James Robinson photo
Maj. Matt Golsteyn, who led a team of Special Forces operators through Afghanistan, appeared before a three-member board to fight to keep his job.
The administrative hearing for Maj. Matt Golsteyn quickly became my beat within a beat.
Golsteyn, a decorated Green Beret who received the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan, was accused of committing actions unbecoming of an officer and violating the law of armed conflict. The Army revoked his Special Forces tab and Silver Star. The Army also rescinded a nomination for the distinguished Service Cross, which would have upgraded his Silver Star.
A three-member board reviewed the allegations against golsteyn to determine if they were substantiated, then decide if he should be retained or removed from service.
The hearing is not normally open to the public, but the Observer pushed to view it.
The Army made the hearing process open to the public via teleconferencing. We were told this method was to easily cut in and out when the board discussed classified information.
Initially, the Army told us that I would not be permitted to take notes - handwritten or digital. My editor and I quickly crafted a response arguing that I should be allowed to have a pen and paper to accurately record the hearing. After we published a story explaining the Army would not permit me to take notes, the Army reversed its decision. Because the hearing was in a secured facility, I was not permitted to bring in a digital recorder or phone.
As part of the hearing, I was to sit in a room with Golsteyn's family as we watched a live feed of the hearing from a different room.
The hearing would last nearly a week, with some days going as long as 12 hours.
This was my first chance to cover an administrative hearing - and at that, it was one the entire country was watching.
It was complicated. Not just because it was a type of hearing I'd never covered before, but because both the defense and government were referencing documents that I didn't have the privilege to examine or even ask for copies. I had to submit a FOIA request for the documents discussed during this hearing. As of December 25, 2015, I still don't have them.
One of the most intriguing parts of the hearing was the polygraph debacle.
It started on Day 1, was kind of resolved, then popped back up on the last day of the hearing.
The allegations against Golsteyn were revealed when he submitted to a polygraph exam as part of a job interview with the CIA. Army investigators viewed the video, but didn't keep a copy. Only the CIA had a copy.
Without the video, the Army's recorders (similar to prosecutors) submitted a transcript of the video as evidence. Golsteyn's attorney objected because he said the transcript was proof of the taking of a polygraph, which is not admitted in criminal court and an administrative hearing should be no different.
The board initially agreed and barred the transcript. The decision was reversed when it was revealed that the board's legal adviser (not one of those three members) had oversight on evidentiary matters and allowed it as evidence. The legal adviser's opinion cannot be challenged.
On breaks throughout the hearing, I stepped outside to use my personal cell phone to call in updates for our website. Each day, I filed a complete story rehasing the day's events for the next-day paper.
Read the stories here:
I was the only journalist present when the Army came back with its decision.
A three-member board at Fort Bragg tossed out the most serious accusation against a Green Beret accused of shooting an unarmed Afghan bomb maker in 2010.
Maj. Matt Golsteyn was accused by the Army of violating the law of armed conflict. The board on Sunday declared that violation to be unsubstantiated, but it found a second, lesser allegation of conduct unbecoming to be substantiated.
Golsteyn, who led a team of Special Forces operators through Afghanistan, received a general (under honorable conditions) discharge at the conclusion of the board of inquiry hearing, which means he maintains nearly all his veteran benefits. The GI Bill benefit is to be determined.
The government had sought an other-than-honorable discharge. The Army had already revoked his Special Forces tab and a Silver Star.
Golsteyn's lawyer said he will appeal the findings to a Board of Review, which is appointed by the Secretary of the Army or a designee. The lawyer, Phil Stackhouse, said he is disappointed with the findings.
You can read the story here:
The board deciding whether to remove a Fort Bragg Green Beret from service is attempting to obtain a CIA video of a polygraph exam that apparently details the 2010 killing of an Afghan bomb maker.
Col. Stuart Goldsmith, president of the board of inquiry, on Saturday directed the board's legal adviser to send a letter to the CIA requesting the video, which was recorded in 2011 as part of a job interview with the agency. The three-member board will reconvene this morning.
"Until I have an answer to this, I cannot proceed," Goldsmith said, explaining that he wanted the CIA's response in writing. "The video would be helpful in considering the matters brought before us."
You can read the story here:
Two Marines serving with the Green Beret the Army has attempted to characterize as a killer hailed his leadership, a gunnery sergeant saying he'd follow him to Hell and a colonel agreeing with the decision to kill an Afghan bomb maker.
You can read the story here:
A Green Beret who served in Afghanistan around the same time as Maj. Matt Golsteyn spent hours answering questions on what he would do in the position of the now-embattled, highly decorated, soldier.
Maj. Alexander Lazatin was asked if he would have reacted the same way after a known bomb maker was released. Golsteyn is alleged to have have killed the Afghan man, who has been identified as a bomb maker, according to testimony from a Board of Inquiry this week.
"One thing's for sure," Lazatin said, "I would never question another leader on the ground, especially an SF guy."
Golsteyn has never been charged with a crime. He is accused of committing actions unbecoming of an officer and violating the law of armed conflict.
The Army has revoked Golsteyn's Special Forces tab and Silver Star, which was initially awarded to him for his actions during a battle in Marjah around the same time the bomb maker was killed. The Army also rescinded a nomination for the Distinguished Service Cross, which would have been upgraded from the Silver Star.
A three-member board is reviewing the allegations against Golsteyn to determine if they are substantiated, then decide if he should be retained or removed from service.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/army-questions-golsteyn-meeting-standards/article_c2d5ac85-2630-52ad-bf5f-093f240ada37.html
It was slow - and I took copious notes.
Maj. Matt Golsteyn, a decorated Fort Bragg Green Beret, knew he violated the law of armed conflict when he fatally shot an unarmed Afghan man in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010, according to Army officials pushing to remove him from service.
Capts. Jason McKenna and Catherine Godfrey, recorders who presented the Army's case during a Board of Inquiry hearing, said Golsteyn should be separated from the Army under a less-than-honorable discharge.
The three-member board must review the allegations against Golsteyn to determine if they are substantiated, then decide if he should be retained or removed from service.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/testimony-in-hearing-for-fort-bragg-green-beret-golsteyn-he/article_06214359-1209-5168-9575-b0bf1d37e861.html
Maj. Matt Golsteyn, a decorated 3rd Special Forces Group officer, will make his case for why he should remain active duty during a board of inquiry hearing convened by Special Forces Command this week at Fort Bragg. Officials expect the hearing, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday, to last until Friday.
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.