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.