She worked on and off for five years identifying targets for the U.S. military’s Central Command.
And then, when, some believe, she spoke up about cherry-picked intelligence in the ISIS war, she was drummed out of her job—allegedly for cursing twice in the span of the year.
Those were just some of the surreal allegations thrown around last week in a Tampa law office conference room turned into a quasi-courtroom.
Had the case not involved the third-highest ranking person at the Defense Intelligence Agency, a two-star general, a military judge, and hours of testimony—all at a cost of thousands of dollars—it would have been hard to take seriously. Even with those high-ranking officials, at times it was hard not to do a double-take about what was happening.
After all, if cursing were really a fireable offense in the military, every soldier, sailor, Marine, and Defense Department civilian would have to be sent home.
The case suggested that, at CENTCOM, there are two wars being waged: one against ISIS and a separate internal fight between whistleblowers and commanders. This all came to the fore during a rare public hearing last Wednesday before the government appeals board, brought by a subordinate of Gregory Ryckman, the top-ranking civilian at CENTCOM’s Joint Intelligence office, known as the J2.
The woman at the center of the case makes a now-familiar allegation: that the same military officials who cherry-picked information about the ISIS war and downplayed the terror group’s rising threat also selectively picked information about her. The Pentagon inspector general now is investigating whether CENTCOM officials, including Ryckman, watered down assessments on the rising jihadist threat to comport with the White House.
The woman at the center of the controversy in this case, Carolyn Stewart, is a small person with a big voice. The Army veteran seemingly is demure at first glance, with shoulder-length light brown hair. But as soon as she speaks, it is clear she is not afraid to say exactly what she thinks.
She repeatedly prodded her lawyer throughout the day-long hearing about which questions to ask, which evidence to present, and which details to point out in her favor.
The hearing was a window into how allegations of toxic work environments, faulty reports, and bad leadership consumed the office tasked with leading CENTCOM’s intelligence gathering. At issue during the hours-long hearing was whether Stewart cursed at CENTCOM, and if she did curse, whether that created a hostile work environment.
“I went to other action officers to avoid Ms. Stewart,” one witness explained to the judge, in support of the decision to reassign her.
The hearing, held through a teleconference connecting DIA lawyers in Washington with a judge in Atlanta and the complainant in Tampa, had all the markings of a proper trial. Someone wore a robe and lawyers yelled out objections.
But one couldn’t help thinking it was like an episode of The Office. Those charged with helping target ISIS terrorists were instead obsessed with things like who “bitched out” whom. The government claimed she said it to another woman. Another witnesses said someone else said those words to Stewart.
It is worth noting that such debates were occupying a command post tasked with leading the war on ISIS. And yet the key issue of the time was how precisely Stewart handled a colleague telling her he would not adjust a target order.
“Did she toss the papers down or did she place them down?” a government lawyer asked a witness. [...]
Whistleblower Fired From CENTCOM After Speaking Out Against How Data Was Cooked To Downplay ISIS Threat
From the Daily Beast: