Posts Tagged With: United States Air Force Academy

Expert on Gender and Violence To The Rescue

The Cadet Chapel at United States Air Force Ac...

The Cadet Chapel at United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Kilmartin, a professor from Virginia will spend the upcoming academic
year teaching courses on gender at the (USAFA) Air Force Academy to combat
sexual assaults
.

He is a psychology instructor at
the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., and will serve as
a visiting professor at USAFA, teaching “Men and Masculinity” in
the fall and “Interpersonal Violence” in the spring.

Neither
course is required of students. But so many have registered for the lone
section of “Men and Masculinity” that the academy is considering adding
another, said Col. Gary Packard, head of the academy’s Department of
Behavioral Sciences and Leadership.

“When I looked at his
background, he became my No. 1 candidate” for the department’s visiting
professor position, Packard said. “We need him here to deal with these
issues, especially those related to masculinity.”

Kilmartin will conduct research and consult with leaders during his time at the academy, Packard said.

Kilmartin
has previously worked with the U.S. Naval Academy to revise its sexual
assault and harassment prevention curriculum. He also wrote a script for
an Army
training film on the same topic.

His knowledge of military culture “gives him credibility right from the start,” Packard said.

Another trait Packard says will serve Kilmartin well at the academy: his sense of humor.

Kilmartin is also a stand-up comedian.

“I
think the cadets will gravitate toward him,” Packard said. “More
importantly, I think commanders and leadership will connect with him as
well.”

During Kilmartin’s two-plus decades of teaching courses on masculinity, the majority of his students have been females.

That’s less likely to be the case at the academy, where the majority of students are male.

“One
of the biggest struggles in teaching that area is getting men into the
room,” said Kilmartin, the author of the textbook “The Masculine Self.”

“The
way gender roles are constructed, a lot of men don’t feel comfortable
expressing interest in it. It takes a pretty self-aware man to get
interested in gender.”

Kilmartin’s fall class will examine how
masculinity is constructed, how men are socialized and how individuals
form gender ideology.

“There’s a lot of theory in the first part”
of the class, he said. “The second part includes discussion of men’s
issues: work, mental health, physical health, relationships, sexuality,
violence, and contemporary topics like the prison problem, pornography
and prostitution.”

As part of their coursework, Kilmartin will
assign his students to journal about gender stereotypes they observe in
their everyday lives.

“It’s a really powerful assignment, he said.
“By mid-semester, they realize it’s everywhere. Then they get mad at me
because they think they can’t watch TV anymore.

“Before, they
tend to look at things uncritically. When they get a new pair of lenses
to look at the world,
it can be annoying. You can pay a price for it,
but it can be of enormous benefit as well.”

His spring class will
offer an opportunity to examine violence committed by males, a topic
that is often overlooked because “people in dominate groups have the
luxury of having their identity remain invisible,” Kilmartin said.

It will also examine the origins and consequences of, and remedies to, interpersonal violence, he added.

Kilmartin’s
short-term goal is to increase sexual assault reporting rates at the
academy so that perpetrators, most of whom are serial offenders, are
stopped, he said.

“I’m not going to come in there and do magic,
but I’d like to do something,” he said. “Sometimes we forget that these
are young adults
, that many of them don’t have a lot of experience with
relationships and sexuality. We forget that because we put them in
uniform and they look like these machines and we think they have it all
together. But they’re kids in some ways. We need to talk with them like
kids.”

His ultimate goal is to “take a public health approach and
reduce the incidence of sex assault at the academy and the military at
large
.”

Arming cadets with knowledge on the topics of gender and violence isn’t just the right thing to do, he said.

It’s good for their careers.

“We
wouldn’t dream of sending leaders out into the world without computer
skills, management skills, leadership abilities,” he said. “There is no
way any commander is going to get out in the world and not have to deal
with people in his or her command who are women, who are gay men,
lesbians, maybe even someone transgendered.

“If you don’t
understand these different forms of identity and how they play out in
your organization, you’re just not going to be a good commander.”

During
the 2011-2012 academic year, sex assault reports involving Air Force
Academy cadets increased by about 50 percent over the previous academic
year,
accounting for the majority of reported assaults across the
nation’s three military academies
, according to a Defense Department
report released late last year. (NOTE: West Point, Annapolis, and AFA at Colorado Springs are not the only military academies in the U.S.. There is a Coast Guard Academy at New London, CT..)

Cadets have attended annual sexual
assault prevention training since 2005. An increase in reporting rates
is a sign that those training sessions are working, victim advocate at
the academy told The Gazette in January. (By Erin Prater)

Categories: Military Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honor, Deception and Betrayal. How Air Force Cadets Are Used As Informants, Then Betrayed and Expelled.

 

Honor and Deception
A secretive Air Force program recruits Academy students to inform on fellow cadets and disavows them afterward.

Facing pressure to combat drug use and sexual assault at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force has created a secret system of cadet informants to hunt for misconduct among students.

Cadets who attend the publicly-funded academy near Colorado Springs must pledge never to lie. But the program pushes some to do just that: Informants are told to deceive classmates, professors and commanders while snapping photos, wearing recording devices and filing secret reports.

(Coast Guard Academy Cadet London Steverson in 1966 on a Summer Exchange Program with the Air Force Academy)

It was a great honor for me to spend the Summer of 1966 training with the cadets from the United States Air Force Academy. They were highly motivated and very disciplined. I made one of the best friends I have had in my life while visiting the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was Cadet Kenneth Little from Washington, D.C.

                                                                                                                   (Former Air Force Academy Cadet Kenneth Little.)

None of the service academies had started to admit female cadets in the 1960s. The male cadets were gung ho and macho. Drugs and binge drinking were not yet a part of the academy culture. I am fairly certain that there was no program of confidential cadet informants at that time. It is highly repugnant to use cadets in such a way. It betrays everything that we stood for as cadets and future officers.
For one former academy student, becoming a covert government operative meant not only betraying the values he vowed to uphold, it meant being thrown out of the academy as punishment for doing the things the Air Force secretly told him to do.

eric in p coat

“It was like a spy movie. I worked on dozens of cases, did a lot of good, and when it all hit the fan, they didn’t know me anymore.” – Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas, 24, was a confidential informant for the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI — a law enforcement branch of the Air Force. OSI ordered Thomas to infiltrate academy cliques, wearing recorders, setting up drug buys, tailing suspected rapists and feeding information back to OSI. In pursuit of cases, he was regularly directed by agents to break academy rules.

“It was exciting. And it was effective,” said Thomas, a soccer and football player who received no compensation for his informant work. “We got 15 convictions of drugs, two convictions of sexual assault. We were making a difference. It was motivating, especially with the sexual assaults. You could see the victims have a sense of peace.”

Through it all, he thought OSI would have his back. But when an operation went wrong, he said, his handlers cut communication and disavowed knowledge of his actions, and watched as he was kicked out of the academy.

“It was like a spy movie,” said Thomas, who was expelled in April, a month before graduation. “I worked on dozens of cases, did a lot of good, and when it all hit the fan, they didn’t know me anymore.”

The Air Force’s top commander and key members of the academy’s civilian oversight board claim they have no knowledge of the OSI program. The Gazette confirmed the program, which has not been reported in the media through interviews with multiple informants, phone and text records, former OSI agents, court filings and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The records show OSI uses FBI-style tactics to create informants. Agents interrogate cadets for hours without offering access to a lawyer, threaten them with prosecution, then coerce them into helping OSI in exchange for promises of leniency they don’t always keep. OSI then uses informants to infiltrate insular cadet groups, sometimes encouraging them to break rules to do so. When finished with informants, OSI takes steps to hide their existence, directing cadets to delete emails and messages, misleading Air Force commanders and Congress, and withholding documents they are required to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

The program also appears to rely disproportionately on minority cadets like Thomas.

“Their behavior in (Thomas’s) case goes beyond merely disappointing, and borders on despicable,” Skip Morgan, a former OSI lawyer who headed the law department at the Academy, said in a letter to the Superintendent of the Academy in April. Morgan is now Thomas’s lawyer. The Superintendent did not reply.

The Air Force also has not replied to a letter sent by Thomas’ senator, John Thune of South Dakota, in September asking officials to meet with Thomas.

While the informant program has resulted in prosecutions, it also creates a fundamental rift between the culture of honesty and trust the academy drills into cadets and another one of duplicity and betrayal that the Air Force clandestinely deploys to root out misconduct.

