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These are the stakes.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is fighting to get the votes to overcome a filibuster of her bill overhauling how the military handles sexual assault prosecutions, with the bill expected to come for a vote next week. Rounding up opposition is Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is embracing the military leadership's argument that smaller changes to how sexual assault is handled will be enough—despite decades of failure:
The New Yorker said she’s got a firm 53 public supporters so far, with “many more” pledging privately that they’ll take her side when her bill hits the floor. Gillibrand insisted that she’s also gotten a boost from senators disgusted by a recent story in The Washington Post, detailing the poor behavior of some of the same military commanders who have a critical say in sexual assault prosecutions.

“I think we’ll get to 60,” Gillibrand said. “I think we’ll overcome a filibuster. And we may get to 60 for the underlying vote as well.”

McCaskill countered by noting she’s working to siphon away Gillibrand backers by arguing the Pentagon is already at work implementing a series of new policy changes on sexual assault that were required in the latest defense authorization bill that President Barack Obama signed less than two months ago.

Please read below the fold for more on the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Those changes, though valuable and long overdue, don't fundamentally shift how the military prevents and prosecutes sexual assault—or fails to do so, as has been the case for years. Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act, by contrast, would take decisions about sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders, with trained prosecutors making those decisions instead. Many U.S. allies have similar laws, yet the American military fiercely opposes it, demanding instead to be allowed to continue to fail on its own terms.

The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted last spring that, because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, "I took my eye off the ball in the command that I have" when it came to sexual assault. Ariana Klay, a veteran who was sexually assaulted during her time in the Marines, said that her commander's "incentives were as much to deny the problem as they were to retaliate against those who might choose to report"; her husband, also a Marine veteran, said that:

It is organized to be that way. Military justice is a secondary duty for a commander. Something he didn't sign up for and a distraction from his mission to fight wars. Imagine a business executive who runs a company and has to oversee the prosecution of felons who perform valuable work for him. He'd be as interested in prosecuting as commanders are, and his workers would be confident about what they could get away with.
Yet the military is still saying "trust us, we'll handle it," and Claire McCaskill is, like Lindsey Graham, lobbying hard to let them.

Tell Congress: Protect victims of military sexual assault by passing the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 07:58 AM PST.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  more shameful GOP behavior /nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rl en france

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 08:05:55 AM PST

  •  Support the troops (5+ / 0-)

    unless they're those slutty lady troops who should be at home mending the uniforms for the menfolk.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 04:02:48 PM PST

  •  Theres no corporate profit involved here... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alice Olson

    There doesn't seem to be any backlash from the Evangelical "Christians". So, why does the GOP give a damn?

    •  Red Meat for the base (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NinetyWt

      Look at the way your average MRA douchebag talks about women in general, and rape specifically, and realize that a very large chunk of the Republican base feels the same way, even if they won't come out and say it. There's also the military worship angle, can't have any of those damn leftists telling the military how to do their job and all that crap.

      First they came for the farm workers, and I said nothing.

      by Hannibal on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:00:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Woolves in sheep clothing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Maverick80229

      They want to give all power to the military, not only in their arena , but also in the civilian arena.
      They had to keep the terrorist trials in the military arena for fear the American people would or might have learned about what realy happened on 911. Lindsey Graham, - nee, cracker, pushed hard to put those trials into the military arena. Hmmm.

      When Obama signed the NDAA Act Lindsey said something to the effect, " Forget about asking for an attorney cause your not going to get one ".
      The man (I think) is betraying his oath of office.

      We need to make note of who the 40 naysayers are and show them the door.

    •  Because it is being driven by a "D" (0+ / 0-)

      that's all they really need to know.

      Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. Frank Zappa

      by Da Rock on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 11:10:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  where is military integrety (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NinetyWt

    In addition to the few male military personel who think the women in the militrary are being paid by the taxpayer as sex toys, not fellow warriors, we apparently now have soldiers who think that they are above the rules against cheating.  They seem to think they are entitled to promotion, 20 years, and 40 years of taxpayer funded pensions, even if they do not possess the qualities to be in the military.

