The United States Army apparently has too many Arabic language specialists. Their ranks are so swelled with people who can speak this hard-to-learn language, that they indulged themselves in the luxury of forcing Johnson City native Bleu Copas out of the military, on the basis of email accusations.
Copas, 30, was honorably discharged from the Army after three and one-half years of service after a series of emails were sent to his commanding officers detailing his status as a gay man. At the time he was attached to the 82 nd Airborne Division and was a member of their All-American Chorus in addition to his duties as a language specialist. His rank at that time was E5. Messages sent to the Chorus email, obviously intended to harm Copas’ military career, were directed to the top non-commissioned officer (NCO) at Fort Bragg , North Carolina , where Copas was based at that time. Command Sargent Major Amacker removed Copas from the Chorus on the basis of those emails and other messages sent to Copas’ home unit, the 313 th Military Intelligence Battalion.
The 313 th tried diligently to identify the sender of the emails in order to garner the “credible source” necessary to begin an investigation into Copas’ sexual orientation.
“I have no idea who did this,” declares Copas.
As his command group tried to ascertain the person sending the messages, the sender began an email exchange with Copas, his friends, and cohorts.
“There were psychological threats in the emails,” maintains Copas. “He said he wanted me out of the Service, and that he would hire a private investigator if necessary, to see that that did indeed occur.”
In subsequent questioning by superior officers, Copas insists that he never divulged his sexual orientation, thereby holding up his end of the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. His interrogators told him that he did not have to answer their questions, but stated that he could help his case by assisting them in identifying the sender of the accusatory emails. Copas maintained military demeanor and did not answer their questions, as is his legal right.
Ironically, the officials then used his declination to answer as their rationale for discharging him from military service.
“There were several emails falsely sent so that they looked like I sent them,” Copas remarks, referring to a technique in which emails can be sent, appearing to originate from one email address, while in reality they are sent from another. This is sometimes referred to as a “joe job,” a spam campaign forged to appear as though it came from an innocent party, with the intention of incriminating or pinning blame onto that party. This technique is widely known and is in common usage by quasi-criminal and criminal elements on the Internet.
In addition, Copas maintains that he was the subject of Internet surveillance once the emails began to arrive. He was followed into a favorite chat room where he was baited by those he feels were Fort Bragg officials attempting to trick him into violating the DADT policy.
At that point, he was offered an honorable discharge as well as the ability to retain his military benefits. If he chose to contest the discharge order, he would not only be faced with criminal charges, but also the possibility of exposing his friends to charges as well. After consulting with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN,) Copas chose to leave military service.
“The command needed credible evidence. They asked him if he is gay, in direct violation of DADT. In fact, they asked a series of questions intended to get him to violate,” states Steve Ralls, Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Bleu’s case highlights the fact that rumor, accusations, and baseless finger-pointing can be used to end a career.”
SLDN is the nation’s sole legal aid and advocacy organization assisting military members harmed by DADT. Contact them for free, confidential legal counseling at (800) 538-7418 or by email at [email protected]. Visit them online at www.sldn.org.