An Army three-star general and a West Point associate professor used government resources in an unofficial investigation to hunt down and punish an anonymous active-duty whistleblower who criticized Army leaders and the Biden administration on social media, according to private emails and text messages obtained exclusively by Breitbart News.
Army Training and Doctrine Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais and Army Maj. Jessica Dawson — who is also an “information warfare research scientist” at the Army Cyber Institute — used their official authority and access to government resources to track down the whistleblower and get him identified publicly and punished by his chain of command.
Despite the lack of evidence, they repeatedly accused the whistleblower of being a “counterintelligence” and “insider threat” in a seeming effort to trigger action by Army Criminal Investigative Division (CID) — an independent federal law enforcement agency with expansive powers designed to investigate serious felonies.
Pat Wier, a civilian defense attorney and Navy reservist, said a CID investigation would require an assumption or designation of a serious threat and called Gervais and Dawson’s trumping up of accusations for exercising free speech rights “wrongful.”
“His alleged actions did not rise to the level of a serious crime, or any crime at all,” he said.
Rather, it appeared to be an attempt by rogue military officials seeking to use the levers of government to punish political dissent.
Gervais and Dawson ran their shadow investigation for nearly a year, enlisting help from a mob of online associates consisting of progressive current and former members of the military who disagreed with the whistleblower politically.
Their efforts led to the doxxing — or public “outing” — of the suspected whistleblower’s identity and an Army two-star general’s former aide filing an inspector general complaint against him, a weaponization of the IG system in retaliation for critical social media posts.
That complaint then sparked an investigation into the whistleblower by his chain of command (what is known as a 15-6 investigation). The investigating officer found that the suspected whistleblower, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Samuel Shoemate, had violated Army Regulation 600-20 by “posting derogatory and disrespectful images/memes on multiple social accounts … towards different Senior Officials and Military Leaders.”
It also found that Shoemate violated Uniform Code of Military Justice Articles 88 (Contempt towards Senior Officials), 89 (Disrespect toward Superior Commissioned Officers, 133 (Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and Gentleman), and DOD Instruction 5400.17 Official Use of Social Media for Public Affairs Purposes.
The investigating officer recommended “appropriate adverse administrative action and/or appropriate UCMJ action” against Shoemate. He ultimately was given a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand — essentially a letter of reprimand. He retired from the Army on Tuesday, August 1, 2023.
Shoemate, who is planning to begin speaking about his experience publicly, told Breitbart News in a statement:
The DOD publicly boasts about its adherence to the law with numerous checks and balances in place to prevent unlawful conduct, but the shadow policy it actually operates under allows senior officers and officials to act with impunity as seen here. A lieutenant general colluding with various other senior officials to conduct their own unofficial investigation, with the use of government resources, is emblematic of larger, systemic abuses observed within the DOD in recent years.
Despite Dawson’s repeated suggestions he was a “counterintelligence” or “insider threat,” Shoemate had a flawless military record. His 2019 Officer Evaluation Report (OER) said he “lived, and reinforced, the Army Values, daily.” It also said:
[Shoemate’s] conduct within the unit was always above reproach, and he fostered an environment that empowered Soldiers, free from sexual harassment or discrimination of any kind. His desire to develop a robust and cohesive team was evidence in the respectful way he approach every interaction and conversation with each member of the team.
Breitbart News exclusively obtained the 15-6 investigative report on Shoemate, which detailed the efforts of Gervais, Dawson, and their associates to silence a whistleblower for critical tweets.
Background: Anonymous Whistleblower “Terminal CWO” Gains Notoriety
“Terminal CWO” was the name of the accounts on various social media platforms and a website. “CWO” stands for “chief warrant officer,” a senior enlisted officer rank. The accounts listed multiple people as managers.
The accounts would frequently post information sent from troops who wanted to anonymously blow the whistle on problems in the military. For example, on September 2022, Terminal CWO exposed that jet fuel leaked into the USS Nimitz’s water supply, sickening sailors. Commanders had not notified sailors until almost six hours later. The story turned into national news.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Terminal CWO provided information for troops who opposed the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for the military and also revealed that the Department of Defense (DOD) inspector general had warned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin he was potentially violating federal law by not properly considering requests for accommodation. That story also became national news and caught the attention of Congress.
