2019年12月27日 星期五

At War: Why Navy SEALs Reported Edward Gallagher

The never-before-released video with the SEALs who accused Gallagher of war crimes.
John Gastaldo/ZUMA Wire

Dear reader,

“I’m nervous, you know? Because I just don’t — I don’t know anything about this stuff. And, you know, like, there’s a lot at — there’s a lot at stake,” a Navy SEAL told investigators.

He was hunched on a chair in a cramped interview room with two Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents, speaking out for the first time about a murder he said he saw committed by his platoon chief, Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. And he was on the edge of tears.

“I think Eddie was proud of it,” the SEAL said, referring to the murder of a captive that three SEALs said they witnessed. “The guy is freaking evil, man.”

The Gallagher case made headlines this year as the decorated SEAL, who was facing life in prison for murder, was acquitted of all major charges at trial, then pardoned by the president of the single remaining charge and later protected by the White House when the Navy sought to strip him of his status as a SEAL. But through it all, the SEALs who came forward to turn in Gallagher have remained silent. Outside of the trial — which was open to the media, but closed to cameras and audio and video recording — they have never spoken publicly. They have repeatedly declined my requests to interview them.

Now hours of video interviews recorded by Navy authorities and obtained by The Times let the public hear, for the first time, members of the platoon speak in their own words. The never-before-released video and other images are part of a new episode of The Weekly streaming now on Hulu and airing Sunday on FX.

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A wounded teenage ISIS fighter was brought to the platoon during a deployment to Iraq in 2017, SEALs told investigators. Then, three said, they saw Gallagher stab the captive multiple times in the neck, killing him.

A short time later, several SEALs said, the platoon’s commander, Lt. Jake Portier, held a re-enlistment ceremony for Chief Gallagher over the dead body. “I remember standing there listening to it and thinking, ‘This is the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,’” said one SEAL. He cut off midsentence and began to cry.

Gallagher’s supporters have been outspoken, not only defending the chief, but attacking the rest of the unit. They accused the SEALs in the platoon of conspiring to take down Gallagher by fabricating a story to frame him for murder. In public comments, they called the platoon members liars and cowards. Gallagher’s wife, Andrea Gallagher, repeatedly referred to them as “mean girls,” and even started selling T-shirts that read, “In a world full of mean girls, be a Gallagher.”

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The Times obtained hundreds of messages from a group text containing all the SEALs who cooperated with law enforcement. The texts, which the men did not intend to be seen by anyone else, do not reveal any coordinated deception.

Instead the messages show the group was determined to report what they saw on their deployment, and at times their nervousness about the consequences. Repeatedly, the men encouraged one another to stay the course and tell the truth, despite setbacks in the case and intimidation from other SEALs outside the platoon.

“Let’s not forget there are 7-12 of us in here who had the balls to tell the truth about what Eddie has done,” one said in a text to the others. “I am also convinced that we are gonna answer to a higher power someday, and everything happens for a reason.” He added, “Not compromising our integrity and keeping right on our side is all we can do.”

— Dave

Dave Philipps is a national correspondent covering veterans and the military, and is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

Watch this week’s episode of The Weekly on Hulu now or on FX at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p Central on Sunday.

(The December Afghan War casualty report will be updated next Monday instead of Thursday this week because of the Christmas holiday.)

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