Senators say they’re just learning of a probe into mishandled sexual assaults at Coast Guard Academy

Jun 30, 2023, 10:41 AM

FILE - This photo shows the United States Coast Guard Academy, Sept. 14, 2020, in New London, Conn....

FILE - This photo shows the United States Coast Guard Academy, Sept. 14, 2020, in New London, Conn. A previously undisclosed investigation reveals the U.S. Coast Guard failed to appropriately review and prosecute cases of sexual assault at the service's Connecticut academy for years while some of the accused rose up the ranks. Two U.S. Senators on Friday, June 23, 2023, demanded documents and records concerning the probe. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — A previously undisclosed investigation reveals the U.S. Coast Guard failed to appropriately review, prosecute and report cases of sexual assault at the service’s Connecticut academy for years while some of the accused rose up the ranks, according to two U.S. Senators who on Friday demanded documents and records concerning the probe.

The Coast Guard informally briefed Senate staff this month on “Operation Fouled Anchor,” an internal investigation that ran from 2014 to 2020. It had identified 62 substantiated incidents of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment from 1988 and 2006 which occurred at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, or by academy cadets.

Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin said the investigation was not previously disclosed to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has oversight of the Coast Guard.

“This information is disturbing,” they wrote in a letter dated Friday to Admiral Linda L. Fagan, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

They said the committee is seeking additional information “to determine if the Coast Guard complied with the law and to inform potential legislative actions.”

Besides all related documentation, they’re seeking answers to questions, including whether any individuals with substantiated claims are now employed by the Department of Homeland Security, including the Coast Guard, and whether they have security clearances.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy referred requests for comment to the U.S. Coast Guard. A message was left seeking comment.

The Democratic senators said in the letter they were told 42 individuals may have had substantiated claims made against them, “yet it does not appear that the Coast Guard appropriately investigated at the time the incidents were reported.”

The Coast Guard investigation also found that academy leaders failed to respond to reports of rape, sexual assault and harassment, and the Coast Guard chose not to investigate or discipline those leaders, the senators said.

Two officers accused of misconduct were allowed to retire as commanders and currently have pension and veteran’s benefits, the senators said. Both people, the senators said, were confirmed by the Senate at least once during the course of the investigation.

“The Committee was not notified that the officers were under investigation when the Coast Guard provided the promotion lists to the Senate resulting in their confirmation,” they wrote. “It is unclear how many other officers had substantiated claims against them, were not disciplined, and remained in positions of leadership or management.”

Federal officials are aware that unwanted sexual contact has been an issue at the elite academy. A 2019 Pentagon survey found almost half of female cadets said they were sexually harassed and about one in eight women reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact. Almost 20% of male cadets reported experiencing sexual harassment.

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Senators say they’re just learning of a probe into mishandled sexual assaults at Coast Guard Academy