Shameful Subpoena

US Air Force Academy seal over cadets marching
This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.

The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs sits right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. A gorgeous setting -- it really is awe inspiring. The young people who qualify to be zoomies -- cadets -- are smart, motivated and gung ho about serving their country.

A sad and despicable thing occurred there. Female cadets by the dozens, over a number of years, were sexually assaulted and raped by male cadets. The young women were often afraid to go to superiors to report the crimes and concerned that their standing at the school would be adversely affected. Gradually more young women sought counseling, especially off campus, and eventually the less-than-stellar record of the academy was exposed.

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One of the accused young men, now an Air Force lieutenant, faces court martial. And the judge in the case has subpoenaed the confidential records of the therapist of his accuser.

For years women who have been victims of sexual assault have hesitated to seek counseling. They feel isolated, often blaming themselves for the evil that's befallen them.

This week I met rape counselor Jennifer Bier. She hasn't given up a word. And the judge has ordered her arrest. She told me she was prepared to go to prison to protect her client's confidentiality.

The sexual abuse scandal at the Air Force Academy is a scar on a noble institution. This legal wrangling by a military judge smacks of punishing, if not blaming, the victim. If he wins, future victims of sexual assault will lose yet again.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith