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Gold Star family blasts Marines' communication on insider attack case

Jul. 30, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
LCpl Gregory T. Buckley
LCpl Gregory T. Buckley ()
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An outraged Gold Star family has levied new accusations which contest information the Marine Corps released concerning events following a 2012 insider attack in Afghanistan.

In a 10-page letter to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos sent July 29, Michael Bowe, who represents the family of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., offered the Corps an ultimatum: retract the information, or go to court.

Bowe claims Marine officials issued “false, misleading, and offensive” statements to the press regarding the Corps’ communication with the family of the fallen Marine.

Buckley, then attached to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, was killed Aug. 10, 2012 at Forward Operating Base Delhi, when an Afghan youth opened fire on him and two other Marines who were working out in the base gym. Also killed in the attack were Cpl. Richard Rivera and Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson.

Last week, Buckley’s family went public with their outrage, claiming they learned after the fact that Ainuddin Khudairaham, the FOB Delhi shooter, had been tried in Afghan court as a juvenile and sentenced to seven years, six months in prison. Buckley’s aunt, Mary Liz Grosseto, said the family felt betrayed that the trial had taken place without their knowledge, when they specifically asked to be informed of any developments.

In response to press inquiries about the matter, the Marine Corps released a lengthy statement saying that the Marine judge in Afghanistan overseeing the case had learned of the July 22 trial only the day prior.The judge notified casualty assistance calls officers assigned to the family the next day, officials said, who then communicated the news to the family.

The Marines also released a timeline depicting their version of relevant events since the attack, including multiple communications with the Buckley family about developments in Ainuddin’s case.

The strongest language in the letter comes as Bowe attacks this press statement and timeline, which he described as a “publicity stunt.”

“Not only was the press statement issued before the Marine Corps had notified any of these families of this devastating news [of Ainuddin’s trial], but the delay in notifying them was clearly done so that the Marine Corps could ‘get out in front of the story’ with its own self-serving account issued later Friday afternoon to minimize press attention and prevent the Buckley family from publicly responding,” he wrote.

A spokesman for Amos, Col. Dave Lapan, said the office had just received the letter, and was not immediately able to provide a response.

Bowe said while a number of officials had been in contact with the Buckley family, little information was provided in those communications. And he said Marine Corps lawyers told the Buckleys July 21 that no date had been set for the trial even though they knew it would start the next day.

Over the two years since the murders, Bowe said, the family had received a series of affronts from the Marine Corps when they pursued information on the case. When the family asked for copies ofinvestigations and reports about the attack, they were told to file a Freedom of Information Act request, he said. Multiple times, he said, family members reached out to public affairs officers and never received a substantive response.

In the letter, Bowe said the Buckley family demanded the Marine Corps retract the press statements, provide them with disclosures and reports about the attacks, press for prosecution of Ainuddin in the United States, and convene a new command investigation into the murders as well as the Marine Corps’ treatment of the fallen Marines’ families.

If the Buckley family doesn’t receive a satisfactory response to the letter, Bowe said he would bring a claim against the Marine Corps in federal court in the Eastern District of New York. The family has a legal right to information about the events that took place in Afghanistan and the Marine Corps response following those events, he said.

Many questions about the case remain unanswered. Ainuddin was the servant of Sarwar Jan, an Afghan police chief on the base with a reputation for child abuse and corrupt behavior. Some, including the Buckley family, believe that Jan ordered the attack. Jan’s current whereabouts are unclear.

Jan’s rise to power on FOB Delhi after he was previously forced out at another Marine base also remains mysterious. Previous media coverage of the case had surrounded Maj. Jason Brezler, a reserve civil affairs officer who encountered Jan at a Marine base in Musa Qala in 2010, and helped to have him fired. In 2012, After returning home, Brezler received an email message from a Marine colleague warning that Sarwar Jan had returned. He sent a reply from an unclassified network containing a packet of information about Jan that included classified materials that he was not supposed to have. At an administrative hearing last December, a panel of officers found that Brezler should be separated from the Marine Corps for the data spillage. The Buckley family took to the media to support Brezler in that case.

Officials said a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into the attacks is still ongoing. But Bowe said he wasn’t satisfied with that response.

“It’s been two years since the murders,” Bowe told Marine Corps Times. “Any claim that the investigation is not complete is simply evidence of further stonewalling.”

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