House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Ranking Member Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requesting information about the court martial of Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr., a Marine who spoke out against the Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Republican lawmakers are concerned the charges brought against the Lt. Col. may be politically motivated and a possible attempt to silence future whistleblowers from criticizing the Biden Administration’s actions abroad.
“In the wake of a terrorist attack on U.S. forces and Afghan nationals that killed 13 service members, Lt. Col. Scheller posted a public video on a social media website expressing criticism of senior officials handling the withdrawal from Afghanistan and demanding they be held to account. His superior officers subsequently relieved him of his command. On Monday, September 27, 2021, Lt. Col. Scheller was then incarcerated and placed in pretrial confinement at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. Although he has apparently not yet been charged in a formal court martial, he stands accused of contempt toward officials, disobeying a superior officer, failing to obey lawful orders, and conduct unbecoming of an officer. It appears that these charges would also relate to his criticism of senior military officials for their actions in connection with the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” wrote the lawmakers.
“Because he criticized the Biden Administration and senior Department of Defense leadership, the charges levied against the Lt. Col. appear politically motivated. Further, Lt. Col. Scheller is the only soldier or official within the entire Executive Branch who has faced any consequences whatsoever related to how the Biden Administration withdrew from Afghanistan. Not only is the lack accountability for the deadly consequences from the Afghanistan pullout unacceptable, but we are also concerned the charges against Lt. Col. Scheller are a very public attempt to silence potential future whistleblowers and preempt criticism more broadly across the Department of Defense,” concluded the lawmakers.
In order to facilitate oversight over the military’s decision to relieve Lt. Col. Scheller of his command and incarcerate him, the lawmakers are requesting an immediate briefing on his incarceration, the underlying investigation against him, and what, if anything, the Department of Defense is doing to ensure that it is not unfairly or unlawfully retaliating against whistleblowers.