Marines seek DOD guidance on social media use

Associated Press Modified: April 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm •  Published: April 6, 2012
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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — Marine Corps officials are seeking additional guidance from the Pentagon regarding service members' use of social media amid discharge proceedings against a Camp Pendleton sergeant who criticized President Barack Obama on Facebook.

Joe Kasper, spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said Friday that Hunter's office was notified of the plans in a letter from a Marine Corps major general.

Hunter had urged authorities to withdraw discharge proceedings against Sgt. Gary Stein because he said the Pentagon's policy limiting service members' free is ambiguous about the use of social media.

A Marine Corps administrative board concluded after a daylong hearing Thursday at Camp Pendleton that Stein violated the policy when he posted anti-Obama comments and images on Facebook, including allegedly putting the president's face on a "Jackass" movie poster.

The board recommended that Stein be given an other-than-honorable discharge. That would mean Stein would lose his benefits and would not be allowed on any military base.

The board's recommendations go to a general who will either accept or deny them. If the general disagrees with the board, the case could go to the secretary of the Navy.

Stein's lawyers and Hunter and argued that the Pentagon policy is vague and military officials do not understand it.

Stein has said his opinions are his own and he put a disclaimer on his Facebook page saying so. His attorneys argued that service members have a right to voice their opinions as long as they do not appear to be presenting their views as being endorsed by the military.

"If there is anything good to come out of this, it's the fact that the Marines realize the guidelines need to be updated," Kasper said Friday. "It's just too bad it took all of this to get there."

The Marine Corps has said it decided to take administrative action after Stein declared on Facebook that he would not follow orders from Obama. Stein later clarified that statement saying he would not follow unlawful orders.

The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief.

Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.



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