Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Safety in Afghanistan

I came across a news article today about security in Afghanistan. It contains a quote from John Dawkins. What he has to say about security on the road holds significant interest for this blog.

Congressman says US tax money pays Afghan Taliban for protection
The Associated Press, Arizona Daily Star, December 17, 2009
Congress is investigating allegations that U.S. tax dollars are being paid to warlords and the Taliban for security on supply routes used to truck food, water, fuel and ammunition to American troops in Afghanistan. [...]

The arrangement for moving supplies throughout Afghanistan, known as the Host Nation Trucking contract, began in May 2009. There are eight companies handling the work.

Before this umbrella contract was in place, there were far more contractors involved and less oversight, according to John Dawkins, chief executive officer of the Mesopotamia Group in Kabul, one of the current contractors. But he also said it's no secret that payments are made to ensure safe passage through dangerous patches. Without U.S. or NATO security to guard the convoys and the routes, which is a risky and time-intensive task, there's no other option.

"We have to pay certain security companies to get from one place to another place," Dawkins said. "And everybody's interconnected and there's huge money involved. If you don't pay for your security, you're on your own."
Dawkins also downplayed the notion that much of the money flows to the Taliban. "Most of the people are just bandits on the road," he said. "I think you'd have a really hard time defining exactly who the Taliban are.
I can't help but see things through the prism of what happened in 2003 in Iraq.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Roy Hallums Memoir

Cordova man tells of 2004 kidnapping in new book
By Bartholomew Sullivan, The Commercial Appeal, November 16, 2009

Roy A. Hallums, an American contractor held hostage for 311 days in Iraq, has written a memoir, Buried Alive: The True Story of Kidnapping, Captivity and a Dramatic Rescue. The book is due for release in January of 2010.

Hallums was rescued by the US military on September 7, 2005.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Americans Missing in Iraq - November 2009

This is an update to a post from January 14, 2009, US Hostages in Iraq.Last fall, an article from the Associated Press provided statistics from the Defense Intelligence Agency on Americans who were kidnapped in Iraq.

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.
In May of 2009, a contractor, Jim Kitterman, was abducted in the International Zone (IZ) and murdered bringing the total of Americans known to have been kidnapped in Iraq to 40.

Attached is a chart showing the incident date, name and status of those 40. Technically, the status of 'released' should more properly be referred to as 'Returned to Military Control' (RMC).

As mentioned in a previous post, there is good reason to believe there are more Americans missing in Iraq than those who have been reported. Employers and family members may choose to keep quiet for a number of reasons (ransom, etc). Just to be clear, 40 is the minimum number of those known to have been kidnapped in Iraq to date.

Not included in the chart (at this time) are the troops taken POW (status: missing) during the invasion of March 2003. All were Returned to Military Control:
Spc. Edgar Hernandez
Spc. Joseph Hudson
Spc. Shoshana Johnson
Pfc. Patrick Miller
Sgt. James Riley
Pfc. Jessica Lynch
Chief warrant officer David Williams
Chief warrant officer Ronald Young Jr.
American Hostages in Iraq
Kirk von Ackermann
Thomas Hamill
Nick Berg
William Bradley
Keith Matthew Maupin
Timothy E. Bell
Aban Elias
Micah Garen
Jack Hensley
Olin Eugene Armstrong, Jr.
Paul Taggart
Roy Hallums
Dean Sadek
Jeffrey Ake
Tom Fox
Ronald Alan Schulz
Jill Carroll
PFC Kristian Menchaca
PFC Thomas Tucker
Sgt Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie
Jonathon Michael Cote
Paul Christopher Johnson-Reuben
Joshua Mark Munns
John Roy Young
Ronald Withrow
Sgt Alex Ramon Jimenez
PFC Byron W. Fouty
Jim Kitterman
+ unknown persons

Friday, October 30, 2009


Just over a year ago, on September 19, 2008 to be exact, I actually had a nightmare about Ryan Manelick. That had never happened before. For what it's worth, I thought I'd share the dream here.

The Dream

There were two rolls of vinyl tape (like duct tape) that were important to Ryan Manelick's case and someone was trying to destroy them. One of the rolls was lavender color. I felt an enormous amount of anxiety and panic within the dream.


I filed an FOIA with the NSA for two audio recordings (two tapes) of satellite phone calls made by Kirk von Ackermann shortly before he disappeared. It is my personal belief that von Ackermann did not place the second call (lavendar is wishy washy - literally). I believe that an impostor (roll = 'role') placed the call using von Ackermann's satellite phone.

Further on the two words lavender and roll...a 'lav' is a microphone or a washroom, LAV also is short for 'light armored vehicle' as used by the military. It's my belief that von Ackermann was abducted and killed on an American base in Iraq. Roll has many meanings, a few worth pointing out - roll as in tire, roll out, let's roll, rock n' roll (the vehicle was found among rocky outcroppings, steam roll, roll over play dead, I think you can get the general idea of how my mind works with word play. You can probably think up some variations of your own....

