31 July 2009

Pentagon wants social network blockade on troops access to Facebook and Twitter

Today Navy Times' Bill McMichael reports here that DoD may cut servicemembers access to social networking sites on government computers due to network security and privacy concerns.

If DoD does pull the plug on Facebook and Twitter it wouldn't be the first time the Pentagon has blocked similar popular networking sites. Back in 2007, DoD blocked servicemembers access to YouTube and MySpace.

On Thursday Wired.com was the first to report, here, on the Pentagon's latest social blockade attempt.

House passes military voter legislation

Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Absentee Ballot Track, Receive and Confirm (TRAC) Act, H.R. 2510. I have previously discussed the legislation here. The bill's chief sponsor is Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-Calif.). Davis issued a press release which can be found here. The bill now heads to the Senate. Last week a similar military voting bill was attached to the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by the full Senate. That was discussed here and here.

30 July 2009

House subcommittee favorably reports HR 569

Today the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy of the House Judiciary Committee did a markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569. During markup three technical amendments were added to H.R. 569. The first provided that the legislation would be effective 180 days after its enactment. Second, the legislation would apply to all pending cases at the time of its enactment. Lastly, providing the time in which a petition for certiorari to be filed may be prescribed by the rules of the Supreme Court.

The subcommittee unanimously voted to approve H.R. 569 and it was favorably reported out to the full committee. When Congress returns from its summer recess in September it is expected that the full committee will take up H.R. 569. Also a Congressional report on HR 569 will be issued in the very near future. Contained in the report will be the testimony of witnesses at last month's hearing as well as statements of individuals and veterans and law associations.

[Disclosure: I have provided a six page statement to the subcommittee, in support of the legislation, which will be made public when the Congressional report is issued. I could not attend the hearing last month because I have been home in Sydney recovering from surgery.]

29 July 2009

House Judiciary subcommittee to markup Equal Justice for Our Military Act

On Thursday at 1000 hours (US Eastern Time) the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy of the House Judiciary Committee will markup the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, HR 569. To watch the markup live via webcast here is a link.

26 July 2009

This week in Congress (27 July 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, hearing on The Role of Professional Military Education in Officer Development, 1300 hours, 2122 Rayburn House Office Building.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, hearing on Review of Veterans' Disability Compensation: Forging a Path Forward, 0930 hours, 418 Russell Senate Office Building.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, hearing on Meeting the Needs of Injured Veterans in the Military Paralympic Program, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, hearing on Psychological Stress in the Military: What Steps are Leaders Taking?, 1400, HVC room 210.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, hearing on The Implications of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Limited Scope of Gulf War Illness Research, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon Office Building.

House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, hearing on Proposal on Reform of the Military Commissions System, 1300 hours, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, VRE Contracts for Veterans Counseling, 1330 hours, 340 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

25 July 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (27 July 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in its winter recess until 11 August.


There is one committee hearing occurring in the Senate this week despite the recess; however, that hearing does not involve military or veterans affairs matters.
_____________________________

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The full High Court is sitting in Canberra on 28 July, however there are no military or veterans affairs cases that are being argued.

Lane v. Morrison, case [2009] HCA 5, which was argued in April, is due to be decided at any time. The case involves a servicemember of the Royal Australian Navy who challenged the constitutionality of the newly created Australian Military Court after charges were brought against him. This blog has previously discussed the Lane case here.

Federal Court of Australia

The full court is in recess; it will next sit on 3 August 2009.

Pending

Kowalski v. Repatriation Commission, case SAD26/2009, is still pending. Veteran's claim appeal under the Veterans' Entitlement Act 1986 filed on 3 March 2009 from decision of single judge to full court, next listing date appears as 14 August.

Callover - Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Smith v. Commonwealth of Australia [2009] FCA 684, VID 516/2009. Veterans entitlement action - "double-dipping" - entitlement to pension for war-caused injury - payment in settlement of common law action in negligence. Whether both payments in repsect of incapacity from the same injury and whether Veterans Entitlements' Act 1986 (Cth) s 30C is applicable to the facts. Callover this date with settlement of index on 5 August which is after the full court returns from its recess.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess; it will next sit on 10 September 2009.

Australian Military Court

There are no cases of significance this week.

24 July 2009

Defence Force inquiry into fatal battle has led to lighter armour

Today the Australian Defence Force released an unclassified version of a report into the death of Corporal Matthew Hopkins, Royal Australian Army. Hopkins, a member of Australia's Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force, was killed earlier this year during operational service in Afghanistan. The inquiry officer found that Hopkins gunshot wound was fatal and that no medical intervention would have saved his life. It also held that heavy body armour did not contribute to Hopkins' death.

At the time of the battle when Hopkins was killed, Aussie troops armour weighed 10.8 kilograms (23.8 pounds). The inquiry report depicts a highly intense and chaotic battle. Hopkins and five other Aussie diggers were patrolling on foot near Kakarak (12 kilometers or 7.45 miles north of Tarin Kowt) in the Oruzgan Province when they encountered a strong group of insurgents. Hopkins and another soldier discovered the enemy first and fired upon them. Four separate groups of insurgents then fired back with automatic guns and rockets.

Hopkins and the other soldier ran into a walled compound and began covering other members of their patrol who were caught in the open. Hopkins was then shot in the head. After Hopkins was shot an Aussie medic ran more than 50 metres (54.6 yards) under fire to get to Hopkins. American troops sent in a helicopter to evacuate him which landed under fire. Hopkins stopped breathing on the battlefield and was revived. However, he stopped breathing again, and could not be revived.

