A Marine officer who has spent years fighting to remain in uniform after sending classified info to his comrades downrange to warn them about an insider attack threat should be allowed to continue serving, a panel found last week.
Maj. Jason Brezler, a Marine reservist, faced a new board of inquiry in New Orleans last week. The major has been fighting a recommendation for separation since 2013, about a year after he sent a classified document to Marines in Afghanistan to warn them about a local police chief believed to have ties to the Taliban.
A new panel was assembled to hear his case after the original punishment was thrown out in 2016, when a U.S. district court judge ruled that he deserved a new board of inquiry because the military didn't give him access to records he needed to adequately argue his case. The results of last week's board were first reported by The Washington Post on Monday.
The board found that Brezler failed "to properly discharge the duties expected of an officer of his grade and expertise," and violated an order by wrongfully removing official classified documents and files without permission. But none of those reasons warranted his separation from the Marine Corps, the panel said, recommending that he be allowed to continue serving and his case finally be closed.
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Brezler was found to have taken classified materials out of Afghanistan after an earlier deployment; he planned to write a book using the materials. He'd been accused of sending a warning to his colleagues, which included the classified information, from his personal computer and email account.
Several high-profile witnesses spoke on Brezler's behalf during the five-day review, Michael Bowe, his attorney, told Military.com. That included retired Gen. John Kelly, who recently served as President Donald Trump's chief of staff; retired Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, one of Brezler's commanders in Afghanistan; and several New York City Fire Department leaders, where Brezler serves as a firefighter.
Mary Liz Grosseto, the aunt of Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., one of the Marines shot and killed while working out in a gym in Afghanistan weeks after Brezler's warning, also testified, Bowe said. The attack was carried out by a teenage boy with ties to the Afghan police chief, Sarwar Jan. Two others were killed in the attack.
Brezler said in a statement that he is "grateful beyond words" for the chance to again serve as a Marine.
"I love the Marine Corps, am committed to its Marines and mission, and can't wait to contribute again," he said.
The Board of Inquiry’s recommendation has been forwarded to the Navy secretary for consideration, Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Reserve, said.
Bowe said Brezler will promptly seek to rejoin a unit and begin service as they expect the Navy secretary to uphold the panel's unanimous recommendation. Brezler will also pursue administrative remedies to reset his time in uniform, he said.
"The three senior Marine officers on the board were extremely diligent during the week-long hearing," Bowe added. "The evidence of his prior and potential future contributions to the Marine Corps was overwhelming, and the panel reached the right decision."
-- Gina Harkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.