Destroying the tapes - I must be worrying in my sub-conscience that the NSA is going to destroy recordings. As to why the dream was specific to Ryan Manelick - I find that very odd. I substituted Manelick for von Ackermann even though I didn't file an FOIA for Manelick's satellite call.

Now you may be wondering, why not? Several reasons. The only known satellite call placed by Ryan Manelick that I am aware of -- specifically reported by news media and confirmed by colleagues -- is the one that Manelick made to Charles Phillips at the exact moment he was killed in a drive-by shooting.
1. Personally, I could never ever bring myself to listen to such a devastatingly violent event like that.

2. Even if the NSA had intercepted and recorded that particular satellite call, they would never release it under the privacy exemption of the FOIA. As an example of how I know this to be the case, the FAA does not release black box audio recordings of cockpit crew just prior to an impending airplane crash. The FAA won't even release the audio recordings to immediate family members of those killed in a crash.
As a result, there was no reason to pursue an FOIA of the satellite call from Manelick to Phillips.

Anyway, for what it's worth, that was the dream.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wild Dogs

You just can't make this stuff up.

‘Burn pit’ lawsuits land in Greenbelt
By Brendan Kearney, Daily Record Legal, October 20, 2009

A raft of lawsuits filed across the country by soldiers and contractors who say they were sickened by “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan have been transferred to a federal judge in Maryland.

The suits against Halliburton Co. and its former subsidiary, KBR Inc., allege a variety of waste — from batteries to medical detritus, including human remains — was tossed and torched in huge, uncovered holes near army bases.

The plaintiffs, who hope to become a class of thousands, say the hazardous smoke from these sites caused ailments from rashes to upper respiratory problems to cancer. [...]

“Wild dogs in the area raided the burn pit and carried off human remains,” the suit states. “The wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths, to the great distress of the U.S. forces.”

The actual court filing of Eller v KBR Inc et al is available online. The Plaintiff is Joshua Eller. He was deployed to Iraq for ten months starting in February 2006.

Page 11 of 17, Line 50 reads:
50. Plaintiff [Joshua Eller] witnessed the open air burn pit in operation at Balad Air Force Base. On one occasion, he witnessed a wild dog running around base with a human arm in its mouth. The human arm had been dumped on the open air burn pit...

Monday, October 19, 2009


Something a little different...

An American playwright, EM Lewis, has written a play about a group of hostages in Iraq titled 'Heads.' The play features four characters separated as two pairs of hostages. The first pair are a journalist named Michael Apres and a photojournalist named Jack Velazquez. The second pair are a British embassy worker, Caroline Conway, and an American engineer, Harold Wolfe. I thought it was interesting the playwright chose only civilians for her characters.

Synopsis of the play:
'Heads' is the story of a British Embassy worker, an American engineer, a network journalist and a freelance photographer who are being held captive in Iraq; as death draws close, each hostage must decide what he’ll do to survive.
Denver Post has a review up although it's not clear what the reviewer really felt about the play - to see or not to see - it's not clear.

Review: "Heads" explores how hostages cope
By Angela Clemmons, The Denver Post, October 16, 2009
It's strange to say that a play about hostages in Iraq could be entertaining, but EM Lewis' "Heads" at the Victorian Playhouse is a gripping fictional drama that raises important questions about our times.

Susan Lyles directs the And Toto Too production to brutal depths. But what could have been a deeply political piece instead ends up a play about coping with current events. Who or what is it we reach for when it seems all hope is lost? What small gestures give us solace? Is optimism a better mechanism than pessimism, or the other way around?
The playwright's blog, Players to Broken Stones, has some production photos:

Coming up next: HEADS in Denver!
September 25, 2009

More Pictures from Heads in Denver
October 14, 2009

PS I've created a new label, 'drama', to cover theater, film and tv productions that touch on Iraq hostages.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Six Years

Six years ago today Kirk von Ackermann disappeared without a trace in Iraq.

I'm told the investigation into his disappearance remains active and that, about a year ago, CID launched a new round of interviews. My understanding is that the line of inquiry continues to focus on the allegations of fraud put forth by his colleague, Ryan Manelick, shortly before Manelick was killed in a drive by shooting.

I still believe the key to solving what happened to both men is to trace Kirk von Ackermann's movements on the day he disappeared - specifically, trying to answer the simple question of what did he do to try and fix his tire? Because I just can't, no matter how hard I try, believe that a man as sharp and discerning as Kirk von Ackermann could repeatedly make poor decisions on the day he disappeared.

Because if he didn't make poor decisions, then clearly something took him by surprise. Simple logic says that in Iraq he was most vulnerable where he felt safest - like surrounded by military personnel on an American base.


The Bridge Theory (graphic, includes decision chart)
March 25, 2008

Missing Contractor: U.S. Military Mechanics May Hold the Keys
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, April 21, 2008

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quiet on the Western Front

Assorted bits and pieces....

ePluribus Media articles

I've cross-posted most of my old articles from ePluribus Media to the Missing Man archives. The posts are backdated to coincide with the original publication dates. The Missing Man was always intended to be a library of materials, all be it one with a very narrow focus of interest. Enough time has passed that it seemed appropriate to include the full text of the articles here.

