The House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into the US Coast Guard’s “mishandling of serious misconduct” — including sexual assault, racism and hazing — after CNN exposed that its leaders concealed reports documenting those problems from its workforce, the public and Congress.
The inquiry is the latest in a string of government probes announced in the wake of CNN’s reporting, which revealed the existence of a yearslong investigation that found rapes and other sexual abuse at the Coast Guard Academy had been ignored and, at times, covered up by high-ranking officials. Dubbed “Operation Fouled Anchor,” the internal probe was kept confidential by Coast Guard leaders for years until CNN started making inquiries into the report earlier this year.
Last week, CNN exposed that Coast Guard leaders suppressed yet another report, this time a “Culture of Respect” review from April 2015, that documented racial and gender discrimination and assault across the service.
In a letter sent Friday to the Coast Guard’s leader, Commandant Linda Fagan, House lawmakers lambasted the agency, saying that the Coast Guard “may have obstructed the ability of Congress to carry out constitutionally mandated oversight authority and legislation to address these issues,” “prevented actionable change within the agency” and “likely put more people at risk.”
“[The Coast Guard] only notified Congress about Operation Fouled Anchor and its April 2015 Report when existence of these reports was going to be in the press,” wrote committee Chairman Rep. James Comer and Rep. Glenn Grothman, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs. “The Committee has serious concerns that congressional committees would not have been notified of these reports, and the serious allegations contained within them, if it had not been for the threat of public reporting.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the Coast Guard’s own acknowledgment of past failures in a rare and highly critical internal report issued this week that also orders a series of changes to how the agency handles sexual assault. A number of congressional lawmakers and assault survivors were not satisfied, however, saying the agency still needs to hold past perpetrators and the leaders who covered up their dangerous and criminal behavior accountable – rather than only looking to the future.
The committee requested a litany of documents and information “to assist the Committee in investigating these reports, the withholding of information from Congress, and the inaction of senior leadership to combat misconduct,” including a list of Coast Guard officials involved in the handling of sexual misconduct cases from the time of Fouled Anchor to present.
CNN’s reporting showed that, over the years, alleged perpetrators weren’t being held accountable for misconduct. Many of the problems documented in the Coast Guard’s reports continue to plague the agency, according to interviews with current and former service members.
Meanwhile, a probe by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General remains ongoing, as does a Senate inquiry – with a hearing scheduled next week where multiple whistleblowers and survivors of sexual assault and harassment will testify.
Do you have information or a story to share about the Coast Guard past or present? Email email@example.com and Blake.Ellis@cnn.com.