    Now, I may be old fashioned, but I though the military was supposed to be of the highest integrity and fitness and skill, and those who did not make the cut would simply be discharged.  What appears to be happening, in reality, is that there are a group of officers who pick and choose who gets promoted, not based on being the best, but on some other criteria.  I heard on former officer say that he helped his people correct the test prior to it being submitted so it would not negatively effect their career.

    Isn't that they point of the tests?  To see who has the discipline to learn and master the material, and see who does not.  I mean doing well on tests is not that hard.  It just requires, again, some discipline, something that our military people are supposed to have.

    And here is the kicker for me.  When the military were told that women were to be fully equal, they started going off on how they would have to meet the exact same requirements as everyone else, how nothing could be changed, how the integrity of the military was at stake.  All during these crocodile tears it turns out some men were being treated as special cases.  Something that they said women could not be.

    •  And how do you know about that cheating? (0+ / 0-)

      Because it was discovered and REPORTED.  Publicly.  

      Im sure sexual assault only happens in the military and cheating only happens in the military.  

      What field do you work in that is so clear of any bad actors?

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:12:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now would be an excellent time for Reid to (4+ / 0-)

    appear on stage and reprise his Filibuster Reform act.

    Always a crowd-pleaser.

    The 1% are Purists: They only support Candidates that Deliver Results They Can Bank On. Don't they know they should compromise? /sarcasm

    by Johnathan Ivan on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 04:24:23 PM PST

  •  This former JAG officer (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranger995, NinetyWt, Maverick80229, wader

    Would enact a major rewrite of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) but would not focus on sexual assault while leave the rest of the UCMJ alone.  Fix the general law, and you fix the sexual assault problem.  Some problems with the current law - or at least the law that I saw in the 1980's:

    1.  Jury pools are selected by the commander and not randomly (unless a commander elects to surrender this power).  So you can get a jury pool deliberately picked to be hard asses.  Under the UCMJ, enlisted people can demand enlisted on the jury - provided the jurors outrank the defend and comprise at least 1/3 of the jury.  But ask for enlisted, and you get every crusty old senior master sergeant with 30 years service in the jury pool.  So in practice, privates and lower ranking sergeants never request enlisted jurors.  Juror pools should be selected randomly, as they are in the civilian world.

    2.  The UCMJ was enacted after World War II but kept too many of the old features of command power.  Commanders still convene court martials and approve court martial results.  Publicity has focused on commanders reducing sexual assault convictions, but the military appellate courts have created a walk on the wild side with inane requirements for staff judge advocate advices to convene court martials and approve the results.  Convictions are overturned on inane technicalities - perceived deficiencies in these advices, that commanders probably don't read in detail.  Frankly, commanders should be kept out of the process, replaced by a quasi-judicial system in the field, purely judicial on top.

    3.  No appeal is allowed unless the defendant gets over 6 months in jail or a bad conduct discharge.  Get one or the other, then all convictions, even guilty pleas, are automatically appealed.  The result is that the appellate courts have forced sentencings to be elaborate procedures filled with technicalities that result in sentences being reversed for resentencing for the most obtuse reasons.  Allow all contested cases to be appealed, but not guilty pleas absent exceptional situations.

    "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 04:36:58 PM PST

    •  The problem is that too many offenders (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wader

      don't get charged to begin with. IIUC, none of your proposals would help with that (useful though they may be).

      Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
      Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
      Code Monkey like you!

      Formerly known as Jyrinx.

      by Code Monkey on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 04:43:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No appeal? (0+ / 0-)

      Sorry but there are a number of errors in your statements.

      1 - Jury pools are just about as random as a civilian jury pool.  You get notified that you will be in the jury pool for a 6 month period.  During that time you can be called multiple times or not at all.  Once you a re selected you go through voir dire jet like a civilian jury.  A commander would have to work ver very hard to stack a jury.

