2:32 PM | Posted in ,
A couple of days ago I wrote about Mr. Thul and his apparent use or misuse of official military email. In that time a few items of note have surfaced that continue to leave my ultimate question unanswered or at least only partially answered: Is Mr. Thul allowed to use an official military email address to post to a blog when the purpose of that blog is of a politically partisan nature?

Before I begin, though, let me reiterate what I have said previously. The question is NOT whether Mr. Thul should be silenced from speaking his mind or from posting on a blog. Nor is the question meant to attack the service of a veteran who I can only assume served honorably. The question is whether or not it is acceptable to use a military email address to post partisan political attacks.

First, there was this interesting comment left by a "SGT Nate" on my previous post:

SGT Thul doesn't qualify under Section 888. Art. 88 of UCMJ because he is not a commissioned officer. However, being a non-commissioned officer, he should understand that to question one's superiors publicly is not allowable within a disciplined military. All concerns are to be taken up with that person off-line. I assume SGT Thul is a NG member, which means he can participate in political discourse in solely a civilian manner while not on orders. This being said, the display of a military web address is to assign a type of authority to the speaker and his sentiments that he does not have the right to assign. SGT Thul has a right to operate his blog (as long as he is not on state or federal active duty) but does not have the authority to list a .mil or .gov web address for contact about the content of his speech. I believe his unit commander and first sergeant would find his listing of the address as an action unbecoming of a non-commissioned officer.

This comment leads me into the response made by Mr. Thul:

Both claim that I am using my official Army email address to launch these 'attacks'. While it is true that I used my army.mil email to register this blog (I was in Iraq at the time and the army.mil email was simply the safest and most reliable email in a combat zone) it is also true that that information isn't available to the casual reader. In fact, if you look over this entire blog, including my profile, you wont see any Army email address. I have been blogging for 2 1/2 years now, including 12 months of active duty time. This issue has never come up before, nor have I ever been censored by the military in what I say. I do censor myself for OPSEC and military discipline, but I have never been told by the military that anything I have said on this blog was inappropriate.

And I have never been anything but respectful to elected officials when I agree or disagree with them. In contrast with so many bloggers and commenters who regularly use foul language and hurl insults at politicians they disagree with, you will more often than not find me addressing politicians by their titles. Just as I do when in uniform, I respect the rank even if not the man.

Two things that I would like to address in the above response:

1. If Mr. Thul began his blog while serving in Iraq, then does that make his use of an official military email address acceptable even now? It is somewhat interesting that the first postings from this blog (while Mr. Thul was on active duty in Iraq) not only contain light suggestions of invading Iran but also a post going after then Senator Hillary Clinton. Not knowing the protocol, I am asking these as legitimate questions. Is this acceptable use of an official military email?

2. There is the issue of his military address not being prominent to the "casual reader". Does the fact that the email is not listed on the blog make a difference? In his latest piece on this topic, Two Putt was able to pretty quickly find examples of the military email address on prominent display. I took a screen shot:

You will notice at the bottom of the image that the official military email address is displayed pretty prominently below the attack piece he wrote about Congressman Walz.

In the comment made above by "SGT Nate" there was the implication that it was improper for this military email address to be displayed. However, its display does only happen through the use of an rss reader or on a google blog search. Does this help the case of Mr. Thul? On the other hand, "SGT Nate" also mentioned that National Guard members were allowed to engage in political discourse "while not on orders" but it is clear that Mr. Thul has been engaging in political discourse even when on orders.

Finally, there is this image:

You will notice that Mr. Thul happens to run TWO blogs. Why is this important? Well, the only way that blogger would display both of these blogs on one profile is if the exact same email address was used to create both. That means that Mr. Thul is using his official military email to sign in to and post on his own blog as well as a blog titled "Steele County Republican Party". That brings up the question of whether this particular blog is the OFFICIAL blog of the Steele County Republican Party. If it is, does this make matters worse for Mr. Thul?

Again, I ask these questions because I feel as though there has not been a definitive answer as to whether Mr. Thul is using official military email improperly. Did the attacks on Congressman Walz precipitate these questions? Sure, because they brought Mr. Thul and his blog more attention. However, I would also like people to remember that I have been wondering about this issue ever since it revealed itself to me in April.
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