Inside Opinion

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Tag: stolen valor

Aug.
5th

Military can catalog World War I bombs but not medals?

This editorial, which will appear in Monday’s print edition, is an expanded version of an earlier blog posting.

For the last six years, Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson has been compiling a database listing every bomb the Air Force has dropped since World War I.

Sounds like a monumental mission, right? For World War II alone, he had to scan an estimated 10,000 pages of bombing reports.

Yet the Pentagon has long said that it would be too hard for it to compile another database – one listing medals given to service members. Such an online database would allow the media and individuals to verify claims many people falsely make regarding decorations they supposedly received.
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Aug.
1st

Pentagon inches into a Stolen Valor database

On the io9.com website I learned that the Air Force is compiling a database listing every bomb its planes have dropped since World War I. Sounds like a monumental mission, right?

Yet the Pentagon has long said that it would be too hard for it to compile a database listing medals given to service members – something that could be checked to verify claims all too many people falsely make.

I always thought that argument a little specious. So I was glad to learn that the Pentagon is backtracking and is, indeed, setting up a medal database. It’s taking

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July
4th

Please, Pentagon: Give us a Stolen Valor database

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Stolen Valor Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a week ago, went a very long way to avoid a quarrel with the First Amendment.

It didn’t threaten just anyone who falsely claimed military honors. If there was any way a claim of combat distinction could be theoretically argued, the law didn’t apply. It didn’t apply even to the vast majority of false claims of heroism.

Under the 2005 law, you could still lie about being a military veteran. You could lie about being a brave veteran.

You could lie about fighting in Vietnam even if you were 3 years old at the time. You could lie about fighting fearlessly in the Battle of Khe Sanh, lie about saving lives there, lie about routing the Viet Cong single-handedly. You could lie about being gravely wounded yet giving up your place on the helicopter so that your buddies could be evacuated instead.

You could lie about being tortured as a prisoner of war and refusing to give in. You could lie extravagantly enough to get free drinks from everyone in sight for the rest of your life.

The single thing you could not do is lie about receiving the Medal of Honor or other specific military decoration if a prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had not received one and knowingly claimed you did.

It had to be a lie refuted by objective, bright-line proof – a lie comparable to advertising a Fountain of Youth Cream that supposedly turns 70-year-olds into 20-year-olds, complete with magical birth certificates. The law was so narrow, so based on matters of unambiguous record, that it left no room to single out unpopular opinions or criticism of government.
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April
3rd

False claims to valor are not victimless crimes

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got it wrong on the Stolen Valor Act.

The 2005 law was a response to the seemingly countless people who fraudulently represent themselves as decorated combat veterans. A 2008 Chicago Tribune investigation found, for example, that tombstones, obituaries and even the online edition of Who’s Who were rife with unsubstantiated claims of combat honors.

Often the bogus heroes never served in the military at all. In a case now before the 10th Court of Appeals, a Colorado man passed himself off as a Marine Corps

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