Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Lessons Behind the Headlines

While we're rejoicing the charges being dropped against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, there's a bigger message that Col. Steven Folsom delivered with his ruling. Here's the message that we shouldn't overlook:

Folsom's ruling dismissed the charges without prejudice, which means prosecutors could restart the case, but the judge said the Marine Forces Central Command could not be involved if that happens.

Col. Folsom's ruling means that Centcom can't be involved if this investigation is ever revived. I'm skeptical that this investigation will be revived. The military's prosecutors have been embarrassed in each of the 7 cases that've been resolved thus far. Six of the cases have had the charges dropped; the other soldier was acquitted.

Just as importantly, these cases have gotten alot of scrutiny on the blogosphere. That scrutiny will only increase if the investigation is reinstated. That isn't what the brass in NCIS and JAG want at this point. In fact, that's the last thing they want right now.

Here's what Col. Folsom said after dropping the charges:

"Unlawful command influence is the mortal enemy of military justice," said Col. Steven Folsom, quoting previous case law. "In order to restore the public confidence, we need to take it back. We need to turn the clock back."

Here's what led to Col. Folsom's ruling:

The judge's conclusion then was based on evidence two generals who controlled Chessani's case were influenced by Marine lawyer Col. John Ewers, one of the investigators assigned to the case. Ewers was allowed to attend at least 25 closed-session meetings in which Chessani's case was discussed.

This is despicable behavior. This shouldn't be tolerated. This time, it wasn't because the people at TMLC didn't roll over and play dead. They pushed back hard. They fought the corruption.

At a minimum, this should result in significant reforms in the military's investigative procedures. Col. Ewers' behavior warrants public hearings, too. This shouldn't be swept under the rug. I'm betting that this isn't the only time an investigator has sat in on closed-session meetings. I wouldn't be surprised if it's fairly commonplace.

One thing that I'm wondering is what type of political pressure was put on investigators by elected politicians. When Rep. Murtha made his baseless accusations, was that a signal to NCIS and JAG? If Rep. Murtha hadn't made these accusations, would these Marines have been charged? It's doubtful since this was reported up the chain of command. Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore put a PowerPoint presentation together.

As I said in this post, people up the chain of command determined that no further investigation was warranted:

As previously reported by NewsMax, the battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation. None!

It told the full story, was supported by photographic evidence, logs of all the day’s radio transmissions, and included an almost minute-by-minute narrative of the day’s events.

This isn't public knowledge to many people but it's the type of thing that should've been reported months ago by the Washington Post, NBC and the NY Times. Had they done their jobs, Rep. Murtha wouldn't have been able to continue spreading his lies about these American heroes.

There's been too much reprehensible behavior on the investigators' behalf to ignore. It's time for Congress to step forward and get rid of the corruption inside the military's investigative arm.

Anything less is unacceptable.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative