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Newsmonger: First Camp Lejeune, Next Toxic Triangle?, Inside closed Lackland briefing

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

"There was no reason for that briefing to be closed," said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif, who has also called for open hearings and was present at last week's closed briefing. "There wasn't anything divulged, frankly, that would have impacted ongoing court martials."

At the briefing, Speier said, were 11 committee members, all of whom "expressed their dismay about the situation," and Air Force top brass, including Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

In the briefing, they covered neither specific Lackland cases nor some of the broad-sweeping questions that have yet to be answered, like root causes, solutions, or the scope of sexual abuse within the Air Force, she said.

Claude Chafin, a spokesman with the House Armed Services Committee, said leadership may have worried open hearings would impact ongoing investigations into into Lackland trainers. "When you get into a situation where you're looking at ongoing investigation or ongoing prosecutions, you have to worry about what the military calls 'command influence,'" he said. Republican South Carolina Congressman Joe "You Lie!" Wilson, who head's the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the official request that the briefing be closed, Chafin confirmed.

Parrish says open hearings into the matter are crucial, particularly as the Lackland scandal continues to widen. Late last month Air Education and Training Command announced investigations into three more Lackland trainers, boosting total number of those under investigation or charged at the base to 15. Possible victims now stand at 38. At the closely watched court martial of former Staff Sgt. Luis A. Walker, sentenced 20 years on multiple counts of misconduct including rape, details emerged that it took a month for one trainee's report of assault to reach a squad commander, after someone else had reported another assault by Walker.

Why the delay, and is it sign of a command scrambling to protect its own? Those questions and others weren't answered in last week's closed briefing, Speier said.

"I asked a series of questions that were pretty fundamental. How many investigators do you have on the job? What kind of training do they have? Are you going to interview the 7,000 women who have come through as trainees over the last 8 years or not?" Speier said she read a letter her office received from someone working on-base at Lackland, someone who claimed military rape has been a problem at Lackland for at least 8 years.

"I think the public has a right to know these answers," she said. "I think the victims have a right to know."

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