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Knee-jerk redaction

Post by News Tribune Staff on Aug. 26, 2006 at 7:54 pm with No Comments »
August 26, 2006 7:54 pm

The Lt. Ehren Watada campaign and the Fort Lewis public affairs office released more or less the same version of Lt. Col. Mark Keith’s Article 32 investigating officer’s report, known bureaucratically as a DD Form 457.

More or less.

The Watada camp’s version skipped the first page of the four-page document, but included a complete transcript of the Aug. 17 hearing.

The Fort Lewis version included page one, but not the names of the four witnesses who testified at the hearing.

The names were redacted despite the fact the hearing was nominally open to the public and covered by a dozen or more journalists. Three of the four witnesses later went on to appear at a news conference the evening after the hearing.

An official at the PAO said he asked Army lawyers why the names were removed, and said he was told that since it’s an official Army document, its release is covered by the Privacy Act, and therefore the names have to be withheld.

This is the same Army that is trying to convince the watching world that its legal process is open, transparent and not pre-ordained (witness the cartoon kangaroo on the Watada web page).

This is not the first time this has happened. The Fort Lewis JAG office routinely blacks out most names in the records they can be persuaded to release, including those of the commanding officers who swear out charges against soldiers.

Some News Tribune readers might remember the Tacoma assistant city attorney who we took to nicknaming “Sharpie,” such was her zeal for blacking out records released in the Brame scandal. Perhaps she’s got a rival.

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