James Robinson photo
Maj. Matt Golsteyn, who led a team of Special Forces operators through Afghanistan, appeared before a three-member board to fight to keep his job.
The administrative hearing for Maj. Matt Golsteyn quickly became my beat within a beat.
Golsteyn, a decorated Green Beret who received the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan, was accused of committing actions unbecoming of an officer and violating the law of armed conflict. The Army revoked his Special Forces tab and Silver Star. The Army also rescinded a nomination for the distinguished Service Cross, which would have upgraded his Silver Star.
A three-member board reviewed the allegations against golsteyn to determine if they were substantiated, then decide if he should be retained or removed from service.
The hearing is not normally open to the public, but the Observer pushed to view it.
The Army made the hearing process open to the public via teleconferencing. We were told this method was to easily cut in and out when the board discussed classified information.
Initially, the Army told us that I would not be permitted to take notes - handwritten or digital. My editor and I quickly crafted a response arguing that I should be allowed to have a pen and paper to accurately record the hearing. After we published a story explaining the Army would not permit me to take notes, the Army reversed its decision. Because the hearing was in a secured facility, I was not permitted to bring in a digital recorder or phone.
As part of the hearing, I was to sit in a room with Golsteyn's family as we watched a live feed of the hearing from a different room.
The hearing would last nearly a week, with some days going as long as 12 hours.
This was my first chance to cover an administrative hearing - and at that, it was one the entire country was watching.
It was complicated. Not just because it was a type of hearing I'd never covered before, but because both the defense and government were referencing documents that I didn't have the privilege to examine or even ask for copies. I had to submit a FOIA request for the documents discussed during this hearing. As of December 25, 2015, I still don't have them.
One of the most intriguing parts of the hearing was the polygraph debacle.
It started on Day 1, was kind of resolved, then popped back up on the last day of the hearing.
The allegations against Golsteyn were revealed when he submitted to a polygraph exam as part of a job interview with the CIA. Army investigators viewed the video, but didn't keep a copy. Only the CIA had a copy.
Without the video, the Army's recorders (similar to prosecutors) submitted a transcript of the video as evidence. Golsteyn's attorney objected because he said the transcript was proof of the taking of a polygraph, which is not admitted in criminal court and an administrative hearing should be no different.
The board initially agreed and barred the transcript. The decision was reversed when it was revealed that the board's legal adviser (not one of those three members) had oversight on evidentiary matters and allowed it as evidence. The legal adviser's opinion cannot be challenged.
On breaks throughout the hearing, I stepped outside to use my personal cell phone to call in updates for our website. Each day, I filed a complete story rehasing the day's events for the next-day paper.
Read the stories here:
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