Air Force IG fails Cadet Informant

Posted on: March 25th, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 11 Comments
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

Late last year I wrote extensively here and on on the Air Force Academy using cadet informants to expose other cadets involved in drug usage and sexual assault.  In the process, cadets were instructed to violate the cadet honor code and academy regulations with the promise they would be protected.  The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigation ran the program allegedly without the knowledge of commanders.  When former informant Cadet Eric Thomas was undergoing his separation board the OSI abandoned him.  Cadet Thomas was separated for excessive demerits and bad behavior.  Cadet Thomas notified his congressman and the Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette.

The Gazette wrote a series of stories exposing the scandal and the Air Force’s response transitioned from Commander’s not being aware and the cadet being a substandard performer to  the Superintendent stating she would review the “disenrollment process” and intended to “eliminate the need for cadet confidential informants in the cadet wing.”   An Inspector General investigation was promised. 

The Gazette has done another story.  The report is in and it is a stunning whitewash of what I referred to as a black hole of leadership at the Air Force’s premier leadership institution.  The IG report defends the use of cadet informants and blames Eric Thomas for failing “his mission”.  That mission being, serve as a cadet at the Air Force Academy preparing to become a commissioned officer.   The report goes on to say Thomas “did a tremendous amount of good in helping solve investigations and then bring those so deserving to justice,” BUT incredibly goes on to condemn Thomas for losing sight of his primary responsibility,  graduating.  It boggles the mind and a classic example of doublespeak.   Thomas’ attorney, Skip Morgan, former head of the academy’s law department said, “It is one of the most masterful jobs of cherry picking facts and distortion I’ve ever seen”.

My previous essays explained how officer development programs especially the honor code are severely damaged by the use of informants who are especially allowed to violate that code.  Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, the Commandant of Cadets, agrees with me.  Though favoring limited cadet informing, like who attended an illegal party, he said “I am not in favor of cadets actively, you know, trying to set up a drug buy. I’m not in favor of anything, even for law enforcement generation, I do not support cadets violating the Honor Code.”  He further stated, “I’m skeptical of trying to turn a cadet into Jason Bourne and make him a secret agent”.

General Lengyel recommended policing drug use and other violations with other approaches that don’t rely on deception.  He specifically identified random drug testing.  I concur, as well as inculcating in cadets an appreciation of what officership means and what is and isn’t acceptable.  Frankly, it’s stunning that cadets cover for other cadets’ drug use, sexual assault and other felonies.  This is what happens when a military organization allows loyalty to each other to trump loyalty to the organization or the mission.  As demonstrated by the widespread cheating on nuclear missile officers tests this kind of behavior can be carried on into the service.  

The Air Force IG report is a textbook example of  the corruption that is infesting our military.  It simultaneously destroys any faith in the Air Force’s IG office in correcting abuses by commanders and provides the Air Force Academy a shield to further destroy the moral fiber of the institution.  Cadets are watching and the Air Force will pay dearly for this debacle for decades to come.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LauraKinCA

    Well, we all talked about how it would likely result in a whitewash and blame no one that should be blamed… there it is.

  • LauraKinCA  
    Yes, and still unacceptable…

  • Luddite4Change

    majrod LauraKinCA As the Supe position is a three button, and there are no doubt OSI officer who work in leadership roles at the USAF IG (in the Army the chief of investigations is a CID qualified officer, have to think the USAF IG is similar), this probably needed to be investigated by DOD IG to avoid any perception of conflict of interest.

  • Luddite4Change majrodLauraKinCAYou may have a point there about OSI influencing the USAF IG.  Anyone with half a brain would realize the Academies are different environments and the damage done to the honor code by the use of informants is deep.  Cadets see this and take those lessons on to the Air Force.  The statement by the IG that informants were appropriate was extremely disturbing but that statement was coming from a JAG officer.  JAG officers simply don’t have a great deal of leadership experience and in this case it showed.  I wish we knew for certain OSI had a role but I think leaving the issue to a bunch of lawyers was just as bad.

    I don’t know if the DoD could have done any better but they would have been very challenged to do worse.

    BTW, THIS is a story I’d wish Tom Ricks would sink his teeth into if I wasn’t so sure he’d stand with the JAG officers.

    Hope you read my original piece on the subject…

  • Luddite4Change

    majrod Luddite4Change
    I did, I think it was the motivation to join your merry band of followers here.

    I used to know the DOD IG Chief of investigations.  He wasn’t a lawyer or OSI/CID/NCIS, just a good leader and solid retired officer looking into senior guys who fell off the straight and narrow.  I think that is true of that office as a whole, as they don’t want folks who can be beholden to their service for future advancement.

