by Pam Zubeck
An Air Force lawyer at the Pentagon has essentially cleared Brig. Gen. Dana Born, the Air Force Academy's dean of faculty, of ordering a counterinsurgency against the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
The attorney, W. Kipling At Lee Jr., the Air Force deputy general counsel, also found that an investigation into the poisoning of David Mullin's service dog, Caleb, was "inconclusive."
Mullin, a former AFA economics professor who sued the academy over a religious matter last year, says he disputes all of the findings in the three-paragraph letter (see below). First, he says the MRFF has evidence that Born ordered her subordinate, Col. Thomas Drohan, in a mid-year performance review, to conduct a COIN (counterinsurgency) against the organization. The MRFF has sought the review through the Freedom of Information Act, but hasn't obtained the document.
In a Dec. 9, 2011, deposition given by Born in an unlawful dismissal lawsuit filed by Mullin, Born testified she didn't order a COIN, which both Mullin and MRFF's founder Mikey Weinstein say constituted perjury.
At Lee ruled her statements during the deposition were "factually correct."
As for the investigation into Caleb's poisoning, Mullin has maintained the dog was harmed while at the academy. The dog survived, but his vet concluded the dog had been poisoned, Mullin has said.
"I think it is criminal obstruction of justice," Mullin says of the investigation. "They performed an incompetent and incomplete investigation. For instance, you do not go and interview suspects more than a month after the incident, and that's exactly what they did."
Lastly, there's been much made about the academy's alleged resistance to allowing the Dec. 9 deposition to occur on the academy grounds. Weinstein says the academy refused to provide protection for him, which he says he needs in light of numerous and repeated death threats. (Weinstein is Jewish and is trying to break what he considers the iron grip that fundamentalist Christians have on the military. Recently, MRFF persuaded the military to stop placing the seals of the four services on Bibles.)
Mullin says there was plenty of time to make arrangements to have the deposition at the academy but the academy gave Weinstein's bodyguard the wrong phone number.
"The bodyguard told me he tried to make contact well over a dozen times with no response over a period of days. They were really uncooperative," Mullin says.
Here's the account the bodyguard, Anthony Burnside, provided the Indy in an e-mail:
I was never given any help from the Academy. I was given the wrong phone number to call and make arrangements. I never got an answer from anyone. The Academy was never in proper contact with myself for security arrangements. To date I was never contacted by any government officials for my side of the story. I have attached my email correspondence between myself and Major Bauman explaining my reticence and lack of help from the Academy.
Burnside tells us in an interview he couldn't get an answer at any phone number he was given for the academy. He also says he wasn't interviewed or contacted in any way by At Lee or anyone else involved in the investigation that resulted in At Lee's findings.
Which was that there was no COIN, no perjury by Born, no poisoning of Caleb and no dispute over arrangements for the deposition.
Mullin says now that the administrative process has run its course, he and MRFF are considering filing a lawsuit over the COIN order and the investigation involving his dog.
Weinstein dismissed the letter as so much hogwash, noting that Caleb's vet confirmed rat poison in the dog's tissues.
He also said MRFF lawyers are analyzing the possibility of legal action in which the organization would make a constitutional common law claim against the academy and Air Force for creating an atmosphere in which MRFF's and its clients civil rights were violated.
Referring to At Lee's findings, Weinstein said, "You can't waive a wand and say no dog was poisoned there, no COIN ordered there, there was no problem between the head of security forces and my body guard. You can't say, 'We are an island of constitutional conformance when in fact the opposite is true.'"
As a footnote, At Lee was at the center of controversy when a special congressional panel was formed in 2003 to investigate the sexual assault scandal at the Air Force Academy. The panel, chaired by the late Tillie Fowler, concluded, in part, "It is clear from our review of nearly a decade of efforts to solve this problem that the common failure in each of those efforts was the absence of sustained attention to the problem and follow-up on the effectiveness of the solution."
At Lee headed up a working group in 2000 that studied sexual assaults at the academy going back to 1985. At Lee asked to form the group, saying in an e-mail to another officer he wanted his office and Air Force Office of Special Investigations to “discuss the procedures in place for responding to allegations of sexual assault against cadets; whether they remain appropriate after the passage of time since their institution; and whether they now create unacceptable risk for the Academy leadership.” (Emphasis added.)
The Fowler commission notes: "In addition to considering the merits of the Academy’s confidentiality policy, the Sexual Assault Policy Working Group collected information about the number of sexual assaults since 1985, and analyzed such sources as Social Climate Surveys and “reprisal climate behavior data.”
But in the end, At Lee's group never produced a formal report, Fowler's panel noted.
Some saw this as something of a smoking gun in the sexual assault scandal, arguing that the Air Force knew for years that sexual assault was rampant and that the academy lacked appropriate processes to deal with it.
Here's At Lee's letter regarding the COIN, Caleb and the deposition arrangements: