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“The irony of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply.”

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Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law.  We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal.  The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk.  It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.  By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes!  We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.

May 3, 2010

President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

After the recent letter by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be delayed, this is my plea to you on the behalf of the soldiers serving in silence to end this law now:

I never wanted anything more in my life than to be a career officer.  My entire childhood I was exposed to abuse, violence, and crime.  I came out of it all with a simple, yet overwhelming desire to serve.  When my first attempt at getting into the Naval Academy failed, I waited restlessly until I turned eighteen.  I enlisted on my birthday and set off to prove myself to the Academy.  I was eager to leave the cruelty of my past and join a true family.

I knew I was gay, but it was irrelevant to me then.  I was determined to join an elite team of handlers working with dogs trained to detect explosives.  As I studied hard to pass exams and complete training, I was convinced that the current law would protect me.  I knew that based on merit and achievement I would excel in the military.

I never told anyone I was gay.  But a year and a half later while serving in the Middle East, I was tormented by my chief and fellow sailors, physically and emotionally, as they had their suspicions.  The irony of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply.

Shop talk in the unit revolved around sex, either the prostitute-filled parties of days past or the escapades my comrades looked forward to.  They interpreted my silence and total lack of interest as an admission of homosexuality.  My higher-ups seemed to think that gave them the right to bind me to chairs, ridicule me, hose me down and lock me in a feces-filled dog kennel.

On one day in the Middle East, I was ordered by a superior to get down on my hands and knees and simulate oral sex on a person working in the kennel.  We were supposed to pretend that we were in our bedroom and that the dogs were catching us in the act.  Over and over, with each of the dogs in our unit, I was forced to endure this scenario.

I told no one about what I was living through.  I feared that reporting the abuse would lead to an investigation into my sexuality.  Frankly, as we continue to delay the repeal of this horrible law, I can’t help but wonder how many people find themselves in similar, despicable situations and remain silent.  My anger today doesn’t come from the abuse, but rather from the inhumanity of a standing law that allowed for it.

Three and a half years later when the Navy started investigating claims of hazing, I had finally earned my place at the Naval Academy Preparatory School.  But instead of celebration, I began to question the life of persecution, degradation, and dishonor DADT had forced on me.  I questioned the institution — our great military — that would condone and endorse this kind of treatment of its own members.  The only thing I had ever done wrong was to want the same thing my straight counterparts wanted: a brotherhood and something to stand for.

At NAPS I realized that a career of service under DADT would be a forfeiture of my basic human rights.  It would be a forfeiture of basic job security, peace of mind, and meaningful relationships, particularly with my fellow straight service members whom I was forced to deceive and betray.

After completing a six-week officer candidate boot camp, my commanders said they wanted to offer me a leadership role.  But after what happened in the Middle East and even the suicide of my close friend, I was mentally and emotionally depleted.  And so — with my knees buckling — I offered my statement of resignation in writing:

“I am a homosexual.  I deeply regret that my personal feelings are not compatible with Naval regulations or policy.  I am proud of my service and had hoped I would be able to serve the Navy and the country for my entire career.  However, the principles of honor, courage and commitment mean I must be honest with myself, courageous in my beliefs, and committed in my action.  I understand that this statement will be used to end my Naval career.”

They say some people are just born designed for military service.  It‘s the way we are wired, and the only thing that makes us happy.  For too many of us, it‘s the only family we ever had.  I am sure now, more than ever, after all the loss and hardship under DADT, that all I want to do is serve as a career military officer.

Mr. President, any delay in repeal is a clear signal to our troops that their gay brothers and sisters in arms are not equal to them.  I plead that you take the lead — fight for repeal — and allow qualified men and women to serve their country.

Very respectfully,

Joseph Christopher Rocha

Former Petty Officer Third Class, U.S. Navy

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Burn Bags and Use of Personal Email: Justices’ Security Practices Even Worse Than Leak Investigation Showed

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Supreme Court employees raised security concerns that were not made public when an internal investigation was completed following the leak of a draft opinion reversing abortion rights.

Multiple sources familiar with the court’s operations told CNN that justices often used personal email accounts for sensitive communications, employees used printers that didn’t produce logs and “burn bags” to collect sensitive materials for destruction were often left open and unattended in hallways.

“This has been going on for years,” one former employee said.

Some justices were slow to adopt email technology — they were “not masters of information security protocol,” according to one source — and court employees were afraid to confront them over the security risks.

Supreme Court marshal Gail Curley in her investigative report noted that printer logs intended to track document production were insufficient, but a former employee said employees who had VPN access could print documents from any computer, and remote work during COVID-19 shutdowns and otherwise meant draft opinions could have been taken from the building in violation of court guidelines.

Curley’s report noted that court methods for destroying sensitive documents should be improved, but three employees said striped burn bags supplied to chambers were often left sitting out unattended, and each justice had their own protocols for disposing of court documents.

A source familiar with court security practices said some colleagues stapled burn bags shut, while others filled them to capacity and left them near their desks, and others simply left them sitting in hallways where anyone with access to non-public areas could have taken sensitive materials.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: ‘Has made my life miserable’: Marjorie Taylor Greene explains why she hates being in Congress

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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’

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If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.

“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.

But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”

“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.

READ MORE: Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”

The allegations continue.

“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”

“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”

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The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”

The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”

The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.

You can read The Beast’s full report here.

 

 

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Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

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When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.

The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.

Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”

READ MORE: George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticketed via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”

“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”

CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”

Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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