Active duty and retired members of the Office of Naval Intelligence were reminded last week they are barred by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and other Department of Defense regulations from criticizing President Joe Biden and other ranking members of his Cabinet and the Pentagon.
The memo, sent via email and first reported by The Daily Wire, was sent out by the ONI’s chief of staff following deadly suicide bombing attacks outside the international airport in Kabul which left 11 Marines, two Army soldiers, a U.S. Navy corpsman, and 169 Afghan civilians dead.
In addition to Biden, members were instructed they also could not publicly criticize or be contemptuous of Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, members of Congress, and others.
“Given the heightened political and social atmosphere surrounding Afghanistan, it is important to remind our uniformed personnel (active duty and reservists on temporary active duty) and military retirees of their responsibilities and obligations under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Department of Defense Directive 1344.10,” the email said, as quoted by The Daily Wire.
“While it is vital to protect the constitutional right of freedom of expression for these groups, consistent with mission accomplishment, national security, and good order and discipline, it’s important to remember certain limitations,” the email noted further. “Namely, uniformed personnel and military retirees are prohibited from disrespecting senior government leadership (e.g. the President, Vice President, Congress, Secretary of Defense, Service Secretaries, etc.).”
The outlet reported that under the same UCMJ and DoD regulations, current and retired ONI staffers cannot take part in partisan political activities including the distribution of partisan literature and materials.
The Daily Wire went on to cite a current ONI staffer who said that the same policies were not as stringently enforced during former President Donald Trump’s administration. The source “recalled retired officers condemning the former president,” the outlet noted, adding that ONI “civilians” also fall under the same ban.
Specifically, current members and retirees were reminded against “being too vocal in criticism of, say, the President.”
“Even for civilians, you are reminded of the danger that your public comments will/could be attributed to ONI or the Department of Defense,” the memo added. “While you are entitled to your opinion and to share your opinion amongst those you know and trust, being too vocal in criticism of, say, the President or members of the military and civilian leadership may reflect poorly on ONI.
“It is important to share your opinions, if you choose to do so, in a professional manner that does not call into question your employment, the Department of Defense, or the federal government as a whole,” the email continued.
The emailed memo also specifically addressed the attack last week in Kabul.
“After Kabul fell to the Taliban last week, the scenes of chaos and desperation have been hard for all Americans to watch, especially for those of us in the national security establishment, as well as those who served selflessly in Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” said the ONI Chief of Staff, according to the outlet. “Watching the Taliban sweep back into power after two decades of investment can be a bitter pill to swallow.”
The memo also comes on the heels of a video posted by Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a 17-year decorated combat vet who took senior Pentagon leaders to task for the attack and challenged them to take responsibility for it.
Scheller was relieved for cause — fired from his position as a battalion commander — after posting the video.
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