1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Navy SEAL pardoned by Trump labeled 'evil'

December 28, 2019

Ex-members of Eddie Gallagher's elite commando unit who served in Iraq have described him as "freaking evil" and "toxic" in a leaked video. The platoon leader was controversially pardoned by the US president.

US Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Courtesy of Andrea Gallagher/E. Gallagher

A Navy SEAL platoon leader who was tried for war crimes and later pardoned by US President Donald Trump was described as "toxic" and "freaking evil" by veterans who served with him in Iraq, the New York Times has reported.

The comments were made in video footage shared with war crimes prosecutors, who investigated charges of premeditated murder by Eddie Gallagher.

The now 40-year-old was accused of allegedly stabbing to death a captured, wounded 17-year-old "Islamic State" (IS) fighter in Iraq in May 2017.

Gallagher was acquitted in July by a military jury of all but one charge of posing for a picture with a human casualty.

Trump intervened, against the Pentagon's advice that he could damage the integrity of the military judicial system and demanded that Gallagher's rank be restored.

Read more: Germans think Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong Un and Putin

What the video shows

The footage shows members of Gallagher's SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon speaking to agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service about his conduct in Iraq.

In sometimes emotional interviews, they describe how their chief seemed to love killing, how he targeted women and children and boasted that "burqas were flying."

"The guy is freaking evil," special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the most experienced members of Alpha Platoon's SEAL Team 7, told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

Another platoon member, identified by the Times as special operator first class Corey Scott, said: "You could tell he was perfectly okay with killing anybody that was moving."

 "The guy was toxic," special operator first class Joshua Vriens added.

Read more: Trump shrugs off North Korea 'Christmas gift' missile rumors

US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer
US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who was fired over the affair, described Trump's actions in the Gallagher case as a "shocking and unprecedented intervention"Image: picture-alliance/abaca/Tns/San Diego Union-Tribune/M.C. Cepeda

Video testimony of killing

The material also includes thousands of text messages the SEALs sent to one another about the case and video from a SEAL's helmet camera that shows Gallagher approach a barely conscious captive — a teenage IS fighter  — in May 2017. The camera then shuts off.

Three SEALS then described in video interviews how they saw Gallagher stab the sedated captive for no reason and hold an impromptu ceremony over the body as if it were a trophy.

Miller called it "the most disgraceful thing I've ever seen in my life."

Platoon members told investigators that they tried repeatedly to report what they saw but no action was taken, so they approached the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Gallagher was arrested a few months later.

Read more: Germany: Nine terror attacks prevented since Berlin Christmas market killings

Gallagher denies the allegations, dismissing them as smears by platoon members who could not match his performance.

The military trial became a cause celebre in conservative media and prompted Trump to intervene to have Gallagher removed from jail and placed in a Navy hospital, where he had more freedom.

Trump orders restoration of rank

After his acquittal, Gallagher was demoted, and the Navy moved to remove his official SEAL pin. But Trump intervened again, ordering the pin and rank be restored.

Trump went on to fire Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over the affair and last weekend, he hosted Gallagher and his wife at the president's Florida resort.

Through his lawyer, Gallagher issued a statement to the Times saying: "My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment."

mm/rc (AFP, AP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.