San Diego, California — A second Navy SEAL has been charged with war crimes over the alleged killing of an Islamic State (ISIS) prisoner in Iraq last year.
As the ranking officer on the ground, Lt. Jacob “Jake” Portier is accused of covering up another SEAL’s war crimes. Special Operations Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher has been accused of stabbing to death an ISIS detainee. More specifically, Lt. Portier faces an Article 32 hearing for dereliction of duty. Although the SEAL officer was not present at the alleged execution, he is accused of not reporting Gallagher’s actions up the chain of command. Lt. Portier was the platoon leader of Chief Gallagher.
An Article 32 hearing is a requirement before a general court-martial is adjourned. The hearing determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to the next phase. According to investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Lt. Portier and Chief Gallagher are not the sole target of the war crimes probe: It appears that the NCIS is investigating more than a dozen SEALs, and the leadership of the Naval Special Warfare Group One, which was responsible for addressing any war crimes allegations.
Hitherto, only Chief Gallagher has been detained; in the San Diego Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar.
Chief Gallagher allegedly stabbed an ISIS detainee in the neck and body till he died. He then proceeded to pose for photographs next to the body and complete his reenlistment service next to it. The case becomes ever more complex as helmet-camera footage indicates that Iraqi government forces were also present and tortured the ISIS fighter before his alleged killing.
Lt. Portier was not present at the incident but was informed of it by another SEAL. According to his lawyer, he then filed the allegations to the chain of command and contacted the NSWG One leading Judge Advocate (JAG) for legal advice.
“Lt. Portier’s combat service to our country warrants a medal, not a charge sheet,” said Jeremiah Sullivan III, Portier’s defence attorney.
On the other hand, Chief Gallagher is suspected of attempting to cover-up the allegations. According to the Navy Times, he discouraged other SEALs from his platoon from discussing his actions in Iraq. Moreover, Chief Gallagher appears to have been abusing a controlled substance (Tramadol Hydrochloride). He allegedly used the painkiller during the Iraq deployment.
The SEAL community is no stranger to legal or illegal substance abuse. Numerous cases in the last several years have exposed an unhealthy culture within certain NSW units.
Although not uniformed combatants — and thus not shielded by the Geneva Convention — ISIS fighters that are captured are assisted by the Rules of Engagement (ROE) that American and Coalition warfighters must operate by. As in numerous other cases, defeating the enemy comes second to good public relations. Does this justify torture and execution? Of course not.
A spokesperson from the Naval Special Warfare Command refused to comment on the investigation. Commander Tamara Lawrence said that “Naval Special Warfare does not comment on specifics of an ongoing investigation in order to preserve its integrity, however all credible allegations of criminal activity are taken extremely seriously and thoroughly investigated.”