Gen. James Amos is commandant of the Marine Corps. / Alex Brandon, AP
WASHINGTON - Marine Corps officials acted appropriately when they authorized the classification of hours of controversial video taken by members of a Marine patrol that had urinated on dead Taliban militants in Afghanistan, a government security office ruled.
The video of the urination went viral in January 2012, triggering waves of outrage in the Muslim world. Commanders said they moved quickly to classify other the video taken by the patrol over concerns that it could further incite violence.
The video depicting the Marines urinating was not classified and was already available on the Internet.
Some attorneys for Marines accused in connection with the case objected to keeping the video secret, arguing there was nothing in it that would jeopardize national security. They claimed it harmed their ability to defend their clients.
In a letter dated May 30 the director of the Information Security Oversight Office, John Fitzpatrick, concluded that there are laws in place that allow for the examination of classified evidence in the courtroom. He concluded that the proper authorities made the classification determination based on potential damage to national security.
"In the case of these materials, I believe that the criminal investigators would not have known more about that particular threat environment, infantry tactics, techniques and procedures, and the associated field equipment than a general officer with decades of command and operational experience and knowledge of the dangers of that operating environment," he wrote.
In the letter Fitzpatrick said his office is charged with investigating complaints regarding the classification system and to make reports if any official improperly classifies information. He said he thoroughly investigated the complaint and will not make a report.
The letter was addressed to Marine Corps attorney Maj. James Weirick, who filed the complaint.
"I appreciate the time and energy Director Fitzpatrick and his staff dedicated to this investigation," Weirick said in an e-mail. "This demonstrates both their professionalism and the importance of a properly-administered classification system."
The videotape was made on July 2011 during a patrol consisting of 20 troops, including six members of a sniper team.
Commanders said the urination video was only one segment of more than five hours of video taken during the patrol. In all, eight Marines were disciplined in connection with the urination case, including a number of non-commissioned officers.
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