Monday, April 21, 2008

Note to CID - about the NSA

I do most of my thinking in the car as I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. This morning, the car in front of me had a placard that said, 'Disaster Communications,' which got me to thinking. It was another one of those bingo! moments.

Many years ago, I worked on a $25 million project with some very prominent folks. (Yes, I could name drop, but I won't.) It was, for me, a tad intimidating. My responsibilities included attending large presentational meetings where I both asked and answered questions for my boss who had much more important things to attend to. I was the proverbial messenger and I was shot each week. Over and over again. And again. And once more for good measure.

One of the things I learned from that experience is that as a very small fish among obviously very big fish, I could raise really stupid questions. And more often than not, I got critical, often vital, answers that not only impacted my small department but every aspect of the entire project. I called them my 'stupid questions.'


Here I am. And I am once again the small little fish with a stupid question for the very big fish at CID. (Really, I have a lot of these questions but I know better than to push my luck.)

National Security Agency

Some one recently mentioned the NSA to me. I'm a bit slow sometimes, but it just occurred to me that the NSA must have been monitoring the communications of those at Ultra Services because of the geographic zones each of the company principals communicated with. Just off the top of my head they were communicating to/from: USA. Europe. Middle East. Central Asia. Russia.

I made up a chart (below) to illustrate my point.

The key point here is that each communicant would have had contact to and from the Middle East and Central Asia and, in turn, to and from the US. It's the US part that matters, at least, that's my understanding, as communication into and out of the US to those regions would have been the trigger for NSA to monitor communication.

Imagine it's the fall of 2003.

Saddam Hussein, from the Tikrit area, has not been caught yet. Most of Ultra Services work is in the Sunni Triangle and the lead US Army contracting office is in Tikrit. Everyone still believes there is a connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. They're looking in Afghanistan and Pakistan and all over Iraq and, I imagine, the rest of the Middle East for both men in addition to their various underlings, etc.

Principals at Ultra Services

Now, let's look at each principal at Ultra Services:

John Dawkins - he's from California. So it's safe to assume he called or emailed home on occasion. Initially, he would have been in contact with his partners in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. His friend, Greg Manelick, is in the Russian Far East. Dawkins' last business was in Moscow, where he may have still been in contact with friends. The main office for Ultra Services is in Istanbul, Turkey so there's communication to and from Istanbul to Dawkins' satellite phone when he's in Iraq.

Charles Phillips - he lived in California, likely was in touch with family and friends in the US. Initially he was communicating with Kirk von Ackermann in California who hadn't yet joined the company. Increasingly, Phillips became the point of contact for the Stratex investors in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Phillips was primarily based in Istanbul but would have maintained contact with everyone in Iraq on a regular basis.

Ryan Manelick - he's living in Baghdad, Iraq. He has family, including children, in the US. His father, Greg, is in the Russian Far East. He's communicating with Ultra Services' main office in Istanbul, Turkey. At some point, he may have had contact with the Stratex investors in Central Asia.

Kirk von Ackermann - initially, he's communicating with Charles Phillips who is working out of the Istanbul office. Once von Ackermann arrives in Istanbul, he's calling home to his wife and children in California. He makes several trips in to Iraq, calling both his family in the US and the Ultra Services office in Istanbul.

In addition, all of the principals are communicating with each other. (And by communication I mean email, fax, satellite phone, etc)

In fact, it's almost impossible to believe NSA wouldn't have monitored Ultra Services communications given the geographic zones they were all communicating with. They were practically begging for electronic eavesdropping given the communication paths.

Little Fish, Big Question

So...CID...have you spoken with NSA to see if there are recordings of Ultra Services phone calls and emails?

In particular, have you asked if there is a recording of the call made from Kirk von Ackermann's satellite phone to Safa Shukir on the day he disappeared - October 9, 2003? Are there additional NSA recordings to compare to so as to confirm the voice is or is not Kirk von Ackermann? Is there additional recordings from that day that might help pinpoint the exact time and location Kirk von Ackermann was last heard from?

And if you haven't asked NSA yet, there's also that fateful call to Charles Phillips satellite phone moments before Ryan Manelick was killed on December 14, 2003.

Also, please do not overlook the company emails. I have long held the belief that the key to really understanding the interpersonal relationships of everyone involved was in the email server. If NSA has those emails, you have hit the big bingo!

Like I said, stupid question. Well actually, more like 5 or 6 But I'm glad I've asked and gotten them off my chest.

1 comment:

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