Pentagon Says Uncovering the Truth about Military Sexual Violence Is Too Burdensome. Huh?

By Sandra S. Park, Staff Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project via ACLU on May 29, 2014

It's often said that people should be judged by their actions, not merely their words. The same is true of institutions, even the Department of Defense (DoD).

Facing intense criticism for how it responds to sexual violence within the military, the Pentagon has said: "Sexual Assault is a crime that is not tolerated, condoned, or ignored in the DoD. It is one of the most serious challenges facing our military."

Yet, in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation that has now been pending for three years, the Pentagon argues that releasing its records regarding military sexual violence is too "burdensome," because it involves a large number of documents. But that raises more questions than it answers: Doesn't the volume of documents only confirm the magnitude of sexual assault in the military? Why is the DoD opposing efforts to shed further light on military sexual violence, a necessary step to creating effective solutions?


In 2010 and 2011, the Service Women's Action Network, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Connecticut filed FOIA requests with the DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), seeking documents relating to sexual violence, harassment, and domestic violence in the military. We wanted to fully understand how DoD commanders and the military justice system deal with complaints and how the VA treats disability claims submitted by veteran survivors. Ultimately, our goal was to share what we learned with the public and to craft meaningful reforms based on those insights.

Initially, we got little response to our requests.

After filing two lawsuits against the DoD and VA, we reached a settlement with the VA, resulting in the production of a number of documents. Battle for Benefits, the report issued by the ACLU and SWAN in November with the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, drew on those records to illuminate the VA's discriminatory treatment of disability claims based on military sexual trauma. The report concluded that disability claims based on PTSD related to military sexual trauma were granted at a significantly lower rate than other disability claims. It also found VA regional offices treated these claims inconsistently. It included several policy recommendations for the VA that have been picked up by Congress.

But the litigation with the Pentagon remains ongoing, because it states that too many records would need to be turned over. We responded by narrowing our requests once we were able to determine which documents contain useful information on how the DoD deals with these cases, but it still will not comply with our requests.

More fundamentally, the Pentagon fails to recognize that the volume of records it possesses relating to sexual violence is simply a sign of the appalling rates of violence within the military. Its position is particularly disturbing because it would justify refusing to comply with FOIA whenever the request would expose deep-seated and widespread abuses within our government – the very point of the law.

Tomorrow the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear oral arguments in New York on whether the Pentagon can avoid releasing these records. Rather than seeing disclosure as a burden, the Pentagon should work with advocates to expose, and address, "one of the most serious challenges facing our military."

Simple justice and good government demand it.

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Army investigation: No sexual assault cover-ups in Alaska National Guard

A military investigation has cleared higher-ups within the Alaska National Guard of mishandling sexual assault cases. The Army Inspector General's report, completed last month, also found that Guard members did not feel concerned about the issue.

A brief summary of the findings was made public Wednesday in a one-page letter sent to Sen. Lisa Murkowski by the Department of Defense Inspector General, who had oversight over the investigation because senior officials within the Guard were under scrutiny. The agency finished its review early this month, and this week told Murkowski it concurred with the Army IG's findings.

The letter, signed by Acting Assistant Inspector General for Communications Larry D. Turner, concludes, "... The Adjutant General (TAG), AKNG, and other AKNG officials did not cover up any reported sexual assault incidents."

Gen. Thomas Katkus, who has led the Alaska National Guard since 2009 as the adjutant general and also serves as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, is satisfied with the Army findings, according to Maj. Candis Olmstead, public affairs director for the Alaska National Guard.

"Gen. Katkus is glad that the investigation was handled by an outside federal agency which has no agenda but ... to determine truth. He is cautiously guarded because there will always be room for improvement. But he is looking forward to seeing what areas we can improve upon," Olmstead said.

The IG's letter comes close to a year after Murkowski asked the independent agency to look into allegations that dysfunction within the Alaska National Guard's command climate impeded the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults, including attempts by some officials to try cover up incidents. Murkowski called for the investigation after two chaplains from the Alaska National Guard came to her seeking help. The chaplains for some time have tried to get help for victims they believe weren't helped the way they should have been.

Another victim advocate, Lt. Col. Ken Blaylock, who retired in 2012, has voiced similar concerns.

