Air Force Academy Defends Use Of OSI Student Spying Program To Catch Rule-Breaking Cadets

12/05/2013 03:36 pm ET | Updated Dec 05, 2013

The United States Air Force Academy is defending its use of cadet "spies" after a local newspaper broke the story that one its informants was expelled for misconduct committed at the secret instruction of the academy.

The Colorado Springs Gazette first reported on the academy's program Sunday in an article titled "Honor and Deception." Operating out of a law enforcement branch of the Air Force called the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, 24-year-old Eric Thomas said that as a cadet he was instructed to help gather information on sexual assaults, drug use and other aspects of misconduct committed by his fellow cadets.

“It was like a spy movie,” Thomas said. “I worked on dozens of cases, did a lot of good, and when it all hit the fan, they didn’t know me anymore.”

Thomas told the publication that he was recruited as a confidential informant by the OSI after he attended an off-campus party that was raided by police and he was pressured by agents. In his time operating as an informant, Thomas says he helped obtain the first two sexual assault convictions at the academy in almost two decades and 15 convictions in drug cases. But when he got into trouble for breaking cadet rules, linked to his work with the OSI, they terminated him and he was expelled this year just before graduation.

Ironically, while Thomas says he was instructed to deceive his commanders and fellow cadet as an informant, Air Force cadets are not permitted to lie, per their honor code: "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does."

And though at first the Chief of Staff of the Air Force told The Gazette he didn't even know the program existed, the academy defended the use of its informant program and defended its dismissal of Thomas.

Eric Thomas was disenrolled from the Air Force Academy on 2 April 2013 for failing aptitude and conduct probation, excessive demerits, and a pattern of military misconduct. In fact, Mr. Thomas' pattern of misconduct began in his freshman year and he accumulated a significant number of demerits, confinements, and restriction to base prior to December 2011. In fact, the demerits Mr. Thomas accumulated for misconduct prior to his agreement to be a Confidential Informant exceeded the 200 demerit "threshold" noted by the Gazette article. In short, Mr. Thomas did not display the aptitude for service in the United States Air Force... [Emphasis placed in text by the Air Force Academy. --Ed.]

At the time Mr. Thomas was approved by AFOSI to assist as a confidential informant in December 2011, he was told that he was not allowed to violate the law, Air Force or DOD policies, or Academy rules. Mr. Thomas acknowledged these instructions in writing. Contrary to what The Gazette article states ("he was regularly directed by agents to break academy rules"), at no time did AFOSI agents ask then-Cadet Thomas to violate this agreement."

Watch a brief videotaped interview with Eric Thomas on YouTube.

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