“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Surveys Don’t Guarantee Privacy

The Pentagon sent out 400,000 surveys to service members yesterday to gather opinions on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The survey includes questions on how the repeal may affect morale and readiness, how the repeal may affect willingness to serve, as well as service members’ attitudes toward sharing quarters, bathrooms, and showers with gay or lesbian service members.

The 400,000 service members randomly selected to complete the survey include 200,000 people in active duty, and 200,000 people from the guard and reserve forces. Service members were emailed the surveys, which they are required to complete by August 15th.

The survey contains a separate link for gay and lesbian service members to provide additional comments confidentially. But don’t be fooled — the survey may have dangerous implications. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is concerned about the survey outing gay and lesbian servicemembers. While the Pentagon claims the survey is confidential, there is no guarantee of privacy and the Department of Defense has not agreed to provide immunity for those outed by the survey. The survey could result in discharge for gay and lesbian servicemembers who are open about their sexuality.

How can the Pentagon expect accurate data when people can’t even be honest while taking the survey? The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network asked the Department of Defense and Pentagon Working Group to guarantee immunity from DADT for those inadvertently outed by the surveys. Why couldn’t they satisfy that request?

At the G-20 summit, Obama made reference to keeping his promise about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. As commander in chief of the U.S. military, he has the power to ensure that no one is outed and discharged due to the survey. Yet, President Obama has kept quiet and hasn’t taken steps to protect the safety of gay and lesbian servicemembers who want to contribute to the surveys without any risk of getting discharged.

The inability of gay and lesbian servicemembers to answer the survey questions honestly could jeopardize the survey results. Could it also prevent a reasonable implementation of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?

Photo credit: gregwest98