A Marine Corps whistleblower says the Pentagon is investigating whether higher-ups retaliated against him for filing complaints against the Marine commandant.
But Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., said the Pentagon inspector general reviewed his complaint that Gen. James Amos committed unlawful command influence and decided against a formal investigation. He said the inspector general decided that the military justice system should be the venue to settle such disputes.
The major said he spoke with the inspector general’s office this month and “they said they are reopening the case and it is a priority for them” on his retaliation complaint.
Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Committee on Armed Services, said he urged the inspector general to pick up the case.
“What has happened to Maj. Weirick is absolutely unacceptable,” Mr. Jones said. “It is an example of a man of integrity, meaning Maj. Weirick, who the leadership of the Marine Corps is trying to make a scapegoat for doing what he thinks was right. The leadership is threatening the integrity by going after Maj. Weirick.”
Maj. Weirick has been at the center of a court battle over the fate of Capt. James V. Clement, one of eight Marines singled out for punishment in a video posted in 2012 that showed sharpshooters urinating on bodies of dead Taliban fighters.
The video embarrassed the Obama administration, and Gen. Amos went on a national tour to threaten Marines who violate codes of conduct, citing rising sexual assault cases and the desecration video.
As the Clement case proceeded, Maj. Weirick learned that Gen. Amos took the unusual step of seeking to dictate the punishment of all eight Marines in a private meeting with the officer then overseeing the cases, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser.
Maj. Weirick also observed that Gen. Amos’ legal staff at the Pentagon was wrongly withholding documents — in his view — from Capt. Clement’s defense team on grounds that they were classified. The action was making it difficult for Capt. Clement’s attorney, John M. Dowd, to obtain information to defend his client, who was charged with dereliction of duty but did not take part in or know about the desecration.
Maj. Weirick alerted the defense about what he knew and filed charges with the inspector general in March. A military judge allowed the Clement attorneys to interview Gen. Waldhauser.
Gen. Waldhauser, who is supposed to be an impartial overseer, told Mr. Dowd that Gen. Amos ordered him to “crush” the defendants, court-martial all of them and kick them out of the Corps — an order he refused.
Having second thoughts, Gen. Amos replaced Gen. Waldhauser, but his staff did not disclose the reason to the defense or his replacement. They also misled reporters about the reason, according to the Marine Corps Times.
Maj. Weirick remained in his post as a legal adviser to the Quantico commander until he sent a pointed email to a Marine civilian attorney, and potential inspector general witness, urging him to tell the truth.
Unlawful command influence
What happened next are grounds for the major’s complaint of reprisal.
Gen. Amos’ staff used the assertive email as justification to remove Maj. Weirick from his legal post. In an interview with the Marine Corps Times, Gen. Amos’ civilian legal adviser, Robert Hogue, likened Maj. Weirick to the Navy Yard gunman.
Higher-ups also urged the major to turn in his licensed firearms, which he did, and undergo a mental health examination.
“I’ve never had any mental health issue at any time in my life,” Maj. Weirick said. “I was cleared by the Navy physician who looked at me.”
Then came a poor fitness review from his former supervisor, the same officer who gave him a glowing report a year earlier. Maj. Weirick has been selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel and expects to assume the higher rank next summer.
To Maj. Weirick and his many supporters in the criminal defense community, actions by Gen. Amos and his staff amounted to violations of the military code against unlawful command influence and the federal law against retaliations against employees who expose wrongdoing.
“The overreaction to the email is what upsets me about this,” said Mr. Jones. “I think it does go to the civilian staff in the commandant’s office. They just went after him and closed the doors to his office. I cannot see where [the email] is threatening at all. He’s asking a man if you know anything about the truth of a situation to come forward with the truth. There is no hope in America if we don’t think the truth matters. I want to do everything to make sure that Maj. Weirick has a future in the Marine Corps because he is an honorable man.”
In October, 27 former staff judge advocates urged the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees to investigate.
“We urge you to exercise your oversight responsibilities and fully explore these events so that due process, fundamental fairness, and most of all, integrity, remain most revered within the military justice system and in the tradition of the United States Marine Corps,” the former military lawyers said to Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, and Sen. Carl M. Levin, Michigan Democrat.
Retired Marine Col. Jane Siegel, Maj. Weirick’s attorney, said he has brought his improper classification charge to the federal Information Security Oversight Office. An arm of the National Archives, the oversight office is authorized to investigate the wrongful classification of national security documents.
“Basically, the IG has given the commandant and his henchmen a pass,” Col. Siegel said. “Unbelievable and not a neutral investigation.”
A spokesman for Gen. Amos declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the Pentagon inspector general said the office does not comment on the existence of investigations.
‘No other explanation’
As for Capt. Clement, the Marine Corps abruptly dismissed criminal charges just as the defense prepared to make Gen. Amos’ conduct an issue in public pretrial motions and hearings.
He was referred to an administrative board of inquiry. It found no misconduct, but did conclude that he failed to properly supervise Marines on patrol who urinated on the corpses while fighting in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Capt. Clement argued that his job that day was radio operator and that the patrol was supervised by another Marine. The board recommended an honorable discharge.
Mr. Dowd filed a Nov. 19 appeal to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
“In view the pervasive unlawful command influence by the commandant, his counsel and subordinates which has permeated every corner of this case, we respectfully request review by the Secretary of the Navy and counsel not serving in the Marine Corps,” Mr. Dowd said.
He told the Navy secretary, “When [the board] decides to separate a superb Marine officer they acquitted on the evidence and recommended for an honorable discharge they are clearly following the unlawful ‘guidance’ of the commandant to ‘crush’ those charged in the [urination] cases and throw them out of the Marine Corps. There is no other explanation. The finding of separation is the product of unlawful command influence and is for that reason, null and void.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the inspector general cleared Gen. Amos of showing favoritism in ensuring the promotion of Maj. James B. Conway, the son of Gen. Amos’ predecessor as commandant. Maj. Conway was executive officer of the sniper unit during that deployment but was not singled out for punishment.
Maj. Weirick had filed the favoritism complaint, saying Maj. Conway, now a lieutenant colonel, was promoted while other officers in the unit remained on hold.