Review of The Curse of the al Dulaimi Hotel
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, August 18, 2008

Missing Contractor: U.S. Military Mechanics May Hold the Keys
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, April 21, 2008

Iraq, Contingency Contracting and the Defense Base Act
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, March 4, 2007

One Missing One Dead: An Iraq Contractor in the Fog of War
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, May 21, 2006


Still no word on my administrative appeal regarding the FOIA request with the NSA. Nor any word on another equally important FOIA request with CENTCOM for base access records, short of the confirmation that the request was in fact received.

In case I've never mentioned it before, the base access FOIA request seeks entrance and exit records for all of the bases in the northeast of Iraq for any and all Ultra Services personnel within a limited time frame. Specifically, records from the three days before and after Kirk von Ackermann disappeared. I'm hoping the records will disprove my own hypothesis that Kirk von Ackermann visited another base to fix a wonky tire after he left FOB Pacesetter.

Why disprove rather than prove the hypothesis? It's impossible to prove von Ackermann entered or exited area bases if no record exists. Absence of a record is not in itself proof. It's only possible to disprove von Ackermann did not visit a base if a record shows that in fact he did.

Missing in Iraq

Megan von Ackermann has been writing over at her blog, Missing in Iraq, about legal action regarding survivor benefits stemming from her husband's disappearance that is slowly winding its way through the system. The basis of the suit is the Defense Base Act. I've compiled links to recent posts below:

By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, July 20, 2009

By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, June 29, 2009

By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, June 26, 2009

By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, June 24, 2009

By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, June 11, 2009

By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, June 5, 2009
And speaking of the Defense Base Act....

Several recent articles by T. Christian Miller on the Defense Base Act. (Click on his name to check out more of Miller's articles at ProPublica.) There's some misguided criticism around the web that the Defense Base Act works just fine and no changes are needed. Funny: the various editorials are not written by contractors rather, such editorials are usually penned by folks who directly benefit under the current system, like lawyers and insurance executives. Funny that.

Pentagon Study Proposes Overhaul of Defense Base Act to Cover Care for Injured Contractors by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - September 15, 2009 6:52 pm

Congressman Announces Plan to Reform U.S. System to Care for Injured Civilian Contractors by by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - September 9, 2009 5:19 pm

Sometimes It’s Not Your War, But You Sacrifice Anyway by by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - August 17, 2009 9:19 am

Company That Probes War Contractor Injuries for AIG Is Itself Under Scrutiny by by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - July 31, 2009 4:06 pm

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hostage Remains Released to UK

Body of hostage held in Iraq released
Belfast Telegraph, September 3, 2009

A body thought to be of one of the five British hostages captured in Baghdad in 2007 was passed to the embassy in Iraq yesterday.

The identity has yet to be confirmed but it is believed to be either Alan McMenemy or Alec MacLachlan, who were kidnapped while working as bodyguards.
Names of the five hostages and their status:
Peter Moore - thought to be alive
Jason Swindlehurst - deceased
Jason Creswell - deceased
Alan McMenemy - missing, suspicions he is deceased
Alec MacLachlan - missing, suspicions he is deceased

Remains have now been positively identified as that of Alec MacLachlan, 30, of Llanelli, south Wales.

Iraq body confirmed as UK hostage
BBC, September 3, 2009
A body handed to UK authorities in Iraq has been identified as that of Alec MacLachlan - one of five British men seized in Baghdad in 2007.
My very sincere condolences.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Who killed Jim Kitterman?

If you ask me, it's awfully convenient ... to pin the murder on a man who was dead. - Peter
The Abduction and Murder of Jim Kitterman

According to a security alert, on May 21, 2009, contractor Jim Kitterman, 60, was said to have been abducted just after leaving a shop in the International Zone. On the following day, May 22, Kitterman's body was found. He was reported as blindfolded with his hands bound, stabbed twice in the heart with his throat slit, his body "bundled in a plastic bag and dumped in a lot less than a mile from the contractors' residence" [1]. In contradiction, it was also reported he was found in his car.

It's worth noting that conflicting details of the basic who, what, where, when, and why are an ongoing theme in the reporting of the abduction and murder of Jim Kitterman.


Five men, four from security company Corporate Training Unlimited (CTU), were subsequently detained by American and Iraqi authorities, and then later released.

Kitterman knew CTU principals for years, the result of having first hired CTU to provide security. Kitterman eventually moved his company headquarters to inside the CTU compound not far from the US Embassy in Baghdad. From years of working together in Iraq, Kitterman was said to be friends with CTU founder and owner, Don Feeney Jr., 55. Feeney and his son were two of the five men held for a short time.

At the time of Kitterman's abduction and murder, Feeney was out of the country. Three of the five men were at an Embassy party. It's unknown where the fifth man was or what alibi he provided but he was cleared of any involvement.

In late July, a Washington Times article reported that two Iraqis told investigators a deceased American was Kitterman's assailant.

