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Senators seek answers in Marine's high-profile whistle-blower case

Dec. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Virginia Sens. Mark Warner, center, and Tim Kaine, right, have asked for information the investigation of Maj. James Weirick's reprisal allegations. Weirick, a Marine attorney, earlier this year claimed that the commandant tried to influence the outcome of legal proceedings against the scout snipers who urinated on Taliban corpses.
Virginia Sens. Mark Warner, center, and Tim Kaine, right, have asked for information the investigation of Maj. James Weirick's reprisal allegations. Weirick, a Marine attorney, earlier this year claimed that the commandant tried to influence the outcome of legal proceedings against the scout snipers who urinated on Taliban corpses. ()
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Two U.S. senators have asked for information regarding a Marine attorney who alleged reprisal after blowing the whistle on senior officers he believed were interfering with military justice.

Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., have both written to the Marine Corps to express interest in the DoD Inspector General’s investigation into reprisal allegations by Maj. James Weirick, according to correspondence reviewed by Marine Corps Times.

Earlier this year, Weirick filed a complaint with the IG alleging that Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and his senior legal advisers had sought to influence Marine Corps legal proceedings for scout snipers who were seen urinating on Taliban corpses in a YouTube video that embarrassed senior Marine leaders. He has since filed reprisal complaints with the same office, alleging Marine officials sought to damage his career and told him not to communicate with members of Congress, a protected activity under whistle-blower statutes. He was fired from his post as staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va., in September and asked to submit to a psychological evaluation after sending a strongly worded email to one of the legal advisers named in his complaint.

In a Dec. 2 letter, Thelma English, head of the Marine Corps Office of Legislative Affairs Correspondence, acknowledges a written request by Warner for information on Weirick’s case and retaliation concerns.

“Since your inquiry involves a complaint Major Weirick filed with the Department of Defense Inspector General against the Commandant of the Marine Corps, our response to you cannot be provided until their investigation is complete,” English wrote. “Once all required information is received and reviewed by this office, we will respond further.”

English wrote that Warner’s office would likely receive a reply on Jan. 30 and added that Kaine had also expressed interest in the case.

IG officials recently told the commandant’s office that they had found Amos did not show favoritism toward Lt. Col. James B. Conway, executive officer of the snipers’ battalion during the urination incident and the son of Amos’s predecessor as commandant, Gen. James T. Conway. Weirick had alleged Amos showed preferential treatment to then-Maj. Conway following the incident, shielding him from punishment and ensuring his promotion.

While it appears that the IG is not actively investigating Weirick’s other allegations of unlawful command influence, officials recently informed him they were taking a closer look at his reprisal claims.

“During our examination of your complaint, we identified that members of your chain of command may have restricted or attempted to restrict you from making or preparing to make lawful communications to members of Congress,” Brian Benner, supervisory investigator of whistle-blower reprisal investigations wrote Weirick on Dec. 5.

Weirick said the claims they are investigating stemmed from two incidents.

In May, he sent an email to a staffer for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. That was quickly followed, Weirick claims, by forceful requests from two of Amos’ legal advisers, Robert Hogue and Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, to the chief of staff for Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, then-head of MCCDC, , urging them to put a stop to Weirick’s emails.

Then, in July, Weirick said was called into a meeting with with his then-superviser, Col. Donald Riley, told to stop sending emails, and informed that “whistle-blower protection will not last forever, so don’t press it,” according to his and his lawyer’s account.

A spokesman for Riley, Col. Sean Gibson, declined to discuss Weirick’s claim when Marine Corps Times first reported it, saying “statements of that nature may be addressed at a later time in the proper forum, but not via the press.” He did, however, counter allegations that Weirick’s removal from his post was an act of reprisal.

Benner said in the letter that the investigation was expected to be completed within 150 days.

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