A Marine Corps attorney at Camp Pendleton says government criminal investigators raided defense counsel offices and opened case files during a 2 1/2-hour search that could compromise scores of military criminal cases if confidential and privileged information was seen.
Lt. Col. Clay Plummer told The Associated Press on Friday that investigators raided the Defense Services Organization's offices last week in search for a cell phone tied to a case being tried at the base, north of San Diego. Plummer oversees all Marine Corps defense lawyers for the western U.S.
Marine Corps spokesman Jeffrey Nyhart says it was a rare but lawful and valid search.
Camp Pendleton base officials said in a statement that the May 2 search was authorized by "an appropriate Commander to secure evidence" in the office as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
"As such, the Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations West has appointed an independent, neutral judge advocate to review evidence seized during the course and conduct of the search itself in order to identify whether any potentially privileged material was improperly disclosed," the officials' statement reads.
Plummer says the raid is unacceptable and his lawyers will be filing motions with the courts against the action.
Due to the pending litigation, base officials have refused to provide further comment.