The future of the military justice system is uncertain this morning, as legislation aimed at stopping the growing number of sexual assaults in the armed forces was rejected by key members of Congress, on the grounds that the changes go too far. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.
By Andrea Mitchell and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News
An effort to place military sex assault cases in the hands of an independent prosecutor was thwarted late Tuesday when Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin sided with the top brass and against a fellow Democrat.
Levin (D-Mich.) will strip a proposal by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) from the policy-setting Defense Authorization Act and replace it with a measure that instead requires senior military officers to review decisions when commanders refuse to prosecute a case.
Gillibrand s proposal – which had 27 co-sponsors, including 4 Republicans came in response to complaints that the U.S. military has repeatedly failed to deal with the issue of sex assaults.
The military has resisted efforts to involve outsiders in its handling of such cases.
Aides for Gillibrand told NBC’s Capital Hill correspondent Kelly O’Donnell that the move was “a real setback.”
She is expected to make another attempt to introduce her proposal when the defense bill comes up for a final vote later this summer.
Levin, who is not seeking re-election, is expected to accept an amendment from Senator Claire McCaskill to prevent commanders from overturning jury verdicts.
The intra-party showdown is an example of the generational and gender divide on this issue – even as it has gained more attention and support with the additional women now in the senate.
Last month, a Pentagon report revealed that the number of service personnel who made an anonymous claim that they were sexually assaulted but never reported the attack skyrocketed from 19,000 in FY11 to 26,000 in FY12.
Last week, a female midshipman who accused three U.S.
Naval Academy football players of raping her last year said her client was actually disciplined2 for drinking while her alleged attackers went unpunished.
This story was originally published on Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:31 AM EDT
- ^ charged with sexual assault (usnews.nbcnews.com)
- ^ a female midshipman who accused three U.S.
Naval Academy football players of raping her last year said her client was actually disciplined(usnews.nbcnews.com)
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WASHINGTON A new report required by Congress recommends that the Defense Department assess how well commanding officers handle sexual assault and harassment complaints when reviewing their job performance. The Institute of Medicine said in the report released Tuesday that military sexual assault appears to be an important factor in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder . It cited previous research indicating that female veterans with a reported history of military sexual trauma were nine times more likely to have PTSD compared with other female veterans.
Increased efforts by DOD are necessary, and a zero-tolerance approach should be implemented, said the Institute of Medicine, an independent agency that provides advice concerning health and science to policymakers in the federal government and private sector. The recommendation about sexual assaults was part of a broad look at the health needs of troops and veterans involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan . Although most of the returning troops have adjusted well to life after deployment, 44 percent have reported some readjustment problems.
The most common overlapping health problems are PTSD, substance abuse, depression and symptoms attributed to traumatic brain injuries. But the problems seen today are really just the beginning, the report said. Previous wars have demonstrated that veterans needs peak several decades after their war service, the IOM panel said.
To prepare for those costs, the federal government should undertake long-term cost forecasts like those that Congress requires for Social Security and Medicare, the IOM said . It said those forecasts should be conducted annually and publicly released by the Veterans Affairs Department and confirmed by an independent expert. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in the deployment of about 2.2 million troops as of mid-December, it said .
Women have played a central role in the efforts . They make up 14 percent of active-duty troops and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve personnel . The panel s recommendations often focused on the needs of returning female veterans .
It said recent research indicates that female veterans have a higher risk of developing depression than their male counterparts, though they are less likely to commit suicide. For more than a decade, female military service members have been subject to repeat deployments, have endured prolonged separation from families, have served side by side with men and have been exposed to harsh wartime conditions, including witnessing death and destruction, the report said. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said the department would consider the study s findings and recommendations, and she stressed that sexual assault was not tolerated at the department.
We are committed to taking care of our people, and that includes doing everything possible to develop the best programs for our service members and their families, Smith said. The IOM report also said the support services the Defense Department provides to military families tends to focus on married, heterosexual couples and their children . The panel said the military needs to ensure its support services also help single parents, same-sex couples and stepfamilies.
The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are required to provide Congress with a joint response by June.
