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Academy superintendent to oversee use of cadets as informants

Dec. 5, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson
Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson has assumed oversight of a controversial informant program at the school. (The Associated Press / Brennan Linsley)
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Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson will now exercise oversight of the confidential informant program at the academy following a media report alleging that cadets have been victimized by investigators.

She will be aware of the operations, but the Office of Special Investigations will still have command and control of the program, an academy spokesman said.

A former cadet recently told a Colorado newspaper that he was recruited as an informant for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told to break the rules to gather evidence of cadet misconduct and then abandoned by OSI when he was no longer of any use to them. Eric Thomas was expelled from the academy, as had been at least one other informant who later spoke to the paper.

Thomas told the Colorado Springs Gazette that he was recruited as a confidential informant in 2010 after being questioned by an OSI agent about attending a party at which cadets used synthetic marijuana. He signed a non-disclosure agreement and was told to go to parties and befriend troublemakers.

Thomas told the newspaper his chain of command was unaware of his role with OSI, so he developed a bad reputation by hanging out with the wrong people. Things came to a head when he was told to track a cadet who had been accused of sexual assault. After attending a party with the cadet, the two got into a fight when Thomas moved to protect a woman he believed the cadet was trying to sexually assault after she had passed out.

OSI did nothing when a discipline board recommended expelling Thomas over the incident, the newspaper reported. In fact, he was told to keep going to parties even though he was restricted to base. Despite playing a pivotal role in investigations, OSI kept quiet about why Thomas was breaking the rules, and eventually Thomas was kicked out of the academy.

On Tuesday, the Air force Academy pushed back hard against the story by issuing a statement that Thomas racked up more than enough demerits to be expelled before he started working for OSI as an informant. The statement also said Thomas was not ordered to break rules as part of investigations, and his role with OSI was considered before he was expelled.

Johnson assumed her oversight role on Wednesday, said Air Force Academy spokesman Meade Warthen in an email. He did not say what prompted the move.

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