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DoD Upholds Privacy in Alleged Sexual Misconduct Case

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2000 – Defense officials are standing firm in maintaining the privacy of the general officers involved in the latest sexual misconduct allegations drawing media attention.

According to a March 30 story in "The Washington Times" newspaper, Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy accused Army Maj. Gen. Larry G. Smith of groping her in her Pentagon office in 1996. Kennedy is assigned here as the Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence. Smith is a special assistant to the commander of the Army Materiel Command and at the time of the allegation was commander of the Army Security Assistance Command in Alexandria, Va.

The day after the story appeared, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen acknowledged to reporters that he had heard about the complaint, but added, "I have not had any discussion on the subject matter. And frankly, since a complaint has been filed, I am not in a position to comment, other than to say we maintain a zero-tolerance policy, that no harassment at any level is going to be acceptable or tolerated, and that the process should go forward and will go forward."

Pentagon spokesman Adm. Craig Quigley held this ground despite reporters' repeated queries at Pentagon news briefings April 4 and 6.

"Any time that an allegation is made against an individual in the armed forces, both the individual that makes the allegation and the individual against whom the allegation is made have every right to expect discreetness in the pursuit of investigation into those allegations," he said.

Some allegations prove grounded and some do not, he added. Military people do not surrender their rights to privacy, he said, regardless of their rank or the fact they serve in the armed forces. Quigley said DoD has a good track record of disclosing the details -- after an investigation is finished.

"And that is the appropriate time to do it," he stressed.

The services have faced several highly visible sexual harassment cases in recent years. The Navy dealt with sexual assault and cover-up charges stemming from the 1991 Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas. The Army dealt with charges against drill instructors at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1997. Following this the Army set up a hotline for victims and drill instructors at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Jackson, S.C., Fort Lee, Va., Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort McClellan, Ala.

Also in 1997, a retired female soldier accused the Army's then-top enlisted soldier, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene McKinney, of sexual assault. Other women came forward alleging sexual misconduct. McKinney faced 20 specifications at court-martial and was convicted in 1998 of only one, obstruction of justice. He was reduced to master sergeant and reprimanded.

Three other recent cases involved general officers. Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston's involvement in an extramarital affair more than a decade ago derailed his chances to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. David Hale was called back to active duty to face sex-related charges in a court-martial at Fort Lewis, Wash. Found guilty in March 1999 of seven counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and one of making an intentionally false official statement, Hale was reprimanded, ordered to forfeit $12,000 in retired pay and fined $10,000. Army Secretary Louis Caldera later permanently reduced Hale's retired rank to brigadier general retroactive to March 1, 1998, the date Hale retired.

In November 1999, Caldera demoted Maj. Gen. John J. Maher III, a former vice director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, forcing him to retire as a colonel for having adulterous affairs with the wives of two subordinates. "There is no place in the Army for this behavior," Mr. Caldera said at the time.

Two months later, the U.S. Army's former top enlisted man in Europe, Command Sgt. Maj. Riley C. Miller, lost his appeal of the punishment he received for fraternizing with this female driver.

When reporters observed that DoD had at least confirmed the launch of the earlier investigations, Quigley replied that the military doesn't use a "cookie cutter" approach in such cases. "Each is treated in its own special and unique way based on the circumstances before us," he said.

Without addressing specific, current news reports regarding Kennedy and Smith, Quigley said the military firmly intends to eliminate sexual harassment from its ranks. "It is our most fervent goal that there would never be any instances of sexual harassment in the armed forces," he said.

Defense officials welcome increased awareness about the issue among service members and declines in the number of reported incidents, the admiral said. "We're heartened by an individual that takes proper action and we hope that those trends continue," he concluded.

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