  • YankeePapa

    …From those friendly folks who created a “Section 31” and introduced it to the Air Force Academy… Doubtless the survivors will continue to “be of service” to 31 for the duration of their careers…

    …However, no need to panic… no generals were punished…

  • YankeePapa

    majrod Luddite4ChangeLauraKinCA,

    …In a couple of the last Star Trek series the concept of “Section
    31” was introduced and explored.  Serving officers secretly recruited
    and almost always unknown to high command. 
    …Well, I
    suppose if you were a Cadet and were a member of this informer network,
    you no longer own your own soul.  Even though you have graduated, just
    try to refuse to keep informing if they want you to.  All that they have
    to do is leak the information that you were an informer at the Academy
    and you will be lucky to make Major.  
    …So some day you
    are a Brigadier General in charge of a project… and “31” wants you to
    follow their take on it… not yours… Want to ever see that second
    star… or just be “outed” among your peers…?
    …But don’t worry… nobody would ever do such an underhanded thing… … …

  • steelhorse

    get the kid to do your dirty work then throw him under the bus them back it up over him what a lesson to teach men who will be leaders is this how they will treat those under their command in the future

  • Txazz

    Yes, Maj, I remember your original article.  What future does this young cadet have now in the AF even if his exceptional lawyer gets him through this mess?  None
    Basic:  he broke the honor code.

  • islanddude58

    Will, thanks for your essay. No excuses for anyone in command, but I do wonder just how much the culture of PC, and Dr, Spock effect is having on our youth? I hate to say this but now a days it seems like Integrity only applies to things built, or manufactured. I’m attaching an essay that begs the question, are we better off?   Could Technology Be Making Us More Stupider
    Earlier today, I was thinking about how awesome my smart phone is, and
    remembering what life was like before them – and the internet in
    general. There used to be things called “dictionaries” and
    “encyclopedias” that one would have to consult in order to look
    something up. Now, quite literally speaking, all the knowledge in the
    world is in our pockets. It’s an
    incredible advancement, that has arguably revolutionized the transfer of
    human knowledge as much as the invention of the written word.
    Just think about what life was like before the invention of writing.
    This was before some of you were born. Before writing, knowledge was
    gained by firsthand experience. If you discovered a water source over
    that hill, you knew where it was, but no one else did. You had to tell
    someone, personally, to transfer that knowledge. And whoever you told
    about that experience could also pass it on person-to-person as well.
    But if those people died without passing that knowledge on, it was dead
    forever. Writing allowed you to put that knowledge onto a clay tablet,
    and then that knowledge could be distributed as far as it could be
    carried, and any reader could learn from your experience whether they
    knew you or not. It changed everything. Then came books, and eventually
    the printing press. With that, your knowledge could be copied, mass
    produced, and shipped all over the world in a matter of weeks or months.
    Just imagine how much that changed the world. And now, with the
    internet and especially the smart phone, everything ever written is
    literally in our hands all at once, all the time. The potential for
    human understanding, and the transfer of knowledge, is unlimited. There
    is nothing at all that you can’t find out, within just a few seconds.
    You can find the schematics for an atomic bomb, or compute pi until your
    phone starts smoking.
    But I can’t help but wonder about the
    downsides to this incredible availability of knowledge at our
    fingertips. Let me ask you this. Are you a better speller now, than you
    were before the advent of spell check? How about memorization? In the
    Middle Ages, in every monastery in Europe there were monks who would
    memorize huge chunks of the Bible. The would dedicate their entire lives
    to that endeavor. When was the last time you memorized something?
    How about education? Would you say that we are better educated now than
    we were 200 years ago? I recently saw a 4th grade test from the
    mid-1800’s. This was a 100% pass or fail test, which every kid had to
    pass in order to achieve the 5th grade. I was absolutely amazed. I have
    no formal education beyond high school, but I have been diligent in my
    own self education in the years since. And while I’m certainly no
    genius, I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. But in all
    fairness, I don’t believe I could have passed that 4th grade test.
    So the question is, how has this abundance of information technology
    affected us? I think it’s a wonderful thing, but it’s also made us far
    less specialized in the things that we know. And there is some evidence
    that we don’t retain information as well as we used to. We don’t have
    to; it’s all in our pocket. But what happens if that goes away?
    Something to think about. JD

  • Tango9

    It’s disgusting.  This goes deep, way deeper than the academies.  It’s a cancer.
    Don’t have a fix, yet.
    But thanks Sir, for bringing it up.  (first time I’ve called you “Sir” and I mean it.)
    So how ya’ll doing?