The Gazette identified four informants. Three agreed to speak about their experience with OSI. All had been told they were the only informant on campus, but eventually learned of more, including each other. Because of the secretive nature of the program, The Gazette was unable to determine its scope, but the informants interviewed by The Gazette said they suspect the campus of 4,400 cadets has dozens.

“It’s contradictory to everything the academy is trying to do,” said one of the informants, Vianca Torres. “They say we are one big family, and to trust each other, then they make you lie to everyone.”

Academy commanders declined multiple requests for interviews. OSI also declined requests for comment, saying in a statement it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the program.

Gen. Mark Welsh, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the service’s top officer and only commander with authority over both the academy and OSI, said he was unfamiliar with the cadet informant system.

“I don’t know a thing about it,” he said in an interview in October.

Members of the academy’s civilian oversight board, which includes members of Congress, also said they had not heard of the program.

Records show, for a time, Thomas was at the center of it. He worked major operations that netted high-profile prosecutions. OSI documents said he was “very reliable” and “provided OSI with ample amounts of vital information.”

Legal experts say informants are useful and commonly employed in fighting crime. But informants on college campuses are exceedingly rare, and other experts warn they have a corrosive effect on individuals and institutions.

It changes everyone’s relationship to the whole institution because it erodes the moral authority of the law,” said Loyola University professor Alexandra Natapoff, who studies informants and the law. “There are rules — unless you snitch. People begin to question the fairness of the system. And it sets cadets against their fellow cadets. It can really change their lives, sometimes in ways that can be very harmful.”

The three informants who spoke to The Gazette said the system needs reform.

“I hate it,” said a third cadet who said he became an informant in 2011. The cadet, who graduated in May and is now an officer, did not want to be identified because he feared retribution by the Air Force. He said being an informant was the worst thing he has ever done. “It puts you in a horrible situation: Lying, turning on other cadets. I felt like a rat. OSI says they will offer you protection, have your back. Then they don’t. Look what happened to Eric.”

Integrity first

Thomas said his life as an informant started after an off-campus cadet party in 2010.

The Air Force Academy is hardly known as a party school. Incoming cadets face a barrage of rules. For the first several months, they can’t wear civilian clothes or even civilian eyeglasses. They must run at attention to class and sit at attention at meals, setting forks down before chewing each bite seven times. They live in dorms where TVs, microwaves, and even unauthorized pillows are forbidden until senior year. These long-held traditions, used at all military academies, are designed to strip students of former identities and instill the collective identity of the Air Force.

Cadets at the Air Force Academy must meet rigorous standards. (Courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Any slip-up earns a cadet punishment and demerits. A cadet who amasses 200 demerits gets expelled. Any illegal drug use is grounds for immediate dismissal. About 70 cadets each year are kicked out.

Cadets are made to repeat the core values of the Air Force: “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”

They pledge to an honor code: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” Telling a lie can get a cadet expelled. Even telling misleading truths, known as “quibbling,” can land a cadet in hot water.

The idea is to forge the integrity future officers need.

Even so, some cadets throw illegal parties off base, usually at houses rented for the weekend by a third party.

In fall 2010, Thomas, a sophomore, went to a house party near Divide. It was a typical college bash, he said, with pounding music, beer and cadets on the back porch smoking pot and a synthetic marijuana called spice.

The party was busted by civilian police. About two weeks later, the then 21-year-old said he was ordered to report to OSI for questioning.

OSI, formed in 1948, has about 2,300 personnel at bases around the globe who investigate terrorism threats, espionage, fraud, and other major crimes. Its motto is “eyes of the eagle.” Agents wear no rank or uniform. They answer not to the commanders where they are based, but to a central OSI office near Washington, D.C.

The Academy has about 12 agents, but cadets say few students know OSI exists.

Thomas, left, began informing on other cadets, including close friends.

An OSI agent named Mike Munson brought Thomas into a small interrogation room with a one-way mirror and a microphone, Thomas said. Munson did not respond to The Gazette’s email requests for an interview.

Thomas said he wasn’t nervous. He was a straight-laced athlete from a strict home who had never done drugs and drank very little. The agent told him he was there only as a witness. He wanted to know who did what at the party. At first, Thomas gave vague answers, but Munson pressed harder, Thomas said, grilling the cadet for more than three hours: OSI had witnesses. They had proof Thomas knew more than he was saying. It was the cadet’s duty to tell the truth. Under the honor code, not turning in spice smokers was the same as smoking spice.

The academy teaches cadets not to question superiors, Thomas said. When OSI asked him to do things, he thought he had little choice.

“Eventually I told them everything I knew,” Thomas said.

Thomas’s experience mirrors that of Vianca Torres. At age 20, when she was a junior, she said, OSI called her in as a potential witness because she had gone to a party where other women had reported being sexually assaulted. OSI interrogated her for six hours, she said, grilling her not only about the assaults but about drug use and other crimes among her friends going back years. At first the cadet with a clean record said she resisted, but they pressed harder.

“They called me a disgrace to my country. They called me a disgrace to my family,” she said.

Sobbing, she said, she eventually told on friends and admitted to smoking spice two years before.

Vianca Torres

OSI charged her for the crime, then promised to make the charge go away if she became an informant. She worked for OSI for 10 months, she said. OSI tried to plant a video camera in her alarm clock to bust a friend, she said.

She balked at the camera, she said, but did everything else OSI asked. Even so, she was kicked out in November, 2012 for her admission of drug use years before.

Before she was expelled, Torres said, OSI ordered her to delete all texts and emails showing the existence of her handler. In retrospect, she said, OSI just dragged out her dismissal so she could do more work as an informant.

You just get used,” said Torres. “OSI gets what they want and kicks you to the curb.”

OSI has used similar informant programs at other bases for decades. But at the Academy it has been using cadet informants for about 10 years, documents show.

“You just get used.

OSI gets what they want

and kicks you to the curb.” -Vianca Torres

Top leadership in the late 1990s told The Gazette they were not aware of an informant program. Then in 2001,  the academy was rocked by high profile cases of drug use that resulted in Congressional investigations. That year an OSI officer named Keith Givens, who is now vice commander of OSI, wrote in the Air Force’s official legal journal, The Reporter, that the Air Force should use “a web of undercover agents and informants to detect drug abuse.” In 2003 the academy was hit by more scandals over drugs and sexual assaults that resulted in the removal of top brass. By 2004, court documents show, OSI was recruiting cadets as informants. Documents show that at least some academy leaders have knowledge of the program, but it is not clear if they know who is involved and what they do.

At the end of Thomas’s interrogation, Munson told him that the Air Force wanted him to become a confidential informant.

“What would I have to do?” Thomas asked.

Just get in with everyone,” he remembers Munson saying. “Go to parties, flirt with females, be friends with everyone. That’s how you start.”

Thomas asked if it would mean breaking the cadet honor code. He said Munson told him there was no cadet honor code in this line of work.

Trust is at the heart of any honor code, said Laurie Johnson, a Kansas State University professor who specializes in ethics and honor codes. “By introducing spying I would think the cadets would believe there’s no trust,” Johnson said.

Worse, she said, if the Air Force encourages cadets to break the honor code as informants, it shows leaders have little use for the rules cadets are expected to follow.

Asked about the apparent contradiction between demanding honesty and using informants, an academy spokesman said: “A cadet has the responsibility to not only live by the honor code, but report those who don’t.”

Many people would find snitching on classmates shady, Thomas said. But he saw it differently. All cadets pledge to uphold academy rules. But some of his fellow cadets, who might someday lead the Air Force, seemed to have little respect for the pledge.

“I took that very seriously,” he said. “If we are not accountable to that standard, who is? But it was hard. You had to choose between your friends and what’s right.

What tipped the balance for Thomas was a friend who had been sexually assaulted. He said he had watched her struggle when the investigation ended in a “he said, she said” stalemate. A confidential informant might have helped.

Thomas agreed to help OSI.

Agents made him sign non-disclosure papers and told him he could be thrown in a military prison if he talked about his work. He could not even tell his commanders, they said. OSI would notify them instead. As Thomas left that life-changing meeting with OSI, he remembers the agent saying, “Wait to be contacted. And remember, don’t tell anybody.”

