By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has asked an independent board to review the application of military justice in deployed areas, the Pentagon’s General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson announced today.
A subcommittee of the newly established Defense Legal Policy Board will examine instances where service members are alleged to have committed offenses against civilians in combat zones. Former DOD General Counsel Judith Miller and retired Army Maj. Gen. Walter B. Huffman will co-chair the subcommittee.
Panetta signed a memorandum outlining the board’s task on July 30. “We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed areas,” Panetta wrote in the memo. The abuses, he said, “have been rare among our professional fighting force,” but he said they became huge flash points that threatened to undermine the U.S. mission and relations with other countries.
The board will review instances going back to October 2001 -- the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Johnson said it is important for DOD to learn from past experiences to ensure the U.S. military justice system is efficient, fair, dependable and credible.
The board will look at how alleged offenses are initially reported and investigated. It will also look at the initial and final disposition authority in such cases, and whether in joint, deployed areas cases should be handled with joint resources rather than those from a single service, and whether sufficient resources exist in deployed areas to conduct proper investigations.
The Defense Legal Policy Board was established in April. It serves as a federal advisory committee providing the Secretary of Defense with informed, independent advice on issues related to DOD, and can propose changes to department policies and goals.
Others serving on the subcommittee, whose members are appointed by the Secretary of Defense, are retired Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold L. Punaro, former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey Jr., retired Army Judge Advocate General officer Col. Richard D. Rosen, the assistant U.S. attorney for Minnesota Charles Kovats, Yale Law School scholar Eugene Fidell and retired New York Police Department criminal investigator Roger Parrino.
“This board is not composed entirely of lawyers,” Johnson said. “Military justice is a tool for commanders in deployed areas. It’s not a lawyer’s tool -- it’s a tool for commanders.”