A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Sergeant Gary Stein

Go Ahead, Critique the Commander-in-Chief

Marines

By Russell Smith

President Obama hasn’t hesitated to silence critics of his military policy.

First, he kept Private Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for months after Pvt. Manning allegedly leaked thousands of military documents revealing U.S. human rights abuses to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Then President Obama pressured Yemen to jail a journalist who uncovered evidence that the U.S. was lying about missiles lent to Yemen and used in a strike that killed Yemeni citizens. Now President Obama is discharging U.S. Marine Corp Sergeant Gary Stein for posting critical comments of the president and his military leadership on Facebook.

Sgt. Stein is 26 years-old, a nine-year veteran, and a Tea Partier. His Facebook group, Armed Forces Tea Party, critiques liberal politicians and policies. An example the group’s sharp wit: superimposing the faces of President Obama, Vice President Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi onto the movie poster for “The Incredibles“, but with renamed title, “The Horribles“.

Okay, not that witty. But perfectly legal.

In 2010, the notoriety of the Armed Forces Tea Party got Sgt. Stein an invite to appear on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” – but at the Marine Corps’ command, Sgt. Stein declined. At the time, Sgt. Stein was also directed to put a disclaimer on the Armed Forces Tea Party group, indicating it was not affiliated with the Marine Corps. He agreed and did so.

But two years later, Sgt. Stein received notice that his political postings constituted “serious misconduct” mandating the termination of his service to his country.

Sgt. Stein’s “other-than-honorable” discharge – resulting in a loss of rank and veteran’s benefits – has drawn reactions from politicians to pundits. Lawyers from the ACLU and the U.S. Justice Foundation have claimed that discharging Sgt. Stein for his political speech would violate his first amendment rights and have pledged to file a federal lawsuit on his behalf.  But some members of the media disagree, arguing that soldiers must give up their first amendment rights and fall in line behind their commander-in-chief.   (more…)

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