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Navy prosecutors used software to spy on SEAL lawyers and media, defense teams say

Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher on a deployment. (Courtesy of Andrea Gallagher)
May 13, 2019

Navy prosecutors installed tracking software into recent emails sent to defense attorneys and one reporter in an effort to spy, the defense team for Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher revealed Monday.

The prosecutors’ effort was to try and see who might be leaking information to the media. But the ones suspected of leaking information are the Navy prosecutors, according to Tim Parlatore, Gallagher’s civilian defense attorney.

“I’ve seen some crazy stuff but for a case like this it’s complete insanity. I was absolutely stunned… especially given the fact that it’s so clear the government has been the one doing the leaking,” Parlatore told the Associated Press on Monday.

Gallagher, a 15-year Navy SEAL, is charged with premeditated murder, accused of stabbing and killing a critically wounded ISIS fighter during a 2017 deployment to Mosul. He is also accused of shooting at unarmed civilians. He has pleaded not guilty.

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The defense team for Lt. Jacob Portier, Gallagher’s commander who is charged with conduct unbecoming of an officer in connection to Gallagher’s case, filed a motion Monday asking a military judge to have the prosecutors hand over information about what they were seeking and how deep the spying went, and if it installed malware, the Associated Press reported.

The tracking software was reportedly embedded in an “unusual logo of an American flag with a bald eagle perched on the scales of justice beneath the signature of [Cmdr. Christopher] Czaplak,” the prosecutor in the case.

Parlatore told the AP that he asked Czaplak about the strange logo and was suspicious about hacking, and also wary that tracking software had been embedded in the bizarre logo.

“I can’t imagine you’d be trying to track defense attorneys’ emails. I want to make sure your system hasn’t been compromised,” Parlatore said to the AP about what he told Czaplak.

The tracking software was sent on Wednesday to 13 lawyers and paralegals, and one reporter.

“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,” one of Portier’s lawyers, Air Force Lt. Col. Nicholas McCue, told the Associated Press. “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.”

Gallagher, 39, was arrested on Sept. 11, 2018, and was held in Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego for more than seven months before President Donald Trump took note of the case. In late March, Trump tweeted an order that Gallagher be moved to less-restrictive pre-trial conditions, this after more than 50 members of Congress called for urgent attention to the case and implored investigations into how Navy is handling both the case and Gallagher’s treatment. He has been at the medical center since, preparing for his court-martial trial slated to begin May 28.

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A death threat written in Arabic was last week sent to Gallagher, and was intercepted in the mail room of the medical center and sent to prosecutors.

Recently, Gallagher’s defense team has said that video footage from a helmet cam shows the SEAL did not try to kill the captured, critically wounded ISIS fighter, but rather tried to provide medical treatment to him. That video was also shown to members of Congress last week.