I’ve talked with dozens of military men about their experiences of being falsely accused of sexual assault during the four years since the release of my book, Three Days In August. Today, I learned some of their cases were likely tainted by the fact members serving on court-martial panels — the military equivalent of a jury — during their trials had watched “The Invisible War” as part of the Army’s sexual assault awareness and prevention training.
In an article published Monday about the case of former Army Sgt. Todd Knight, I mentioned the fact than an Army lieutenant colonel selected to serve on the court-martial panel during Sergeant Knight’s trial said he had watched a 20-minute clip from the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Invisible War,” as part of “a sexual assault special briefing” for Army leaders.
This photo shows Todd Knight in his Army uniform prior to being accused of rape and convicted on a lesser charge.
In the same article, I mentioned how that colonel, along with other members of the panel, had found Sergeant Knight guilty and sentenced him to one year behind bars and a reduction in rank to E-1, the lowest enlisted rank and a rank he would hold until the end of his sentence when he would be dishonorably discharged from the Army. What I failed to mention is that Knight is out of prison now and living as a convicted sex offender while working through the appeals process, hoping to see his conviction overturned.
Below is an excerpt from the aforementioned article:
CASE TWO: CONTROVERSIAL ALLEGATIONS OF RAPE
In another case that has become infamous and a rallying cry for politicians, is a case at Marine Barracks 8th & I, where a female officer alleged she was raped by another officer. In that case evidence revealed that the complainant, Ariana Klay, was cheating on her husband with the officer that she accused of raping her. That evidence is based on her own testimony. The relationship lasted for an 18-month period.
Before she made the allegations of rape, evidence revealed that she was caught in bed naked with a junior Marine from the barracks. During a formal investigation into other allegations made by Klay, the female investigator and former prosecutor came close to discovering the truth of the affair and of the romp with the junior Marine— which could have revealed Klay’s sexual relationship with the officer she later accused of rape. Shortly before the completion of the investigation, she alleged rape again. This alleged offense happened on the same day that her lover found her naked with a junior Marine.
Significant evidence stood in contrast with her claims: also present at the time of the alleged sexual rape was a witness who testified he could hear Klay and her lover in her bedroom laughing and engaged in what sounded like a good time. During examination at trial, Klay contradicted herself under oath and told many lies. She could not explain why she sent my client a nearly naked picture of herself in a bikini on the beach taken by her husband, a week after the alleged rape.
In spite of this information, Klay is featured in an HBO movie called The Invisible War. While I cannot comment about the other women in the Invisible War, I think Klay’s own testimony reveals the film’s lack of objectivity or validity regarding sex assaults in the military, at least with respect to the Klay case.
In addition to the allegations-related content of Klay’s trial testimony, I found it interesting that Klay said her husband, Ben Klay, “works for the White House Budget Office.”
It will be interesting to find out how Army officials justify continued use of this documentary as part of their sexual assault awareness and prevention training.
Three years ago today, LCpl. Greg Buckley Jr., a 21-year-old Marine from Oceanside, N.Y., died along with two fellow Marines following a “Green-on-Blue” (a.k.a., “Insider”) attack waged by an Afghan “ally” wearing the uniform of his country. Almost one year after his death, his aunt, Mary Liz Grossetto, commented on an item I had posted on the Facebook page dedicated to her nephew. It had to do with an article about family members of British service members winning the right to sue their government over their loved ones’ combat deaths which they believed were linked to bad equipment. Excerpts from her comments appear below with only minor edits:
LCpl. Greg Buckley Jr., USMC
Bob, if you had asked anyone in my family that question a year ago I’m pretty sure the answer would have been “NO.”
What a difference a year makes!
A year ago, I would have thought, “God forbid something happens, that’s the risk you were willing to take.”
Of course, a year ago I was under the mistaken impression that this country was doing all it could to protect & provide for our military. Sadly, today I know that is not the case. This administration is more concerned with how the Afghans will perceive things than making sure our own men are as safe as possible.
Grossetto came to understand a lot during that first year after her nephew died. Later in her response, she asked and answered some pointed questions:
Did we take measures to ensure our military would be safe? Did we order our men to carry loaded weapons at all times? Did we provide “Guardian Angels” to watch over our soldiers when they were most vulnerable? NO! WHY? Because we were too busy handing out pamphlets & ordering our soldiers to attend “culture & sensitivity training” so our heroes would not “offend” Afghans.
Did we use the best, most advanced equipment when it came to vetting these Afghan soldiers / police? NO!
