Anti-Commander and Chief Facebook post tests military rules

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Vista123, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. Vista123

    Vista123 5-Year Member

    Aug 5, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Anti-Commander and Chief Facebook post tests military rules

    Military observers say he may have gone too far saying he won't follow president's orders

    Marine Sgt. Gary Stein first started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. Then he declared that he wouldn't follow orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama.

    While Stein softened his statement to say he wouldn't follow "unlawful orders," military observers say he may have gone too far.

    The Marine Corps is now looking into whether he violated the military's rules prohibiting political statements by those in uniform and broke its guidelines on what troops can and cannot say on social media. Stein said his views are constitutionally protected.
    While troops have always expressed their views in private, Stein's case highlights the potential for their opinions to go viral as tech-savvy service members post personal details, videos and pictures that can hurt the military's image at home and abroad.
    "I think that it's been pretty well established for a long time that freedom of speech is one area in which people do surrender some of their basic rights in entering the armed forces," said former Navy officer David Glazier, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

    "Good order and discipline require the military maintain respect for the chain of command," Glazier said. "That includes prohibiting speech critical of the senior officers in that chain of command — up to and including the commander in chief."
    Strict Pentagon rules

    According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform can't sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.

    Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.

    In January, an Army reservist wearing camouflaged fatigues got into trouble for taking the stage during a rally in Iowa with Republican presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul.

    Stein was first cautioned by his superiors at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, in 2010 after he launched his Facebook page, criticizing Obama's health care overhaul. Stein volunteered to take down the page while he reviewed the rules at the request of his superiors.

    He said he determined he was not in violation and relaunched the page under the shortened account name Armed Forces Tea Party. Last week, he said his superiors told him he couldn't use social media sites on government computers after he posted the message stating he would not follow unlawful orders of the president.

    Stein said his statement was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

    Another Marine alerted his command about the statement, Stein said he respects the office of the president, but he does not agree with Obama's policies. He said he is within his rights to speak up.

    "Just because I'm a Marine doesn't mean I don't have free speech or can't say my personal opinion about the president or other public official just like anybody else," Stein said.
    "The Constitution trumps everything else."

    Stein said it's positive when service members are well-versed on the Constitution and what's going on in government. "When we know what we're fighting for, we fight harder," he said.

    The Marine Corps said Stein is allowed to express his personal opinions as long as they do not give the impression he is speaking in his official capacity as a Marine. Spokesman Maj. Michael Armistead said the Corps is taking a closer look to ensure Stein has not crossed that line.

    "At this time, he has not been asked to take down the statement on his page," he said.
    Stein appears in a dress shirt and tie on his Facebook page but he also describes himself as "a conservative blogger, speaker, the founder of the Armed Forces Tea Party and active-duty, eight-year Marine Corps veteran."

    Marine Sgt. Jerret Wright, who liked Stein's page, said Stein "probably skirted the line a little bit" with his latest message about not following Obama's orders, but his boldness in expressing his views has been refreshing in a community that often feels silenced.
    "People assume that we're zombies with an on-and-off switch, and that we listen to orders and do nothing else," Wright said.

    Military observers say it's not that simple. They say it is bad form to lash out at the commander in chief. Experts also say his Facebook postings appear to link his professional standing with his political views.They also point out that the Pentagon policy is necessary in preventing political and religious debates that could divide a unit and disrupt the strong working relationship that is needed to carry out missions, Glazier said. "There are plenty of examples in the world of militaries heavily involved in influencing political events that have shown that is not conducive to civilian rule of law," he said.
  2. NorwichDad

    NorwichDad 5-Year Member

    Apr 6, 2010
    Likes Received:
    I think that any member of the armed forces should completely refrain from political statements of any kind. There have been hundreds of thousands of American men and women that have sacrificed their lives for our system of civilian rule and laws. On April 5, 1951 Representative Joseph William Martin, Jr., the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, read a letter from General MacArthur critical of President Truman's limited-war strategy on Korea aloud on the floor of the House. It was a dangerous precendent and McArthur had to be sacked. We have our system of laws and systems to prevent the United States from becoming a country of dictators. It seems to be a strong and enduring system. Actions such as MacArthur's undermine it. Our service members man the wall to protect our system of laws and rights. This is a fine line that cannot be crossed.
  3. pilot2b

    pilot2b 5-Year Member

    Jul 8, 2011
    Likes Received:
    I agree with you in many ways, and yes, I think this Marine went too far. Yet like the official statement from the Marine Corps stated, he is free to say what he believes so long as it isn't in his official capacity as a service member. He should stay away from comments that directly attack the president (or other elected officials), but he should have every right to comment on policy AS A CIVILIAN.
  4. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Apr 1, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Unlike the UCMJ restrictions on an officer, I believe an enlisted member has no such restriction. He is free to verbally "attack" the president all he wants, as long as he is not speaking as a Marine or participating in any event while in uniform.

    The statement from the USMC seems to confirm that.
  5. bruno

    bruno 5-Year Member Retired Staff Member

    Feb 2, 2008
    Likes Received:
    While Article 88 specifically refers to Officers I wouldn't bet the farm that you have free reign as an NCO to say whatever you feel like, and of course h is not only expressing contempt, but advocating the disobedience of orders. Basically this would be covered by Article 134 of the UCMJ- the "everything clause" that covers every loophole that could be construed as prejudicial to good order and discipline.

    Good article from the Army Times prior to the last election discusses politics and free speech for service members. :
  6. osdad

    osdad 5-Year Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Likes Received:
    I suspect he'll have that opportunity soon enough.

Share This Page