The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a retired U.S. Army whistleblower who is being stripped of his Bronze Star Medal, allegedly in retaliation for his disclosure of intelligence and military failures that may have contributed to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and prolonged the war in Afghanistan. Retired Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Anthony Shaffer was awarded a Bronze Star Medal in 2004 for his “meritorious service” as a high-level Army intelligence operative in combat zones within Afghanistan. In addition to initiating a procedure to strip Shaffer of his Bronze Star, the Army has also charged the decorated veteran with misconduct and stripped him of his military clearance, also allegedly in response to concerns he made public about systemic U.S. intelligence failures. In coming to Shaffer’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys are calling on the Army to cease its retaliatory actions, which not only threaten Shaffer’s First Amendment rights but, given the lack of specifics relating to misconduct provided by the Army, infringe on his right to due process.
“This is the latest attempt by the government to suppress free speech,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. “If we really want transparency in government, then this is our chance to stand by our convictions. Punishing Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer for raising legitimate concerns about systemic problems within our government that are endangering our safety as a nation is reprehensible.”
A high-level Army intelligence operative who was deployed in Afghanistan during the early years of the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, LTC Shaffer planned and participated in some of the most daring, dangerous and important operations of the war. In April 2004, Shaffer was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for “leadership, selfless service, and commitment to mission accomplishment under the most extreme circumstances [that] greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom.” Soon after being awarded the medal, however, Shaffer was charged with misconduct and stripped of his security clearance, allegedly because he had attempted to reveal U.S. intelligence failures that ignored or suppressed information, including the identities of four of the 9/11 airliner hijackers, uncovered by a project code named “Able Danger.” After separating from the military, Shaffer began working on a book about his service with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) which criticized policies followed in the Afghanistan war that failed to recognize the connection between the Taliban and the Pakistani intelligence agency and failed to target the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan. Although Shaffer’s book, Dark Heart, was reviewed by the Army and initially granted clearance for publication, the DIA threatened action to stop publication just a month before it was to be released and censored substantial portions of the book. In the latest government action against Shaffer, in which the Army has alleged misconduct and announced its intent to revoke Shaffer’s Bronze Star, no specifics detailing the alleged misconduct were provided. In demanding that the Army cease its retaliatory proceedings, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that the lack of notice violates Shaffer’s fundamental due process rights and assert that “the proposed revocation is a continuation of attempts to punish, defame, and otherwise harm LTC Shaffer for his exercise of his right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”