Tuesday, July 14, 1998

McVeigh leaves
Navy, Hawaii today

He'll write a book about
his experience with 'don't
ask, don't tell'

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Master Chief Petty Officer Timothy McVeigh leaves the islands today and the Navy after 18 years of service.

He says he has "no regrets and bitterness" despite a nearly yearlong battle with the Pentagon that cut short his military career.

McVeigh, no relation to the Oklahoma City federal building bomber, is believed to be the first uniformed person to successfully challenge the military's 5-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy concerning gays.

His case also forced America Online, the nation's largest online service, to review how it handles information about its customers. AOL apologized to McVeigh for violating his privacy and has agreed to pay him damages.

"But that wasn't my goal," said McVeigh, who for more than six months until his removal in November, served as the senior enlisted member of the nuclear Los Angeles class attack submarine USS Chicago. "My goal was to stop the process."

The process McVeigh was referring to began in September when McVeigh, 36, sent an e-mail message to the wife of a fellow crewman about a Christmas toy drive for the crew's children.

The woman, who served as the submarine's ombudsman, was disturbed by the return address on his e-mail -- "Boysrch," which apparently referred to "boy search" -- and she consulted the customer profile listed under the return address on America Online. The profile identified the user as Tim of Honolulu, whose hobbies included "collecting pictures of other young studs."

She passed that information on to a Navy investigator, who contacted America Online. Without identifying his ties to the Navy, the investigator asked for the full name of Tim.

Based on that information the Navy maintained that McVeigh had violated its policy and sought to discharge him in November.

McVeigh, who has never publicly discussed his sexuality, sued to block the dismissal.

On Jan. 29, Judge Stanley Sporkin of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ordered the Navy to halt efforts to dismiss McVeigh and ruled that the Navy's investigation into his sexual orientation was a clear violation of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The policy was intended to allow gay service members to remain in the military so long as they were discreet about their private lives.

The federal judge ruled that the Navy violated the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act by obtaining confidential information from America Online without a warrant or court order.

Earlier this year, AOL acknowledged that a representative had violated the company's in-house rules.

Last month, the Justice Department agreed to a settlement that includes full benefits and payment of $90,000 in legal fees.

In May, a Navy promotion board elevated McVeigh to its highest enlisted rank, master chief petty officer, based on his past unblemished record, which did not involve his dispute with the Navy on the charges of being gay. McVeigh was chosen from an eligible pool of 168 sailors.

McVeigh, who had planned to remain in the Navy another six years, said he would have liked to stay in if it could have found him "a productive job." Instead, he was relegated to handling training assignments for Pearl Harbor's submarine force.

"With an exception of a few senior officers in the submarine squadron," McVeigh said, he was treated well.

"I think the Navy has been fairly pig-headed," McVeigh said. "I just got set up and this thing just getting passed up the line and no one stopped to look at it."

After picking up his car in Long Beach, Calif., McVeigh plans to drive to his home town of Jacksonville, Fla., and wait for his discharge papers.

"I have a few speaking engagements lined up in September and October," McVeigh said, "and then I will work on a book."

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