Last updated: March 26. 2014 11:42PM - 434 Views

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Passing military sexual-assault bill


So-called privileges of rank have taken on a perverse meaning in the U.S. military. Stunning tales of sexual assault at the highest levels of the service betray the grievous breadth of the abuse.


The U.S. Senate last week unanimously adopted changes in the military-justice system to protect victims when they step forward to report the crimes, and how those investigations and prosecutions are handled.


New avenues of appeal were created in instances where military commanders refuse to proceed with sexual-assault charges. Earlier, the Senate failed to agree on legislation to strip commanders of that discretion.


Indignation over that legislative outcome may well have empowered last week’s victory. This latest effort builds on changes made in 2013 that require civilian review of decisions not to prosecute, eliminate a statute of limitations for court-martial in rape and assault cases, and criminalize retaliation for filing reports of assault.


The military has a crushing public-relations problem on its hands that could haunt recruitment and retention of personnel.


Failure to protect men and women who have volunteered to defend their country is shameful. The willingness of the system to protect its own is disgraceful, if grimly predictable.


Erosion of respect for rank has consequences for unit cohesiveness and the basic willingness to work together, and, indeed, follow orders.


Right now the public — and Congress — is watching all manner of vulgar examples play out. A brigadier general negotiated a plea deal in a trial at Fort Bragg, N.C. Meanwhile, the Army is investigating sexual-abuse allegations against an officer who trains military prosecutors to handle sexual-abuse cases.


Imagine what it is like for young enlisted personnel and junior officers with virtually no one to turn to for help. The Associated Press reports the Pentagon estimates 26,000 military members may have been assaulted in 2012.


Elemental changes in attitudes and workplace conditions are needed to make the regulations approved by the Senate have full meaning. Part of that change is a willingness to hold all violators accountable.


What the public sees now is the privileges of rank come with some vulgar assumptions about what can be done without accountability or penalty.


All of the Senate’s changes and expectations would apply to the service academies, where future generations of leaders are trained. — Seattle Times


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CIA possibly spying on Senate


It’s tempting to note on how the shoe is on the other foot for the Senate Intelligence Committee.


The latest news on who’s spying on whom has the CIA accused of doing just that on the committee that provides its civilian oversight. A few months back, the National Security Agency was in the spotlight and the committee seemed loathe to rein it in from its spying on U.S. citizens.


President Barack Obama in January announced a series of reforms after revelations of NSA spying — sparked by leaker Edward Snowden — caused a firestorm. A plan to end the NSA’s collection and storage of American’s telephone communications is due on March 28.


But this latest revelation is an equally serious matter. At issue is whether the Central Intelligence Agency tried to thwart the oversight Americans need.


In an extraordinary speech recently, the chair of the intelligence committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., charged that the agency had secretly removed documents from a computer used by her staff investigating the CIA’s interrogation program.


The Senate investigation into a program that clearly involved torture has resulted in a 6,300 page report. It’s still secret. It should be made public as soon as possible.


As part of this Senate investigation, the CIA provided a computer network independent of the agency’s own. Into that, it dumped the documents the committee needed, numbering into the millions. But afterward, committee staffers, Feinstein said, discovered that some documents that had clearly been in the system had been removed.


The CIA has charged that Senate staffers got unauthorized access to an internal review of the detention program. Feinstein says the document was part of the CIA document dump.


Meanwhile, the CIA director denies that spying occurred. The Justice Department is now left to sort it out, along with the CIA’s inspector general.


If these charges are true, Fourth Amendment rights and the executive prohibition on CIA domestic spying have been violated. Suffering the biggest injury, however, would be the U.S. separation of powers that requires the congressional oversight.


With Snowden’s disclosures and the anemic responses, public trust in this oversight has already suffered. We await the results of investigations, but the very fact that one of the intelligence community’s most ardent supporters has made these charges does nothing to refurbish this trust.


Feinstein was right to go public. — San Antonio Express-News

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