Trump’s intervention, Gallagher, war crimes, toxic culture: The issues of the SEAL Teams

| December 1, 2019

Skippy’s linked article on the “Behind Eddie Gallagher’s Court Martial Is a Much Larger Issue” deserved its own post. The article describes a near perfect storm of the breakdown of SEALs, SEAL leadership, NCIS, and overzealous prosecutors. The judge overseeing Gallagher’s court-martial, Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, sanctioned the prosecution and federal agents for violating Gallagher’s constitutional rights. We all know the rest. For perspective, the article’s author, Brandon Webb, is a former SEAL and combat veteran. Brandon Webb LINK

by Brandon Webb

“I wouldn’t want my son to be in the SEAL Teams that exist today, it’s a mafioso environment where everyone has dirt on each other. The culture is more Hells Angels than a professional Special Ops unit.” – Anonymous Navy SEAL

I was initially worried about addressing this topic because of the toxic peer pressure that exists among the SEAL community inside and outside. However, my business network kept asking me about Gallagher and Trump’s intervention in his case, and in the end, I decided that if the thought of speaking about this made me uncomfortable, I should just write about it.

Stage set, cameras rolling, soundcheck, action.

The Gallagher case was anything but uncomplicated. It Pitted Navy SEAL against Navy SEAL. The NCIS was found to be bullying and intimidating to get their way.

According to the Navy Times, Navy Captain Aaron Rugh determined that, “the NCIS intrusion placed an intolerable strain on the public’s perception of the military justice system because ‘an objective, disinterested observer, fully informed of all of the facts and circumstances, would harbor a significant doubt about the fairness of the proceeding.”

“The military judge presiding over the court-martial of a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with war crimes said on Friday prosecutors who electronically tracked email communications of defense lawyers without a warrant violated the accused’s right to a fair trial.” – Reuters

So, what do I think of Trump’s intervention? I’m personally not surprised at the theatrics, and in this case, I support Trump for stepping in given the unusual nature of the case, NCIS’s mishandling of the investigation, and the current dysfunctional environment of the SEAL Teams. Most on active duty will not realize how crazy the Teams look from the lens of a former member (and the rest of the world) who is on the outside now looking in.

NCIS botched their case, no argument there. It’s sure to go down as a legal case study for the ages. For the uninitiated, Trump is well within his right to inject himself as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military. It may be inconvenient for some of the top brass but it is what it is. Trump’s intervention should come as no surprise to Admiral Green and the rest of the SEAL leadership given the ongoing strategy of Eddie’s legal team of constantly outflanking their adversaries in the press, and that one of Gallagher’s attorneys, Marc Mukasey, has worked for Trump in the past. However, I’m not surprised to see the myopia of senior SEAL leadership get the best of them again when it comes to dealing with the press.

I’ve been leery of NCIS since USS Iowa’s gun turret incident, and recent developments have done little to mitigate that impression. Hat tip to Skippy for the link. The rest of the article may be viewed here:

Category: Guest Link, Legal, Navy

Comments (21)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Way back yonder I saw FIRST hand incompetent/and or shady Army CID power mad, egotistical, self centered maniacs. Saw some ossifers that were the same. I also saw both that were truly dedicated Soldiers that did their jobs as patriotic Americans. Recent personal history has only been watching re-runs of NCIS (Ziva David/Cote de Pablo) and JAG (Sarah MacKenzie/Catherine Bell) hoooooooowwwwwllll hubba hubba hubba. And I pretty much only watch those shows for the eye candy aforementioned.

    It would be nice if Military Officers were held to the high standards that we have historically seen. I’m sure that there are a good many of them out there serving now. However, in reality, the Military mirrors society as a whole and it is a known fact that the gubmint and the civil courts, popo, ect are eat up with scalawags and ne’er do wells. All of the rot should be rooted out and flushed like the turds that they are.

    Love him or hate him President Trump IS The CinC and has the right to make calls on anything in reference to the Armed Forces. Whether it is the right call or not. JMHO/YMMV

  2. Anonymous says:

    A culture that replaces “be like your boss” with “have dirt on your boss” for success just blows.

  3. 2banana says:

    CID are some of the most corrupt people in the military.

    They brag on how many SEALs and Green Berets they “got.”

    And ignore insane politically connected commanders.

    • Skippy says:

      Ditto on your comment
      It wasn’t my honor to witness
      Some of the crap that I saw overseas
      Concerning this group of thugs

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      I’ve seen it myself when some CID maggot would use his position to make life hell for someone over some petty grudge, I knew of one who was almost Bernathian!

  4. Combat Historian says:

    Investigator thugs in cahoots with power-mad JAGs to prop up corrupt commanders to railroad actual warfighters in return for medals and promotions — the ultimate triple trade trifecta…

  5. Ret_25X says:

    to be fair here, I wonder how many cases are done right…for the shades of right the military justice system allows.

    My own experience is that most of the time, the SJA is adequate for UCMJ offenses that result in an Article 15, but incompetent beyond that.

