Free the SEALs!

Urge SOCOM to Free the SEALs!

Free the SEALsThree U.S. Navy SEALs, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, 24, of Perrysburg, Ohio, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe, 25, of Yorktown, Virginia, and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, 28, of Blue Island, Illinois, are being prosecuted in a military court-martial for allegedly "abusing" a detainee, who claims one of them punched him in the stomach. Even if you haven’t heard much about these prosecutions, you will certainly remember hearing about the high-profile event that made this man a highly sought-after "detainee."

The story doesn’t seem to be receiving much media coverage from the mainstream media (surprise!), so you may not have heard anything about these sailors' prosecutions unless you happen to be in the Norfolk or San Diego areas (where SEALs are based), or one of these guys' home towns. Patriotic bloggers have taken up the cause and are trying to draw as much attention as possible to this situation.

"Free the SEALs" is something of a misnomer, because they are not currently being held in custody. Rather, "Free the SEALs" is simply urging the powers-that-be to drop the charges pending against them.

Heinous Crime, Worldwide Outrage

In March of 2004, four civilian contractors working in Iraq for Blackwater were ambushed and killed. The men were Scott Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague. The four were former commandos, including one former SEAL. They were passing through Fallujah, guarding a convoy delivering food. As they drove through the streets of Fallujah in 4-wheel-drive SUVs, they were set upon by an angry mob.

A Mother Avenged:  Poster by Jeff Preston depicting Donna Zovko, mother of murdered Blackwater employee Jerry Zovko, hugging Navy SEAL Matthew McCabe, one of three SEALs who captured Ahmed Hashim Abed, the man allegedly the leader of the group responsible for her son's murder.The results gained global media coverage and generated disbelief and outrage worldwide. "The group were shot and burnt in their cars, before a cheering crowd dismembered the corpses and hung two of them from a bridge" over the Euphrates River, said the BBC. The BBC also reported that "Adults and children hacked the bodies to pieces, before lynching two of the charred remains from a bridge spanning the Euphrates River" like "slaughtered sheep," according to one witness. Television coverage "showed one burnt body being kicked and stamped on, while at least two were tied to cars and driven through the city." Photos of the mutilated corpses hanging from the bridge were published in numerous outlets, but we refuse to publish them here out of respect for the men's families.

The alleged mastermind of that barbaric attack, one of the most notorious crimes against Americans in Iraq, was Ahmed Hashim Abed.

The SEAL Trio

In a daring nighttime raid in September, 2009, the three accused Navy SEALs, Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas, captured Abed in Iraq. Then, in a move taken straight out of a captured terrorist training manual (see p. 16), and totally predictable, Abed claimed he was punched in the stomach by his captors, not during his capture, but after he was being held by US forces.

Reportedly, the allegations arose after a Navy sailor master-at-arms (MAA) assigned to guard Abed reported to a SEAL commander that one of the SEALs punched Abed in the stomach. What we don't know is whether the MAA actually saw the alleged assault, or if he was simply reporting a complaint that Abed made to him.

The incident was reported up the chain of command. As a result, an investigation was launched. The three SEALs were eventually charged with dereliction of duty for failing to execute their duty to safeguard Abed, and for making false official statements to investigators in what is being alleged as a cover-up attempt. In addition, McCabe is charged with assault for allegedly punching Abed, and Huertas is additionally charged with attempting to influence the testimony of a witness.

SEALs Demand Courts-Martial

The three, who are now being referred to as "the SEAL Trio," exercised their right to refuse Captain’s Mast (Non-Judicial Punishment), where their guilt or innocence, and their punishment, would be determined by a commanding officer, and instead requested trial by Courts-Martial, where they can place their fate in the hands of a jury of their peers. At a Special Court-Martial, they face the possibility of up to one year's imprisonment, a reduction in paygrade to E-1, loss of 2/3 of their base pay per month for up to twelve months (and/or an equivalent fine), and a Bad Conduct Discharge.

But at a Special Court-Martial, they also can request trial by either officer members or enlisted members, instead of by military judge alone. A minimum of three members are required, although there are usually six, and if enlisted members are requested, at least one-third of the members must be senior in rank to the accused and not from his immediate command. A conviction requires a vote of a two-thirds majority, and if convicted, a two-thirds vote of the members is required to agree on a sentence.

