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Top leadership at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) informed active duty and retired service members that they cannot condemn President Joe Biden amid the chaotic — and now deadly — pullout of American troops from Afghanistan.
In an email from the ONI’s Chief of Staff, ONI members were reminded that per a Uniform Code of Military Justice and Department of Defense Directive clause they cannot disrespect senior government leadership. This includes the President, Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and more.
The email reads:
Given the heightened political and social atmosphere surrounding Afghanistan, it is important to remind our uniformed personnel (active duty and reservists on temporary active duty) and military retirees of their responsibilities and obligations under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Department of Defense Directive 1344.10. While it is vital to protect the constitutional right of freedom of expression for these groups, consistent with mission accomplishment, national security, and good order and discipline, it’s important to remember certain limitations. Namely, uniformed personnel and military retirees are prohibited from disrespecting senior government leadership (e.g. the President, Vice President, Congress, Secretary of Defense, Service Secretaries, etc.).
Per the same uniformed personnel policy, ONI members cannot participate in partisan political activity or distribute partisan political literature. An internal ONI member told The Daily Wire that these policies were more relaxed under the Trump administration and recalled retired officers condemning the former President.
The email continues to claim that the policy extends to ONI “civilians” as well. These members were specifically directed to avoid “being too vocal in criticism of, say, the President.”
The email reads:
Even for civilians, you are reminded of the danger that your public comments will/could be attributed to ONI or the Department of Defense. While you are entitled to your opinion and to share your opinion amongst those you know and trust, being too vocal in criticism of, say, the President or members of the military and civilian leadership may reflect poorly on ONI. It is important to share your opinions, if you choose to do so, in a professional manner that does not call into question your employment, the Department of Defense, or the federal government as a whole.
The direction for ONI members to stay silent was delivered on August 23. The directive has not shifted following the death of 13 U.S. service members in a suicide bombing near the Kabul airport.
In other portions of the email, ONI members are reassured that their investment in the Afghanistan war was not a waste of time. They were also directed to military crisis lines if they needed help following the fallout.
“After Kabul fell to the Taliban last week, the scenes of chaos and desperation have been hard for all Americans to watch, especially for those of us in the national security establishment, as well as those who served selflessly in Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” the ONI Chief of Staff said. “Watching the Taliban sweep back into power after two decades of investment can be a bitter pill to swallow”
The Department of Defense did not immediately to the Daily Wire’s request for comment. This article will be updated accordingly if comment is received.