Each passing day in the war crimes trial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher reveals additional shocking evidence. Fellow Navy SEALs testifying against Chief Gallagher have stated that, during their deployment in Iraq, he attempted to level a mosque by calling in false target coordinates for an airstrike.
Thus far, Chief Gallagher has been charged with stabbing to death an underage Islamic State (ISIS) prisoner using a hunting knife, shooting at unarmed civilians with his sniper rifle, and threatening his teammates to remain silent about his actions. He has also been accused of conducting a reenlistment ceremony beside a dead jihadi, but the Navy judge ruled that, although it was a show of bad taste, the action didn’t violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
The latest evidence appears to be coming from SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon’s assistant office in charge (AOIC). A SEAL platoon usually has a lieutenant (O-3) as the officer in charge (OIC) and a lieutenant junior grade (O-2) as his second-in-command. The AOIC has a relatively easy job: He is essentially a shooter while learning how a SEAL platoon operates. Alpha Platoon’s AOIC is claiming that Chief Gallagher’s actions were known by the senior leadership but that he wasn’t confronted because of a good ol’ boys club mentality in the SEAL community. The platoon’s OIC, Lieutenant Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, appears to have been a student of Chief Gallagher during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
The Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) has been tracking electronic devices throughout the SEAL community to determine the veracity of the accusations. The SEALs have to remain anonymous given that they are still operational.
In another development of the trial, the SEALs testifying against Chief Gallagher have been granted transactional immunity (previously, they had been given testimonial immunity). Testimonial immunity would have protected them from prosecution for any possible war crimes that they admit to having committed while testifying. However, they wouldn’t have been protected from the testimonies of their fellow SEALs. There was, consequently, a concern that they would hold back on their testimonies.
Transactional immunity, on the other hand, is far more encompassing and protective of a witness. The Department of Justice (DOJ) gives the following explanation of the differences between testimonial, or use, and transactional immunities: “Transactional immunity protects the witness from prosecution for the offense or offenses involved, whereas use immunity only protects the witness against the government’s use of his or her immunized testimony in a prosecution of the witness—except in a subsequent prosecution for perjury or giving a false statement.”
“DOJ immunity is neutral for the defense and the prosecution. It just means that it affords witnesses the chance for them to give their testimony unfettered,” said Brian O’Rourke, the spokesperson for the Navy Region Southwest.