At 9:30 a.m. today, CAAF will hear oral argument in United States v. Claxton, No. 17-0148/AF (CAAFlog case page).

The case involves the prosecution’s failure to disclose that two of its witnesses were also undercover informants for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). The Air Force CCA found error but concluded that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. One of the informants is identified (and was first discovered after his status was published by a newspaper in 2013), but the identity of the second is well-hidden. So well, in fact, that Claxton’s briefs are sealed. Fortunately, however, the courtroom won’t be:

No. 17-0148/AF. U.S. v. Stephan H. Claxton. CCA 38188. On consideration of Appellant’s motion to close the courtroom for oral argument and the response of the government not opposing said motion, it is ordered that said motion is hereby denied. All parties will refer to the second confidential informant as “CI2” if necessary to the presentation of counsel’s oral argument on the assigned issue. The Clerk is directed to seal Appellant’s reply brief.

These informants were cadets at the Air Force Academy and – as discussed in the 2013 newspaper account – AFOSI would:

threaten them with prosecution, then coerce them into helping OSI in exchange for promises of leniency they don’t always keep. OSI then uses informants to infiltrate insular cadet groups, sometimes encouraging them to break rules to do so. When finished with informants, OSI takes steps to hide their existence, directing cadets to delete emails and messages, misleading Air Force commanders and Congress, and withholding documents they are required to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

The story seems to have been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light. Bravo to CAAF for keeping it there.

3 Responses to “CAAF preserves the public’s right of access in Claxton”

  1. prince says:

    NCIS,OSI,CID and all other military investigative service should be ashamed of how they unprofessionally violate the rights of men and women in the service accused of crimes. Their investigation is very partial and only consider evidence that satisfy their prejudice.

  2. DCGoneGalt says:

    Aaaaah, the world of confidential informants.  There were so many at one installation I worked at that I thought of the head of the investigative team leading the informants as “Willard”.  [After the movie where Crispin Glover had an army of rats that did his bidding.] 
     
    A joke . . . but I only think it’s funny since it has a hint of truth to it:
     
    Since, in my experience, most informants are gained by pressuring someone who has committed misconduct into becoming a rat  . . . I guess you could look at it as if military investigative agencies are training some cadets that when caught in wrong-doing they should not first look to accept responsibility but should instead look for an opportunity to cover up their actions and become two-faced lying weasels (i.e. continuing their misconduct as an informant).  And, while you may see that as reprehensible, it is a skill that will serve the cadets well as they advance in their careers.

  3. Studentia says:

    Mental note: no OSI at the airlines; with stories like this, how is it they wonder why they don’t retain people?