Thomas worked his way in with the party kids, troublemakers and other cadets OSI called “targets.” OSI gave him training on how to pass himself off as one of the “bad crowd.” He got close with football players who OSI knew were the focus of several confidential sexual assault accusations. He became tight with a guy from the sky diving team who OSI thought was selling marijuana.

Some cadets, he discovered, kept secret houses in Colorado Springs where they could store motorcycles, throw keggers, hook up with the opposite sex and do other things forbidden on base. He said he started going to house parties almost every weekend, taking photos on his phone, writing down addresses, and noting who was doing what.

“I’m not going there getting hammered, just hoping I’ll see something. I went with a specific intent,” Thomas said. “I’m blending in, not getting drunk, not flirting, just watching.”

He would call OSI to report his findings.

Then Thomas got a new handler late in 2011 and, he said, things got “much more intense.”

afa text boulder house

Thomas started getting texts several times a week from someone called “Briana”:

“Call me as soon as you can.”

“Doing an op tomorrow, call me.”

“Meet me in the bx parking lot.”

“Be sure to keep me updated.”

Briana was actually a stocky blond with a thin beard and glasses named Special Agent Brandon Enos.

Enos texted several times a week, sometimes late at night, telling the cadet to meet at a remote parking lot behind the academy’s B-52 bomber or some other secluded location, Thomas said.

Enos would be waiting in an unmarked black Dodge Durango to drive Thomas off base. OSI reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show Enos would discuss findings, plan strategy, and tell Thomas what to do next. At one point, before a planned drug buy, Thomas said, Enos pulled out a pack of cheap cigars and showed him how to roll a blunt and appear to smoke it without inhaling.

“The whole time I was like, ‘OK, I’m getting told how to roll a blunt by a federal agent; this is a different cadet experience that is not in the brochure’,” Thomas said.

Torres said Enos was also her handler.

Enos did not respond to requests for comment sent to an email address he used to communicate with Thomas.

Informing took a toll. Thomas said he often would not get back from meetings until after midnight, leaving little time to do homework. His grades dropped and he was put on academic probation. Because of the company he kept, he said he got a bad reputation.

My chain of command thought I was a dirt bag who didn’t care about the rules, when the truth was the opposite,” he said.

Worst of all, he said, was not being able to tell anyone the truth. In college, when most young adults are forging their identities, his identity was a forgery.

“I’m running in all these different cliques, trying to be different people. It’s lonely, very lonely,” he said. “You put on so many faces that after a while you forget your own.”

The effect this large-scale deception can have on the informant is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the practice, said Martin Cook, a professor of military ethics at the U.S. Naval War College, who taught for years at the academy.

“Is it appropriate for OSI to use these methods in the Air Force? Yes, I think so. It may serve a greater good,” he said. “But is it appropriate to recruit young people into this at a key time when they are trying to form their morality? That could certainly cause problems the rest of their lives. That’s a harder question.”

Thoman, Stephan Claxton and fellow cadet

OSI wanted Thomas to get in with a cadet named Stephan Claxton, Thomas said.

Four female cadets had reported being sexually assaulted by Claxton, Thomas said, but the reports were made using a confidential reporting system designed to protect victims, so the Air Force could not use them to prosecute.

Instead, they used Thomas.

The idea was to track Claxton,” said Thomas. “We know he gets drunk and does this stuff. He’s a time bomb. It’s only a matter of waiting until he does it again.”

Nov. 5, 2011, was a Saturday. That evening, Claxton went out with a bunch of friends, including a civilian woman engaged to a cadet at the academy. Thomas was not allowed to leave base that weekend, but, he said, OSI urged him to tail Claxton, so he broke the rules and tagged along.

The group went drinking in downtown Colorado Springs. What happened next is according to testimony in the court-martial that followed.

The woman got drunk and passed out in the car they were riding in. No one knew where she lived, so the cadets took her back to the academy to find her fiancé.

At about 2 a.m., Claxton, a basketball player who had been out with them, and Thomas carried her down the empty dorm hall and put her in Thomas’ bed.

A drunk female passed out in the room could get them busted, so they went to find her fiancé and have him take her home.

Unbeknownst to them, Claxton stayed behind and locked the door.

Another cadet who had been out with them returned to the room and tried the door.

“Eric, why is your door locked?” he whispered to Thomas, who had started walking down the hall.

Thomas wasn’t sure.

He went back and knocked. After about a minute, Claxton opened the door a crack and asked what they wanted, then started to close the door.

Thomas realized what might be happening and pushed his way in. They found the woman, still passed out, with her shirt up and pants undone.

A fight broke out.

Other cadets who heard the noise burst in. Some pulled Claxton off Thomas. Some carried the woman to another room. Thomas fled and called his commander from down the hall.

Claxton was charged with sexual misconduct and sentenced to six months behind bars. The other cadets, including Thomas, were punished for the other infractions, including sneaking off base and having a female in the dorm.

Thomas said he assumed he would be protected by OSI.

He wasn’t.

Air Force records show the Academy’s vice commandant knew of Thomas’ OSI involvement and ordered a special hearing officer to privately review the case, saying the normal discipline process was “not the right forum to discuss the more sensitive information.”

It never happened.

Thomas’ squadron commander, who Thomas said knew nothing of his involvement with OSI, recommended expulsion.

Thomas was stripped of rank and restricted to base.

Text messages obtained by The Gazette show OSI continued to direct Thomas to leave base to follow targets, even though he was restricted.

He obeyed.

When the academy found out he was leaving despite his restrictions, commanders were outraged at his contempt for the rules.

“I couldn’t tell them what was really going on. I had signed papers. I just had to stand there and take it.” -Eric Thomas

A cadet discipline board and an officer discipline board blasted him for a “history of disregarding the rules” and a “pattern of bad behavior.” The discipline boards recommended that Thomas be expelled. OSI told him not to worry, he said. They were taking care of things behind the scenes. He just had to keep his mouth shut.

“I couldn’t tell them what was really going on. I had signed papers. I just had to stand there and take it,” he said.

As punishment, the academy gave Thomas 309 demerits — more than 100 more than are required for expulsion. Commanders also ordered him to serve 186 confinements and 94 tours. Each confinement meant two hours of sitting silently in a room. Each tour meant one hour of marching with a heavy rubber rifle in a tight square in the center of campus. Thomas said he spent many weekends in dress blues marching from sunup to well past sundown.

The discipline board recommended that Thomas be expelled. OSI told him not to worry, he said. They were taking care of things behind the scenes. He just had to keep his mouth shut.

OSI targeted football players suspected of drug use, including star tailback Asher Clark. (Gazette file)

Operation Gridiron

Thomas’s work with OSI didn’t stop when he got in trouble. It intensified.

Phone records and OSI documents show he was in constant contact with OSI in the winter and spring of 2012.

OSI wired him up to record parties, he said. It had him delve into suspicions that football players got special treatment from professors, and gave him pens and lighters that were actually recording devices to take on drug buys.

He was pivotal in a major bust that made headlines and led to the expulsion of one of the football team’s star players, he said. OSI called it Operation Gridiron.

At 5 a.m. Jan. 12, 2012, academy officers swept into the dorms, banging on the doors of about 50 cadets, confiscating their phones and ordering them to get dressed, and report immediately to OSI.

It was the first phase of an operation to bust cadets using information gathered by Thomas during the previous year, Thomas said.

They had planned the operation for weeks and even made Thomas take a polygraph test to ensure his information was accurate, OSI records show.

The main target was a group of about 10 football players thought to be involved in drugs including the star tailback. OSI also brought in a handful of suspected partiers from the basketball team, soaring team and sky diving team. But most of the cadets called in had done nothing wrong and were simply there as decoys, Thomas said.

Thomas sat in the group wearing a hidden recording device.

asher clark mug

Over the next 11 hours OSI agents took cadets one by one from a waiting room to interrogation rooms, using information from Thomas to get confessions. One of them was a former fullback named Ryan Williams, Thomas said. Agents told Williams that his teammate Asher Clark, the team’s star tailback, had already told OSI that Williams had smoked spice at a party. OSI seemed to know every detail down to what he had been wearing the night of the party. Seeing he was caught, Williams confessed, then implicated Clark, Thomas said.

In fact, Clark had said nothing to OSI. The information had come from Thomas, who had been at the party.

Next, agents interrogated Clark and did the same thing. Clark confessed and implicated Williams.

