Sunday, September 01, 2013

Foreign Hostages in Iraq

Added a new page to the Missing Man for Foreign Hostages in Iraq. This is an ongoing project as I slowly build the chart.

Contributions to the project are always welcome. Post the name, date of incident, status (released, missing, etc) as well as nationality or home nation in the comment thread below or drop me an email.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Marching of Time

Summer is here. Americans are still missing in Iraq. The 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann is approaching.

What to do about it?

As everyone now knows from all of the press coverage from the Edward Snowden disclosures, the NSA has been recording the phone conversations of American citizens when one of the parties is outside the United States.

If the NSA really wanted to be the good guys, they would put some effort in to solving Kirk von Ackermann's disappearance.

All the NSA have to do is to listen to and analyze two audio recordings:

1. The voice message Kirk von Ackermann left his wife on their home answering machine on October 8, 2003

2. The phone call ostensibly made by Kirk von Ackermann from his satellite phone to another Ultra Services employee's cell phone on October 9, 2003

Either the voices match and both calls were made by Kirk von Ackermann or the voices do not match and an impostor placed the call for help.

It continues to be my belief that an impostor made that second phone call.


Friday, January 04, 2013

Happy New Year

The chart of Americans Missing in Iraq was recently updated to include Kathryn Cory. I am in the process of putting together information about Cory and will post it soon.

Best wishes for 2013

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quiet

It's quiet.

Little is being said about the Americans held hostage in Iraq these days. A new name surfaced - an American woman who has been missing in Iraq since roughly November 2009. She had a small NGO and had already been working in Iraq for several years when communication from her ceased. I was asked to refrain from adding her name to the list of Americans Missing in Iraq - at least for the time being.

There's a very short interview with Peter Moore, the computer consultant from the UK, who answered questions at the Washington Post.

Peter Moore, former hostage in Iraq, talks about life in captivity
By Olga Khazan, Washington post, October 27, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Listen to IRONMAN

There is an editorial in the New York Times today regarding Al Qaeda and 9-11 attacks. Will Congress ever take an interest in getting to the bottom of just what really went wrong?

The Deafness Before the Storm
By Kurt Eichenwald, New York Times, September 10, 2012

An excerpt from the editorial:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.
There was another briefing on July 10. Followed by an assessment by the FBI that prohibited then Attorney General, John Ashcroft, from flying on commercial airlines. And then came the now infamous August 6 briefing, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." As time goes on, more and more information continues to trickle out - history will not be kind to those who ignored the warnings.

The unit that Kirk von Ackermann was once a member of, DO5 or the Asymmetric Threat Division, was shut down by mid-2001. DO5 was actively engaged in conducting analysis of bin Laden long before it was acceptable to do so.

Which brings us to von Ackermann's former colleague, IRONMAN, the unnamed intelligence officer who has worked tirelessly to get someone to pay attention. IRONMAN filed a formal complaint charging that the Joint Forces intelligence Command had not disclosed all original material relating to the 9/11
Commissioninvestigation by House and Senate Intelligence Committees. A review was conducted. Part of that review included questionnaires and interviews. One such response:
Appendix B. (U) Scanned JFIC Response:

2. Did your agency have information prior to Sept 11, 2001, to suggest that international terrorist cells were operating within the United States? If so, please set this information aside for review by the staff of the Joint inquiry.

ANSWER: No, but prior to Sept 11, 2001, neither JFIC nor JFCOM tracked terrorist activity in the United States. The United States was not part of JFCOM's AOR.
From IRONMAN's complaint published at Truthout:
(U) Contrary to JFIC's formal report to the JCS staff, JFIC had a direct and assigned purview on international terrorism against the U.S., to include the operations of al-Qa'ida and the 9/11 attackers. JFIC was directly responsible to both Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and its subordinate, Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) for all-source intelligence anaiysis of international terrorism against the U.S. To ensure the quality of such analysis, JFlC's commanding officer [redacted] established the Asymmetric Threat Branch (DO5), charged with reporting on asymmetric threats, especially terrorism. [redacted] was subsequently promoted to JFCOM J2. As a RADM and PACOM J2, she established another Asymmetric Threat branch at PACOM.)

(U) The Asymmetric Threat Branch in JFIC was a forerunner of current all-source fusion centers. Unlike other analytical offices in the intelligence community, DO5 members had a wide mix of skilis in all six intelligence disciplines - HUMINT, OSINT, COMINT, ELINT, IMINT, and MASINT. Consequently, DO5 was abie to develop and use all-source, original analysis in a manner probably then unprecedented within the intelligence community. DO5 began preparing a wide range of original analysis on asymmetric warfare, especially terrorism, from mid-1998 until mid-2001.
And on it goes.

