Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Protect Our Defenders Calls on White House to Direct an Independent Investigation into Pentagon Misleading Congress





In a letter to President Obama, Protect Our Defenders President Col. Don Christensen calls on White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to retract “dismissive” comments and urges the President to launch an investigation into why the Pentagon knowingly misled Congress

Washington, D.C. – Today, Protect Our Defenders President Col. Don Christensen sent a letter to President Obama, calling on the President to direct an independent investigation into who at the Pentagon is responsible for perpetuating false claims about the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, and calling on White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to retract dismissive statements he made last week, characterizing findings that the Pentagon had misled Congress as only a “bureaucratic dispute” over the “presentation” of information.

Contrary to Mr. Earnest’s mischaracterization, the concern is not over a mere difference of opinion or interpretation. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) own case files directly contradict Admiral James Winnefeld’s testimony and subsequent letter given to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).

When Admiral Winnefeld testified before the SASC on July 13, 2013, he left members of the Senate with the false impression that commanders were more aggressive than prosecutors in pursuing sexual assault cases. As evidence, he testified that the military reviewed case files from the Army and the Marine Corps and found a number of sexual assault cases (93 in total, according to a letter to the SASC) where commanders “insisted” on prosecuting after local district attorneys “refused” to prosecute. However, a recent Associated Press investigation and Protect Our Defenders report exposed that Admiral Winnefeld’s testimony misled Congress to block much needed reforms to the military justice system.

In fact, in two-thirds of cases, the defendant was never accused of sexual assault, civilian prosecutors did not decline the case, or the military chose not to prosecute the offender for sexual assault. And there was no indication that any commander ever “insisted” a case go forward over the objection of a military prosecutor or his Staff Judge Advocate

In the letter, Col. Christensen wrote:

“For Mr. Earnest to afford such little consideration to the gravity of the Pentagon’s deception is an affront to survivors, Congress, and the brave men and women who serve our country. The Press Secretary should retract his statement.

“Further, the White House should respond affirmatively to the bipartisan request for an independent investigation into who within the Pentagon is responsible for the false testimony and how such clearly erroneous information was provided to Congress.”

Read the full letter to President Obama here:

Associated Press: Pentagon misled lawmakers on military sexual assault cases

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

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

Stars and Stripes: Senators want investigation of Winnefeld’s sexual assault comments

Associated Press: Defense secretary investigating accuracy of sex crimes cases

VIDEO: The Pentagon’s Misleading Claims on Military Justice

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

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


About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a human rights organization. We are the only national organization solely dedicated to addressing the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military and to combating a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and retribution against victims. We honor, support and give voice to survivors of military sexual assault – including both service members and civilians assaulted by members of the military. We seek reform to ensure all survivors have access to a fair, impartially administered system of justice. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at