Sunday, February 12, 2012

Impersonating Military Officers.

The court-martial of former cadet Webster Smith, the first cadet ever tried by court-martial at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was a tragedy, but it was no accident. It was was more than just a tempest in a teapot. Congressman Christopher Shays, a Republican, held Congressional hearings on how officials were responding to reports of sexual assaults in the service academies. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat, inserted a request into a Department of Homeland Security spending bill for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to monitor the Coast Guard Academy's progress in responding to sexual harassment claims.

The trial of Webster Smith appears to have been the main attraction in a three ring circus. The Coast Guard Academy and Connecticut Congressional Representative Christopher Shays were planning to stag a show-trial for the nation to show how military academies should handle incidents of sexual assaults at the academies. Representative Shays was chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. He had organized the Washington, DC portion of the circus. He scheduled a panel entitled "Sexual Assualt and Violence Against Women in the Military and at the Academies". On the day that the star witness for the rape charge, Kristen Nicholson, was testifying at the Coast Guard Academy, a Coast Guard Admiral from the Academy was in Washington,DC at the invitation of Representative Shays to appear before his Committee.

Rear Admiral Paul J. Higgins, Director of Health and Safety, at the Coast Guard Academy was on the witness list along with the Commandants from the other military academies. The publicity from these hearings would have been enough to get Shays reelected. However, the trial did not turn out as expected. The Convening Authority for the Court-martial, the Superintendent at the Coast Guard Academy was Admiral James Van Sice. He was tried at an Admiral's Mast for inappropriate behavior and forced to retire.Then the furor surrounding this issue of sexual assault at military academies seemed to die down. This issues disappeared from the Washington,D.C. political radar scope. And Christopher Shays, a 10-term incumbent lost his re-election bid in November 2008.

When the full history of the Webster Smith case is written, it may turn out that Congressman Shays was the real author of the first court-martial at the Coast Guard Academy.

The hearings appeared to have been grandstanding on the part of Christopher Shays. For most of his life he appeared to have distanced himself from the military. He certainly wanted no part of duty in the armed forces. When push came to shove he claimed conscientious objector status. He has never worn the uniform of any military service. Shockingly, he is not alone.

A few of the men who once shouted "hell no; We won't go", are now claiming that they did. Not only are they claiming that they did go, but also that they distinguished themselves with valor, above and beyond the call of duty. Some were draft protesters, others were draft evaders, and others draft dodgers. They should not all be lumped together.

Draft protesters were often the men who burned their Draft cards in public ceremonies. Draft Dodgers took steps to violate Selective Service laws. Draft evaders were not like draft dodgers.

Some avoided conscription by taking advantage of loopholes in the Selective Service laws, a perfectly legal if not sometimes arbitrary option. In 1966 actor George Hamilton was exempted from the Draft after petitioning his own Draft Board for a deferment base on hardships at home, advising them that his mother needed him to care for her. Of course it didn't hurt his cause that at the time he was also dating the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson. And perhaps it was just such inequities in the Selective Service program that most angered the young. They were upset not so much being called to serve as they did to the fact that often the rich, the powerful, and the brightest college students escaped being called up.

Some young men sought exemption from the Draft due to special situations: sole surviving son, deferment to complete an education, and even for personal reasons such as religious prohibitions against military service. The latter are called Conscientious Objectors (C.O.) and many of them did serve in non-combat roles, at least two C.O.s earning Medals of Honor, while others belonged to faiths that prohibited even these non-combat roles.

In 2010 according to the New Haven Register, a poll was taken after news broke that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal falsely claimed on several occasions to have served in Vietnam during the war shows his Republican challengers for a U.S. Senate seat closing the gap.

Only about a quarter of voters, however, said he should withdraw from the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd.

The Rasmussen telephone poll, showed Blumenthal, the leading Democratic contender, losing most of his lead over Republicans Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons.

A longer version of the video shot in Norwalk on March 2, 2008, was posted on Republican candidate Linda McMahon’s website. It showed Blumenthal correctly describing his military service before saying that he served “in Vietnam.”

“I really want to add my words of thanks,” Blumenthal tells the audience on the video, “as someone who served in the military during the Vietnam era in the Marine Corps.”

Blumenthal served stateside as a Marine reservist after receiving five deferments, reaching the rank of sergeant. On Tuesday, Blumenthal said he “misspoke” at times and regretted the errors.