EXCLUSIVE: New Documents Claim Intelligence on Bin Laden, al-Qaeda Targets Withheld From Congress' 9/11 Probe
By Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold, Truthout, June 13, 2011
Attachment - Unclassified FOIA Response

More info and links at the JFIC tag below.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

News Snips

Two recent articles that mention hostages Jonathon Cote (deceased) and Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (alive), who is still held captive in Afghanistan.

Motorcyclists hit the road in memory of local man
By Kathleen Ronayne, Buffalo News, August 13, 2012

More than 300 motorcycle riders turned out Sunday afternoon for the fourth annual Memorial Motorcycle Run in honor of Jonathon Coté, who was kidnapped and killed in Iraq while working as a private security contractor.

In the on-and-off rain, the group rode from Williamsville North High School, from which Coté graduated, to Lewiston. […] Proceeds from Sunday's ride will go to a scholarship for a local high school student and to Western New York Heroes.

Obama tells family: Hostage soldier is a focus
By John Miller, Army Times/Associated Press, August 9, 2012
President Barack Obama called the parents of an American prisoner of war to assure them that he and the U.S. Department of Defense were doing everything in their power to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl three years after his capture in Afghanistan.

The soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, told The Associated Press on Thursday through a spokesman that the family is now confident that everything that can be done to return their son to U.S. control is being done.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

SIGIR - Casualties in Iraq

Via David Isenberg, a new report from the SIGIR.

Special Report Number 2:
The Human Toll of Reconstruction or Stabilization during Operation Iraqi Freedom PDF
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR)
July 27, 2012

Excerpt from page 5

We accounted for at least 198 people kidnapped while working on U.S.-supervised
reconstruction or stabilization projects. USACE reported at least 148 Iraqis kidnapped while working on USACE reconstruction projects from May 2006-December 2007. USAID reports identified 42 Iraqis as well as 8 third-country nationals kidnapped while working on USAID projects from 2004-2010. We do not know how many of these kidnap victims were taken simply because of their involvement with U.S. reconstruction efforts or how many were later freed.
The math above: 198 people kidnapped - 148 Iraqis - 42 Iraqis - 8 TCN =  0 kidnapped Americans

The table of Americans Missing in Iraq lists at minimum 46 abductions in Iraq between 2003 - 2012. Certainly not all of those were related to reconstruction. But to imply there were none - zip - is just ludicrous.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Status Report

After the declaration of the end of hostilities in Iraq on May 1, 2003, an estimated 46 Americans are thought to have gone missing and/or held hostage.

Of those 46 Americans: 19 Americans are still believed missing. Of those 19, the names of 8 remain unknown.

An additional 2 American's names are known but the date of their disappearance is not. As a result, they represent 2 of 10 listed with the designation "unknown."

Details, including name, date of incident and status of a missing person can be found at the chart of Americans Missing in Iraq.

The chart was last updated on May 20, 2012.

Friday, July 06, 2012

7FAM1820 Revised

It appears that there is a new revision to the Foreign Affairs Manual. The circular on Hostage Taking and Kidnappings shows a revision date of June 29, 2012.

7 FAM 1820 HOSTAGE TAKING AND KIDNAPPINGS (PDF) 17 pages
U.S. Department of State
Foreign Affairs Manual
Volume 7 - Consular Affairs

I feel so cynical. The guidance was a complete failure when Kirk von Ackermann disappeared.

The Office of Casualty Assistance is the primary point of contact in the Department for assistance to families and victims in these cases.
They never even assigned a case officer.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Usama bin Laden Letters

Straying a little. Not too far though because it's about bin Laden, a man that took up a great deal of Kirk von Ackermann's time and efforts as an intelligence officer in counter terrorism at DO5.

The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point recently released a series of letters found with Osama bin Laden. Several of the letters discuss matters in regards to hostages - including bin Laden's own daughter Fatima, held by Iran.

In one letter, the author makes reference to French hostages. There is a curious discrepancy and I am not sure what to make of it.

Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?
Authors: Nelly Lahoud, Stuart Caudill, Liam Collins, Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, Don Rassler, Muhammad al-`Ubaydi
Harmony Program The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point
May 3, 2012
PDF file of the Report - 64 pages
PDF file of the Letters English
PDF file of the letters Arabic
The document in question is letter SOCOM-2012-0000010 said to be dated April 26, 2011. The author of the letter refers to a French ‘woman’ who is held hostage by the Islamic Maghreb. Seven people, including a husband and wife, were abducted by Islamic Maghreb in Niger near a uranium mine on September 16, 2010. Francoise Larribe is the wife of one of the French workers – she was released February 24, 2011. Her plight as a hostage received media attention as she had cancer and needed medications.

By April 26, 2011, two months after her release, the author of the Letter SOCOM-2012-0000010 should have known she was free. Her release was well-publicized including a visit to meet with French President Nicholas Sarkozy with whom she was photographed on February 27, 2011 at the Elysee Palace.