Members of Hopkins unit said the combined weight of his and their armour made it difficult to lift and carry him whilst under fire. Troops are now issued with armour weighing 7.4 kilograms (16.3 pounds). The inquiry officer had made the recommendation that a formal Commission of Inquiry was not warranted. That recommendation has since been accepted by Chief Air Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the ADF. Minister of Defence John Faulkner has agreed with the report and authorised the release of an unclassified version of the report.

An ADF press release issued today can be found here. The unclassified inquiry officer's report can be found here.

23 July 2009

Senate pulls a Britney Spears: "Oops! . . . [they] did it again" in passing bill to grant enemies more Supreme Court access over that of U.S. troops

The U.S. Senate adjourned at 11:10 this evening after passing its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1390. There are many good provisions for servicemembers contained in the Senate's verison of the NDAA, such as military voting reforms. I have previously discussed this as well as other provisions which will benefit servicemembers here and here.

But "oops . . . [they] did it again" and left out a provision to grant U.S. troops full procedural due process protections in accessing the nation's highest court. There is an inequity in American law which prevents members of the U.S. armed forces from having equal access to the Supreme Court. Congress has known about the problem since 2004. This is the second time the U.S. Senate has done such - thus pulling a Britney Spears.

Under existing law court-martialed servicemembers sentenced to a year or more confinement or a puntive discharge must first convince the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces or CAAF, to review their case before becoming eligible to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. But the CAAF only grants discretionary review in less than 20 percent of cases. The other 80 plus percent of servicemember do not have any right to file any petition in the Supreme Court.

The first occasion to grant enemies superior high court access was when the Senate (as well as the House) passed passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and created 10 United States Code section 950g(d). And today marks the second time the Senate has granted greater procedural due process protections to enemies and detainees in accessing the Supreme Court over that of U.S. soldiers. (Compare S. 1390 at Title X, Subtitle D, Chapter 47A, Subsection VI, Sections 950c and 950f with 28 United States Code section 1259)

HR 2647, which is the House's version of the NDAA, does not have a provision to grant enemies automatic access to the CAAF like the Senate's does. Nor does it have a provision to grant U.S. troops equal access to the Supreme Court. Both HR 2647 and S. 1390 now head to conference where both Senators and Representatives will confer to finalize the NDAA.

Civilians convicted of state and federal offenses, illegal aliens and enemy combatants all have a right to petition the Supreme Court to review their criminal convictions. The Congressional Research Service has issued several reports to Members of Congress indicating that under current law the CAAF acts as gatekeeper to the Supreme Court unlike any other court in America. The most recent CRS report can be found here.

In 2006 the American Bar Association issued a report and passed a unanimous resolution urging Congress to fix the law. The ABA report can be found here.

Servicemembers convicted by court-martial and sentenced to less than a year confinement and no punitive discharge -- known as a "subjurisdictional sentence" -- do not have a right to appeal to any military appellate court let alone the Supreme Court. (10 United States Code section 866(b)(1)) But enemies and detainees convicted by military commission regardless of the type of sentence imposed have a free pass to automatic review by the nation's top military court, CAAF, and the right to petition the Supreme Court should S. 1390 become law.

There is legislation pending to grant servicemembers equal access to the Supreme Court in both the House and Senate. The Equal Justice for our Military Act of 2009, HR 569 is pending in the House and the Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel Act of 2009, S. 357 is pending in the Senate. In the last Congress an identical bill, Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2007, HR 3174 (110th Congress), was passed in the House but died in the Senate.

Last month the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HR 569. That subcommittee is expected to markup the bill in the near future.

How long must servicemembers wait until they receive full procedural due process protections in accessing the Supreme Court? I'm going to quote Senator Carl Levin, the present chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he was debating the NDAA earlier this week concerning a budget cut on the F-22: "If not now, then when?" Members of the Senate, if you do not grant troops equal access to the Supreme Court now, then when?

Senate attaches military voting reform bill to National Defense Authorization Act

Today the U.S. Senate, by voice vote, approved attaching the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, S. 1415 to the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1390. I've previously discussed S. 1415 here.

There is similar legislation that passed the House of Representatives last month: the Universal Right to Vote Act, HR 1604 and the Absentee Ballot Track, Receive and Confirm Act, HR. 2510. And I've also discussed those bills here.

"It is the least we can do for our troops to make sure their votes get counted when they are serving overseas," said Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who is the chief sponsor of S. 1415. "This bill will remove the barriers that too often conspire to disenfranchise our military men and women. It is on pace to become law in time for next year's federal elections." Schumer's press release can be found here.

22 July 2009

Student loan forgiveness for those called to active duty in U.S. armed forces is one step closer to becoming law

Yesterday the House Education and Labor Committee approved an amendment by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-Calif.) which would provide student loan forgiveness for servicemembers when they are called up for duty while attending college. Davis' amendment was added to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, HR 3221, which was passed by voice vote 30-17.

If a student is called up for active service in the U.S. armed forces they must often withdraw from college in the middle of a quarter without receiving credit for their work. However, often times these student soldiers would then later incur double debt for courses they will need to take again because of their service to the nation.

"These men and women have enough to think about without also worrying about whether they will have to pay additional student loans on the courses they have not completed," said Davis in a press release. "My amendment is fundamentally about fairness - service members who are activated while in school should not be charged for coursework for which they did not receive academic credit."

If enacted, the amendment directs the Secretary of Education to assume the federal student loan obligations that servicemembers incur when they are activated in the middle of an academic term. Davis provides an example: a servicemember expects to receive $5,000 (USD) in federal student loans for the semester. If activated after completing only 50 percent of the semester, that servicemember may still be charged $2,500 (USD) in student loans, even without receiving the academic credit.

The bill now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration. It is unclear whether it will go as a stand alone bill or be placed upon the suspension calendar.