Since leaving the Guard, Blaylock, a former National Guard commander and staff officer, has emerged as a tenacious whistleblower with a laundry list of complaints about the command structure. He said this week he was unconvinced by the IG report, which clears that command structure of allegations it mishandled and covered up sexual assault cases.

"It's interesting that the inspector general did not interview me, since I have documentation which disproves his conclusions. I wonder how many other victims and witnesses he did not interview," said Blaylock.

The report has not yet been made public or released to Murkowksi.

In the letter to Murkowski, the inspector general indicates the report also addresses the climate in which Guard members are operating and whether they had concerns about sexual assault or sexual harassment reporting. "Climate sensing sessions" found no such concerns, according to Turner's letter.

Blaylock has asserted that climate surveys in the past have been used to smoke out anyone who might speak against the command structure. Out of fear of retaliation, people choose not to speak up, he said. Plus, Blaylock said, before the investigative team showed up, the Alaska National Guard held mandatory briefings in which the stories of some sexual assault situations were discredited and procedures about proper handling of cases reiterated.

Olmstead said climate surveys are always anonymous and the survey-takers are not subject to retribution for their answers. Only if the participant chooses to put his or her name on it would their identity be known, she said. Surveys may help a new commander get a sense for the working climate within the unit, and different command levels may also review the surveys "to assess how members of the unit feel about the quality of their work environment," she said.

Olmstead also said that while "all call" meetings did take place prior to the IG investigation and surveys, they were not convened for the purposes of skewing the results. All call meetings, which everyone attends, are not uncommon, and during those meetings information about process and procedure is often discussed. At no time were sexual assault stories or situations discredited, she said.

Blaylock has also questioned whether the IG actually had a chance to look at all of the evidence, meet with all of the victims and follow how all of the cases were handled, or if it followed only those cases the National Guard gave it access to.

In its inquiry, the Army IG found that 11 cases of alleged sexual assault were referred to Alaska law enforcement authorities -- proper procedure since military code requires investigation and prosecution of cases involving Alaska National Guard suspects. It also found that Katkus took action against two suspects, each time after the sexual assault allegations were substantiated against Guard members. Consequences included being discharged and separated from the Guard.

"We definitely did not just pass on a select group of cases. All of the cases that have been reported have been documented. And all of that information was readily available to the inspector general's team," Olmstead said.

Everything follows policy and procedure, and everything is reported, she said.

She also pointed out that Blaylock, who has not actively been a part of the command for nearly two years, is not is a position to have firsthand information about current cases or the way things have been handled.

Through its public affairs chief, Bridget Ann Serchak, the Department of Defense Inspector General declined to comment on the scope or procedures employed during its investigation. If someone like Blaylock had continued concerns, they were welcome to call the IG's hotline and initiate a whistleblower complaint and through that process could be interviewed, she said.

A Murkowski spokesman said the senator is withholding comment until she has an opportunity to see the full report.

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California Senate Approves Military Sexual Assault Bill – Senate Bill 1422

By  on Mon, 19 May 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, the California Senate approved Senate Bill 1422, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) on a bipartisan vote of 34 to 0. The bill would require cases of sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department (CMD) be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities. The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration.

“Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California can lead by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

The CMD is comprised of the following three components of the active militia: The National Guard, the State Military Reserve, and the Naval Militia. The CMD’s 24,000-person roster includes the California National Guard (CalGuard), the largest of the 54 state-level National Guards in U.S. states and territories. The majority of its service members are on inactive duty status. The federal government has struggled with how best to address sexual assaults. Federal mandates have included establishing a Sexual Assault Response Program (SAPR), Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) and a dual-track sexual assault reporting system for victims.

However, CMD lacks the personnel and infrastructure to adjudicate sexual assault cases. As a result, the CMD’s standing policy is to refer these cases to local authorities who are better equipped to investigate and prosecute potential crimes. Senator Padilla’s legislation would make this policy state law.

“Local jurisdictions are in a better position to prosecute sexual assault cases in California’s Military Department. Importantly, this practice also separates the investigation and prosecution from the chain of command ensuring that there is no conflict of interest in the evaluation and prosecution of sexual assault cases,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

SB 1422 requires that cases involving the sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities. It also provides for no statute of limitation in cases of sexual assault in the CMD. The bill also requires the department to report annually to the Governor and the Legislature on sexual assault statistics and the efficacy of the department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program.