Summary of the Letter

SOCOM-2012-0000010
From: Abu `Abdallah (Usama bin Ladin)
To: Shaykh Mahmud/`Atiyya
Date: Monday, 22 Jumadi al-Awwal 1432 (25 April 2011)
Description:

This letter is authored by “Abu `Abdallah” (Usama bin Ladin), addressed to “Shaykh Mahmud” (`Atiyya) and dated 26 April 2011 – a week before bin Ladin’s death [May 2, 2011]. In it, Bin Ladin outlines his response to the “Arab Spring,” proposing two different strategies. The first strategy pertains to the Arab World and entails “inciting people who have not yet revolted and exhort[ing] them to rebel against the rulers (khuruj ‘ala al-hukkam)”; the second strategy concerns Afghanistan and it entails continuing to evoke the obligation of jihad there. The letter also makes reference to a wide variety of topics including: the scarcity of communications from Iraq, “the brothers coming from Iran,” and hostages held by “our brothers in the Islamic Maghreb” and in Somalia. The document also briefly discusses Bin Ladin’s sons, his courier, Shaykh Abu Muhammad (Ayman al-Zawahiri), and other individuals of interest.
English Translation of the Passage in the Letter
As far as the French hostages with our brothers in the Islamic Maghreb, I want to warn that the atmosphere after the French standing towards the Libyan people does not condone killing the French, due to what will follow of negative reflections, after it became evident that most of the common people are supporting Sarkozy, so if we need to kill them then that should be after the end of Libyan events and their developments, and the better benefit as far as I see is to exchange the woman with the best that would benefit you and the brothers there, as far as the men, if the brothers can wait, then they should keep them until the elections, and if that is difficult then they should exchange half of them and keep the other half which should be the higher ranking and the more important ones, and if that also is difficult then they should at a minimum keep the most important man of them till the French elections, and it is better that the negotiations not be public and that they place a time limit on it so that the French do not postpone the exchange till the elections (TN: possibly after the elections) so that it's a winning card in their hands, even though the remaining period to the election is not that short.
From what has been written about bin Laden, he had access to news reports. There are photos of him watching television. Assuming bin Laden was the author, how did he not know Francoise Larribe was no longer a hostage and already released?

A random article about the hostages that I believe are the same 'French hostages' cited in the letter above.

French hostages mark one year in captivity
AFP, September 16, 2011
Seven people were kidnapped in Niger on September 16, 2010 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. As the four remaining French hostages mark their first anniversary in captivity, unrest in neighbouring Libya complicates negotiations for their release.

On September 16 last year, seven people were snatched by the radical group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Arlit, a uranium mining town in northern Niger.

Among them was a senior employee with the French mining group Areva and his wife. The other five, employed by an Areva subcontractor, included three Frenchmen as well as a Togolese and a Malagasy.

On February 24, the woman and the two Africans were released at a desert spot close to where the borders of Niger, Mali and Algeria meet.

However Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dole, Marc Feret and Pierre Legrand are still being held by AQIM and their families are demanding more tangible efforts to secure their release.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

DO5 Puzzle

It's bugging me.

What does "DO5" stand for?

(U) JFIC's Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5)

(U) In 1999, the JFIC created the Asymmetric Threat Division (DO5) to take a non-traditional approach to analysis. The Director of Operations recruited JFIC personnel from the command based upon their counterintelligence and counterterrorism expertise. The DO5 provided current intelligence briefings and produced the Worldwide Terrorist Threat Summary in support of the USJFCOM Intelligence staff. The DO5 also provided support to the Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS). The JTF-CS assisted civil authorities with disaster assistance. The DO5 supported the JTF-CS exercises by establishing fictional terrorist organizations that would mimic real world terrorist groups. In the summer of 2001, the DO5 was realigned under the Intelligence Watch Center.

JFIC [...] stated that DO5's emphasis was on force protection for the USJFCOM components.
Deep Operations, Division of Intelligence Operations, Directorate of Operations, Dude Overboard...

Excerpts above from:

Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission PDF
Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence
United States Department of Defense
September 23, 2008
Declassified March 5, 2010
From the Federation of American Scientists


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Capt Stephen Santez USN

Captain Stephen F. Santez Jr., USN presenting Captain Kirk von Ackermann, USAF a Joint Service Commendation Medal from the JFIC on April 26, 2000
Within the last year, the name of a highly classified intelligence program of which Kirk von Ackermann was once a member was revealed with the release of documents under an FOIA request by a former intelligence officer known only as IRONMAN.

DO5 or the Asymmetric Threat Branch of the Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) was actively tracking Al Qaida until late 2000-early 2001 when it was inexplicably shut down by commanding officers. Kirk von Ackermann is said to have carried the weight of the prescience of his predictions - his hands tied by more senior officers - for the years to come.

