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Former Naval Intelligence Chief Ted Branch Cleared in ‘Fat Leonard’ Case

Vice Adm. Ted Branch, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare. US Navy Photo

The Department of Justice will not prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch as part of the sprawling “Fat Leonard” corruption case and has subsequently cleared the name of the former chief of naval intelligence after three years of public suspicion, USNI News has learned.

Likewise, the Navy has closed its own internal investigation into possible service ethic violations that did not rise to the level of criminal behavior, U.S. Fleet Forces Command told USNI News on Friday.

“The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch and forwarded his matter to the Department of the Navy’s Consolidated Disposition Authority,” read the statement spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka.
“After completing a thorough and detailed review of the evidence, the CDA took appropriate administrative action. This matter is closed.”

When the DoJ declines to prosecute an individual in the GDMA, they pass the case to the Navy’s CDA, “to ensure that individuals are held appropriately accountable when less than criminal allegations are substantiated,” read a 2015 statement when the service issued censured to three admirals related to the case. In Branch’s matter, U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Phil Davidson was acting as the CDA.

Kafka would not specify the administrative action taken. Branch retired from the service last year at the rank of Vice Admiral at the request of then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in a letter to the Senate seen by USNI News at the time.

Since 2013, Branch has publically been under suspicion for committing crimes related to the Department of Justice criminal investigation into corruption in the U.S. Navy surrounding Leonard Francis, the operator of the Glen Defense Marine Asia husbanding business that supplied U.S. ships in the Western Pacific.

The career pilot had only been in charge of the Office of Naval Intelligence as the deputy CNO for Information Warfare (N2/N6) mere weeks before the DoJ had approached Navy leadership and presented suspicions Branch had committed crimes related to GDMA, former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told USNI News on Friday.

“When this first started, we at Navy were assured by the Department of Justice that the evidence was very strong against Adm. Branch and a decision would be reached in a very short time – a few weeks,” Mabus said.

Based on that assessment, Mabus decided to restrict Branch’s access to classified information in late 2013 and the service issued an announcement to that end to the press.

Instead of a few weeks, DoJ kept the option to prosecute open for years with Branch in limbo. Following a January 2016 front-page story in The Washington Post, Branch became the most visible member of the service tied to the Fat Leonard case and drew criticism from the public and Congress.

In a hearing last year, Mabus defended Branch in response to criticism from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

“I’ve been checking with Gen. (James) Clapper, the head of national intelligence, to ask him if there was any degradation of naval intelligence, any concern about how we’re operating or the quality of information that we are gathering or how we are processing that. And I have been assured that there’s not,” Mabus said.
“We continued to check on [Branch’s status] over and over and over again and got nothing.”

On Friday, Mabus was critical of DoJ in the matter.

“I have to say the way that Justice handled this was not fair to Admiral Branch and it was not fair to the Navy,” Mabus said.

Branch was finally replaced by former U.S. 10th Fleet head Vice Adm. Jan Tighe and was allowed to retire in grade.

For his part, Branch said he and his family are glad his ordeal is over.

“We are very proud of my 37 years of service in the Navy,” Branch said in a statement provided to USNI News.
“The last three years were extremely difficult for my family and me, but we are glad now to turn the page. I look forward to being able to continue to serve the Navy and our Nation as a civilian.”

  • Still cost him the Naval Intelligence post.

  • Mr_Oblivious

    More proof that you do not need more Admirals than ships! Can we please wake up?

  • James B.

    There were lots of rolled eyes in the intelligence community when VADM Branch was collecting a paycheck for a job he couldn’t do with his suspended security clearance. I know there are no perfect answers, but protecting one admiral’s feelings should not be grounds for hampering the security of the United States.

    • CPO(Ret)_Luv’n_Life

      Since I knew him when he was the Captain of the NIMITZ, and I talked with him on multiple occasions, it was difficult to see him in a position, where he was denied access to the sensitive information that decision makers are required to have. Having access to only unclassified information, means he was paid to come into the office and drink coffee for three years.

  • FromTheMirror

    So what was the bureaucracy’s problem with Branch? He wasn’t prosecuted, no case was brought against him, in effect he was denied due process. He was simply kept under threat of prosecution until he was gone far and away, and the Navy let that happen. Who didn’t like Branch so much and why?

    • Jay

      Just like Hillary Clinton.

      • FromTheMirror

        ???

  • b2

    Bottom line is every CSG staff and senior ships company officer stationed/deployed in 7th fleet operations since the turn of the century was investigated and assumed guilty the past 6 years this has gone on and still continues…. There was fire re Fat Leonard and his criminal activity with serving naval officers, and there was smoke by-product as the fire burned…. Twig Branch was caught in the smoke just like many others that have retired….
    This is how our government and the DoJ does business. Everything is political…especially this past decade… This is called Justice… There never was a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

  • Bruce B Irvin

    I worked with VAdm Branch during two assignments. One when he was XO of USS John C Stennis (CVN-74) where I was the Ops Dept LCPO and one when he was CO of USS Coronado when I was attached to 3rd Fleet Staff. During my 30 year Navy career, I never met a finer officer and I believe that what the Navy did to him by dragging out the Fat Leonard investigation was inexcusable.

    • E4G

      I served far under a then Captain Branch when he commanded the Nimitz. He was a model leader and one of the best leaders I had the privilege of serving under.

    • CPO(Ret)_Luv’n_Life

      I also served on the NIMITZ (’05-’07) when then Captain Branch was in charge. I’ve sat in meetings with him and agree, definitely an OUTSTANDING Officer. I would serve with and work for him anywhere. Disappointing that the Navy took so long to clear his name.

  • Augustus Laendlerhaus

    So, you SEL”s and O’s think you know everything? The married guy hung out with lots of cute babes in Perth on the 2000 cruise. He always acted superior around others, a prima donna who thought he couldn’t get caught. He only got a pass since he was VADM…NCIS and BUPERS let time pass (years) , statute of limitations stuff, shuffled him quietly off into retirement, hoping people wouldn’t.notice. They merely punish seniors, but hang juniors. You fkn people and your BS. He got caught, the Navy didn’t want the bad press, bottom line, and he gets full retirement, no downgrade in discharge, no reduction in rank, no LOR. Everyone else junior connected in any manner got the big stiffy.. GFY’s