Why Did U.S. Air Force Hand Out Private Military Records – Including a Sexual Assault – to Opposition Researchers?
In October 2022, Jennifer-Ruth Green was flying high as a challenger in a congressional race against one-term Democratic incumbent, Rep. Frank Mrvan of Indiana. A month before the election a Politico magazine profile of Green, a Republican, was mostly positive: an interview conducted as she piloted a 1979 Piper Warrior single-engine plane.
The writer, Adam Wren, told the story of a Black woman who had graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy before becoming a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and the Indiana National Guard. Then the piece delved into Green’s record as a captain stationed in Iraq during the U.S. occupation.
“Green’s mostly stellar military record took an unexpected hit in early 2010, according to military records,” Wren said. In 2009, Green was given a “does not meet standards” rating in which she showed “two instances of lacking judgment while deployed.”
One of these instances was the loading of her weapon inside a military facility. The other involved “wandering away” from a forward operating base. The backstory that Green told Wren about her “wandering” incident was painful and horrific. She said that when she and a small group of officers visited the national training center, an Iraqi serviceman sexually assaulted her, prompting her to flee. She went against advice from a superior not to report the incident. After she reported the incident, Green received a poor evaluation – despite a protest from her direct supervisor who wrote “I do not question her leadership, judgment or professional skills.”
Question: How did Adam Wren come to know such intimate details of Green’s military record? The Privacy Act should have required consent from Green for the release of these personal details from her file. And why was her record spilled into public view just before the election?
This is the background for the request by House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), who are asking the service why the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force disclosed the records of 11 service members in an unlawful manner. Within this specific issue is the larger concern of how much personal information the government collects and retains on us, and the leverage that information gives some in government, granting them the power to control or punish.
Among the suspected former service members are Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE.) and Zach Nunn (R-IA), as well as Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents. An Air Force spokesperson told Politico that “virtually all” of the 11 unapproved releases were made to the same third party “who represented himself as a background investigator seeking service records for employment purposes.”
That “investigator” appears to be, based on media reports, Abraham Payton of the Due Diligence Group, an opposition research outfit reported by Politico to have a six-figure contract with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Reps. Jordan and Stewart asked for records concerning these releases, including “all documents and communications referring to the U.S. Air Force’s disclosure of OMPF’s (Official Military Personnel Files) to the Due Diligence Group.”
We will cover the Air Force’s answer, which is required by Reps. Jordan and Stewart by close of business, March 30. As this privacy story unfolds, it should prompt Congress to act on the larger issue of the government’s collection of millions of Americans’ data through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as well as data purchases from data brokers. If a distinguished veteran can be abused in this way, what could the government do to the rest of us?
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