Iraq-Serving Senator Plagiarized His Army War College Thesis

John Walsh looks and sounds like a senator. The Democrat, who replaced retiring Max Baucus earlier this year and is running for reelection this fall, leans on his 33-year as a decorated combat soldier. But like a senator, he may have cheated and stolen to keep that career on track.

Walsh, who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq and also served as the general in charge of Montana's National Guard, lifted at least a quarter of his Army War College master's thesis from internet sources. That would be significant, since an Army officer's promotion to major commands is predicated on passing a staff college curriculum.

Jonathan Martin at the New York Times explains:

Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a "strategy research project," to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled "The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy," is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic...

About a third of his paper consists of material either identical to or extremely similar to passages in other sources, such as the Carnegie or Harvard papers, and is presented without attribution. Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes, but uses other authors' exact — or almost exact — language without quotation marks.

Martin details a few key passages and their sources, making clear that they found their way verbatim into Walsh's final paper.

This isn't the first time Walsh's military service has been questioned. In 2010, Army inspectors criticized him for using his rank and position to pressure subordinate soldiers into joining the National Guard Association at the same time he was running to be vice president of the private group.

As a result of that brouhaha, the federal government never approved his promotion to become a general, even though commanders of state National Guard units usually serve as two-star generals. (Walsh eventually retired in 2012, having been granted temporary one-star general status by the state's Democratic governor.)

Confronted by the Times with his copied passages on Wednesday, Walsh denied there was "anything intentional" in it. An aide who later talked to Martin "did not contest the plagiarism but suggested that it be viewed in the context of the senator's long career," adding that the senator had been stressed when he was at the Army War College, owing to a recent suicide from his Iraq unit two. Accountability, it seems, is for more-junior soldiers.

But perhaps not entirely. Plagiarism is a no-no as far as the War College is concerned. It's possible the institution could review Walsh's academic record. As the College's academic handbook puts it: "Sooner or later, academic dishonesty will be discovered."

[Photo credit: AP Images]