• Petitioning Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson

This petition will be delivered to:

Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy
Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson
Secretary of the Air Force
Eric Fanning
Commandant of Cadets, U.S. Air Force Academy
Brigadier General Gregory J. Lengyel

Air Force Academy: Please Reinstate Cadet Eric Thomas and Reform the Confidential Informant Program!

    1. Rosita Walker
    2. Petition by

      Rosita Walker

      Rapid City, SD

My son Eric Thomas joined the Air Force Academy because he wanted to serve his country and use his life to do some good in the world. As a mother, I was worried, but I was so proud of his courage and his heart. I am still proud to be the mother of an Air Force Academy Cadet, but I am dismayed by the way they have treated my son recently. Eric has been expelled for alleged rule infractions that occurred in the course of his completing tasks assigned to him from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) with whom he was serving as a confidential informant assisting with the investigation of sexual assaults and felony drug violations. After being given many assurances that they would vouch for him if he got in trouble due to following their orders, Eric has been expelled for following those very orders. He was betrayed by an institution he loves, but all he wants is a chance to continue to serve in the Air Force. Please help him get that chance by signing our petition and sharing his story with your friends. Here is his full story:

During Eric’s sophomore year, a friend of his was sexually assaulted and the people who did it escaped without punishment because there wasn't enough evidence. Eric had previously been approached by the Office of Special Investigations about becoming a confidential informant (C.I.) to help prevent this kind of abuse, so when he saw this blatant injustice, he knew he had to do something to fix it. He decided to become a C.I. to help prevent sexual assault and drug abuse on campus, and over the next three years information he provided led to fifteen drug convictions and two sexual assault convictions. Despite a large problem with sexual assaults on campus, these were the first sexual assault convictions since 1997, and Eric was pivotal to them.

He was always torn about having to deceive his classmates, but he felt good about the impact his work was having and felt that it was more honorable and truer to the honor code to help prevent sexual assaults than to protect fellow students who were dishonoring the Air Force and ruining lives by their behavior. The OSI even told him explicitly that when you're working as a confidential informant, "There is no honor code." OSI ordered him to become friends with troublemakers who were suspected of dealing drugs or sexual assault. On many occasions, including the incident for which he was eventually expelled, OSI specifically commanded him to break the rules by going Over the Fence (OTF) and attending parties where illegal things were happening. 

My son was ultimately expelled for demerits that he gained on one night during his Junior year. OSI suspected a student named Claxton of sexual assault and ordered Eric to follow him to a party. Later in the night, Eric and Claxton helped a girl who was drunk back to Eric’s room. Eric left briefly to contact his handler at the OSI about what he should do and go get the girls' fiancée, but came running back when someone told him that Claxton had locked the door to the room. Eric barged into the room and when he saw the girls' pants down and shirt off, he got into a fight with Claxton to stop the assault.

Eric’s superiors did not know that he was a confidential informant, and Eric was ordered by the OSI not to tell them. This had unfairly given Eric a reputation as a troublemaker over the years, when in fact the opposite was true. The fight that night, along with infractions for going over the fence, having a girl in his room, and not reporting underage alcohol consumption (although he actually did report it to his handler) gave him 309 demerits, and summary expulsion normally occurs at 200 demerits.

When it came time for a disciplinary board hearing to decide his fate, his OSI handler promised to be there to represent him and tell the committee that Eric was acting on OSI orders during the night in question. Shortly before the hearing, his handler reneged and said he wouldn’t be coming, and reminded Eric not to say anything about OSI. Eric didn’t say a word during the disciplinary hearing, still naively trusting that OSI was taking care of him behind the scenes. But when he was expelled just six weeks before he was supposed to graduate, he knew that they were stabbing him in the back. After repeated attempts communicating factual evidence to his chain of command and the Inspector General, he decided he needed to take his case to his congressional representatives, and later the media.

Eric’s story was originally told by the Colorado Springs Gazette and has since been picked up by the Denver Post, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post among others. You can check it out for yourself at http://www3.gazette.com/projects/project/usafa-informant-program/ for videos of me and Eric and more detailed information about Eric’s activities, the OSI, and evidence supporting Eric’s claims. For example, the OSI and Air Force originally denied that Eric ever worked for them as a confidential informant, but Freedom of Information Act Requests made by Congressman Randy Neugebauer have since proven that Eric was working for the OSI. There are also text message records between Eric and his handler, and other documentation as well. The Air Force has yet to respond to letters from Senator John Thune requesting a meeting for Eric.

