Vermont Adjutant General rejects request for press accreditation by F-35 watchdog news report, CancelF35.substack.com

The rejection violates the military’s own rules and abridges freedom of speech and freedom of the press

Major General Gregory Knight, the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, revoked legitimacy for his own command by adding violation of the 1st amendment to the routine daily violence his forces are committing against Vermont civilians in violation of law, rights, and military regulations. The 1st amendment violation came in the form of rejecting the request from watchdog news website, CancelF35.substack.com for press accreditation to attend Guard news conferences.

While I respect your request, AR 360-1 states that ultimately press accreditation is up to the installation commander. Maj. Gen. Greg Knight has concurred with my recommendation to deny your request.

So wrote Major Detweiler, the Acting State Public Affairs Officer of the Vermont National Guard in an email on September 29, 2021.

The full exchange of emails between CancelF35.substack.com and the Vermont National Guard can be seen here, (except for part of the lowest email in the chain, from August 8, which was cut off by Maj. Detweiler’s email system, but which can nevertheless be seen here).

The Vermont National Guard is a state agency. As such it must scrupulously observe, protect, and defend the constitution. The 1st amendment prohibits government agencies, including the military, from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

As seen in the email chain, Maj. Detweiler and Adjutant General Knight relied on Army Regulation 360-1, which defines accreditation of the news media as, "a means of identifying correspondents with a legitimate need to gather news about military affairs, and fostering a professional relationship between the military and the media." (Page 74).

A review of AR 360-1 finds nothing that permits a commander to exclude a news media organization from accreditation based on content or viewpoint, or for adopting the traditional watchdog-reporting role. Nor does this Army regulation provide a commander with discretion to exclude a news media organization, like CancelF35.substack.com, that investigates and reports on violations of regulations, laws and rights by military commanders, like himself.

AR 360-1 actually promotes and encourages accreditation of reporters who write about military affairs, even if the factual and legal aspects they report on, such as F-35 jets training in a densely populated area, is uncomfortable for commanders. AR 360-1 imposes no restriction as to subject matter or viewpoint. Obsequiousness to commanders is not a requirement to be accredited to attend news conferences.

“The Duty of Newspapers Is To Comfort the Afflicted and To Afflict the Comfortable”

Furthermore, a watchdog role for news media is, by long American tradition, a legitimate role, and one that provides a truly professional relationship between government officials and the media, consistent with this review on Wikipedia:

Watchdog journalism is a form of investigative journalism where journalists, authors or publishers of a news publication fact-check and interview political and public figures to increase accountability. . . Watchdog journalism is different from propagandist journalists, who often report articles from a government's perspective. . . The role of the press to be a "watchdog" and monitor a government's actions has been one of the fundamental components of a democratic society.

Since launching on Halloween in 2020, CancelF35.substack.com has published over 50 articles related to the Vermont Air National Guard hurting and injuring civilians by practicing taking off and landing hundreds of times a month with the 115-decibel F-35 from a runway amidst the most densely populated cities in Vermont.

CancelF35.substack.com provides readers with the facts: More than 1650 submissions to four F-35 Report and Complaint Form surveys since March 2020 have gathered the facts showing that the F-35 training flights in such a densely populated city location cause pain, injury, distress, trauma, and suffering on a mass scale.

The survey results were later confirmed by independent reporting in this September 2020 VTDigger, in this April 2021 VTDigger article, in this July 2021 Seven Days cover story, in the film “Jet Line, Voicemails from the Flight Path,” in the town meeting vote in Winooski in March 2021, and by the testimony of dozens of residents at a Winooski City Council meeting on September 7, 2021, as reported on Channel 5, and as reported on VTDigger. The “impact” to civilians was also confirmed by such authorities as the Vermont Air National Guard Wing Commander, and by Senator Patrick Leahy.

CancelF35.substack.com reporting has further shown how the routine infliction of such harm on civilians on a daily basis violates Vermont laws, US laws, constitutional rights, treaty obligations, international law, and the military’s own regulations.

CancelF35.substack.com has 250 subscribers, a number that has been growing in response to the pain, injury, and suffering the Guard illegally inflicts on thousands of Vermonters living, working, or going to school in the 115-decibel noise zone. Its articles are also circulated to state and local elected officials and military leaders in Vermont and in the Pentagon and on social media.

Given the focus of CancelF35.substack.com on the Vermont Air National Guard F-35 training from the Burlington International Airport, and the long list of legitimate and professional watchdog articles it has published, there is no basis in AR 360-1 for the denial of press accreditation.

Moreover, the decision to exclude CancelF35.substack.com from press accreditation and from attendance at Vermont National Guard news conferences violates the 1st amendment by both chilling the freedom of speech and by denying the freedom of the press.

The decision chills free speech and press freedom not just by denying a reporter for CancelF35.com access but also by implicitly warning other news organizations that their access depends on not pursuing watchdog journalism on the topic of the F-35. As watchdog reporting on this topic is essential to health and safety, to democracy and to rule of law, the rejection of accreditation is an attack upon the rights and freedoms of all Vermonters.

By escalating the assault from physically attacking thousands of Vermont civilians to now assaulting 1st amendment rights, the Adjutant General removed any remaining shred of legitimacy from the F-35 training flights.

The absence of legitimacy reconfirms the urgent need for an immediate halt to those F-35 flights and all other military assaults on civilians conducted by US forces, here and everywhere. The loss of legitimacy also reconfirms the need to hold Vermont’s top political and military leaders to account. And the need for Vermont news media organizations to step up to the severe challenge by redoubling their own F-35 watchdog journalism.

Write or call your public servants:

Governor Phil Scott 802-828-3333 Chief of Staff <Jason.Gibbs@vermont.gov>

Vermont National Guard's Complaint Line: 802-660-5379

Add your own report & complaint to the online F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/4zjjn39x

See the responses to the F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (so far 495 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx

Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193 Chief of Staff <john_tracy@leahy.senate.gov>

Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>

Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <patrick.satalin@mail.house.gov>

Burlington City Council <citycouncil@burlingtonvt.gov>

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <mayor@burlingtonvt.gov>

Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <klott@winooskivt.org>

S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <hriehle@sburl.com>

Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <macaig@msn.com>

VT Senate President Becca Balint <bbalint@leg.state.vt.us>

VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <jkrowinski@leg.state.vt.us>

Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>

States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.fair.george@gmail.com>

Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <usavt.contactus1@usdoj.gov>

Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <gregory.c.knight.mil@mail.mil>

Major J Scott Detweiler <john.s.detweiler.mil@mail.mil>

Wing Commander Col David Shevchik <david.w.shevchik@mail.mil>

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>