Pentagon in ‘fog of lies’

In war, the confusion generated by fighting and killing is often referred to as “the fog of war” at the Pentagon. According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group committed to changing how the military handles sexual misconduct allegations, a “fog of lies” has been standard operating procedure at the Pentagon, too.

Protect Our Defenders uncovered an effort by the Pentagon to undercut support for a Senate bill that would strip military commanders of their authority to decide which sexual assault complaints go forward to trial. According to internal government records used to buttress the Pentagon’s argument, civilian authorities are less likely to hold people in the military responsible for sexual assault than military prosecutors are.

Not so. The number of cases brought by local district attorneys and police against those in the military was either dramatically low-balled or omitted completely. This shady data even alleges that military authorities aggressively prosecute sexual assaults where civilian authorities refuse to, which is the opposite of what happens in reality.

The Pentagon’s testimony before Congress was a series of untruths designed to undermine efforts to move jurisdiction for prosecuting sex crimes from the military to civilian authorities. Protect Our Defenders wasn’t able to find one case of sexual assault that was prosecuted over the objections of civilian authorities.

The military stands by its characterization of the data, which is a standard response. Someone in the Pentagon hierarchy should be held responsible. Even if the military wasn’t consciously lying during its testimony, this episode doesn’t bode well for its ability to interpret straightforward data.

The above editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.