Skip to comments.Friend of Shane Osborn, not Navy, issued memo that supports him
Posted on 05/07/2014 8:58:25 PM PDT by SoConPubbie
Read the memo circulated by Shane Osborn's U.S. Senate campaign to counter criticism about his decision in April 2001 to land a disabled Navy reconnaissance plane in China.
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Dogged by questions about his 2001 decision to land a crippled Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane in China, U.S. Senate candidate Shane Osborn has distributed an official-looking Navy memo supporting his account.
The memo, written Aug. 8, 2013, on Navy letterhead, is titled “Disposition of actions by EP-3E flight crew on April 1, 2001.” It explains that Osborn's plane was authorized to land on China's Hainan island “due to the extreme circumstances and condition of this aircraft.”
But The World-Herald has learned that the unsigned memo was not authorized by the Navy, or vetted through normal channels, and was written as a favor to Osborn by a Navy buddy working at the Pentagon.
“We cannot confirm the authenticity of this document,” said Lt. Cmdr. Katie Cerezo, a Navy spokeswoman. “We couldn't discuss a memo that we can't authenticate.”
Osborn's campaign sent the memo to a World-Herald reporter Feb. 26. The paper later contacted the Navy's public affairs office to verify its accuracy and requested an interview with the author, who was not named in the memo. After three days of searching, the Navy said it couldn't authenticate the memo and declined to discuss it further.
Ultimately, John Comerford, a St. Louis attorney who is a fellow Navy veteran and close friend of Osborn's, put a World-Herald reporter in touch with the author.
Osborn sought the memo to respond to critics, including some former military reconnaissance pilots, who have said that he should not have landed in China. Analysts have concluded the Chinese were able to recover some documents and equipment from the aircraft despite the crew's efforts to destroy classified intelligence.
Osborn said the landing was proper and saved the lives of his crew. He dismissed the complaints as politically motivated or as being from Cold War veterans who don't understand that surveillance rules have changed since they served.
The three-paragraph memo cites classified Department of Defense instructions. It supports Osborn's account and concludes that he “acted on the best information that he had and made the decision to land at the closest suitable airfield.”
The author of the memo was a Navy commander who then worked on the staff of the chief of naval operations. He said he drafted it as a favor to Osborn at Comerford's request.
Osborn said he asked Comerford — who also survived the EP-3 incident — for help last summer after questions from a World-Herald reporter about the China incident.
“I said, 'Johnny, some Cold War veterans in another campaign are questioning that we should have ditched,' ” Osborn recalled. “ 'Can you please go back and get the instructions (for such missions) to show that what we did was right?' ”
So Comerford approached his Navy friend, a former squadron mate of his and Osborn's, about drafting a version of the instructions that could be publicly released.
The memo's author said the contents are accurate. He said his immediate supervisor at the time OK'd it, but he declined to give that officer's name and said he is currently unavailable because of a deployment.
“This was an effort to put (the orders) into an unclassified format, on a tight timeline,” he said. “It was not something that was intended to go through channels.”
The author asked for anonymity, saying he was concerned his career could be jeopardized if anyone learned he had written the memo.
“We didn't do anything wrong. But we did it to sort of shortcut the process,” the officer said. “I'm passionate about it. I flew with John and Shane. If they would have ditched that aircraft, none of these guys would be alive.”
A typical Navy vetting process would send a memo slated for public release to relevant military offices for approval to ensure that it is accurate and that classified information isn't leaked.
For the Osborn memo, that might include the U.S. Pacific Command, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense — all offices mentioned in the memo.
For a commissioned military officer, circulating an unauthorized memo could potentially lead to a criminal charge of violating orders or dereliction of duty. It could also result in administrative punishments such as a reprimand or fine.
If it were prepared on a government computer or during working hours, it could also represent a violation of the Hatch Act. That law forbids federal employees from participating in political activities while on duty.
Navy officials said they wouldn't speculate on whether there would be an investigation.
Neither Osborn nor his campaign manager, Bill Novotny, could say how many people have received the memo, which is being shared among some Republican activists locally.
“We haven't posted it on our website,” Osborn said. “It's not like we're putting it out in a mass email to supporters.”
And for the record - I never had sympathy for the CO of USS Pueblo, either - a cowardly man that was derelict in his duties on several levels.
I agree on both scores.