Friends of Webster

Raised in the house, but field certified.

The Noose Hangs On: UPDATED

“When a noose hangs from a schoolyard tree in the 21st century and young men are treated in a way that is not equal nor just, it is not just an offense to the people of Jena or to the African-American community, it is an offense to the ideals we hold as Americans.”

–Senator Barack Obama

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** Click To View Video**

 On August 20, 2007–Federal Judge and retired Coast Guardsman London Steverson published a blog about the noose incidents on the USCGC Barque Eagle entitled, The EAGLE has Landed.  Judge Steverson complained that the Coast Guard didn’t initiate a criminal inquiry into the racist act.  Steverson said,“The Academy is pretty much a closed society. Attitudes and actions start at the top of the chain of command and run down hill. The senior officers set the tone, and the lower ranking officers and cadets take their clues from them.”

After nearly thirty days, numerous comments, and much attention on Steverson’s blog–The Day’s Chuck Potter recieves his big break.

potter_c.jpg  Noose Incident On Ship & Shore at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy 9/22/07

Mr. Potter decided to follow up on this story.  After a summer of nooses hanging all over the country, the story had to have some AP traction and it most certainly did. Within hours, Mr. Potter is credited with breaking a national story.  I mean, this is the type of story that ranks #1 on Google when you search for his name.  The story caused added fuel to the Jena fire. 

Mr. Potter played nice in his column, I think he had to. Regardless, the job was done and change was in the air.  I thought that maybe, progress would be made. Perhaps, black cadets at the academy wouldn’t have to shake off every racially insensitive comment as a ‘joke’ any longer. I mean, the young cadet was going to be ‘fine’ with whatever solution senior officers agreed upon. 

 

By September 26, The Coast Guard Blog was reporting on the national news that was made public by London Steverson on August 20.  Nearly seven months later, after the mega-investigation–the Academy found no one. 

The Day’s Jennifer Grogan recently reported, “Fifty agents from CGIS, the Navy Criminal Investigative Service, and the FBI spent more than 2,500 hours conducting 226 interviews, reviewing more than 13,000 emails and collecting evidence in one of the Coast Guard’s most extensive investigations to date.”

They had every American investigatory organization, in New London. I am sure that CGIS has done some quality work before. There are television shows about the NCIS and FBI’s expertise and professionalism and I believe that 100+ days of active investigating and the many hours used to address this issue is an indication.  People were quick to forget that bloggers didn’t find out about the noose incident until 60+ days had past since the criminal act occured. Without Mr. Potter’s article, nothing was going to happen. The academy did not want another court-martial. 

If the academy wanted to court-martial someone, they would have found a kid “W” whose picture looked like a mean white supremacist. They would have stood before the Corps of Cadets in the Wardroom to find five or six minorities who claimed that, in hindsight, an interaction that “W” had with them was undoubtedly racist. One of the minorities would be an appointed leader within the Cadet Corps for the appearance of prosecutorial credibility. They would have placed “W’ in a BEQ on the other side of the Thames River on a gag-order and they would have given him orders to work at water front. “W” would be prohibited from fraternizing with the enlisted crewmen, talking to officers, and communicating with cadets as they are all potential witnesses. So yes, “W” can talk to absolutely no one–not even if they can proffer exculpatory evidence. They would have court-martialed “W” using five or six minorities to bolster the claims of the headline grabbing, gracious, black cadet that was interviewed by Mr. Potter, . It would then be their hope that “W” would plead guilty to something, anything in exchange for four years so that the academy wouldn’t have to lose face with a revealing court-martial. Simple probability would have it that “W” would be convicted of offending one of the seven minorities who “came forward” to make claims. That is the only way that it would have worked.

Case solved, right?  No one will ever be racist again. Ever. 

Except, racism isn’t that important of a problem to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and ‘show trials’ aren’t deterrents for  cadets because no one thinks that what happens to kid ”W” could ever happen to them. 

Mr. Potter probably did the best he could to pursue justice.  He appears moderate on racially sensitive issues.  A black journalist employed by a New England news organization, pursuing black interests?  I am assuming it’s not the best idea. Sometimes we are afraid of what we will find on the other side of the door that we are knocking on.  Knock politely, no surprises or disappointments.

Congress recently unanimously passed a bill to criminalize noose hanging. While the Academy should have done a better job of showing the importance of race relations, I can’t help but see a pattern.  I mean, Terri Dickerson was involved which means that no feathers will ever be ruffled for the sake of minority equality.  It is sort of like Mr. Potter’s position, except his is justifiable.  A black Director of CG Civil Rights should do more to address black issues in the professional work place.  It appears that she has a role similar to the aforementioned “appointed leader” who simply adds credibility to the conflict because of who or what she is. Coast Guard personnel may now believe that race issues in the Coast Guard will never be resolved. Someone please remind Ms. Dickerson that civil rights is for everyone, even the people that the term was coined for. This world is not colorblind, so progress is necessary and sometimes…it’s uncomfortable.