Every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted. 1 in 3 American women will be sexually abused during their lifetime. These crimes also take place in our military departments. The most recent report from the Department of Defense estimated that 26,000 service members had experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Last year, U.S. soldiers were 15 times more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by an enemy.

To address sexual assault in the military, the Department of Defense has instituted reforms at the federal level and mandated similar reforms to state military departments to ensure that incidents are reported, victims are provided services and service members of all ranks receive sexual assault prevention training.

Senator Alex Padilla, 41, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He currently serves on the Board of MIT and is President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District in Los Angeles.


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House of Cards Boss Beau Willimon Answers Vulture Readers’ Questions

By  via Vulture, May 14, 2014

Last week, Vulture asked readers to come up with questions for House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon. And you did! He couldn't answer every single one, but he did respond to 13 frank inquiries (pun intended). We tried for more, but Willimon is as adamant as Matthew Weiner when it comes to keeping a lid on story lines for future seasons. Needless to say, spoilers aplenty if you have not watched all of season two, but read on to find out about why Clare's backstory included a rape, the origins of the threesome, and whether or not Frank Underwood will ever lose. 

Given the lines Frank has crossed in order to finally become the president (murder, etc.), is there any chance he can be redeemed? —kevin.klawitter
Hmm. We don’t really think about Frank’s story in terms of redemption, because that presumes he operates on the same moral compass as most people do. Frank has his own code. And in his code, power is the most important thing, so you either have power or you don’t. In his worldview, it’s not a question of doing right or wrong, it’s a question of, do you wield power or don’t you? So, redemption in the conventional sense … it’s debatable whether he’s capable of that or not, but it’s the lens through which he sees the universe. 

If Frank actually is president for enough time to effect some change, what policies will he try to enact? Does he have any interest in positive change, or is everything connected to power/Claire/revenge? —christina.sweeneybaird
I think I answered that one in the first question. 

Was it always your intention to go darker and more serious than the original BBC series? —Bridget646
The short answer is yes. The BBC version is fantastic. You’ll find no bigger fan of it than me. I think Andrew Davies did an extraordinary job adapting Michael Dobbs’s novels, but the tone of it is much more tongue-in-cheek and satirical, and we wanted ours to be squarely in the drama category. Also we knew that in our first season alone, we would have more hours of content than all three seasons of the BBC version combined. And into our second season, over double that. So it meant that we were going to have to dig much deeper into our characters, include a lot of new characters, and expand the stories. I think that the world of television has become much more sophisticated in the past 25 years. Audiences have come to expect that. So we knew that, from the get-go, we would have a show that was very different than the BBC version. In terms of it being darker, that’s debateable. The BBC version is deliciously dark, but we want our darkness to come at a cost, the way it does in life, and you see that from time to time in our show. I think you can’t have darkness without putting it in relief. Otherwise it is just pure satire. So we try to do that whenever we can. 

Will Cashew be a regular next season? —daytimedrama
[Laughs] I guess that depends on whether SAG is willing to include other species in its membership.

The moment when Rachel bashes Doug Stamper's head in was the most surprising moment. Did you want to make more room for Rachel to play in season three? Is she an uncaged bird now? —Lillian4444
I don’t discuss anything about stories for upcoming seasons. I will say though that it was a choice to make Rachel a much more important character in season two. Originally, Rachel’s character was simply listed as "Call Girl" in the first two episodes, and she was never intended to go beyond that. But when I decided to expand Peter Russo’s story and have him run for governor, which was not a originally part of this story, the gubernatorial race was meant for another character altogether whom we hadn’t cast. I needed to make big changes to the story in order to accomplish that. The reason why I wanted to shift that story to Corey Stoll’s character was because Corey was doing such a marvelous job, really dazzling us in every scene, so I wanted to give him more. And when I made that choice, I looked at all the other characters we had available to us and thought about who would be most interesting to dramatize his downfall, and that was the call girl, so she got a name. What we discovered along the way was this really complex, intriguing relationship between her and Doug. Once you make a discovery like that, you want to dig in and make the most of it.