      Enlisted jour memers cannot be MORE than 1/3rd of the jury.  And since very few courts martial offenses are committed by junior soldiers compared to more senior soldiers it is perfectly reasonable for older Sergeants - also known as peers - to be part of the jury pool.  That said most junior enlisted folks tend to opt for all officer juries because they tend to be more lenient.  Most officers are going to look at a junior guy screwing up and ask "Where was his NCO?"

      2 - The foundation of the UCMJ is far older.  Its called the Constitution.  There is very little in the UCMJ that does not have its foundation in the Constitution.  Restrictions on speech are the most noticeable but the justice system mirrors the civil system.  Having convictions overturned is hardly unique to the military.

      3 - NO APPEAL?  Wow I don't know how to respond to that.  THe right of appeal is a foundation of our justice system.  One of the hallmarks of the UCMJ are the automatic appeals in many cases where as the civil system has optional appeals.  Automatic appeals are specifically there to prevent a rough commander from railroading someone.  I would not want to be part of a system that denied appeals.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:09:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are you implicitly arguing that nothing needs (0+ / 0-)

        to be done by the military when it comes to improving the handling for these types of cases?

        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

        by wader on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:32:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Where did I say that? (0+ / 0-)

          I pointed out factual errors.

          I pointed out the foundation of the UCMJ is the Constitution itself.

          I pointed out that the right of appeal is fundamental to our justice system.

          Please show me where I said anything else.

          It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

          by ksuwildkat on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 08:22:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I asked you for clarification (0+ / 0-)

            because your comments in this diary are theoretical and stern towards others, as if you dispute every criticism related to poor handling of sexual assaults in the military which their system can possibly be improved to handle.

            You're disputing the direct observations of a former JAG officer at one point in this comment stream - but, you only cite abstract theory, not practice.

            Therefore, it seems entirely reasonable to question your motive(s) and rationale.

            "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

            by wader on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 08:26:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Theory? (0+ / 0-)

              Please show me where in the UCMJ is states, as the "former JAG officer" did, that

              Under the UCMJ, enlisted people can demand enlisted on the jury - provided the jurors outrank the defend and comprise at least 1/3 of the jury.
              This is factually wrong and something that anyone who has served for more than a month knows is wrong.  Want to know why?  Because in your first month you spend a LOT of time being told how the UCMJ works including the rights of the accused.  It tends to stick with you.
              Jury pools are selected by the commander and not randomly (unless a commander elects to surrender this power).
              This too is factually wrong since the pool of personnel to be used in juries is set before most cases are preferred.  Sometimes the jury pool is set before the crimes are committed because the military is big on speedy trials.  It would take a very insightful commander to stack a jury for a crime that has not been committed.
              The UCMJ was enacted after World War II but kept too many of the old features of command power.  Commanders still convene court martials and approve court martial results.
              And District Attorneys still convene Grand Juries and decide what cases to proceed with.  And judges validate the findings of jury trials and sometimes set them aside.  Tell me was it a military judge who gave a guy 30 days for raping a girl who later killed herself?  

              My "motive" is truth and accuracy.  Please tell me where I have not told the truth or been accurate.

              It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

              by ksuwildkat on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 08:43:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  "Theory" refers to what you are reading (0+ / 0-)

                as interpretation of the rules/law - practice is what the former JAG officer offered.

                Your motive is clear: there's nothing to do here.  Consider getting off your high horse and contributing to a solution for the issue at hand, instead of acting like an oversensitive defender of theoretical practice - i.e., obfuscating from the actual point of handling sexual assault cases in a more professional and complete manner relative to military members.

                "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                by wader on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 09:32:05 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I contribute every day (0+ / 0-)

                  How many Courts Martial juries have you served on?

                  Thats what I thought.

                  How many cases have you preferred for charges?

                  Thats what I thought?

                  How many victims have you sat with while a rape kit is administered?

                  Thats what I thought.

                  And I notice you didn't have anything to say about the less than accurate, less than truthful "former JAG."  I guess telling lies is ok if advances your argument.  And you are ok with that.  Yeah, fine moral high ground you have decided to occupy.  You would make a fine Republican.  

