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Democratic Sen. John Walsh plagiarized War College master’s thesis; blames PTSD

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Montana's newly appointed Democratic senator plagiarized at least one third of the final thesis that earned him a master's degree at the United States Army War College, according to multiple news reports Wednesday.

Sen. John E. Walsh, an Iraq war veteran who also is running to complete the term of former Sen. Max Baucus, has made his service a main selling point on the campaign trail this year, but his degree at the War College, one of his highest achievements, appears to have been improperly attained, The New York Times first reported Wednesday afternoon.

An examination of the 14-page paper, titled "The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy" and posted online by The Times, revealed that about a third of Mr. Walsh's 2007 paper consisted of verbatim language and extremely similar passages to other sources, without any kind of attribution.

"Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes but uses other authors' exact — or almost exact — language without quotation marks," The Times said.

Among the pieces plagiarized or uncited are work by Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Sean Lynn-Jones of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, co-written with Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.

In addition, the paper ends with six recommendations that are nearly identical to ideas presented in a paper by four Carnegie scholars, including Mr. Carothers, only without any attribution.

Mr. Walsh, 53, denied accusations of plagiarism when he was confronted outside Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

"I didn't do anything intentional here," he said. Asked directly if he had plagiarized, he responded, "I don't believe I did, no."

But after The Times published its article, Mr. Walsh gave an interview to The Associated Press in which he blamed it in part on post-traumatic stress disorder, related medication and stress from a fellow veteran's suicide.

"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," he said. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

The War College's student handbook states that discoveries of plagiarism have led to degrees being rescinded.

Mr. Walsh was named to the Montana seat in February after President Obama picked Mr. Baucus as ambassador to China, forcing the Democratic lawmaker to resign the 11 months left in his term. Mr. Walsh is running against Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, for a fresh six-year term.

A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman denounced The New York Times report, which was quickly picked up by multiple news outlets, as "smears" and "attacks" designed to denigrate Mr. Walsh's war hero status.

"John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it's disgusting that Steve Daines and Washington Republicans are going to try denigrate John's distinguished service after multiple polls show him gaining," said spokesman Justin Barasky. "Steve Daines should immediately denounce these latest smears and call for an end to all attacks on John Walsh's record protecting Montana and serving his country."

However, when AP contacted Alee Lockman, a Daines spokeswoman, she said she had only just seen the Times story and had no immediate comment.

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