Will Vermont National Guard commanders uphold the freedom of the press?

CancelF35.substack.com seeks to be credentialed by the Vermont National Guard to attend future news conferences and ask questions

On behalf of CancelF35.substack.com I am applying to be credentialed by the Vermont National Guard so I can attend future Vermont National Guard news conferences and ask questions. You can see the chain of emails to the Vermont National Guard in which I submitted that request and explained how I meet all the criteria here.

Although reporters from most other local news media were on the list and invited to the August 5, 2021 round table conducted by Vermont National Guard commanders, CancelF35.substack.com was not on the accredited media list and was not invited. While other local news media got their stories about the 113-page report of sexual abuse of female Guard members printed on the day the news embargo lifted, August 8, CancelF35.substack.com only heard about it upon reading one of those articles and only got its article about the report published two days later.

CancelF35.substack.com brings a vastly more critical take

What differentiated the article on CancelF35.substack.com,Sexual abuse of female Guard members and mass abuse of civilians with F-35 both rooted in failed Guard leadership,” was the description of suffering by both female members of the Guard and by thousands of civilian families, both at the hands of Guard commanders, that together revealed a pattern and practice of depraved indifference.

The article first showed that commanders failed to quell the culture of sexual assault and harassment, and even protected perpetrators and recommended them; that commanders failed to follow DOD regulations that were updated in 2013 related to sexual misconduct; and that commanders continued to permit unlawful discrimination against women Guard members and continued to permit “an old boys network” of favoritism within both the Army and Air segments of the Vermont National Guard.

But the article then went on to present the facts showing the Guard’s ongoing targeting of thousands of Vermont families with 115-decibel F-35 jets training in densely populated cities hundreds of times a month even though commanders knew from disclosures in the Air Force Environmental Impact Statement that nearly 3000 working class, immigrant, and BIPOC civilian families, their children and their schools would be harmed. And even though commanders also knew they were foisting the F-35 in densely populated cities against the will of the people, as expressed in the 2018 Burlington town meeting vote and as confirmed in the 2021 Winooski town meeting vote. And even though Commanders also knew that the military’s own fundamental law of war principles and US and Vermont laws flatly prohibited such indiscriminate violence targeting civilians.

By including both the internal and the external ongoing types of vicious abuse committed by Vermont National Guard commanders in context for its readers, CancelF35.substack.com not only avoided one abuse issue from being used to divert from the other. Reporting the two together also revealed a pattern and practice of heinous abuse by a government agency that could not be made evident from description of one of them alone. CancelF35.substack.com showed not only that both were ongoing, but that both were continuing with impunity.

A pattern and practice of abuse underway with no effort by the state’s criminal justice system prosecutors to bring either one of them to a stop or to hold those responsible to account.

And that the actions of Guard commanders continue to enjoy the full support of the state’s top political leaders, with no hesitation regardless of the magnitude or type of abuse commanders foist on female Guard members and on thousands of civilians.

The facts, taken as a whole, add up to a pattern and practice of government wrongdoing so repugnant that it violates any reasonable standard of decency. A pattern and practice that cries out for independent and impartial criminal investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of commanders and the state’s top political leaders who are their enablers and collaborators.

Precisely because of that more critical take on the twin types of state-sponsored violence, the request for accreditation ought not be denied, as shown by at least the following two court decisions.

Court decides in favor of a reporter who was denied a White House press pass

The Federal Circuit for the District of Columbia held that White House press pass “refusal must be based on a compelling governmental interest.” And that first and fifth amendment rights were violated by the White House when it failed “to articulate and publish an explicit and meaningful standard governing denial of White House press passes for security reasons, and to afford procedural protections to those denied passes.” The appeals court affirmed the district court’s requirements of “notice, opportunity to be heard, and a final written statement of the bases of denial.”

In reaching this conclusion, the court wrote:

White House press facilities having been made publicly available as a source of information for newsmen, the protection afforded newsgathering under the first amendment guarantee of freedom of the press, requires that this access not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons. Not only newsmen and the publications for which they write, but also the public at large have an interest protected by the first amendment in assuring that restrictions on newsgathering be no more arduous than necessary, and that individual newsmen not be arbitrarily excluded from sources of information.

The US Supreme Court rejects “governmental suppression” and “prior restraint” in the Pentagon Papers Case

The US Supreme Court decision in the Pentagon Papers case upheld First Amendment freedom of the press and prohibited governmental suppression and prior restraint. As noted by Justice Hugo Black in his separate concurring decision:

The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

As Justice William O. Douglas wrote in his concurring opinion in that same case, “any prior restraint on expression comes to this Court with a ‘heavy presumption’ against its constitutional validity. . . . The dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of governmental suppression.”

A government agency that denies certain reporters accreditation to attend news conferences without “compelling reasons,” while inviting a whole list of others, shapes the reporting and implements governmental suppression and a form of prior restraint.

