chief Gallagher was accused of multiple offenses during his final deployment to Iraq and during the Battle for Mosul. The most prominent accusation and the best-attested to was the murder of a prisoner of war, a war crime. A captured young fighter of the Islamic State (also known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh) was being treated by a medic. According to two SEAL witnesses, Gallagher said over the radio "he's mine" and walked up to the medic and prisoner, and without saying a word killed the prisoner by stabbing him repeatedly with his hunting knife. Gallagher and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Jake Portier, then posed for photos of them standing over the body with some other nearby SEALs. Gallagher then text messaged a fellow SEAL a picture of the dead captive with the explanation "Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
Another accusation was that Gallagher's sniper work during his 2017 deployment became indiscriminate, reckless, and bloodthirsty. He allegedly fired his rifle far more frequently than other snipers; according to testimony, the other snipers in the platoon did not consider him a good sniper, and he took "random shots" into buildings. Other snipers said they witnessed Gallagher taking at least two militarily pointless shots, shooting and killing an unarmed old man in a white robe as well as a young girl walking with other girls. Gallagher allegedly boasted about the large number of people he had killed, claiming he averaged three kills a day over 80 days, including four women. Gallagher also was reportedly known for indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine gun fire with no known enemy force in the region.
A charge of obstruction of justice was brought against Gallagher for alleged witness intimidation. According to the claim, Gallagher allegedly threatened to kill fellow SEALs if they reported his actions. The Navy cited his text messages as attempting to undermine the investigation, with messages sent to "pass the word on those traitors", meaning cooperating witnesses, and to get them blacklisted within the special warfare community. This resulted in him being confined in the brig for a time with heavy restrictions on his ability to communicate, although this confinement was later lessened.
Gallagher was also charged with "nearly a dozen" lesser offenses.
According to the original Navy prosecutor Chris Czaplak, "Chief Gallagher decided to act like the monster the terrorists accuse us of being. He handed ISIS propaganda manna from heaven. His actions are everything ISIS says we are."
Court martial controversies
The case was considered to be a "difficult" one due to the Navy's slow response to the reports of misconduct. No formal investigation began for nearly a year after the reports were made and by then much of the physical evidence, such as the bodies of those alleged to be killed by Gallagher, was not recoverable. The prosecution's case relied largely on eyewitness testimony, which the defense sought to discredit as merely that of spiteful malcontents who disliked Gallagher's gruff leadership style. The defense also said that Gallagher's text messages merely reflected dark comedy in a stressful situation, and that his more outrageous boasts were clearly impossible (such as killing twenty people a day). Some of the potential witnesses were non-cooperative, citing the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination for being hesitant to testify. The defense also claimed that the lead NCIS agent slanted witness statements and interviews to be more hostile to Gallagher than warranted in his notes. For the most serious charge of murder of a prisoner, according to the defense, Gallagher merely stabbed a corpse and embellished a story out of misplaced bravado; the prisoner had already died of his wounds. The defense cited two high-ranking Iraqi Army members that the detainee was "barely alive" when he arrived; according to prosecution witnesses, the prisoner's leg injury didn't appear serious to the initial medic who treated the prisoner, and that medic was "surprised" the detainee was dead when he returned.
Gallagher's case provoked controversy. Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a Republican, fiercely advocated in favor of Gallagher and wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy asking for Gallagher's condition while detained to be improved. On March 30, President Trump intervened and ordered Gallagher transferred to "less restrictive confinement" after complaints from his supporters about his detainment. This was the first time a President directly intervened in an imprisonment conditions matter since President Richard Nixon intervened in favor of Lieutenant William Calley, one of the perpetrators of the My Lai Massacre. Nixon ordered Calley released from a military brig to house arrest in 1971.
