Active Duty Air Force Physician Threatened With Court Martial at Request of Republican Leadership & Forced to Resign as DelegateSubmitted by RobHino on Mon, 07/30/2012 - 13:35
This story will make your heart hurt, and it should make you think.
It is a story about my personal friend who is being targeted by Marian Stanko, the Executive Director of the Bexar County GOP because he is in the military and she doesn't agree with his politics. She was just successful in disqualifying my friend's delegates status and now the repercussions potentially threaten his livelihood and ability to provide for his wife and 6 home-schooled children.
Marian is bitter because our liberty grassroots network was victorious at unseating her for the permanent rules committee at the Texas State Republican Convention in June after she went out of her way to block several rules changes supported by the grassroots (these were eventually passed in the permanent committee after she was gone). Our group also almost beat her out for her State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) position.
Honestly, Marian is one of the hardest working persons, if not the hardest working person in the Bexar County party, and we've tried several times to work with her, but her immature behavior continues. I feel she is threatened by the up-and-coming Tea-Party type activists who have been flooding our local process.
But to target and try to ruin the career of an Air Force Officer, Marian Stanko and her boss, Curt Nelson have gone too far. I'm sure they will claim that they were just following through on a complaint received from another Republican National Delegate, but we should be able to see through that charade.
We've given Mr. Nelson an opportunity to address and deal with Ms. Stanko, but this seems to be something that party leadership endorses. This makes me sick, and it should make you sick too.
Some of you will remember Curt Nelson from his performance as Convention Chairman at the 2008 Texas Republican State Convention.
Marian Stanko and some in the Bexar GOP have even gone so far as to actively campaign against our candidates for precinct chairmen in Bexar County by using county party resources, time, and volunteers to call voters on behalf of our opponents to try to prevent us from taking control of the party apparatus. Little does she know some of us expected she would do that, and we made prior arrangements which I can't disclose at this time! :P
Here's the story:
I am an Active Duty Air Force Physician. I also happen to be a husband and father of 6 children, Eagle Scout and a Mormon. Any statement I make is my personal opinion and not that of the Department of defense or the Air Force. In June of this year, I was elected as a delegate to the Republican Party National Convention. Since then I have been targeted by the Bexar County Republican Party for elimination as a delegate to the National convention. This is my story.
15 years ago I swore an oath to defend our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I took the oath and promptly pushed it to the back of my mind as I dove headlong into the rigors of medical education. I thought I was too busy to worry about politics. Over the past several years I realized that I had failed in my oath through my lack of action in speaking out about the principles upon which our nation was founded and the threats to those ideals that our nation is facing. The true enemies of our constitution are armed, not with firearms in some faraway land, but rather with pens and a conspicuous lack of understanding of the value of our freedoms right here at home. They are empowered only by the apathy of a disinterested public.
After the election of 2008 I promised myself that I would not leave my children's future in somebody else's hands - I was going to make my voice heard and work to bring back the respect for our Constitution and its principles that I have seen eroded with ever increasing unapologetic boldness on the part of our public officials.
My parents were Republican and worked hard to get Reagan into office, instilling within me an understanding of the value of personal liberty, limited government and respect for the rule of law. I decided that it was time to get involved in the local GOP. I started attending meetings as an observer and eventually planning on being involved in the primary process.
Before going to any of the conventions I checked to see if there was any precedent for active duty military members participating in the process. I found a GOP press release that was bragging that 20% of delegates to the 2004 GOP convention were active duty or retired military. 3% were active duty - making at least 75 delegates active duty military based on the number of delegates in attendance.
Furthermore, I subsequently contacted my base attorney and posed the question to him and was told that they do not actively seek to prosecute service members on issues of free speech unless they appeared in uniform, marched in protests, made derogatory statements about the President or claimed to speak for the military. Avoiding these actions, being a part of the primary process should be no problem.
So I dove into the process and worked from the precinct convention all the way to state. I was open about the fact to my commander, asking for time off and specifically stating that I was going to the conventions. No problem arose.
Then things got interesting - after the State convention, where I was nominated and elected a national delegate with the strong support of my district, the Bexar county Republican Party decided to report my participation in the conventions to my Air Force Base Legal Office. Base Legal called the GOP back to confirm their allegations and based on their discussion proceeded to investigate me more - looking around the internet for any other violations that could be brought against me. They ultimately came up with 4 charges against me - which you will see are of dubious nature. I have included the allegations here and my response to each:
1) “Attending the Republican State Convention in Fort Worth, TX from June 7-9, 2012 as a delegate; making a nominating speech to become a delegate to the National Republican Convention, during which your active duty military status was declared; and being elected as a delegate to the National Republican Convention to be held August 27-30, 2012”
Prior to attending any convention I searched for any precedent of active duty military attending Republican or Democratic Conventions. This search revealed press releases and articles from the 2004 from the GOP describing with great enthusiasm that 3% of the delegates to the National Republican Convention were active duty military members who had come to the convention in support of then President George W Bush.
