By Garth Kant
A spokesman for the U.S. Army has sent an email to 6,000 employees with a strong subtext: Don’t criticize President Obama or any political party to members of the press.
The Weekly Standard published a copy of the email, distributed Friday by Stephen D. Abney, the chief public affairs official for the Army’s Joint Munitions Command, to all 6,000 employees he represents.
The email says:
From: Larson, Angela M CIV (US)
Sent: Friday, March
01, 2013 5:59 PM
To: USARMY RIA JMC List DL All JMC Pers
Subject: Sequestration – Media Tips
To JMC employees,
Because of media interest in sequestration and furlough, you may be approached or contacted by a reporter at some point and asked to comment.
If you don’t wish to speak with a reporter, politely decline.
If you agree to be interviewed, remember that you’re expressing your personal opinion, not that of anyone else – and certainly not the opinion of JMC or the Army.
Avoid giving an answer that might be perceived as criticism of the Commander in Chief or any political party.
If you’re asked to provide an official statement, refer the reporter to
JMC PAO, the official spokesperson for the command. Their number is [REDACTED].
Stephen D. Abney
Chief, Public Affairs
Joint Munitions Command
The Weekly Standard reports that civilian employees also received the email.
Abney said the email was not meant for civilian contractors but can’t swear they did not receive it as well.
Abney told the Weekly Standard that he was just reminding employees that Obama is their boss.
The issue of free speech rights in the military is problematic. The Marine Corps gave Sgt. Gary Stein an “other than honorable” discharge for misconduct after he posted on Facebook: “Screw Obama. I will not follow all orders from him.”
Stein said he meant he wouldn’t follow unlawful orders from the president and that his comments were protected by the First Amendment.
He testified that his comment was part of a discussion about letting U.S. troops be put on trial for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan.
Stein explained he was saying he would not follow orders if they included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or otherwise violating the Constitution.
He filed a preliminary injunction in federal court in Southern California, but Judge Marilyn Huff denied the request.
In April 2012, WND spoke with Gary Kreep, who at the time was executive director of the United States Justice Foundation, which defended Stein.
Among the other problems, said Kreep, was the fact that one of the prosecution witnesses had “obscene political comments” on his own Facebook page, yet he had not been disciplined.
Kreep added that a Marine officer who reportedly was to be a neutral adviser at a disciplinary hearing also took on the role of the prosecution.
The hearing also rejected a statement from Brig. Gen. David Brahms, a Marine for over 50 years, with 49 of them as a lawyer.
Brahms said in a written statement: “I do not believe that … the behavior in question violates the cited UCMJ provision.”
The statement also noted that Department of Defense directive 1344.10, which Stein is accused of violating, is difficult to understand.
“My reading of it indicates it is confusing and quite unhelpful. It is also inherently contradictory,” Brahms said. “If I cannot understand 1344.10 as a 74-year-old retired brigadier general and staff judge advocate to the Commandant of the Marines, there is little hope that a sergeant would understand.”
Brahms also challenged the prosecution’s position that Stein represented the Marine Corps with his postings.
“There is nothing in the circumstances to suggest any influence or reasonable possibility of influence that the public would believe these blatherings were official policy or officially sanctioned. They were only the discussions of a Marine concerned about the direction of this country. There simply is no criminal offense here.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine veteran, wrote a letter to Stein’s commanding officer suggesting the sergeant should not face dismissal for an opinion shared by a majority of Marines.
Hunter said he was referencing Stein’s statement that he would not obey unlawful orders. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also supported Stein.