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Marine's security clearance revoked for political activism

There's a backlash against a Camp Pendleton Marine over his online political postings.

April 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Military prosecutors said a Camp Pendleton Marine facing dismissal for his Facebook postings sold "Nobama" bumper stickers online.

Sgt. Gary Stein, 26, faces discharge for starting a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. The Marine Corps decided to take action after a post in which Stein said he would not follow what he called unlawful orders from the president.

Marine Corps Capt. John Torresala on Thursday told a military panel at California's Camp Pendleton that Stein has acted irresponsibly and disregarded repeated warnings that his anti-administration postings violated Pentagon policy.

Torresala says Stein's security clearance has been taken away and he has no future in the Marine Corps because he can't do his job.

Torresala says comments that were prejudicial to good order and discipline were posted on a Facebook page used by military meterologists and could have influenced junior Marines.

Stein has said his views are his own, and he was just exercising his free speech rights.

An age-old Pentagon policy bars service members from engaging in political activities. The policy has been in place since the Civil War, and military law experts say Stein may have crossed the line.

Stein said his statement about Obama was part of a debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

But Marine Corps Capt. John Torresala told a military panel on Thursday that Stein acted irresponsibly and disregarded repeated warnings that his anti-administration postings violated Pentagon policy. Along with the "Nobama" stickers, prosecutors said Stein shared images with President Barack Obama's face superimposed on a jackass.

Torresala said Stein's security clearance has been taken away and he has no future in the Marine Corps because he can't do his job.

Stein's lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that his views are protected by the First Amendment.

"The military may be different from the civilian world, but it's not exempt from the First Amendment," said David Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "Sgt. Stein didn't say anything for which the Marine Corps has any right to punish him."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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