Accused Navy SEAL Matthew McCabe receives a hug of support and a rosary from Donna Zovko, mother of slain Blackwater guard Jerry Zovko.The men have plead Not Guilty. In December, at their arraignment, a large crowd of supporters showed up at Naval Station Norfolk. Among them was Donna Zovko, the mother of slain Blackwater guard Jerry Zovko, who drove from Ohio to give each of the accused SEALs a blessed rosary and lend them her support.

"These young SEALs are in this situation because they caught the mastermind behind the death of my son, and not only my son and his co-workers but also the Marines who went into Fallujah after their death," said Donna Zovko. "I am very proud of these young SEALs and thankful to them. They didn't do anything wrong."

Trials Moved to Iraq

On Monday, January 11, 2009, when Keefe appeared before a military judge in Norfolk, the prosecution agreed to make Abed available for a deposition at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, where he is being held, but refused to bring him to Norfolk to testify at the trials of the three SEALs. Citing their Constitutional right to confront their accuser in open court, military judge Commander Tierney Carlos set Keefe’s trial to begin on April 6 at Camp Victory. The judge also moved the trial of Huertas to Iraq. McCabe is scheduled to appear before a different judge. Presumably, the government will again refuse to bring Abed to the U.S. to testify, and presumably, the military judge will order McCabe's trial also to be held in Iraq, to enable him to exercise his right to confront his accuser.

Although moving the trials to Iraq will greatly increase the cost of their defense, it may work in favor of the accused SEALs. By holding the courts-martial in Iraq, the three are assured that their "members" (jurors) have the experience necessary to understand the situation in Iraq. That could result in a member panel that is more sympathetic to the plight of the SEALs. (If you would like to contribute to their legal defense fund, you will find a link below.)


Matthew McCabe's trial, originally scheduled for Tuesday, January 19, has been delayed until May 3. Prosecutors requested a delay because 3 SEALs who were expected to testify have reportedly stopped cooperating and notified the court that they have retained their own attorneys. McCabe's trial will not be moved to Iraq. His attorney, Neal Puckett, a former JAG officer, apparently indicated he doesn't need to question Abed, so there's no need to move the trial to Iraq.

Support rallies scheduled for McCabe's original trial date of January 19, will be held as scheduled. Supporters want to send a message of support to the three SEALs before Keefe and Huertas leave for Iraq to start their trials.

April 22, 2010: SO1 Julio Heurtas was found not guilty at court-martial in Iraq.

April 23, 2010: SO2 Jonathan Keefe was found not guilty at his court-martial in Iraq.

May 6, 2010: SO2 Matthew McCabe was found not guilty of all charges at court-martial in Norfolk, Virginia.

More information can be found at: Support Our Seals.

Heroes or Villains?

In December, 2009, Indiana Representative Dan Burton sent a letter, signed by 40 Congressional members, to Army Major General Charles Cleveland, the convening authority who convened the courts-martial, asking him to drop the charges against the SEAL trio. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, himself a former Marine with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, also sent a letter signed by 33 members of Congress.

Major General Cleveland responded to Burton’s letter, saying the Congressman’s perception of the situation was based on inaccurate and faulty media reports. (We suppose that problem could be solved if Cleveland or someone in the command would release more information concerning this case.) He said the more troubling allegations are that the sailors tried to cover up the alleged incident and attempted to influence a witness.

On December 16, 2009, Texas Congressman Rep. Jim Poe (and 45 co-sponsors) introduced H.R. 977, a resolution in the House of Representatives "Honoring Navy SEALs Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe, and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas for their heroic actions in the capture of Ahmed Hashim Abed, the mastermind behind of one of the most notorious crimes against Americans in Iraq." The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.

So, while SOCOM is prosecuting these sailors for alleged "misconduct" following his capture, there is a resolution pending in Congress honoring them for their "heroic actions" in capturing this barbarian!

Only in America.

Makes No Sense

There is so much here that simply doesn't make sense. We can only surmise it must be because we are unable to get any details about what allegedly happened. And apparently, there are details that we may never know.

