|David Haight (right), the "swinging general"|
I suspect quite a few of the comments come from people who are on the Ashley Madison (AM) list or know someone who is on the list. In other words, they want to discourage my reporting out of fear they will be outed. I've also seen evidence that some of the comments come from individuals associated with Ashley Madison itself. The company is based in Toronto Canada, and my blog statistics show quite a few comments coming from a server at "Bank of Canada, Ottawa Ontario." We're not sure why the traffic would be routed through a bank, but we do know the Ashley Madison "enterprise" is built on deceit, so it's possible many of our negative comments come from individuals who are paid to harass the only journalist in North America (or anywhere else) to look closely at AM's customer base.
On the assumption that at least a few of the comments are from people who genuinely disagree with our editorial pursuits . . . well, I offer them the U.S. Army. I also offer them the U.S. Air Force.
According to recent reports, the Army is so concerned about sexual misconduct among senior officers that it appointed a three-star officer to investigate the matter. Why? Because sexual misconduct among leaders has hurt the organization and threatens to cause even more damage -- much the way behavior linked to Ashley Madison has, or could, hurt organizations in the private sector.
That is especially true when you consider that our reporting has focused on professional elites -- lawyers, physicians, bankers, engineers, wealth managers, IT executives, etc. While one could label them private figures, they also make decisions every day that affect the public. Their missteps certainly can fracture individual families, but they also have the potential to harm all of us, by causing dysfunction in large organizations that serve the public.
The U.S. Army has learned that lesson, and it's trying to do something about it. From a report at USA Today:
The Army has named a three-star officer to review its burgeoning problem of sexual misconduct among senior officers and the shocking suicide [last] summer of a top general, Army Secretary Eric Fanning told USA TODAY.
The Army also instituted a new procedure that prompts the review of the security clearances of top brass to be triggered by investigations of misconduct, Fanning said Friday. The new approach to clearances, which grant troops and civilians access to national security secrets, stems from a USA TODAY report on a senior officer fired from his job last spring but allowed to retain his clearance for several months.
Lt. Gen. Edward Carbon will examine the recent spate of top officers felled by misdeeds, and, one, Maj. Gen. John Rossi, who killed himself, Fanning said.
“This has hit the general officer corps pretty hard,” Fanning said of the suicide.
How deep, or wide, is the Army's problems. For now, it's described as an "uptick," but the Army is trying to make sure it does not go beyond that:
Fanning stressed that the overall number of complaints lodged against the Army’s top officers and senior civilians has remained relatively low, and dipped in the most recent reporting period, fiscal year 2016, which ended on Sept. 30. The vast majority of that group of about 560 senior officials perform their duties honorably, he said.
Data do, however, show what Fanning referred to as “an uptick” in extramarital affairs and other misbehavior. An internal Army report found that “most concerning is that seven allegations of sexual misconduct, inappropriate relationships and sexual harassment were substantiated in FY16. This constituted a significant increase from the two allegations involving sexual misconduct that were substantiated in FY15. These types of cases have a significant negative impact on the Army and its image.”
The Army has been rocked by several high-profile cases of top officers felled by extramarital affairs, carousing and suicide. Among the findings of investigators: Maj. Gen. David Haight, the “swinging general,” had an 11-year affair and led a “swinger lifestyle”; Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, who had been the three-star adviser to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, frequented strip clubs, got drunk in public and had improper interactions with women; Rossi took his own life in July, just days before he was to be become a three-star general.
On February 8, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis will be demoted to one star and retired. From a report at USA Today:
One of the Army’s most promising generals will be demoted to one star and retired following a scandal that involved sex clubs in Seoul and Rome, high-priced booze and indiscretions with young female troops, the Army announced Thursday.
Ron Lewis, who had been a three-star general and top aide to the then-Defense secretary Ash Carter, will also lose about $10,000 a year in pension payments due to the demotion.
The Pentagon Inspector General "substantiated allegations that Maj. Gen. Lewis misused his government travel charge card for personal expenses, made false official statements regarding his (credit card) misuse, and engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman on multiple occasions," Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman, said in a statement.
The Army, it seems, is not trying to "shame" anyone; it is trying to protect its culture and its effectiveness:
Fanning speculated that the multiple combat tours over the last 15 years of soldiers like Haight, and their long absences from their families, may have contributed to their misconduct.
“We want to have a better understanding of the impact that has on our senior officers, and look for ways that we can mitigate any causes or linkages that we see,” Fanning said
The problem does not appear to be widespread, he said, but continual combat stress may be a common thread for those who violate military rules and laws.
“I don’t think there’s a problem because I don’t think the numbers bear that out,” Fanning said. “But if you look at that small subset of the general officer larger population, we want to understand why. My guess is there’s something systemic in there. We want to get at it and be preemptive about it.”
As for the Air Force, it stripped a retired four-star general of two ranks earlier this month and docked him $60,000 a year in pension payments after he was found to have had coerced sex with a subordinate officer. From a report at USA Today:
The rare move means that retired Gen. Arthur Lichte, who had led the Air Mobility Command until 2009, will be demoted to major general and see his retirement pay dip from about $216,000 per year to $156,000. His case is the latest in a string of general officers to be sacked or demoted in the last year for sex scandals.
Lichte's actions drew an extraordinary, stinging rebuke in a letter of reprimand in December from then-Air Force secretary Deborah James. James blasted Lichte for putting the officer “in a position in which she could have believed that she had no choice but to engage in these sex acts given your far superior grade, position, and significant ability to affect her career.”
James suggested Lichte, who is married, would have been court-martialed but that the statute of limitations of five years had lapsed. Lichte retired in 2010, but the Air Force began conducting an investigation in 2016 after it had received a complaint from the woman.
“You are hereby reprimanded!” James wrote, exclamation point hers, in the letter of Dec. 6, 2016. “Your conduct is disgraceful and, but for the statute of limitations bar to prosecution, would be more appropriately addressed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The military surely is wise to get a grip on the problem before it gets worse. The public would be wise to understand that sexual-misconduct is serious business -- the kind that can harm organizations, big and small.