21 July 2009

Change in nursing services for Aussie veterans

An open tender process for the continuation of community nursing services beyond 31 May 2010 by the Department of Veterans' Affairs ("VA") is presently being conducted. It is not expected that many veterans and war windows will be affected by the changes. However, there will be a change in service providers where present ones are no longer contracted to provide community nursing services on behalf of the VA.

In a press release, the VA ensures that community nursing services are maintained at a high standard and that they continue to meet the assessed clinical and/or personal care needs of eligible veterans and war widowers. The tender procurement process will be in accordance with the Australian Government's procurement guidelines, introduced in January 2005. The submission of tenders closes on 28 July 2009 at 1400 (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

The nation's largest veterans organisation, the Returned and Services League of Australia, is also monitoring the tender process. For additional information on the tender process go to the VA's website here.

19 July 2009

This week in Congress (20 July 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Monday, 20 July 2009

United States Senate, Full Senate to continue debate of S. 1390, which is the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, at 1300.*

* There may be floor amendments to S. 1390 related to the military justice system affecting servicemembers.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

United States Senate, debate on S. 1390 is expected to continue in the full Senate.*

* There may be floor amendments to S. 1390 related to the military justice system
affecting servicemembers.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

United States Senate, debate on S. 1390 is expected to continue in the full Senate with the possibility of a floor vote.*

* There may be floor amendments to S. 1390 related to the military justice system
affecting servicemembers.

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Oversight of Family Support Programs, 1400, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building [Note: The witnesses will be each services senior enlisted advisor.]

Thursday, 23 July 2009

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Examining Quality of Life and Ancillary Benefits Issues, 1000, 334 Cannon House Office Building
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

18 July 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (20 July 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in its winter recess until 11 August.


There is one committee hearing occurring in the House this week despite the recess; however, that hearing does not involve military or veterans affairs matters.
_____________________________

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The full High Court is not sitting until 24 August 2009.

Lane v. Morrison, case [2009] HCA 5, which was argued in April, is due to be decided at any time. The case involves a servicemember of the Royal Australian Navy who challenged the constitutionality of the newly created Australian Military Court after charges were brought against him. This blog has previously discussed the Lane case here.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

The full court is in recess; it will next sit on 3 August 2009.

Kowalski v. Repatriation Commission, case SAD26/2009, is still pending. Veteran's claim appeal under the Veterans' Entitlement Act 1986 filed on 3 March 2009 from decision of single judge to full court, next listing date appears as 14 August.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess; it will next sit on 10 September 2009.

Australian Military Court

There are no cases of significance this week.

16 July 2009

Senate continues debate next week on defense budget with dodgy provision to grant enemies greater military court access over that of U.S. soldiers

Just a half hour before midnight this evening, in our nation's capital, the Senate recessed debate on the fiscal year 2010 defense budget until Monday, 20 July at 1300 hours. If the Senate gets it's way, American servicemembers would have inferior access to the nation's top military court than that of enemies in which U.S. troops capture on the battlefield. Civilians, detainees, enemies and illegal aliens would all have a superior right to procedural due process protections over individuals who serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Thus far there has not been any floor amendments to address the inequity that a provision in Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, S 1390 would create by granting detainees and enemies greater access to the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ("CAAF"), over that of America's own U.S. troops. The bill permits automatic review by the CAAF of enemy convictions by military commission whereas U.S. troops convicted by courts-martial must first petition CAAF for discretionary review. Earlier this week I discussed the provision here in greater detail.

On Monday, the full Senate began debate on S 1390. But the Senate's debate has been largely upstaged by the Judiciary's hearings on the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. No Senator has introduced legislation or made a floor amendment to correct the inequity that the passage of S 1390 would cause for our U.S. soldiers in procedural due process protections on military appellate court access.

In all fairness to Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Russ Feinsgold (D-Wis.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who have in the past fought for equal right for servicemembers, they have been busy with the Sotomayor hearings. Each of these Senators sit on the Judiciary Committee. In the past, these three Senators have introduced legislation to grant servicemembers equal access to the Supreme Court, the Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel Act of 2009, S. 357. But S. 357 won't correct the inequity that S. 1390 would create in access to the nation's highest military court, the CAAF.

Calls and emails earlier this week to the offices of Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and John McCain (R-Az.) seeking comment have thus far not been returned.

Some veterans groups have emailed me indicating that if the bill manages to pass the Senate, that those veterans organizations will lobby lawmakers when the NDAA goes to conference calling for equal procedural due process protections for our own troops to be added to either the House or Senate versions of the NDAA. The House version, H.R. 2647, is absent the provision that would grant detainees and enemies greater military appellate court access.

Separately, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any defense budget that contains continued funding for additional F-22 "Raptors." S. 1390 contains a provision to fund the F-22 beyond the 187 jet fighters Congress has already funded. During the Senate Armed Services Committee's markup both Senators Levin and McCain voted to strip F-22 funding in the NDAA, which failed. Both Levin and McCain have since introduced a floor amendment to strip the F-22 funding. However, that amendment has not yet come up for vote because it's largely been stalled by other amendments - - none of which concern securing procedural due process protections for our troops.

CAAFlog has moved to a new URL

CAAFlog has moved to a new URL here.

15 July 2009

Senate Committee approves overseas voting bill

Today the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee unanimously approved the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, S. 1415 and reported it out to the full Senate. Under the legislation every state would be mandated to start and keep an electronic system for voters to request absentee ballots. The law would provide the state with options for either email, facsimile, logging into a secure website or other electronic means.

