Opinion: In a stunning turn of events, the defense in the upcoming court-martial case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher is preparing to release helmet cam footage they say will exonerate their client.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) who has been a very vocal supporter of Gallagher is planning to show members of Congress a video later this week from a Navy SEAL’s helmet camera.  Hunter believes the footage will clear Gallagher on war crime charges he faces when his trial begins later this month.

Once again, Kristina Wong, from Breitbart News was the first on the story. On Sunday she spoke with Michael Harrison a spokesman for Hunter and he said,  “When other members of Congress see the video as he has seen it, that it’s going to shed light on the situation as a whole and the case that the Navy is presenting against Chief Gallagher.”

The video has been placed under a protective order by the judge as to guarantee Gallagher the right to a fair trial. No one is allowed to see the footage until it is released during the court-martial.

However, Gallagher’s attorney Tim Parlatore was granted an exception to this rule for the purpose of showing the contents to Hunter and any other member of Congress who are taking an interest in this case. Parlatore successfully argued that both the prosecution and NCIS have been suspected of leaking damaging material to Gallagher’s case to the media.

“So many other members of Congress have expressed an interest in this case that they needed to see the full evidence at hand, and Congressman Hunter strongly believes that the video evidence is to Gallagher’s benefit, and not to his detriment,” Harrison added.

Parlatore in describing the video contents to the court says the two-minute clip from the helmet cam shows the wounded ISIS fighter being dragged off the hood of a military vehicle by Iraqi soldiers. Gallagher asks the Iraqis if the fighter is ISIS. When told that the wounded man in indeed ISIS, Gallagher then says, “OK, I got him.” He then cleared away the crowd, gots out his medical kit, and began to treat the wounded man’s leg.

After watching the video, Rep. Hunter was convinced of Gallagher’s innocence.

“Gallagher provided medical attention to an ISIS terrorist,” Hunter said in his Instagram post. “He tried to save his life — that’s what it shows. Eddie Gallagher’s going to be exonerated.”

This is where the story gets interesting. Does the two-minute video go all the way thru the act of Gallagher treating the wounded ISIS fighter until he dies from his wounds?

Because the fact that Gallagher initially began treating the wounded fighter has never been in doubt. Navy Times detailed the events according to eyewitnesses:

Later, another SO1 who was trained in battlefield medicine told NCIS that he remembered watching the other SEAL corpsman treating the detainee, who appeared to have suffered a leg injury and struggled to breathe, possibly from “blast lung,” a condition that often affects those who survive explosions.

He watched as the SO1 inserted a chest tube while Gallagher, using a special kit, performed a cricothyroidotomy — or “cric” — a simple and rapid surgical method for opening up a blocked airway by inserting a tube through an incision in the cricothyroid ligament, according to records provided to Navy Times.

Gallagher also was present when the prisoner received a trachea tube, two chest tubes and a Sternal Intraosseous Infusion, which bores through bone to reach veins when other IVs won’t work, records indicate.

That SO1 told NCIS he left as the other two SEALs continued working on the prisoner, although other interviews and the prosecution’s own legal filings in the case portray a chaotic scene, with memories about the incident often jumbled by all the witnesses.

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In his statements to NCIS, the LPO said he later returned to the area, rounded a parked Humvee and spotted Gallagher kneeling on the right side of the wounded teen.

He insisted that he then saw the chief “stab the ISIS fighter multiple times in the right side of the neck” in a manner that “was in no way a medical procedure,” according to an NCIS report.

He described Gallagher’s knife as the same weapon the chief always carried in a leather sheath. He told NCIS it had a blade a few inches long, although photographs of the weapon make it look stubbier.

The LPO told the agent that an SO1 who remained to assist Gallagher with the medical care was “freaking out a little bit over what Eddie just did” but there was nothing anyone could do “because the subject was dead.”

Was the act of what one witness saw the act of inserting a trach or chest tube? Or did Gallagher suddenly go from potential lifesaver to murderer in a split second? His supporters point out that it is inconceivable that Gallagher would go from trying to save the man’s life to kill him with his knife just seconds later. And that much is true. But sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

The message that Gallagher sent to another SEAL where he allegedly said that he killed the ISIS fighter with his knife was either just braggadocio on his behalf or an admission of guilt. But another SEAL testified that Gallagher did stab the ISIS fighter, but after he was already dead.  

A  Marine who was there but declined to assist in the NCIS investigation stated that he saw no stabbings in the neck and chest area and that the ISIS fighter died from his wounds and not anything that Gallagher did.

However, another SEAL said that he was only about a foot away from the prisoner when Gallagher pulled out his knife and stabbed the boy two or three times in the neck.

The truth lies in between there somewhere. Gallagher, his defense team as well as his family believe that these allegations are nothing more than the results of “bad blood” between the senior chief and the younger SEALs who chafed under his leadership style.

Which is why this two-minute video is extremely important to both sides in this case. If it shows everything up to and including the ISIS fighter’s death, then the manner in which he dies will determine Gallagher’s guilt or innocence. And without this conviction, the charges that he shot unarmed civilians will quickly seem like a witchhunt.  If it only shows the initial treatment of the wounded fighter, then both sides are back to square one.

“The truth will set you free” or maybe not.

Photo: US Navy