A federal judge has temporarily halted the discharge of a Marine Corps reserve officer who was ordered out of the service for mishandling classified information when trying to warn fellow Marines about a corrupt Afghan police official.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a federal court judge on Friday temporarily blocked Maj. Jason Brezler’s discharge from the Marine Corps, giving the service’s lawyers 10 days to provide proof that it did not retaliate against Brezler for drawing attention to the matter.
"They have 10 days to show proof they didn’t retaliate against him," Brezler’s lawyer, Michael Bowe, told the Journal.
Brezler sent classified information over civilian email in 2012 to warn fellow Marines in Afghanistan about a corrupt Afghan police official who Brezler during his deployment had worked to remove from position after the official was found to be engaging in the child sex-abuse practice known as "bachi bazi." The official, who had regained a position with the Afghan police, was not removed from his post by U.S. officials despite Brezler’s warning, and one of his subordinates went on to kill three Marines weeks later.
After learning of Brezler’s actions, Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) reached out to the Marine Corps for information about the incident. Brezler argues he was punished by the service for drawing attention to the case.
The Journal reported:
Maj. Brezler’s superiors recommended he be sent to a board of inquiry, a hearing that can recommend separation from the Corps, and gave him a negative performance evaluation, considered a career-ending action. Maj. Brezler maintains the move represented retaliation for the publicity. The Marines declined to comment on specifics of the case.
"Due to ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate for the Marine Corps to comment upon this matter," said a statement before Friday’s hearing. "However, the Marine Corps maintains confidence in the legal and administrative processes that have occurred to date regarding Maj. Jason Brezler."
Republican members of Congress like King have advocated on behalf of Brezler, arguing that he should be cleared of wrongdoing.
"Maj. Brezler, instead of being given a medal, is being removed from the military," King told the Journal. "His mistake was he wanted to save lives."
The board of inquiry made its recommendation to discharge Brezler in December 2013 and the Navy upheld the decision last November. Brezler challenged the ruling in federal court, and the service agreed not to discharge Brezler until a federal judge rules on the matter.
The case is especially relevant today, given the controversy surrounding Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email to conduct government business during her years-long tenure leading the State Department. While Clinton repeatedly claimed not to have sent or received classified information on her private email, the FBI found more than 100 emails on her personal system that contained classified material at the time they were sent or received.
Bowe, Brezler’s lawyer, argues that his mishandling of classified information was minor when compared with that of Clinton. Bowe told the Journal that he planned to incorporate Clinton’s use of private email into his defense of Brezler on Friday but did not have a chance to do so given the quick proceedings.
The FBI investigated Clinton’s use of personal email, finding in July that Clinton and her aides had been "extremely careless" in their handling of classified information. FBI director James Comey did not, however, recommend the Justice Department pursue charges in the case.