SAN DIEGO – The Navy has revoked the Silver Star Medal from a top Navy official in the Clinton administration who is now serving time for child pornography.
The Navy stripped Wade R. Sanders of the military's third-highest honor last year, according to an Aug. 9, 2010, memorandum to the chief of naval personnel from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press.
The Navy did not publicly disclose at the time that it had taken the medal from Sanders, who served as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for reserve affairs under President Bill Clinton. The AP learned of the action Wednesday from a person with knowledge of the situation who asked to remain anonymous.
Sanders received the Silver Star in 1992 for his courage in battling the Viet Cong in 1969 as a swift boat captain. However, Mabus cited in his memo new facts and evidence surrounding the incident for which the award was made, as well as the way the award was processed, as reasons it was taken away.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Alana Garas said Thursday that the decision was made after information came to light in late 2009 and early 2010.
"If those facts would have been known to the Navy secretary in 1992, they would have prevented the award of the Silver Star," she said.
She declined to give details.
It wasn't clear whether the decorated Vietnam veteran's criminal record played any role in the decision, which was first reported earlier this week by the Marine Corps Times.
Sanders, who worked as a San Diego attorney, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and was sentenced in 2009 to three years in federal prison. Court records state there were more than 600 images of child pornography on his computers.
After serving in the Clinton administration, Sanders worked as a spokesman on Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. He defended the senator's military record after the pro-Bush group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ran television ads assailing Kerry's record commanding a swift boat in Vietnam — the same role that Sanders played during the war.
A Kerry aide said Thursday that the senator had no information on the Navy's decision to revoke the award. Kerry had written a letter supporting Sanders before he was sentenced.
"Like many veterans who knew Sanders, Kerry weighed in more than two years ago, not about the circumstances that brought Sanders into the criminal justice system, but about Sanders' years of advocacy on veterans issues and Captain Sanders' decades of naval service," she said.
Sanders also worked as a senior adviser for veterans and military affairs to U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., when Garamendi served as the state's lieutenant governor in 2008.
AP National Writer Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.