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I had purposely stayed away from the sad story that is Gary Stein until the Marine Corps had rendered justice on this particular individual. Now that a decision has been made, I’ll offer a couple of thoughts.
First of all, I agree with the decision to discharge this individual under other than honorable conditions and reduce him in rank to Lance Corporal (E-3). This is the highest rank in the Marine Corps that is NOT responsible (on paper) for the conduct and activities of other Marines. This two grade reduction indicates that Stein failed as a Marine non-commissioned officer.
Despite what Stein and his supporters would have you believe, this was never a first amendment issue. This was about then Sergeant Stein’s willful and intentional violation of DOD Directive 1344.10. This order (because that’s what it is), signed during the Bush administration, restricts the political activities of military active duty and retired personnel. (This is different from the Hatch Act which restricts the political activities of U.S. Government Civil Service employees.) Stein had (and still has) a right as a U. S. citizen to speak his opinion, but he did not have the right (under this directive) to create a public forum supposedly representing the Armed Forces and ridicule his chain of command. Free speech is not free of consequences.
Frankly, in my personal opinion, I thought he should have been charged with sedition, Article 94 of the UCMJ, but that would have been a harder charge to make stick. But there was documentation that junior Marines read his remarks and commented in the affirmative on his political Facebook page. That made it easier, I think, for the panel to find him guilty of violating UCMJ General Article 134 because he compromised “good order and discipline in the armed forces.”
What I find most interesting in this whole turn of events is that by now making himself a “public figure” as he did (and defined in law), he now has the same burden of proof relative to libel and slander charges as his former civilian chain of command. In other words, he has to prove malice relative to anything that is written or spoken of him, which can be extremely difficult to do. I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Stein read this before he started his public Facebook forum. If he didn’t, he should have.
There is an excellent article at Liberty Zone, by blogger Nikki, on Mr. Stein’s situation. It is well worth reading because it gets to the point much better than I can. Sadly, I given Mr. Stein more bandwidth than he rightly deserves on this site. In short, Mr. Stein got exactly what he deserved and asked for. No more and no less.