Thomas J. Fiscus, 14th Judge Advocate General
United States Air Force
Air Force General Counsel barred from lawyer inquiry (10/2/04)

Move will avoid blame stemming from other dispute

By PAM ZUBECK THE GAZETTE

The Air Force General Counsel's Office has been barred from the investigation of Judge Advocate General Tom Fiscus, Air Force Secretary James
Roche said Friday.

Roche said he told General Counsel Mary Walker last week to stay out of the matter to avoid the appearance that the inquiry is somehow tied to a
dispute between her and Fiscus about who has more authority.

Maj. Gen. Fiscus stepped aside temporarily last week, pending the investigation of his relationship with a female subordinate, The Washington Post
reported.

Such investigations normally remain confidential, but the Fiscus inquiry leaked to the media.

Roche said in an interview with The Gazette on Friday that word got out after Fiscus was granted leave.
The problem developed because so many commands turn to the judge advocate general and he has so many Uniform Code of Military Justice
responsibilities.

"There was enormous pressure" for people to question why Fiscus was gone, Roche said.

Roche didn't know the source of the leak but said he wants distance between Walker's office and the Fiscus investigation.

"We have cut them out to make sure that there was no appearance that it was somehow a continuation of a professional argument," he said.

Roche said Walker's staff is happy with the decision because "they don't want to be blamed for something they believe professionally they would
not do anyhow."

The dispute centers on whether judge advocates, who report to Fiscus, or Air Force general counsel lawyers, who report to Walker, have greater
authority.

Walker lobbied Roche, who issued a directive last year that gave Walker authority over JAGs. The same issue arose about a decade ago in the
Army, and Congress preempted a similar order to vault civilian lawyers over military attorneys.

This time, Congress has sided with JAGs, saying independent military lawyers who have long-term familiarity with military law should advise top
civilian and military leaders. The pending bill would undo Roche's order.
Roche said he requested the inspector general look into the Fiscus matter after learning of it from a person he would not name.

"We don't know whether there's any truth to this or not," he said. "We tried very hard to respect the dignity of Gen. Fiscus because nothing's been
proven."

Walker has been a controversial figure. Her 2003 report on the Air Force Academy's sexual assault scandal drew criticism from a congressional
panel as a cover-up for top Air Force leaders. Recently, her work on detainee interrogation rules has come under fire.

Those rules, which some say gave rise to the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, were criticized sharply by military lawyers, including Fiscus.

CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0238 or zubeck@gazette.com