No matter how much classified material is found in her personal email server, Hillary Clinton will no doubt continue campaigning to become our next president.
Meanwhile, a decorated Marine officer who has deployed four times faces being discharged from the corps he loves because he used his personal email to send a single classified report as an urgent warning when lives were at stake.
The stateside message from Marine Reserves Major Jason Brezler to Forward Operating Base Delhi in Now Zad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, went unheeded. Three young Marines were shot to death as they worked out in a gym by an Afghan teen brought on the base by the same corrupt and double-dealing pedophile police chief whom Brezler had declared to be an immediate threat.
Yet the only person to be investigated in connection with the killings is Brezler, the Marine who sought to prevent them.
To compound the injustice, the two generals who ruled against Brezler based their decision on a Board of Inquiry transcript whose 451 pages contain 1,548 sections marked “[inaudible].” And those gaps are accompanied by an astonishing number of errors.
One witness who was critical to the defense reported that he found 47 mistakes in his testimony and could have found more but the “incredible number of ‘inaudible’ and outright errors was so great that I did not correct ones where I had no idea what was said exactly.”
Other witnesses said much the same, with one declaring himself “disgusted with the transcript,” adding that the “record is so bad I can barely make out what I was saying and it’s my testimony.”
Brezler’s last hope is that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will set the decision aside. Mabus certainly has considerable reason to do so beyond the rank injustice of the proceedings.
Brezler, a Naval Academy graduate who went from serving in the most dangerous province in Iraq to serving in the most dangerous province in Afghanistan, left active duty to continue public service as a Marine reservist and as a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department’s elite Rescue 2.
He also continued his education. He was in a graduate school class on July 25, 2012, with his laptop open when he received an email in his Yahoo account from Marine Major Andrew Terrell. Brezler had served with Terrell at FOB Delhi in 2010.
“IMPORTANT: SARWAR JAN IS BACK!!!” the subject line read.
Jan had been a district police chief of the very worst sort. Brezler and Terrell had determined that Jan was involved in narcotics and arms trafficking, as well as facilitating attacks by the Taliban, even selling Afghan police uniforms to the enemy.
Jan also was alleged to be what Brezler’s lawyer would later call “a systematic child rapist” who allegedly ran a child kidnapping ring and acquired “chai boys” with the help of U.S. taxpayer job development money.
As the protégé of an accused drug lord with connections to then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jan might have imagined himself untouchable. But Brezler and Terrell kept pushing and were finally able to pressure the provincial governor into removing Jan from his post, a rare and notable bright spot in the bloodiest province in the bloodiest year of the war.
Now here was that name in the subject line.
“My reaction was visceral, and just seeing his name brought me great concern,” Brezler later testified.
The accompanying message from Terrell read, “Jason, I just got an email from one of my friends in Afghanistan; he just met Sarwar Jan. He is looking for anything we have on him. Do you still have that paper Larissa wrote on this guy in Now Zad? It could be very helpful. Anything you can think of would be useful. Thanks brother, Andrew.”
Larissa Mihalisko was a Marine intelligence officer who had prepared a report on Jan with information provided by Brezler and Terrell. Brezler had kept a copy along with other necessary operation reports on the personal laptop he used in the war zone, the Marines not having provided him one.
Now, in the moments after he received the urgent message from Terrell, Brezler decided it was great luck that he had downloaded the hard drive from that laptop onto his new one.
“I immediately typed ‘search’ and ‘Sarwar Jan’ and uploaded the document,” he would recall in court papers.
In the next instant, he sent the report to the email address that Terrell had provided for another Marine in Afghanistan. He gave no thought to the document’s classification.
“I just reacted the same way that I would in a gunfight; the same way I would at a fire,” he said in the court papers. “I just immediately reacted.”
Brezler asked the Marine in Afghanistan to confirm that he received the message.
Brezler got no response and emailed him again. The Marine responded, saying Brezler had sent him a classified document via a private civilian account on an unsecured server.
“I had it on a hard drive from Now Zad and it was the only way to get it to you,” Brezler emailed back. “Andy said you need it.”
Brezler knew the document had been classified, but he figured that had likely changed with the passage of time. And he was only passing on to a fellow Marine what he and Terrell had reported in the first place.
But he could tell that the other Marine was taking it as a breach of security.
Brezler had still been in class during all this. He continued to live by the Naval Academy honor code, and he used the lunch break to call a Marine higher-up to report himself.
“I got his voice mail and went back to class,” Brezler later testified. “The next break, I reached out to him again.”
The higher-up answered and a series of notifications followed. Brezler made no excuses.
Two weeks later, Brezler got another message, this from the intelligence officer who had helped prepare the report, Mihalisko.
“Sarwar Jan strikes again,” this subject line read.
