Ma­rine tests mil­i­tary rules with com­ment on Face­book

Won’t fol­low ‘un­law­ful’ or­ders from pres­i­dent

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY JULIE WAT­SON

SAN DIEGO | Ma­rine Sgt. Gary Stein started a Face­book page called Armed Forces Tea Party Pa­tri­ots to en­cour­age ser­vice mem­bers to ex­er­cise their free-speech rights. Then he de­clared that he wouldn’t fol­low or­ders from Pres­i­dent Obama.

While Sgt. Stein soft­ened his state­ment to say he wouldn’t fol­low “un­law­ful or­ders,” mil­i­tary ob­servers say he may have gone too far.

The Ma­rine Corps is now look­ing into whether he vi­o­lated the mil­i­tary’s rules pro­hibit­ing po­lit­i­cal state­ments by those in uni­form and broke its guide­lines on what troops can say on so­cial me­dia.

While troops have al­ways expressed their views in pri­vate, Sgt. Stein’s case high­lights the po­ten­tial for their opin­ions to go global as techsavvy ser­vice mem­bers post per­sonal de­tails, videos and pic­tures that can hurt the mil­i­tary’s im­age at home and abroad.

“I think that it’s been pretty well es­tab­lished for a long time that free­dom of speech is one area in which peo­ple do sur­ren­der some of their ba­sic rights in en­ter­ing the armed forces,” said for­mer Navy of­fi­cer David Glazier, a pro­fes­sor at Loy­ola Law School in Los An­ge­les. “Good or­der and dis­ci­pline re­quire the mil­i­tary main­tain re­spect for the chain of com­mand.”

Pen­tagon di­rec­tives bar mil­i­tary per­son­nel in uni­form from spon­sor­ing a po­lit­i­cal club; par­tic­i­pat­ing in a me­dia pro­gram or group dis­cus­sion that ad­vo­cates for or against a po­lit­i­cal party, can­di­date or cause; or speak­ing at an event pro­mot­ing a po­lit­i­cal move­ment. Com­mis­sioned of­fi­cers can­not speak con­temp­tu­ously of the com­man­der-in-chief. Though he iden­ti­fies him­self as a Ma­rine on his new­est page, called Armed Forces Tea Party, Sgt. Stein posted a photo in civil­ian clothes.

Last week, Sgt. Stein said his su­pe­ri­ors told him he couldn’t use so­cial me­dia sites on gov­ern­ment com­put­ers af­ter he posted the mes­sage stat­ing he would not fol­low un­law­ful or­ders of the pres­i­dent.

Sgt. Stein said his state­ment was part of a de­bate about try­ing U.S. troops for the Ko­ran burn­ings in Afghanistan. In that con­text, he said, he was stat­ing that he would not fol­low a pres­i­dent’s or­ders if they in­cluded vi­o­lat­ing Amer­i­cans’ con­sti­tu­tional rights.

“Just be­cause I’m a Ma­rine doesn’t mean I don’t have free speech or can’t say my per­sonal opin­ion about the pres­i­dent or other public of­fi­cial just like any­body else,” Sgt. Stein said. “The Con­sti­tu­tion trumps ev­ery­thing else.”


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