The bill would largely benefit those serving in the military overseas (and those American citizens, such as myself, who live abroad). Besides mandates on the individual states it would also require the Department of Defense to collect completed ballots from overseas military voters and make sure they are postmarked and sent by express mail before the deadline for receipt. Nine Senators are cosponsoring the bill, and its chief sponsor, is Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). It also enjoys bipartisan support with Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and John Cornyn (R-TX) as cosponsors.

"It is the least we can do for our troops to make sure their votes get counted when they are serving overseas," said Schumer, who also chairs the Rules Committee. "This bill will remove the barriers that too often conspire to disenfranchise our military men and women. If we can deliver supplies and high-tech equipment to the front lines of combat, we can figure out how to get our troops a ballot so they can vote. We plan to move this bill on the Senate floor in teh next few days. We want it to become law in time for next year's elections." Schumer's press release can be found here.

Sotomayor hearings continue while full Senate set to pass bill giving enemies greater court access over that of U.S. troops

[UPDATED from earlier post.]

While the Senate Judiciary Committee continues its hearings today on the President's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the full Senate is considering granting enemies greater access to the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ("CAAF"), and also to the U.S. Supreme Court over that of America's own soldiers. But thus far no Senator on the Judiciary has asked a single question of the nominee concerning the inequity that would be caused by granting enemies greater access to our nation's courts over that of our own troops.

Imagine this: An American GI captures an enemy on the battlefield to bring him to justice. Later that enemy accuses the GI of torture or some form of mistreatment. The enemy is later convicted by military commission and would have an automatic right to review in CAAF and a right to petition the Supreme Court for review. Conversely, the soldier is sent to court-martial, and if convicted, would only have the right to file a petition to ask CAAF for discretionary review - no automatic right to review. If CAAF doesn't grant review - - it refuses to grant review in more than 80 percent of cases - - the soldier then has no right to petition the Supreme Court. Yet the enemy that the soldier captured has free passes to both CAAF and the Supreme Court.

On Monday the full Senate started to consider the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, S 1390 while on the same day the Judiciary started its confirmation hearing for Judge Sotomayor. If the Senate's version of the NDAA is passed and enacted into law it would grant detainees and enemy combatants greater access to the CAAF than that of an American servicemember who is convicted by court-martial. Yes, that's right, an enemy of America would have greater access to the nation's highest military court -- CAAF -- (not to mention greater access to the Supreme Court) than that of an American GI who had been convicted by court-martial. The House's version of the NDAA, HR 2647, does not contain this provision.

Last week CAAFlog's Dwight Sullivan posted an article here concerning the Senate's version of the NDAA. Mr. Sullivan noted that tucked away in the bill is an amendment to the Military Commissions Act ("MCA") of 2006. This provision provides CAAF with exclusive appellate jurisdiction to review convictions by military commissions. Under the current system, convictions by military commission are first reviewed by the Court of Military Commisson Review ("CMCR"), then by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and finally discretionary review by the Supreme Court. The proposed new system abolishes the CMCR and takes away the D.C. Circuit's jurisdiction to review miltiary commissions, replacing it with that of CAAF.

The legislation allows an enemy who was convicted by military commission to have the right to review in CAAF for legal errors, factual sufficiency and sentence appropriateness by requiring the convening authority to refer the case to CAAF absent a waiver by the defendant of appellate review. (S. 1390 at Title X, Subtitle D, Chapter 47A, Subsection VI, Section 950f)

Yesterday The Huffington Post reported here that the military chief prosecutor, Navy Captain John Murphy, in Guantanamo Bay, is ready to proceed with 66 of more than 200 cases against detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay dentention facility. If any of the 200 plus are convicted, and S. 1390 becomes law, all of those convicted detainees would have automatic right to review by our top military court and discretionary review in the Supreme Court. What is that going to do to CAAF's docket? What impact would it have on shortchanging discretionary review of our own troops? Would less servicemembers be granted discretionary review by our nation's top military court because Congress granted detainees and enemies right to direct review? There are no studies on these serious questions.

Currently, America's own troops who are convicted by court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice ("UCMJ") must petition CAAF for discretionary review unless their case involves the death penalty or if the services top lawyer, known as the Judge Advocate General, certifies the case to CAAF. (10 U.S.C. 866) The review of 22 years plus of statistics show that CAAF only grants discretionary review in less than 20 percent of petitions for grant of review filed by convicted U.S. servicemembers. A civilian defendant or illegal aliens also has a much better chance of getting a criminal conviction reviewed upon the merits in the most conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit than does a servicemember in CAAF according to statistics from the Congressional Researh Service.

I'm having deja vu from 2006 when Congress passed the MCA. The 109th Congress saw fit to grant enemy combatants Supreme Court access once their military commission cases concluded review in the D.C. Circuit. (10 U.S.C. 950g(d)) In that same Congress, Texas Republican Lamar Smith (R-TX) indefinitely tabled the first Equal Justice for Our Military Act, HR 1364 (109th Congress) when he was chairman of the formerly named Subcommittee on Courts, Internet and Intellectual Property (renamed the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy) of the House Judiciary.

What the Senate's version of the NDAA does is it grants enemies greater procedural due process protections by providing automatic access to the nation's highest military court -- CAAF -- (not discretionary review in CAAF but an automatic right to have the case reviewed) and also provides access to petition the Supreme Court for discretionary review. It still leaves the majority of our own American troops who are convicted by courts-martial in the lurch.

U.S. servicemembers and certain civilian contractors convicted by courts-martial who are sentenced to less than one year confinement and no punitive discharge do not have any right to appeal to either the CAAF nor the Supreme Court. Further, those American GIs who are convicted and sentenced to a year or more confinement or a punitive discharge or dismissal must first petition CAAF for discretionary review unless they were sentenced to death or the service JAG certified the case and only then would have the right to petition the Supreme Court if CAAF first granted discretionary review. An American soldier must jump through so many hoops to obtain appellate court review of a court-martial yet under this NDAA an enemy has a free pass for review.

