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January 27, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Sniper punished
The Army has cleared a sniper in Iraq of violating operational security rules in helping to educate a judge advocate general (military lawyer) about the legality of open-tip bullets used by snipers to shoot insurgents who are killing American and allied troops.

However, the sniper, Sgt. Arthur J. Hushen, is continuing to face retaliation for blowing the whistle on an improper order for snipers to stop using the highly-effective M118LR ammunition in Iraq because it was thought to be an illegal hollow-point bullet. He was recently forced to move to a tent for "outcasts," said his wife, Sherry.

Sgt. Hushen recounted in a statement how he challenged the 4th Infantry Division lawyer, a woman identified only as "Maj. Card," after he obtained information from an Internet sniper forum showing that the bullets had been judged legal for use for years.

"Maj. Card stated that the hollow-point ammo was illegal," Sgt. Hushen wrote. "I informed her that there was a memo put out ... several years ago stating that hollow-tip had been deemed legal."

Maj. Card replied that she had never heard of the memo, but after documentation was presented to her, she reversed course.

"Maj. Card informed me that I was not a lawyer and she did not work for me," Sgt. Hushen said, noting that the lawyer then agreed that in her legal opinion the M118LR was legal and said she would send out an e-mail to the executive officers.

It was after the exchange that Sgt. Hushen was accused of violating security rules for identifying his 4th Infantry Division unit on the Internet. However, he was cleared of that accusation after his statement.

But he is continuing to be punished by senior enlisted and officers for raising the legal issues, we are told.

"I needed the ammo to accomplish my sniper missions," he said. "I didn't quit when I was told the ammo was illegal because I knew it was not."

Sgt. Hushen said he was punished by his platoon leader by being relieved from his sniper duties and removed as a team leader.

"I no longer have anyone to lead and train. I believe that this is the worst punishment that could have happened," he said.

Forced out
What to do with the pathfinding Office of Force Transformation within the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld? Defense officials have several ideas. A few want to abolish it. Others propose taking away its stand-alone status and making it an arm of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition or for policy.

The reason: A culture of transformation has taken hold in the Pentagon since the office's birth in October 2001. And, a merged office would free up some of its 18 employees to work elsewhere. "We have a billet cap at the Pentagon," said a senior official. "We are always looking for more billets."

The office has issued a number of futuristic reports on how the military can adjust to new threats. Retired Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, the founding director of Force Transformation, died in November of cancer. The acting director is Terry J. Pudas.

Back in vogue
Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, stopped using the word "substantial" to describe future troop withdrawals. He had used it last year but quit this fall, he said, after he had doubts that Sunnis would join the new government in the right numbers.

Well, the word is back in vogue, principally because the Sunni Muslims won 51 assembly seats in the Dec. 15 elections. As a community, the Sunnis seem more willing to try democracy. Army Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander in the region, told radio host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday that "substantial" troop reduction could occur later this year if the military and political winds blow the right way.

Dirty language
The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered a delay in the court-martial of a Naval Academy teacher who used salty language in front of a female midshipman.

The trial at the Washington Navy Yard had been scheduled to begin next week for Lt. Bryan D. Black. But his attorney, Charles Gittins, filed an appeal after the trial judge rejected his argument that the school's superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, should be removed as the officer overseeing the case. Adm. Rempt, who is in the midst of a "no tolerance" campaign against sexual harassment at the Annapolis campus, ordered Lt. Black's court-martial, overruling an investigative officer who recommended counseling, not criminal charges.

Mr. Gittins says Adm. Rempt has too much of a stake in seeing Lt. Black punished. He says a new admiral should be named as the convening authority. The appeals court will entertain written arguments from the defense and prosecution, and then likely hand down a ruling next month.

Lt. Black acknowledges making a crude remark about how a battleship sexually arouses him, during an oceanographic cruise in the Chesapeake Bay in August. He later apologized to the female student present. She did not file a complaint or request an investigation. But a female lieutenant commander onboard did her own investigation and reported the incident to the school's administration, which ordered a one-person investigation.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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