Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, shown here during a 2012 interview, is being investigated by the Defense Department Inspector General. A complaint filed alleges the head of Marine Corps Forces Reserve retaliated against a Marine whistleblower. (File photo)
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The Defense Department Inspector General is investigating whether a three-star general retaliated against a Marine major for speaking-up as a whistleblower after he was punished by the Corps for having secret materials on his personal computer.
The IG’s whistleblower reprisal investigations department told Maj. Jason Brezler, a Reserve officer, in an Aug. 19 letter that they’re looking into whether Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the commanding general of Marine Forces Reserve, retaliated against Brezler by making him appear before a board of inquiry late last year. While not mentioned in the letter, the board recommended that Brezler be discharged from the Marine Corps.
Brezler previously told members of Congress and law enforcement officials that warnings he raised 17 days before a deadly attack at a Marine Corps base in Afghanistan were allegedly ignored. The IG will now examine allegations that Mills retaliated against Brezler for working with those officials, Brezler’s lawyer said, which was initially reported by the Washington Post on Friday.
A spokesman for Mills deferred questions about the investigation to the IG’s office. As a matter of policy, the IG does not discuss, nor does it confirm or deny investigations.
In 2012, while a reservist in New York, Brezler received an email from Capt. Andrew Terrell asking about Sarwar Jan, a corrupt Afghan police chief with connections to the Taliban and a history of child sex abuse. Jan gained access to a base and Brezler, who knew Jan from a past deployment, sent a warning from his personal email account rather than a classified communication network.
Brezler later self-reported his email and helped investigators look into the possible breach, but that investigation revealed he had over 100 secret documents on his personal computer. The Reserve officer said he incidentally brought the files back with him after a deployment because limited computer resources forced Marines to use their personal computers and digital storage devices.
Seventeen days after Brezler sent the warning from his personal email account, Ainuddin Khudairaham, one of the teenage boys on base with Jan, grabbed a rifle and killed three Marines and wounded another. Ainuddin was later convicted and sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison.
After the attack Brezler spoke with the members of Congress and law enforcement about the security risk and he alleged went unheeded, said Kevin Carroll, a lawyer representing Brezler. As a result of his cooperation with these officials, Carroll said, Marine Corps brass started a series of events that resulted in Brezler appearing before a board of inquiry that resulted in a recommendation for dismissal.
Marine Corps officials did not comment for this article but they previously said that Brezler was brought before the board for having classified documents on his computer.
“Major Brezler suffered whistleblower retaliation, to silence him and attempt to discredit his protected statements to Congress, law enforcement and the Inspector General about Sarwar Jan, and the preventable August 10, 2012 murders of Marines at Forward Operating Base Delhi in Afghanistan,” Carroll said in a statement. “Major Brezler, a decorated Fallujah and Helmand veteran, did the right thing, kept faith with his fellow field Marines, told the truth, and should be allowed to stay in the Corps he loves. And the families of the murdered ... Marines deserve the full truth about their loved ones’ deaths, for which they have waited over two years.”
Carroll, with the firm Quinn Emanuel, is representing Brezler pro bono.