Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Military Sexual Assault Survivors to Deliver Petition to White House


May 23, 2016



Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to hold press conference announcing reintroduction of Military Justice Improvement Act after previous votes were held under influence of false and misleading information; Survivors joined by Protect Our Defenders will then deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures to the White House calling on President Obama to fix the broken military justice system and investigate why the Pentagon gave Congress false information about sexual assault prosecutions

Washington, D.C. — Tomorrow, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will hold a press conference to announce that she is reintroducing the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to create an impartial military justice system that puts prosecution decisions into the hands of legal experts, instead of commanders. Senator Gillibrand is reintroducing MJIA because previous votes on the bill were held under the influence of false and misleading information from the Pentagon.

Senator Gillibrand will be joined by Samantha Jackson, a civilian victim of military sexual assault, whose husband, an Army soldier, raped her and videotaped the assault but was never punished by the military after they told civilian authorities they would handle her case, and Col Don Christensen, the former Chief Prosecutor of the US Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders. They will call on President Obama to support an impartial military justice system and launch an independent investigation into who at the Pentagon is responsible for perpetuating false claims about the military’s handling of sexual assault cases. A bipartisan coalition of Senators, including Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will also be speaking in support of an impartial military justice system.

After the press conference, military sexual assault survivor Samantha Jackson, Tailhook whistleblower Paula Coughlin, Protect Our Defenders and other advocates will deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures launched by Samantha on Care2. The petition calls on President Obama to support an impartial military justice system, and investigate the Pentagon for misleading Congress and the public about sexual assault prosecutions.


  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
  • Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
  • Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Samantha Jackson, Military Sexual Assault Survivor
  • Colonel Don Christensen, USAF (ret.), President, Protect the Defenders

When: Tuesday, May 24th at 11:00am ET

Where: SVC-209, Capitol Visitor Center, Washington, DC (map)

Last month, an Associated Press investigation and Protect Our Defenders report exposed that the Pentagon misled Congress to block much needed reforms, claiming that military commanders are tougher on crime than prosecutors. That is why survivor Samantha Jackson launched a petition urging President Obama to to enact fundamental reforms to fix the broken justice system, and investigate the Pentagon for intentionally misleading Congress and the public about its handling of sexual assault cases and before he leaves office.

In July 2013, at the height of a heated debate in the Senate over legislation to create an impartial military justice system where military prosecutors, instead of commanders, make decisions about which cases will be sent to trial, Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress on behalf of the Pentagon that commanders routinely order cases to trial that civilian prosecutors “refused” to take. He also claimed these cases show there would be “fewer prosecutions” if such decisions were removed from the chain of command. In a follow-up letter to then-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Carl Levin, Adm. Winnefeld cited 93 cases across the Armed Forces to support his claim, and stated, “I believe these statistics demonstrate the personal ownership commanders take in the discipline of their units.” These cases were used to influence undecided Senators and were referenced repeatedly by lawmakers opposed to reform.

POD’s analysis of the case documents relied on by the military to support these claims and an investigative report by the AP reveal that the Pentagon distorted the facts to block reform. After years of delay, the Pentagon finally released the documents.

“It is now crystal clear that the Pentagon knowingly relied upon false information to mislead Congress and derail reforms they oppose,” said Former Air Force Chief Prosecutor and Protect Our Defenders President Col Don Christensen. “Now it is up to our Commander-in-Chief to investigate these false claims and fix this broken system before he leaves office. President Obama should stand with survivors like Samantha.”

VICE News: US Lawmakers Suspect the Pentagon of Lying to Them About Military Sexual Assault Cases

Associated Press: Pentagon misled lawmakers on military sexual assault cases

Debunked: Fact-Checking the Pentagon’s Claims Regarding Military Justice

VIDEO: The Pentagon’s Misleading Claims on Military Justice

Washington Post: Pentagon misled Congress about military’s handling of sexual assault cases, report says

Vox: How the Pentagon misled Congress to stop a law intended to help rape victims

New York Magazine: AP Report Says the Pentagon Misled Congress on Sexual-Assault Cases Within the Military