Reveal: Episode 3:Dereliction of Duty

By Julia B. Chan,

In this episode of Reveal, we look at the power of a single photo, a VA doctor accused of handing out opiates to veterans like “candy” and surgery patients who got screwed out of legitimate medical hardware. For accompanying audio to these stories, visit

Rerouted for sex

air marshalls

U.S. air marshals are our law enforcement in the air – and they’re expected to protect us on high-risk flights. But as reporter Andrew Becker found out, some employees of the Federal Air Marshal Service are suspected of rearranging flights in order to meet for sexual trysts.

What began as an internal investigation into allegations of harassment and threats has expanded into a criminal inquiry and more people are coming forward. The woman at the center of the investigation is said to have accessed sensitive government data to identify and arrange dates with air marshals who caught her eye.

(Image: Text messages between a program specialist and an air marshal are filled with flirtatious, suggestive and sometimes graphic exchanges. CREDIT: Re-created from court documents by Reveal)

Photo sparks war crimes probe

vets torture
Jonathan Millantz (left) and then-Lt. Phil Blanchard smile as an Iraqi detainee holds up a large board. Reveal has blocked the detainee’s eyes in this image to protect his identity. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Millantz

In our last episode, we met Jonathan Millantz, a troubled Army medic who served with a tank battalion in Iraq. Millantz treated Iraqi prisoners after brutal interrogations – and he also took part in the abuse.

Millantz shared a photo with writer Joshua E. S. Phillips. The photo shows Millantz and a lieutenant posing with an Iraqi detainee who was forced to hold up a large wooden board. Millantz wrote on the back of the photo that the detainee was “holding that board for 45 minutes,” and he told Phillips that the prisoner’s wrist eventually broke from the strain.

After our broadcast, the U.S. Army launched an investigation into whether war crimes were committed. Al Letson talks with Phillips about these developments.

Bogus screws ended up in backs of surgery patients

fake screws
Spinal Solutions is accused of mixing authentic and counterfeit screws in surgical kits sent to doctors across the nation – can you guess which screw is legitimate? CREDIT: Julia B. Chan/Reveal

When it comes to medical hardware, who’s got your back?

The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to ensure that equipment going inside people’s bodies is manufactured by companies approved by the agency, but there’s a fissure in the system.

Reveal’s Will Evans and Christina Jewett follow up on a tip and discover a frightening lapse in the authenticity of surgical screws – the kind designed to be driven into your spine.



Who’s responsible when America’s your drug dealer?

candy man pills
Earlier this year, Reveal reporter Aaron Glantz discovered that highly addictive painkillers were being handed out like candy to veterans at the VA hospital in Tomah, Wis. CREDIT: Darren Hauck for Reveal

Overdose deaths among veterans treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs occur at a rate nearly double the national average.

Reporter Aaron Glantz has been following this story for two years. In this segment, he introduces us to the “Candy Man,” the chief of staff at a VA hospital in Tomah, Wisconsin. Hospital staff members tell Reveal that Dr. David Houlihan “hands out narcotics like they’re candy.” Opiate prescriptions at the medical center have skyrocketed during his tenure.

But it’s not just people inside the hospital who are suffering – Glantz shows the widespread consequences of a decade of doling out drugs.

For more, check out Reveal’s website to delve deeper into these stories, and subscribe to their podcast on iTunes so you never miss a beat. More of a social type? Follow Reveal on Twitter and Facebook.




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