Have we thoroughly investigated what happened to Extortion 17? NO!
Have we investigated & spoken the truth about Benghazi? NO!
She concluded her response this way:
So, in answer to your question (about whether families of fallen service members should be able to sue the government), I guess we should start suing. Maybe that will help this administration get it’s priorities in order! Until Then, God Help Us All!
After our online exchange, I shared several thoughts in a post published Aug. 25, 2013. Chief among them was my fear that most Americans are more like Grossetto was before she lost her nephew in Afghanistan. They remain largely unaware of the hardships facing American men and women in uniform, and unaware of how many of those hardships stem from misguided decisions made by top government leaders. Misguided decisions like the ones I highlight inside my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo.
I remain grateful to Grossetto for the endorsement below which she offered after reading The Clapper Memo and recognizing how I had connected some critical dots regarding hundreds of American “Green-on-Blue” attack casualties:
“Read this book & you will see how our government has for many, many years deprived our military of the best possible tool for vetting & weeding out the enemy.”
Four other influential people read the book and offered similarly-powerful endorsements. Among them, a former U.S. Navy SEALs commander, a former U.S. Army general, the parents of a member of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six and the man who served as chief investigative counsel during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. After you read The Clapper Memo, I think you’ll find yourself in agreement with them. Thanks in advance!
Thirty Americans died in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, according to a DoD news release issued five days later. All had been aboard a U.S. military helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17.” Among those on board were 25 Special Operations Forces personnel, including 17 U.S. Navy SEALs. Though it became the most-deadly incident in the history of Naval Special Warfare, it has received scant public attention.
Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.
As a former Air Force public affairs officer, I have virtually no first-hand familiarity with SOF, though I have had many opportunities to speak with SOF members and even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about one of them.
Today, I count as friends many veterans boasting decades of SOF experience under their belts. In an email message yesterday, one of those friends, a former Army Green Beret, shared his expert observations and raised some serious questions about the extremely-controversial of the Extortion 17 mission. The text of his sometimes-graphic message appears below:
What makes Special Operations Forces (SOF) great is the attention to detail — every detail.
All SOF missions require isolation prior to missions. In my community, we isolated all parties involved until wheels up. Our host-nation military guys never knew where we were going or who was going until we got off the aircraft, vehicle, boat, etc. No need to tell them, because you train for many different types of missions (i.e., raid, ambush, hostage rescue, etc.). The person or place doesn’t matter.
On a typical mission, the team conducts mission planning down to infiltration and exfiltration. We, the team, decide how it will be done. We, the team, submit our plan to our group commander who, depending on risk assessment and who it is we are going after, contacts the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF). Every theater has one. The CJSOTF person makes direct contact with the Secretary of Defense. Once the “green light” is given for the plan, it is the responsibility of CJSOTF to arrange the assets needed to conduct the mission. Once the team is notified of the green light, “dry runs” are conducted — if, that is, it isn’t a time-sensitive mission. The dry runs involve everyone on the team.
Half the team conducts infiltration, actions on the objective and exfiltration with host-nation personnel. At no time are the host-nation personnel told the mission’s five W’s — who, what, where, when and why. Meanwhile, the other half of the team gets current intelligence reports and works to coordinate needed assets (i.e., air, MEDEVAC, artillery, fast movers, etc.).
Generally, two to three team members go to the aviation unit and conduct an “air brief” with the commander of the aviation unit as well as their intelligence, weather and flight operations personnel. There, they are briefed on the five W’s and instructed by team members about where and how they will fly, where they will land, the location of pick-up points and about contingencies. They are given Rules of Engagement for the escort gun ships on “gun runs,” and the communication frequency for all is shared at this time.
Once the air brief is completed, those personnel link back up with the whole team for a mission brief. After final checks are done, movement to the flight line takes place. Weapons are placed in “red” status (i.e., has a round in the chamber and the safety is on), communication is checked, accountability is checked, and away you go.
Now, there is a large distinction between a Green Beret mission and a Navy SEALs mission. Green Berets primarily train and conduct various missions with host-nation soldiers. SEALs and Delta primarily do not. Delta uses Ranger Regiment, and SEALs use more of their own — or Green Beret or some host-nation personnel. In all of my time with SOF, I never saw a SEAL team conduct a mission with host-nation personnel UNLESS the SEALs were assigned to us.
I have worked with, through, and by SEALs, and I’m sure every SEAL has done the same with Green Berets. My point: The SEALs were directed by someone to take these host-nation troops with them. Now, that same person allowed those personnel to change out. This violates the Mission Decision-Making Process, the Bible for all military operations.