The Army regulation supports accreditation

The request for accreditation is also supported by Army Regulation 360-1, which defines “accreditation” 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.” Not as a means of rejecting a reporter because of content or viewpoint, no matter how critical.

The regulation further states, that “Commanders may supplement accreditation systems for media in connection with covering a specific event. However, accreditation will not be made cumbersome, overly extensive, or obtrusive for the purposes of making coverage of an event difficult.”

Here are some of the questions I want to ask if I am accredited:

In view of the fact that military laws and regulations actually provide more protections for civilians than do civilian laws, I want to ask commanders whether any exception to the laws of war, if any, permits the Vermont National Guard to physically assault thousands of Vermont civilians for a training operation in Vermont with 115-decibel F-35s hundreds of times a month?

I want to ask commanders whether they are aware that Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 2311.01 requires military forces to “act consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules” in all military operations?

The law of war’s fundamental principles listed in DoD 2311.01 are military necessity, distinction, proportionality, humanity, and honor.

I want to ask commanders whether they are aware that the Department of Defense Law of War Manual states that “‘elementary considerations of humanity’ have been understood to be ‘even more exacting in peace than in war.’ Thus, these legal standards, at a minimum, must be adhered to in all circumstances” (p. 72)? Doesn’t “in peace” and “in all circumstances” mean that even for training in Vermont the Vermont National Guard must adhere to the laws of war?

I want to ask commanders whether training for a federal mission, like the war in Afghanistan, can justify the pain, injury, and distress the Vermont National Guard is inflicting on Vermont civilians by training with F-35 jets in a densely populated city?

I want to ask, what is the military necessity for training with F-35 jets from a runway in S. Burlington, a densely populated city, when using a runway remote from any populated area would work equally well for the takeoff and landing portions of the training?

I want to ask whether using the Burlington International Airport runway is merely a matter of convenience?

I want to ask how training in a city can be a military necessity in view of the Air Force Environmental Impact Statement describing five acceptable locations for these jets that are not in populated areas?

I want to ask how training in a city can be a military necessity in view of the state having 17 other active airports, several of which are miles away from densely populated areas? The Burlington International Airport, (BTV) is in the Chamberlin School neighborhood of the City of S. Burlington, and the runway aims at the Cities of Winooski and Burlington, only 1 mile away in one direction and at residential and commercial parts of the Town of Williston in the other direction.

I want to ask how training in a city can be a military necessity when a former Air Force base with a nearly 12,000 foot runway is right across the lake?

I want to ask the Adjutant General and Wing Commander whether each member of the Vermont Air National Guard participates in an annual law-of-war training program, as required by the US Department of Defense for all personnel?

I want to ask commanders whether you would recommend to other states to go ahead and hurt thousands of your own citizens for the convenience of training with F-35 jets in a city?

I want to ask commanders if they drain themselves of legitimacy by training in a location where they hurt, injure, and distress thousands of Vermonters without any military necessity and merely for the convenience of being near a city with restaurants, bars, and entertainment?

I want to ask commanders, what’s wrong with you that you hurt Vermonters when your job is to protect them?

I want to ask, as word gets out about the physical abuse the Vermont National Guard inflicts on Vermonters, what do you expect will be the welcome for US military forces when it occupies other countries, like Afghanistan and Iraq?

I want to ask commanders whether the 113-page report of their promoting perpetrators of sexual assaults, the heavy drinking flying fraternity culture, and the 115-decibel F-35 training in a city that causes pain, injury, and distress for hundreds of civilians adds up to a pattern and practice of wanton abuse that requires criminal investigation, prosecution, and incarceration?

Seven Days reported in its cover story, “Sound Effects,” on July 7, that “Vermont's most powerful politicians — including its congressional delegation, Gov. Phil Scott and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger — have remained unwavering in their support of the F-35s.”

I want to ask commanders whether they are protected by the state’s top political leaders, including its prosecutors, so they have impunity no matter what regulations and laws they violate and no matter how many of their own female members are sexually assaulted and no matter how many Vermont civilians they hurt by training with F-35 jets in a city?

What readers can do:

CancelF35.substack.com asks readers to send a brief note, preferably in your own words, to Maj. Scott Detweiler <john.s.detweiler.mil@mail.mil> requesting accreditation for CancelF35.substack.com to participate in future news conferences.

Please also ask him to consider that CancelF35.substack.com is a responsible news media outlet focused on holding an outlaw government agency to account for its wrongdoing. Such a responsible news media outlet should not be punished by having its First Amendment freedom of the press restrained or abridged by being denied access to the same news media events and on the same terms as other news organizations.

Also consider asking him to follow Army Regulation 360-1 that protects such access. And reminding him that upholding his oath to defend the constitution and its First Amendment freedom of the press, as well as Army regulation 360-1, is achieved by accrediting CancelF35.substack.com.

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 447 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>