The Air Force Academy's Honor Code states that its cadets "will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us anyone who does." But the service apparently suspended that code when it forced mostly minority students to spy on their classmates to catch suspected drug users and sex offenders—only to forget all about them after they've been used as informants.
The informants were "told to deceive classmates, professors and commanders while snapping photos, wearing recording devices and filing secret reports," according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, which broke the story late last night.
Eric Thomas, 24, told the Gazette that he was ordered by the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations—the service's version of NCIS—to "infiltrate academy cliques, wearing recorders, setting up drug buys, tailing suspected rapists and feeding information back to OSI." But when Thomas was brought up and charges and expelled a month shy of graduation for breaking Academy rules in the line of duty, the OSI pretended they'd never heard of him.
Despite denials by Academy and Air Force officials, the Gazette confirmed Thomas' story via three other informants and documents obtained through a FOIA request. Those documents also showed that the informant program "appears to rely disproportionately on minority cadets like Thomas," who is African-American.
The entire program sounds like a sketchy FBI anti-terror operation:
The records show OSI uses FBI-style tactics to create informants. Agents interrogate cadets for hours without offering access to a lawyer, threaten them with prosecution, then coerce them into helping OSI in exchange for promises of leniency they don't always keep. OSI then uses informants to infiltrate insular cadet groups, sometimes encouraging them to break rules to do so. When finished with informants, OSI takes steps to hide their existence, directing cadets to delete emails and messages, misleading Air Force commanders and Congress, and withholding documents they are required to release under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Air Force Academy didn't offer any official response to the Gazette's allegations, perhaps because it's still busy figuring out what to do with its ethics-teaching gay-conversion therapist.
[Photo credit: AP]