After waiting 30 days — so far — for the U.S. Army to fulfill my request via the Freedom of Information Act, I’ve concluded that Army officials would rather keep certain unclassified information about the so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in Afghanistan out of the public eye. Below is an update to my May 1 post on this topic.
Less than two weeks after Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, addressed the subject of the green-on-blue attacks during his March 22 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (see video below), I learned of the existence of a Center for Army Lessons Learned handbook, titled, “Inside the Wire Threats — Afghanistan,” that the Army had either recently published or was soon to publish. I also learned from reading the transcript of the Feb. 1 testimony of several Department of Defense officials before members of the House Armed Services Committee on the subject of the “USE OF AFGHAN NATIONALS TO PROVIDE SECURITY TO U.S. FORCES.”
My desire to obtain a copy of the handbook stems from my suspicion that it contains information about underlying factors that may have contributed to the deaths of more than 50 American service members and the wounding of more than six-dozen others at the hands of their so-called “allies” — members of the police and army components of the Afghan National Security Force — since 2007.
APRIL 4, 2012
Because the Center for Army Lessons Learned is located at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., my first step toward obtaining a copy of the handbook involved calling LTC Jeffrey Allen, an Army public affairs officer at the post, and explaining what I was looking for. After the phone call, I repeated my request via email and received the following reply the same day, April 4: “OK, I have your request and have sent it out to a few possible agencies who may be working it. I hope to have an answer for you soon, but it may not be until tomorrow. I’ll do my best for you.”
APRIL 5, 2012
The following day, Colonel Allen sent me a follow-up message:
I found the source for the document, “Inside the Wire Threats,” and it looks like it’s only been available for about 24 hours, so I apologize for not being immediately familiar with the product when you called yesterday.
The issue I have is the booklet is labeled as For Official Use Only, with a limited distribution. As such, I am unable to provide it to you.
However, you do have at least two options. One, you could go through the FOIA process and request release. https://www.rmda.army.mil/organization/foia.shtml
Or, two, you might be able to gain access by requesting that ISAF downgrade the classification.
He went on to provide contact information for the ISAF and NATO public affairs folks before closing with the statement, “That is about the extent I am able to do for you at this time.”
That same day, I took Colonel Allen’s advice and sent a media request to LTC Jimmie Cummings, public affairs officer at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Afghanistan, explaining that Colonel Allen had pointed me in his direction.
APRIL 10, 2012
On April 10, I heard back from Colonel Allen via email. He explained that he had heard from the folks at ISAF, and they had told him I would have to file a FOIA request for a copy of the handbook.
Because the handbook is classified as “For Official Use Only,” I understand that it must be downgraded, modified or have the classification removed before it can be released for public consumption via FOIA. Though such a change in classification is not unusual, especially when public interest in a subject is high, Army officials are in no hurry to change the classification of this document, according to Colonel Allen.
“There is no support for a downgrade in classification at this time,” he said at the end of his message, adding, “It’s a brand new manual, so I’m not surprised.”
After reading Colonel Allen’s message, I immediately submitted a FOIA request to the Department of the Army’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Division in Alexandria, Va.
APRIL 30, 2012
On April 30, I received a letter — dated April 19 and inside an envelope postmarked April 24 — from Barbara Harris at the Army FOIA Office. She informed me that my request had been forwarded to the Records Management/FOIA/PA office at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. In other words, I had made the complete circuit, going from Colonel Allen at Fort Leavenworth to ISAF to the Department of the Army and, now, back to Fort Leavenworth.
MAY 7, 2012
On Monday, I made several attempts by phone to reach the Adjutant General’s office at the Kansas Army post best known as the home of the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks. Eventually, Brett Rosene picked up the phone.
Upon hearing my name and the subject matter of my call, Rosene explained to me that he was familiar with my FOIA request, that it was in the hands of Army legal officers and that he was expecting a reply within a couple of days.
MAY 10, 2012
Today, after more than a “couple of days” had passed, I called Rosene again. Unfortunately, he explained, he had not yet heard back from the lawyers. Before hanging up, however, he assured me he would be on the phone with them to find out the status of my request. As of this posting at 3:50 p.m. Central, I had not heard back from him.
My advice to the Army: Redact. Revise. Rewhatever you need to do with that document — but don’t try to cover up the facts when it comes to factors that are contributing to the green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan. Our men and women in uniform deserve answers.
UPDATE 5/11/12 at 9:26 a.m. Central: Another green-on-blue death reported today in Afghanistan.
UPDATE 5/16/12 at 7:15 a.m. Central: We’re now on Day 36 without an answer.
UPDATE 5/16/12 at 9:50 a.m. Central: It appears someone else sees problems in DoD’s dealing with the ANSF risks, too.
UPDATE 5/17/12 at 11:09 a.m. Central: Via email a short while ago, I received a letter (screenshot) acknowledging receipt of my FOIA request from Rosene. The letter, complete with two mistakes — misspelling my last name once and providing an incomplete contact phone number — came less than 24 hours after I spoke by phone with Vicki Wells, Rosene’s boss in the Adjutant General’s office at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, about my dissatisfaction with having waited 36 days, so far, for the Army to fulfill my FOIA request. FYI: We’re now on Day 37.
UPDATE 5/21/12 at 10:45 p.m. Central: First, the bad news. Day 41 came and went today without fulfillment of my FOIA request. On the positive side, I’ve begun to receive assistance from one member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. Will let you know if that assistance turns into solid results.
UPDATE 5/30/12 at 8:40 a.m. Central: So much for 20 working days, the amount of time federal government entities are given, by law, to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. Fifty days have now passed since I submitted my FOIA request to the Army. Also, the fact that the Army is stonewalling me on this issue makes the fall 2012 release of my next book, “The CLAPPER MEMO,” even more important.
Check out my new book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice. Read the reviews here.