Back in the waiting room, the two players started yelling and shoving one another, Thomas said, furious that they’d sold each other out.

Clark, Williams and five other cadets were kicked out or left the academy as a result of Operation Gridiron. Others were disciplined.

“My freshman roommate got wrapped up in it, too,” Thomas said. “He was caught with a house off base and almost kicked out. That really sucked, seeing a friend get in trouble and knowing I had a part in it.”

 

Terminated

Thomas testified at the court-martial of Claxton, who was convicted.

Documents show he also fed information to OSI that led to the 2013 sexual assault conviction of another cadet, linebacker Jamil Cooks.

Those were the first convictions for sexual assault at the academy since 1997,” Thomas said. “What we were doing was working.”

Cadets with as many demerits as Thomas are kicked out in a matter of weeks. But Thomas kept going to classes through the spring and summer of 2012. Officially, he was told a computer crash had delayed his expulsion. Privately, he assumed OSI was helping behind the scenes.

At the end of August 2012, Thomas’ case went to a closed hearing with the vice commandant and other leaders — the final stop on the way to expulsion.

“I will come speak on your behalf about Claxton,” his handler texted a few days before the meeting. “You need people to see the positive and not hone in on negative.”

With this assurance, Thomas arrived in dress blues at the commandant’s office, ready to finally have someone explain his work.

He looked around the room. His handler was not there.

Thomas sat down and waited.

“Are you still coming?” he texted.

The agent never showed up.

Thomas went into the hearing alone.

“I got completely destroyed in there — perceived as a cadet who doesn’t know right from wrong, with no foundation of integrity, the polar opposite of what I have tried to be,” he said. “And I could say nothing.”

The board voted unanimously to expel him.

Thomas texted and called OSI during the next few days but agents stopped responding.

In one of the last texts Thomas sent to his handler, he wrote: “Is everything OK?”

No response.

Files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show OSI “terminated” Thomas on Sept. 10, 2012, because he “no longer had access to targets.”

“He was instrumental in drug investigations and sexual assault investigations. His reward was for OSI to abandon him.” -Skip Morgan, Eric Thomas’s attorney

Thomas eventually realized he was on his own. Desperate to prove his case, he requested his case records from OSI through the Freedom of Information Act. OSI said there were no records. He requested them again and got the same response. Nine months later, after a third request from Thomas’ congressional representative, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, OSI released 86 pages detailing the cadet’s deep involvement with OSI. By that time, though, Thomas had been kicked out of the academy.

They lied to him. They lied when they said they would be there and they lied when they said there were no records,” said Skip Morgan, the former OSI lawyer who became Thomas’ attorney.

In the letter to the superintendent in April, Morgan said text records clearly show Thomas was working for OSI on the days he was being punished for sneaking off base, adding, “He was instrumental in drug investigations and sexual assault investigations. His reward was for OSI to abandon him.”

The academy did not reply.

Morgan, a retired colonel, told The Gazette that in his years representing Air Force cadets he has never seen such a case.

“This is a young man who really tried to do the right thing. It takes tremendous moral conviction. And they left him in the lurch,” he said. “They lied to him on several occasions. I thought that was shabby. I don’t care who hears that, it was shabby treatment unbecoming of a commissioned officer.”

Informants are a useful tool for the Air Force, Morgan said, but they must be treated fairly.

“If you don’t treat them fairly, you are not going to have informants. Word gets out real fast; don’t trust OSI,” he said.

The types of abuses Thomas describes are common in informant systems because there is almost no oversight, said Alexandra Natapoff, the Loyola professor, who is author of the book “Snitch: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.”

The deals that law enforcement makes with informants lack the checks and balances of the rest of the American justice system, she said. “All kinds of things happen without public scrutiny: lying, corruption, and continued criminal behavior.”

Informants can be abused or lied to with little recourse, she said because law enforcement “holds all the cards. And in the end it’s the law of the jungle.”

Another concern, she said, is that informant programs tend to disproportionately target minorities and poor people with less access to legal defense.

The four Academy informants The Gazette identified are Black or Hispanic.

Once Thomas realized OSI had cut him loose, he started telling anyone who would listen — his squadron commander, his master sergeant, his group commander, the vice commandant of culture and climate, the deputy commander, even his mother.

His mother, Rosita Perez Walker, was furious OSI had used her son as an informant.

“These kids are so young, so naive,” she told The Gazette. “They have been trained to obey orders. They are taught how to eat, how to sit, how to walk, everything. You say jump, they jump. To expect them to have enough judgment to question federal agents?”

She called OSI’s central office in Virginia to complain.

Soon after, Thomas got a call from his OSI handler, saying he wanted to meet at the OSI office and sort things out. When Thomas arrived, he said, the handler was not there. Instead, he said, the OSI detachment commander, Lt. Col. Vasaga Tilo, took Thomas in an interrogation room and yelled at him, warning him to keep his mouth shut.

afa vasaga tilo crop

In an interview with The Gazette, Tilo refused to talk about the confidential informant program, other than to say, “We use informants in the same way any other law enforcement does.”

Thomas kept talking.

Randy Neugebauer and John Thune both ordered Congressional inquiries.

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_Congress

He told Rep. Neugebauer. He told Sen. Thune of South Dakota. Both ordered inquiries. The Air Force responded to Neugebauer in June, saying that Thomas had worked as an informant, but not until after he got in trouble in his dorm room — a year later than Thomas claims. At no point, OSI said, was Thomas “directed or influenced in any way to break any rules.” The Air Force responded to Thune in August, saying while there were what it called “administrative errors” in Thomas’ dismissal, the academy “stands by their decision that disenrollment is both appropriate and in the best interest of the Air Force.”

Thune then sent a letter to the secretary of the Air Force and the superintendent of the academy in September, asking them to meet with Thomas. Thomas has not heard from either.

Despite OSI’s claims to a Congressman that it told Thomas to keep clean, OSI documents clearly show agents repeatedly directed Thomas to sneak off base to go after targets and buy drugs while lying to commanders to cover it up.

While his expulsion was pending, Thomas kept going to class, hoping things would work out. He was accepted to Air Force pilot school and looked forward to flying after graduation.

He was kicked out of the academy in April, six weeks before graduation.

He no longer thinks the process took so long — 16 months from when he got in trouble — because OSI was working back channels to help him. Now he thinks he was strung along so he could work longer as an informant.

On his way out of the academy, Thomas got a tacit acknowledgement of his work. Cadets expelled in their senior year typically must repay almost $180,000 for their education. Thomas does not.

“Someone did him a favor,” said his lawyer. “Someone realized what he said was true and tried to repay him to some extent.”

Betrayed

Thomas moved back in with his family in South Dakota. He has appealed to the office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Eric Fanning, saying he was wrongfully dismissed. He is waiting for a response. In the meantime, he helps disabled children, mentors the youth group at his church, and does odd jobs for neighbors.

Only about half of his academy credits will be accepted at other schools, so he may have to repeat years of college, but he can’t apply to other schools because he remains in the Air Force until the matter is settled.

“In the meantime, I’m in limbo,” he said.

Looking back at the three-year ordeal, he is angry. He is angry because he loves the Air Force and feels betrayed by how OSI treated him. And angry because he knows that OSI is probably recruiting new informants it can later toss aside. Most of all, he said, he is angry the academy is allowing it to happen by failing to create guidelines for the treatment of cadet informants and adequately tracking the system.

“It needs to change,” he said. “I am not saying people shouldn’t work for OSI. We did a lot of good work. But they need protection. They need guidelines. Someone needs to be watching this. Otherwise, look what happens.”

By Dave Philipps

dave.philipps@gazette.com

The Gazette

Gazette reporter Tom Roeder contributed to this report.

Contact Dave Philipps

dave.philipps@gazette.com

LT. GEN. Michelle General Johnson, the top general of the Air Force Academy, said Wednesday, 4 December, that the use of confidential cadet informants (CI) at the academy has ceased for the time being and vowed to oversee “any operations involving cadet confidential informants” in the future.

But many academy graduates and parents are voicing concern that the academy stands by a practice they see as corrosive to the institution’s core values of trust and honesty.

As previously stated the Air Force uses a system of cadet informants to spy on other cadets. The students are instructed to inform on classmates, professors and commanders while helping the Air Force Office of Special Investigations gather information on drug use, sexual assault and other cadet misconduct.