Did you have any hesitancy about writing the rape subplot for Claire? It seems so often now that on TV dramas a rape backstory is used as a plot device to make ruthless or powerful women more sympathetic. See: Mellie on Scandal, Victoria on Revenge, Elizabeth on The Americans. Just wondering if you were aware of this pattern and considered any other options before settling on this one. —cyberrr96
We weren’t really thinking about other shows when we came up with that backstory for Claire. What really inspired it was seeing an early screening of a documentary called The Invisible War. That’s a documentary that focuses on the problem of sexual assault in the military. I was really moved by that documentary. At the time, when I saw the screening, neither the show nor the issue was nearly as visible as it has become. But I was already thinking of the character of Jackie Sharp, a woman who has served in the military. I was thinking about sexual assault as the most brutal expression of power. And I thought that for Claire, to have experienced that and to have found her own way to take the power back, was right in line with our show. Because our show’s subject is power, and it can express itself in a lot of different ways. There’s the brutishness of sexual assault, but there’s also the power of the survivor to overcome it, and in Claire’s case, to name names and to push legislation to curb it. That all seems right in line with our show and with Claire. It wasn’t a choice to try to make Claire more sympathetic. I have zero interest in strategizing the sympathy factor for characters. A lot of our characters are quote-unquote unsympathetic, but you can’t take your eyes off of them, you’re engaged in their stories, you want to see what they do next, and Claire’s a great example of that. Really, I was interested in the theme of power, and placing one of our stars at the center of it. And she also ends up compromising her own bill in order to achieve other political ends. That’s also right in line with our show. You see something that Claire truly and deeply cares about, and yet she has to make a choice as to whether she was going to be uncompromising in her pursuit of reform, or whether she was going to do her part to help Team Underwood achieve the presidency. Those sorts of choices that people make in Washington all the time are the center of our show.

Do Claire and Frank have a sexual relationship? —maddieolariviere
That’s a great question. 

Why Meechum? Obviously the Underwoods have complete control over him already, he does nothing to advance their global domination or to advance the plot, other than to establish Frank's bisexuality. Wouldn't it have been more Underwood-esque to debauch, say, Jackie? —vmcartor
We don’t take a schematic approach to our storytelling. There are a lot of stories in our show that are causal: A leads to B leads to C. A lot of that has to do with political maneuvering. But there are also moments in our show and story lines that aren’t meant to add up in any rational way. I think that the Threechum scene is an example of that. If we didn’t access the irrational parts of Francis and Claire, all they would amount to is political calculation and sociopathy. But they have their human moments. They get drunk. They have desires. They have needs and whims like anyone else. In that scene, you see three people in a particular moment under particular circumstances, where something totally unexpected happens and yet happens organically. As it can in life. What I’m most proud of in that little story line was that the next day when Francis goes out to the car, Meechum says, “Beautiful day, sir.” Francis says, “Yes, it is,” and he gets in the car and back to business as usual as though it never happened. I think that’s a lot truer to life. Something happens, it happens unexpectedly, and we’re not going to make a big deal of it. There we see something that isn’t typically Underwoodian. It’s interesting that the person who asked the question used the adjective Underwood-esque. But if Francis and Claire only did things that were Underwood-esque, they would never surprise us and never surprise themselves. And as a threesome or any other encounter like that were mere calculation, it would have no mystery, and I think, in that particular case if it were Jackie, be quite sloppy on their part. With Meechum, they have someone that they fully trust. They have someone with whom this is possible, that they don’t have to worry about. Those are really the only circumstances under which something like that could happen. Otherwise, we’d really question their intelligence. 

Will anyone eventually realize that with regard to Peter Russo, it would have been impossible for him to turn on the car in the passenger's seat since keyless ignitions require you to step on the brake to start the car? Or has this been put completely to rest with the silence of Janine and Lucas? —eastcoastsnob
You should be hired on CSI immediately. 

It seems like he's won pretty much every battle and defeated (or murdered) pretty much every foe, so will you ever explore Frank actually losing? —sharipep
Another great question. I will say though that I think we have seen Frank experience loss. A great example of that is the sentinel episode, where we see what sacrifices he’s had to make in order to be where he is. There was a time in life where he could make a pure connection, where he could feel for someone completely outside of the realm of politics, and without consequence in a pure sense and it’s something that he can remember and be fond of, but he’s had to turn his back on that side of himself, with the exception of Claire, in order to live the public life that he lives. So there are lots of different forms of loss. In terms of political loss, I would say, in order to get Jackie Sharp on his side at the end of season two, he has to give up a certain degree of power, and so does Claire. So there are prices and costs for the choices they make. In terms of utter defeat, only time will tell. 

