The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPORKIN
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Plaintiff Timothy R. McVeigh, who bears no relation to the Oklahoma City bombing defendant, seeks to enjoin the United States Navy from discharging him under the statutory policy colloquially known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue." See 10 U.S.C. § 654 ("new policy"). In the course of investigating his sexual orientation, the Plaintiff contends that the Defendants violated his rights under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA"), 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA") 5 U.S.C. § 706, the Department's own policy, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Absent an injunction, the Plaintiff avers that he will suffer irreparable injury from the discharge, even if he were ultimately to prevail on the merits of his claims.
The Plaintiff, Senior Chief Timothy R. McVeigh, is a highly decorated seventeen-year veteran of the United States Navy who has served honorably and continuously since he was nineteen years old. At the time of the Navy's decision to discharge him, he was the senior-most enlisted man aboard the United States nuclear submarine U.S.S. Chicago.
On September 2, 1997, Ms. Helen Hajne, a civilian Navy volunteer, received an electronic mail ("email") message through the America Online Service ("AOL") regarding the toy-drive that she was coordinating for the Chicago crew members' children. The message box stated that it came from the alias "boysrch," but the text of the email was signed by a "Tim." Administrative Record ("AR") at 110. Through an option available to AOL subscribers, the volunteer searched through the "member profile directory" to find the member profile for this sender. The directory specified that "boysrch" was an AOL subscriber named Tim who lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, worked in the military, and identified his marital status as "gay." See AR at 111. Although the profile included some telling interests such as "collecting pics of other young studs" and "boy watching," it did not include any further identifying information such as full name, address, or phone number. However, on other occasions, Hajne had communicated with the Plaintiff about his participation in the drive.
Ms. Hajne proceeded to forward the email and directory profile to her husband, who, like Plaintiff, was also a noncommissioned officer aboard the U.S.S. Chicago. The material eventually found its way to Commander John Mickey, the captain of the ship and Plaintiff's commanding officer. In turn, Lieutenant Karin S. Morean, the ship's principal legal adviser and a member of the Judge Advocate General's ("JAG") Corps was called in to investigate the matter. By this point, the Navy suspected the "Tim" who authored the email might be Senior Chief Timothy McVeigh. Before she spoke to the Plaintiff and without a warrant or court order, Lieutenant Morean requested a Navy paralegal on her staff, Legalman First Class Joseph M. Kaiser, to contact AOL and obtain information from the service that could "connect" the screen name "boysrch" and accompanying user profile to McVeigh. See AR at 13. Legalman Kaiser called AOL's toll-free customer service number and talked to a representative at technical services. Legalman Kaiser did not identify himself as a Naval serviceman. According to his testimony at the administrative hearing, he stated that he was "a third party in receipt of a fax sheet and wanted to confirm the profile sheet, [and] who it belonged to." AR at 14. The AOL representative affirmatively identified Timothy R. McVeigh as the customer in question. See id. at 11-15.
Upon verification from AOL, Lieutenant Morean notified Senior Chief McVeigh that the Navy had obtained "some indication that he made a statement of homosexuality" in violation of § 654 (b)(2) of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." AR at 27-28. In light of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibition of sodomy and indecent acts, she then advised him of his right to remain silent.
See id. at 28, 30. Shortly thereafter, in a memorandum dated September 22, 1997, the Navy advised Plaintiff that it was commencing an administrative discharge proceeding (termed by the Navy as an "administrative separation") against him. The reason stated was for "homosexual conduct, as evidenced by your statement that you are a homosexual." AR at 107.
The Navy accelerated Plaintiff's separation to take effect at 5:00 a.m. EST on Friday, January 16, 1998. On January 15, Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit and the government postponed his separation until Wednesday, January 20. This Court held a hearing on that Wednesday morning. There, the Navy initially declined to honor this Court's request for an additional amount of time to consider this matter. The Plaintiff was scheduled to be discharged on Friday, January 23. However, on January 22, the Navy extended the time for this Court to render a decision until Tuesday, January 27, when Plaintiff is now scheduled to be discharged barring relief from this Court.
STANDARD FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
To prevail on a request for preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must demonstrate 1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; 2) irreparable harm or injury absent an injunction; 3) less harm or injury to the other parties involved; and 4) the service of the public interest. See Dendy v. Washington Hosp. Center, 189 U.S. App. D.C. 212, 581 F.2d 990, 992 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (footnote omitted); Washington Metro. Area Transit Comm'n v. Holiday Tours, Inc., 182 U.S. App. D.C. 220, 559 F.2d 841, 843 (D.C. Cir. 1977). For the reasons set forth below, this Court concludes that the Plaintiff is entitled to the relief that he seeks at this time, a preliminary injunction barring his discharge.
I. Substantial Likelihood of Success on the Merits
Plaintiff in this case demonstrates a likely success to prevail on the merits. At its core, the Plaintiff's complaint is with the Navy's compliance, or lack thereof, with its new regulations under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" policy. Plaintiff contends that he did not "tell," as prescribed by the ...