Honor and deception: A secretive Air Force program recruits academy students to inform on fellow cadets and disavows them afterward

It is unclear how many informants operate among the 4,400 cadets, but informants say their efforts have helped lead to several high-profile convictions and expulsions.

In a letter to graduates Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson defended the confidential informant program as “vital” and pledged her personal oversight.

“The CI program has rarely been used at USAFA, and when employed it is deliberate, judicious and limited to felony activity; there are no ongoing operations,” she wrote in her letter. “I will exercise oversight of any operations involving cadet confidential informants.

Air Force Academy defends use of student informants, challenges reliability of ex-cadet

“Many of you have voiced concerns regarding inconsistencies between a CI program and the Cadet Honor Code. I want you to know that the chain of command does not condone lying, cheating or any violation of the Honor Code in support of CI investigations.”

She was scheduled to address the Association of Graduates board of directors about the issue on Friday, 6 December, at their office on the academy grounds.

Some parents and graduates say the academy has not addressed the key issues surrounding the secret informant program. In various Internet forums, they noted that the academy’s statement defending the program Tuesday focused on trying to discredit Eric Thomas, one of the cadets featured by The Gazette in it’s groundbreaking expose’ of the story.

(Former Air Force Academy Cadet, Eric Thomas says he was used, abused, and abandoned.)

“They are missing the point,said a parent who did not want to be identified because he feared it could affect his cadet’s career. “They went after Thomas but never addressed the merits of the program. They are just trying to kill the messenger.”

Cadet First Class Eric Thomas was expelled this spring, weeks before graduation, for misconduct he said was incurred in the service of OSI.

The parent said larger issues need to be discussed. “And they have yet to address how it affects the cadet culture.”

He said most parents he has spoken to are concerned, and cadets are “deeply dismayed.” He added that he was not assured by Johnson’s statement that there are no “ongoing operations.”

Air Force officers, graduates of the Academy,  posting on Internet forums were generally critical of the program.

One local graduate said in a group email, which included several current and former top Air Force commanders, that the Academy’s response ducked the main controversy.

“Is USAFA, or the OSI at USAFA, asking some cadets to do things that are inherently against the principles of honor and integrity that were ingrained in us when we were at USAFA?” said the email. “We need to know what OSI did or did not do in this case. I believe this is too big to trust to the USAFA leadership.”

January 15, 2014. Now Hear This! Further developments in the USAFA scandal.

 

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are sharply criticizing a recently revealed program to recruit U.S. Air Force Academy cadets to serve as informants on other cadets suspected of drug use and sexual assault.

“I’d just like to go on the record as saying I don’t see how being an informant is compatible with living out the honor code,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican who represents the Colorado Springs congressional district where the academy is located.

“I think we need to take a hard look about whether this is appropriate for an academic institution, because after all, you are an academic institution,” said Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass. “This raises to me a lot of questions that are very hard for you to explain.”

Lamborn and Tsongas serve on the Air Force Academy’s (USAFA) Board of Visitors, a 15-member oversight board that held a special meeting Tuesday on Capitol Hill in response to the controversy. The informant program was first reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette on Dec. 1.

The Gazette highlighted the case of Cadet Eric Thomas, who said he was recruited by the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations after being suspected of attending an off-campus party at which drugs were used. Thomas agreed to serve as an informant on fellow cadets, but told the paper he became increasingly uncomfortable that he was being asked to disobey academy rules in order to get closer to his targets.

STORY: Reports of sexual assault dip at military academies

When Thomas was brought up on disciplinary charges, the OSI agents disavowed the operation and Thomas was expelled, the Gazette reported.

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the USAFA Superintendent, and Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, disputed that version of events Tuesday. They said Thomas already had enough demerits to be expelled before he was recruited, and that his expulsion was for disciplinary and academic reasons unrelated to his work as an informant.

STORY: Air Force Academy gets 1st female superintendent

Academy commanders also defended the informant program, saying it was used rarely and was always subject to the oversight of the academy’s top brass. While Johnson said she couldn’t imagine a situation where she would approve the use of an informant in the future, she said she couldn’t rule it out as a tool to investigate serious offenses. And she noted that the legalization of marijuana in Colorado could pose a challenge for the academy, where any drug use on or off campus is still a violation of Defense Department regulations.

Johnson said the Air Force is investigating whether Thomas’s OSI handlers acted appropriately, and a report is expected by the end of the month. She conceded that the affair had given the academy was a black eye, but said the Air Force was constrained by privacy laws from defending its actions more vociferously.

“We’ve revealed a lot here that the general counsel is not going to be comfortable with,” Johnson said. “If you want to go point counterpoint, it has to be in a public forum. I agree with a free press, but it’s not always a 100% accurate press.”

 

 

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Sex Assaults At Military Academies Up 60 Percent

Sex Assault Reports At Academy Up 60 Percent

Sexual assault reports at the Air Force Academy jumped nearly 60 percent during the last academic year while the prevalence of the crime remained about the same, according to a new Defense Department study.

The results, which mirror the two other service institutions — the Military Academy and the Naval Academy — signal greater victim confidence but show that efforts to reduce sexual assaults among future military leaders have been unsuccessful.

Air Force cadets made 52 sexual assault reports during the 2011-2012 year, up 58 percent from 33 in 2010-2011. They also accounted for 65 percent of the 80 reports made at all three academies, despite sim­ilar student populations.

In 44 of the 80 reports, victims said they were victimized by a fel­low cadet or midshipman, the study said. Twenty-five incidents occurred on academy grounds.

Since sex assault is one of the most under-reported crimes, the military has long relied on an anonymous survey to measure the rate of such incidents, director of the DoD Sexual Assault Preven­tion and Response Office Maj. Gen. Gary Patton said in a news conference with reporters before the release of the report Dec. 21.

Fewer than 15 percent of sexual assault victims in a college envi­ronment report the crime, accord­ing to the study. That number stands at around 11 percent at the service academies.

At the Air Force Academy, far more are making reports — about 28 percent of victims, Col. Stella Renner, vice commandant of cul­ture and climate, said in a tele­phone interview.

“While we hate to see we have sexual assaults, we are very proud we have a strong reporting cli­mate,” Renner said.

That shows cadets feel more comfortable asking for help after they are victimized and that there is increased trust in the system, she insisted.

“We’re seeing cases where vic­tims who have come forward in the past are bringing in other people they know of who may have had a situation they haven’t reported yet. Nobody’s going to tell on you. It’s private. You can start healing and moving on,” Renner said.

Reporting has been on the uptick at all three academies since 2008 and increased by 23 percent overall from the last academic year, Patton said.

“Any sexual assault is bad, and our goal is always to eliminate sexual assault,” he said. “The more we know about the incidents that do happen, the more we can help victims become survivors, [gain] insight into what’s going on” and prosecute perpetrators.

But both Patton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed concern at what they described as a persistent problem and a lack of progress in combating it.

“There is not enough progress in preventing sexual harassment and assaults,” Patton said.

In a memo, Panetta directed the institutions to find new ways to “integrate sexual assault and harassment prevention into the full spectrum of academy life and learning” and ordered them to report back March 29.

The DoD report followed a year of high-profile sex scandals in the military, from the resignation of CIA director and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus to the inves­tigation of more than two dozen military training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

There was no statistical increase in incidents of sexual assault at the Air Force Academy from 2010-2011, Renner said. Sexual harass­ment decreased significantly there but remained unchanged at the Military and Naval academies, the study showed.

Victims who did not make a report indicated in the anonymous survey that they took care of the incident themselves, that they did not want anyone to know about it and did not want people gossiping about what had happened to them.

Those who chose to make a report said they needed help deal­ing with an emotional event, that they wanted to stop the offender from hurting others and that they wanted to see justice served.

Reports of sexual assaults fall into two categories: restricted and unrestricted. Unrestricted reports involve law enforcement and the chain of command of the victim and the accused. Restricted reports afford victims privacy while making support services available to them.

Twenty-one of the 52 reports at the Air Force Academy were unre­stricted, Renner said.

She said the academy plans to study each of the reports. “We’ll continue to work and see if there are other things we need to consid­er. We look for trending informa­tion to see if there might be some­thing we can do from a police [change], lights, locks on doors.” Next year, the academy plans to begin bystander intervention train­ing. The training teaches cadets how to identify potentially danger­ous situations and intervene safely.

