Legislation compensates service members wrongly accused by the government

Washington, DC- Congresswoman Kay Granger today introduced legislation, the Service Member Legal Relief Act (H.R. 5374), that will ensure that service men and women, who are acquitted of charges stemming from their military duties related to handling terrorists, or suspected terrorists, are fully reimbursed if they seek outside counsel.  

In September 2009, three U.S. Navy SEALs were charged with crimes related to the alleged torturing of a terrorist who had coordinated the killing of four U.S. contractors in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. Ahmed Hashim Abed accused Petty Officers Julio Huertas, Jonathan Keefe and Matthew McCabe of assaulting him while he was detained. Granger subsequently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates stating that the SEALs’ courts-martial proceedings were not warranted and asking for the Secretary to intervene.  As of May 2010 all three SEALs were acquitted, but not without accruing legal fees.

In January 2010, Granger introduced H.Res. 1025 in the House of Representatives, a resolution that reinforces the House’s strong support for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines; clarifies that political sensitivities should not impact decisions to bring charges against our troops; and emphasizes that our service members should have the best defense possible.  Most importantly, the resolution also states that any service member charged with a crime related to the treatment of terrorist should have their legal fees paid for by the U.S. government if those charges are dropped or the service member is acquitted.

Granger’s follow-on legislation goes beyond an expression of support and directs the Secretary of Defense to reimburse service members charged in crimes related to the treatment of terrorists to be reimbursed for their legal expenses. “The recent acquittal of all three Navy SEALs accused of crimes related to the alleged beating of a terrorist proves what we already suspected – these men’s purpose was to protect our troops and bring a suspected murderer to justice,” Granger said. “These SEALs had their careers and futures on the line and rightfully sought the best legal representation available to them. It has been proven that these SEALs were guilty merely of doing their jobs, and they should not face financial burdens as a result.”