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Marine’s defense for disseminating classified information will cite Hillary Clinton’s case

Maj. Jason Brezler, seen here during a deployment to Afghanistan spanning 2009 and 2010, is locked in a legal battle with the Marine Corps. (Courtesy of Kevin Carroll)

A Marine Corps officer who has been locked in a legal battle with his service after self-reporting that he improperly disseminated classified information will use Hillary Clinton’s email case to fight his involuntary separation from the service, his lawyer said.

Maj. Jason Brezler’s case has been tied up in federal court since he sued the service in December 2014. He became a cause celebre among some members of Congress, Marine generals and military veterans after he sent a classified message using an unclassified Yahoo email account to warn fellow Marines in southern Afghanistan about a potentially corrupt Afghan police chief. A servant of that police official killed three Marines and severely wounded a fourth 17 days later, on Aug. 10, 2012, opening fire with a Kalashnikov rifle in an insider attack.

FBI rebuke leaves a heavy political cloud over Clinton

An attorney for Brezler, Michael J. Bowe, said that he intends to cite the treatment of Clinton “as one of the many, and most egregious examples” of how severely Brezler was punished. FBI Director James B. Comey announced Tuesday that he would not recommend the U.S. government pursue federal charges against Clinton, but he rebuked her “extremely careless” use of a private, unclassified email server while serving as secretary of state. The FBI found that 110 of her emails contained classified information.

Bowe said it is impossible to reconcile President Obama’s statement that Clinton’s intentional act of setting up a secret, unsecured email server did not detract “from her excellent ability to carry out her duties” while Brezler received a “completely opposite finding… involving infinitely less sensitive and limited information.”

FBI Director James Comey made a statement on July 5 recommending Hillary Clinton not be charged for her use of a private email server. (Video: Reuters)

Brezler, a reservist who works full time for the New York City Fire Department, was not charged criminally in his case. But he was issued a potentially career-ending fitness report after self-reporting that he sent the classified email to Afghanistan. That prompted concern from Rep. Peter T. King (R.-N.Y.), who wrote then-Commandant Gen. James F. Amos about the case in August 2013 and asked whether it was necessary to be so harsh on someone who had warned fellow Marines of a potential threat in combat.

News of the case was first reported by the independent Marine Corps Times in October 2013. Within days, the Marine Corps moved to send Brezler to a panel known as a board of inquiry to decide whether he was fit to continue serving.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service reviewed electronics voluntarily turned over by Brezler and determined that he had more than 100 classified documents on his personal, unclassified hard drive and thumb drive.

Family of slain Marine sues Marine Corps, alleging cover-up

Supporters of Brezler have renewed the debate about his case since Comey’s announcement about Clinton. They argue that the case shows the discrepancy in how rank-and-file service members and their potential commander-in-chief are treated.

The board of inquiry recommended removing Brezler from the service in December 2013 after prosecutors argued that he knowingly kept classified information in order to help him write a book about his experiences in Afghanistan. He appealed, but both the Marine Corps and the Navy Department, which were overseeing it, have upheld the decision.

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

Bowe said Wednesday that Brezler has secured a stay on the decision to discharge him until the end of October, when a federal judge is expected to rule on his case. Marine Corps and Navy Department officials had no comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

The Marines killed in the insider attack were Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, 21; Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, 29; and Cpl. Richard Rivera Jr., 20. The shooter, Ainuddin Khudairaham, was convicted in an Afghan court in 2014 as a juvenile and sentenced to 7½ years in confinement, infuriating Marine family members who wanted a more severe sentence.

The Buckley family also has sued the Marine Corps, alleging service officials systematically misled them about the incident. That case also is still pending.

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