Over the last eight years Congress as a whole has paid much attention to the rights of detainees. enemy combatants and even illegal aliens. (Some Members of Congress have tried to do right by our troops: this includes Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) as evidenced by their work on HR 569 and S. 357.)

Some lawmakers and judges still posses the 18th-century-colonialism-mentality to treat our troops like second-class citizens. This 18th century thinking is exhibited by the recent statement by Chief Justice Roberts when he dissented in the case of United States v. Denedo. The majority opinion, in Denedo, found that the military courts had jurisdiction to correct there own errors. But the Chief Justice thought otherwise.

The Chief Justice's dissent observed, in a very simplistic manner, that a servicemember was "in the Army now" (the servicemember had actually served in the Navy) and as such the court need not address a petition for post-conviction relief. "You're in the Army now is a sufficient answer to such concerns," opined CJ Roberts. The Chief Justice seemingly took the position that American servicemembers under the UCMJ have very limited nature of relief to redress unconstitutional wrongs committed after a court-martial was final no matter how egregious the constitutional error may be. (CJ Roberts dissent in United States v. Denedo.)

This old and outdated way of thinking, as displayed by the Chief Justice, should mature to the 21st century to exhibit the way democracies are supposed to operate. Modern day applications of democracy, in which due process is a cornerstone, would see fit to afford our uniformed citizens full procedural due process protections; not treat them as second-class citizens. Should Sotomayor be confirmed, it is highly doubtful that she will hold such outdated 18th-century views about court access for our servicemembers as apparently does the Chief Justice.

Remember it's our troops that risk their lives to protect and defend our democratic way of life. Why then shortchange them of due process? And why grant enemies greater procedural due process than that of our very own troops who are on the battlefield bringing those enemies to justice? Congress should amend either the House or Senate versions of the NDAA to provide full appellate rights for our servicemembers before they see fit to grant enemies full and unfettered access to our courts.

Finally, where are Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in all this? Certainly, not looking out for the procedural due process of our own troops. Graham sits on both the Senate Armed Services and the Judiciary Committees; McCain is the GOP Ranking Member on the Armed Services Committee.

14 July 2009

House passes five year pilot program for veterans work-study

Today the full House passed, 422-0, the Pilot College Work Study Programs for Veterans Act of 2009, HR 1037. The vote roll call can be found here. Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) is the chief sponsor of HR 1037. The five year pilot program would permit veterans to work in various academia departments such as in administrative services offices for students, lab assistants, researchers, records, registration, teachers, and tutors.

Under the present system, these positions are not available to veteran students who have three-quarters or more course loads because the employment has to be related in someway to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Examples of such are jobs in veterans medical facilities. The bill has the backing of many veterans groups including the American Legion, which is the nation's largest veterans organization.

Last month the Congressional Budget Office issued a cost estimate on HR 1037 which can be found here. CBO estimates that the costs to the VA would be $7 million (USD) in 2010 and between the years 2011-2014, $10 million (USD) each year. The bill now heads to the Senate where it will most likely be referred to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee for consideration.

Delay in HR 569 markup

The subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy of the House Judiciary was due to markup the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, HR 569 on Thursday; however, there is now a delay. It's uncertain when the markup will take place although my sources think it will be prior to the August recess.

13 July 2009

Reduction in medicare rebate on cataract surgery may affect Aussie veterans

The Australian government intends to reduce the Medicare rebate on cataract surgery this year. There is also a possibility that this reduction will decrease the levels of reimbursements provided by the Department of Veterans' Affairs to service providers that offer cataract surgery for veterans.

The nation's largest veterans organisation, the Returned and Services League of Australia, or RSL, has written to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs expressing concern over the possible impact, and seeking clarification. The RSL also argues that veterans should not be disadvantaged in terms of their access to ophthalmology services resulting from the reduction of the Medicare rebate.

Public verison of Australia's 2009 Defence Capability Plan is now available

The public version of the 2009 Defence Capability Plan is now available here (it's 299 pages). I haven't had a chance to peruse it yet and probably won't until sometime next week so I don't know if there is any thing of significance in it which could affect active duty ADF enlisted and officer personnel.

12 July 2009

Specialized criminal courts for veterans diagnosed with PTSD and brain injuries

Today's San Diego Union Tribune has published a very interesting article here about specialized courts for veterans that have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or brain injuries and face civilian criminal charges. The UT indicates that the "goal of these courts is to rehabilitate the veterans not by putting them in jail but by providing aggressive case management which often includes closely monitored medical treatment, counseling and permanent housing."

This week in Congress (13 July 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Monday 13 July 2009

Full Senate to start consideration of S. 1390, which is the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, at 1100.

[NOTE: I have previously discussed the Senate's version here, here and here. There is a provision in the bill that would grant enemy combatants greater access to the nation's highest military court -- the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces -- if they are convicted by military commission over that of our own U.S. troops who are convicted by courts-martial which I discussed at length here. Under S 1390, enemies convicted by military commission would have an automatic right to America's highest military court whereas our own GI's would have to petition for discretionary review. Unfortunately, mainstream media has thus far ignored this provision so the majority of the public isn't aware of the inequity it would create. CAAFlog also discusses this provision here.]

Tuesday 14 July 2009

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: Hearing on Examining the Progress of Electronic Health Record Interoperability Between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Defense, 1000, 334 Cannon House Office Building

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Hearing on Women Veterans: Bridging the Gaps in Care, 0930, Russell Senate Office Building.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Hearing on Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, S 1415, 0920, 301 Russell Senate Office Building

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, Hearing on Beyond Service Core Competency: Are Our Junior Officers Prepared for Today's Security Environment?, 1400, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building [Note: the Deans and Commandants of the military service academies will be testifying before the subcommittee.]