                  It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

                  by ksuwildkat on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 09:48:16 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You've contributed to this discussion (0+ / 0-)

                    in what manner, please?

                    Haven't seen one suggestion yet.  You're still obfuscating.

                    As to your silly tactics: I was a Republican, VP of my local College Republican chapter and a peer of some unsavory people we know in national politics today - my conscience eventually figured out why and I extricated myself from the programming over some years.  Rather familiar with tactics we used then and why, from that process.

                    You're using some now.

                    Again, let's hear what you have to contribute the discussion of handling sexual abuse cases in the military beyond what is today considered sub-par, else you're merely continuing to defend the status quo for reasons of your own, by all appearances.

                    You can certainly imply some sort of personal and/or career involvement in these kinds of issues with the military and that you're intimately knowledgeable about how the processes and avenues for review are ultimately available to potential victims, but that's not a perspective you offer in the slightest.

                    BTW, calling out Laura Clawson in the manner you've offered is more trolling than even blithely offered suggestion.  I tend towards site meta-issues and people's behaviors, which is why your odd jabs caught my curiosity.

                    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                    by wader on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 10:03:42 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

      •  I was a JAG Officer in the 1980's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wader

        So my comments were directed for that time.  The great majority of the court martials I tried involved junior enlisted people.  Commanders did stack jury pools. We spent too much time writing these inane advices to commanders that the commanders never read, at least anything before the word "Recommendation:" that the appeals court would nitpick and find reasons to find fault and reverse convictions or sentences for reasons that had nothing to do with what happened at the trial, and there was no right to appeal unless your sentence was over six months or a bad conduct discharge.

        If things have changed since the 1980's - great.

        The UCMJ was a reaction to gross abuses that occurred during World War II.  The commander's almost unfettered discretion to punish his soldiers or sailors was tolerable when the army and navy were tiny and all volunteer, but not in World War II when virtually a whole generation of young men served.  Perhaps 1 out of 4 of our soldiers in World War II were court martialed, most for minor infractions.

        "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

        by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 06:05:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Very well done (0+ / 0-)

      now THAT would be something more akin to actual JUSTICE, and right now in the UCMJ, there is very little actual "justice" involved.

  •  Gillibrand wouldn't have to get 60 votes... (0+ / 0-)

    If Reid would change the filibuster rules.

    But in this case (and many others) what difference does it make?  The bill will never see the light of day in the Republican House.

    •  It would be something to run against. (0+ / 0-)

      It's always valuable to advance a bill.

      Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
      Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
      Code Monkey like you!

      Formerly known as Jyrinx.

      by Code Monkey on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:43:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Will you ever answer? (0+ / 0-)

    Every time you write about this I ask about it:

    When has anyone ever cared MORE about something when they are told its not their responsibility?

    How is the military supposed to punish commanders who fail to uphold standards for investigations and trails if they are no longer responsible for investigations and trails?

    How many different kinds of justice are you planning to set up?  If there is one standard for sex crimes and another for everything else where does it end?  Do we have separate systems for every punitive article?

    Since the ability to restrict the liberty of a citizen is clearly spelled out in the Constitution, when are proponents of this change going to amend the Constitution?

    Finally once the "new" system "fails" to achieve perfect results who will get tasked with perfection next?  Given the rate of sexual assault in the military is less than 1% what is the goal other than perfection?

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 06:55:23 PM PST

  •  Sen Gillibrand made millions promoting lung cancer (0+ / 0-)

    Senator Gillibrand is a hero now? She made her millions as a corporate lawyer for tobacco companies, from what I read on Wikipedia. Sexual assault need to be reduced in the military (and in the rest of society), I agree.

    But a 1%er who made millions giving women and others lung cancer shouldn't be cast as a hero, in my opinion. And that's who Sen. Gillibrand is.

    The greedy wing o the Democratic Party has defeated us. $Clinton$ 2016.

    by HopefullyAnonymous on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 07:15:55 AM PST

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