U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1995 in New London, Conn.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1995 in New London, Conn. (U.S. Coast Guard)

WASHINGTON – A previously undisclosed investigation into alleged sexual abuse at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy uncovered a history of rapes, assaults and other misconduct being ignored or covered up by high-ranking service officials, a news report on Friday revealed.

Operation Fouled Anchor was an investigation launched in 2014 after the Coast Guard Investigative Service, or CGIS, became aware of a sexual assault allegation that happened at the service’s academy in Connecticut, a Coast Guard spokesperson said Friday in a statement.

“The alleged assault occurred years earlier and the matter had been mishandled,” the Coast Guard spokesperson said. “In response, CGIS commenced a broad investigation that followed up on all leads related to sexual assaults that were alleged to have occurred between 1988 and 2006.”

Coast Guard officials informally briefed senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee within the last week about Operation Fouled Anchor, two senators on the committee wrote in a letter dated Friday to Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard.

The internal investigation by the Coast Guard ran until 2020 and identified 62 substantiated incidents of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred at the academy in New London, Conn., or by academy cadets, according to the letter from Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.

“This information is disturbing,” the senators wrote.

The senators questioned why the report had been kept secret, including from members of Congress with oversight authority over the Coast Guard, which the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has. Cantwell is the chairwoman of the committee and Baldwin is a chairwoman of a subpanel of the committee.

The senators wrote in the letter that the committee is seeking additional information “to determine if the Coast Guard complied with the law and to inform potential legislative actions.”

Besides all related documents, they are seeking answers to questions, including whether any individuals with substantiated claims are now employed by the Department of Homeland Security, including the Coast Guard, and whether they have security clearances.

Despite findings of wrongdoing against academy officials and former students, Operation Fouled Anchor was quietly closed by Coast Guard leaders, many of whom worked or studied alongside alleged perpetrators, according to the CNN report.

“This investigation made clear that the [school’s] leadership was more concerned at that time about organizational and [the Coast Guard Academy’s] reputation than about the victims of crimes who were members of our service,” according to a 2019 draft of the Operation Fouled Anchor final report that CNN found.

The senators included other details in their letter about the report, including the service identified 42 individuals against whom there were substantiated claims of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment but the service did not appropriately investigate the claims reported at the time and failed to pursue disciplinary action.

“According to the Coast Guard, as a result of the investigations, two officers were given the opportunity to retire as commanders and are still enjoying their full pensions and veteran's benefits,” the senators wrote. “It is unclear how many other officers had substantiated claims against them, were not disciplined, and remained in positions of leadership or management.”

The Coast Guard took actions after CGIS’s investigation to hold perpetrators accountable, as well as reaching out to victims and inviting them to in-person meetings to give them updates on their cases, according to the service’s statement.

The Coast Guard said the investigation was not widely disclosed and the service is committed to being more transparent, as well as owning past mistakes.

“The Coast Guard fully recognizes that, by not having taken appropriate action at the time of the sexual assaults, the Coast Guard may have further traumatized the victims, delayed access to their care and recovery, and prevented some cases from being referred to the military justice system for appropriate accountability. The Coast Guard owns this failure and apologizes to each of the victims and their loved ones,” the service spokesperson said.

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Matthew Adams covers the Defense Department at the Pentagon. His past reporting experience includes covering politics for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and The News and Observer. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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