First, it is confounding, to say the least, that there is even a necessity for a "Warrior Defense Fund" to provide for the cost of legal defense for our warriors doing their jobs! The demoralizing effect of this type of prosecution on the morale of the troops who are currently fighting and training, and on our ability to recruit new enlistees, cannot be understated. It has been reported that our warriors are tired of looking over their shoulders. Is it any wonder?

The cost per man of the highly specialized training the SEALs undergo has been estimated at half a million dollars per man. Here we have three fine young men, who clearly execute their jobs well (they captured the guy without a single shot being fired), and we're going to throw away their careers as well as $1.5 million in training because some most-wanted terrorist claims he was punched in the gut?

So now we have to try to recruit 3 guys who even want to take their place in this political climate, spend another $1.5 million to train them, and if they enlist today, it'll still take years for them to complete their training. Meanwhile, the terrorists laugh at the gullibility of the politically correct Americans.

When will this government realize that the terrorists are using their own rules against them, and rectify the situation?

For the moment, let's even leave aside the comparison of the atrocity this man is allegedly responsible for and the relatively minor "assault" that has been charged. From a strict legal standpoint, it's irrelevant. We realize that from a grass-roots perspective, it seems ridiculous that someone would be court-martialed for punching a guy who committed such atrocities, but from a legal standpoint, it really doesn't matter.

Let's just think about this whole situation for a minute, shall we? Exercise a little common sense, which is in woefully short supply these days.

These three guys captured Abed without a single shot being fired, and brought him in for detention. If they wanted to beat him up, surely they could easily have done it "in the process of capturing him," and there likely would have been no questions.

Does it make sense that they would wait till several hours later, when he was already in custody, and then take a swing at him? Or that if they did, they would only punch him once, in the gut? C'mon, these guys are SEALs, the Navy's commandos. If they were going to risk their careers to beat him up, surely they'd do a better job of it?! And don't you find it interesting that the alleged "injury" is one for which there is no telltale mark, no "evidence" that such abuse occurred? Remember, the offense was initially reported by a MAA assigned to guard Abed. But did he see it, or did he just repeat a complaint made by Abed? We don't know.

I realize these comments may sound strange coming from a former prosecutor. They even surprise me. And it could be that when the evidence is known, it all makes sense, and we agree that this was the proper thing to do. But right now, with the dearth of information available to the general public, we have to wonder what this command is thinking and why they would put these brave men through these trials.

If the alleged "assault" even happened at all, could we blame these (or any other) sailors for thinking maybe their best bet was to "cover it up?" Maybe they heard about the nightmare suffered for the past four years by Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the most senior of the so-called "Haditha Marines," whose prosecution for "failing to report and investigate the incident" was continued by the Marine Corps for years, even in the face of evidence that he in fact reported the incident up his chain of command immediately, and that his chain of command, up to and including the commanding general, agreed no further investigation was necessary. When the military judge threw out the charges due to unlawful command influence, the Marine Corps still continued its prosecution of Chessani, sending him to a Board of Inquiry, which could have recommended he be retired one paygrade lower if it found misconduct.

Chessani was "lucky" to escape with his retirement intact, but an outstanding Marine and effective warrior was forced to retire to appease a loud-mouthed, ignorant politician. Maybe these SEALs were hoping to avoid having their careers dragged through the mud, or ended unceremoniously by some commander feeling the pinch of political correctness.

We know that Congressman John Murtha was the political force behind the Haditha prosecutions. Who is behind this one?

Is Being Politically Correct
This Country’s Achilles’ Heel?

Political Correctness has absolutely no place in our military!This hand-lettered sign, at the SEALs' arraignment in December, pretty much sums it up. The obsession of some with "political correctness" at the expense of everything else is a cancer eating away at the fabric of this country.

I have long said that political correctness is highly overrated. As the old saying goes, "You can't please all of the people all of the time." And some people just take pleasure in "being offended." It gives meaning to their lives, and gives them something to do. They just wouldn't be happy if they didn't have something to complain about.

It's time for America to grow a spine again. And it's time for those people mentioned above to grow a thicker skin and grow up.

