MRE, Northwestern, SPJ Send Letter to Army Secretary

Washington, D.C.—Military Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists and Northwestern University’s National Security Journalism Initiative sent a joint letter to Army Secretary John McHugh on June 19, requesting the immediate declassification of the investigation into Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ horrific crimes in Afghanistan in March 2012.

Bales was sentenced to life in prison in August 2013 for murdering 16 Afghan civilians, including many women and children, during two solo nighttime raids in small villages in Kandahar province. The gruesome murders—dubbed the Kandahar massacre—sparked angry protests and forced the U.S. military to temporarily halt combat operations in the region.

“Bales pleaded guilty to his crimes and will spend the rest of his life in prison. His clemency request has been denied and U.S. forces are no longer operating at the combat outposts where he committed his crimes. We see no reason why the investigation should remain classified,” said MRE President Amy McCullough. “The reasons U.S. Central Command gave to some of our members for denying repeated FOIA requests no longer apply, and the public has a right to know if there was anything that could have been done to prevent this tragedy. I sincerely hope Secretary McHugh will do the right thing and declassify this report before his tenure ends.”

“The Pentagon has examined the events leading to Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ crimes in Kandahar province, but the public has only the military’s word that it has done everything possible to learn from the incidents,” said Ellen Shearer, co-director of Northwestern University’s National Security Journalism Initiative. “The continued lack of transparency in this case is a shameful example of denying the public its right to know the truth about an important, terrible event in the war in Afghanistan.”

Military Reporters and Editors is a nonprofit association that exists to advance the public understanding of the military, national security and homeland defense. MRE represents the interests of working journalists to the government and military and strives to assure journalists have access to places where the U.S. military and its allies operate.