That's not to say his work went unrecognized. As a result of his service with DO5, Kirk von Ackermann received at least one commendation, formally presented by Captain Stephen F. Santez Jr., USN. What event or service to the nation prompted the commendation is unknown. Kirk von Ackermann's wife Megan once wrote:
I heard things about 'briefings' and gradually recognized that the briefings were often to quite senior officers. I know there were commendations and awards, but details were obscured.
With the ever increasing role of social networking in and around our modern lives, it should come as no surprise that there is a LinkedIn page for Steve Santez, the same CAPT Santez pictured above. Included on Santez LinkedIn page is a short description of his work experience as the Director of Operations at the Joint Forces Intelligence Command from 1999-2002. It's worth noting that Director of Operations = J3.

Screen capture of LinkedIn page for Steve Santez

Steve Santez
Senior Intelligence Training Development Integrator at BAE Systems
Norfolk, Virginia Area
Defense and Space
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-santez/47/a25/6a9

"…Expert in all-source intelligence with specific emphasis on asymmetric threat analysis, human intelligence, intelligence training development and delivery, and concept development and experimentation leading to results…"

Director of Operations
Joint Forces Intelligence Center
August 1999 – February 2002 (2 years 7 months) Norfolk, Virginia

Drove all intelligence analysis, production and training for the US Joint Forces Command Joint Forces Intelligence Center. Led over 100 military and civilian personnel across all mission areas of analysis, targeting, collections, watch center fusion, and asymmetric threat analysis. Led initial analysis during the Russian submarine KURSK sinking. Director of Operations during disestablishment of the US Atlantic Command and establishment of the US Joint Forces Command. Created the first asymmetric threat division at JFIC in support of Joint Task Force Civil Support and led analysis of Al Qaeda pre 9/11. Agent for change; worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to migrate Joint Personnel Recovery Intelligence Production to the Joint Forces Intelligence Center.
The language in Steve Santez bio more or less mirrors the same language found in the IRONMAN FOIA, Formal Complaint to DoD Inspector General re: JFIC and Congressional Inquiry which accompanies an article at TruthOut by Jeffrey Kaye.
(U) Contrary to JFIC's formal report to the JCS staff, JFIC had a direct and assigned purview on international terrorism against the U.S., to include the operations of al-Qa'ida and the 9/11 attackers. JFIC was directly responsible to both Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and its subordinate, Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) for all-source intelligence anaiysis of international terrorism against the U.S. To ensure the quality of such analysis, JFlC's commanding officer [redacted] established the Asymmetric Threat Branch (DO5), charged with reporting on asymmetric threats, especially terrorism. [redacted] was subsequently promoted to JFCOM J2. As a RADM and PACOM J2, she established another Asymmetric Threat branch at PACOM.)

(U) The Asymmetric Threat Branch in JFIC was a forerunner of current all-source fusion centers. Unlike other analytical offices in the intelligence community, DO5 members had a wide mix of skilis in all six intelligence disciplines - HUMINT, OSINT, COMINT, ELINT, IMINT, and MASINT. Consequently, DO5 was abie to develop and use all-source, original analysis in a manner probably then unprecedented within the intelligence community. DO5 began preparing a wide range of original analysis on asymmetric warfare, especially terrorism, from mid-1998 until mid-2001.
For those unfamiliar with the significance of IRONMAN's Formal Complaint, this section should clarify matters:
(U) Reports on the most likely targets for domestic and international terrorists, both within the U.S. and abroad, as well as adjunct targets during a traditional war. The most sensitive of these reports were those identifying targets within the U.S., developing scenarios, analysis of commonalities for use in planning responses and recommendations for preventative action. This U.S. tasking was given by JTF-CS.

(S/NF) The reports were first prepared in the summer of 2000, in support of JTF-CS, and were briefed to the JFCOM J2, JTF-CS J2, and senior JFCOM staff, including the DCINC and J3. The JTF-CS Commander may have also attended the briefings. The first version of the briefing was entitled "The WMD Threat to the U.S.", (information cut off date 16 July 2000). The briefing slides emphasized that New York City was the most difficult consequence management problem, and recommended using NYC as the model for planning /exercises. The oral briefing itself was much more sensitive, indicating that the World Trade Centers # 1 and # 2 were the most likely buildings to be attacked in the U.S., followed closely by the Pentagon. The briefer indicated that the worst case scenario would be one tower collapsed onto the other. The possibility of striking the buildings with a plane may have been discussed then - it was certainly discussed in the red cell analysis leading up to the briefing. The acting Deputy of DO5, [redacted] proposed in the red cell analysis that the building could be struck by a jetliner. Discussion followed on contacting World Trade Center security and engineering/architectural staff, but the idea was not further explored because of a command climate discouraging contact with the civilian community. However, at the end of the briefing, the JFCOM J3 directed that the national military terrorism exercise for FY 02 be based on a New York worse-case scenario. He indicated he would've preferred to have done so in FY 01, but the military was already financially committed to another use (a cruise ship) in FY01.
Please keep in mind that all of this work was happening well before September 11, 2001.

