“We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does"
December 2, 2013 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Honor and deception: A secretive Air Force program recruits academy students to inform on fellow cadets and disavows them afterward.
posted by no regrets, coyote (33 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
seems like someone who can be bullied into being an informant is someone who should not be trusted with military secrets.

In a weird way this seems like it works.
posted by Colonel Panic at 1:32 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The program also appears to rely disproportionately on minority cadets like Thomas.
posted by telstar at 1:34 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


They pledge to an honor code: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” Telling a lie can get a cadet expelled. Even telling misleading truths, known as “quibbling,” can land a cadet in hot water.
This sounds more like Sunday School that a professionally run organization. The problem with accepting nonsense values like this, values that people will ignore, is that you end up with a leadership that clearly doesn't and can't follow the very core values that define the organization, like the Academy commanders who lie over something as obvious as having no knowledge of the program. If not lying REALLY was that important, every single Academy commander should have been disciplined but of course that's not going to happen, which ends up eroding the culture of the organization.

Judging by the article most cadets seem to think parts of the culture is bullshit:
Some cadets, he discovered, kept secret houses in Colorado Springs where they could store motorcycles, throw keggers, hook up with the opposite sex and do other things forbidden on base. He said he started going to house parties almost every weekend, taking photos on his phone, writing down addresses, and noting who was doing what.
Yeah, Sunday School. Obviously doesn't apply to combating sexual assault and such.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:38 PM on December 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


So the military academy that has hired a 'ex-gay' conversion therapist to run their "character coaching" programs for cadets has a program with a shady relationship with the truth that screws over those in the minority? Hmmm, not surprised.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Does snitching ever work out well for snitches? Aside from the ones getting shortened prison sentences, I guess.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2013


The real lesson here seems to be that you must cover your own ass no matter what. Seems like a safe backup of all those e-mails and texts could have been pretty useful when the shit finally hit the fan for some of those kids.
posted by jquinby at 1:46 PM on December 2, 2013


like the Academy commanders who lie over something as obvious as having no knowledge of the program

OSI is separate from the Academy. I wasn't in the Air Force, but the Army version (CID) is notorious for doing stuff like this without informing the higher-ups. I'm fairly certain that at least two people I worked with (one I directly supervised) were CID agents.
posted by Etrigan at 1:52 PM on December 2, 2013


seems like someone who can be bullied into being an informant is someone who should not be trusted with military secrets.

But only because the Air Force has created an environment where that person has to follow silly rules with dire consequences for infringement.

It's a strange thing, a branch of the armed forces with a fetish for morality. And in a sense, if it detracts from its efficiency at fighting wars, an immoral one.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:53 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a strange thing, a branch of the armed forces with a fetish for morality.

I genuinely don't understand how not lying, cheating or stealing is "a fetish for morality."

There are lots of troubling things at the Air Force Academy, but the Honor Code is a pretty low bar for people we're going to trust with nuclear weapons.
posted by Etrigan at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Replace "sexual assault and drug busts" with "rooting out alleged subversives" and this sounds like a whole lot of the stories my uncle told me from his days of being a scientist in the USSR and having to deal with the Party.

Everything from the philosophic cartwheels around the basic concept of "deception," to complete disavowal of anyone roped into the scheme, to the scapegoat-level punishments, to even the very genesis of the whole project, which dealt with addressing a serious problem in the most roundabout manner possible to avoid getting anyone's hands dirty.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on December 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Christ. The Air Force is really a mess, isn't it?

Air Force general in charge of the nation's nuclear missiles and bombers relieved of duty:
A senior U.S. Defense official said he was fired over "conduct." Officials said that it did not have to do with gambling, or the loss of a nuclear weapon, or sexual misconduct.
Well that's a relief.