When it was later brought to my attention that there may be a conflict with my status as a delegate, I consulted with an Area Defense Council (ADC) attorney. I indicated to him that I intended to attend the convention as a delegate, but wanted to make sure that I was not going to be subject to administrative action because of it. He stated that it was not the policy of the military to actively pursue service members on issues of free speech so long as they abstained from appearing in uniform, in protests or marches, Making derogatory statements about the president, or making statements with the appearance of officially representing the Department of Defense or various Armed Services.
I had not appeared in uniform, attended a protest or made any statements that could be construed as representing anything other than my personal opinion. As such, I continued to make plans to attend the convention. If I had been informed, and it had been confirmed, that my actions were illegal and subject to administrative and punitive action, I would have immediately withdrawn my status as a delegate, notified my commander of the breach and taken all steps to remedy the situation.
2) “Volunteering for and being elected as the Permanent Precinct Convention Chairman for the Republican Party on or about April 14, 2012.”
Again, my actions were initially based on a precedent of active duty members attending the 2004 GOP national convention and subsequently confirmed based on my discussion with the ADC.
The Precinct Convention referred to was attended by 2 people - myself and my wife. Our precinct was one of the largest by numbers of republican voters, yet not a single additional citizen, apart from my wife and myself, attended the convention.
I did not volunteer for the position, but was nominated by my wife – immediately confirmed by general consent, as she was the only other voting attendee. She acted as Permanent Secretary as there were no other attendees.
3) “Providing an interview to the Salt Lake City Examiner in which your military affiliation was documented and openly endorsing a presidential candidate without the disclaimer that the views are your own and not those of the Department of Defense of Department of the Air Force. The Interview was printed online and dated February 1, 2012”
see the article here: http://www.examiner.com/article/fact-check-does-romney-belie...
In all of my communications with Jenn Morrill, the author of the Examiner article referenced, I was clear in the fact that my views were my own and that I was not speaking for the military, any government agency or even for members of my church (which was the key organization discussed in the principle introductory segment of the article). I have a sworn affidavit by the journalist attesting to this fact.
The author of the article decided to include my vocation as part of introduction and background when first mentioning me in the article, in accordance with journalistic custom. The fact of my military status was not further mentioned or relevant to the topics presented in the article. I had no journalistic control over the content and format of the article.
In the content of the article I do not make an open or wholesale endorsement of any presidential candidate. On the topic of constitutional issues I am quoted in the article as saying “Ron Paul stands out as a candidate who understands the worth of our Constitution and is not afraid to apply its principles to the issues of today.” This statement draws a distinction between Rep. Paul and the rest of the presidential candidates on the specific issue of an elected officials constitutional understanding and adherence. The video referenced in the article lays out a clear distinction between the stated positions of the major presidential candidates on this topic and gives clearer context to my statement. This is but one of many issues that one may consider in deciding to endorse a candidate. I could not say that Representative Paul stands out as a candidate on the issues of immigration or repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, for example, where all the candidates share similar positions.
The journalist does include a third person statement that I am a “Ron Paul supporter”, however during the course of our communication for the purpose of inclusion in the article I made no open endorsement of a presidential candidate and the inclusion of this statement was the author's decision. None of the quotations attributed to me in the article include an open endorsement of a presidential candidate.
4) “Publishing a YouTube video of you presenting a question to a presidential candidate; in this video (dated April 24, 2012), you made a derogatory reference to the Commander-in-Chief, stating “Obama made these same sort of promises and he has obviously failed on that, the most miserable example was…” in reference to government transparency”
see the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vc7bq77QV0
The quotation in this allegation is erroneous and out of context, contributing to its attribution as derogatory. The full quote is as follows: “I believe that open and transparent government is an important part in a government being accountable to the people, and indeed Obama made this same sort of promises and has obviously failed on that; the most visible example is Bradley manning and the WikiLeaks issue. In your administration, what would you do to safeguard government transparency and specifically what would you do about Bradley Manning?”.
The word “visible” was misquoted as “miserable” giving a distinctly and falsely negative tone to the statement as presented.
The full quotation of my question included a reference to promises made by the commander in chief regarding government transparency. In 2008 Senator Obama, while a candidate for the presidency, affirmed his support for implementing protections for federal employees who perform whistle-blowing disclosures. During a town-hall forum in Fairfax VA he stated “I actually used to be a plaintiff’s attorney that represented whistleblowers and, in fact, I wrote the brief for the federal whistleblowers law to make sure that it applied in more situations and went all the way to the Supreme Court and we won. So I know a little bit about whistle-blowing and making sure that those folks get protection.”
