February 27, 1996
Web posted at: 1:20 p.m. EST
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Despite its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the military still probes troops' sexual orientation, sometimes launching an all-out questioning of relatives, friends and therapists, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Pentagon documents even suggest that the Clinton administration policy, adopted two years ago, has led to wide-ranging and formal investigations in cases that might otherwise have been handled quietly and without punishment, the Times said.
Among documents obtained by the Washington-based Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a 1994 Air Force memo that not only listed service members suspected of being gay, but also listed their parents, siblings, roommates, counselors, close friends and companions. The document included an outline of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Another document, an undated Navy memo clearly issued after the new policy, seemed to recommend that Navy prosecutors consider intimidating soldiers who serve as character witnesses for gay service members by warning them that they, too, could be punished if they supported "homosexual interests," the Times reported.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as their sexual orientation remains a secret. The legality of the policy is currently under challenge in federal courts.
The newspaper says military officials were uncertain how to implement the policy, so they resorted to secondhand accounts and unwieldy investigations because they couldn't ask service members directly about their sexual orientation.
That may explain why the number of troops discharged from the Army, Navy and Marines for being gay rose 17 percent in the year ending October 1, with 488 service members discharged, the Times reported. The Air Force told the Times it did not have numbers on dismissals of homosexuals.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which assists members of the military thought to be gay, is to issue a report on the documents Tuesday. The Times, which saw the report in advance, says it calls Clinton's policy "as bad, if not worse, than its predecessors."
The Defense Department questioned the group's interpretation of the documents and defended the policy, which was intended to appeal both to gay-rights activists and to traditionalists in the military.
"We believe the current policy is working well," Kenneth Bacon, the department's chief spokesman, told the Times.
"We are concerned about allegations of witch hunts, and we will investigate all firm evidence of such violations of our policy," he said.
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