By Charley Keyes
America's newest Medal of Honor recipient has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, defense contractor BAE Systems, alleging the company and his supervisor there punished him for his opposition to a weapons sale to Pakistan and prevented him from finding other work by portraying him as a problem drinker and mentally unstable.
Dakota Meyer, who was awarded the honor in September, objected to the company's sale of high-tech armaments to Pakistan, according to the lawsuit, saying the U.S. weapons sale is "giving to guys who are known to stab us in the back" and "the same people who are killing our guys."
In response, BAE is carefully pushing forward with defending itself in the case while not personally criticizing the Medal of Honor recipient.
"As an organization whose core focus is to support and protect our nation's troops, we are incredibly grateful to Dakota Meyer for his valiant service and bravery above and beyond the call of duty," Brian J. Roehrkasse, a BAE spokesman, told CNN. "Although we strongly disagree with his claims, which we intend to vigorously defend through the appropriate legal process, we wish him success and good fortune in all his endeavors."
The lawsuit was filed in June in Texas District court and was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. It comes amid new tensions between the United States and Pakistan over clashes along Pakistan's border and the killing of two dozen Pakistan military personnel by NATO forces along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Meyer had been working at BAE on thermal optic equipment for snipers and for teams searching for roadside bombs. In his lawsuit he claims that he was never reprimanded or warned about his job performance. Only after his criticism of the sales to Pakistan, according to the lawsuit, was he subjected to bullying and intimidation.
In his direct comments about providing weapons to Pakistan, Meyer said he had come to BAE to do his part for people still in the war zone.
"I feel that by selling this to Pakistan we are doing nothing but the exact opposite," Meyer said in an e-mail to his supervisor, quoted in the lawsuit.
"We are simply taking the best gear, the best technology on the market to date and giving it to guys that are known to stab us in the back," the e-mail said.
And he suggested that Pakistan was receiving more advanced equipment than American troops. "I think that one of the most disturbing facts to the whole thing is that we are still going forth with the PAS-13 optic and issuing these outdated sub-par optics to our own U.S. troops when we have better optics we can put in their hands right now, but we are willing to sell it to Pakistan," the e-mail said.
President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Meyer at a White House ceremony September 15, praising the former active duty Marine for saving 36 lives as he braved Taliban fire again and again to rescue both U.S. and Afghanistan forces. As Obama noted, the tales of that rescue "will be told for generations."
"You did your duty, above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps that you love," Obama said. "Because of your honor, 36 men are alive today. Because of your courage, four fallen American heroes came home."
BAE said it has hired several thousand veterans as employees. Included in those veterans is the supervisor Meyer also names in the lawsuit, whom the company said was also a decorated former Marine sniper like Meyer. And BAE said it has complied with all federal rules about selling sophisticated defense equipment to Pakistan and other countries.
"The U.S. Department of State, not BAE Systems, makes the decision on what defense-related products can be exported," the company spokesman said. "In recent years, the U.S. Government has approved the export of defense-related goods from numerous defense companies to Pakistan as part of the United States' bilateral relationship with that country."
The State Department confirmed Tuesday that it had approved in August a license for BAE to export 20 thermal imaging rifle scopes to Pakistan, but only temporarily. “But that was for a sales demonstration. And none of those scopes were sold,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at his midday briefing. “They would have had to apply for a separate export license, so I'm not aware that any sale, you know, there was never any pursuit of a sale on those items.”
The spokesman said he did not know if there was any current review of defense exports to Pakistan in light of strained relations with the U.S. “I know that our security assistance program does continue,” Toner said. “You know, it's an important part of our counterterrorism efforts.”