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Investigation clears top Marine general of tampering in sensitive legal cases

Aug. 1, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has been cleared in a Defense Department Inspector General's Office investigation into allegations of unlawful command influence.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has been cleared in a Defense Department Inspector General's Office investigation into allegations of unlawful command influence. (Patrick Kelley/Coast Guard)
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The Pentagon’s investigative agency has cleared the Marine Corps’ top general of allegations he and other senior officials manipulated military justice to ensure several troops were punished for a making an inappropriate video three years ago in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Times has learned.

The Defense Department Inspector General’s Office concluded its investigation July 24, a Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Friday. What’s become known as the scout sniper urination scandal has dogged the service’s commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, since last May, when news first surfaced that a Marine attorney accused some of the Marine Corps’ most powerful men of interfering with the prosecution of those connected to the video.

A spokeswoman for the inspector general declined even to confirm the existence of an investigation, which is consistent with the agency’s policy. A spokesman for commandant declined to comment.

Investigators focused their inquiry on accusations Amos exerted unlawful command influence, the Pentagon official said. His accuser, Maj. James Weirick, alleged that in February 2012 Amos removed a well-respected subordinate, Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, from his role overseeing disposition of the legal cases tied to the video, which shows four Marine scout snipers urinating on Taliban corpses.

The inspector general’s finding contradicts Waldhauser’s sworn testimony that Amos wanted those connected to the video “crushed” and discharged from the service. In fact, it suggests the cases were handled properly and that Amos’ interaction with Waldhauser did not affect their outcome.

In an interview with NPR last winter , Amos denied the claims Waldhauser made under oath.

At the time he filed his inspector general complaint in March 2013, Weirick was a legal adviser for Waldhauser’s replacement, a job that afforded him access to emails and other sensitive documents related to the urination cases. He was troubled by what he viewed as excessive involvement by Amos and his legal advisers in a matter for which Weirick’s boss was supposed to have independent oversight.

Reached Friday evening, Weirick offered only a brief statement via email.

“The inspector general has withheld the entire investigation pursuant to the Privacy Act,” it states. “Thus I, along with all members of the public, am in no position to evaluate the rigor of the investigation or determine if the inspector general applied the correct legal standard when determining there was no unlawful command influence.”

The inspector general’s ruling would appear to conclude the investigations connected to Weirick’s complaint.

Amos was cleared in November of allegations he showed preferential treatment to the son of his predecessor as commandant, a field grade officer who held a senior leadership position with the scout snipers’ parent command. Then last month the inspector general determined Weirick was not the subject of reprisal when he was removed from his job for confronting one of Amos’ legal advisers.

Weirick had also petitioned the Information Security Oversight Office, the federal agency governing regulations related to information security, claiming senior Marine leaders improperly classified evidence in the urination cases. In May, that investigation determined there is no proof Amos’ office acted illegally .

With reporting by staff writer Gina Harkins.

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