In a heated 90-minute hearing on Tuesday, Admiral Linda L. Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, sought to reassure U.S. senators that she is committed to transparency and accountability amid allegations of mishandling sexual assault and harassment cases at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

Addressing the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Fagan emphasized her dedication to cooperating with congressional probes and providing necessary documents. She stressed that her efforts were constrained by ongoing Office of Inspector General investigations and the need to protect victim privacy. “This is not a cover-up. I am committed to providing documents in good faith,” Fagan asserted. “This is an incredible organization … I am committed to bringing the organization forward and making the culture change necessary.”

However, both Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin voiced their frustration with the incomplete and heavily redacted documents received so far. “This is not full transparency,” Johnson remarked, displaying pages with significant text blackouts.

The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability echoed similar concerns in a letter to Fagan, highlighting that only 8,338 pages had been provided out of a requested 1.8 million pages nearly a year ago.

“This situation demands unsparing truth-telling,” Blumenthal emphasized. “Following the evidence where it leads and being willing to face that truth, even though it may be embarrassing to friends, colleagues, predecessors and current leadership.”

The hearing followed a revealing letter from Shannon Norenberg, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at the Academy, who accused the Coast Guard of using her in a “cover-up” related to the Operation Fouled Anchor investigation. This internal investigation, conducted between 2014 and 2020, examined cases of sexual harassment and assault from 1988 to 2006 but was not widely disclosed.

Norenberg resigned from her position, citing a moral and ethical obligation. She accused the Coast Guard of failing to offer victims the necessary government form for accessing Veterans Administration sexual trauma services, which she believes was a deliberate move to conceal the existence of these cases from Congress.

“We gave them absolutely nothing in writing, and that was deliberate,” Norenberg wrote. “At the time, it did not occur to me that all of this was being done to hide the existence of Operation Fouled Anchor from Congress.”

Fagan acknowledged Norenberg’s letter and praised her contributions, stating that her allegations would be included in the Office of Inspector General investigation.

Legal representatives for the victims expressed disappointment with Fagan’s responses during the hearing. Christine Dunn, a partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, criticized the lack of substantive answers and a clear plan for justice. “We are speaking to Coast Guard Academy sexual assault survivors on a near daily basis. At today’s hearing, they were expecting answers and for the Coast Guard to take accountability,” Dunn said. “Instead, the Commandant gave platitudes with no real substance or plan to give justice to survivors.”

As the investigation continues, the U.S. Coast Guard remains under significant pressure to address these serious allegations and ensure justice for the victims.