Americans held in Iraq: FBI violated rights
By Bill Gertz, Washington Times, July 20, 2009
A total of five men [Donald Feeney Jr., his son Donald Feeney III, Mark Bridges, Micah Milligan of CTU and independent contractor, Jason Jones] were first arrested by FBI agents, Iraqi police and U.S. Army personnel in Baghdad's Green Zone on June 3 after the killing of American contractor Jim Kitterman, who was found stabbed to death in Baghdad May 22.

The men were later cleared of the murder charges by the Iraqi government, based on testimony from two Iraqi witnesses. A translated Iraqi court document stated that an investigator informed the judge in the case that the witnesses had testified that the murder was committed by an American man who was himself killed around the time of the Kitterman murder.
Pin the murder on the dead man

There's an uncomfortable convenience surrounding the sudden death of Jim Kitterman's 'assailant' so shortly after the murder.

While the assailant is not named, Larry Eugene Young, 42, who also worked for CTU, was killed that very same night - May 21. Young died in a mortar attack that struck his housing unit within the CTU compound. The next day on May 22, discussion at a forum frequented by overseas contractors mentioned the time of the mortar fire that killed Young as 22:45 [2]. However, some news outlets reported 20:00 or 20:15. Within the same discussion thread one commenter later wrote that Kitterman was shot multiple times in the head, not stabbed as reported, his body found near a 'water point' [3].

Contractors Detained in Gruesome Green Zone Slaying
By Nathan Hodge, Danger Room, Wired magazine, June 8, 2009
An employee of CTU was killed last month when a mortar reportedly struck his trailer inside the Green Zone. Feeney told the Fayetteville Observer [4] the employee, Larry Eugene Young, “was sleeping in his hooch when a mortar hit his trailer with a direct hit … He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The following excerpt [5] is from same the article:
Larry Eugene Young, 42, died instantly when a mortar hit his trailer inside the secured CTU compound, said Susan Lackey, a spokeswoman for CTU. Young, a former soldier from Ulysses, Kansas who served in Fort Bragg’s 7th Special Forces Group, had worked in Iraq since 2003, the past four years for CTU. He had an Iraqi wife and daughter, as well as three children from a previous marriage.

Don Feeney, one of CTU’s founders, said he had given Young a personal trailer in the compound so Young could be with his wife and daughter. The wife and daughter were not in the trailer when the mortar hit, Feeney said.
There's not much public information about Young. He seems to have been well liked just judging by the fact that a colleague took the trouble to put up a memorial thread in his name, RIP Wild Weasel, and others took the time to comment on a discussion forum.

There's a little background information in the announcement at the Garnand Funeral Home of Southwest Kansas:
Larry Eugene Young
April 16, 1967 - May 21, 2009
Baghdad, Iraq

Visitation: 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at Garnand Funeral Home in Ulysses, Kansas.

Larry Eugene Young, age 42, died May 21, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. He was born April 16, 1967 at Russell, Kansas, the son of Francis L. “Butch” and Roxana (Smith) Young.

Larry grew up and attended school in Ulysses. While in high school Larry ran cross country. He enjoyed working on cars and hunting, and working with computers. Larry married Velika Ortiz on December 26, 1990 in Panama. To this union three sons were born, Sammy, Larry, and Ralph. Larry served as a Sergeant E6 in the Special Forces for the United States Army from 1985 to 1998. He has spent the last seven years in Iraq working security for Dyna Corp and CTU companies.

Larry married Suzie Ikzar on September 17, 2006 in Baghdad. She survives. Other survivors include three sons, Sammy Young of Liberal, Kansas, Larry Young and Ralph Young both of Hutchinson, Kansas; two daughters, Saba Young and Merriam Young both of Baghdad, Iraq; and his parents, Butch and Roxana Young both of Ulysses.
It seems like an enormous stretch to believe that just one man, Young, who is also conveniently dead, is solely responsible for the abduction and murder of Jim Kitterman. My first cynical thought upon reading the Washington Times article: how much were the two Iraqis paid? My second cynical thought: who paid them? My third thought: anyone tell Young's family?

News Reports

Why so much trouble reporting this particular story? The facts wander all over the place: Kitterman was found in his car. He was found lying next to a water tank. He was found wrapped in plastic. He was found dumped in a lot in a plastic bag. He was last seen arguing with a security guard. He was last seen alone at the end of the day at the Embassy. He was abducted outside a shop....

The only thing everyone seems to agree on: Kitterman was brutally murdered.

I'm struck by the complete lack of interest of the news media to pursue facts in a more orderly manner. Or at least notice what was presented by different sources don't line up.

Here are some questions I'd like to see the news media pursue:
  1. Was Kitterman stabbed or shot or both?
  2. Where was his security that night?
  3. Why was Kitterman blind folded? (that makes no sense if he knew his attacker)
  4. Did someone specifically target the CTU compound for a 'mortar attack' on that particular night?
  5. Why wasn't Young at the Embassy party?
  6. What time was the mortar attack that night - was there more than one?
  7. Did anyone investigate Young's death or was it just written off as a run-of-the-mill mortar attack with no further inquiry?
  8. Were the mortar attack and the Kitterman murder orchestrated by the same person(s)?
  9. Was Kitterman targeted because of an association with CTU and/or owner Feeney?
  10. Was Kitterman mistaken for Feeney?
  11. Will yet another murder investigation in Iraq just end up in the cold case files just as the investigation into the murder of Ryan Manelick faltered?
Always questions....but with the 'evidence' of the two Iraqis, it looks like it's case closed for Jim Kitterman.


