US Navy says it will not take further action against retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher for his remarks on how a captured enemy fighter died

Edward Gallagher
U.S. Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher (R), with wife Andrea Gallagher, leaves court after being acquitted of most of the serious charges against him during his court-martial trial at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California , U.S., July 2, 2019. John Gastaldo / Reuters
  • Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher was cleared after being accused of murdering a prisoner of war.
  • But in May, he said that he and other SEALs killed him by practicing medical procedures on him.
  • The Navy said it would not take action against him because it could not corroborate this story.
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The US Navy said Tuesday that it does not plan to take action against retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher after he said in May that he and other SEALs used a dying enemy fighter for medical practice with no intention of saving him. The Navy said it could not corroborate his claims.

Gallagher was charged with killing a severely wounded Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 by stabbing the captured enemy fighter in the neck, but he was acquitted in a high-profile war crimes trial in 2019.

He was convicted of posing for a photograph with the captive’s corpse and demoted, but President Donald Trump intervened on his behalf, restoring his rank and stopping the Navy from taking away his SEAL trident.

The results of the trial aside, Gallagher told Dan Taberski, the host of the podcast “The Line,” in early May that “the grain of truth in the whole thing is that that ISIS fighter was killed by us and that nobody at that time had a problem with it.”

“We killed that guy. Our intention was to kill him. Everybody was on board,” he said. Asked about his statement that the intention was to kill the fighter, Gallagher responded that he and the others intended to “do medical scenarios on him until he died.”

“He was going to die regardless. We weren’t taking any prisoners,” Gallagher explained to Taberski. “That wasn’t our job.” He added that “everyone was like, let’s just do medical treatments on him until he’s gone.”

Gallagher said that when he cut an emergency airway in the prisoner’s throat to insert a breathing tube, he was not doing the procedure to save his life, but rather he was, in his words, “practicing to see how fast I could do one.”

Citing records, Navy Times reported in 2019 that after 20 minutes of treatment, the prisoner’s body “ended up inexplicably spangled with medical devices.”

Denying allegations that he killed the prisoner, allegations which were at the heart of his trial, Gallagher told Taberski “that dude died from all the medical treatments that were done,” further stating that there were “plenty of medical treatments that were done to him.”

In a later an interview with Military.com in June, Gallagher appeared to backtrack, stating that although he and his teammates used the dying prisoner as a training tool for medical procedures, nothing was done to accelerate his death or that was not in his medical interests.

After Gallagher’s May podcast appearance, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Navy was “looking into” the situation.

“The Navy reviewed the matter and will not pursue further action,” Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Courtney Hillson said in a statement Tuesday.

She said that “after a review conducted by the Navy, it was determined that Gallagher’s statements were not corroborated and no substantive information was found to merit an investigation based on those statements.”

Hillson also said that matters pertaining to the medical treatment and death of the prisoner were “already investigated and/or adjudicated at Gallagher’s court-martial,” so legally under the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Navy would be unable to try Gallagher for the same alleged crimes again.