There's been talk about how the show's attitudes reflects the current political mood, or at least the prevailing attitude of American people toward government (contrast this with The West Wing, 1999 through early 2000s). How much do you think that's true, when it comes to the show's popularity, and specifically the popularity of the more detestable characters? —shansquared
I think the American public’s relationship with Washington is a complex one. In our show, we portray an extreme. at times exaggerated, dark version of Washington. Of course not all of Washington is like that. In fact, most people, I believe, go to work in government with all the best intentions: They want to serve their country, they want to serve their fellow citizens. And there are a lot of politicians and staff who maintain that part of themselves throughout their entire career. Those people just don’t happen to be the ones that we focus on in our show. There are a lot of shows about Washington right now. I think Veepcan reflect a certain comical and absurd view that we have of Washington. Alpha House takes the same approach. Our show takes a darker look. And The West Wing is still as popular as ever. Lots of people watch The West Wing on Netflix. So I don’t think that any one show can encapsulate either what D.C. is or how America feels about it. It’s such a vast and complicated place. I think that all these shows combined might begin to scratch the surface. But it’s reductive, I think, to assume that any one show can. 

What I imagine the greatest perk of running a show like this would be is that people in DC would approach you all the time and be like, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW CLOSE YOU REALLY ARE TO THE TRUTH." Please tell me if this has happened to you, and please, if possible, provide as many salacious, vague details as you can without getting into trouble. —ironypants
Kevin Spacey tells a great story, and you have to imagine him doing this in Bill Clinton’s accent, which he mimics perfectly. He was talking to President Clinton about the show, and President Clinton professed to be a fan, and he said, [in a Bill Clinton impersonation] “You know, Kevin, 99 percent of House of Cards is accurate. The one percent that’s not accurate is that you can never pass an education bill that fast.”

House of Cards BBC was a three-season story arc. Is there a possibility of House of Cards USA going beyond the three seasons? —cartmom1
I couldn’t possibly comment. 



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Bill pushes military on sexual assault prosecution

By Michael Gardner via U-T San Diego, May 9, 2014

 — California appears poised to pass first-in-the-nation legislation that would require the National Guard to turn sexual assault cases over to civilian prosecutors — a move meant to push the Pentagon and other states to become more aggressive in pursuing justice for victims.

“While Washington debates how to address the crisis, California can lead by example,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, a Pacoima Democrat carrying the measure.

His legislation would codify in law what’s already established policy within the National Guard and other smaller units formed under the California Military Department. That would prevent the military from later changing directions without legislative permission.

The reach of the legislation applies only to the California Military Department, of which the state’s National Guard is the largest branch. Supporters hope its passage will lead to similar steps being taken in other states and, eventually, encourage the Department of Defense to establish stronger protocols governing investigations and toughen penalties.

“It’s a warning to Congress that they need to get this done,” said Reid Milburn, a U.S. Air Force veteran intent on seeing the California measure signed into law.

Congress and the Pentagon have been acting under pressure.

Congress last year extended more rights to victims in new directives tucked into the annual defense authorization bill. Those strip commanders of their power to overturn jury convictions, protect victims from retaliation and require a dishonorable discharge for those convicted. Further reforms passed the U.S. Senate this year.

But the Pentagon recently has beaten back legislative proposals before the full Senate and in the House Armed Services Committee that would have taken away a commander’s option of pursuing prosecution and turn that authority over to military lawyers.

Military officials are adamantly opposed to relinquishing that authority. The power to punish or pardon is a tenet of military law rooted in the conviction that commanders must have the ability to discipline the troops they lead. Undercutting that role, top Defense Department officials warned, would send a message that there is lack of faith in the officer corps, thereby undermining the armed forces.