After winning the election, he laid out more specifically his stance on whistleblowers and government transparency on his transition website change.gov: “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.”
Since taking office, rather than extend protection for whistleblowers, President Obama has overseen the prosecution of 6 whistleblowers for alleged mishandling of classified documents – releasing documents which expose questionable government actions. Doubling the number of such cases brought forth by all prior presidents combined.
Furthermore his commitment to strengthen whistleblower laws literally failed as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act failed to successfully pass despite his administration’s support.
That the Bradley Manning case is the most visible of the whistleblower prosecutions is an observation based on my personal experience, but backed up with objective data provided by Googles search trend analysis. A comparative analysis of searches and pageviews of the names of the whistleblower defendants show that the term ‘Bradley Manning’ far outpace any of the other whistle blower cases.
The observation that the President failed to strengthen whistleblower protections, contrary to his stated promises, is not a derogatory reference to the commander in chief, but rather a description of the contrast between his administration's performance and the verbal and written commitments made by the President prior to and immediately after taking office.
Based on these accusations the Base legal department recommend that my commander issue an Article 15 nonjudicial punishment for violation Article 92 of UCMJ - a serious charge. If presented with an Article 15 punishment I could decide to accept it or not - if I choose not to accept it then a Court Martial would be the next punitive measure employed. Either of these are military career killers and among the most serious negative actions an Officer may undergo - the maximum penalty for the violations I was accused of is Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years. This is the risk that I would be taking by challenging the charges brought forth by the Bexar County GOP.
My commander, being familiar with my personal history, did not proceed with an Article 15 and offered me a Letter of Reprimand (LOR) in its stead. This form of non-judicial punishment is not as severe as an Article 15, but can still effectively halt a military career. After responding to the allegations against me (the points made above) and explaining that my actions were taken in good faith, the LOR was rescinded.
There has been a longstanding tradition of keeping the military non-political. Exactly what this means, however, has seen much variation throughout history. There have been some military officials who advocate that military members should abstain from all political activity - and there have been periods of history where military officers generally abstained even from voting
On the other hand there have been active duty generals who had run for party nomination for President - multiple times. While initially these limitations were part of military tradition and custom, actual legal directives preventing active duty military from fully exercising their political free speech started in 1960's and has waxed and waned in its effect and force. The military is overwhelmingly republican.
See this paper: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA432060
And as such the GOP might see some benefit in actively promoting the involvement of the military fully in the political process.
It appears that to date, the presence of active duty members as delegates at conventions has been a "don't ask don't tell" issue. Neither myself nor the military attorney that I consulted could find evidence of any prior service member being punished for simply taking part in the primary process of an election.
There is no prohibition in the GOP rules at either the state or national level preventing active duty military from being delegates. There was no requirement that my actions be reported to the Base Legal department. in 2004 when the GOP bragged that 3% of the delegates were active duty service members coming out to support George W Bush - it did so openly and enthusiastically.
Why then would the Bexar County GOP choose to go out of its way to complain about a service member's involvement in 2012? The only rational explanation I can conceive is that it was a deliberate attempt to eliminate me as a delegate - and do so by threatening my very livelihood and reputation. I truthfully reported that my candidate of choice was Ron Paul on the affidavit that was required of all national delegates. It is my belief, based on conversations I had with individuals at the convention and since then, that I have been singled out for elimination because of my support of Dr. Paul in the primary.
All of this speaks to my own indignation at being put in the position of defending my livelihood and professionalism due to what I thought were protected expressions of free speech. However, this brings up a broader discussion that I don't believe the American public has had yet - what degree of restriction of freedom of speech does one accept when entering into service as a military member? 100% of the individuals that I have had anecdotal discussions with were not aware that military personnel cannot take part in the primary delegate process. Some had vague notions that the Hatch Act prevented some political activity, but did not know that the military is specifically excluded from the provisions of the Hatch Act. They all universally disagreed with the idea that someone who has undertaken the sacrifice of military service should be denied such a fundamental part of citizenship.
One can readily accept that there is a form of political partisan activity that is unacceptable in a military serviceman or woman. Making disparaging or derogatory remarks about the commander in chief is certainly at odds with the discipline and order required in an orderly military. There are 2 categories of partisan political activities - those that are carried out by service members in their capacity as private citizens and those that are carried out in their capacity as members of the military. As it stands there are only laws preventing service members from engaging in partisan political activity in their capacity as private citizens. This literally makes the act of even publicly asking a question of a candidate or official at a party meeting illegal and reportable for any active duty military member. What of the high ranking general who chooses to cover up an embarrassing debacle under his charge for fear of it negatively impacting the fortunes of the party of the sitting president in the upcoming election season.