Terminal CWO would also frequently post content and memes critical of Army leaders, which drew the ire of those leaders — particularly those with progressive followings.
One of those leaders was then-Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, the commanding general of Fort Benning in Georgia. During the pandemic, Donahoe advocated aggressively for troops to get vaccinated.
At one point, Donahoe got into an online fight with a former Marine who pointed out that far more troops were dying of suicide than COVID-19. Donahoe tagged the Marine’s graduate school’s social media account and wrote, “Hey @Hillsdale, come get your boy.”
Then-Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson slammed Donahoe on his show on July 27, 2021. Carlson said in his opening monologue:
It’s also remarkable that Patrick Donahoe is a Major General in the U.S. Army. Now, he is a General, but he doesn’t seem as interested in keeping the country safe as he does in promoting a very specific political point of view. So he spends most of his time apparently online harassing political opponents of the Biden administration.
Last week, General Donahoe was lecturing a student at Hillsdale College on the merits of mandatory vaccines. “Hey Hillsdale, come get your boy,” wrote General Donahoe. That guy is really a General? That’s when another user asked this, quote, “Hey, General, how many wars have you won?” Now, rather than answering that question honestly and of course, the answer is zero, Patrick Donahoe responded this way, quote, “Don’t be a shill for Putin.”
So here you have a Major General in the U.S. Army accusing apparently an American citizen of being a, quote, “shill” for Putin because that person criticized Joe Biden. Are you comfortable with that? With a highly politicized U.S. military, a military that acts basically as the armed enforcers of the Biden administration? We shouldn’t be comfortable with it.
Donahoe would later fall under investigation by the Army Inspector General for various reasons, including social media misconduct and interaction with a junior female officer.
Terminal CWO’s posts on Donahoe’s investigation incensed his former aides and online associates, who became determined to uncover the person or persons who ran the accounts.
Dawson Begins Her Unofficial Investigation
One of those associates was Army Maj. Jessica Dawson, a West Point associate professor and novelist. Dawson’s efforts to uncover Terminal CWO’s identity were documented as far back as November 2021.
According to an email attached to the 15-6 report obtained by Breitbart News, Dawson emailed Marcus A. Harper, a DOD cybersecurity contractor, with information she had found on Terminal CWO on November 12, 2021.
She sent another email to Harper four months later on March 30, 2022. “So there’s a possibility that the terminalcwo account is linked to a CW2 Samuel Shoemate,” she wrote, adding:
I have no idea if the original lead on his i.e. business profile is legit but if it is, CW2 Samuel Shoemate may potentially be terminalcwo and causing a lot of issues for the Army. And at this point, I’m going to turn things over to you and your people for further digging into.
It is not clear where in the DOD Harper worked at the time, or who his “people” were.
Dawson then forwarded her email to the chief of the Joint Staff Insider Threat Hub and the Army Insider Threat program manager, claiming that the Terminal CWO Twitter account posted information during the Afghanistan withdrawal “that looked like it might have been foreign.”
Dawson was referring to a tweet by Terminal CWO during the botched Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021 that said Americans were still in Afghanistan despite the White House claiming otherwise.
Dawson wrote to one of the officials, “…if there’s not a [counterintelligence] angle … I think we may be looking at a potential insider threat? Wanted to make sure you all could get this to the right place and let the professionals take over.”
The Joint Staff official replied, “Thanks, Jess. I will forward to the Hub and [Criminal Investigation Division].”
Dawson Enlists Help from Gervais, a Three-Star General
Several months later, Dawson enlisted the help of Gervais, a three-star general whom Terminal CWO had criticized in the past. Like Donahoe, Gervais would frequently interact with current and former progressive members of the military on social media.
Documents attached to the 15-6 report showed that Gervais and Dawson communicated extensively in trying to track down Terminal CWO’s identity via official email and direct messaging. They also discussed obtaining his military service record as well as getting information from social media companies.
