While Platt notes that military members like Russell have the right to free speech, he says that the use of certain partisan political speech can be subject to sanctions under the Hatch Act. According to one provision of the act, civil servants "may not post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group."
Russell's political comments on the fan site appear to stretch back at least to 2009—while he was still on active duty. In June 2012, during the recall election of Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 'Michael' commented that he hoped Walker "burns in hell." To those who supported Walker on the fan site, 'Michael' called them "pigs" and said they had "corrupted the country." "You are probably some paid shill the Koch brother pay to spam our forum with lies," 'Michael' wrote.
In a brief conversation with U.S. News, Russell confirmed that he posted under the username 'Michael' and later 'Lazarus.'
In what may be the most problematic post, 'Michael' wrote a message in June 2010 trying to hire people to work for a number of positions in the Army, including a research assistant, research psychologist, and a neuropsychology technician. 'Michael' wrote that he was able to place people worldwide, and noted that he especially needed to hire someone at the Keesler Air Force Base in Gulfport, Miss.—a base that has dealt with its share of traumatic brain injuries.
"I am in a position to offer a high paying job right this second, now. It will be gone in a week," 'Michael' wrote, saying he had already offered one member of the forum "obscene amounts of cash to move."
"I ordinarily want people with a medical background, a former behavioral science specialist or combat medic with a degree in psychology," 'Michael' said, but then suggested he could relax the entry requirements for those on the site. It is unclear whether Russell actually hired anyone off of the fan site to work in these brain testing roles, or if he was authorized to make those hires. Army spokesman Platt notes that Russell could also be sanctioned for non-political messages he wrote online. Sanctions could occur if the Army determines Russell used "hate speech," "speech that threatens violence in the workplace," or "speech that abets or solicits misconduct," Platt says.
In a post in March 2009, for example, 'Michael' ridiculed a forum user as being "unemployed... with a disabling anxiety disorder. That lives with his mother."
Some of Russell's other alleged posts are simply troubling. In March 2009, 'Michael' described his job years ago as a police officer, where he said he orchestrated a number of beatings of criminals to make it appear as if the criminal started the fight.
"When I was a cop, I was not a particularly nice man," 'Michael' wrote that month. "There is an art to 'flaming' a scumbag. You really want to beat the [expletive] out of someone, but there are cameras watching you, so they have to make it the first punch. You can just stare at them sometimes and that will do it, body language can do it—they have this prison yard macho thing and can't let themselves back down. Then once they try to hit you, the game is on."