WASHINGTON -- A Michigan congresswoman is joining other lawmakers in calling on the military to track and report on hazing incidents after earlier raising concerns that abuse could have been a factor in the death of a U.S. Marine recruit from Taylor.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, on Wednesday signed on as a cosponsor of what's being referred to as the Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act partly because of questions arising from the death of 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui at Parris Island, S.C., on March 18.
In a letter written in April to Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller, Dingell noted concerns that "hazing may have been involved" in Siddiqui's death 11 days into his training and asked for more information about the incident, also noting his Muslim faith.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating Siddiqui's death, but an Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) spokesman said last month there were no apparent signs of foul play. Siddiqui died after a 40-foot fall in a barracks stairwell, but his family questioned a Marine casualty report they said indicated he'd committed suicide.
"This was an intelligent, loyal, patriotic young Muslim man -- and class valedictorian -- who loved his country," Dingell said Wednesday, adding that during her search for information others contacted her about the issue of hazing, leading her to support the legislation.
"While I am waiting to get a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the death of my constituent, it is clear there have been issues in the past," she said. "We have an obligation to bring more accountability to the system."
The legislation is named after Harry Lew, a Marine who reportedly committed suicide in April 2011 after being hazed by fellow Marines in Afghanistan who complained that Lew repeatedly fell asleep at his post. Lew's aunt, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., is the prime sponsor of the bill, which also includes U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier and Ted Lieu, both D-Calif., as cosponsors.
Earlier this year, the General Accountability Office released a report saying that while the military has put policies in place to cut down on hazing, there are constraints on effective implementation and oversight throughout the Armed Services (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard) and that they "may not have the accountability needed to help ensure efforts to address hazing are implemented consistently."
The legislation would establish a system for the collection of hazing reports -- including those filed anonymously -- and require each service to survey personnel on the prevalence of hazing annually. The services would then be required to report to Congress on anti-hazing efforts each year as well.
"Hazing has no place in our military," said Chu. "It breeds fear and distrust within the ranks."
Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is also expected to propose the text of the anti-hazing legislation as an addition to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, though the chances of its inclusion are uncertain.