Air Force blames ‘junior individual’ for congressional candidate’s wrongful records release
Stars and Stripes October 28, 2022
The protected military personnel records of an Air National Guard officer who is running for a House seat in Indiana were incorrectly released by an Air Force employee, a service spokeswoman said Thursday.
An initial investigation revealed a “junior individual” within the Air Force Department was likely responsible for the wrongful release of military records for congressional candidate Jennifer-Ruth Green to an unnamed third party, said Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman.
Green, a 2005 Air Force Academy graduate and Iraq war veteran, is a Republican running for Indiana’s 1st Congressional District seat. She served 12 years on active duty as a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and she is now a lieutenant colonel in the Indiana Air National Guard.
Some of her records from her time on active duty, which by law should have been protected from public release, were published in a Politico Magazine article on Oct. 7 and revealed she was a sexual assault survivor.
Green has said in a statement and a subsequent interview with Fox News that she had not planned to share publicly that she had been sexually assaulted while serving in Iraq, an incident which was detailed in the released service records. The records also included negative performance reviews, which should not have been released without Green’s consent, according to law.
Stefanek said the individual who released Green’s records did not “follow proper procedures and obtain required consent.”
“The Department of the Air Force takes its responsibility to safeguard private information seriously and the matter remains under investigation,” she said.
Stefanek declined to provide additional information about the employee suspected of providing the records, including whether the person was a civilian employee or a uniformed service member or what repercussions the individual could face. Citing the ongoing investigation, she said she could not offer further details.
Reps. Larry Bucshon and Jim Banks, both R-Ind., said this week that Lt. Gen. Stephen Davis, the Air Force inspector general, told them that he was working to determine whether the person who released the protected information “had a political or financial motive, whether the leaker acted alone, and if the Air Force needs to strengthen policies related to its handling of confidential records.”
Green’s campaign has called for the individual to be held criminally responsible for releasing the records. Stefanek declined to say whether the ongoing probe could lead to criminal charges.
Federal law protects the full military records of service members from public release until they have been discharged from the military for 62 years. The public can obtain certain information earlier about veterans who were discharged via federal open records requests. That information typically would include their most recent service photograph, their dates of service, their ranks, locations and units in which they served, and awards they received during their time in service. However, information including performance reviews or records of non-criminal punishments are protected from release to ensure a veteran’s privacy, according to the National Personnel Records Center, which oversees the personnel records of veterans.
Green’s campaign issued a statement accusing her opponent in the congressional race, Rep. Frank Mrvan, D-Ind., of obtaining the records and providing them to Politico to “smear her military career.” Her campaign staff has not made public any evidence that they might have that shows Mrvan or any of his allies was responsible for the leak. Green's campaign did not immediately respond Friday to emailed questions about the incident.
Mrvan's campaign has denied any involvement in a leak of Green’s protected military records. Politico said in a statement that it had obtained Green’s records via a public records request, which were “provided to Politico by a person outside the Mrvan campaign.”
Bucshon and Banks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, claimed an “opposition research firm” provided the protected documents to Politico. They called on the Air Force to make public any information it has discovered about the firm’s links to the Democratic Party. The lawmakers did not name the firm.
Green is locked in a close race with Mrvan for the House seat representing northwestern Indiana, which has been held by Democrats for decades, according to The Associated Press. If elected, Green would become the only Black female Republican in the House and only the second in its history.