By Todd Starnes & Associated Press 1 The Marine Corps has advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its installations must admit same-sex spouses if they wish to remain on the bases – a move that has infuriated religious liberty groups. FOLLOW TODD ON FACEBOOK FOR CULTURE WAR NEWS! CLICK HERE TO JOIN! 2 The Associated Press obtained a legal advisory from the Marines which refers to an ongoing controversy at the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina. In that particular incident, the officers’ spouses club has denied admission to a same-sex spouse. Underscoring the challenges, the Marines’ legal advisory — obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press — refers to an ongoing controversy at the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina where the officers’ spouses club has denied admission to a same-sex spouse. The Marine Corps commandant’s Staff Judge Advocate, in an e-mail to legal offices throughout the corps, said the Fort Bragg events had “caused quite a stir” and cautioned, “We do not want a story like this developing in our backyard.” The memo noted that spouses clubs and various other private institutions are allowed to operate on bases only if they adhere to a non-discrimination policy encompassing race, religion, gender, age, disability and national origin. “We would interpret a spouses club’s decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse’s sex,” the memo said. A Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan, told the Associated Press the Marines cannot directly control the actions of independent organizations such as spouses’ clubs, but added, “We expect that all who are interested in supporting Marine Corps Family Readiness would be welcome to participate and will be treated with dignity and respect.” Ret. Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, told Fox News that he’s not surprised by the Marine Corps’ decision. “It should be expected,” said Boykin, an executive vice president of the Family Research Council 3 . “When Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, it opened the door to all kinds of things that are counter to the traditions and the good order and discipline of the military.” Boykin said the further erosion of values in the military is dangerous for the nation. He said changing those values destroys the “last vestige of traditional American values” and “robs America of its identity.” “The military is the anchor of our society,” he told Fox News. “It always has been – the military has maintained traditions that go back to the founding of the nation. Those values are based on the Judeo-Christian roots of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” “This is very disappointing news,” said Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance. 4 “This is very concerning that the Marine Corps is pressing forward with this agenda and ignoring federal law.” Crews told Fox News most spouse groups have bylaws that require members to have a DOD military identification card. “Right now, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, those so-called same-sex spouses are not recognized as spouses because of DOMA and they cannot receive a DOD identification card,” he said. Crews said it appears that the fears of religious liberty groups have come true. “The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was one step in a long process to eventually work for the overthrow for the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “That’s what’s happening now.” He said there have already been same-sex weddings on military installations in states where gay marriage is outlawed. “This is a serious issue,” Crews said. He wondered how the Marine Corps memorandum might jeopardize religious groups that meet on military bases. “One wonders whether this Marine memorandum will impact ministries, too,” he said. The Marine Corps decision was hailed by a number of gay military groups including OutServe — who is calling on the Defense Department to consider similar rules for all service branches. “Secretary Panetta should use his authority immediately to bring consistency across the services with regard to this issue and in doing so, a greater measure of equity to gay and lesbian service members and their families,” said OutServe executive director Allyson Robinson in a statement. With reporting from Associated Press Todd is the author of Dispatches From Bitter America – endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Click here to get your copy! 5 References ^ By Todd Starnes & Associated Press (twitter.com) ^ FOLLOW TODD ON FACEBOOK FOR CULTURE WAR NEWS! CLICK HERE TO JOIN! (www.facebook.com) ^ Family Research Council (www.frc.org) ^ Chaplain Alliance. (chaplainalliance.org) ^ Todd is the author of Dispatches From Bitter America – endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Click here to get your copy! (www.amazon.com)
Marines say clubs must admit same-sex spouses
One year after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military has reported no substantial problems as a result of allowing gays to serve openly in uniform, according to a new report.
Despite dire predictions from the Pentagon’s top brass just a few years ago, researchers found the repeal, which took effect in September 2011, has gone smoothly and has not affected military readiness.
“I was somewhat amazed about just how much of a nonissue it was. There was virtually no talk about it whatsoever,” David Levy, an Air Force Academy professor, told the researchers.
The independent report, “One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal’s Impact on Military Readiness,” was released Sept. 10 by a group of scholars that included faculty from all three service academies and several civilian experts.
The military officials involved in the report participated as individuals and their conclusions were not formally endorsed by the Pentagon. Yet their findings are similar to public assessments from military leaders who say the repeal has gone well.
No known incidents of violence or assaults have been linked to repeal, according to Pentagon officials and gay-rights advocates, and recruiting and retention remain strong. The vast majority of troops report no impact on their units’ cohesion.
The study found some evidence that the repeal negatively affected morale in some units, pointing to a recent Military Times reader poll in which 4.5 percent of troops said their unit was harmed when a fellow service member came out as gay. But overall, the poll found troops reporting the same level of unit readiness in 2012 as in previous years.