Also, the Pentagon recently revealed that sexual assault reports rose 50 percent in 2013 but largely attributed that to more confidence by victims that they will be treated fairly and their cases will be pursued. Nevertheless, critics say prosecutions and convictions are lagging. Last month, the Department of Defense announced it would launch a comprehensive review of the entire military justice system. The Pentagon has been under growing pressure to act after a number of reports of indifference, commanders overruling convictions and victims being punished with menial tasks or transfers to unwanted posts.

The California legislation, coupled later with stronger protections at the national level, would further “reassure survivors,” Milburn said. She is a member of the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party, which has made addressing sexual assault one of its top priorities in the state and nation.

“In the past, they might have decided not to report if they had known there would be repercussions. This gives them protection from the good-old-boys club,” she said. 

Since 2011, there have been 43 reports of sexual assault, ranging from unwanted touching to rape, within the California Military Department units, according to the department. Some of those stem from incidents that occurred in previous years.

The department has not taken a position on the legislation, but has been working with Padilla and his supporters to craft the language. Milburn and others say the department has been cooperative. The department is prohibited by law from discussing in detail reported sexual assaults.

Lawson Stuart, chairman of the veterans caucus, said once California takes the lead it will prompt other states to follow.

“Why are they trying to block justice for those who are protecting us?” said Lawson, who also served in the U.S. Air Force.

Lawson said the caucus is reviewing related steps to take in the future. Among those: require the military to keep evidence even if the victim chooses not to file charges in case there is a change of heart after leaving the service.

The California Military Department is made up of the National Guard, the state Military Reserve, the office of the Adjutant General and the California Cadet Corps. It’s an all-volunteer force.

Under its policies, a victim has a choice of filing what are called “restricted” or “unrestricted” reports. A restricted report allows a victim to obtain medical treatment and other assistance without notifying law enforcement. By filing an unrestricted report, the incident is sent to the chain of command, a sexual assault coordinator and to police.

The two options were adopted to encourage reporting and “therefore increase the number of victims that receive the help they need to recover and heal,” according to an email from the military department. A victim advocate is assigned to each case regardless of status.

The department said since 2011, 36 of the 43 cases were filed as unrestricted — meaning they were sent to commanders and police to investigate. The outcome of those cases was not available.

The state legislation earlier received unanimous support in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Appropriations Committee is expected to take it up Monday.

Among its provisions, Senate Bill 1422 would erase the statute of limitations on filing sexual assault claims. If civilian authorities choose not to prosecute, the military could still proceed with a court martial under the bill.

The California District Attorneys Association has not taken a position on Senate Bill 1422. San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis did not respond to a request for comment.

No opposition has emerged.• (916) 445-2934


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Close Vote on Chain of Command

For Immediate Release

May 7, 2014


DC – Bill Silverfarb (202) 225-3531 / (202) 957-4340 cell;

CA – Katrina Rill (650) 342-0300 / (650) 208-7441 cell;


Congresswomen Speier: Close Vote on Chain of Command Moves the Ball Forward for Justice

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City) issued the following statement after the House Armed Services Committee voted down two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act of FY2015 to reform how sexual assaults and other criminal offenses are prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Currently, the authority to prosecute such cases rests solely with the chain of command.

“The thoughtful and passionate debate tonight changed minds and votes. I was deeply moved by the statements of my colleagues especially those who served in the military. They more than anyone understand the importance of commanders, and how truly broken our military justice system is.” Congresswoman Speier said. “The growing support for taking sexual assault offenses out of the chain of command should encourage survivors and service members that we are closer to creating a fair and impartial military justice system.” 

“While we have much work in front of us, we are light-years ahead of where we started. It’s also important to remember that a majority of the American people is behind us, even if the House Armed Services Committee is not yet fully supportive.

“Our service members are stuck in a world where their fates rest within the chain of command, where bias is king and justice often a jester. My fight for survivors and reform will continue until these cases are handled by legal experts and not by those who are oftentimes proven to be the perpetrators,” Congresswoman Speier said.

Congresswoman Speier’s first amendment would have given the Chief Prosecutor of each service the discretion of whether to prosecute sexual assaults and other serious non-military offenses and received 13 yes votes to 49 no votes. The second amendment addressed only sexual assaults and received 28 yes votes to 34 no votes. It was the first time the committee voted on whether to take the criminal cases out of the chain of command and received bipartisan support.