Democrats in Connecticut and Washington stood by Blumenthal.

"On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and I regret that. And I take full responsibility," said Blumenthal. "But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country."

The crisis erupted when The New York Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had "served in Vietnam." The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home.

At a veterans event in Shelton, Conn., for example, he said, "When we returned from Vietnam, I remember the taunts, the verbal and even physical abuse we encountered," according to a 2008 Connecticut Post story.

Blumenthal, 64, joined the Marine Reserve in 1970 and served six years, none of it overseas. He put in much of his time in Washington, where he took part in such projects as fixing a campground and working on a Toys for Tots drive, according to the Times.

He received at least five military deferments that enabled him to stay out of the war between 1965 and 1970, during which time he went to Harvard, studied in England and landed a job in the Nixon White House. Once he secured a spot in the Marine Reserve, he had almost no chance of being sent to Vietnam, the newspaper reported.



Former Representative Christopher Shays and Beth Davis, former Air Force Academy Cadet.


He is a close friend of Congressman Christopher Shays, whose early political career was marked by acts of defiance. He registered for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War and acknowledges he would not have served if drafted. He said that he is a good friend of Richard Blumenthal’s and that he had watched with worry as Mr. Blumenthal gradually embellished his military record over the years. Over the last few years, however, more sweeping claims crept into Mr. Blumenthal’s descriptions, he said: for example, that Mr. Blumenthal had served in Vietnam, and had felt the sting of an ungrateful nation as he returned.

“He just kept adding to the story, the more he told it,” Mr. Shays said.

Michael Ray Jacobs, 52, is accused in federal court of wearing a naval officer's uniform on at least four occasions in March 2010. He has been charged with impersonating a Navy officer, complete with medals he never earned. Court records in the case say that he was seen in the uniform at the Oceana Naval Air Station stables, the Oceana exchange, a Navy dental clinic in Norfolk and a recruiting office. He is also charged with stealing a uniform from the Oceana exchange.

Navy officials said Jacobs never served in the Navy.

The U.S. attorney's office is prosecuting the case.

Impersonating a member of the armed forces has been a hot-button topic among veterans groups and in Congress, where a law was passed in 2006 making it a crime to falsely claim to have been awarded medals and decorations for military service.

Jeremy Michael Boorda (November 26, 1939 – May 16, 1996) was an admiral of the United States Navy and the 25th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Boorda is the only CNO to have risen to the position from the enlisted ranks. He was the first CNO who was not a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.

Boorda died May 16, 1996 a suicide, having apparently shot himself in the chest in his office while reporters from Newsweek magazine were waiting to interview him concerning his medals and awards. He reportedly left two suicide notes. He was reported to have been disturbed over a news media investigation, led by David Hackworth of Newsweek, into Valor device enhancements he wore on his Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal (small bronze "V" devices, signifying valor in combat), which the media report claimed he was not entitled to wear. He was said to be worried this issue would cause more trouble for the Navy's reputation.

A new Superior Court Judge in Norwark, CA. claimed to be a Viet Nam vet. He was not. A history professor at West Point claimed to be a Viet Nam combat vet. He was not. A Connecticut State Congressman claimed to be a Viet Nam vet. He was not. Why are all these draft dodgers and conscientious objectors claiming to be military veterans??

A panel of special masters from the California Commission on Judicial Performance(CJP) found May 15, 2001 that Judge Patrick Couwenberg misrepresented his educational and military backgrounds to various sources, including the governor who appointed him.

CJP lawyer Jack Coyle argued that Couwenberg should be removed from the bench because his lies about his military service and his educational and professional experience were a factor in his appointment to the bench.

Couwenberg’s lawyers said the judge deserved an opportunity to remain in office. They argued that his statements were not malicious, but were the product of a psychological impairment, and pointed to praise the jurist has received for his work from both prosecutors and defense attorneys who have appeared before him.

Couwenberg is continuing to hear criminal cases in Norwalk, California.

The judge has admitted that he falsely claimed to hold a master’s degree in psychology and made false claims of military experience, including an award of a Purple Heart, in Vietnam.

The special masters found that he also lied to the commission itself, in sworn testimony, by claiming to have participated in covert operations with the CIA in Southeast Asia in 1967 and 1968. Couwenberg testified that those claims are true, although he no longer maintains he was with the CIA and says he doesn’t know what agency he was looking for.