[1] Contractor Held in Green Zone Death Is Released
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, June 11, 2009

[2] RIP Wild Weasel
See comment by Sniper111 May 22. 2009 at 17:47

[3] Ibid
See comment by Goose375 May 23, 2009 at 09:31

[4] Contractor had ties to Bragg, region
By John Ramsey, Fayetteville Observer, May 27, 2009, (original url - no longer active)

[5] Excerpt from Contractor had ties to Bragg, region
Contractor Casualties Iraq and Afghanistan - Larry Eugene Young
Defense Base Act Workman's Compensation blog

Additional Reading

American Killed in Baghdad's Green Zone Identified
By Ernesto Londoño and Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, May 23, 2009

Green Zone Killing heightens security fears
By Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press, May 23, 2009

Slain American Led Construction Firm
By Ernesto Londoño and Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, May 24, 2009

Civilian contractor with Ariz. ties killed in Iraq remembered
By Elias C. Arnold, The Arizona Republic, May 25, 2009

Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in Iraq
CNN, June 6, 2009

Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in Iraq - includes video & grainy photos of some of the men
CNN, June 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Murray mother's longing for justice may be satisfied
By Matthew D. LaPlante, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 2009

Contractor detained in Iraq has history of exploits - includes photo
By Greg Barnes, The Fayetteville Observer, June 9, 2009

Iraq police free 3 U.S. contractors
By Ned Parker , LA Times, June 11, 2009

By Tom A. Peter, Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 2009

Iraq Clears 5 US Contractors in Killing of American Businessman
By VOA News, Voice of America, June 11, 2009

Fayetteville contractors detained by Iraqis
By Robert H. Reid, The Associated Press, June 12, 2009

2 U.S. Contractors Transferred From Iraqi Jail
By Nada Bakri, Washington Post, June 15, 2009

Related Posts

Update on Kitterman
July 20, 2009

Contractor abducted and killed in Iraq
May 24, 2009

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Remains of Capt Speicher found and identified

Remains of US Air Force Captain Michael “Scott” Speicher, missing since Gulf War I, have been positively identified.

Remains of missing US pilot Michael Speicher found after 18 years in desert
By Tim Reid, UK Times, August 2, 2009

After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, an American military unit was detailed to search for the missing pilot. That lead to a number of false leads, including the discovery of what some believed were the initials “MSS” scratched on the wall of an Iraqi prison.

It now appears that Captain Speicher was buried by nomadic Bedouin tribesmen close to where his F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet was shot down during a combat mission on January 17, 1991, the first night of Operation Desert Storm. His plane crashed in a remote, uninhabited wasteland. It is believed he was shot down by a missile fired from an Iraqi aircraft, probably a MiG-25. [...]

The military recovered bones and multiple skeletal fragments, which were flown back to the US. Captain Speicher was positively identified by matching a jawbone and dental records at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

U.S. identifies remains of pilot missing in Persian Gulf War
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2009
The break in the case came recently when an Iraqi contacted Marines with information about the desert crash site. The Marines were then led to another Iraqi living in the desert who said he was present when Speicher's plane crashed and when his body was found and buried by nomadic tribesmen at an obscure place called Wadi Thumayal.
To see a map of Iraq, visit ('click here to zoom' to see the Iraq map online). Wadi Thumayal, which I have been unable to locate on a map so far, is located somewhere within the Anbar governate or province of western Iraq. 

View Larger Map

Photo credit: US Navy

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Two More UK Hostages Believed Dead

Al Jazeera and BBC are reporting that two more of the original five British hostages seized at the Finance Ministry in 2007 are likely dead. Remains of two hostages, Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell, both security personnel, were turned over to British authorities in June. It is now believed that Alec MacLachlan and Alan McMenemy have been killed as well.

UK hostages 'killed in Iraq'
Al Jazeera, July 29, 2009

Two more British hostages held in Iraq are "very likely" to have been killed by their captors, meaning four of a group of five Britons seized in May 2007 are now dead, the UK prime minister has said.

Gordon Brown said his government was "doing everything that we can" to gain the release of Peter Moore, the final hostage, whom he believed to still be alive.

The four hostages were all working as security guards for Moore, who was employed as a contractor in Iraq, when they were kidnapped in the Iraqi finance ministry by around 40 heavily-armed fighters posing as security personnel.
Anguish at hostage death reports
BBC, July 29, 2009
The families of five Britons kidnapped in Iraq in 2007 say they are "deeply upset" to hear two more of the men are likely to have died in captivity.

Government sources say security guards Alan McMenemy and Alec Maclachlan are believed dead. The bodies of two men shot dead have already been released.

