Marine's Facebook page tests military rulesSubmitted by Iron-man01 on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 13:19
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marine Sgt. Gary Stein first started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. Then he declared that he wouldn't follow orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama.
While Stein softened his statement to say he wouldn't follow "unlawful orders," military observers say he may have gone too far.
The Marine Corps is now looking into whether he violated the military's rules prohibiting political statements by those in uniform and broke its guidelines on what troops can and cannot say on social media. Stein said his views are constitutionally protected.
While troops have always expressed their views in private, Stein's case highlights the potential for their opinions to go global as tech-savvy service members post personal details, videos and pictures that can hurt the military's image at home and abroad.
"I think that it's been pretty well established for a long time that freedom of speech is one area in which people do surrender some of their basic rights in entering the armed forces," said former Navy officer David Glazier, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
"Good order and discipline require the military maintain respect for the chain of command," Glazier said. "That includes prohibiting speech critical of the senior officers in that chain of command — up to and including the commander in chief."
According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform can't sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.
Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.
In January, an Army reservist wearing camouflaged fatigues got into trouble for taking the stage during a rally in Iowa with Republican presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul.
Stein was first cautioned by his superiors at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, in 2010 after he launched his Facebook page, criticizing Obama's health care overhaul. Stein volunteered to take down the page while he reviewed the rules at the request of his superiors.
He said he determined he was not in violation and relaunched the page under the shortened account name Armed Forces Tea Party. Last week, he said his superiors told him he couldn't use social media sites on government computers after he posted the message stating he would not follow unlawful orders of the president.
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