When retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, the former commander of the U.S. Army’s elite and secretive Delta Force, published a book in 2008, it detailed some of the Pentagon’s most sensitive operations of the 20th century. Among them were the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran, the 1989 hunt for Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and the tragically flawed 1993 mission in Somalia that killed 18 U.S. troops and was later depicted in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”
Retired military personnel who write about such sensitive issues commonly submit their works to the Pentagon for advance review to ensure that they don’t divulge classified information. But Boykin declined to do so, forging ahead with publication of “Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom.”
The Army struck back last year, quietly issuing him a scathing reprimand following a criminal investigation that concluded he had wrongfully released classified information, according to an Army document obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to the Jan. 23, 2013, memorandum, the Army determined that Boykin’s book disclosed “classified information concerning cover methods, counterterrorism/counter-proliferation operations, operational deployments, infiltration methods, pictures, and tactics, techniques and procedures that may compromise ongoing operations.”
The reprimand is the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents in which senior military officers have faced scrutiny for alleged wrongdoing. The military has been plagued by a string of such episodes since November 2012, when retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus stepped down as director of the CIA after an adulterous affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, was discovered.
But Boykin says it’s not so simple in his case. The Defense Department first launched an investigation into his book shortly after it was published and determined in 2010 that he had not released any classified information, he said. The Army then reopened the investigation about two years later, after he publicly voiced objections to several Pentagon policies, including the ongoing integration of women into more jobs in the military, he said.
The general, who retired in 2007, has a history of making controversial statements in which he has depicted U.S. military operations against Islamic extremist organizations such as al-Qaeda as a Christian fight against Satan, riling religious rights groups and organizations dedicated to the separation of church and state. The investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command into Boykin’s book ended Feb. 7, 2012, as his planned speaking engagement the following day at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., faced a groundswell of opposition from religious watchdog groups and some veterans organizations due to previous comments he had made.
Asked why he was reprimanded, Boykin questioned the Army’s motivation, insisting that he had received approval to write his book before it was released and that all information in it had been disclosed previously in other books, movies and news reports.
“You draw your own conclusions,” Boykin told The Post. “Why would they reopen it? What was the purpose of reprimanding me basically five years after they started an investigation? Did it take that long to determine whether I had written anything classified?”
A spokesman for the Army, George Wright, declined to comment on Boykin’s comments or to explain why the service waited so long to issue a reprimand for a book published in 2008. “The memo obtained through the Freedom of Information Act speaks for itself,” Wright said of the allegations against Boykin.
The memo, signed by Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, then the Army’s vice chief of staff, does not specify which information in the book was considered classified. Instead, it cites the disclosure of such information and accuses Boykin of “unprofessional behavior” that “reflects poorly on your character.” Austin, one of the most powerful generals in the military, says in the memo that Boykin would not face criminal punishment but that the reprimand was meant to underscore the seriousness of releasing classified information.
“Your decision to disregard legal advice and allow ‘Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom’ to be published without seeking classification review reflects a gross lack of judgement,” Austin told Boykin, now executive vice president of the Family Research Council in Washington, a conservative Christian organization that lobbies for traditional family values.
Controversy around Boykin’s book has arisen before. Shortly after publication, a 2008 Army Times article suggested that Boykin had been named “persona non grata” in Delta Force. Adm. William H. McRaven, then a three-star officer overseeing Joint Special Operations Command, told lower-ranking commanders to avoid Boykin, the report said. McRaven is now the top officer overseeing U.S. special operations. His spokesman, Ken McGraw, told The Post there is no official “persona non grata” list, but he acknowledged that some individuals working in special operations may have had issues with Boykin’s book.
“People sign nondisclosure agreements, and the expectation is that people will live by them,” McGraw said.
Boykin told The Post that if he “realized there would be this many accusations hurled against me,” he probably would have submitted “Never Surrender” for a Pentagon review before it was published. He didn’t fight the reprimand because he was retired and did not see a point to doing so, he said.
“Any reprimand has to be taken seriously, so I don’t want to come across as flippant about it,” he said. “But at this stage in my life, it really hasn’t had any impact on my life like it would have if it had happened when I was on active duty.”
Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.