Now I know the family is upset about the age of the aircraft and the fact it was a “D” model versus an “H” model. The ONLY unit with the MH-47H is the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a group known as the Night Stalkers. While every SOF unit (i.e., Green Beret, SEAL, Delta) team requests them for their missions, there are not enough of those aircraft to meet all of the requests.
When the team says they are doing a air infiltration, they request the air assets required. Prior to the air brief, they will know what platforms are available. For instance, they will be told, “You asked for 10 helicopters and you only get 3,” or “You asked for fast movers at 0330 hrs, but they can’t get on station until 0415 hrs,” and so on. By the end of the briefing, team members know who is available to cover their asses all the way down to the drone in the sky.
The MH-47H is a SOF-only aircraft built specifically for night operations. It emits a small radar signature and carries formidable countermeasures, including — but not limited to — two mini-guns and one .50-caliber machine gun. All crew members, including the flight crew, are assigned and trained by SOF.
Conversely, crew members aboard the CH-47D come from the ranks of the conventional forces and are not trained in the MH-47H capabilities. The CH-47D is equipped with basic countermeasures, including two 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns. That’s it!
To be in the 160th, everyone — pilots included — must pass the same rigorous selection process as everyone else in SOF. Pilots, who go through Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion (SERE) School, must have been a regular aviation brigade member for at least four years before applying. In most cases, and depending upon the risk assessment, non-SOF aircraft would not be allowed to go on missions involving high-value targets in hostile areas. Long and short, the CJSOTF air commander would be the one coordinating this, responsible to locate and coordinate all air assets to include Quick-Reaction Force (QRF) air frames as well as fast movers, drones, etc.
U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)
By now, you’re asking, “What does all of this mean?” The items below explain things in a nutshell while raising important questions:
1) No aircraft goes out without escorts or layers of escorts.
2) The team commander had to be ordered to take host-nation personnel with him and to change out those personnel. Who gave that order?
3) Someone in the aviation unit would also have to approve the manifest change and would have the name of the person who authorized the change on the manifest. Who changed the manifest?
4) When, until now, was there ever a funeral with U.S. and host-nation personnel together. In all of my time in combat, I never saw it happen. Why did it happen in this case?
5) How many personnel since this war started has the government cremated? Again, I personally worked a crash with four U.S. personnel and one host-nation soldier that burned. I personally pulled three torsos out of the wreckage — there were no legs, arms or skull above the jaws — and I placed them into three separate body bags. I waited for the the forensic doctor who would perform the autopsy to arrive and, for four hours, we sifted through the wreckage for the remaining body parts and personnel effects. We had a sixth bag that we put the pieces in for DNA testing. I went to the funeral for the four U.S. personnel. The host nation held a funeral at a mosque on the installation. I tell you this to let you know great care is given to the dead, no matter how the person dies or how gruesome it is. Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman deserves to rest on American soil, and deserves to come home.
6) What assets were deployed to recover the personnel and what was the time line for those efforts?
7) The operations order would have listed a QRF assigned to the mission. Who were they and from what base/location did they come?
These are but a few of the questions that remain about Extortion 17.
During a May 9 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., several family members of the fallen warriors raised similar questions and were joined by a number of high-ranking, now-retired SOF members who did the same. The news conference is captured in its entirety in the 3-hour video below. Worth every minute of time you spend watching it, I hope you will watch it, share it and demand your elected officials in Washington obtain answers from the Pentagon and the Obama Administration to the questions raised about Extortion 17.
Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The story above was published for the first time June 4, 2013. I share it again today, because Americans need to remember it and not be satisfied until they get answers.
As an Air Force veteran, I’m convinced that what I did while wearing the uniform of my country pales in comparison to the sacrifices made by those who truly deserve recognition on Memorial Day. If you don’t get my point, please educate yourself about Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is NOT just another holiday to provide business owners a collective excuse for holding a three-day extravaganza sale and offer 10 percent discounts to military veterans and their families.
Memorial Day is NOT a holiday during which we should thank all veterans.
Memorial Day IS a day of remembrance to honor those who paid the ultimate price — including people from the military, intelligence, foreign service and other areas of government service — while in service to our nation.
Unless something pressing comes up Saturday, Jan. 3, I’ll spend most of my working hours in much the same fashion as I did the day before.
If you appreciate the unique perspective I provide and would like to help keep me afloat for another year, please show your support by ordering copies of my books and encouraging others to do the same. Thanks in advance!