FILE - In this Tuesday, July 2, 2019, file photo, Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher leaves a military court on Naval Base San Diego. The attorney for Gallagher, convicted of posing with a dead captive in Iraq, says the Navy is trying to remove the special operations chief from the elite fighting force in retaliation for President Donald Trump restoring his rank. Defense attorney Timothy Parlatore said the Navy is holding a review board proceeding to remove Edward Gallagher's Trident pin and summoned him to meet with the SEAL leadership on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SEALs face review following death of Islamic State militant

November 20, 2019 - 2:36 pm

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Navy officials on Wednesday notified a SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State militant and three of his superior officers during a 2017 deployment to Iraq that all four will face a review to determine if they should remain on the elite force.

Attorneys for Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher said the Navy is trying to remove his Trident pin, designating him as a SEAL, in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision last week to restore his rank.

Gallagher was acquitted last summer of a murder charge in the stabbing death of the militant captive, but a military jury convicted him of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017. He also was acquitted of attempted murder for allegedly shooting at civilians.

His lawyers said Wednesday they have filed an inspector general’s complaint accusing Rear Adm. Collin Green of insubordination for defying Trump’s actions. Green, the Naval Special Warfare commander, made his intentions clear at a staff meeting Monday, defense attorney Timothy Parlatore said.

“What I'm hearing is that the rear admiral said very disparaging comments about the president and stated his disagreement with the president’s actions and said therefore I want to move forward in removing his Trident,” Parlatore said.

Trump on Friday restored Gallagher’s rank to chief after he was demoted following the conviction last summer.

Gallagher was notified Wednesday that he must appear before a Trident Review Board to assess whether his fellow SEALs believe he is still suitable to remain in the elite unit, said two U.S. officials familiar with the case but not authorized to speak publicly.

Green also notified three SEAL officers who oversaw Gallagher during the deployment — Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil, according to the officials.

The officials disputed the allegation by Gallagher’s attorney that the reviews are in retaliation for the president’s actions. They noted that discussions about convening a review board began shortly after Gallagher’s conviction in July.

Gallagher will appear before a five-person board that will include one SEAL officer and four senior enlisted SEALs. The other three officers will go before three-person boards. Attorneys for Breisch and MacNeil could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to Portier’s letter, obtained by The Associated Press, his review board will convene on Thursday.

Portier was Gallagher’s platoon commander and was charged with failing to report the alleged murder. He denied the charges and they were dropped after the jury acquitted Gallagher.

The board has been instructed to specifically look at Portier's 2017 deployment in Iraq and his actions through July 2019 to see if he "displayed a gross lack of professional or personal judgment, lack of moral or ethical behavior and/or conduct inconsistent with the SEAL ethos."

It also asks the board to determine whether Portier committed misconduct that discredits the force.

Green gave Portier until Dec. 13 to provide written input to his chain of command.

His attorney, Jeremiah Sullivan said Trump recognizes “the honorable sacrifices that my client has made in his combat deployments,” and that Green is challenging the “integrity of the president.”

The board must submit its findings and recommendations to Green by January. Green will forward those recommendations, along with his own endorsement or disagreement with the decision, to the Navy Personnel Command, which makes the final ruling.

The sailors can provide rebuttal at various points in the process and can appeal any final determination.

Removing their Trident pins means they will no longer be SEALs but could remain in the Navy. Still it would be considered a mark on their career that they were cast out of the prestigious force.

The Navy has revoked 154 Trident pins since 2011.

Naval Special Warfare spokeswoman, Capt. Tamara Lawrence, said in a statement that Green “remains focused on delivering a capable, ready, and lethal maritime special operations force in support of national security objectives, which includes assessing the suitability of any member of his force via administrative processes.”

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, said he's not surprised the Navy would call for a review.

"I think this would have happened anyway to a SEAL with a court-martial conviction," he said.

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Baldor reported from Washington.

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