The little guys have to follow the rules; the Big Guys and Girls, not so much.
The Army is booting out a 13-year public affairs sergeant for including in an unclassified government email the same information about a special operations unit and Osama bin Laden found on Army.mil web pages.
The irony in the narrative of Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch is that his motive was to keep classified material away from public view.
His disclosure in a private Army email is also the same information as told by his commander in chief, Barack Obama, in May 2011 when the president visited Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to personally thank the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), or “Night Stalkers,” for its critical role in killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
And, the transgression of Sgt. Branch, 34, is, on its face, far less serious than that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who faced no punishment for keeping classified data on her personal unsecured server.
(Emphasis mine; commas added.)
The incident occurred in February 2014, when Branch, then a public affairs officer for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), reviewed a proposed article by Boeing for the company’s internal news service[.]
The article discussed SOAR personnel visiting a Boeing unit in Mesa, Arizona, and revealed the regiment’s role in transporting Navy SEAL Team 6 to Pakistan for the 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden. Branch reportedly recognized that the Pentagon had never officially acknowledged SOAR’s role in the bin Laden operation and emailed his superior saying Boeing should delete the sentence.
Branch also wrote the sentence in an official .mil email.
Because Branch forwarded the sentence, which contained sensitive information, in an unclassified email, an investigation was launched and he was ordered home.
A superior officer had seen the email and notified Army intelligence. About two months later, Branch agreed to a nonjudicial punishment known as an Article 15 hearing, during which he received an oral reprimand and thought the matter was done.
The Army transferred Branch to South Korea. But then the service in 2015, pressured by budget cuts, sought to reduce personnel and identified blemished soldiers through the Quantitative Management Program. Branch was identified as a blemished soldier because his Article 15 resulted in a one-time poor performance evaluation, and the investigation was relaunched.
Branch received high marks on all prior and subsequent performance reviews, according to the [Washington]Times.
This sort of travesty furthers my suspicions that a vast Coconut Treatment—a hollowing out of all seemingly reliable institutions—is nearing its conclusion. By the way, if the Army forces Sgt. Branch out, he will probably receive a discharge that is other than honorable. This will make it very difficult for him to find employment and he won’t be able to receive any VA benefits which would have, otherwise, been his due.
I’m hoping that there’s something more to this story, but I’ll bet that there isn’t. And if I were this guy, I’d do what he’s doing—making it public—and then get out anyway.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done on April 2017! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.
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