Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ronald Schulz - remains recovered

Ronald Allen Schulz, 40, an industrial electrician of Eagle River, Alaska and his Kurdish fiance, Susan Bushra, an interpreter for the U.S. Army, were kidnapped on November 25, 2005.

Insurgents released video footage of his execution, later viewed by family members. A presumption of death certificate was issued by a state judge in April 2006.

FBI: Remains of ND civilian recovered in Iraq
By James MacPherson, Associated Press, October 30, 2008

The remains of a North Dakota civilian taken hostage and killed in Iraq nearly three years ago have been recovered along with remains believed to be those of his fiancee, an interpreter for the military, his sister and FBI officials said.
Schulz served in the U.S. Marine Corps 1984-1991. No mention if he served in Gulf War I.

Additional Reading

Extremist group claims it killed American hostage
AP, USA Today, December 19, 2005

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Iraq Court Conviction in Kidnapping

What follows is one small part of an incredibly ugly story. I feel an obligation to include the information here at the Missing Man due to its connection to kidnappings in Iraq. An Iraqi court has just handed down sentencing of several men accused of participating in the kidnapping of two American troops.

Private First Class Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Private First Class Thomas Tucker, 25, of the 1st Battalion 502nd Regiment of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division were captured, tortured and killed in June 2006. I'll spare the details of what was done to the corpses. 

Just this week, on Tuesday, October 28, an Iraqi court convicted a man by the name of Ibrahim Karim al-Qaraguli as a driver of one of the vehicles used during the crime. Two co-defendants were acquitted.
Iraqi court convicts U.S. soldiers' killer
By By Alissa J. Rubin, International Herald Tribune, October 28, 2008
The killings of Menchaca and Tucker were said to be in retaliation for the brutal rape of a 14-year girl by a group of U.S. troops from the same brigade. The troops murdered she and her family, including a younger sister, in what is now known as the Al-Mahmudiyah killings. To hide any evidence, the troops set the 14-year old girl's body on fire. In U.S. federal court, the trial of Pfc. Steven D. Green for murder and sexual assault remains pending. Three of his co-conspirators plead guilty and are serving long sentences. A fourth served two years for lying to protect the others.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Defense Base Act Conference

I'm in Washington D.C. to cover the Defense Base Act Conference for ePluribus Media this week. The first of what I hope to be several articles is now available:

Defense Base Act Conference - Part 1
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, October 23, 2008
Later this afternoon, Thomas Giblin of the U.S. Department of Labor and Roger Levy, the Editor-in-Chief of the new Defense Base Act and War Hazards Compensation Act Handbook, are scheduled to speak on the War Hazards Compensation Act, specifically - Detention Benefits. The Conference has been extremely informative to date. The Handbook is a must have for anyone interested in this relatively obscure area of workers' compensation programs.

On a more personal note, I just want to take a moment to thank the Editors at Lexis Nexis for including The Missing Man under the new Handbook's section on blogs in the Introduction to the Defense Base Act, Section 1.06 (page 1-11). 

Wow. I'm stunned. 

As some of you know, my interest in the Defense Base Act is the direct result of learning that Ultra Services wasn't carrying "insurance" when an employee, Kirk von Ackermann, disappeared in Iraq back in October of 2003. I spent two years trying to find out what happened, resulting in the article listed below. 

A brilliant intelligence analyst with the U.S. Air Force prior to becoming a contractor, Kirk von Ackermann today continues to be the longest missing American civilian in Iraq.

Additional Reading

Iraq, Contingency Contracting and the Defense Base Act - 3 part series
by Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, March 28, 2007

Monday, October 13, 2008

Defense Intelligence Agency - on hostages

A lengthy article on kidnappings based on information provided by the Defense intelligence Agency. Includes information on Kirk von Ackermann coinciding with the five year anniversary of his disappearance.

Iraq calmer but copycat kidnappings spread
By Pamela Hess, Associated Press, October 13, 2008

Five years ago, retired Air Force intelligence officer Kirk von Ackermann became the first of 39 Americans to be kidnapped in Iraq. He's still missing, his wife fearing she'll never see him again.

Besides the personal tragedy, his disappearance and those that have followed have taken on a larger significance. They mark a turning point in terrorist tactics that U.S. intelligence officials say has produced a startling statistic: a 500 percent increase in foreigners taken hostage around the world as militants adopt the methods of the most violent figures in the Iraq insurgency.
The article includes statistics on kidnappings from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) which "analyzes information about prisoners of war and those missing in action." About the DIA POW/MIA cell:
• Compiling and analyzing reams of data to build profiles of terrorist groups worldwide that use kidnapping, noting where hostages are captured, moved, released or executed.

• Predicting where future hostages may be taken, and when.
It's a little unclear, but it sounds like 9 Americans are still missing in Iraq one of whom is likely to be American Navy pilot Capt. Scott Speicher from Gulf War I. Here's the sentence from the article:
Iraq has been most dangerous for Americans, who have a better than even chance of being murdered by their captors there — an 80 percent chance if the nine still missing are factored in.
Additional Reading

Office of Hostage Affairs
September 8, 2006

Hostage Working Group
April 1, 2006

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Phone Taps

On the afternoon of October 9, 2003, an Iraqi employee named Safa Shukir received a call on his cell phone purportedly from Kirk von Ackermann. The caller said he had a flat tire, was stranded in the Jabal Hamrin, and asked Shukir to come get him and 'bring a jack.' Minutes later, a passing patrol reported an abandoned vehicle.

General assumption to date is von Ackermann placed the call. Maybe he didn't.

U.S. tapped intimate calls from Americans overseas, 2 eavesdroppers say
By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2008

U.S. intelligence analysts eavesdropped on personal calls between Americans overseas and their families back home and monitored the communications of workers with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, according to two military linguists involved in U.S. surveillance programs. [...]

Kinne said the recordings she transcribed were mainly intercepted transmissions from satellite phones in the Middle East.
From Iraq, Kirk von Ackermann called his wife Megan who was in the U.S., on the afternoon of October 8, 2003. That call between Iraq and the U.S. should have triggered ongoing monitoring by the NSA of von Ackermann's satellite phone. Recordings taken during the time period of October 8-9th could answer the question: did someone pretend to be Kirk von Ackermann and use his satellite phone to call a young Iraqi employee for assistance?

My opinion? I think an impostor placed the call.

Related Post

Note to CID about NSA
April 21, 2008

The Bridge Theory
March 25, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Baghdad to Samarra

An Iraqi journalist reports on a short road trip between Baghdad and Samarra. One interesting detail. He reports Iraqi Army checkpoints every half mile over roughly a 50 mile journey on what looks like Highway 1, the main road heading north out of Baghdad. I wonder if there's a way to find out how many check points there were along Highway 1 in 2003 and how far apart they were placed?

Checkpoints Through Iraq’s Checkerboard
Bu Mohammed Hussein, New York Times, October 3, 2008

On a journey through a region of Iraq noticeably safer than it was even several months ago - but still not free of hazards - Mohammed Hussein describes his 70-mile road trip through the political, sectarian, tribal and religious checkerboard that is modern Iraq. And the Samarra which he found at his destination, but did not recognize.