Dem senators call on Pentagon for transparency on child sex abuse

Dem senators call on Pentagon for transparency on child sex abuse
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Three female Democratic senators are pushing the Pentagon for more transparency on child sex abuse cases in the military, following a recent report highlighting the prevalence of such cases.  

Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-Hawaii) sent Defense Secretary Ashton Carter a letter Tuesday urging him to reform the military judicial system "so that it is transparent and accountable." 

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According to a recent Associated Press report, almost a third of inmates in the military's prison network were charged with sex crimes involving children — ranging from viewing and producing child pornography to sexual assault and rape.  

The report also detailed the lack of transparency and accessibility in military criminal proceedings that prevents the public from knowing the full scope of crimes committed by service members. 

For example, the AP investigation also found that the Pentagon reduced the sentences of several of the alleged child sex offenders through undisclosed pre-trial agreements. 

"This is incredibly alarming," the senators wrote. "While there may have been legitimate reasons for some of these decisions, it is prohibitively difficult to independently assess the decisions in a timely manner since the military services do not include legal records or trial outcomes in an online database like the civilian court systems."

The senators said the information available to the public is limited, difficult to access and, in some cases, only provided after submitting Freedom of Information Act requests, which can take months. 

They said they were also concerned the Pentagon keeps separate records regarding "family-related assault cases through its Family Advocacy Program," and that these records are not included in the annual Sexual Assault and Prevention Response Office (SAPRO) report that is submitted to Congress. 

"Taken in combination with the AP's findings, we are worried that we continue to lack a clear picture of the full rates of sexual assault in the military," they said.

The senators requested that Carter apply the same openness standards for civilian courts to provide court documents electronically. 

"Additionally, we request that the Department begin including Family Advocacy Program related incidences in the annual SAPRO reports submitted to Congress," they wrote. 

"The lack of transparency in the military justice system calls into question the integrity of the institution and hides the system's shortcomings."