The lives that could have and should have been protected...
(U) [...] In addition, I and the deputy of that team, [redacted] especially carried the burden of knowledge of how close DoD came to bin Ladin and perhaps being able to reduce the number of lives lost on 9/11. I do not want that burden any longer. [redacted] and I discussed this issue the last time we spoke. He remains the longest missing man in Iraq in this war, and I want, one day, to be able to explain to his children what their father foresaw.
The longest missing man in Iraq is Kirk von Ackermann.

Related Reading

DO5 in the News
September 9, 2011

Rear Admiral Rosanne LeVitre, USN
July 21, 2011

Counter Terrorism and JFIC
May 6, 2011

Counter Terrorism and Kirk von Ackermann
October 8, 2006

Joint Service Commendation Medal
January 23, 2006

References

By Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout, May 23, 2011

Allegation of Misleading Congress PDF
To: Hon. Claude M. Kicklighter
DoD Inspector General
From: Edward Maguire
Director of National Intelligence
November 27, 2007

Attachment - Unclassified FOIA Response PDF
April 8, 2011
Formal Complaint to DoD Inspector General
re: JFIC and Congressional Inquiry
May 8, 2006

Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission PDF
Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence
United States Department of Defense
September 23, 2008
Declassified March 5, 2010
From the Federation of American Scientists

Abbreviations - used above

COMINT - Communications Intelligence
DO5 - Asymmetric Threat Division
DOD - Department of Defense
ELINT - Electronic Intelligence
FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
HUMINT- Intelligence
IMINT- Imagery Intelligence
J2 - Director for Intelligence
J3 - Director of Operations
JCS - Joint Chiefs of Staff
JFCOM - Joint Forces Command
JFIC - Joint Forces Intelligence Command
JIC - Joint Intelligence Center
JTF-CS - Joint Task Force- Civil Support
MASINT- Measurement and Signature Intelligence
OSINT- Open Source Intelligence
PACOM - Pacific Command
RADM - Rear Admiral
US - United States of America
USAF - United States Air Force
USN - United States Navy

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

6 Degrees from Kabul

Shortly after President Barack Obama left Afghanistan earlier today, blasts were reported in and around Kabul. According to multiple breaking news stories, the 'Green Village' was one of the intended targets of the suicide bombers.

Car bomb shakes Kabul after Barack Obama visit to Afghanistan
May 1, 2012, Guardian
The Green Village is owned and operated by Stratex Freedom Services whose two Uzbeki principals were once former partners with John Dawkins, one of the original founders of Ultra Services of Istanbul, Turkey.

Ultra Services was the logistics firm which employed Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick in Iraq.


You can learn more about the history of John Dawkins, Ultra Services and Stratex Freedom Services in an article at ePluribus Media, just shy of 6 years to the day since it was first published.

One Missing, One Dead: an Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War
By Susie Dow, May 12, 2006, ePluribus Media

Reprint here at this blog:

One Missing One Dead: An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War (full article reprint)
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, May 12, 2006

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pirate or Hostage Negotiator

I have mixed feelings about the news in this article and worry this verdict may have the unintended consequence of politicizing and squelching the role of hostage negotiation, increasing the likelihood a hostage will be tortured and/or executed.

Jury convicts Somali man of piracy in US yacht, German ship hijackings
Washington Post, April 27, 2012

A Somali man was convicted of piracy on Friday for his role as a hostage negotiator in the hijacking of a German merchant vessel and U.S. yacht. The four Americans aboard the yacht were shot to death by pirates, and the crew on the other vessel was tortured to get a higher ransom.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin was convicted of the 15 charges he faced, including kidnapping, hostage-taking and weapons charges. He faces a mandatory life sentence. [...]

At issue is whether piracy is defined solely as robbery at sea ... or whether it involves a broader more contemporary definition that includes facilitating a pirate attack as prosecutors believe.

U.S. law refers to piracy only “as defined by the law of nations.”
At first glance, the case seems black and white - the defendant is a pirate. But this particular pirate is a hostage negotiator acceptable to and employed by other pirates. Chicken or the egg - which came first - hostage negotiator or pirate?

If a kidnapper demands a certain negotiator (for whatever reasons) is that negotiator now subject to arrest and prosecution? Does this mean hostage negotiators may only represent the victim? How much time will be lost negotiating whether or not the negotiator is acceptable to both sides?

Does this precedence place hostage negotiators in a lose-lose position?

Kidnapping is an abhorrent practice. The reality is the act itself hurts the victim and the victim's family and friends. But taking it out on hostage negotiators, regardless of how loathsome their clients may be, seems like a slippery slope to hell.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

US Army FOIA Reading Room

Poking around the the US Army FOIA Electronic Reading Room. Great resource for researchers provided information has been released by FOIA.