The military court case took a further bizarre turn over accusations of spying by Gallagher's defense lawyers against the prosecution in May 2019. According to defense lawyers, the prosecution sent both them and Navy Times reporter Carl Prine an email that included a tracking image. People who viewed the original email or a forward of this email would likely load the image through their mail-reading program, which would record where it came from; this allows for imperfect monitoring of who has seen an email, without installing any software. It has been speculated that this image was intended to find leakers violating the judge's gag order, as reporters (including Prine) have repeatedly scooped private documents related to the case. As a result of the spying controversy, the judge ordered Gallagher freed from prison while awaiting trial as a remedy to interference from the prosecution. The judge later ordered that the chief prosecutor, Commander Christopher Czaplak, be dismissed from the case and replaced as a result of the incident.
On May 8, Representative Duncan Hunter of California said he had seen secret body camera footage that exonerated Gallagher of one of the charges against him, but this video has not been publicly revealed. Hunter advocated in favor of a presidential pardon for Gallagher if he is convicted. According to anonymous administration sources in May 2019, the Justice Department was indeed investigating Gallagher's case in preparation for a possible pardon from President Trump. This potential pardon was hotly criticized by a number of commentators and news outlets.
On June 20, 2019, during Gallagher's trial, one of the platoon medics from Gallagher's team testifying as a prosecution witness said that although Gallagher did stab the ISIS fighter, he did not actually kill him. The medic, Special Operator First Class Corey Scott who testified under an immunity agreement, testified that he himself had killed the wounded prisoner by covering his breathing tube and asphyxiating him. Scott called it a "mercy killing" and argued that the victim would have been tortured by Iraqi personnel due to his connection to the Islamic State. Prosecutors were taken by surprise, since the medic had never given this version of events to them or Navy investigators. This account was also contrary to the statements of at least seven other SEALs as well as Scott's previous statements. Because of the immunity agreement Scott cannot be prosecuted even for admitting publicly that he killed the man, though he could be prosecuted for perjury if the account is proven false.
Court martial result
Gallagher was acquitted on six of seven charges on July 2, 2019; the jury found him guilty of the seventh charge, of "wrongfully pos[ing] for an unofficial picture with a human casualty". That charge carried a maximum prison sentence of four months. Since Gallagher had already served more time in jail than the sentence, he was released.
It is possible that Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, the medic whose surprise testimony undermined the prosecution's case, will be prosecuted for perjury; although, such cases are traditionally difficult to make. The same jury which tried Gallagher sentenced him on July 3, 2019, for posing with the corpse. The jury gave Gallagher, who served the maximum prison time for this charge, a demotion from Chief Petty Officer (E-7) to Petty Officer First Class (E-6); this was lighter than other potential punishments, such as an other than honorable discharge (OTH), which were not handed down. President Trump congratulated Gallagher on his acquittal over Twitter. Four weeks later, President Trump announced over Twitter he had directed the Secretary of the Navy to revoke Navy Achievement Medals given to members of the prosecution team that oversaw Gallagher's case.
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- Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (March 30, 2019). "In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly! @foxandfriends @RepRalphNorman" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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- The Editorial Board (May 20, 2019). "Trump's war-crime pardons would insult millions of service members". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
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- Navy SEAL's trial for war crimes begins in San Diego
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- Romo, Vanessa (June 20, 2019). "Shocking Revelation In Navy SEAL War Crimes Trial: Witness Says He Is The Real Killer". NPR. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
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- Watson, Julie; Melley, Brian (July 2, 2019). "Jury to decide SEAL's punishment for posing with corpse". Associated Press. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
- McAdam, Jeff (July 3, 2019). "Navy SEAL demoted for posing with corpse". Fox News. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
- Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (July 3, 2019). "Congratulations to Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, his wonderful wife Andrea, and his entire family. You have been through much together. Glad I could help!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Baker, Peter (July 31, 2019). "Trump Orders Navy to Strip Medals From Prosecutors in War Crimes Trial". The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
- Trump, Donald [@realDonaldTrump] (July 31, 2019). "The Prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (who I released from solitary confinement so he could fight his case properly), were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal. Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion. I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards" (Tweet) – via Twitter.