Being a C.I. had a negative impact on my son even before his expulsion though. Due to the late nights and parties he was ordered to attend, his grades suffered during school, and he acquired an unfair and false reputation with his superiors and peers. I had raised him to respect and follow the law; I feel betrayed that at the Air Force Academy, my son was taught by federal agents how to roll a blunt and told to be secretive with the lawful authorities (his chain of command) set over him. As a mother, I could feel him pulling away and I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what. I was shocked when he told me that he was a confidential informant last year, because the Air Force had never even mentioned that it was a possibility. It's lonely being a spy, and he was bound by a confidentality agreement with the OSI not to tell anyone. Eric held true to this and trusted OSI even when he was in serious trouble, and ultimately they threw him under the bus. This is why it is so important for the Air Force to reform the Confidential Informant program. Why are students with only minimal training being asked to live a lie? Couldn't professionals be brought in for this? At the very least, there needs to be regulation protecting the students who become C.I.'s., so that injustices like what happened to my son don’t ever happen again. There are already other former cadets who are coming forward with stories similar to my son, and it seems that many come from poor and minority backgrounds, making protections for these students even more important. Eric is still proud of the rapists and drug dealers he helped put behind bars, he just wants the confidential informant system to be regulated to prevent abuse and manipulation.

Despite all this, Eric still wants still to use his life to do good by serving his country through the Air Force. Before being expelled he had been scheduled for his post-graduation job: a slot at Pilot School. Please help us put pressure on the Air Force by signing this petition. Please ask the Air Force Academy to reform the Confidential Informant System and fulfill the promises they made to my son by reinstating him as a Cadet and giving him the commission he earned. Please sign our petition and share it with your friends so that my son can serve the country he loves. Thank you!

Rosita P. Walker

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Reached 30,000 signatures
    2. More Details About the Air Force Response

      Rosita Walker
      Petition Organizer
      Air Force Academy superintendent wants overall review

      The Air Force Academy superintendent plans a top-to-bottom review of admissions, recruiting, graduation and disenrollment following a Dec. 1 investigation by The Gazette that showed the Air Force operated a system of cadet informants. Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson's plans were summarized in an email that the chairman of the Association of Graduates, Roger Carleton, sent to graduates Thursday.

    3. The Air Force is Investigating and Promising Reform, but our Fight Goes On!

      Rosita Walker
      Petition Organizer

      Over 4000 signatures! Thank you so much everyone! This petition is getting noticed, and we are forcing the Air Force to respond! You are making a difference! The most recent Air Force response to our case has been detailed by several articles, including this one from the Colorado Springs Gazette (http://tinyurl.com/oql3ttg).

      Several things have been promised. For one, the Air Force Inspector General is investigating Eric’s case! On a more structural level, the Superintendent has pledged to oversee the Confidential Informant Program, with the “long term intent of ending the need for cadet confidential informants.” She has also ordered an executive review of the Academy’s disenrollment process.

      We are glad the Academy is taking steps in the right direction, and we give them credit for doing so, but we can’t let up the pressure until Eric is reinstated and these reforms have moved from promises to reality. So be encouraged, but please keep signing and sharing our petition!

      Air Force plans probe into handling of ex-informant; academy leader seeks to end spy program

      The Air Force Inspector General will investigate the case of former Air Force Academy cadet Eric Thomas, who was expelled in April for actions he said were part of his work as a confidential informant, the academy's top general announced late Tuesday. In addition, Lt. Gen.

    4. Reached 4,000 signatures
    5. New Gazette Article: Source within the Academy Confirms Eric's Story!

      Rosita Walker
      Petition Organizer

      Wow! Within the first 24 hours we’ve already blown past 100 signers on our petition. The response has been so encouraging to both Eric and me—it is truly overwhelming! Thank you all so much for your support, and please keep sharing his story with your friends! We've got the momentum, but we can't let up now if we really want to make sure the Academy hears us loud and clear!

      The fight is just beginning, and we still need your help! Luckily, we have the truth on our side, and new information comes out every day supporting Eric’s side of the story. The Colorado Springs Gazette published a follow-up piece today with quotes from an active-duty member of the Academy that confirm Eric's story. Here is the new story from the gazette: http://gazette.com/gazette-confirms-former-air-force-academy-cadets-account/article/1510612

      Thanks again, and keep sharing!

      Sincerely,
      Rosita P. Walker

      Gazette confirms former Air Force Academy cadet's account

      When former Air Force Academy cadet Eric Thomas faced a disciplinary board in August 2012, a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said he would come to explain how Thomas worked dozens of cases as a confidential informant and had been of great service to the Air Force.

    6. Reached 100 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Josie Colhoff RAPID CITY, SD
      • 9 days ago

      Eric is a really nice guy and I feel that he was used in this type of situation. We need more people like him to make this world a better place for everyone!

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    • William Dunn PORT ORANGE, FL
      • about 1 month ago

      I am a 1976 USAF Academy grad and do not believe USAF Academy cadets should be recruited or allowed by Security Police, the FBI or other police agencies to be agents for their police investigations.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Truman Hedding BOULDER CITY, NV
      • about 1 month ago

      1976 Graduate correcting a travesty of justice because my classmate the Superintendent failed "to do the right thing."

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Jewel Magnolia RAPID CITY, SD
      • about 1 month ago

      he's my teacher :)

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Matthew Williams SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA
      • about 1 month ago

      USAFA is perpetrating an injustice that requires an immediate correction.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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