Allegations that an Army general intimidated whistleblowers while on a NATO deployment in Afghanistan make him unfit for his current job of overseeing the Pentagon’s sexual assault policy, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said Friday in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
If Secretary Hagel is serious about addressing the rising problem of sexual assaults in the military, then he should remove Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton from his position as director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Department of Defense, POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian wrote.
POGO obtained a copy of a Department of Defense Inspector General report that concludes that when Patton was the deputy commander of an Afghan training mission, he obstructed an IG investigation into widespread patient abuse, as well as fraud at Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul.
The IG found that Patton and Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, former commander of the training mission, violated the Military Whistleblower Protection law by restricting subordinates from communicating with IG investigators. The IG found that Caldwell wrote emails restricting subordinates from cooperating with the IG and that Patton forwarded one of them and personally made sure two subordinates were aware of the email’s order.
POGO also interviewed Navy nurse Jeremy Young, who served at the Dawood hospital. He says Patton stopped him from giving information to IG investigators about defective patient care at Dawood, which was supported by millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
POGO also spoke to Army Colonel Mark Fassl, who served as Command Inspector General for the U.S. training mission and was present at Dawood during the alleged incident involving Patton. Fassl quotes Patton as saying, “Do you hear what he [Young] is saying? We need to stop him [Young] talking to the Inspector General.” NBC News also interviewed Young and Fassl.
According to witness testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last year, the DoDIG was investigating horrific conditions at Dawood that included operations performed without anesthesia and patients forced to endure starvation.
“Given the DoDIG’s finding, how can we now trust some of our most sensitive whistleblower cases, especially those involving reports of sexual assault and rape, to a leader demonstrably willing and able to silence lawful whistleblower activity?” Brian wrote. “As you and Members of Congress struggle to end the sexual assault epidemic in the military, to leave Patton in place would send the wrong signal at this critical time.”
Follow the link to read POGO’s letter.