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News - November 1996

Pentagon spokesperson misleads press on military's violations

Washington, D.C. -- At the Department of Defense's press briefing on Tuesday, October 22, Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon was asked, "Back in February, Secretary Perry, when he was asked about the report from [Servicemembers Legal Defense Network] about alleged witch hunts in the military, and the expulsion rate of homosexuals, said that they would look very carefully at this question. Since then, we haven't heard any results of that. Can you tell us whether this question was, in fact, looked at very carefully, and what the results were?"

Mr. Bacon answered, "We looked broadly at a whole series of charges that were made about the Pentagon's treatment, or mistreatment, of homosexual servicemembers and concluded that many of the alleged policy violations reflected a misunderstanding of the policy rather than actual violations of the policy."

C. Dixon Osburn, Co-Executive Director of SLDN, reacted to Bacon's assertion, "To the best of our knowledge, the General Counsel's office has issued no report of its purported review of the violations of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue.' Indeed, no one from the Pentagon has even contacted SLDN or the victims of the continuing witch hunts, harassment and other violations of the current policy. Had these contacts been made, the violations would have been substantiated, rather than dismissed with what amounts to a sly wink.

At the press briefing, Mr. Bacon also addressed the witch hunts of suspected gay servicemembers at Hickam Air Force Base and aboard the USS Simon Lake, two widely publicized incidents of violations of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," policy without acknowledging the military's violations in those cases.

SLDN Staff Attorney Kirk Childress reacted, "The Pentagon is only telling a very small part of the story about the Simon Lake and Hickam witch hunts in order to avoid talking about what the military has done wrong."

Childress said, "Mr. Bacon said that the suit brought by Amy Barnes challenging the Simon Lake witch hunt had been "dropped." He neglected to inform the press that the suit was only dismissed after the Navy agreed to settlement terms proposed by Barnes' lawyers, thereby avoiding a very public airing of the issue. He also neglected to state that the Navy Inspector General is still investigating the wrong doing of Captain Wilson and his subordinates."

Regarding the Hickam witch hunt, Bacon merely said that the Air Force Inspector General had reviewed the conduct of Hickam prosecutors and investigative personnel and that the IG's report is currently "under legal review."

Osburn took issue with Bacon's omissions. He said, "Charles Moskos, one of the principal architects of the military's current policy, agrees that this was a violation of the policy that he helped create. However, despite the protracted "legal review' of the Inspector General's report, the Air Force has ended the careers of four enlisted men accused in the witch hunt and is pressing forward with court martial charges against an accused officer."

"The Air Force has been stonewalling for months on the Hickam investigation," Osburn concluded. "It does not take a rocket scientist to look at the relevant documents in the case in order to conclude that the Air Force broke its own rules here. It does, however, appear to be requiring a good deal of clever legal maneuvering to explain away the military's violations and why the Air Force is trying to imprison a servicemember pursuant to the witch hunt."

SLDN is the military legal aid and watchdog organization for those harmed by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" policy. SLDN has assisted more than 950 men and women hurt by the policy in the past two years.


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