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With IG ruling clearing Marine commandant, observers say openness will bring closure

Aug. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos poses for a photograph at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland in 2011.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos poses for a photograph at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland in 2011. (Cliff Owen/The Associated Press)
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A top Pentagon official says he supports the decision to clear Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos of allegations he abused the military justice process, but critics and independent observers argue the full investigation should be disclosed in order to maintain public trust.

“General Amos has my complete trust in his ability to lead our Marine Corps,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a Aug. 8 statement provided to Marine Corps Times, “and I am confident in the findings of the inspector general.”

A spokeswoman for Mabus said he was briefed on the Defense Department Inspector General’s report summarizing its months-long investigation into claims Amos and others close to him took extraordinary measures to punish Marines for an embarrassing war zone video. His office has a copy of the report, said Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, but Mabus has not seen it.

Leading the charge to have the IG findings released is Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican whose district in North Carolina includes three Marine Corps installations. Jones has been unabashed in his criticism of Amos, questioning the commandant at length during a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year.

Jones told Marine Corps Times he is determined to review the report, and plans to seek a change to the privacy statute that allows unsubstantiated investigations to be withheld from the public.

“To me,” Jones said, “it is absolutely wrong that a member of Congress who makes the request for an investigation can’t see the report.”

Staff with Jones’ office said they learned through the Congressional Research Service and the IG’s office that the report may be requested by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee or anyone who chairs a subcommittee, avenues Jones intends to pursue.

But barring a request from a committee chair, it’s not clear who is best positioned to release the full investigation. Mabus’ office has no plans to release it, his spokeswoman said, because the report doesn’t belong to the office.

Officials with the IG have said they could not even confirm the report’s existence, which is consistent with IG policies for unsubstantiated investigations.

A spokesman for the commandant did not respond to requests for comment. While a Pentagon official confirmed the investigation’s findings, it’s not certain that Amos or other subjects of the investigation have received more than a notification about its contents.

The investigation looked at allegations Amos relieved the senior Marine officer overseeing prosecution of those at the center of the video scandal. Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser attested in a sworn statement that Amos moved to take him off the cases after Waldhauser refused to ensure the defendants would be kicked out of the Corps and “crushed.” Amos has denied saying that.

But not even Waldhauser, now director for Joint Force Development, J7 with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, got a copy of the full report, a spokesman said.

Phil Cave, an international military lawyer and former Navy prosecutor, said making the report public could help shore up faith in the military justice system and the Defense Department’s internal oversight authority.

“For the public and military members themselves,” he said, “they need to know that their system is fair, and when there is a problem with the system it is in fact investigated and taken seriously. And that calls for transparency in this case.”

Gary Solis, a former Marine attorney and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown, agreed.

“I think part of the moving on is transparency, including releasing of the reports,” he said. “As long as that’s unreleased, there will be questions in some Marines’ minds and some of the public’s minds, and you need to put those questions to rest one way or the other.” ■

Staff writer Andrew deGrandpre contributed to this report.

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