House Veterans' Affairs Committee markup of pending legislation, 1015, 334 Cannon House Office Building

Thursday, 16 July 2009

House Armed Services Committee, Hearing on Prosecuting Law and War Violations: Reforming the Military Commission Act of 2006, 1400, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building. [Note: service Judge Advocates General will be testifying before the full committee.]

House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act, HR 569 [Time and location is yet to be announced.]

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, Hearing on Eliminating the Gaps: Examining Women Veterans' Issues, 1000, 334 Cannon House Office Building
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (13 July 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in its winter recess until 11 August.


There are a small number of committee hearings occurring during the recess; however, none of the hearings this week involve military or veterans affairs matters.
_____________________________

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

No military justice or veterans cases are being argued this week.

Lane v. Morrison, case [2009] HCA 5, which was argued in April, is due to be decided at any time. The case involves a servicemember of the Royal Australian Navy who challenged the constitutionality of the newly created Australian Military Court after charges were brought against him. This blog has previously discussed the Lane case here.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No military justice or veterans cases are being argued this week.

Kowalski v. Repatriation Commission, case SAD26/2009, is still pending. Veteran's claim appeal under the Veterans' Entitlement Act 1986 filed on 3 March 2009 from decision of single judge to full court, next listing date appears as 14 August.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess; it will next sit on 10 September 2009.

Australian Military Court

There are no cases of significance this week.

11 July 2009

Remembering a true Aussie hero: Edward "Ted" Kenna, VC

[UPDATED from earlier post.]

With the passing early Thursday morning of Victoria Cross receipt Edward "Ted" Kenna, who was aged 90 and a World War II veteran, Australia has only two living recipients of our nation's highest military honour. The Victoria Cross, or VC, is awarded for gallantry in the face of the enemy. The two remaining living Aussie VC recipients are Keith Payne who fought in Vietnam and Mark Donaldson who was in the current Afghanistan conflict.

Kenna enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1940 and served in the 23/21st Battalion in Victoria and later in Darwin. On 15 May 1945, a young Private Kenna, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions near Wewak, New Guinea, when he exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, killing a Japanese machine gun crew and making it possible for his company's attack to succeed.

Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, Chief of the Royal Australian Army, said that "Ted was an inspiration to us all. His actions while serving in New Guinea epitomises the characteristics all soldiers strive for - bravery, loyalty and determination." "His loss will be heavily felt by all members of the Army family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ted's family at this time," said Gillespie.

A state funeral for Kenna will be held on Thursday, 16 July at 1100 hours (Australia Eastern Time), at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Corner of Gisborne Street and Cathedral Place, East Melbourne. A second service will take place on Friday, 17 July at 1300 hours (Australia Eastern Time) at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Lonsdale Street, Hamilton, Victoria. Members of the public are welcome to attend but should contact the State of Victoria's Department of Premier and Cabinet, on 03-9651-0820 or 03-9651-5026 from 0900 starting Monday, 13 July and before 1700 on Tuesday, 14 July so that seating arrangements can be organised.

10 July 2009

House Judiciary subcommittee to markup HR 569

A House Judiciary subcommittee is expected to have a markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, HR 569 next Thursday, 16 July 2009. Last month the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy had a hearing on HR 569. The recorded video webcast of that hearing can be found here. The same subcommittee will be conducting the markup.

I do expect the markup to be video webcast live. When the link becomes available I'll update this post.

House passes appropriations bill on military construction and veterans affairs

This afternoon the U.S. House of Representatives passed 415-3 the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2010, HR 3082. The House-passed bill can be found here on Thomas. The results of the roll call vote can be found here.

Highlights of the bill are a boost in health care to injured servicemembers from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as other veterans. It would also increase the funding for new barracks, day care centers and gym facilities for troops and their families. There is an overall 12 percent increase for veterans medical services.

Congressman Bob Filner (D-Calif), who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, noted that "unlike any veterans funding bill before it, this legislation provides funding for medical-related accounts for the next fiscal year one year in advance. Responding to 19 late budges over the course of the last 22 years, this bill delivers adequate and timely funding for veterans' health care and offers a historic new approach to caring for our veterans." Filner's press release can be found here.

Earlier this year a Congressional report was issued on the bill which can be found here. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Reserve Officers Association creates servicemembers law center

The Reserve Officers Association, a Congressionally chartered veterans' organization, has created the Servicemembers Law Center. The center will help formulate legislation and military policy regarding legal issues of importance to members of the armed forces with particular emphasis on the Uniformed Servicemember Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, and military voting rights.

On behalf of ROA, the center will also file friend of the court briefs in USERRA and SCRA cases. Retired Navy JAGC Captain Samuel Wright is the executive director of the center.

ROA's press release can be found here.

08 July 2009

U.S. Navy stress center assists marines and sailors

The Navy Times has an interesting article today, which can be found here, on a stress center the Navy established almost a year ago at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. The mission of the center is to educate servicemembers about stresses and to help provide ways to cope, with the overall goal to improve mental health. Marines and sailors can access the center via online here.

Yesterday the Times ran an article about a study by the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego to figure out how much the way a person interacts with his environment can affect his mental health. Past studies have indicated that those with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, were people who previously reacted emotionally during stressful situations. The study focused on this question: Are people who react to a stressful situation by problem-solving, rather than by becoming numb or feeling as if they're in a daze, less likely to develop acute stress symptoms that could lead to PTSD? Researchers were surprised to find the answer to that question is no. In June the study was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. A copy of the study is available here.

