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Gen. Cleveland “was absolutely not briefed properly,” said Ms. Lombardi, who is now in private practice. “Because this would never have happened had he been briefed properly. I’m a 20-year veteran, and I briefed many, many admirals over my career. That’s based on my experience as a staff judge advocate briefing admirals on the viability of a case. I researched my witnesses before I ever briefed an admiral.”

Petty Officer McCabe’s defense team sought to discredit Petty Officer DeMartino and Abed, who testified that he was struck several times while hooded and handcuffed. “We’re here because a mass murderer, a vile person cloaked in a human body, claims he was beaten,” lawyer Haytham Faraj told the jury, according to the Associated Press.

Outrage from the public was so great that Gen. Cleveland felt compelled to release a statement in his own defense on Friday, the day after Petty Officer McCabe’s acquittal.

“I take my responsibility as a commander and convening authority very seriously and did not make the decision to refer these charges to courts-martial lightly,” Gen. Cleveland said. “While I had preferred to handle the incident administratively, Petty Officers Huertas, McCabe and Keefe exercised their right to have this matter handled by a court-martial. The evidence presented reasonable grounds to believe that offenses had been committed and that Petty Officers Huertas, McCabe, and Keefe had committed those offenses. In the interests of justice and to maintain good order and discipline, I chose to proceed with the courts-martial.

“Despite the opinion of some of those who preferred that these charges not proceed, I allowed these charges to go forward because I truly believe that the best process known for uncovering the truth, when the facts are contested, is that process which is found in our adversarial justice system. There is no better way to discover the truth than by presenting evidence to an unbiased panel of members, having witnesses testify under oath, and having that testimony subject to vigorous cross-examination.”

The SEALs’ supporters said a positive outcome of their trials is that warriors in the field know the military justice system will not automatically believe accusers in a detainee-abuse case. In the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and other prisoner-abuse cases, the military has placed a high priority on treating captives humanely.

“With all three Navy SEALs now cleared of all charges in this case, I believe this sends a very positive signal to the men and women in uniform who are fighting for America around the world today,” said Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican and the SEALs’ most prominent champion in Congress.

Said Mr. Puckett: “Had any of them been convicted, I think it would have had a chilling effect on special-forces guys, the SEALs. You can take some solace in the fact, if you’re going to be judged by your own, rather than some kind of international tribunal or something like that, you have a chance at a fair outcome. That, I think, speaks very well of the American military justice system.”