    I don’t know what else to expect from lawyers with zero experience and in a climate not free from influence by the senior rater.

  6. Mason says:

    I still don’t know why people are so mad about Trump injecting himself into these cases. He’s not the first president to do so, and unlike President Redline’s pen and phone, this is completely legal and Constitutional. He’s also not going to be the last president to do so.

    The Constitution gives the president immense and unquestionable power when it comes to pardons.

    • SFC D says:

      The major case of heartburn I have with the whole situation is not that Trump, as CinC, interjected himself into it, but that was necessary that he do so. Chief Gallagher is obviously no angel, but the Navy’s handling of this was a complete cock-up from the beginning. There’s a lot of investigators, prosecutors, and commanding officers that need to be shown the door.

      • Mason says:

        Completely agree with that. It shouldn’t have needed his stepping in. In fact, in the Gallagher case, Trump telegraphed his intentions prett6 clearly for a good long while.

  7. Perry Gaskill says:

    There used to be a saying in Vietnam:

    “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

    I shall fear no evil,

    For I am the meanest motherfucker in the valley.”

    It seems to me that by forming the SEAL teams, the Navy has created a group who, both by inclination and training, are a sort of metaphorical equivalent of junkyard dogs. Sometimes they need to be let off the leash to do what needs to be done, but it then becomes hard to get them back on the leash again. It’s also not hard to imagine a Navy inclination to keep making the leash shorter until the next time something dangerous and unpleasant needs to be done.

    • SFC D says:

      My dad (LtCol D) had a slightly different version of that, being that he was an EW on B-52’s:

      “I shall fear no evil,

      For I am at 26000 feet and climbing”

    • Poetrooper says:

      Perry, it’s the miltary version of the old sheepdog analogy–the brass fear and loathe the presence of the ferocious dogs they have trained to guard the flock–except when the wolves come round.

  8. Thunderstixx says:

    The US Military, the adage still exists…
    In the Service, it’s not who you know, it’s who you blow…..

  9. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    How the case was handled by the prosecutors and the investigators was enough to get it dismissed in a civilian court of law.

    While the military court and trial system is not the same as a civilian court of law, the concept of inherent, non-biased investigative, and prosecutorial integrity should be held at a minimum to the same standard as a civilian court of law and I might argue it should be held to a higher standard because much more is often at stake for a military member than a civilian defendant.

    If our members of the military can be treated in a criminal review case with less integrity than we would show for a civilian loud dog complaint trial I would be inclined to agree with some of the comments that were repeated by Mr. Brandon Webb, why would anyone want their child to serve in such an organization with so little respect for the basic rule of law where the entire purpose of that organization is to uphold and defend the base tenets of the founding documents for that rule of law?

    Whether you think Gallagher is a hero or a shithead is irrelevant under that circumstance. What is at issue is the nature of the organization charged with investigating and prosecuting any alleged infractions/crimes. When that organization is corrupt, without integrity or honor in respecting the rule of law there can be no justice of any nature delivered by that organization and its systems.

    Every member of that investigation, their commanders and the commanders of those commanders needs to be relieved and sent home for good. Mr. Webb mentioned that he thought leadership could create a change in culture, I would suggest the leadership is incapable of creating that change based on the evidence to date. As such those leaders and their immediate superiors should be dismissed as unworthy of holding such positions in our military.

    Small incremental changes not only won’t happen they won’t right this massive corruption. A massive, large scale purge is sometimes exactly what the system needs to shock it back onto the path of righteousness.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    It is time to make sure they know we are all watching and we are no longer believers in their integrity and honor.

  10. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Said again:

    This is what happens when you fight a multi-decade war without -victory- as the clearly-stated objective.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Extending the comment:

      There are apparently some folks who think the -only- thing wrong with our war in Vietnam, is that it came to an end.

  11. SgtBob says:

    1. Military people should not take too seriously the “Thank you for your service” statements, since civilian opinion is as changeable as a TV channel. Seems like some special operations people believed the movies.

    2. Brass made more shiny by the previous administration should heed advice from Barnwood Builders: Sometimes you can scrape away the rot, but other times you’ll need a chisel or even a chain saw.

  12. SteeleyI says:

    I’m sure everyone has been holding their breath waiting to hear what I think, so here it is.

    I agree with about 75% of what Webb says. NCIS and the Navy’s judicial system botched the case, and the President has all the authority he needs to intervene. The SEAL community is in serious trouble.

    That’s the salient issue here: The SEAL community is in serious trouble. Read the list of incidents in the link provided. Everything from rampant drug use to murder to a child sex crimes, mostly committed in the safety of the US.

    These aren’t ‘sheep dogs off the leash’. This is an organization in a death spiral, and the president’s intervention isn’t going to help them at all. Combatant commanders will start thinking twice about asking for SEAL platoons, but the missions won’t go away. This means that other units will have to pick up the slack, and everyone’s readiness will suffer.

    OK, go ahead and exhale. I await your responses with great anticipation.