Gillibrand, Outside Group Push Back Against Military Sexual Assault Report

Victims advocates have pressed for the decision to prosecute a sexual-assault case be taken away from the military chain of command.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks while U.S. military leaders testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military June 4, 2013.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Jordain Carney
Jan. 31, 2014, 12:48 p.m.

Sen. Kirsten Gil­librand is push­ing back on a sub­com­mit­tee re­port re­leased Thursday that re­com­men­ded com­mand­ers keep their au­thor­ity in sexu­al as­sault cases.

A ma­jor­ity of the Role of the Com­mand­er sub­com­mit­tee said they didn’t be­lieve re­mov­ing com­mand­ers’ au­thor­ity in mil­it­ary sexu­al-as­sault cases would boost sexu­al-as­sault re­port­ing or re­duce the num­ber of sexu­al as­saults.

“There is noth­ing sur­pris­ing about a Pentagon sub-pan­el work­ing mostly be­hind closed doors sup­port­ing stated Pentagon policy and en­cour­aging more time to wait and see if the prob­lem gets bet­ter. We have waited for too long, be­cause un­der any met­ric, the sys­tem is broken and our ser­vice­mem­bers de­serve bet­ter,” James Rahm, a spokes­per­son for the New York Demo­crat, said.

The sub­com­mit­tee, which has nine mem­bers, was cre­ated as part of the Re­sponse Sys­tems to Adult Sexu­al As­sault Crimes Pan­el, es­tab­lished by the 2013 Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act.

And Pro­tect Our De­fend­ers, a mil­it­ary sexu­al-as­sault vic­tims ad­vocacy group, quickly hit back at the re­port.

“The idea that pro­fes­sion­al, in­de­pend­ent, justice is good enough for Amer­ic­an cit­izens, but not for those who risk their lives to pro­tect our val­ues is un-Amer­ic­an,” said Pro­tect Our De­fend­ers Pres­id­ent Nancy Par­rish, in a state­ment.”… This pan­el has so far de­cided to stand with the status quo and the hol­low Pentagon prom­ises of ‘zero tol­er­ance.’”

Only one of the nine, Eliza­beth Hill­man, a law pro­fess­or at the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia Hast­ings Col­lege of the Law, dis­agreed with the sub­com­mit­tee’s re­port, not­ing that com­mand­ers “are neither es­sen­tial nor well-suited for their cur­rent role in the leg­al pro­cess of crim­in­al pro­sec­u­tion.”

Mem­bers of Con­gress have changed how the mil­it­ary deals with sexu­al-as­sault cases in the past few Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Acts, in­clud­ing re­mov­ing a com­mand­er’s abil­ity to over­turn jury con­vic­tions and re­quir­ing a ci­vil­ian re­view if a com­mand­er de­cides against pro­sec­ut­ing.

The sub­com­mit­tee’s re­port sug­gests that more time is needed to see if such changes can cre­ate “mean­ing­ful im­prove­ments” be­fore mak­ing a “sys­tem­ic” change.

What We're Following See More »
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.