07 July 2009

House Judiciary subcommittee to have hearing on military commissions

[UPDATED] Tomorrow at 1000 (US Eastern Time), in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the "Legal Issues Surrounding the Military Commissions Systems."

The chairman of the subcommittee is Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and the ranking GOP is Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis). The witnesses (which I confirmed with Judiciary's communications director) are:

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld
Former Prosecutor, Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions

Deborah Pearlstein
Associate Research Scholar, Princeton University

Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow and Executive Director
Center for Law and Counterterrorism, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Denny LeBoeuf
Director, John Adams Project, ACLU

While this hearing is not related to America's own troops or the UCMJ I'm very curious as to what is going to come from the hearing. Remember, when the GOP held majority status in the 109th Congress that it saw fit to grant enemy combatants Supreme Court access while indefinitely tabling the first Equal Justice bill.

Think tank releases study on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The California based think tank, Palm Center, has just released a study concerning America's policy on homosexuals serving in the military known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The study, titled "Secretary of Defense Authority to Implement Don't Ask, Don't Tell in a Manner Consistent with National Security" can be found here. It suggests that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates could use his authority to briefly halt applying DADT under the auspices of national security, which would give Congress time to repeal the law.

A poll conducted by a nonpartisan fact tank, Pew Research Center, in March indicates that 59 percent of Americans believe gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in America's armed forces. The report on that poll can be found here.

I note that my other home country of Australia has permitted gays and lesbians to serve in the Australian Defence Force since 1992 and there hasn't been any problems.

RAN Chief speaks out about sex scandal

The Royal Australian Navy has issued a press release, a day after national media broke a sex scandal story, in which Vice Admiral Russell Crane, Chief of Navy, condemns the misconduct. The RAN press release can be found here. I've previously discussed the scandal at length here. VADM Crane should order a day (or half-day) service-wide stand-down for sexual harassment training to all officer and enlisted personnel and not wait for an ADFIS inquiry to be complete especially given the past documented problems within RAN. Statistics show that the RAN has had triple the amount of unacceptable behaviour complaints filed as compared to the other services.

06 July 2009

Senate's version of NDAA calls on Defense IG oversight on delays in Navy court-martial appeals

The U.S. Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for FY 2010, S. 1390, was previously discussed here. The bill, which is now available on Thomas, can be found here. Since the bill became availabe on Thomas, I've finally had some time to peruse the Senate's version. If this version becomes law, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense would have oversight of post-trial delays in Navy and Marine Corps appeals of courts-martial. (The House version of the NDAA FY 2010, which does not contain any language for IG oversight, can be found here.) Over the years the Department of Navy has been plagued with long appellate delays. I certainly remember those delays when I was on active duty and on appellate leave in 1993-94. Many different Navy Judge Advocates General have tried to remedy the systemic delays but none have been entirely successful. A Code Committee report from 2006 shows that a new case tracking system was implemented by the Navy JAG's Code 46. That report can be found here.

A 2 July 2009 Senate report titled "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010", in a section called "Items of Special Interest" indicates that the Senate Armed Services Committee, also known as SASC, "believes action is long overdue to analyze and correct longstanding problems with post-trial processes for preparation of records of court-martial and for appellate review of courts-martial convictions within the Department of the Navy."

Earlier this year the San Diego Union Tribune reported here on the case of Marine Corps Sergeant Brian Foster who was imprisoned for nearly a decade before his case was actually reviewed by a military appellate court and reversed. The Senate report mentions the Foster case as well as other cases. In April, a website called Leatherneck, an online Marine Corps community for Marines and veterans, posted an article here. The article noted that "Sgt. Brian Foster was illegally deprived of the constitutional rights he willingly swore to uphold."

If the Senate's version of the NDAA becomes law, the IG's review is due to be provided to the Secretary of the Navy no later than 1 January 2010. After the IG completes its report, the Secretary of the Navy has until 1 March 2010 to furnish a written report to both SASC and the House Armed Services Committee.

05 July 2009

Royal Australian Navy sex scandal: RAN Chief should order service-wide sexual harassment training

[UPDATED from 4 July 2009 post]

The Sydney Morning Herald reports here that a group of male Royal Australian Navy sailors kept a record book, and made bets, of how many female sailors onboard the HMAS Success they had sex with. Dollar amounts were placed on female crew with higher amounts for sex with female officers or lesbians. In May, Commander Simon Brown, commanding officer of the HMAS Success, which was underway, sent the sailors back to Australia from Singapore whilst a formal investigation is being conducted.

I'm now starting to have flashbacks of the time period during the U.S. Navy's tailhook scandal. In the early 1990's I was on active duty at the time of that scandal. The American Navy made heaps of mistakes concerning that scandal. The RAN should take a lesson from the American Navy's mistakes in the tailhook scandal. The American Navy sex scandal took place in September of 1991, but the U.S. Navy didn't take corrective action in preventative training of U.S. Naval personnel for nearly a year - well after wide spread media attention and Congressional concerns. I remember that the U.S. Navy Secretary and Chief of Naval Operations required a full day service-wide stand-down training for every officer and enlisted person - but that didn't occur until July of 1992 - almost a year after the sexual harassment scandal.

I call on Vice Admiral Russell Crane, the Chief of RAN, to take a lesson from the mistakes of the U.S. Navy and swiftly order a service-wide stand-down so that sexual harassment training can be given.
The American Navy tailhook scandal had long lasting effects as reported five years later by the New York Times here. Australian VADM Crane has an opportunity early on to take immediate corrective action and to mitigate any lasting effects on the female sailors in the Royal Australian Navy.

