- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Pentagon has posted a honors roll on it website to list decorated veterans and active-duty troops, after the Supreme Court struck ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to lie about earning military medals.

“Free speech is one thing, but dishonoring those who have been honored on the battlefield is something else,” said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, as he announced the web page, located at valor.defense.gov.

“For that reason, today we are posting a new page on the Defense Department website that will list those service members and veterans who have earned our nation’s highest military awards for valor.”

The website will start with those who earned the Medal of Honor since 9/11 and then list military crosses and silver stars awards since the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in 2001.

Last month, the Supreme Court in June struck down the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, which madeit a crime to lie about receiving military medals. In a 6-3 decision, the court said lying about one’s military record is protectED under the First Amendment right of free speech.

The Defense Department decided to look at the issue again after the Supreme Court decision.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who chaired a hearing on the issue of stolen valor earlier this year, said the honors rolls is a step in the right direction but the database “barely scratches the surface.”

“It’s a start, but it falls far short of completion. This will tackle dozens of people, but there 60 million records [of awards],” the Utah Republican told The Washington Times.

“They’re a long way from completing the database,” he said.

He noted there are privacy and security concerns that need to be addressed and individuals who have received awards should be given the option as to whether they want that information posted online.

Meanwhile, other members of Congress are working on new legislation to replace the 2005 Stolen Valor Act.

Last year, Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Republican Congressman Joe Heck of Nevada co-sponsored the Stolen Valor Act of 2011, which they say makes a key change to the 2005 legislation by making it a crime to profit from — not just lie about — misrepresented military service.

Earlier this month, Virginia Democrat Senator James Webb, introduced his own legislation, the Military Service Integrity Act of 2012, which would also bring criminal penalties to those who profit from making a false claim to have served in the military or received a military award.

• Kristina Wong can be reached at kwong@washingtontimes.com.

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