On August 8, 2022, Dawson sent an email to Gervais, writing:
Below is what potentially identifies Terminal CWO’s ‘Danny’ as CW2 Samuel Shoemate, stationed, according to global, at Ft. Carson. … it should be easy enough to see if CW2’s records show a deployment in 09 as part of 13th Sustainment Command. … [Emphasis Added.]
the terminalcwo account is potentially linked to a CW2 Samuel Shoemate — there’s a business registration listed at a property in Harker Heights with a colorado phone number.
Dawson also sent a link to an obituary for Shoemate’s brother, noting that he passed away “right around the same time that terminalcwo came online.”
“Please let me know if this meets the requirements,” Dawson wrote to Gervais. It is not clear what requirements she meant.
In an undated direct message to Gervais, Dawson discussed hiding their efforts from the media — naming Breitbart News specifically — and Congress.
“I know the numbers say this is only a small number but when they’re getting cited by breitbart and trigger national news firestorms, might be time to relook,” she said.
“And if terminalcwo writes a post saying the army is investigating him for whistleblowing, breitbart et al will set that narrative and we’ll have congress intervening again. And that’s assuming there’s actually an investigation.”
In a following undated message, Dawson alerted Gervais that Shoemate was on a list of soldiers eligible for promotion.
“Shit I hope this isn’t true ma’am,” she wrote Gervais.
Gervais wrote back, “One gentleman who I [direct messaged] stated he is on [Army Combined Arms Center].”
Dawson responded, “This gets worse and worse. I wonder how much stuff he had access to that he pushed to foreign outlets.”
Gervais then said she would “talk directly” to the chief of Army CID, Greg Ford. “I’ll talk directly to Greg Ford tomorrow at CID,” she said.
Dawson Suggests Hiding Gervais’s Involvement
In another undated direct message, Dawson questioned how best to launch a formal investigation into Shoemate and suggested that if it came from Gervais, it would look like retaliation.
Dawson wrote Gervais: “[T]he question is what’s the best pathway to ensure an investigation is happening? And, given that you’re [Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general] and he’s already targeted you, is it better if it doesn’t go through you?”
Gervais again said she would call Army CID. “Greg Ford is the first call tomorrow,” she said.
Dawson also suggested to Gervais that CID obtain information from social media companies on Terminal CWO and on another suspected whistleblower who ran an account known as “TRADOC Batman.”
Dawson wrote, “If CID has the authority, I’d ask twitter and instagram for all identifying info on these accounts and work out from there. Tradoc Batman aka CPT Seth Ritter, too. He was waaaaay too fixated on MG Donahoe.”
Gervais responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
Dawson again questioned if there was “any foreign connection.”
“Thanking for taking this serious ma’am. I try really hard to keep the tinfoil hat stuff under wraps but this stuff has been looking like a semi coordinated campaign for awhile. *seriously,” she wrote.
Gervais later told Dawson that she had contacted CID and asked Dawson for information to feed to them.
She wrote Dawson, “Ok — send me what you have via email and will pass it on. Talked to CID. Will shoot them all the information once I consolidate it all.”
“I’ll work on consolidating everything I have, ma’am. It’s going to take me a day or so,” Dawson responded.
General Donahoe’s Former Aide “Doxxes” Terminal CWO
Around this time, Donahoe’s former aide, retired Army Sergeant Major Mike Lavigne, began posting Shoemate’s first name on social media and hinting he knew his whereabouts.
On October 7, 2022, Lavigne tweeted to Terminal CWO, “I’m retired, Sam. I don’t take guidance from anyone without a paycheck attached to it. That high altitude is fucking with you again.”
On October 8, 2022, he tweeted, “dude, Sam doesn’t care. He’s on mountain time anyway.”
On October 15, 2022, another former soldier tweeted, “Anyway if I were an intel warrant (Sam) or an IO major (Jose) I’d be better at being an anonymous shirtbird on @terminalcwo and running afoul of the DoD social media policy.”
Shortly after that tweet, Lavigne posted a graphic on Twitter with Shoemate’s full name — the first time anyone had posted it publicly. Lavigne later added coyly, “There was a method to the madness y’all.”
