Badpuppy Gay Today

Tuesday, 13 January 1998


Telephone Call to America on Line Leads to Dismissal Order for Veteran
17-Year Military Career Man Fights "Don't Ask" Invasions of Privacy

By Jack Nichols


A legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Agency says that when people use AOL they've got a right to feel assured their privacy would be protected.

Unfortunately for AOL users it appears that there has been—in the case of a 36-year old Navy veteran-- a serious breach of such privacy. With this reported breach, say privacy advocates, AOL has violated its own privacy policy and may have also violated a federal law.

Ten million America On-Line users with profiles in cyberspace, privacy advocates believe, should not be required to edit their profile-bios to avoid the sex-snooping of certain so-called "authorities".

AOL subscribers may have reason to feel nervous—as was testified in a recent military hearing--that AOL wantonly divulged the full identity of its profile holder—Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy R. McVeigh-- a 17-year Navy Chief of the Boat, the USS Chicago—who in his AOL profile simply filled blanks listing his first name, "Tim", his marital status and Honolulu, the city where he resided.

McVeigh learned from an investigator in hearing testimony, that AOL, after receiving a phone call from the Navy, divulged his full identity over the telephone. Under "marital status" the word "gay" had appeared, thus giving military snoopers what they mistakenly took as proof that McVeigh should be expelled from the military's ranks.

McVeigh was careful to avoid mention, in his AOL profile, of his full name or of his occupation. But by blatantly turning his "gay" marital status into a fact of McVeigh's life, military investigators have been caught red-handed, illegally violating their government's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

The Navy had no way of knowing, except through AOL, said Navy investigator Joseph Kaiser, telling how the Navy pursued invasive strategies in an attempt to determine McVeigh's sexual orientation.

This instance of "caught with a hand in the cookie jar" injustice also makes clear, as rights groups repeatedly charge, that military investigative witch-hunts for gay and lesbian military personnel have been greatly stepped up since the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy was implemented.

Secretary of the Navy John Dalton flatly denied the existence of such witch-hunts in December.

Even so, the Chief of Naval Personnel has approved a recommendation to discharge the much-pursued McVeigh, improperly citing "Homosexual Conduct Admittance," as the reason. The recommendation says that McVeigh is to be discharged Thursday. Gay rights groups and privacy advocates are outraged.

Supporters of McVeigh point out that without his flippant AOL profile, improperly sezied, the government has no case against him. CNN Headline News reported McVeigh's damaging case against his pursuers and the matter of his divulged AOL profile shortly after 1 a.m. today.

An AOL spokeswoman refused to comment on Navy investigator Kaiser's testimony naming AOL as his source. Instead she repeated company policy, namely that AOL refuses to divulge information about its subscribers unless ordered through the courts or through a subpoena or search warrant to do so.

C. Dixon Osburn, co-executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said "Under 'Don't ask, Don't tell,' there are supposed to be certain limits on investigations." McVeigh, says Osburn, "didn't work hard to get on the (Navy's) radar screen."

Timothy R. McVeigh is boldly fighting the injustice visited on him by military authorities. Find out what you can do to help. McVeigh has opened a world-wide Web site at

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