Air Force trainers sexually assault female recruits:
(CNN) -- The U.S. Air Force has now identified at least 31 women as victims in a growing sex scandal, a four-star general said Thursday, and there might be more. The Air Force is broadening its investigation to "actively seek any others that may have been affected by this," Gen. Edward Rice, the commander of Air Force Training, said.
Air Force staffer who led sexual assault prevention unit charged with groping

AIR FORCE BANS PERSONNEL FROM READING NEWS STORIES REPORTING NSA SCANDAL

Unprecedented U.S readiness crisis: Air Force strips 17 officers of authority to launch nuclear weapons

All that from a quick "air force scandal" Internet search.
posted by notyou at 2:13 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I note that with the end of the era where service men and women could be kicked out for being gay, it leaves OSI, CID, et al. with resources that they have to spend somewhere. These agencies once devoted not-inconsiderable resources to tracking down and hounding out gays. They're not exactly going to downsize those people as that mission goes away. Drugs are always a good standby.
posted by tyllwin at 2:15 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Notably, the Naval Academy has the Honor Concept, which leaves off the "tolerate" part.

Midshipmen don't lie, cheat or steal. We bullshit, gouge, and recon.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:17 PM on December 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


When Eric Thomas believed in the honor code and lived out his belief, he broke everything: the credibility of the Air Force hierarchy, the morale of the student body, the secret organization that claims to be trying to enforce the code, and the facade of civilian oversight of the military-- and he exposed the code itself as a cynical and corrupt lie.

And as long as the misconduct he exposed is not addressed, it gives our entire country the lie.
posted by jamjam at 2:46 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I genuinely don't understand how not lying, cheating or stealing is "a fetish for morality."

It isn't, of course, and this isn't really about the honor code itself. It's about the schadenfreude some people get at the failings of the people in that organization. Common theme around here...post to the Blue about the failings or fuckups of a member of some disliked group (military, southerners, capitalists, etc) and the echo chamber of followons trying to generalize that failing into the common failing of every member of that group is deafening.

As aspirational goals and organizational expectations go "don't lie, cheat or steal" are pretty good ones.
posted by kjs3 at 2:58 PM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Does snitching ever work out well for snitches?

Ask Tim Allen. Or Andrew T. Weil.
posted by telstar at 3:14 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or Elia Kazan.
posted by klangklangston at 3:18 PM on December 2, 2013


As aspirational goals and organizational expectations go "don't lie, cheat or steal" are pretty good ones.

On the other hand, the need to codify it suggests some pretty deep organizational issues. Sort of the same way I see signs all over my town warning of dire consequences for public urination.

NO SMOKING. NO SPITTING. THE MGT.
posted by logicpunk at 3:18 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chew seven times and spit this one out. Shameful.
posted by buzzman at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2013


It seems like every time I hear something bad about the Air Force it's almost always the Academy.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:55 PM on December 2, 2013


In an interview with The Gazette, Tilo refused to talk about the confidential informant program, other than to say, “We use informants in the same way any other law enforcement does.”

Well, that's probably true.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:07 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honor codes really aren't that weird or that unusual, and this is a pretty typical wording. The directional commuter college where I work uses the same one.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:09 PM on December 2, 2013


The whole "do not tolerate" thing is always problematic. At what point does admirable loyalty to friends become covering up crime? Back in the day, hazing caused the death of one West Point cadet, and there was debate in congress about abolishing the academies entirely. Didn't happen, of course, but the nature of hazing was moderated after that. Score one for common sense.

Flash forward to the 1990s and early 00s. No more hazing, instead, assaults and rapes. Big scandal in the Air Force Academy, you might recall, congressional inquiries and such. So when crimes are being committed, if the cadets drop the code and cannot be counted on to report them, who are you going to call? Apparently the OSI. Tough call, but judging from the reaction here, the Air Force is damned if they do, damned if they don't.

As to "Sunday School nonsense values" - we are talking about people who are being prepared for jobs in which they have the power of life and death over dozens, scores, hundreds, thousands of people. I should damn well hope they are held to Sunday School standard, i.e., staying sober, respecting women, avoiding and reporting criminal behavior, following some not very difficult rules. Better to come down hard on people at the academy than to find them responsible for atrocities in the field later on.

