Dec. 6, 2013 The Air Force Academy and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are pushing back against a recent article published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, which claimed the Air Force recruited cadets to spy on fellow cadets for a host of criminal activities and then “disavowed them.”
Gazette reporters identified four informants, three of whom agreed to speak about their experiences with OSI, according to the report. All three informants said the program must change, according to the article.
“It’s contradictory to everything the academy is trying to do,” Vianca Torres, one of the informants, told the newspaper. “They say we are one big family and to trust each other, then they make you lie to everyone.”
The article talked extensively about former cadet Eric Thomas, who worked as an informant before he was kicked out of the Academy in April—one month before graduation.
According to the article, OSI ordered Thomas to wear a recorder as he infiltrated Academy cliques, set up drug buys, and tailed “suspected rapists.” He was then asked to feed that information back to OSI. In addition, the article states Thomas was “regularly directed by agents to break Academy rules.”
“I worked on dozens of cases, did a lot of good, and when it all hit the fan, they didn’t know me anymore,” Thomas told the Gazette.
The Academy says that just isn’t true.
The article “does not portray an accurate or complete view” of Thomas’ activities during his time at the Academy, according to a USAFA statement released Wednesday.
Thomas was the focus of the Gazette’s profile, but the USAFA claims his statements are at odds with the facts. Thomas’ pattern of misconduct began his freshman year, the Academy claims, and he accumulated many demerits, confinements, and restrictions prior to his work with OSI.
The Academy also says his informant work began in December 2011, not 2010 as stated in the article. And, Thomas was allegedly “already a part” of the social circles OSI was attempting to investigate, according to the Academy statement.
Thomas “was told that he was not allowed to violate the law, Air Force or DOD policies, or Academy rules. Mr. Thomas acknowledged these instructions in writing,” according to the Academy statement.
“At no time did AFOSI agents ask then cadet Thomas to violate this agreement,” the statement reads.
In a separate statement OSI defended the service-wide informant program as a “recognized, legitimate, and sanctioned technique used by all law enforcement agencies.” OSI says it regularly briefs USAF commanders on informant cases. AFOSI will continue to oversee the overall program, however, USAFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson will provide oversight of Academy informants, Academy spokesman Meade Warthen told the Daily Report.
“The AFOSI confidential informant program is an important and time-proven investigative tool successfully used to detect ongoing criminal activity, resolve criminal allegations, and ultimately maintain a high level of good order and discipline in the Air Force,” states the AFOSI release.