Last year, the Marine Corps Times reported that the Department of Defense was investigating Marine Corps Commandant General Jim Amos and four of his aides for allegedly manipulating the military’s legal system and promotion process. Amos couldn’t stop the independently-owned Times from doing its job, so he tried the next best thing: Completely banning its sale from all Marine Corps bases.
According to emails obtained by the Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps’ deputy director of public affairs sought advice from several other Defense officials, apparently at the behest of Amos, on how to address the Times’ reporting at the time. The director, Chris Hughes, wrote in one email:
Every couple of years, we have a falling out with Marine Corps Times that warrants consideration of some level of ‘ban’ from our facilities. We believe that we may be close to such an impasse, and we want to present the Commandant with options. We believe it becomes a ‘good order and discipline’ issue if CMC believes he is being misrepresented by them. On such grounds, could he prohibit their sale in our [Marine Corps Community Services] facilities? Or, could he place them somewhere less prominent?
The “falling out” arose after the Times reported that Amos and several members of his staff allegedly attempted to “stack the deck” against several enlisted Marines who were taped urinating on the corpse of a Taliban foot soldier in July 2011, while at the same time ensuring that their unit commander, Lt. Col. James B. Conway, was shielded from harsh disciplinary measures and, eventually, promoted. (Conway is the son of James T. Conway, Amos’s predecessor.) In other words, Amos is accused of scheming to make an example out of the Marines caught on tape without implicating the well-connected brass who led them.
Pentagon officials initially laughed at the plan to “ban” the paper. “I recommend we try to talk the boss off the ledge here,” Amos’s lawyer told Hughes. Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, who oversees military commissaries, said it was “the dumbest idea he has ever heard, and [will] not entertain it.” Nevertheless, copies of the Times were quietly relocated in December from checkout counters to less-trafficked portions of commissaries and exchange stores funded by the Pentagon.
After the paper raised a fuss about the new placement earlier this month, Hughes, the public affairs official, publicly backtracked—claiming Amos himself ordered commissaries to restore the Times’ placement at checkout lines (without clarifying who wanted the paper moved in the first place). The emails published today show just how disingenuous that statement was.
We’ve reached out to the Department of Defense for comment regarding the emails published by the Times, and have filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act request with the Marine Corps to ferret out any other records reflecting Amos’ plan for banning the paper. We’ll update you once we hear back about either.
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