Interesting to see what the new superintendent has to say about all this.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:16 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is imperative for the health of our nation for her uniformed assassins be of the highest moral caliber. I'd hate for someone who cheated on an exam to order a drone strike on a suspected terrorist and his family.
posted by Renoroc at 5:06 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I should have put "morality" in quotes. Reporting that Bloggins has committed a rape or a theft is different from reporting that Bloggins didn't chew the mandatory seven times.

Honor codes may be fine, I don't know. But putting someone in a situation where he can be blackmailed because he attended a party? I'm not sure that's a very good way to get the right people with the right attitude in charge of your nuclear weapons.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:19 PM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Replace "sexual assault and drug busts" with "rooting out alleged subversives" and this sounds like a whole lot of the stories my uncle told me from his days of being a scientist in the USSR and having to deal with the Party.

It does rather feel like US society is going through its own sort of Brezhnev Stagnation, doesn't it? A bureaucratic/secret police state grinding up people's lives in the nominal service of values that nobody actually cares about or understands any more.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This sounds more like Sunday School that a professionally run organization.

Isn't it common knowledge that large areas of the US Air Force are enclaves of evangelical Christians?
posted by sneebler at 7:10 PM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The whole "do not tolerate" thing is always problematic. At what point does admirable loyalty to friends become covering up crime?

The way it was explained at West Point was that if they were really your friends, they wouldn't put you in such a position.

Back to the main point of the article, this informant business is deeply fucked up. I would like to think that the same things aren't happening at West Point or the other service academies, but I can't say I'm very optimistic about that. I first saw this article being shared by some fellow alumni and we're pretty much all of the same mind about it, which is to say that it is a terrible practice.

The officers involved appear to be guilty of a crime I've found in fellow graduates. That is, they think that upon graduation from the academy, the Honor Code no longer applies to them. That's just not true. The only thing that changes is that it is easier to get away with lying. Additionally, it's absolutely insane to think that OSI is operating completely independent of the chain of command. Who would have thought that a total lack of accountability might lead to something like this?

Oh and I'm going to add "uniformed assassin" to my signature block. It has a nice ring to it. Thanks, Renoroc.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:09 PM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]



Replace "sexual assault and drug busts" with "rooting out alleged subversives" and this sounds like a whole lot of the stories my uncle told me from his days of being a scientist in the USSR and having to deal with the Party.


there's an old joke, i don't know the original, that the military is a communist (in the sense that it's not based on market principals) organization ironically defending capitalism.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:30 PM on December 2, 2013


This is my surprised face.

The last time I heard bad about the Academy, it was about religious coercion on cadets.

I wonder if perhaps it might be something in the blue dye causing such compulsive acts of irony.
posted by Goofyy at 4:15 AM on December 3, 2013


Everyone sounds like they have to appear rigidly bound to the code but can, with the right opportunities and a modicum of craftiness, dodge it for the fun stuff. And in moderation, this sounds like something I'd want military leaders to be extremely proficient in. I don't want a honorable war (aside from the no-dirty-weapons bits which are actually extremely nice to have), I'd rather a bunch of people who know the tactics and strategies backwards and forwards with the kind of mind that loves to take advantage of people who are mentally stuck using said tactics and strategies.

Though, developing a class of people like this would require more observation and management and less bureaucratic rules machine . And I cannot say that I've ever encountered a manager in the industry or academia thus far that was willing to operate as a system within a system to nurture a set of proteges. Perhaps the military is different in that sense.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:42 AM on December 3, 2013


Oh and I'm going to add "uniformed assassin" to my signature block.

That does sound a lot cooler than "plumber/janitor/gauge watcher/powerpoint training endurance competitor."
posted by ctmf at 8:32 PM on December 3, 2013


You forgot landscaper.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 10:52 PM on December 3, 2013


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