The message reported: “Tragic story for you. Sarwar Jan…brought 9—yes count it NINE—chai boys (excuse me personal servants) with him. One of them decided to go nuts and killed a bunch of Marines yesterday.”
Brezler spoke again to the higher-up.
“My own worst fears have come to fruition,” Brezler said, according to court papers.
“I guess you were right,” the higher-up replied.
Brezler was reprimanded for the security breach. And it all might have ended there had he not learned that the families of the three murdered Marines—Staff Sergeant Scott Dickinson, Corporal Richard Rivera Jr., and Lance Corporal Gregory Buckley Jr.—were having difficulty getting the full story behind the killings.
Brezler sought the advice of a retired FDNY firefighter who had lost two sons in the 9/11 attacks. The firefighter put him in touch with Representative Peter King (R-NY). Word also reached The Marine Corps Times.
Suddenly, some of the Marine brass decided that a reprimand was not enough. Brezler could not help but notice that nobody was being investigated for failing to act on the report itself.
“I do not know, and cannot understand, how Jan was ever permitted to operate again with, in proximity to, Marine forces, let alone assume a command on a Marine FOB with an entourage of chai boys,” Brezler said in court papers. “Had senior Marine commanders paid attention to the dossier we prepared when we expelled Jan from Now Zad, or the Marine commanders responsible for FOB Delhi acted on the warning I sent in response to their urgent request, I believe the Marines murdered on FOB Delhi would be alive today.”
Brezler continued, “Nevertheless, no Marine commanders were ever disciplined for allowing Jan to assume a command on FOB Delhi, allowing him to bring an entourage of chai boys onto FOB Delhi, or failing to take any steps to protect Marines on FOB Delhi from the danger Jan posed. The Marine Corps did not even commence an investigation into the murders and the failures that allowed the murders to occur.”
He went on, “Not only did the Marine Corps not investigate or discipline anyone in response to the murders, I learned in 2013 that they were refusing to provide the families of the murdered Marines with the information and disclosure which they requested and to which they were legally entitled.”
What the Marines did do was seek to drive Brezler from the corps. He had voluntarily turned over his laptop, and much was made of several other classified documents from his Afghanistan days. None of the documents had been opened since being downloaded onto the new hard drive along with everything else on the old one. He had not even been aware they were there.
The Board of Inquiry was held from December 17-19, 2014. Six Marines who had served in combat with Brezler testified regarding his qualities as an officer when things mattered most.
“One of the finest officers I’ve ever worked with… I would be happy to have my son in Jason’s unit… He is that sort of officer that takes care of his Marines and takes care of the mission… Working with him in that environment, I would trust him. I would trust him with my life.”
A number of Marines also testified on his behalf with regard to the particulars of the case. But the recording sounds like a wiretap. The many places in the transcript marked [unintelligible] were joined by so many errors that critical passages made little sense.
In a subsequent affidavit, Terrell said he was all the more surprised because “not once during the preceding was I told… that something I said was not understandable and asked to repeat myself.” He contrasted what was in the transcript with what he had actually said about the Jan report.
His actual words: “Because I didn’t even recall it being classified, so if I thought it was unclassified, then anything more than that would be ‘overclassified.’ I remembered some of the content of it. It was historical and didn’t contain source information. Most of the sources were Major Brezler and I.”
The transcript: “Because I didn’t even recall it being classified so if [inaudible] I remembered some of the content of it [inaudible..]”
Other defense witnesses submitted similar affidavits. The transcript of Brezler’s own testimony proved no better.
At one point the Marines provided a second, “corrected” transcript of the hearing.
“This second ‘verbatim transcript’ also contains hundreds of omitted sections designated as ‘inaudible,’ many hundreds more missing with no designation, and hundreds still that are plainly wrong, nonsensical, or hopelessly garbled,” say court papers filed by Brezler’s lawyer, Kevin Carroll of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which has taken on the case pro bono.
As neither of the two generals who made the ultimate determination to discharge Brezler was present at the hearing, they could only base their deliberations on this woeful transcript.
Their willingness to make a decision anyway added to suspicions that the outcome was already decided. Brezler’s lawyer argued that the Marines were seeking to punish a whistleblower.
Maybe Navy Secretary Mabus will see that and do the right thing.
All he really needs to do is look at that transcript, which no fair judge would accept.
In a twist, the intelligence officer who prepared the Jan report left the Marines and went to work for the State Department. Imagine if one of her reports for her new job is found in the email of former Secretary of State Clinton.
Brezler has continued to serve with distinction as a member of Rescue 2 of the FDNY. A retired firefighter named Jimmy Boyle ran into him the other day and called out a question many are asking.
“Hey, Jason, what did you do that Hillary didn’t?”