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IG reports on generals' misdeeds hard to access

Aug. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Army's Missile Defense Agency, was allowed to retire in January as a three-star general after a Pentagon IG report found he bullied subordinates. Such reports are difficult to obtain from the DoD, USA Today reports.
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Army's Missile Defense Agency, was allowed to retire in January as a three-star general after a Pentagon IG report found he bullied subordinates. Such reports are difficult to obtain from the DoD, USA Today reports. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
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At the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General, investigative reports into the misdeeds of generals, admirals and top DoD civilian employees are available to the public only if you ask for them.

One catch: The public has to know which reports to ask for.

“At the Office of Inspector General, we must balance the need to inform the public with respecting the privacy of individuals, maintaining the confidentiality of whistleblowers and sources to the extent possible, and safeguarding sensitive information,” said Bridget Serchak, chief of public affairs for the IG. “As a result, we do not ‘proactively’ or automatically release Administrative Investigations reports to the public.

“Consistent with [Justice Department] guidelines, we post redacted versions of substantiated senior official investigation reports on our public website after receiving three FOIA requests, and after weighing the public interest versus the privacy interest of the individuals [senior officials] involved pursuant to a FOIA process,” Serchak said.

So not only does one person need to know the name of an official who has been investigated and to ask for that report, two other people must also ask for the same report. Even then, the report will be edited and released publicly if unnamed people at the IG office deem it fit for public consumption.

Unlike reports that the IG’s office says exonerate an official of suspected wrongdoing, these are investigations that found problems to merit the official’s removal from office or reprimand. Yet the investigative reports on these officials remain hidden from public view for months after those in question have left their jobs or retired. For example:

■ Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, head of the Army’s Missile Defense Agency. A May 2012 report found that O’Reilly “engaged in a leadership style that was inconsistent with standards expected of senior Army leaders.” That style featured screaming at subordinates in meetings and teleconferences. Although the report was completed in May 2012, O’Reilly was allowed to retire in January as a three-star general. See the report here.

■ Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. The inspector general found in May 2012 that Huntoon had improperly used his aides to staff private charity events, feed a friend’s cats and provide driving lessons. He agreed to reimburse the employees more than $1,800. The report remained secret until The Washington Post obtained it through a FOIA request in June. See the report here.

■ Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil Jr., commander of the U.S. Eighth Army in South Korea. A former three-star general, Fil was busted down a rank and forced to retire after improperly receiving gifts from a private Korean citizen while leading U.S. troops in that country, the inspector general found.

That report was completed last year and remained secret for more than a year until the Post obtained it through a FOIA request. See it here.

■ Gen. William “Kip” Ward, head of the U.S. Africa Command. A June 2012 investigation report found that Ward and his wife improperly used military travel and his staff, often forcing them to pick up their laundry and do their shopping.

Ward was busted down to a three-star general and forced to retire in November, five months after the report was completed. See the report here.

Other reports can be found at in the IG’s FOIA reading room.

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