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3-star general under investigation for allegedly punishing whistleblower

In this 2009 file photo, former Marine Corps Capt. Jason C. Brezler meets with Afghan leaders in Now Zad, Afghanistan. Brezler was ordered by Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills to appear before an administrative board that met in December 2013 and recommended he be discharged for alleged mishandling of classified information. The Defense Department Inspector General's office is investigating, according an Aug. 19 IG memo sent to Brezler.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense Inspector General is investigating whether a three-star general tried to end another officer’s career in retaliation for talking to politicians and other officials about incidents surrounding an insider attack in Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Jason Brezler has accused Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the commander of the Reserve, of violating the Pentagon’s whistleblower protection policy last year when he forced Brezler to go before a board of inquiry.

The IG informed Brezler that it was launching the investigation in an Aug. 19 letter, which was obtained by Stars and Stripes. Brezler filed the complaint in June.

Brezler, a Bronze Star recipient, is cooperating with investigators. He spent four hours with them last month giving a sworn statement, according to his lawyer, Kevin Carroll.

In accordance with policy, spokespersons for the IG and Marine Forces Reserve would not say whether an investigation was ongoing.

According to Carroll, Brezler believes that high-ranking Marine Corps officials sought to take him down after it was discovered that he was providing information to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office-Eastern District of New York, about an insider attack at Forward Operating Base Delhi, Afghanistan.

In July 2012, Brezler sent an email to Marine Corps officials in Helmand province, giving them information implicating Sarwar Jan, an Afghan police chief who was suspected of having Taliban ties and sexually assaulting children.

Despite Brezler’s information, no action seems to have been taken against Jan. And in August 2012, just weeks after Brezler sent the email, a teenager under the influence of Jan entered a base gym, shooting three Marines dead and wounding a fourth.

King wrote multiple letters to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos about the Delhi incident and about Brezler’s accusations that he was being unfairly punished. King’s efforts to get more information about Delhi and clear Brezler garnered significant media attention last year.

In December, the board of inquiry recommended Brezler be separated from the Marine Corps for “substantiated allegations of substandard performance of duty and misconduct.”

The recommendation for separation must be approved by the secretary of the Navy before Brezler can be kicked out of the service.

Before going before the board, the Naval Academy graduate had previously been found to have mishandled classified information, including an instance when he used his personal email to send classified information to Marine Corps officials regarding Jan.

Brezler and another officer, who received the information, later self-reported the inappropriate transmission. Brezler did not believe that the information about Jan was classified when he emailed it, according to Carroll, saying some documents had “incomplete classification markings.”

A subsequent Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation discovered that Brezler had improperly stored classified documents on his personal laptop, in violation of regulations.

Carroll said that no classified information held by Brezler was ever given to anyone who wasn’t authorized to have it.

Brezler hopes the IG can save his military career.

“We would like to see the full facts come out about the homicides at Forward Operating Base Delhi,” Carroll said “and [the recommendation for separation from the Marine Corps] to be withdrawn … because it appears to have been an illegal act of whistleblower retaliation.”

harper.jon@stripes.com
Twitter: @JHarperStripes

 

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