A CIA official testified that Couwenberg wasn’t working for that agency and that it’s highly unlikely that any other agency would have recruited Couwenberg for operations in Laos because no such missions were authorized.

Couwenberg claimed that some of his misstatements were intended to be humorous. Other statements, he claimed, were typed onto official forms by his wife, based on statements he had made to her 20 years earlier, a claim the masters found lacking in credibility.

A psychiatrist testified that the judge suffers from "pseudologica fantastica," a symptom of low self-esteem rooted in the judge’s early childhood in what is now Indonesia followed by difficult relocations, first to Holland and then to the United States.

The doctor said that the condition causes Couwenberg to mix fact and fantasy, but that it is treatable with therapy and doesn’t render him unfit for judicial service.

The masters, however, largely agreed with a psychiatrist called by commission lawyers at the masters’ hearing. Psychological testing data, Dr. James Rosenberg said, doesn’t show that the judge’s "repetitive lying" as an adult is due to childhood trauma, nor that he suffers from any recognized mental illness.

The CJP's removal order, issued Aug. 15 and effective Sept. 14, 2001 followed revelations that Couwenberg had, among several other things, lied about being a Vietnam veteran, receiving a Purple Heart, serving in covert operations for the CIA and earning a master's degree from California State University, Los Angeles.

Couwenberg's lawyers and doctors said the 1976 graduate of the University of La Verne College of Law in Ontario suffers from a pathological lying condition called pseudologia fantastica, which they tied to his childhood in an Indonesian concentration camp at the end of World War II.

Joseph John Ellis (born 18 July 1943 in Washington, D.C.) was a Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College and also at the U.S.Military Academy at West Point until 1972.

Ellis became the subject of embarrassing controversy when the Boston Globe published an article on June 18, 2001, revealing that Ellis lied about fighting in the Vietnam War (he served in uniform in America but did not go to Vietnam as he had claimed to his students and to the media).He claimed to have been a platoon leader and paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division. He said he served in Saigon under Gen. William Westmoreland. Ellis did not serve in Vietnam at all, according to military records obtained by the Globe Newspaper and interviews with his friends from the 1960s. He spent his three years in the Army teaching history at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Ellis also appears to have exaggerated the extent of the involvement he claims to have had in both the antiwar and civil rights movements.

Ellis also falsely claimed to have scored a winning touchdown in a decisive game while playing for his high school football team. In fact, Ellis never played for his high school team.

On June 21, 2001 Professor Ellis issued a statement saying: "Even in the best lives, mistakes are made. I deeply regret having let stand and later confirming the assumption that I went to Vietnam. For this and any other distortions about my personal life, I want to apologize to my family, friends, colleagues and students."

WASHINGTON (AP) — Xavier Alvarez stood up at a public meeting and called himself a wounded war veteran who had received the top military award, the Medal of Honor. He was lying about his medal, his wounds and his military service, but he wasn't the first man to invent war exploits.

He was, however, one of the first people prosecuted under a 2006 federal law aimed at curbing false claims of military valor.

Concerns that the law improperly limits speech and turns people into criminals for things they say, rather than do, are at the heart of the Supreme Court's review of his case and the Stolen Valor Act.

Veterans groups have come to the aid of the Obama administration, which calls the law a narrowly crafted effort to protect the system of military awards that was established during the Revolutionary War by Gen. George Washington. The high court will hear the case Wednesday, which is Washington's 280th birthday.

"They're committing fraud. They're impersonating somebody else. They take on attributes of somebody else, attributes of a hero who served honorably," said Pam Sterner, whose college term paper calling for the law wound up in the hands of members of Congress. "When you do that, impersonating someone else, that's fraud, not freedom of speech."

Civil liberties groups, writers, publishers and news media outlets, including The Associated Press, have told the justices they worry the law, and especially the administration's defense of it, could lead to more attempts by government to regulate speech.

When he established military decorations in 1782, seven years before he was elected as the nation's first president, Washington himself also prescribed severe military punishment for soldiers who purported to be medal winners but weren't. Since then, many men have embellished their war records, and some have won special recognition.

It long has been a federal crime to wear unearned medals, but mere claims of being decorated were beyond the reach of law enforcement.

