Cadets walk between classes on the Air Force Academy campus, near Colorado Springs, Colo., Wednesday Aug. 13, 2014. / Brennan Linsley, AP
DENVER (AP) - Two U.S. senators called for an outside investigation of how the Air Force Academy handles sexual assaults, including an allegation that agents were blocked from speaking to football coaches.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota asked the Defense Department inspector general and the civilian U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Wednesday to look into claims by a former Air Force criminal investigator, Staff Sgt. Brandon Enos.
In a 12-page memo to members of Congress dated May 17, Enos alleged that former academy superintendent Michael Gould barred military investigators from speaking to football coaches about allegations of sexual assault and illegal drug use by players.
Gould, who retired as a three-star general, has denied doing anything improper. He did not immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press with family on Thursday.
Enos also said the Air Force's criminal investigation arm, the Office of Special Investigations, undermined an academy initiative that encouraged cadets to report if they were sexually assaulted.
Enos' allegations are serious and should be investigated, said Glen Caplin, a spokesman for Gillibrand, a vocal critic of the military's handling of sexual assault cases.
Sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and at the Army and Navy academies are under close congressional scrutiny. A Department of Defense report in January identified sports and club teams as an area where the academies needed to expand training on preventing sexual misconduct.
Enos belonged to an Office of Special Investigations unit based in Colorado Springs responsible for investigating crimes at the academy and other facilities.
He did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment through his attorney. Gillibrand's staff spoke with Enos and confirmed he wrote the memo, Caplin said.
Enos wrote that he received credible information from people he did not identify that football coaches were aware of sexual assault and drug allegations involving players. He did not say when the alleged incidents occurred.
"These sources further stated the coaching staff held a meeting with the football players in approximately December 2012 and told them to lay low and they would take care of them while this investigation 'blew over,'" Enos wrote.
Gould would not let investigators interview football coach Troy Calhoun or his staff but said he would speak to them himself, Enos wrote.
"He (Gould) stated he found the coaching staff had done nothing wrong and they had no knowledge of any drug use or sexual assaults despite our multiple sources of information," Enos wrote. "I have doubt (about) the authenticity of the interview the former superintendent conducted due to the multiple sources of information previously mentioned."
No phone listing could be found for Calhoun.
Enos suggested there had been other instances of alleged interference by academy officials, but he did not elaborate.
Gould told The New York Times the allegation that he interfered with an investigation was preposterous.
"We did the right thing, it sent a strong signal, and the cadets got the message," said Gould, who oversaw the academy from 2009 to 2013.
Air Force Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brus Vidal said the allegations had been reviewed numerous times by multiple agencies, and all concluded the academy handles sexual assault cases appropriately.
Enos also wrote that the Office of Special Investigations issued a policy in July 2012 requiring agents to interrupt interviews with sexual assault victims and read them their rights if they acknowledged they had illegally drunk alcohol or committed other infractions before they were assaulted.
The policy was put in place after numerous female cadets said they were disciplined for minor infractions if they reported sexual assaults, while their alleged attackers often went unpunished.
Enos wrote that ordering agents to read victims their rights created a hostile environment and discouraged victims from reporting assaults.
Military rules require agents to advise people of their rights if they are about to incriminate themselves, said Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Investigations.
In a report to Congress, military investigators acknowledged that can have a chilling effect and asked the Pentagon to come up with a standardized way of dealing with the problem.
Enos wrote that he was removed from investigations, reprimanded and threatened with an unfavorable discharge after a former Air Force Academy cadet he recruited as a confidential informant complained to Congress about his treatment by the Office of Special Investigations.
Air Force officials said they could not comment on Enos' record.
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