Teresa Beasley, sexual assault response coordinator at the Air Force Academy, called it “a good way ahead. I think they want to help each other,” she said of cadets. “This will give them the skills to do that.” Beasley said the academy has worked hard to raise awareness around campus. “Whenever you raise awareness, reports go up,” she said. “I consider anyone that walks in a victory.”                   (By Kristin Davis)


Air Force Times
January 7, 2013

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First Openly gay Cadets Since Repeal of DADT Policy Graduate From Air Force Academy

 

The first openly gay homosexual cadets graduated Wednesday from the U.S. Air Force Academy, eight months after the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy took effect.

The graduation in Colorado Springs, Colo., featured an address by President Barack Obama. Obama focused his speech on the “new feeling about America” that has been generated around the world during his term.

“We can say with confidence and pride: The United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world,” he said. “There’s a new feeling about America. I see it everywhere I go, from London and Prague, to Tokyo and Seoul, to Rio and Jakarta. There’s a new confidence in our leadership.”

The speech was the president’s last commencement address of the season. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for this Saturday 26 May at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where Vice President Joe Biden will be the featured speaker, and at the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday.

Trish Heller, leader of the Blue Alliance, an association of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, and Bi-sexual, Transgender) Air Force Academy alumni, said that gay cadets were happier to blend into the graduating class rather than stand out. She said that her group was aware of at least four openly LGBT members of the class of 2012.

Students and others affiliated with the academy reported a smooth transition since repeal of DADT took effect last September.

“The Air Force Academy group – called Spectrum – was officially sanctioned earlier this month and had about 30 members from across all classes, the organizers said. “The Air Force Academy’s administration has also allowed the Blue Alliance to have a more high-profile role on campus. The group flew rainbow flags during a tailgate party before a home football game in November, Heller said, and hosted a dinner attended by the dean of faculty, Gen. Dana Born. In February, the group participated in a campus leadership symposium, she said.”

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President Obama Delivers Graduation Speech At Air Force Academy

US President Barack Obama delivers commencement address at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on May 23, 2012. Since 2009, Obama has delivered commencement addresses at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Obama’s commencement speech in Colorado was his last of the 2012 spring season.

The president spoke in Colorado just as Romney was across the street from the White House, delivering a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in which he condemned Obama’s record on education. Obama also reiterated the economic themes of his campaign, spelling out a vision of debt reduction with targeted spending.

Obama was keeping up a presidential tradition of speaking to one of the service academies every year at graduation time.

The speech was the president’s last commencement address of the season. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for this Saturday 26 May at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where Vice President Joe Biden will be the featured speaker, and at the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday 29 May 2012.

His speech followed a diplomatic flurry in which he hosted the NATO summit in Chicago, where allies cemented an exit strategy for the Afghanistan war, and the G-8 summit at Camp David in Maryland.

“There’s a new feeling about America,” Obama said. “I see it everywhere I go, from London and Prague, to Tokyo and Seoul, to Rio and Jakarta,” Obama said. “There’s a new confidence in our leadership.”

NATO allies this week affirmed that the war in Afghanistan will halt at the end of 2014. The final U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of last year.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Kirsten Kukowski, said Obama’s promises have not yielded enough results for today’s college graduates.

“America’s youth face soaring unemployment, underemployment and rising tuition,” she said. “It’s time to elect a president who treats future generations as a priority and not just a political talking point.”

 

The President went on to say: QUOTE:

Cadets, you distinguished yourselves as leaders before you ever stepped foot on the Terrazzo. And when you arrived, I know your upper classes gave you quite a welcome. They let you experience the joy of Beast. The pleasure of Recognition. They made you experts at filling out forms. I only ask that you resist the temptation to rate my speech: “fast-neat-average-friendly-good-good.”

But you survived. In you we see the values of Integrity, Service, Excellence that will define your lives. And I know you couldn’t have made it without the love and support of your moms and dads and brothers and sisters. So give a big round of applause to your families.

This academy is one of the most demanding academic institutions in America. And you have excelled. I’m told you have set at least three Academy records. The largest number of graduates ever to go directly on to graduate school. The largest number of female graduates in Academy history. You will follow in the footsteps of General Janet Wolfenbarger, who I was proud to nominate as the first female four-star general in Air Force history.

And your final distinction—breaking the world record for the largest game of dodgeball. More than 3,000 of you. For more than 30 hours. I did not know that was possible. Then again, you’re also the class that snuck into the last Superintendent’s office and moved all his furniture—to your dorm rooms. Which brings me to some important business. In keeping with long-standing tradition, I hereby grant amnesty to all cadets serving restrictions and confinements for minor offenses. General Gould, I’ll let you define “minor.”

Cadets, this is the day you finally become officers in the finest Air Force in the world. Like generations before you, you will be charged with the responsibility of leading those under your command. Like classes over the past 10 years, you graduate in a time of war and you may find yourself in harm’s way. But you will also face a new test. That’s what I want to talk with you about today.

Four years ago, you arrived here at a time of great challenge for our nation. Our forces were engaged in two wars. Al Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, was entrenched in their safe-havens. Many of our alliances were strained, and our standing in the world had suffered. Our economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Around the world and here at home, many questioned whether the United States still had the capacity for global leadership.

Today, you step forward into a different world. You are the first class in nine years that will graduate into a world where there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in your lives—and thanks to Air Force personnel who did their part—Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country. We’ve put al Qaeda on the path to defeat. And you are the first graduates since 9/11 who can see clearly how we’ll end the war in Afghanistan.

What does all this mean? When you came here four years ago, there were some 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, we’ve cut that number by more than half. And as more Afghans step up, more of our troops will come home—while achieving the objective that led us to war in the first place: defeating al Qaeda, and denying them a safe-haven. So we aren’t just ending these wars, we’re doing so in a way that makes us safer, and stronger.

Today we pay tribute to all our brave men and women in uniform who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to make this progress possible—including 16 graduates of this Academy. We honor them—always.

For a decade, we have labored under the dark cloud of war. Now, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The end of these wars will shape your service and it will make our military stronger. Ten years of continuous military operations have stretched our forces and strained their families. Going forward, you’ll face fewer deployments. You’ll have more time to train and stay ready. You’ll be better prepared for the full range of missions you’ll face.

Ending these wars will also ensure that the burden of our security no longer falls so heavily on the shoulders of our men and women in uniform. You can’t be expected to do it alone. There are many sources of American power—diplomatic, economic, development and the power of our ideals. We need to be using them all. And today, we are.

Around the world, the United States is leading once more. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever. Our ties with the Americas are deeper. We’re setting the agenda in the region that will shape our long-term security and prosperity like no other—the Asia-Pacific.

We’re leading on global security. Reducing our nuclear arsenals with Russia, even as we maintain a strong nuclear deterrent. Mobilizing dozens of nations to secure nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists. And rallying the world to put the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea, which cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

We’re leading economically—forging trade pacts to create new markets for our goods. Boosting our exports, stamped with those three proud words—”Made in America.” And we’re expanding exchanges and collaborations in areas that people often admire most about America—our innovation, our science, our technology.

We’re leading on behalf of human dignity and freedom. Standing with the people of the Middle East and North Africa as they seek their rights. Preventing a massacre in Libya with an international mission in which the United States—and our Air Force—led from the front. We’re leading global efforts against hunger and disease. And we’ve shown our compassion, as so many airmen did in delivering relief to our neighbors in Haiti when they were in need and to our

Japanese allies after the earthquake and tsunami.

Because of this progress, there’s a new feeling about America. I see it everywhere I go, from London and Prague, to Tokyo and Seoul, to Rio and Jakarta. There’s a new confidence in our leadership. And when people around the world are asked “Which country do you admire most?”…one nation comes out on top—the United States of America.

The world stage is not a popularity contest. As a nation, we have vital interests, and we will do what is necessary to defend the country we love—even if it’s unpopular. But make no mistake, how we’re viewed in the world has consequences—for our national security, for your lives.

When other countries and people see us as a partner, they’re more willing to work with us. It’s why more countries joined us in Afghanistan and Libya. It’s why nations like Australia are welcoming our forces, to stand side-by-side with allies and partners in the South Pacific. It’s why Uganda and its African neighbors have welcomed our trainers to help defeat a brutal army that slaughters civilians.

