Following the decision of Admiral Bob Burke, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, to investigate the Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps’  leadership and performance, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Richard V. Spencer expanded the investigation to the Marine Corps’ JAG as well.

According to a Navy Times article, military attorney Lt. Col. Robert Bracknell said he “doesn’t sense the same concerns about the performance of Marine JAGs but he pointed to cases over the past six years dogged by allegations of misconduct and incompetence, including the prosecutions of Cpl. Joseph B. Salyer and Cpl. Wilfredo Santiago.”

One notable instance of JAG missteps not mentioned by Bracknell concerns the MARSOC 7 case from 2008. The two primary prosecutors and the legal advisor during the case targeted two Marines of Latino descent – threatening to deport one Marine’s family to Mexico and threatening to punish another if he did not take a polygraph.

Those MARSOC Fox Company Marines legally immigrated to the United States and voluntarily signed up to serve during a time of war. However, they were ethnically targeted and intimidated repeatedly during multiple interrogations in December 2008. This resulted in one of the Marines signing an NCIS prepared statement that damned the MARSOC 7 who were being accused of negligent homicide.

An ABC7 News video from 2015 features footage of one of those Marines recalling what happened.

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This same Marine, when questioned by a senior panel member of the COI, further described how NCIS intimidated him and coerced his statements throughout multiple unethical interrogations. This included SJAs dressed in civilian clothes that participated in interrogations of MARSOC Marines – a violation of JAG instructions.

Image from the COI testimony documents – January 2008.

Another Marine of Latino descent was unlawfully lied to by the prosecuting attorneys who aggressively pressured him to take a polygraph test after he was notified that taking a polygraph in a non-native language would likely lead to a false reading of “deception indicated” for the test. This testimony again shows that NCIS and the prosecuting attorneys disobeyed both the JAG instructions and the Convening Authorities’ direct and lawful order of conducting this in a “fair and impartial” manner. This witness confirms that the prosecuting attorneys participated in and conducted their interrogations.

Image from the COI testimony documents – January 2008.

During the nearly one-year legal saga, the NCIS and government prosecution utilized forty-five criminal investigators, investigative specialists, and government attorneys in their attempt to prosecute two Marine officers in Fox Company. This resulted in bringing the two senior officers from Fox Company into legal offices at Camp Lejeune on Friday night, 19 October 2007, and informing them both for the first time that they would be named parties in a Court of Inquiry, which the government intended to start within two weeks, on 1 November 2007.

In 2015, former Fox Company commander Major Fred Galvin requested that the SJA of the Marine Corps review this case. What occurred were interviews of the SJAs and their side of the story, but no interviews of the Marines who were interrogated by them.

Hopefully, this matter is carefully investigated during the new review process initiated by the SECNAV to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself. All Marines and sailors deserve to be confident that they will have a fair and impartial process during a case or trial, unlike Fox Company.