On the morning of March 26, 2012, I was taking a survey of the USS Ponce de Leon when the ship’s commanding officer, Captain John Smith, abruptly announced that he was quitting.
Smith’s departure was not due to any reason other than his desire to return to his home in Colorado.
Smith was a seasoned sea captain who had served on the ship from the early 1960s through the early 1980s, when the Navy transferred the command to the Norfolk-based Naval Sea Systems Command.
I asked him about his reasons for stepping down, which I have not shared with the Navy.
The Navy is conducting a review of its handling of misconduct investigations, and Smith said that he did not intend to step down because he believed he had made the right decision.
But, as I later learned, the reasons for Smith’s abrupt departure had been laid out in his own words in an email to Navy investigators.
Smith explained that he had spent more than a year planning for the upcoming deployment to the Mediterranean, and that he wanted to return home to his family in Colorado, where he and his wife were expecting their first child.
“As a Navy veteran, I know the sacrifices I have made in the service of this country,” Smith wrote.
“However, my service to this country is not about making money.
It is about providing a life of peace, happiness and security for our families, our children and our grandchildren.
I want to thank the Naval Sea System Command for their time and effort and wish them the best.”
But it was not only his decision to retire from the service that made Smith angry.
He was angry at the service’s failure to properly address his misconduct allegations, and he was angry because he had not been given a fair chance to present his case.
I told Smith that I had been looking forward to sharing my story with him and that I was confident he would be vindicated.
I felt the same way when I first heard about the incident.
Smith had never been on the vessel that morning and did not have access to the communications systems that would have allowed him to listen in on the conversation between Captain Smith and the commanding officer.
I also did not know the exact location of the communications, but I suspected it would be aboard the ship and would be difficult to locate.
The next day, when I returned to the Pentagon, I told the Navy Inspector General (IG) what I had learned.
A month later, I received a letter from the Navy’s Office of the Inspector General in response to my request for an investigation into Smith’s allegations.
In that letter, the IG acknowledged that Smith had filed a formal complaint with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the Navy Criminal Investigative Unit, which had investigated the matter.
The NCIS then forwarded the complaint to the Naval Forces Investigative Service, a civilian entity.
I received the letter from NCIS on June 17, 2012.
In response to the letter, I wrote the Navy and NCIS to request the names of the two officers who were directly responsible for Smith.
The letter requested the names and the names’ locations of any other persons who had been interviewed by NCIS about the alleged misconduct and to include a copy of the interview transcript and any written and oral statements made during the interview.
The IG agreed to respond to my letter on June 26, the same day that the IG received Smith’s complaint and its response.
I then contacted the Naval Investigative Service.
On June 27, 2012—six days after I wrote NCIS requesting names and locations of the other individuals who had participated in the interview—I received a response from the Naval Intelligence Directorate, which was the civilian agency responsible for the investigation of the misconduct allegations.
The NDI responded to my initial letter, but it did not provide the names or the locations of those interviewed by the Naval Investigations.
Instead, it provided a statement from NCISS, which stated that the investigation into the alleged conduct had concluded.
It said that, as of June 27 the investigation was complete, and it had no further comment.
This statement, the NDI added, was based on the conclusion of the investigation, which did not address any of the allegations against Smith, including the allegations that he misused the shipboard communications network.
As I later explained to the Navy IG, the NCIS did not disclose the names nor the locations in the initial response, but did so in the subsequent response, which, according to the NPI, “did not include any of those names.”
The Naval Intelligence was not satisfied.
In a July 28 letter, NCIS Director Mark Clements said that Smith’s case was not adequately addressed by the NVI and that the Naval Investigation did not meet the legal standards for an NVI investigation.
In the letter to the NCVI, Clements wrote that the NCI was investigating the allegations “to ensure that the conduct of the individual who was the subject of the complaint was not