I think of the Japanese man in the disaster zone who, upon seeing our airmen delivering relief, said, “I never imagined they could help us so much.” I think of the Libyans who protected our airman when he ejected over their town, because they knew America was there to protect them. And—in a region where we’ve seen the burning of American flags—I think of all the Libyans who were waving American flags.

Today, we can say with confidence and pride—the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world. Because even as we’ve done the work of ending these wars, we’ve laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership. And now, cadets, we have to build on it. Let’s start by putting aside the tired notion that says our influence has waned, that America is in decline. We’ve heard that talk before.

During the Great Depression, when millions were unemployed and some believed that other economic models offered a better way, there were those who predicted the end of American capitalism. They were wrong. We fought our way back, created the largest middle class in history and the most prosperous economy the world has ever known.

After Pearl Harbor, some said the United States had been reduced to a third-class power. But we rallied, we flew over The Hump and took island after island; we stormed the beaches and liberated nations; and we emerged from that war as the strongest power on the face of the Earth.

After Vietnam and the energy crisis of the 1970s, some said America had passed its high point. But the very next decade, because of our fidelity to the values we stand for, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and liberty prevailed over tyranny in the Cold War.

And there was a time—the 1980s, with the rise of Japan and the Asian tigers —when many said we had lost our economic edge. But we retooled, we invested in new technologies and we launched an Information Revolution that changed the world.

After all this, you’d think folks would understand a basic truth—never bet against the United States of America.

One of the reasons is that the United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs. This is one of the many examples of why America is exceptional. And it’s why I firmly believe that if we rise to this moment in history, if we meet our responsibilities, then—just like the 20th century—the 21st will be another great American Century. That’s the future I see; that’s the future you can build.

I see an American Century because we have the resilience to make it through these tough economic times. We need to put America back to work by investing in the things that keep us competitive—education and high-tech manufacturing; science and innovation. We need to pay down our deficits, reform our tax code and keep reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We need to get on with nation-building here at home. And I know we can, because we’re still the largest, most dynamic, most innovative economy in the world. And no matter what challenges we may face, we wouldn’t trade places with any other nation on Earth.

I see an American Century because you are part of the finest, most capable military the world has ever known. No other nation even comes close. Yes, as today’s wars end, our military—and our Air Force—will be leaner. But as Commander in Chief, I will not allow us to make the mistakes of the past.

We still face very serious threats. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, with al Qaeda in Yemen, there are still terrorists who seek to kill our citizens. So we need you to be ready—for the full range of threats. From the conventional to the unconventional. From nations seeking weapons of mass destruction to the cell of terrorists planning the next attack. From the old danger of piracy to the new threat of cyber. We must be vigilant.

So, guided by our new defense strategy, we’ll keep our military—and our Air Force—fast, flexible and versatile. We will maintain our military superiority in all areas—air, land, sea, space and cyber. We’ll keep faith with our forces and military families. And as our newest veterans rejoin civilian life, we’ll never stop working to give them the benefits and opportunities they have earned—because our veterans have the skills to help us rebuild America.

I see an American Century because we have the strongest alliances of any nation. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are the foundation of global security. In Libya, all 28 NATO allies played a role and we were joined in the air by partners, from Sweden to Gulf states. In Afghanistan, we’re in a coalition of 50 allies and partners. Today, Air Force personnel are serving in 135 nations— partnering, training, building their capacity. This is how peace and security will be upheld in the 21st century—more nations bearing the costs and responsibilities of leadership. That’s good for America, and it’s good for the world.

I see an American Century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs. That includes shaping the global institutions of the 20th century to meet the challenges of the 21st. As President, I’ve made it clear that the United States does not fear the rise of peaceful, responsible emerging powers, we welcome them. Because when more nations step up and contribute to peace and security, that doesn’t undermine American power, it enhances it.

Moreover, when people in other countries see that we’re rooting for their success—not trying to hold them down—it builds trust and partnerships that can advance our interests for generations.

It makes it easier to meet common challenges, from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to combating climate change. And so we seek an international order where the rights and responsibilities of all nations and peoples are upheld and where counties thrive by meeting their obligations and face consequences when they don’t.

I see an American Century because more and more people are reaching toward the freedoms and values we share. No other nation has sacrificed more—in treasure, in the lives of our sons and daughters—so that these freedoms could take root and flourish around the world. And no other nation has made the advancement of human rights and dignity so central to its foreign policy. That’s because it’s central to who we are, as Americans. It’s also in our self-interest, because democracies become our closest allies and partners.

There will always be some governments that try to resist the tide of democracy, who claim theirs is a better way. But around the world, people know the difference between us. We welcome freedom—to speak, to assemble, to worship, to choose your leaders. They don’t. We welcome the chance to compete for jobs and markets—freely, fairly. They don’t. And when fundamental human rights are threatened around the world, we stand up and speak out. They don’t.

We know that the sovereignty of nations cannot strangle the liberty of individuals. And so we stand with the students in the streets who demand a life of dignity and opportunity, and with women everywhere who deserve the same rights as men. We stand with the activists, unbowed in their prison cells, and with the leader in parliament moving her country toward democracy. We stand with the dissident who seeks the freedom to say what he pleases, the entrepreneur who wants to start a business without paying a bribe, and all those who strive for justice and dignity. For they know, as we do, that history is on the side of the free.

Finally, I see an American Century because of the character of our country—the spirit that has always made us exceptional. It’s that simple yet revolutionary idea—there at our Founding and in our hearts ever since—that we have it in our power to make the world anew; to make the future what we will. It’s that fundamental faith—that American optimism—which says no challenge is too great, no mission is too hard. It’s the spirit that guides your class—”never falter, never fail.”

That’s the essence of America, and there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the world. It’s what’s inspired the oppressed in every corner of the world to demand the same freedoms for themselves. It’s what’s inspired generations to come to our shores, renewing us with their energy and their hopes. That includes a cadet graduating today, who grew up in Venezuela, got on a plane with a one-way ticket to America and today is closer to his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot—Edward Camacho. Edward says what we all know to be true: “I’m convinced that America is the land of opportunity.”

That’s who we are. That’s the America we love. Always young. Always looking ahead, to that light of a new day on the horizon. Cadets, as I look into your eyes—as you join that Long Blue Line—I know you’ll carry us even farther, even higher. And with your proud service, I am absolutely confident that the United States of America will meet the tests of our time. We’ll remain the land of opportunity. And we’ll stay strong as the greatest force for freedom and human dignity the world has ever known.

May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (UNQUOTE)

 

Following his speech, the president was headed to fundraisers in Denver and California’s Silicon Valley.

 

cd24OBAMA President Barack Obama arrives at Buckley Air Force base in Aurora today May 23rd, 2012. He was in Colorado to give the commencement address to graduating cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He flew to Denver on Air Force One for a fundraising event.

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Cadet Used Honor Code Position To Obtain Sexual Favors.

Cadet Used Honor Code Position To Obtain Sexual Favors.

Cadet Robert M. Evenson Jr. is alleged to have forcibly raped a female cadet in the spring of 2010. He’s also charged with breaking cadet regulations by having an ongoing relationship with a female freshman. He also is suspected of abusing his power position as a “cadet non-commissioned officer for honor cases” to extract sexual favors from a female fellow cadet. This is serious. He was charged with enforcing the Honor Code. He may have used it to supply gris for his mill. As one of the cadets entrusted with enforcing the Academy’s Honor Code, he would have been in a very coveted position. He was expected to punish those who lie, cheat, steal or tolerate others who do. Those who violate the Honor Code face a maximum punishment of expulsion from the Academy. Allegations of corruption in the Honor Code enforcement system will likely send shock-waves through the Cadet Corps and the Academy alumni. The Honor Code is the very touchstone of the Academy’s culture.

Who will watch the watchers? This exploitation of a power position was inevitable. It is as impossible to avoid detection indefinitely as it is to plans your own surprise birthday. This is probably not the first time this cadet has done this. It appears that he had momentum; that is, forward motion fueled by a series of wins.

Just what is the Honor Code. each of our military academies has an Honor Code or an Honor Concept. How do they differ? Read all about it in my book CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and Lady. Read it for free in Kindle format at

https://www.amazon.com/author/cgachall.blogspot.com

The Coast Guard Academy Cadet Handbook (2010) tells the new cadet recruit that when you take the oath of office as a Cadet in the United States Coast Guard you begin your development as a commissioned officer in the Armed Forces of the United States. You will be expected to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and to selflessly serve the American people.