The allegations, if true, are of the most serious kind and deserve the Navy brass' full attention. RAN female sailors should not be subjected to this type of degrading and humiliating behaviour. These deplorable actions can cause a break down of good order and discipline. Further, it is not good for esprit de corps of female officers and enlisted personnel. It also can be construed as sexual orientation harassment of lesbian sailors. This behaviour needs to be quickly stamped out of the RAN.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard appeared on Ten Network's Meet the Press this morning and the first question Bill Woods asked concerned the RAN sailors' sex betting book (surprising the first question wasn't on the OzCar scandal otherwise known as "utegate"). "Obviously this is a matter for our defence forces to deal with and to fully investigate," Gillard said to Woods. She further added that "we don't want to see anything that precludes women from having a good career in our armed forces . . . clearly these allegations need to be fully investigated." Meet the Press' transcript of the interview with Gillard can be found here.

RAN does offer training in equity and diversity at its recruit school; and the training does encompass sexual harassment. A Defence press release states that Navy people are briefed regularly on their responsiblity to treat other fairly and know that unacceptable behaviour will be dealth with. But according to Defence Department statistics, in the past two years there have been a total of 102 complaints of sexual offences or harassment in the Navy. In 1997, five female sailors had claimed they put up with years of sexual abuse and assault whilst serving in the RAN.

A 2006 Defence investigation uncovered widespread failure to combat harassment and sexism. That investigation was started by allegations of harassment in sexually explicit remarks made to female reservists. The 2006 report can be found here. Additionally, statistics, which can be found here, show the Navy has had almost triple the amount of unacceptable behaviour complaints filed as compared to the other Australian armed services. There appears to be less accountability and training in the RAN as compared to the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Army. Overall the other services showed a 26 percent decrease in sexual harassment complaints in the years 2005-06 whilst there was a 19 percent increase in workplace bullying.

Late Sunday afternoon the Australian Defence Force issued a statement, which can be found here, regarding the alleged misconduct. VADM Crane said the "Navy is awaiting the results of the [Australian Defence Force Investigative Service] investigation and will act as quickly as possible to address appropriate findings and recommendations particularly should disciplinary or administrative action be warranted." ADFIS is a new agency and officially opened in May 2008 according to a ADF press release here. The ADFIS was created in response to a 2005 Senate inquiry into the military justice system. This high profile investigation will no doubt test the adequacy and sufficiency of how the new investigative agency handles cases.

Whilst it is good that a Defence inquiry is being conduced, in light of these very serious allegations, I must reiterate that a service-wide stand-down for training on sexual harassment should take place in the RAN. VADM Crane should not wait for a Defence investigation to be completed before action is taken. Service-wide sexual harassment training should be conducted immediately. Our female sailors, who serve in uniform to protect and defend our great country, certainly deserve to be protected from this form of degradation.

02 July 2009

NIMJ files amicus brief supporting Army solider's FOIA appeal to Supreme Court

The National Institute of Military Justice has filed an amicus brief supporting U.S. Army Private Dwight Loving's petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court in a Freedom of Information Act appeal. Loving was sentenced to death by general court-martial and is seeking documents under FOIA with respect to his death sentence. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government and the D.C. Circuit affirmed. The lower courts held the sought documents are protected under FOIA's exemptions. If the Supreme Court grants cert. the case could clarify whether or not executive privilege applies to judicial decisions that impose a sentence of death.

NIMJ's brief can be found here. Loving's cert. petition can be found here. CAAFlog has reported on the Loving petition here.

Aussie troops permitted to give money to Afghan victims

Today the Sydney Morning Herald reports here that the tactical payments scheme went into effect yesterday. The scheme permits Aussie diggers to carry cash and pay Afghan civilians whose family members are killed or injured due operations of the Australian Defence Force. Under past procedures the ADF had to first seek approval from the Department of Finance. Only senior officers of lieutenant colonel or higher will carry the cash, most likely in US dollars. Individual payments can be up to $250,000 AUD. On 15 June 2009, Greg Combet (ALP - Charlton, Vic.), the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, made a House speech on the scheme which can be found here. A House Parliament explanatory memorandum can be found here.

Australian Army cadet died from peanut allergy

The Australian Defence Force released findings of an investigation into the 30 March 2007 death of Royal Australian Army Cadet Nathan Francis of Scott College in Daylesford, Victoria. Francis died during a military exercise when he ingested rations that contained peanuts and had an anaphylactic reaction.

In a press release, the ADF stated that it "deeply regrets Nathan's death." Further, that "action has been taken to reduce the likelihood of this tragedy happening again." Appropriate measures to improve the prevention and management of allergies have been developed by ADF. The press release indicates that "Defence is confident it is now well placed to manage any future risks relating to allergic conditions and the use of combat ration packs."

Because the matter may still be subject to further legal proceedings Defence is not commenting any further on the matter. The ADF press release can be found here.

01 July 2009

U.S. Marine who spoke to reporter cleared of charges

A U.S. Marine Corps enlisted man was cleared of charges by a five member court-martial panel yesterday reports the San Diego Union Tribune today here. The Marine had spoken to the UT's military reporter, Rick Rogers, concerning his role in the disclosure of classified information to civilian law enforcement officials. Last month this blog discussed the case here after the military judge had ordered Rogers to comply with a defense subpoena and testify.

The UT had challenged the military subpoena under the First Amendment's right to a reporter not to disclose non-published information. But defense attorney, retired Marine Corps Brigadier General David Brahms, countered the UT's argument with the accused's right to a full and fair trial which outweighed the reporter's right. Navy Commander Kevin O'Neill, the military judge, agreed and ordered Rogers to testify. O'Neill's order can be found here. But Brahms didn't need to call Rogers as a witness because other testimony was sufficient to make the defense's case.