The House of Representatives has more than once voted to name a post office after men who claimed awards they never received. The Air Force named an award after a man who falsely claimed to have survived the Bataan Death March and been awarded the Silver Star in World War II. The Boxing Writers of America named its perseverance award after the late Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated because of his made-up tale of surviving a Chinese prisoner of war camp in the Korean War and receiving a Navy Cross.

The Stolen Valor Act aimed to solve that problem, and garnered significant support in Congress during a time of war.

"The admiration and respect for the military increased dramatically after 9/11 and the false claims, as well," said Thomas A. Cottone Jr., a retired FBI agent who investigated phony award cases.

Alvarez made his claims by way of introducing himself as an elected member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District in Pomona, California. There is nothing to suggest that he received anything in exchange or that listeners especially believed him.

Even Alvarez' lawyers acknowledged their client sometimes has trouble telling the truth. "Xavier Alvarez lied," they declare in the first sentence of their Supreme Court brief and go on to recount six separate lies in the next few lines.

He lied when he claimed he played ice hockey for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, married a Mexican starlet who made paparazzi swoon, was an engineer, rescued the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis and was shot when he went back for the U.S. flag. Alvarez also lied, they said, when he talked about his military service.

But the lies Alvarez told harmed no one, they said, so what he did couldn't be considered fraud.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the law as an unconstitutional restraint on free speech and said the government might instead invest in an awards database that would make it harder for people to lay claim to medals they never won. Last month, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the law in a separate case, saying the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech does not always protect false statements.

The issue might never have reached this stage if not for the efforts of Sterner, and her husband, Doug.

He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who has made it his work in recent years to ensure that service members get the recognition they deserve and expose those who falsely claim acts of heroism under fire. Rather than wait for the government to act, Doug Sterner has entered nearly 100,000 award citations since the American Civil War (1861-1865) in his online database, including all 3,475 Medal of Honor winners in U.S. history. His archive is used by the Military Times newspapers, published by Gannett Co.

Pam Sterner went back to school in her early 40s at Colorado State University in Pueblo, Colorado. In a political science course, she wrote a paper that grew out of her husband's frustrations over phony award claimants whose worst punishment was public embarrassment. That paper eventually led to the Stolen Valor Act.

Doug Sterner's database did not save Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, from some embarrassment when he invited cameras and reporters to watch him pin medals on an elderly Korean War veteran in June.

The veteran, Myron Brown of Utah, said his Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star were awarded belatedly, and he asked Chaffetz to present them to him publicly.

After the ceremony took place, Sterner and others raised questions about the medals and the Pentagon confirmed to Chaffetz in December that they were not authentic.

"Others have been burned by this. I have too, but I want to solve the problem," Chaffetz told the Salt Lake Tribune. He is planning a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee he leads to explore creating a government-run awards database.

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http://news.yahoo.com/high-court-dilemma-lie-medal-crime-100520506.html

1 comment:

ichbinalj said...

The Merit Systems Protection Board recently upheld the removal of a federal employee charged with falsely informing coworkers, subordinates, and civic leaders that he was a recipient of the Silver Star medal. He was also charged with intentionally making a false statement to his supervisor by providing him what he knew to be a falsified copy of a military General Order showing that he had been awarded the Silver Star. 2012 MSPB 33 (3/8/12).

The board agreed with its administrative judge that the employee was not a credible witness as he had no proof that he was ever in combat and failed to produce any supporting documentation as to his alleged receipt of the Silver Star. The Board concurred with the AJ who found that the appellant's false statements concerning his receipt of a Silver Star were knowing and intentional, rather than the result of an honest mistake. The Board also agreed with its AJ's conclusion that there was a nexus between the charged conduct and the efficiency of the service and that the removal penalty was within the bounds of reasonableness.

While the board disagreed that the misconduct affected the agency's mission, it supported the AJ to the extent that he found the agency established that the conduct adversely affected management's trust and confidence in his job performance.

Said the board: "We further agree that the penalty of removal is within the bounds of reasonableness. The Board has long recognized that removal for falsification and dishonest activity promotes the efficiency of the service since such behavior raises serious doubts regarding the appellant's reliability, trustworthiness, and continued fitness for employment. This is especially so considering that the appellant was a superior."

* This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com.



The attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C, are the authors of The Federal Employees Legal Survival Guide, Second Edition, a comprehensive overview of federal employees' legal rights.