 

  

Progress.

NEW NOOSE FOUND IN SOUTH FLORIDA.  Again, nothing will happen and no problems will be solved.

 

–Friends Of Webster

March 31st, 2008 Posted by | News | no comments

“Issue the order…”

“Issue the order” resonates because of a recent conversation that I had with CDR Merle Smith, ret. He called around the time of my January hearing, asking for the appelate brief that the Wilmer Hale lawyers drafted, in hopes of explaining the entirety of the Webster Smith story to Admiral Allen’s Chief of Staff–Vice Admiral Robert J. Papp. CDR Smith wanted to lay out a chronology that several know but only my family and defense lawyers care to tell. He wanted to paint the whole picture for the Admiral. “Why?” I asked. ”So that the Coast Guard will be prepared to comment on your case, if you are exonerated by the CCCA.” I then knew that I could only be exonerated after an ‘approved’ decision by the court. So, I wait for that order.

 ** Thomas Jackson left this comment on Friends Of Webster. His words reflect the tone of much of my last post, “The Calvary Ain’t Coming.” As a self-reflective, independently thinking, retired senior officer–Thomas Jackson and his team have created a voice of journalistic credibility that continues to assist and inform.

By. Thomas Jackson, Editor–The Coast Guard Report      

I’m saddened when faced with the very real “realization” that some leaders in all five branches of the military only pay lip service to their own service phrases such as the Navy’s “Honor, Courage and Commitment,” and Coast Guards “ Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty.” Both have meaning to me, but I have serious question as to their meaning to some leaders. The Honor part of both catchy phrases is what bothers me most. How honorable is to sit back and watch any process you know is broken? I’ve seen many broken processes in my time, and taken a stand each time. It’s usually the most unpopular thing you can do in the military.

Let me give you an example or two. We have many rules, regulations and policies in the military. We’re (leadership) usually unwilling to bend in most cases, unless there is a benefit. What’s a benefit depends on the circumstance, but in many cases it’s making a more senior or Flag officer happy. We’re all aware of the Coast Guard Commandant whose son got several free passes at the Coast Guard Academy, then later after being booted for a second time from CGA got a free pass to OCS. His career after commissioning was as short lived as was the second career his father set him up in.

The same scenario has played out at all 5 service academy’s, and not just with “legacy kids,” but any kid with something of use to the institution. What’s useful? A mom or dad in congress, or a celebrity or just simply filthy rich. Having a parent or god parent who is a senior officer, elected official or Presidential appointee is also a big help. When I was on staff at USNA we had many of these kids, and I came to know in particular just before his graduation. He was already a pretty infamous Midshipman before I arrived after his Plebe year. He had not only maxed out demerits once, but twice and a third time. What most couldn’t figure out was how kept from being booted out Gate 3. This young man came to be my charge for several months before his delayed graduation date. He was a nice kid, smart, athletic and good looking but just a bit of a smart ass.

Both me and my Deputy were invited to his graduation party held in of all places (for a delayed grad), Alumni House. When we arrived he did what any kid of impeccable manners, etiquette and upbringing would do, and ushered us around like honored guests to meet his family and friends. It was when he introduced us to his Godfather that the lights came on. His Godfather needed no introduction to us, be certainly we did to him. His Godfather, Admiral William J. Crowe, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Ambassador to the UK no doubt played a role his long and tenuous 4+ years at the Academy. But, equally so the Admiral probably saw in him what both me and my Deputy saw in him … a smart ass kid with much to offer our service.

So where am I going with this? I guess all over the board … in that I think we don’t give some kids the fair shake they deserve to protect those who don’t deserve our protection. And in other cases, I’m sure because I have seen it first hand that we trash and dump some kids too quickly. I have read enough about the Webster Smith case in both press and other accounts that I can say in my own opinion (based on some knowledge of how our service academy’s operate from the inside looking out) that Webster did not get a fair shake.

As we continue to watch the Deepwater debacle only get worse, and the recent firing of a Coast Guard contract employee for Blogging ; and the even more recent issue of the Coast Guard Headquarters Public Affairs organization being caught fabricating a story on the Coast Guard Official website we have to ask where it will all end.

One Coast Guard blog continues to suggest that Admiral Thad Allen is the right man for the job and that they” know he’s working hard to correct all of these issues but “that he’s being fought hard by other Coast Guard Admirals who don’t support is idea’s” and programs. That thought process is hard for me to understand. A leader leads and followers follow or get out of the way. The Commandant of the Coast Guard is the Chief Executive Officer of this Agency. If he has employees who are unwilling to support him, then he has an obligation to move them out the door or hold them accountable. This is the military, and even Admiral’s must follow their Commandant’s orders.

