Saturday, May 09, 2009

Gay servicemembers have to be careful with letters, internet, profiles

Chris Johnson has an important story in The Washington Blade (May 8) “‘You have to be careful’: With military monitoring e-mails, gay troops get creative in writing home,” link here.

Troops, especially when deployed, have to use great discretion when writing to same-sex partners back home, especially by email on military computers, and possibly with physical mail. It’s unlikely that the military could intercept physical letters, given the volume (unless a servicemember was already on a radar screen) but military email is quite often monitored. Some servicemembers use “gender neutral” language in personal letters from overseas.

Obviously, active duty military and even reservists could run risks for what they post on social networking sites, blogs, message boards or other sites, even from their own computers. The military would become an important case of the problems or controversies reported in recent years about employers trolling the Internet for “reputation” problems for job applicants (often drug use or underage drinking or nudity, in the civilian world).

The Blade article mentioned an anonymous gay Naval judge advocate, who mentioned that a “sympathetic command” is important in practice.

Certainly, when President Clinton proposed “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” in 1993 at Fort McNair, he would have thought of looking at personal correspondence as “pursuit.” But the 1994 regulations probably would permit it.

“” has a webpage (that it says originated with SLDN in 1998) in which it reports that the military sometimes tries to question civilians about correspondence they receive from military members or about their interaction with military members. The military has no jurisdiction over civilians (except possibly contractors overseas) and the civilians have no obligation to answer any questions. Such intrusions in recent years seem to have been rare. Here is the reference.

There was a notorious case with an AOL profile in 1996.

Arab Linguist (Dan Choi) may be discharged under DADT:

Also, today, CNN posted a video where Lt. Dan Choi, an Arab linguist and West Point graduate, has been confronted with the possibility of discharge under "don't ask don't tell" for announcing his homosexuality on television. The mailed letter, referring to moral dereliction and conduct prejudicial to "good order and discipline" was partially read on the video. He may work with SLDN and go to the administrative hearing rather than resign for an "honorable discharge."

He was interviewed by CNN's Carol Costello.

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