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Decision to force out Marine who sent warning ahead of insider attack upheld

Maj. Jason Brezler, seen here during a deployment to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, will be separated from the Marine Corps for the way in which he stored classified information — which came to light after he tried to warn Marines about an allegedly corrupt Afghan police chief. (Courtesy Kevin Carroll)

A senior Navy Department official decided Monday to force a Marine Corps officer out of the service for his handling of classified information, three years after he was first investigated after sending a warning to deployed colleagues about an Afghan police chief whose servant later killed three Marines.

Maj. Jason Brezler will be separated from the Marine Corps following a decision by acting Assistant Navy Secretary Scott Lutterloh, said Michael Bowe, Brezler’s attorney. The case grabbed attention in Congress and among highly decorated senior officers in the military, some of whom advocated on Brezler’s behalf to let him stay in the Marines. Other service officials maintained that retired Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps’ top officer when the investigation began, and other generals involved handled the case well.

“We will now proceed to a real court and prove that Commandant Amos and his generals illegally retaliated against Major Brezler because they were more concerned with politics and their careers than the lives of their Marines and the service of a good Marine who did the right thing,” Bowe said in an e-mailed statement. “I look forward to their cross-examination.”

[Earlier coverage: Family of slain Marine sues Marine Corps, alleging cover-up]

The decision comes as a related lawsuit filed by the family of one of the Marines killed remains pending against the service in federal court. It alleges that the service ignored Brezler’s warning that the police chief, Sarwar Jan, was corrupt and sexually abusing children, allowing for the Aug. 10, 2012, ambush in which Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, 21; Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, 29; and Cpl. Richard Rivera Jr., 20; were killed at Forward Operating Delhi, a Marine Corps outpost in Helmand province’s Garmsir district. A fourth Marine sustained five gunshot wounds but survived.

The suit was filed last year by the Buckley family, which also is represented by Bowe. In court filings, they have repeatedly expressed frustration with the amount of information the Marine Corps has provided them about the case. It alleges that the shooter, identified by the Marine Corps as Ainuddin Khudairaham, was among the boys the police chief assaulted.

A Marine official said Monday that the service had no immediate comment on the new decision about Brezler, citing its administrative nature and the pending lawsuit. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. An administrative board of Marine officers moved to remove Brezler from the service in December 2013.

A spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus could not immediately be reached for comment.

The shooter was convicted last year in the killings. He was tried as a teen and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in confinement, infuriating the Buckley family, which expected a longer sentence. The shooter allegedly stole a Kalashnikov assault rifle and opened fire on the unarmed Marines until he ran out of ammunition. He is said to have bragged about it afterward to Afghan police, saying, “I just did jihad.”

Brezler has served in the Marine Corps since graduating from the Naval Academy in 2000, and is now a member of the Marine Corps Reserve. He works full-time as a member of the New York Fire Department, and has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brezler’s case first came to light after he sent an e-mail with a couple classified documents attached to Marines in Afghanistan about Jan. Brezler was deployed to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, and had worked successfully to have Jan removed from power in another district, Now Zad. Brezler self-reported his spillage of classified information afterward, and the service found that he had been keeping it on an unsecured hard drive.

Several Republican members of Congress have lobbied Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter to clear Brezler of all wrongdoing, citing the extraordinary circumstances of the case. It is not clear whether Carter will review the case.

Earlier coverage:
Killer of Marines tried and convicted as a teen; family outraged

Family of slain Marines alleges cover-up, sues Marine Corps

Update: This story has been updated to reflect personnel changes in the Navy Department