A tweeting President Donald J. Trump might’ve ordered Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher freed from the brig while the SEAL awaits a trial on war crimes charges, but his commodore has imposed stiff restrictions on his release.
In a Monday letter sent to Phillip Stackhouse, one of Gallagher’s civilian attorneys, Naval Special Warfare Group 1 commodore Capt. Matthew D. Rosenbloom outlined and defended the measures he’s ordered Gallagher to follow.
Gallagher, 39, is authorized to possess only an iPod Nano or iPod Shuffle to listen to music. The SEAL is forbidden to use any device that connects to the internet or has Bluetooth capability, Rosenbloom wrote.
Gallagher will be provided telephone privileges to call his immediate family and his attorneys and they’re also allowed to visit him at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, but any requests for better food or accommodations off of the San Diego military base are denied.
“The command has and will continue to ensure SOC Gallagher receives three meals a day,” Rosenbloom continued. “The order is a restriction order, not an entitlement order.”
Rosenbloom assures Stackhouse that he’s following Trump’s March 30 order to move Gallagher from Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar to less restrictive conditions.
At the same time, Rosenbloom claims in his letter to have authority under the latest Rule for Courts-Martial to articulate just how free the SEAL can be before his court-martial trial, which is scheduled to begin on May 28 at Naval Base San Diego.
Military prosecutors have charged Gallagher with stabbing to death an unarmed Islamic State prisoner of war who was receiving medical care near Mosul in 2017. Gallagher is also accused of wielding a sniper rifle to gun down civilians and then attempting to cover up his crimes by threatening fellow SEALs who reported his alleged misconduct.
In his letter to Stackhouse, Rosenbloom said that he reasonably believes Gallagher committed those offenses and there must be safeguards to prevent future attempts “to intimidate witnesses and obstruct justice.”
Contacted by telephone, California-based Group 1′s judge advocate general, Navy Lt. Keleigh Anderson, said that she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
Naval Special Warfare spokeswoman Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence said that the “letter stands on its own and I’m not going to comment on internal deliberations.”
Defense attorney Stackhouse told Navy Times that those orders appear to be unlawful.
“The president ordered Chief Gallagher released from pretrial confinement,” said Stackhouse. “How does a subordinate commander get the right to issue orders that appear to alter what his commander in chief wanted?”
To Gallagher’s legal team, the president appears to have communicated different wishes by telephone to the Secretary of the Navy and Rosenbloom has no delegated authority within his chain of command to alter them.
Gallagher’s attorneys believe the chief could be released to his family in Florida pending his upcoming court-martial trial, but Rosenbloom balked at that.
In his letter, however, the captain indicated that he will consider other requests from Gallagher “as circumstances dictate.”
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.