In the Honor Concept there exists a higher standard of conduct that can neither be delineated by laws nor defined by regulations. It is the concept of Honor. Because Coast Guard cadets are called to a life of public service, and desire to attain that special trust and confidence which is placed in our nation’s commissioned officers, their actions must be straightforward and always above reproach. As future law enforcement officers, each cadet’s word and signature must be regarded as verification of the truth. The Coast Guard Academy’s Honor Concept is exemplified by a person who will neither lie, cheat, steal, nor attempt to deceive. It is epitomized by an individual who places loyalty to duty above loyalty to personal friendship or to selfish desire. While the Coast Guard Academy’s Honor Concept differs from a code, in that failure to report an honor offense is not itself an honor violation, cadets are required to report all activity that does not incriminate themselves. Moreover, the condoning of an honor violation is a Class I offense under the Cadet Regulations. Dis-enrollment is a very possible outcome. The Corps of Cadets are stewards of their Honor Concept.

At the center of their new world is adherence to a Concept or Cadet Honor Code to which they swear: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” Their whole new world is shaped around these principles. This initially shapeless reality begins to form into principles of rigid honesty, loyalty to their fellow cadets, and respect for their classmates and all with whom they associate.

What is conduct unbecoming an officer and a lady? Does it violate the Honor Concept? Does conduct that violates the UCMJ constitute a higher standard than the Honor Concept? Times are changing so rapidly, one wonders if cadets and officers of today can be held to the same standards of conduct that were intended by the drafters of the UCMJ and the MCM promulgated in 1951? Not everyone can be expected to meet ideal moral standards, but how far can the standards of behavior of cadets and officers fall below contemporary community standards without seriously compromising their standing as officers and ladies? Have the changes in ethics and values of American society been reflected in the military?

Both the United States Military Academy and the United States Air Force Academy have adopted a Cadet Honor Code as a formalized statement of the minimum standard of ethics expected of cadets. Other military schools have similar codes with their own methods of administration. The United States Naval Academy, like the Coast Guard Academy, has a related standard, known as the Honor Concept.

The Cadet Honor Code at the Air Force Academy, like that at West Point, is the cornerstone of a cadet’s professional training and development — the minimum standard of ethical conduct that cadets expect of themselves and their fellow cadets. Air Force’s honor code was developed and adopted by the Class of 1959, the first class to graduate from the Academy, and has been handed down to every subsequent class. The code adopted was based largely on West Point’s Honor Code, but was modified slightly to its current wording:

We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.

In 1984, the Cadet Wing voted to add an “Honor Oath,” which was to be taken by all cadets. The oath is administered to fourth class cadets (freshmen) when they are formally accepted into the Wing at the conclusion of Basic Cadet Training. The oath remains unchanged since its adoption in 1984, and consists of a statement of the code, followed by a resolution to live honorably:

We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.

Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.

Cadets are considered the “guardians and stewards” of the Code. Cadet honor representatives throughout the Wing oversee the honor system by conducting education classes and investigating possible honor incidents. Cadets throughout the Wing are expected to sit on Honor Boards as juries that determine whether their fellow cadets violated the code. Cadets also recommend sanctions for violations. Although the presumed sanction for a violation is di-senrollment, mitigating factors may result in the violator being placed in a probationary status for some period of time. This “honor probation” is usually only reserved for cadets in their first two years at the Academy. (Cadet Honor Code, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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Sexaul Assaults Return To Military Academies. Boys will Be Boys. Girls Just Want To Have Fun.

English: Cadets of the Air Force Academy Class...

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<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_2″>http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_2</a&gt;

To start the New Year with a bang, commanders at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on 5 January 2012 charged three Air Force Academy cadets with sexual assault in cases that occurred over the past 15 months.

The cases involve acts allegedly committed at the Academy, and involve civilian women as well as female cadets.

In November 2011, Cadet Stephan H. Claxton is alleged to have unzipped the fly of a female cadet while she was “substantially incapacitated” — a phrase the military has used in the past to describe intoxication.

Cadet Claxton faces assault and attempted rape charges, including an allegation that he forcibly kissed one cadet and assaulted another. He is also charged concerning an incident in March 2011, where he is accused of forcing a fellow cadet to touch his genitals and indulge in underage drinking.

Cadet Kyle A. Cressy, a graduating senior and a member of the soccer team, is charged having sex with a woman at the academy who was “substantially incapacitated.” It’s unclear from the charge sheet whether the alleged victim was a civilian or a female cadet.

Cadet Robert M. Evenson Jr. is alleged to have forcibly raped a female cadet in the spring of 2010. He’s also charged with breaking cadet regulations by having an ongoing relationship with a female freshman. He also is suspected of abusing his power position as a “cadet non-commissioned officer for honor cases” to extract sexual favors from a female fellow cadet. This is serious. He was charged with enforcing the Honor Code. he may have used it to supply gris for his mill. As one of the cadets entrusted with enforcing the Academy’s Honor Code, he would have been in a very coveted position.  He was expected to  punish those who lie, cheat, steal or tolerate others who do. Those who violate the Honor Code face a maximum punishment of expulsion from the Academy. Allegations of corruption in the Honor Code enforcement system will likely send shockwaves through the Cadet Corps and the Academy alumni. The Honor Code is the very touchstone of the Academy’s culture.

These charges come to light a week after the Pentagon reported a spike in the number of sexual assaults at the air Force Academy. There were 33 reported incidents in the 2010-2011 academic year. This is a four-fold increase in a two year span.

There are about 4,000 cadets at the Air Force Academy.  A senior academy spokesman said these charges don’t appear to mark a return of the level of incidents of sexual assault of 2003. In 2003 the Academy and the nation were rocked when dozens of female cadets reported incidents of alleged sexual assaults. Many of those cases were mishandled or ignored.

Several senior officers at the Academy were fired in the wake of the 2003 scandal. This resulted in congressional scrutiny to the issue of sexual assaults at all the nation’s military academies. There were courts-martial at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut  and the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Three were major reforms at those institutions.

The Coast Guard Academy court-martial of  Cadet Webster Smith marked the first time in history that a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy was given court-martial.  Some Coast Guard Academy graduates accused the Coast Guard of racial discrimination because the accused, Cadet Webster Smith, was African American and all of the accusers were white females. One of them was his girl friend who had become pregnant, and had an abortion more than six months before the Coast Guard decided to charge Cadet Smith with rape.

In the meantime it was learned that about 11 other cases of confessed rape had been resolved without resort to a court-martial. All of the other cadets were allowed to resign quietly and slip into darkness. All the other cadets were white. This is part of the reason that there were claims of bias and inappropriate command influence in the prosecution of Webster Smith.

The conviction was appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court. It is interesting to note that there were several ‘Friend of the Court‘ or ‘amicus briefs’ filed with the Supreme Court by senior military lawyers from other branches of the armed forces in favor of the reversal of the Webster Smith conviction. It set a very bad precedent and there were irregularities in the prosecution and the appellate review of the conviction. The case was thoroughly critiqued in a book available on Amazon.com. (See http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_2)

The Pentagon in a December 2011 report to Congress praised the Air Force Academy’s efforts to curb sexual assault in the ranks and gave the school high marks for its programs to encourage sexual assault reporting.

“[The academy] demonstrated commendable practices that should be considered for replication by other military service academies,” the Defense Department wrote in the report. The Coast Guard Academy had already implemented a new procedure for reporting and investigating sexual assaults in the wake of the Webster Smith case.

If any of these cadets get convicted, it would mark a reversal of fortunes for air Force prosecutors. Since the 2003 scandal, the academy has prosecuted a string of rape cases against cadets. But none of those cases has resulted in a conviction. Unlike the Coast Guard Academy, where one prosecution in 2006 resulted in one conviction and six months in jail for a graduating senior. (<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_2″>http://www.amazon.com/CONDUCT-UNBECOMING-Officer-Lady-ebook/dp/B006VPAADK/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_2</a&gt;)

Recent rape trials at the Air Force Academy have almost always centered on the issue of ‘consent’. The defendant always used as a defense that the alleged victim gave her consent. He said she asked for sex. The cases were also marked by a lack of forensic evidence that could help sort out the conflicting claims. One can never be sure what a jury will decide in a case of ‘he-said, she-said’.

Categories: Military Justice, Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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