A US Navy SEAL at the centre of war crimes allegations, whose rank was reinstated in an intervention by Donald Trump, has been described as “freaking evil” by a whistleblower.
The remark, by a former colleague of Edward Gallagher, was contained in video of confidential military interviews with witnesses to the death of a hostage in Iraq.
The New York Times published the footage amid a political row over Mr Trump’s decision to restore Gallagher’s rank and grant him full retirement benefits.
The SEAL was demoted from chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer after a court martial cleared him of murdering the wounded captive in 2017, but guilty of an offence of posing with the body for a photo.
The case was brought after several whistleblowers in SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon complained that top brass in the secretive special operations unit did not want to know.
The recordings released by the newspaper showed three SEALS allege that Gallagher, a veteran of eight combat tours of duty, had stabbed their Islamic State captive.
“The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator 1st Class Craig Miller says about Gallagher in one interview with agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
He went on to describe an impromptu so-called trophy kill ceremony over the prisoner’s body, describing the alleged act as “the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“The guy was toxic,” Special Operator 1st Class Joshua Virens, a sniper, said in another interview.
Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, said: “You could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving.”
Gallagher, the newspaper said, described their allegations as “blatant lies” in a statement provided by his lawyers.
He has long dismissed the charges against him as being concocted by disgruntled SEALs in his platoon who could not meet his high standards.