US Army FOIA Electronic Reading Room

Among available documents is the Army Regulation AR-15-6 Informal Investigation Report for the abduction of two troops in Iraq. An AR-15-6 is a fact-finding investigation first undertaken when someone is reported missing. At least, that's the way it is supposed to work.

Memorandum for Record pertaining to Army Regulation 15-6 Investigation regarding PFC Thomas L. Tucker and PFC Kristian Menchaca June 18, 2006

Investigation into the 16195JUN06 attach on B/1-502 IN/2-101 AA, resulting in the death of one Soldier and duty status whereabouts unknown (DUSTWUN) of PFC Thomas L. Tucker and PFC Kristian Menchaca
I wonder if it is possible to file an FOIA for the AR-15-6 for each and every American who has gone missing in Iraq.

Related Reading

Memorandum - Subject: Army Directive 2010-02
(Guidance for Reporting Requirements and Redacting Investigation Reports of Deaths and Fatalities)
John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, March 26, 2010

DD Form 2812
Commander's Preliminary Assessment and Recommendation Regarding Missing Person
November 1999

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Fate of Bob Hamza Part 2

Since 2003, at minimum, 45 Americans went missing in Iraq. [1]

Of those 45, 19 are believed missing, and of those 19, the names of 8 are unknown, 2 names are known but dates of incident are not. Meanwhile, only 3 individuals are publicly listed at Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO).

One of those who went missing in Iraq is Bob Hamza.

List of Missing Americans that appeared
in Army Times in December  2011
In January 2011, a news article on the efforts of the Joint Personnel Recovery Division was accompanied by a photo of a missing person flyer for Iraq.

While the actual text was difficult to read and make out, Bob Hamza was identified as one of the three men shown on the flyer. The other two men were Iraqi Americans, Abbas Kareem Naama abducted on September 27, 2005 and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie abducted on October 23, 2006, his remains identified February 2012.

Several months later, with an alternative spelling, a New York Times article listed 'Bob Hamze' as a missing American. In December 2011, his name appeared again at Army Times on another list of missing Americans, one provided by Colonel Raymond Steeley who supervised Personnel Recovery Division.

Each time, no further information was provided beyond Hamza's name.

Abu Hamza

A former Iraq contractor recently learned of the mystery surrounding Bob Hamza. The contractor knew Hamza in passing, was quite surprised to learn he is listed as missing and was even more surprised to learn he was an American citizen.

Bob Hamza (or Bob Hamze) was more generally known as Abu Hamza. The honorific title of 'abu' implying he was a father and more than likely had a son. Hamza spoke English well, was friendly and intelligent.

In the fall of 2004, Hamza was working as a vendor for the souvenir market set up at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center (MWR) at FOB Danger in Tikrit [2]. FOB Danger was one of the former  Presidential Palaces of Saddam Hussein. The market or bazaar served US personnel stationed at the base, selling cds, dvds, clothes, local souvenirs, and other such items.

Aerial photo of FOB Danger from the Photo Gallery of the 7th Infantry Regiment Association
Incident

On or about November 19, 2004, Hamza left FOB Danger in a vehicle with a man who may have acted as his driver and a woman who worked at the MWR as a masseuse or massage therapist. The woman may have been related to Hamza, quite possibly his wife. There was an impression they may have had ties to the Iraqi Kurdish community.

Some time after leaving the base, the vehicle was stopped by unidentified assailants, they were abducted and killed. It was believed they were targeted by violent religious extremists - 'Jihadis' - because they worked on base.

After the incident, the word around the 'water cooler' was that they were tortured and executed, with evidence of specific mutilation done to their bodies. The mutilation was said to be horrific and clearly intended to convey a message.

The former Iraq contractor remembers the events as having taken place all within a very short period of time, and believes Hamza was murdered the very same day he was abducted. It was generally assumed that Hamza's body was among those recovered.

And yet, Personnel Recovery Division lists Bob Hamza as missing.

SIGACT

Searches of WikiLeaks SIGACT reports [3] do not yield any incident reports for the initial abduction, discovery or recovery of the bodies by US personnel in the appropriate time period. Checking the WITS database [4] and the State Department annual reports for Deaths of Citizens Abroad [5] also comes up empty. Unfortunately, statistical data from the annual reports of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) [6] begins with 2005, a year after Hamza's abduction. Casualties listed at Iraq Body Count returned no results from the appropriate time frame. [7]

It's worth noting that on November 22, 2004, the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Tikrit received a graphic and threatening propaganda letter, quoted below in full. [8] Compelling evidence that the threat of violence from religious extremists in Tikrit for someone like Bob Hamza was very real.

Meanwhile, the name of Bob Hamza and the approximate incident date have been added to the table of Americans Missing in Iraq.

