All In   |  June 12, 2013

Major roadblock for big change on military sexual assault

The battle lines that have been drawn on the issue of what to do about sexual assault in the armed forces between those on the side of the Pentagon who don't want fundamental reform and do not want to take this outside of the chain of command versus an insurgent group of senators, led by Senator Gillibrand, who do. Senator Barbara Boxer of California joins Chris Hayes on the setbacks as well as the positive developments.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the picture you see is the new head of the air force 's sexual assault prevention act. notably a woman, two star major general margaret woodward. she will lead a newly elevated office, and will be replacing this man, lieutenant journal jeff korzinski arrested last month and charged with sexual assault . 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year. and it has spurred a kind of remarkable legislative movement to reform the institutional structure of how justice is administered inside the armed forces . that movement hit a huge roadblock today. in this purse, in the person of this man, carl levin who introduced a measure to replace kirstin gillibrand 's proposal. chairman levin's provision prevailed. as we have told you from the beginning is not republican versus democrat, but rather those on the side of the pentagon who don't want fundamental reform and do not want to take this outside of the chain of command . versus an insurgent group of senators, led by senator gillibrand who do.

>> the victims tell us they do not report because of chain of command . it's not that their decision's wrong. it's that they are the decider, and the victims have said, i'm not reporting because it's within the chain of command .

>> it is harder to hold someone accountable for failure to act if you reduce their power to act.

>> we also have heard no data that would indicate that by removing the command completely from any role here, that that is going to have a positive impact on retaliation.

>> the fact is, if we don't have a fundamental complaining in how we address this issue are we going to be back here in two more decades having this same conversation?

>> joining me now is senator barbara boxer , democrat from california. a co sponsor of senator gillibrand 's bill. what is your reaction to the fact that essentially this was killed today in committee?

>> it was a bad day for the opportunity that we have to finally get things right here. you know, for 20 long years, various secretaries of defense have said, these words, we have zero tolerance for this kind of activity in the military. and we're not going to allow it, and every single secretary of defense never made the changes. we have to make the changes, just like australia did, great britain did. canada did. israel did, and what did they do? they took these vicious crimes outside of the chain of command . they have an interest prosecutor. you know what carl levin and his friends did. it's very disappointing. he's my friend but i have to tell you, what they did today is embrace the status quo instead of embracing the victimsing and using this as an opportunity to bring needed change. they kept the commanders in charge. the commander not only decides whether there will be a prosecution, the commander also decides when and where the court-martial will be if it goes forward. and they even pick the jury. chris, this is a nightmare, and it has to change, and i predict we're going to have a real donny brook on the senate floor. because we're not going to let this go by easily, gently into the night .

>> what do you mean by that?

>> we're going to offer the gillibrand /boxer/collins language again and we're going to fight to get it done, and we are going to get our day on the full senate floor. it was interesting, we did get republicans and democrats for our proposal. but just not enough. but i believe the time has come for change. i am extremely disappointed in what happened. i have to say i'm not shocked. because change is hard. we know it is difficult. we saw how gays were treated in the military for decades and decades. we saw how women had been treated in terms of their equality. we saw how there was no integration in the military until finally president truman made it happen. so all these are civil rights battles. these are human rights and civil rights , and, you know, people forget that half of the victims are men. it's not a women's issue. it is a violence issue.

>> senator, could i --

>> it's a criminal issue.

>> senator, i want to play a little bit of sound from one of your colleagues who voted against your amendment today in committee. tim cane basically making the argument, you're going to take this out of the chain of command , why not take all these other horrible crimes out of the chain of command ?

>> murder, larceny, robbery, forgery. bad checks. arson, extortion, burglary. house breaking. perjury, fraud against the united states .

>> that seems like a -- at least at face value a somewhat persuasive argument that there's a lot of crimes and all those crimes are serious. why make a special exception to the way the system works for this specific crime?

>> we don't. if you read our bill. and he obviously didn't read our bill. what we said is, crimes that are unique to the military will stay within the chain of command . but serious felonies will come outside just like they do in great britain, just as they do in israel. just as they do in canada, and australia. so it sounds great, but we took care of it in our bill.

>> senator barbara boxer , who is pledging to continue to battle this on the floor as this goes to the floor, and offer amendments and expressing her disappointment tonight. thank you for joining us, i appreciate it.

>> sure.

>>> arizona republican trent franks has a lot more name recognition tonight after a comment about rape and pregnancy. it's a glimpse as to what your republican congress was up to today. more on that next.