This is clearly a partisan political activity, but one carried out in the official military capacity of the general and not in a party meeting or convention. It is these latter forms of partisan activity that truly erode military professionalism - however they are not covered in the laws regarding partisan political activity.
At the core of laws regarding partisan political activity in the military is the assumption that a member engaging in such activity will allow some partisan interest to supercede the oath that they have taken upon entering the military and all that follows from it. This is an intriguing scenario to imagine, however, if one is looking at the realm of actions taken in the capacity of private citizens - actions which any other free member of society can engage in - there is little if any opportunity to commit such a breach. On the other hand, engaging in partisan actions through one’s official capacity is the appropriate realm in which to restrict such activities. Most of these offenses, such as the generals actions described above, would likely be illegal or unethical by their very nature - the partisan component of the scenario is what provides the motive to depart from legal and ethical actions.
I have accepted the loss of my status as a delegate. I am sincerely and deeply disappointed that my status as an active duty officer so severely restricts my free speech rights. I feel that every service member is in an elaborate Catch-22 having sworn to defend the constitution from domestic enemies, and yet prevented from employing the most effective weapon in that cause - their voice. Had I understood the severity of the restrictions upon my rights, it is doubtful that I would have undertaken to join the military, however I will abide by the laws as they are until such a time as I can rejoin my fellow citizens in full possession of free speech.
In the words of a dear friend’s drill instructor - “You’re here to defend the Constitution - not to live it!”
Here is my friends resignation letter to State of Texas Republican Party Chairman, Steve Munisteri:
I am writing to inform you of my resignation as a national delegate from the 23rd Congressional District.
In good faith I had undertaken to be a part of the GOP in this primary election season knowing how proud the GOP has been in the past of the support of both active and retired military members. The RNC had issued a press release to this effect in 2004 where in delegates were retired or active duty military
Futhermore, I had checked with the base legal office who stated that it was not routine for the military to actively prosecute on issues of free speech so long as service members refrained from appearing in uniform, marching in protests, speaking as representing the military or Department of Defense or making insulting and derogatory statements about the Commander-in-Chief. I did not do any of the above.
My local Bexar County Republican Party did not see the participation of servicemen and women in the same enthusiastic manner as the RNC of 2004. My participation in the convention was reported to the legal department at Lackland Air Force Base. After review of current Air Force instructions, based on the complaint by the Bexar county GOP, disciplinary actions were initiated against me. To be clear, had there been no complaint there would be no cause for initiation of administrative action against me, just as there were no actions taken against the 75 active duty servicemember delegates in 2004. As a result of the complaint of my participation an Article 15 citation was recommended against me for my actions in taking part as a delegate at the precinct and state conventions. This level of punishment is career ending in the military and threatens my ability to work as a physician in the private sector.
My commander, being familiar with my personal history, did not proceed with an Article 15 and offered me a Letter of Reprimand (LOR) in it's stead. This form of non-judicial punishment is not as severe as an Article 15, but can still effectively halt a military career. After responding to the allegations against me and explaining that my actions were taken in good faith, the LOR was rescinded. However my actions as a delegate must immediately cease or I risk both my military and professional career.
If the Republican party is going to make it policy to report any active duty servicemember that has the audacity to express their affinity for the conservative message of the Republican Party in any capacity outside of being a passive observer and voting in elections, I would recommend that the GOP issue warnings at all of their events that military members risk their careers by doing so. It has been a heartbreaking challenge to be put in the position of defending my professionalism and livelihood for actions that I believed were a sincere expression of my conservative values and free speech rights among like-minded Republicans who value our liberty and respect the service of our armed forces.
I respectfully resign as a delegate to the National Convention and offer my sincere apology to those in my district whom I have offended by participating in the Republican primary. If my input can have any bearing on the alternate that is chosen to replace the alternate who will move into my spot, Nunzio Previtera is the president of the Bexar County Pachyderm Club and has done a great deal to earn our district's trust and respect. He received many votes within our district during the convention and I am certain that he would be welcomed as a replacement alternate.
I look forward to the time that I can participate fully in the process of promoting the conservative principles championed by the Republican party, and it is my hope that my military status will not be a detriment to that cause in the future.
Jonathan Streeter MD
[end of story]
Now I ask you, is this right for a party who claims to be the party of the troops? My heart aches for my friend and his family as they try to deal with this unnecessary attack by someone who should know better.
The Republican Party should reconsider it's policy of actively targeting and attacking active duty military personnel and their families. What a shame.