The Terminal CWO Twitter account self-deleted shortly after.
When Gervais discovered the account was deleted, she suggested she would personally alert the Army inspector general, who is supposed to act as an independent watchdog of the Army.
“[I]t says ‘something went wrong.’ Try again later,” Gervais said of the deleted account. “I should probably give my good friend the IG a call,” she added, calling the inspector general — an allegedly independent investigator — a “good friend.”
Lavigne Weaponizes Inspector General System
Two days after Shoemate was doxxed, Lavigne filed an Army inspector general complaint against him on October 17, 2022, alleging Shoemate had violated Army Regulation 600-20 and/or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, by “committing online misconduct.”
Ironically, Lavigne himself had been found to have violated the Army’s social media policy before he retired in 2021, and at the time he filed the IG complaint, Donahoe was also under investigation for social media misconduct for tweeting political comments and interactions with a female junior officer. Donahoe was later found to have broken social media protocols and retired early.
On October 18, 2022, Dawson sent Gervais a full archive of Terminal CWO’s Telegram channel as well as screenshots and PDFs of articles on Terminal CWO’s website.
She wrote Gervais: “I’m still organizing all the screenshots from instagram but that’s goign [sic] to take a bit longer – wanted to sent you what was relatively easy to scoop up in the interim.”
Gervais wrote back, “Thanks Jess. Good work on this. I’ll get my team to assist me this morning. None of your attachments are showing up.”
Gervais also encouraged another subordinate named “Jordan” who sent her information about what unit Shoemate was serving in and said she would “share” it with the “right folks.”
Gervais told “Jordan”: “OK– this is very helpful and good work. I’ll share this w/ the right folks. I really appreciate you sharing and trusting me w/this.”
“Jordan” responded, “You’re welcome ma’am, happy to help. These three have done a lot of harm to our service and the people in it, any effort I can contribute to seeing them held accountable for that is not wasted.”
Weaponization Works: IG Complaint Triggers 15-6 Investigation
Lavigne’s complaint to the Army inspector general would then trigger the 15-6 investigation into Shoemate in January 2023.
Notified of the Army inspector general complaint, Shoemate’s chain of command decided to initiate their own investigation. The investigating officer would interview Shoemate, two officers in his chain of command, and Lavigne and Donahoe.
In his interview, Lavigne accused Terminal CWO of starting “a campaign of harassment on social media” against Donahoe. He took credit for tracking down Shoemate’s identity, never mentioning Dawson or Gervais, according to the investigating officer’s summary of the interview.
Donahoe Ropes in Dawson, Indirectly Exposing Gervais
Donahoe, however, in his interview recommended that the investigating officer contact Dawson. Although he did not mention Gervais, his recommendation ended up implicating Gervais through their extensive communications, which were sent to the 15-6 investigating officer.
During his interview with the investigating officer on January 20, 2023, Donahoe, who had just retired, complained he was “victimized” by Terminal CWO and Army Capt. Seth Ritter’s social media posts. He said:
They identified me as the epitome of the woke General and began to troll me and get their following to troll me hard and that also incorporated a series of trolls. For over a year, they would post to their website erroneous but also slanderous and libelous comments about me and my behavior to the point where they were accusing me of having affairs on Ft. Benning and accusing me off [sic] grooming young women online and in the end with disciplinary actions, we were conducting at Ft. Benning into CPT Seth Ritter.
Ritter, who was stationed at Fort Benning, had opposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and sought to advise other soldiers of their rights, which resulted in him being harassed and detained by Fort Benning police, pressured to be psychiatrically evaluated by medical personnel, and placed under investigation and ultimately punished by Donahoe.
“My statement is that I was victimized by these guys coming after me, slandering me online,” Donahoe said, “They were doing it for over a year.”
Donahoe recommended that the investigating officer contact Dawson and that Dawson had given him permission to pass on her contact information. “I asked her if I could give her name to you, and she is obviously ok with that,” Donahoe said.