Questions

For those who knew him in Iraq, Bob Hamza is believed to be deceased and long buried. So why is Bob Hamza listed on a missing person flyer? News reports indicate he was a US citizen, and yet, for those who remembered him from Iraq, they did not recall Hamza advertising he was an American. Quite possibly he kept quiet for operations security (opsec) reasons. And yet, it's odd that as an American citizen no SIGACT report appears to have been filed on his behalf.

It's possible Bob Hamza shares a fate similar to that of Major Troy Gilbert - authorities know Gilbert is deceased from the partial remains that were found at the crash site where his jet went down. However, the majority of his actual body was taken by hostile parties before it could be recovered by US Personnel. Hence, his 'missing' status.

Was this too the fate of Bob Hamza?

USAF Major Jimmy Smith holds a flyer which includes missing American Bob Hamza, left.
While the caption is difficult to read, it appears to say:
Bob Hamza aka Babi Chadi Abu Hamza Disappeared 17 NOV 04
Source: msnbc.com
Additional Reading

Americans Missing in Iraq - chart with name, incident date, status

Bob Hamza - missing - Part 1
January 23, 2011

Missing Men
August 8, 2011

Search for Iraq-born soldier still ongoing - see side bar chart of missing Americans
By John Ryan, Army Times, December 27, 2011

SIGACT Report

Text of a report citing inflammatory propaganda distributed in the Tikrit area within the same time frame as the abduction and brutal murder of Bob Hamza and his two colleagues. Worth noting references to being a client, palaces, rape, blasphemy or disrespect of God, infidels, and the coming of wrath.

Coincidence or something more?


SIGACT Report
2004-11-22 12:12

AT 1210C, THE AD [Air Defense] ___ JCC RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING ___:

IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL, MOST GRACIOUS (AND THE VICTORY ___ GOD).

TO THE PEOPLE OF ___, AFTER WE HAVE GOTTEN TIRED OF TRYING TO PREVENT YOU FROM COOPERATING WITH THE ___ OCCUPATION; WHICH HAS COME TO RAPE YOUR HONOR, TAKE YOUR WEALTH AND ENSLAVE YOU. THIS HAS HAPPEN BECAUSE OF YOUR YOUR IGNORANCE.

YOU ___ HAS MADE YOU A CLIENT, YOU ARE SO GOOD AT IT NOW. YOU ARE ALMOST PROFESSIONALS AT WHAT YOU DO; JUST LIKE THE BIG AGENCIES AND TRAITORS ALL OVER THE WORLD. YOU SOLD YOUR LAND, HONOR, PRINCIPLES, AND RELIGION.

WE HAVE WARNED YOU BEFORE, YOU DID NOT GIVE UP THE ___, BLASPHEMY, AND DISGRACE. THEREFORE, INSTEAD OF SETTING FIRE UNDERNEATH THE FEET OF THE ___, THE ___ AND INFIDELS...YOU STARTED TO BUILD PALACES, SO THAT THEY ___ DESTROYED BY OUR FIRE. WE ___ WHERE THEY ARE, EVEN IF THEY ARE PROTECTED VERY WELL.

YOU TOO ARE THE TRAITORS AND SPIES, WHO SOLD YOU PRINCIPLES AND RELIGIONS FOR THE PLEASURE OF LIFE. WE ADVISED YOU TO NOT GET CLOSE TO THE ___, YOU DID NOT HEED OUR ADVISE.

THEREFORE, OUR WRATH IS COMING TO YOU. WE ___ NO MERCY ON YOUR OLDEST OR YOUR YOUNGEST. WE ___ HEARTS IN YOUR CHESTS, AND MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF YOU. "AND WE ' ___ THEM, BUT THEY ___ THEMSELVES BY THEMSELVES"

GOD HAS SPOKEN THE TRUTH
Oddly enough, the basis for blasphemy and its punishment (death by stoning) is from the Holiness Code of Leviticus 24:14-24:16 in the Torah or Old Testament. Blasphemy and its punishment are not found in the Qur'an. As a result, in Islam, blasphemy is a sin that has to be declared by a jurist or religious leader.

References

[1] See chart at Americans Missing in Iraq

[2] FOB Danger was handed over to the Iraqi Government in November 2005.

[3] Iraq War Logs - SIGACT reports from WikiLeaks

[4] Worldwide Incidents Tracking System - searchable database of the NCTC

[5] Death of US Citizens Abroad by Non-Natural Causes - sortable database of the US Department of State

[6] NCTC Reports on Terrorism - filed by year

[7] Iraq Body Count - deaths of Iraqi civilians page 245 for November 2004

[8] ACTS OF ___ IVO AD ___: NO INJ/DAMAGE, SIGACT Report, 2004-11-22 12:12

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Haqi al-Shemary

Came across an Army Times article about Staff Sgt. Ahmed al Taie that was accompanied by a list of missing Americans. Surprised to learn yet another new name - Haqi al-Shemary. No details are known, including date of incident.