Issue the order Admiral Allen, issue the order.

March 30th, 2008 Posted by | News | 2 comments

The Calvary Ain’t Coming

While my site was down, I had a long time to reflect on the impact that friendsofwebster.com has had on my life. I began reflecting on its role and its purpose; I looked at what it was and what I did not want it to become.  I reasoned that the site does not have as noble a cause as Thomas Jackson’s Coast Guard Report or the informed and objective information that Coast Guard Blog does. I can not be as honest nor passionate as Judge Steverson in his CGA-Chase Hall blog. In fact, we have a completely different approach for meeting the same objective. I don’t want to hurt the Coast Guard or even dwell on the service and their misdeeds because my purpose, my desire to go to law school to eventually become a champion for justice and civil rights has little to do with the Coast Guard. It has more to do with the guys that I met while confined in Charleston, South Carolina whose cases had zero transparency and NO media scrutiny.

In a vacuum, the efforts by my stellar group of attorneys at Wilmer Hale would have been successful by now.  I spoke to the most familiar member of my defense team, just two days ago and he agreed. There are external forces playing their roles in my case, whether intentional or not.  He advises me to pretend like nothing is going on so some days my focus is 100% on my wife and my daughter or my overloaded academic final semester only to find that the majority of the time, this case never leaves my conscious mind.  

In the meanwhile, I live with the fear that I will always be considered a second class citizen.

When Thomas Jackson posted an inquiry from me on his website, an anonymous writer wrote the following:

Anonymous said…

Webster Smith was found guilty of several lesser charges (each of which are each reprehensible, even if they aren’t rape). He was sentenced by court martial, and served time. I don’t know all the facts, and neither does anyone (except maybe Webster Smith).  

That doesn’t mean his allegations of discrimination aren’t true, but don’t go away thinking Webster Smith is a good guy.

 

When I read this, I took a deep breath and just said a quick prayer.  “It could have been worse,” I mouthed.  Truth is, it doesn’t get old to me. I was reminded of the role that CDR Merle J. Smith had in the darkest days of my life. I reminisced about the days when no one in New London, Connecticut would hear me out and it just made me appreciate him standing up for me when I was just trying to find fairness.  Being drummed out of the Corps of Cadets has always been fresh in my mind.  In January and February of 2006, it seemed that the impression was that guilt was not a question but a definite and thus, no lawyer who saw what I was up against would lend a hand. CDR Merle J. Smith, a man whose entire life is the U.S. Coast Guard, stood up for me and allowed me in his home. Without him, I assure you–I wouldn’t be here right now. Not because he was an amazing trial lawyer (he wasn’t a trial lawyer at all, he practiced admirality law), but because he reminded me of what I could still be one day. This site combines a) the notion of possibility and optimism with b) this realization that by the time people know the facts and the absurdities of my case, it will be too late to do anything about it.

“The calvary ain’t comin’.” At first glance, my case seems only important to me.  However, this is not about a young black man and his strife, his dreams, or idealism. This is about leadership, honor, and the thin line between politics and service. I was developed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Nothing in my life has been harder than my hardest days there.  The same stories that the alternative media are focusing on with individuals, their poor policy decisions, and their leadership weaknesses are clearly apparent in my case.  I lived at the training ground for social and intellectual elitism. When I was on the right side of it all, I was taught that Coast Guard Academy graduates were the smartest, most able members of the U.S. Armed Forces. We endured more than West Point because behind the walls, the media was not interested in our plight so discipline was never tamed for cameras. We learned more than Midshipmen because we didn’t focus on the boisterous traditions of big-time college sports and pub-town drinking.  You get the point, cadets were bred to feel invincible–untouchable–infallible.  It is only logic that former cadets with years of ribbons and brass are only emboldened by their tenure of invincibility.  There is no culture on this green earth quite like that of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.  At times, I felt like I was at an elite boarding school for the children of the privileged. I did not feel like I was preparing for the war on drugs, terrorism, and the possibility of giving my life to help others.

 

 

It’s going to take a miracle to free me of the shame of U.S. v. Cadet Webster Smith because most people have failed to see that this case is indicative of much larger core value and character issues in the Coast Guard. My court-martial was a microcosm of what happens behind academy walls: how truths are dodged, uncomfortable topics ignored, action taken after public scrutiny, sacrificial lambs, tax-payer money spent on ’mending’ the problem, and future officers examing what it takes to dodge a bullet–in real time. The same issues with judgement and character that members of the alternative and major media are reporting in the NSC Cutter and administration stories are cultivated at my battleground, 15 Mohegan Avenue. 

 

God Bless,

Webster M. Smith

March 17th, 2008 Posted by | News | 6 comments

Pennsylvania Ave?