The investigating officer took Donahoe’s suggestion and contacted Dawson for “additional evidence.”
“MAJ Dawson responded back with additional evidence,” the investigating officer wrote.
That “additional evidence” likely included Dawson’s emails and private messages with Gervais, which were attached to the 15-6 report.
Wier: Gervais’s Involvement Was “Unlawful Command Influence”
Wier said Gervais’s unofficial efforts to investigate and punish Shoemate long before any official investigation was opened amounted to “unlawful command influence,” which he said is when a commander uses their power or position to unfairly influence the outcome of an investigation.
He said instead of Gervais acting impartially, she had worked with Dawson and others to track down Shoemate, report him to CID as a threat, and said she would contact her “good friend” the Army inspector general.
“Gervais’ involvement prevented an independent investigation,” Wier said. “More than three months before the proper investigation had begun, she was already directing her own investigation and using her subordinates to gather information on a soldier.”
“Her unlawful command influence tainted the investigation to where it wasn’t an independent or impartial investigation and was designed to ruin Shoemate’s career. It also wasn’t motivated by the truth — as she had already designated him as an insider threat,” he said.
Army Combined Arms Center Somehow Involved
There is additional evidence of other Army officials running their own efforts to investigate Terminal CWO and other soldiers who were suspected of being “facilitators” to the Terminal CWO accounts.
Official documents from the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) contained an analysis of Terminal CWO and discussed another soldier it called a “Potential CAC TCWO Facilitator.”
The documents contain a recommendation to launch an investigation into a soldier to see if he was involved in facilitating the Terminal CWO accounts.
“Initiate 15-6 Investigation into whether [he] facilitates TerminalCWO Social Media accounts. 15-6 should seek to identify any other managers for TCWO accounts to determine if Soldiers,” it said.
The Army Combined Army Center, known as the “Intellectual Center of the Army,” is commanded by Army Lt General Milford H. Beagle Jr. but falls under TRADOC, where Gervais is deputy commanding general.
Shoemate: Congress Must Intervene So Americans Have Confidence
Wier acknowledged that service members’ free speech rights may be curtailed in areas of mission accomplishment, national security, and good order and discipline. However none of those areas were implicated by Shoemate’s actions in this case.
“In this case, shutting down Terminal CWO was based on suppression of free speech against a topic of vital public interest because the military didn’t want any dissension,” Wier said.
Wier also argued that the DOD’s vaccine mandate was unlawful in the first place, so a service member speaking out against the mandate would not violate the limits of free speech.
“Since the order was unlawful, a service member does not violate any of these limitations by speaking out against it and using factual information to educate others,” he said.
Furthermore, he also said whistleblowers have rights that are codified in law under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act and outlined in DOD directives 7050.6 and 1325.6.
He said Shoemate “was targeted with resources in a manner that did not allow independent investigation, was biased and directed towards an outcome, and wrongfully utilized government resources to prevent a citizen from exercising his constitutional rights.”
Shoemate, in a statement to Breitbart News, slammed military leaders “operating with individual and rogue ambition” and called on Congress to intervene. He said:
The lack of accountability of unelected, military officials has been laid bare to the populace with their blatant violation of numerous laws and attempts by representatives to acquire answers. Targeting critics and whistleblowers with the same resources used to defend our constitution and nation is a danger to the freedoms we’re tasked with preserving.
“The DOD, and its many flag officers, have proven they can’t operate with the autonomy they’ve been trusted with for so long. Congress must intervene and put oversight in place so the American people can have confidence their military is not operating with individual and rogue ambition,” he added.
Breitbart News reached out to the Army for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) confirmed his office will be looking into the matter.
“From the Department of Justice to our own military, our government has been weaponized by corrupt bureaucrats in order to target Americans who disagree with their leftist agenda,” Gaetz said.
“Lieutenant General Maria Gervais and West Point Assistant Professor Major Jessica Dawson should be ashamed of themselves for abusing official resources to doxx and target anonymous whistleblowers. Their actions should warrant an inquiry by the House Armed Services Committee, and I’ll be urging Chairman Mike Rogers to take action.”
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