Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee during a hearing on Thursday, July 13, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee during a hearing on Thursday, July 13, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal pledged Tuesday to issue a subpoena to the Coast Guard if service officials do not provide emails on a cover-up of dozens of sexual assaults at the service academy that had not been properly handled or investigated.

“These critical documents must be provided without further delay,” Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during Senate hearing that featured testimony from three former and one current cadet of the Coast Guard Academy. “We can certainly take that [subpoena] action, if necessary.”

Blumenthal is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ subpanel on investigations, which is examining the cover-up of Operation Fouled Anchor — a 2020 report based on a six-year inquiry into the handling of sexual assault and harassment at the Coast Guard Academy.

The report’s existence only became known to the Senate subpanel and the public after reporters with CNN obtained a copy earlier this year.

Coast Guard officials in June briefed Congress about the report, which Blumenthal said reviewed 102 instances of rape or sexual assault at the academy dating back to the early 1990s through 2006. It identified 43 alleged perpetrators and 63 victims. Only five cases had been reported to law enforcement at the time, he said.

The internal academy emails are necessary to understanding the cover-up, Blumenthal said. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the top Republican on the subpanel, agreed.

“It is not that hard to go into emails, do searches and start producing some of these documents,” Johnson said. “What were those communications that resulted in this three-and-a-half-year cover-up?”

The Coast Guard last week released a separate report looking into the cover-up of Fouled Anchor that affirmed service leaders worked to downplay the prevalence sexual assault and harassment among cadets.

Caitlin Maro, who left the Coast Guard Academy after her first semester in 2004, said Tuesday during the hearing that she has seen service leaders continue to provide information to Congress that is not true. She described being sexually harassed daily and groped by a fellow cadet at the academy while 30 others looked on and laughed about it.

Her incident was part of the Fouled Anchor investigation though she said she was never contacted by the Coast Guard. However, Adm. Linda Fagan, the service’s commandant, told a different congressional committee in July that all victims listed in the report were notified.

“I found out about my inclusion in Operation Fouled Anchor from a writer at CNN in June of 2023,” Maro said.

She asked the Senate subpanel to consider calling Fagan to testify and ask her about this and whether anyone was punished for Fouled Anchor. Maro also asked the senators to call in Fagan’s predecessor, retired Adm. Karl Schultz, about the report.

“Thank you, Mrs. Maro, you’ve read our minds,” Blumenthal said. “We’re certainly going to pursue those two individuals and others. I’m really heartened by the bipartisan support we have for this continued effort.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., pushed to call service leaders to testify.

“They need to sit where you’re sitting, take the oath and explain to the country what’s going on,” he said. “They have broken our trust. And frankly, when you see the trust constantly broken in institution after institution of this government, it’s no wonder the people across this country just are in despair, regardless of their politics. It’s unbelievable.”

Rear Adm. Michael Johnston, the academy’s superintendent, released a statement following the hearing that reiterated the school’s commitment to a safe workplace free from assault, harassment, bullying, discrimination and retaliation.

“Let me make clear, the retaliation, isolation and fear experienced by these women is unacceptable and there is absolutely no place for it within the Coast Guard Academy. I want all members to thrive here, not simply survive,” he said.

Denise Rucker Krepp, a former Maritime Administration chief counsel and former Coast Guard officer, attended the hearing to support the women who testified. She agreed the senators should use their subpoena authority if necessary.

“We need to know who is involved in the cover up,” Krepp said. “If they’re retired, recall them and prosecute them. If they’re currently in the military, prosecute them. If they’re civilian, they should be held accountable and fired.”

author picture
Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now