The study also cited its own interviews with dozens of current troops, both heterosexuals and gays, who cited some positive effects of the repeal, such as promoting a greater level of trust among service members.
Some officers said their troops who are gay have grown more comfortable discussing personal matters without fear of punishment, which in turn improves the ability of leaders to support and assist them, according to the report.
For example, one Air Force noncommissioned officer recalled an airman in his command who was depressed about his gay partner’s grave illness shortly before a deployment. The repeal of DADT “opened up more possibilities for troops to talk about their lives when doing so was necessary for resolving personal issues so they could focus on their mission,” the NCO told the researchers.
In interviews with gay troops, researchers heard about some isolated incidents of harassment.
“In April 2012, a female officer was dancing with her girlfriend, another officer, at a military ball, when a squadron commander told the women to stop,” according to the report.
The situation escalated and a command sergeant major “swore at the women, called them an ‘abomination,’ and shoved one across the floor,” the report said.
Advocates for gay service members continue to pressure the Pentagon to extend full military benefits to same-sex spouses, now prohibited to some degree under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal agencies from recognizing same-sex unions. The Defense Department says it continues to review the extension of benefits to gay troops and plans to do so as law allows.
The mostly seamless transition is in stark contrast to warnings several years ago from top military officials, including a declaration in 2009 signed by 1,167 retired general and flag officers that predicted repeal would “impact leadership at all levels … and eventually break” the all-volunteer force.
Study researchers attempted to contact the 1,167 retired officers who signed the 2009 statement and were able to find current contact information for 553.
They sent those retired officers a letter urging them to take part in the study, but researchers received responses from only 13.
Several of those retired officers agreed that the transition has created few problems, the report said.
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Paris Hilton is reportedly dating a 21-year-old Spanish male model named River Viiperi, whom she met at the Marlon Gobel show at the Lincoln Centre during the New York Fashion Week. Since then they have been spotted hanging out backstage at some of the other fashion shows and according to PerezHilton.com are constantly “snuggling” and “seeing each other as much as they can”, Contactmusic reported. The 31-year-old, who split from boyfriend Cy Waits – in July, has insisted that she was enjoying being single. “Every woman dreams of getting married and having a family one day, but right now I’m so busy travelling and working I wouldn’t have time for that,” she had said. “When that time happens, it will be fantastic, but right now I’m just happy being single, and being an independent woman.
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, August 5, 2012 16:24 EDT
BAMAKO — Hundreds of children have been forced into the ranks of armed groups in northern Mali, some serving as soldiers and others used as sex slaves, rights campaigners told reporters Sunday.
“We have several hundred children aged between nine and 17 years old within the ranks of the armed groups including the Islamists who control northern Mali,” said Mamoud Lamine Cisse, president of a Malian child rights coalition.
“After investigations we have corroborating information that these children are used as soldiers, minesweepers, scouts, spies, messengers, look-outs, cooks and sexual slaves in the case of young girls,” Cisse told journalists.
The children were mostly from Mali, Senegal and Niger, he added.
“We appeal to sub-regional and international organisations to pay particular attention to this phenomenon, because recruitment of children is currently taking place in northern Mali,” Cisse added.
The Malian Coalition of Child Rights is a grouping of 78 Malian and international associations.
The Islamists who have controled the vast desert north of Mali for four months, recently admitted to AFP to recruiting children of “all ages” throughout the Sahel “to fight in the name of God.”
Once seen as one of west Africa’s most stable democracies, in just a few months Mali has been split in two and is struggling to rebuild a strong central government.
The crisis erupted when Tuareg rebels in January launched a rebellion in the north pressing for an independent homeland, which swiftly overwhelmed the nation’s army.
Angry soldiers launched a coup on March 22, but in the political and security vacuum, the north became easy prey and fell to rebel groups in a matter of days.
The Tuareg rebels have since been completely sidelined by armed jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The Islamists have enforced strict sharia law, whipping smokers and drinkers and last week stoning an unmarried couple to death.
In the city of Gao on Sunday, residents intervened to prevent their Islamist rulers from chopping off the hand of a thief.
The International Criminal Court in July launched a preliminary inquiry into the events in Mali.
They were acting upon a request from the embattled interim authorities who allege war crimes including rapes, civilian massacres and use of child soldiers.
Photo AFP/File, Ahmed Ouoba