Military prosecutors in the case of a Navy SEAL charged with killing an Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 installed tracking software in emails sent to defense lawyers and a reporter in an apparent attempt to discover who was leaking information to the media, according to lawyers who told the Associated Press that they had received the corrupted messages.
The defense attorneys say the intrusion may have violated constitutional protections against illegal searches, guarantees to the right to a lawyer and freedom of the press.
“I’ve seen some crazy stuff, but for a case like this it’s complete insanity,” said attorney Timothy Parlatore. “I was absolutely stunned ... especially given the fact that it’s so clear the government has been the one doing the leaking.”
Parlatore represents Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who has pleaded not guilty to a murder count in the death of an injured teenage militant he allegedly stabbed to death in 2017 in Iraq. Gallagher’s platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, is fighting charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conducting Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse.
Attorneys for Portier filed a motion Monday asking a military judge to force prosecutors to turn over information about what they were seeking and the extent of the intrusion.
“The fact that prosecutors have embedded their emails with devices designed to monitor defense communications at least implicates the Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights of Lt. Portier, and also impacts Air Force defense operations in the entire Western Circuit,” wrote Air Force Lt. Col. Nicholas McCue, one of Portier’s defense lawyers. “In this case, discovery of the requested items is important to ensuring the prosecution in this case did not take any part in arranging or permitting an intrusion into Lt. Portier’s attorney-client relationship.”
The prosecutor, Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak, declined to comment Monday. Navy spokesman Brian O’Rourke didn’t immediately return a phone message from the Associated Press seeking comment.
The emails were sent Wednesday to 13 lawyers and paralegals on their team — and to Carl Prine, a reporter for the Navy Times newspaper.
Prine has reported extensively on the case and has broken several stories based on documents provided by sources.
Although some of those documents are subject to a court order not to be shared, none has been classified, he said.