Can't you just imagine what John Wayne would have to say about this whole situation?

How Can You Help?

In a word (OK, two words), get involved!

  1. Let SOCOM (Special Operations Command) know you want them to "Free the SEALs!" Although the the convening authority in the case is an Army Major General, his boss is four-star Navy Admiral Eric Olson (SEAL). Send a letter or place a call to Admiral Olson, and let him know (politely and professionally) that you support the SEAL Trio and how you feel about these fine young men being prosecuted after capturing a most-wanted terrorist. And remember that your communication could help or hurt these young men's careers.

    [Since these prosecutions have ended, we have removed the contact information, as it is no longer needed.]

  2. Donate to the Warrior Defense Fund.

    Free the SEALs

    Although this prosecution has ended, it appears there will be an ongoing need for a warrior defense fund to defend our brave men and women in uniform from unjust prosecutions for political expediency. Therefore, we are leaving this link live in case you would like to help support our warriors in this manner.

  3. Sign the Human Events online petition [Again, we have removed the link as this prosecution has ended.] At the time of writing, there were more than 117,000 signatures. Human Events requested a meeting to personally deliver the petition to Secretary Gates seeking the dismissal of charges against the three Navy SEALs. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid a meeting is just not going to be possible at this time," said Gates spokesman Bryan Whitman in an e-mail to HUMAN EVENTS’ editors.

  4. Please use the buttons across the bottom of the page to share this article on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and/or 

  5. Scroll down to the form below and share your thoughts about these cases, and about the cancer of political correctness in our military and our country.

Our thanks to Bubba of, and his pals Russ and Randy, for permission to publish their photos of McCabe and Mrs. Zovko, and the "politically correct" sign in this article. Thanks also to Jeff Preston, who created (and copyrighted) the "Mother Avenged" poster specifically to benefit the legal defense fund for the three SEALs. It can be used ONLY to solicit contributions for the SEALs' defense.

What Are Your Thoughts
About the SEAL Trio?

Sound off! Share your thoughts about the prosecution of these three Navy SEALs and the political correctness that is crippling our military, and/or post messages of support for Petty Officers McCabe, Keefe, and Huertas.

Since you are writing a web page, please have more to say than just a one-liner.

Legal Stuff: By submitting comments to this site, I am granting exclusive permission to publish my comments on this web site, and in any other medium, identified as a submission to this site.

Here's What Other Readers Had to Say

The links below will take you to the submissions from other readers ...

Matthew McCabe Not Guilty; SEALs Vindicated 
Navy SEAL Matthew McCabe, a Second Class Petty Officer (E-5), was found not guilty of all charges by a seven-member panel of military members (the military …

SEAL Matthew McCabe Court-Martial Underway in Norfolk 
The third Navy SEAL Court-Martial on charges of abusing a suspected Iraqi terrorist is underway this week in Norfolk, Virginia. Petty Officer Second Class …

Military Court Martial Seeks Justice 
A military court martial administers justice in military courtrooms in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and prevailing military …

SEAL Jonathan Keefe Not Guilty 
US Navy SEAL Jonathan Keefe found not guilty. Keefe, a 2nd Class Petty Officer (E-5)is the second of three U.S. Navy SEALs to face court-martial for allegedly …

First of SEAL Trio Acquitted in Baghdad 
U.S. Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas was found not guilty of dereliction of duty and impeding an investigation today by a six-man Navy …

Save the SEALs! 
We must save the SEALs! This makes me sick to think this country could even think these well-trained SEALs could be in the wrong. This should not have …

SEAL Prosecution Unbelievable! 
In my opinion, the actions taken by these "leaders" against these three SEALs will lead to special ops personnel of all branches being hesitant in the …

SEAL Prosecution is Ridiculous  
Butch wrote: It is pretty ridiculous that charges went up thru the chain of command in the case of the three SEALs who captured this high-value target …

Russ writes: These men are heroes in every sense of the word. They did their job and did it professionally and efficiently. Whether or not this godless …

SEALs Prosecution is Appalling 
Debbie Lee writes: I am appalled and disgusted at the charges against our SEALs for having given a HVT (High Value Target) "a fat lip." I have heard …

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