Gordon Brown said the fifth man, Peter Moore, was believed to be alive and made a fresh appeal for his release.

Bodies of Two UK Hostages Identified
June 21, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wandering Patrols

There's a new book out, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan by Dahr Jamail. Leaving aside the political overtones of the book, what's of specific interest to the Missing Man is the autonomous behavior of some military patrols in Iraq as described by the author. 

Interview with Dahr Jamail
The Lionel Show on Air America, By Avery Trufelman, July 20, 2009
Dahr Jamail, author of The Will To Resist:Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan told Lionel this morning that many platoons have adopted the practice of going on "search and avoid" missions (rather than "search and destroy"), where a platoon ends their patrol route and parks their hummer in the middle of a field, occasionally calling in to command to claim they are still searching for weapons. According to one corporal Jamail spoke with, this happened "every other day."
Kirk von Ackermann's vehicle was first reported as abandoned by a passing military patrol to a nearby checkpoint. Where was that passing patrol from, where were they going, where were they supposed to be, and what were they supposed to be doing?

Just how much leeway did a patrol ultimately have in deciding where it could travel within Iraq back in 2003 - could they really just wander around freely as long as they routinely checked in by radio?

The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Dahr Jamail, Haymarket Books, July 2009
ISBN 9781931859882

Related Posts

Satellite Image of the Road - map & link
November 22, 2008

Passing Patrol & the Checkpoint - map, satellite image
November 21, 2008

From Point A to Point B
November 20, 2008

Missing Contractor: U.S. Military Mechanics May Hold the Keys By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, April 21, 2008

Monday, July 20, 2009

Update on Kitterman

According to an article in the Washington Times, an unidentified American man is said to be responsible for the brutal murder of contractor Jim Kitterman. Apparently, the assailant was himself killed not long after. In the general time frame of the murder, at least four other  Americans are known to have been killed in Iraq: in a roadside bombing, attorney Terry Barnich, a State Department civilian and two un-named security personnel accompanying him; and an unknown victim of a rocket attack in the Green Zone [ed. note: Larry Eugene Young]. 

Americans held in Iraq: FBI violated rights
By Bill Gertz, Washington Times, July 20, 2009
A total of five men [Donald Feeney Jr., his son Donald Feeney III, Mark Bridges, Micah Milligan and Jason Jones] were first arrested by FBI agents, Iraqi police and U.S. Army personnel in Baghdad's Green Zone on June 3 after the killing of American contractor Jim Kitterman, who was found stabbed to death in Baghdad May 22.

The men were later cleared of the murder charges by the Iraqi government, based on testimony from two Iraqi witnesses. A translated Iraqi court document stated that an investigator informed the judge in the case that the witnesses had testified that the murder was committed by an American man who was himself killed around the time of the Kitterman murder.
Additional Reading

State Dept. worker, long known in Ill. politics, dies in Iraq
By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY, May 26, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Satellite Imagery

Google maps has an updated satellite photo of the road between Tikrit and Kirkuk of much higher resolution than was previously available. It sure looks like there's just nothing there but rocks.

Yellow marker - nearest crossroad and estimated distance to passing patrol
Pink marker - location of Kirk von Ackermann's vehicle

Blue marker - check point

The road looks relatively smooth. Why didn't von Ackermann drive on his rim to the check point?

View Checkpoint in a larger map


Detailed arial photos of some of the mountain ridge can be seen at Panoramio in a portfolio by bwheat32. This photo in particular gives a good idea of the "rocky outcroppings" among which von Ackermann's vehicle was found.

Related Posts

Satellite Image of the Road - map & link
November 22, 2008

Passing Patrol & the Checkpoint - map, satellite image
November 21, 2008

From Point A to Point B
November 20, 2008

Kirk von Ackermann's Nissan Patrol SUV (images)
March 5, 2008

The Tikrit & Kirkuk Road (video, satellite image, photos)
January 24, 2008

Kirk's Car
December 4, 2007

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iraq Transition & Missing Americans in Iraq

U.S., Iraq closer to meeting deadlines
American Forces Press Service, June 24, 2009

The U.S.-Iraq security agreement that took effect this year calls for American combat troops to leave urban areas by the end of June, with all U.S. forces out of the country by the end of 2011.
What happens to the unsolved cases of Americans still missing in Iraq?
Kirk von Ackermann (2003)
Timothy E. Bell (2004)
Aban Elias (2004)
Dean Sadek (2004)
Jeffrey Ake (2005)
Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (2006)
Capt. Scott Speicher (1991)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bodies of Two UK Hostages Identified

On June 19, two bodies were turned over to British authorities in Iraq. The bodies are now believed to be two of the five men from the UK held hostage since 2007. For the most part, the Missing Man is specific to American hostages. Today, I'm making an exception. My sincere condolences to the men's families and friends. What an awful way for a child to remember Father's Day.

U.K. Identifies Iraq Bodies; Brown Offers Condolences
By Robert Hutton, Bloomberg, June 21, 2009

The Foreign Office in London said the bodies were “highly likely” to be those of Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst, two security guards who were among five British civilian contractors taken hostage in Baghdad more than two years ago.


