Wednesday, December 4, 2013

USAFA Responds to Gazette, Thomas

The primary doc via the Gazette.

Sanka freeze-dried defense:

USAFA contests the time at which Thomas was recruited.  One year after Thomas claims.

He accumulated demerits over threshold for separation well before recruitment.
AFOSI agent/contact did not appear at hearing, but met personally with Commandant and Vice Commandant. Thomas was apparently unaware of this.

The written agreement Thomas signed specified that he was to break no rules while working undercover.

Any rules he did break during this time period were his own choice. He was never given instructions to break rules.

He was not required to repay his tuition since most of the misconduct occurred in his first and second years.

He is not required to serve in the Air Force in any capacity.


There are marked discrepancies in the accounts. Thomas claims he was ordered to break rules. The Academy claims the contrary. Both claim there is a signed document outlining the terms of the service as an undercover agent. According to the original story, there is an 86 page dossier of his activities and communications with his handlers. The documentary trail should be used to sort out who is being less than truthful.

If Thomas, during his first two years, had accumulated as many demerits as is claimed, why was he not separated earlier than his senior year?  Seems the answer has to be, because he looked to be useful for investigatory purposes.  If so, and he had been promised that his prospects for retention were good if he took part, then we have to consider three things: 

1. Whether and at what point his actions consequent to recruitment as undercover agent were deserving of separation. 

2. Whether and at what point reassurances were made and;  

3. Whether and at what point said reassurances ceased being made in good faith.

The defense states that he continued to break rules after recruitment, and was not ordered to do so. It also implies that the frequency of such infractions lessened in his last two years. If, as the document argues, he was not required to break rules in order to carry out his work, then it would follow, ipso facto, that he would not have accumulated any demerits for so doing, (assuming of course, he followed the orders of the OIS). It would follow that any and all subsequent demerits would have been accrued due to his own poor choices. 

If so, one possible explanation: He felt he had a “pass” due to his role, and took advantage.  It would also follow that a choice was made by the people in charge of the undercover operation (and oversight) to retain him despite the continued untoward activities. 

So, we have two very different accounts. What does follow from the truth of either is that it is SOP for OIS to recruit and make use of cadets who are otherwise quite problematic to do undercover work in hopes of busting druggies and sexual predators. 

This carries certain implications: 

It must be the case that the institution believes this is a component of the best way to deal with these problems.  That is a very questionable belief.

It is certainly not the only way to deal with these problems.  Another way is to involve non-clandestine criminal investigative units, legal and disciplinary procedures that do not involve planting informants, all the while being above board with your student body, and making it abundantly clear that reprobate behavior will not be tolerated. Additionally, the students can be encouraged to inform command of criminal behaviors through normal channels.  Apparently, USAFA came to the conclusion that these means were inadequate to the challenge.  Are we to believe this? If it were true, then why is this sort of thing NOT happening at the sister academies?

Further questions:

Did they ever consider the repercussions of the program’s existence going public?

Consider the impact on the student body. They now know that the institution has, for some time, made regular use of fellow cadets as undercover agents.  At the same time, students are encouraged to be fully forthcoming themselves, to value truthfulness very highly.  So, they live in a conflicted environment, to say the least. They now know there are some peers among them who are not fully forthcoming, and in fact actively deceptive. They now know that the institution has not been fully forthcoming and deceptive. They now know that some numbers of problematic cadets are retained for law enforcement purposes. They now know that such cadets claim to have been the victims of broken promises.  They now know that such cadets might be being allowed to get away with things for which others would suffer consequences in order to further investigations.

Consider the impact on faculty and staff. Consider the chain of command, which, if unaware of the program, now have to integrate it into their evaluation of the institution.  They now wonder if they too are being watched by the plants. They now consider whether the institution is living up to moral standards. They now have to grapple with the question of why they were not informed of the practice. They have to consider whether they had not been trusted all along.

This seems a ripe environment for cynicism or disillusionment. 

How will the Board of Visitors take this?   

How will parents of past and present Cadets take this? 

Alumni (both students and faculty/staff)?

How about Congress? DOD? The President?

The ends here do not justify these particular means.