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Lawmakers Petition Carter to Intervene in Discharge of 'Hero' Marine

In this 2009 file photo, former Marine Corps Capt. Jason C. Brezler meets with Afghan leaders in Now Zad, Afghanistan. (Albert F. Hunt/U.S. Marine Corps)

Two members of Congress have separately written Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to intervene in the discharge of a Marine reserve officer who some say is a hero.

Reps. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, and Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina, defended Maj. Jason Brezler in letters dated Dec. 3 and Sept. 29 respectively.

Brezler was recommended for discharge at a Marine Corps administrative board of inquiry in 2013 after a panel of officers found he had improperly handled classified material. The breach -- which included a hard drive Brezler had brought back from a deployment to Afghanistan -- surfaced in 2012 when he used a personal account to send an email containing one of the classified documents to other Marine colleagues.

The document was a profile of Sarwar Jan, an infamous Afghan policeman who Marines believed was selling uniforms to insurgents and sexually abusing young Afghan boys. Jan had previously been dismissed from a Marine base in 2010, when Brezler had been in Afghanistan as a civil affairs officer.

Brezler sent the document in response to an urgent call for information after Jan resurfaced at a Marine outpost in the Garmsir district of Afghanistan's Helmand province. Weeks later, one of the corrupt cop's teenage servants would grab an AK-47 and kill three Marines while they worked out at the base gym.

Brezler's discharge was upheld Nov. 30 by Scott Lutterloh, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs.

In Hunter's Dec. 3 letter, the congressman called for the Defense Department and the FBI to investigate reports of child sex abuse at the Marines' base in Garmsir; inadequacies into the investigation of the murders of three Marines in August 2012; allegations of obstruction of justice and retaliation; and the current relationship between the military and Sarwar.

Hunter also asked Carter to look into the specifics of Brezler's alleged mishandling of documents, saying that only 13 of the 107 documents recovered from his hard drive were confirmed to contain classified information, and none of the documents were referenced in an unpublished manuscript he had been writing about the deployment.

"An independent and thorough investigation is now required -- and it is my belief that this must now occur outside the control of the Department of Defense," Hunter wrote.

A spokesman for Carter's office, Army Lt. Col. Joseph Sowers, said the office has received Hunter's letter and would reply to him.

Jones' letter also asks Carter to spare Brezler and to investigate the troubling possibility that Marines were encouraged to ignore child sex abuse being perpetrated on their bases by their Afghan counterparts.

"Major Brezler is a hero; someone our nation should be proud to have defending us," Jones wrote. "If someone does not take a stand and do what is morally and ethically right, this country and our military are doomed."

Carter's office has said that the defense secretary will reply directly to Jones. But staff with Jones' office said the congressman is still waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, Brezler is challenging his separation in federal court, alleging that his board of inquiry did not follow the correct procedures and a transcript of the hearing produced by the Marine Corps was misleading and inadequate.

""We appreciate the Congressional scrutiny and support," said Brezler's attorney, Michael Bowe. "And the Defense Secretary should fix this abusive injustice before a federal judge does."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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