Congresswoman Jackie Speier is proud to represent California’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. She is a senior member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). In her role on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Congresswoman is a ranking member on the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements and serves on the Subcommittee on National Security. She serves on the Readiness Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on HASC and is a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Congresswoman Speier was appointed to serve as a Senior Whip for the Democratic caucus in the 113th Congress.

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White House to Press Colleges to Do More to Combat Rape

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Army general disciplined over mishandling of sexual assault

By , Washington Post, Published: April 22


The sexual misconduct complaints piled up on the desk of Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. A colonel on his staff had been accused of having an affair with a subordinate, of drunken and inappropriate behavior with other women at a military club and lastly, of sexual assault.

But Harrison let most of the complaints slide or reacted with leniency, according to the Army. He had known the colonel for two decades and said he didn’t believe some of the allegations. In March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the colonel of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators — a clear violation of Army rules, according to an internal investigation.

As chronicled by that investigation, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the general’s handling of the case provides a textbook example of the Pentagon’s persistent struggle to get commanders to take reports of sexual misconduct seriously.

Stung by troop surveys that show most sex-crime victims don’t trust the military to protect them, the Defense Department has repeatedly pledged to fix the problem and punish commanders who don’t get the message.

“Everyone in positions of leadership are accountable,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday during a visit to a military call center for victims of rape, abuse and incest. “It doesn’t make any difference if you’re at the top of the military structure, a four-star general, or if you’re a private first class. You’re accountable.”

The military, however, has been slow to impose discipline on offending senior leaders.

The Army suspended Harrison in June for mishandling the case involving the Japanese woman but only after she took her frustrations outside the chain of command. She complained to the Army inspector general as well as to a Japan-based reporter for Stars & Stripes, a newspaper that covers the military.

After conducting an investigation, the Army inspector general rebuked Harrison in August for protecting the colonel and failing to take appropriate action. But the Army kept the results under wraps until this week, when it released a heavily redacted copy of the investigative report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Post.

Despite the suspension and rebuke, the Army brought Harrison back to the Pentagon to take another important position, as director of program analysis and evaluation for an Army deputy chief of staff. He received an administrative letter of reprimand in December for mishandling the sexual-assault case and other complaints, but remains on active duty.

Harrison’s attorney said the general officially notified the Army last week that he intends to retire after 33 years in the service. The lawyer, Michael J. Nardotti, Jr., said the timing had nothing to do with the Army’s decision to finally release the investigative report, six months after The Post first requested it.

“It was clear to him that this is in his best interest,” Nardotti said of Harrison’s retirement plans. He said that Harrison had accepted responsibility for the mishandling of the sexual assault case but that he wasn’t trying to bury the complaint. He also noted that the Army leadership continues to hold him in high esteem.

“People have noted the outstanding job that he has done in that role,” Nardotti said of the general’s current assignment. “He didn’t simply come back and say, ‘Now that this adverse action is underway I’m not going to do my job.’ He did his job. He’s soldiered on for the entire period.”

George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the decision to relieve Harrison of command in Japan and to reprimand him effectively ended his military career.

“There should be no mistake that we will thoroughly investigate any allegations of impropriety and take appropriate action when warranted,” Wright said.

Army generals who have gotten in trouble for misconduct or inappropriate behavior toward women have often remained in the ranks for a long time.

Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts, the former commander of Fort Jackson, S.C., was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing in August of assaulting a mistress and committing adultery; a separate investigation found that he also had affairs with two other women. He was fined $5,000 and issued a written reprimand.

He did not retire until April 1, almost eight months later. Army Secretary John McHugh reduced Roberts in rank to colonel, although he remains entitled to retirement benefits under federal law, Army officials said.

Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer was admonished by the Army last summer after an internal investigation found that he had e-mailed crude, sexually explicit jokes to other commanders about a female member of Congress, Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.). Schweitzer — who later told Army investigators that his e-mails were “childish” and “truly stupid” — still works at the Pentagon on the Joint Staff, although his prior selection for promotion to major general has been placed on hold.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was reprimanded and fined $20,000 last month after he admitted during a court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C., that he had a long affair with a female officer under his direct command as well as inappropriate relationships with two other women.

