A Marine Corps officer who faces the end of his military career for transmitting classified information over an unsecured network wants the service to replace the three-star general overseeing his prosecution, saying he may have discouraged another general from coming to the embattled officer’s defense.
The case against Maj. Jason Brezler, a civil affairs officer in the Marine Corps Reserve and New York City firefighter, stems from a warning he sent last year to U.S. troops in Afghanistan about a shady Afghan police chief whose teenage “tea boy” is accused of killing three Marines at at joint base in Helmand province. Shortly after he sent the warning, his colleague expressed concern that Brezler had shared classified information through improper channels. Both officers self-reported, and an investigation ensued.
Brezler also is accused of mishandling more than 100 other classified documents by keeping them on a personal hard drive. He says his team was not issued computers and resorted to working on their personal laptops and sharing documents on thumb drives.
Since we’re discussing honor and integrity here today, let me just touch on this not so much from the legal side of the issue, but on the downstream effects the Marines might be inflicting upon themselves here.
Failure to properly handle classified information is a big deal. Especially in the age of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, it’s a high visibility issue.
But the purpose of properly handling classified information is to prevent its disclosure to hostile forces, not to serve as an end in and of itself.
Here we have MAJ Belzer improperly handling information. It appears that at least some of the cause of this is the incredibly weak IT systems the entire government is famous for.
And so when MAJ Belzer was warned by a peer that he had probably broken the rules, he self-reported. The goal of self reporting is to mitigate or prevent any further disclosure.
But if the Marines hammer MAJ Belzer mercilessly, will the next person to make a mistake report it, or will they see a lesson where every good deed goes punished, and strive to conceal their error. Are the Marines actually putting into place a regime that obliquely encourages people to lie?