A 1996 North Carroll High School graduate is facing a possible discharge on other-than-honorable terms from the Marine Corps for being accused of mishandling classified information.
Maj. Jason Brezler, a current New York firefighter, U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Bronze Star medal winner in the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve, will go in front of a board of inquiry this month to determine whether he will be permitted to remain in the Marine Corps.
Brezler has served four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and has been in the Marine Corps for 13 years. During a tour in Afghanistan, Brezler became aware that local Afghan police chief Sarwar Jan was taking part in corrupt acts, which included raping and torturing children, and Brezler got him fired, according to Kevin Carroll, Brezler's attorney. He is providing Brezler pro bono representation along with his law firm, Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan.
Two years later, Sarwar Jan was reappointed chief of police and a different Marine unit started having concerns about him, Carroll said. Those Marines sent Brezler an email entitled, "IMPORTANT: SARWAR JAN IS BACK," in efforts to get background information about Jan.
Carroll said Brezler immediately emailed his colleagues back with everything he knew about Jan from a Yahoo account, rather than a classified account. He attached to the email a classified document that included allegations about Jan and the danger he presented to both children and Marines, he said.
Brezler admitted the error and turned himself in, Carroll said.
"There was nothing in it that would damage U.S. national security," he said. "All parties to the email had security clearances."
The Marines who received Brezler's reply email deleted it and didn't act on it, Carroll said. Not long after, three Marines were killed by a teenage boy who was allegedly working for Jan, Carroll said.
According to an email sent by Marine Col. Francis Piccoli, director of the Public Affairs Department for the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve, an investigation substantiated Brezler's mishandling of classified information. As a result, Brezler has been ordered to show cause for retention in the U.S. Marine Corps before a board of inquiry.
"The Marine Corps will not comment further on this case at this time because we do not want to influence the Board of Inquiry's decision-making process and/or jeopardize the due process Maj. Brezler should be afforded during this administrative hearing," he said.
Regarding the mishandling of classified information, the Marine Corps and the United States Department of Defense as a whole takes it extremely seriously, according to Marine Capt. Ty Balzer, a U.S. Marine Corps Public Affairs Media Officer. He wrote in an email that there are a number of factors that determine how an offense is handled, but it would most likely result in at least administrative penalties and possibly criminal proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Carroll said after the Marine shooting, Brezler was gone after for allegedly spilling classified information. The hope is that the information he sent will become declassified.
"I think they will say he did the right thing and acted to protect Marines and children," he said.
Brezler is receiving an outpouring of support, including from lawmakers such as Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
Carroll describes Brezler as an extraordinarily fine man with an impressive record of service.
"It would be just a travesty if there was any blemish on this young man's record for doing the right thing," he said.
According to a previously published report on the case by CNN, the hearing could take a few hours or a few days depending on the number of witnesses called, and will end with an immediate recommendation by the board.
Depending on the evidence presented, there are several options open to the board. The three Board of Inquiry officers could recommend either an honorable discharge or an other-than-honorable discharge. The latter could result in a loss of veteran's benefits, including free health care, according to the CNN report.
The Secretary of the Navy would need to give a final stamp of approval on that decision. If the board recommends no action against Brezler, the decision is final, according to the CNN report.