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Marine Corps transfers whistleblower who questioned top general

Maj. James Weirick, left, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos.

WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps officer who accused the service’s top general and other members of his staff of wrongdoing last year in an inspector general complaint has been transferred to a new base in southeastern Virginia, nine months after he was removed from his job as a lawyer in Quantico, Va.

Maj. James Weirick began a new assignment in Suffolk, Va., with the Pentagon’s Joint Staff early in July, said his lawyer and military officials. He will serve there in Joint Force Development, said Richard Osial, a Joint Staff spokesman. The organization oversees training to get the services and their allies to work together better and develops policy for military education. It also amounts to a fresh start professionally for the major.

The transfer comes nine months after Weirick, of Alexandria, Va., was relieved of his position as a staff judge advocate at Quantico with Marine Corps Combat Development Command, an organization that plans for the service’s future and sets requirements for acquisition projects. A spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters, Maj. John Caldwell, confirmed the move to Suffolk, and said Weirick left his unit at Quantico in June.

Weirick served there when he filed the inspector general complaint in March 2013, alleging that Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos and some of his top officers illegally inserted themselves into the prosecution of Marines who were implicated in an infamous video depicting U.S. service members urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The complaint alleged that some of the Marine Corps’ top leaders sought to manipulate the military justice system to ensure tough punishments against the snipers shown in the video.

Notably, Weirick’s complaint accused the commandant of removing the three-star general assigned to oversee the cases, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, after learning that he intended to impose administrative nonjudicial punishment on some of the Marines, rather than a more serious court-martial. Doing so, Weirick argued, amounted to unlawful command influence, in which a senior officer seeks to pressure a junior commander for a certain outcome in a case.

Waldhauser said in a sworn statement in July 2013 for one of the cases that Amos told him he wanted the Marines "crushed," and stripped Waldhauser of his control over the cases shortly after disagreeing with how the three-star general was handling them. Waldhauser acknowledged that was highly unusual - active-duty generals rarely speak out against their service chief.

Amos and his staff have countered by saying that the commandant acknowledged he was wrong to have pressured Waldhauser, and felt compelled to remove him afterward in an effort to make sure the legal system wasn’t tainted. After remaining silent on the IG complaint for nearly a year, the commandant told NPR in an interview in February that he "never, ever said" that he wanted them "crushed and kicked out."

"I don’t recall at all saying that," Amos said. "What I do recall is there was some motivation on my part - without getting into the exact matters of the meeting - there was some motivation on my part that I questioned some early decisions by the commander. And once I left that meeting I went, ’OK. That probably wasn’t the right thing to do as it relates to. . . what we call undue command influence, the influence that a commander, a senior commander, can have on the junior commander."

Three snipers who appear in the video pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including wrongful possession of unauthorized photos of casualties. At least five other Marines received nonjudicial punishments. The commandant and his staff, meanwhile, faced tough scrutiny in the national media, on Capitol Hill, and in their own Corps.

Weirick’s new position in Suffolk puts him directly under the command of Waldhauser, who is now the director of operations plans and joint force development, the Joint Staff’s so-called "J7? organization. The general previously worked as the top military assistant to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Weirick declined to comment on his new job, but his lawyer said he has joined a team of subject-matter experts who visit and support commanders and staffs at the Pentagon’s joint headquarters across the world. Weirick "will work in the areas of operational law and law of armed conflict," said his lawyer, retired Col. Jane Siegel.

The Defense Department inspector general and other authorities have dismissed many of Weirick’s allegations in the last few months, including that senior Marine Corps leaders were guilty of reprisal for removing him from his position and filing a restraining order against him in September. They did so after he sent an usually worded letter to one of the commandant’s lawyers, Peter Delorier, in which Weirick referred to himself in the third person repeatedly and asked Delorier to "come to the side of the honest and truthful."

The IG found in June that Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, Weirick’s last commanding general at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, was justified in removing Weirick as the command’s deputy staff judge advocate after his email to Delorier emerged. Other actions taken against Weirick, including the Corps requiring a mental health examination and recommending that he turn in his firearms, also were warranted, the investigation found.

The IG report noted several times that there were concerns about Weirick’s email in particular because of its timing, which came shortly after a gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16. Critics, especially in the military justice community, have decried that comparison as smearing Weirick.

Weirick questioned the thoroughness of the IG investigation in an interview with Marine Corps Times in June, saying that he received far more unfavorable treatment than Col. Daren Margolin, who was removed from his post as the commanding officer of the security battalion at Quantico after accidentally discharging his M9 pistol in his office in October. Margolin was later made the deputy director of the capabilities development directorate at Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, where Weirick was removed.

Siegel said Weirick’s new job with the Joint Staff shows the "special trust and confidence the Marine Corps continues to have" in him. It also indicates that comparing Weirick "to the Washington Navy Yard mass murderer was a gross exaggeration, as he retains a Top Secret clearance and was selected to serve on the Joint Staff."

Amos, under questioning from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., in May on Capitol Hill, said he did recall the specifics of the email that Weirick sent Delorier. The restraining order against Weirick, the commandant said, was filed "to safeguard good order and discipline."
 

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