Search for Iraq-born soldier still ongoing
By John Ryan, Army Times, December 27, 2011

MISSING AMERICANS

Eleven Americans who went missing in Iraq have not been found, according to Col. Raymond Steeley, who supervised the Personnel Recovery Division there.

They are:

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie
Jeffery Ake
Aban Elias
Abbas Kareem Naama
Neenus Khoshaba
Bob Hamze
Dean Sadek
Timothy Bell
Kirk Von Ackerman
Haqi al-Shemary
Hussain al-Zurufi
So, who is Haqi al-Shemary? Nothing comes up in search queries.

Also included in the article was a mention to those who went missing during the war - which I assume is prior to May 1, 2003 when President Bush announced a formal end to hostilities:
During the Iraq War, 58 Americans and foreign persons of interest were declared missing or captured in Iraq. Army officials did not say how many of them were recovered.
Current count - and still rising - is 45 on the chart of Americans Missing in Iraq. Of those 45, 19 are thought to be missing, 11 names are unknown, 3 names are known but dates of incident are not.

I guess I just don't understand why the United States government isn't more forthcoming about who exactly is missing. Why is that?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Defense Base Act

The Department of Labor Office of Workers' Compensation Programs now has sortable tables of their summaries of Defense Base Act claims, including one by Employer:

Defense Base Act Case Summary by Employer

The data below reflects the number of claims cases created under the DBA for the time period specified, sorted by Employer. [...] The columns show the different Case Types: NLT ( no lost time), LTO (lost time 3 days or less), LT4 (lost time 4 days or more), DEA (death), COP (salary continuation), OTH (other or unknown).
Employers with fewer than 7 claims are not listed. Therefor, Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick's employer, Ultra Services is not listed.

When I first started researching the Defense Base Act, there was a significant lack of information available - including basics like what the acronyms stood for. So it's nice to see the Department of Labor website is now much more easy to navigate and chock full of information.

One frustration - how many contractors and their families did not file timely Defense Base Act claims simply because they didn't know the law existed? Not just a hypothetical, it's definitely happened.

Defense Base Act Case Summary Reports
US Department of Labor
Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP)
Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rand Michael Hultz Released


Murky information so far but all the same great news about the release of a previously unknown American hostage.

Press reports identify him so far as Randy or Rand Michael Hultz, abducted in Iraq on June 18, 2011, released to the UN in Iraq and has arrived at the US Embassy in Iraq. Brief mention in the following article of possibly two more unknown American hostages.

U.S. man released to U.N. after being held in Iraq
Detroit Free Press, March 17, 2012
Sadrist officials said Hultz was taken into the Green Zone immediately after the press conference and turned over to the United Nations mission in Iraq. U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri confirmed that the man was at the mission's compound Saturday night while the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad tried to verify his identity.

He was transferred to the U.S. Embassy late Saturday, spokesman Michael McClellan said.

Even Iraqi security forces were taken aback at the announcement. A senior Iraqi security official said intelligence indicated that the Promised Day Brigade had captured an American, but did not have enough reliable information to confirm it.

The official said two other Americans who worked as contractors for security firms still are being held by militants. He did not elaborate, and spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
At one point, there was a vague reference in a news report of an abduction in the summer of 2008 but no further information was ever released. Perhaps this is related.

Also see:

Militants Free American No One Knew Was Missing
By Jack Healy, New York Times, March 17, 2012

Americans Missing in Iraq - chart is updated as new information becomes available

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Television Review

Below is a link to a rather fascinating review of two new television shows that center around hostages. Fascinating because there are aspects of both stories that hit close to home.

In this case compelling stories make great television - but the fiction just scratches the surface of what in reality borders on mind blowing. Truth will always be stranger than fiction. There is so much more to the story than just the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of his colleague, Ryan Manelick. More than is ever likely to make it to print or screen.

Rewind TV: Homeland; Kidnap and Ransom; Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture – review
By Andrew Anthony, The Observer, February 25, 2012

Scriptwriters the world over must have been shaking their heads with the defeated recognition of tinderbox makers who have just seen their first matchstick. It's one thing to place a character in the isolation of unique knowledge – that's an old Hitchcock trick, opening the way for all manner of paranoia-testing trials. But how much smarter to burden that character with psychotic tendencies, so that we can't be sure that what she thinks she's seeing is actually what's happening, and therefore we can't be sure of anything.

That's the intriguing predicament in which Claire Danes's Carrie Mathison places the viewer. She's a CIA agent who, as a colleague notes, "is a little intense" and, even by her own reckoning, has a problem with a "mood disorder", but who in fact is bipolar and may be in the grip of a manic episode.
If only they knew...