DOD creates new panel to review military misconduct overseas

Former DOD General Counsel Judith Miller and retired Army Maj. Gen. Walter B. Huffman will head up the new panel, which will be under the jurisdiction of Pentagon's General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson, according to a statement by Johnson's office released Friday. 

The panel, known as the Defense Legal Policy Board, was formally created in April. But the panel's mission was unclear until this week, when Panetta issued a department-wide memorandum outlining the group's responsibilities. 

"We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed areas," Panetta wrote in the June 30 memo.

While these alleged instances of military misconduct "have been rare among our professional fighting force," they have caused significant harm to U.S. relations with allies and hampered progress in ongoing combat operations across the globe, Panetta said. 

The panel will review claims of misconduct going back to October 2001, or the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, up to the present, according to Johnson's statement. 

The board will review past allegations and dissect the military's subsequent response and recommendations in those cases. 

Further, panel members will attempt to find out whether those initial responses were adequate, or whether an expanded response from other services or DOD should have been brought into the initial inquiry. 

On Friday, a recently released DOD-led report found the actions of 12 American soldiers implicated in a sex scandal during President Obama's state visit to Colombia in April did not jeopardize the president's safety or pose a risk to U.S. national security.

In May, up to eleven soldiers were withdrawn from Afghanistan after the Quran burnings at the American air base in Kandahar, which touched off a week-long wave of violent protests throughout the country. 

The public uproar over the burnings, ending with the death of six U.S. soldiers and more than 30 Afghan civilians, prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to demand all American troops leave the country ahead of the White House's 2014 withdrawal deadline. 

The U.S. soldiers were cleared of any official wrongdoing for their role in the burnings in Afghanistan. 

In March, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged with 17 counts of murder after going on a shooting rampage in an Afghan village near his base in Afghanistan. The victims were all Afghan civilians. 

He is currently being housed in the military’s maximum-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., awaiting court martial.