Air Force sex scandal may spread to four bases

(CBS News) SAN ANTONIO -- The Air Force has assigned a two-star general to investigate a growing sexual misconduct scandal.

A dozen instructors at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas are now suspected of assaulting female recruits.

Allegations of sexual misconduct between instructors and cadets began there last summer, and now the Pentagon has ordered a comprehensive strategic review of the entire Air Force training community.

The widespread criminal investigation is looking into the possibility that cases of sexual misconduct extend beyond Lackland.

Investigators are looking at four Air Force bases in two states.

Since allegations of misconduct began, 35 military instructors have been removed from their posts. Four have been accused.

Sgt. Luis Walker, one of the accused instructors, has pled not guilty and faces court martial. He's charged with raping or sexually assaulting 10 recruits between October 2010 and January 2011.

The Air Force says it's being fully transparent.

"I want the public to know what's going on," says Lackland's Col. Glenn Palmer. "I don't want the possibility of someone saying, 'Well look - they're trying to cover it up."'

The investigation comes as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced wider plans to deal with the issue.

In April, he said, "We will continue to develop our strategies. We'll continue to devote our energy and our intention to enforcing our department's zero tolerance policy on sexual assault."

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers such as Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) want to investigate the matter further with a hearing of their own.

"Congress has known about this problem in the military for 25 years," she says. "We've had lots of hearings, lots of reports. But are we willing to step up and do the right thing by taking it out of the chain of command so the victims really have the freedom to report these crimes and feel that they are not going to be marginalized and labeled and then dismissed from the military?"

This could be the worst sexual misconduct scandal to hit the military since a similar case involving the Army in Aberdeen, Md. in 1996.

On Wednesday, victims of military sexual assault will lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill, seeking support for legislations sponsored by Speier called the Stop Act. It would take probes of military sexual assault away from commanders and put them in the hands of a separate military unit.

To see Anna Werner's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Anna Werner

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