- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2000

The Pentagon Thursday reaffirmed its "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment but refused to discuss a report in The Washington Times that the Army's most senior female officer has accused a fellow general of groping her.
In what appeared to be a coordinated effort, Pentagon and Army spokesmen repeatedly refused to comment to reporters about a charge brought by Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, deputy chief of staff for intelligence. She is the Army's first three-star female officer.
Despite the official lack of comments, the Associated Press quoted defense officials Thursday as saying the Army inspector general (IG) is investigating Gen. Kennedy's charge.
"Our posture here is not confirming or denying that there is an investigation," said Kenneth Bacon, spokesman for Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. "I understand that, and I have nothing more to say about it."
The Pentagon policy, he said, is "a zero tolerance for harassment. And that's been made clear by Secretary Cohen and by all military leaders. There are established channels for reporting allegations of harassment. And the IG is one of those channels."
Generally speaking on sexual harassment cases, he said, "If there is a proceeding under way, the parties of that proceeding have every right to assume that it will occur in the most discreet possible way until it's over. If there's a proceeding."
An ex-officer who was interviewed by the male general's military lawyer told The Times the purported incident of groping occurred in Gen. Kennedy's Pentagon office in October 1996.
The ex-officer said the lawyer asked him about Gen. Kennedy's demeanor and about the layout of her office.
"They had an office call and that's when [she says] the groping occurred," he quoted the lawyer as saying. "I told the lawyer I found that curious as the door was open. I described for him the office layout and how Kennedy generally ran office calls, at her table where she would sit against the wall, and the visitor across from her. True, the table would not be visible from where we in the outer office sat."
An Army source said the charge involved "inappropriate touching" and that the inspector general was investigating.
Through a spokesman, Gen. Kennedy declined to comment Wednesday. Thursday, Army spokesmen at the Pentagon continued the policy of "no comment."
"I'm going to adhere to the Army line on that," Mr. Bacon told reporters. "Secretary Cohen is aware of the news story that ran today."
A military trial lawyer not involved in the case said it will be difficult to prove a 3 and 1/2-year-old sexual harassment charge.
In 1996, Gen. Kennedy served on a special Army sexual harassment panel appointed by the Army secretary after trainers were accused of sexually abusing trainees at Aberdeen, Md., Proving Ground. One focus of the panel was to encourage victims to report sexual harassment.
Gen. Kennedy, 52, is one of the military's most prominent female officers. In 1997, she became the first Army woman to achieve three-star rank, when she became the service's top intelligence officer. She has been the subject of various news stories, including a flattering profile in USA Weekend magazine.
She recently told her staff she plans to retire in June and throw a big party at the Mayflower Hotel in August.
Despite persistent questions from Pentagon reporters, Mr. Bacon refused to confirm or deny The Times report.
"You can ask me a thousand questions on this," he said. "I've given you my answer. I'm not going to give you any more answers."
The accused general's identity and current rank could not be learned this week.
In an October 1997 interview with USA Weekend, Gen. Kennedy said she had been sexually harassed during her 31-year career.
"I dealt with it individually," she said. "I just said no in the way I needed to say no, and there were times when I had to say no very forcefully. I can remember making an absolute threat to someone that if he ever did this to me, or said it or made me even think he was about to, I would be taking him in to see the person that was pretty high up in our chain. So you have to come back like that sometimes."

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