Marine plans ‘Clinton defense’ in classified email case

Military | Review board said reserve officer should be discharged for using personal email to send a classified document
by Michael Cochrane
Posted 7/13/16, 09:19 am

A Marine Corps officer fighting to stay in the service plans to use a Hillary Clinton defense.

Maj. Jason Brezler, a reserve officer and New York City firefighter, is challenging a board of inquiry determination that he failed to observe correct procedures for handling classified information. His attorney this week said he will use FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation not to indict Clinton for her mishandling of classified material as an argument that Brezler should be treated no differently.

In 2012, Brezler received an urgent email from a former colleague in Afghanistan, telling him that Sarwar Jan, a corrupt Afghan police chief suspected of ties to the Taliban as well as child sex abuse, had gained access to a Marine base, according to a 2013 Military Times report. Brezler—who had kicked Sarwar off another base two years earlier for unethical behavior—used his personal Yahoo email account to send a classified briefing on Sarwar to the operations officer at the Afghan base.

When confronted by another officer about using an unsecure network to transmit classified material, Brezler reported himself to his superiors and cooperated with the Naval Investigative Service, according to the Military Times.

Seventeen days after Brezler’s emailed warning, a teenage Afghan boy, Sarwar Jan’s personal servant, grabbed an unsecured rifle and killed three Marines in the base gym.

Brezler’s attorney, Michael Bowe, argues his client is being punished for actions far less serious than those of the former secretary of state.

“Certainly, if Secretary Clinton becomes the next commander-in-chief, it would [be] the ultimate hypocrisy for her to declare others unfit for service based on alleged misconduct equal to or less serious than that she herself engaged,” Bowe told the Marine Corps Times.

Brezler sued the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy in U.S. district court challenging the 2013 board of inquiry recommendation to discharge him from the service. The Marine Corps has agreed to postpone Brezler’s discharge until October while the lawsuit proceeds, according to the Marine Corps Times.

Members of congress have defended Brezler, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who wrote Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Brezler’s behalf, urging him to review the case, according to the Marine Corps Times. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, asking that Brezler receive fair treatment, according to a 2013 Military Times report.

Although Brezler’s use of an unclassified email account to warn his fellow Marines of a potential insider attack has drawn the most media attention, the board of inquiry also based its decision on the fact that Brezler’s personal computer hard drive contained more than 100 other documents marked “secret.”

Brezler testified at his hearing that he inadvertently brought home the classified documents following his 2010 deployment to Now Zad, Afghanistan, according to the Military Times. Limited technology resources in Afghanistan forced Marines to use personal computers and thumb drives, Brezler said.

But the Marine Corps prosecutor told the board Brezler “knowingly kept classified documents to inform a book he was writing about his Now Zad experiences,” according to the Military Times.

Michael Cochrane

Michael is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent. 

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  • VSKluth's picture
    Posted: Wed, 07/13/2016 05:17 pm

    This should be an interesting case.  Thanks for reporting!