He had originally been charged with sexual assault in March 2012, but that count was dropped as part of a plea deal. He remains on active duty, although his attorneys have said he plans to retire. Army officials said it can often take months to process retirement papers.

Two Air Force lieutenant generals also were forced to retire in recent months after they granted clemency to officers convicted of sexual assault — but only after an outcry from some members of Congress.

In Japan, where the Army has 2,300 soldiers and employs 5,000 civilians, a cascade of leadership problems surfaced at the end of Harrison’s tenure as commander.

On the same day that Harrison was suspended in June, the Army suspended or reassigned four colonels who worked for him, as well as a senior civilian official.

Lt. Col. Kevin R. Toner, a spokesman for U.S. Army Japan, declined to elaborate on the reasons for the mass suspensions and reassignments, except to say that most were unrelated to the investigation targeting Harrison.

One of those suspended was the colonel accused of sexual assault. The Army would not name him because his case did not result in a court-martial, but Toner said the colonel was subjected to administrative discipline.

Toner said the new commanding general. Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer Sr., conducted leadership surveys at U.S. Army Japan after taking over from Harrison but did not find “systemic concerns about misconduct.”

But a female captain who served under Harrison in Japan said that she personally knew of several sexual assault and harassment ­cases that languished or were dropped. Among them was a complaint she filed against a male major for harassing her during her maternity leave and making sexually offensive remarks.

“The system is so flawed that it’s almost not worth reporting anything,” said the captain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she remains in the Army and fears reprisals. She said some junior officers took sex-crime cases seriously, but “they just kept running into roadblocks.”

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DOD Unveils Improved Sexual Assault Prevention Training

By Amaani Lyle American Forces Press Service | Monday, April 14, 2014 3:48 pm

WASHINGTON  – As part of efforts to eliminate the crime of sexual assault in the military, Defense Department officials today announced improvements to sexual assault prevention and response training for all members of the armed forces and civilian employees.

Officials said the improvements center on development of consistent sexual assault prevention and response core competencies and learning objectives for:

-- Training for new accessions;

-- Annual and refresher training;

-- Pre- and post-deployment training;

-- Professional military education;

-- Training for commanders and senior enlisted leaders before assuming their new positions; and

-- Training for sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and chaplains.

Within the first 14 days of service, officials explained, new accessions to the armed forces receive training that provides a basic understanding of the sexual assault prevention and response program, specific information on reporting options, and the services and resources available both on base and in the local region. Additionally, service members receive annual refresher training in sexual assault prevention and response, as well as before and after deployments.

At the professional military education level, officials said, the training emphasizes participants’ leadership role in supporting the Defense Department’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts.

In their training, officials said, commanders and senior enlisted leaders learn about:

-- The complexities of the crime and their role in fostering a command environment of professional values, team commitment, and dignity and respect;

-- Proactive measures to reduce sexual assaults in their units;

-- The protections afforded victims and the accused; and

-- The elements of quality victim care.

Training for sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates emphasize effective crisis management in addition to advocating for the victim and coordinating care, officials said.

For chaplains, training competencies focus on awareness of sexual assault as a crime, its impact on victims, and sexual assault prevention and response resources the Defense Department provides.

“The department is committed to eliminating sexual assault and ensuring an environment that provides dignity and respect for all members of the military community,” said Army Col. Litonya Wilson, deputy director of prevention and victim assistance in the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We took steps to improve the quality of SAPR training with a specific focus on developing core competencies and learning objectives, ensuring consistency, and implementing methods for assessing the effectiveness of these training programs.”

The training improvements incorporate a coordinated effort designed to ensure that everyone in the military community -- including first responders, commanders, new service members, and those deployed around the world -- have consistent training standards and effective tools to prevent and respond to sexual assault, officials said. The services and the National Guard Bureau developed the core competencies and learning objectives jointly to incorporate best practices from the field and input from sexual assault survivors, they added.

“The entire military community must be engaged in creating an environment where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexist behaviors are not tolerated,” Wilson said. “It is our aim to field innovative prevention strategies, new training approaches, and incorporate best practices for SAPR training to instill an environment that promotes respect and proper treatment of everyone within the department.

“Our focus is on creating a climate where sexual assault and sexual harassment are seen as unacceptable,” she continued, “not just because they are illegal, but because they are wrong.”

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