Creswell, from Glasgow in Scotland, and Swindlehurst, from northwest England, were kidnapped by armed militants at the Ministry of Finance in the Iraqi capital in May 2007. They were taken along with two colleagues and the man they were guarding, IT consultant Peter Moore, an employee of U.S. management consultants BearingPoint Inc.
The BBC has much more coverage - see the right hand side bar.

Pressure over kidnapped Britons
BBC, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Satellite Phone GPS

Assumption to date is Kirk von Ackermann's vehicle developed tire trouble on the road between Tikrit and Kirkuk. He then used his satellite phone to call the cell phone of an Iraqi employee, reported he had trouble with a tire and to bring a jack. Von Ackermann was never heard from again.

Stuck with a disabled vehicle on an isolated road between Tikrit and Kirkuk, did von Ackermann activate the GPS tracking device on his satellite phone?

Seems like the kind of thing that a former counterterrorism officer would have done just by instinct - depending on the technology available, of course.

There's a very good chance that Ultra Services' personnel, including Kirk von Ackermann, were using Thuraya satellite phones. A distinct feature of the Thuraya sat phone is the accuracy of its GPS tracker. But the tracker must be activated by the operator in order to function. Once activated, a GPS location can be sent via SMS or text messaging [ref]. And according to statements made by the Chairman of Thuraya back in 2003, the GPS tracking device is accurate to within 100 yards.
Iraqi Satellite Phone Use May Spike
By Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press, March 21, 2003

Thuraya's phones are tied to global positioning technology and accurate to within 100 yards. But company chairman Mohammad Omran said subscribers must activate the GPS function on their phones in order to be tracked.
Activating the locating device seems like it would have been consistent with von Ackermann's background and training as described in the blog entry at Missing in Iraq: No One Left Behind
There was a bit of shouting, but Kirk stuck to his point and finally the commander jabbed at him with a finger.

'Son, we got maybe five minutes to get this thing off the ground. We miss this kid and that's it. How sure are you?'

'Sir, I went hunting in the arctic circle, I based my life on a GPS reading. I was right then sir, and I'm right now. He's here.'

They sent the rescue mission out, and picked up the pilot within yards of where Kirk had located him.
What does activating or not activating the GPS locating feature on a satellite phone say about what happened to Kirk von Ackermann? What does sending or not sending that location on to another party say?

Just more questions.

By the way, still no word from the NSA on the FOIA appeal for the audio recording of Kirk von Ackermann's satellite call to the Iraqi employee.

Related Posts

The Bridge Theory (graphic, decision chart)
March 25, 2008

Kirk's Car
December 4, 2007

Satellite Phone Delay

Some recent travel got me to wondering about satellite phone delay. At one point, I had to wait almost half a minute for my cell phone to find a signal. Tic toc. Tic toc. That delay got me to  wondering about the call placed from Ryan Manelick's satellite phone to Charles Philips' satellite phone.

Two cars. Both leave Camp Anaconda.
Car #1 heads south for Baghdad - carrying Ryan Manelick and two Iraqi employees.
Car #2 heads north - carrying Charles Philips, Bora Tuncay and their driver.

A passing Landcruiser opened fire on Car #1 - killing Ryan Manelick and one of the Iraqi employees. The third is uninjured. Someone in the car used Ryan Manelick's satellite phone to call Charles Philips satellite phone. By the time the call connects, Charles only hears someone shouting in Arabic on the other end.

Questions: how much of a delay was there between dialing the call and receiving the call? And second, who actually placed the call? If it was one of the Iraqis, how did that person know just who to call? Both of the Iraqis were hired at the very last minute because Ryan's regular 'fixer' was at the hospital due to a family emergency. Or was Ryan supposed to call Charles to discuss business while both men were on the road and had already initiated the call when suddenly the assassins in the Landcruiser struck him down?

Always more questions than answers.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Contractor abducted and killed in Iraq

The body of contractor Jim Kitterman, 60, of Houston, Texas, was found Friday in the Green Zone after reported missing the night before. According to news reports, Kitterman was found bound and blindfolded, stabbed multiple times, with his throat slit.

Below is a very strange passage taken from the Washington Post which leaves you wondering what is being left out:

American Killed in Baghdad's Green Zone Identified
By Ernesto Londoño and Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, May 23, 2009

A security alert sent by Western security officials in the Green Zone to an American client said Kitterman was apparently abducted Thursday night as he was leaving a shop in the Green Zone. The alert, which was provided to The Washington Post, said his throat had been slit.

The U.S. official said a preliminary investigation suggests the killing might have been a crime of passion.

"Our suspicion is that it was some kind of an argument that went bad," the official said.

'Crime of passion' is a rather bizarre way to describe a thoroughly brutal and horrific murder.

Kitterman was the President of a small construction company, Janus Construction. A colleague reported he had previously served as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. Sincere condolences to his friends and family.


Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in Iraq
CNN, June 6, 2009

Five American security contractors were detained in connection with the killing of another American contractor last month inside Baghdad's Green Zone, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday. [...]

The five suspects knew the victim, a source inside the Green Zone familiar with the investigation said. Both the Iraqi and the Green Zone sources noted that the FBI has been involved in the investigation from the start.

Once the suspects are charged and referred to trial, the case would be sent to Iraq's Central Criminal Court, the Iraqi official said. If that happens, it would be the first time U.S. citizens were tried in Iraq since the United States returned the country's government to the Iraqis.

If it's in fact true that the five American men will be tried under the Iraqi legal system, it's more than likely they'll receive the death penalty.


I'll continue to add updates to this one post so as to consolidate information. 

Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in Iraq - includes video & grainy photos of some of the men
CNN, June 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

The five men work for Corporate Training Unlimited, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday.

The company was founded by a former member of the Delta Force elite anti-terrorist unit and has been operating in Iraq since 2003, according to its Web site. [...]

Four of the detainees were identified by multiple sources as Donald Feeny, the founder and chairman of the company; his son, who shares the same name; Micah Milligan; and Mark Bridges. The name of the fifth detainee was not immediately clear.

Corporate Training Unlimited website can be found at


The following article includes information from Feeney's wife that all of the men have alibis for the time during which Kitterman was abducted and killed. 

Murray mother's longing for justice may be satisfied
By Matthew D. LaPlante, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 2009

Four years had passed since her son had died in an explosion in Baghdad and Carol Thomas Young was getting no closer to knowing why.

Her lawsuit against the famed special forces operative who had employed her son -- and refused to pay an insurance settlement when he was killed -- had stalled. The Murray mother dropped the suit, saying she would leave Don Feeney's fate in the hands of a "higher court."

Continues with more about missing pay, verbal agreements, and promises not kept, etc. In other words, the usual.


A fifth security contractor has been identified as Jason Jones and is said to work for a different company. [ref]


Some or possibly all of the men have now been released. One article cites "drug offenses" as the basis of two of the arrests. This is proving to be a very strange story.

Iraq police free 3 U.S. contractors
By Ned Parker , LA Times, June 11, 2009

Judy Feeney, the wife of one of the detainees, confirmed that her husband, Donald Feeney Jr., 55, had been released but had no information about the other men, including her son Donald Feeney III, 31.

Judy Feeney said a U.S. Embassy official told the wife of one of the other men that the embassy expected all five Americans to be released soon.
Iraq Clears 5 US Contractors in Killing of American Businessman
By VOA News, Voice of America, June 11, 2009
Iraqi authorities said five U.S. contractors detained last week in connection with the killing of an American businessman have been cleared of his death.

Iraqi officials said Thursday they released three of the American contractors for lack of evidence, but ordered them to post bail due to the ongoing nature of the case. They say the other two Americans remain in Iraqi custody for suspected drug offenses.

2 U.S. Contractors Transferred From Iraqi Jail
By Nada Bakri, Washington Post, June 15, 2009
Two Americans arrested this month during an Iraqi investigation into the killing of an American contractor were transferred to a U.S. military facility at the request of Iraqi officials, the U.S. Embassy said Sunday.
According to the article, the two American men who still remain in custody are Jason Jones and Micah Milligan.


Green Zone Killing heightens security fears
By Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press, May 23, 2009

Slain American Led Construction Firm
By Ernesto Londoño and Steve Fainaru, Washington Post, May 24, 2009

Civilian contractor with Ariz. ties killed in Iraq remembered
By Elias C. Arnold, The Arizona Republic, May 25, 2009

Contractor detained in Iraq has history of exploits - includes photo
By Greg Barnes, The Fayetteville Observer, June 9, 2009

Photo source

5 detained in death of Houston contractor
Houston Chronicle, June 6, 2009, caption reads: Family Photo

Photo of Jim Kitterman was found on the web and is intended as "fair use" under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Based on absolutely nothing, I keep getting this feeling there's going to be a significant break in the case.

It's possible this obsession of mine has pushed me over the edge. On the other hand, my 'lawyer' has a new perfectly ordinary girl friend. A lot of folks would point to that event as a sure sign that hell has frozen over.

So, anything is possible. 

Or not.

PS I thought it might help readers to expand on the above statement...

Me: Did [name] get a new job?

Husband: Why do you ask?

Me: He's wearing pants. The kind that go down to his shoes.

Husband: He never wears pants. And look, he has a goatee too.

Later that day...

Husband: Guess who has a new girlfriend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Website for Joint Base Balad

Official website for Joint Base Balad - formerly referred to as Anaconda - from the US Air Force. The site includes photos, archived news articles, etc. Still no map though. Here's a background article on vehicle maintenance.

Vehicle maintainers keep Balad rollin
by Senior Airman Candace Romano
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
May 5, 2007

The maintainers, responsible for more than 1,200 vehicles of the base's Air Force vehicle fleet, keep mission-critical vehicles rolling for cargo movement and emergency response for the busiest aerial port in Iraq and the busiest single runway operation in the Department of Defense.
Related Reading

The Big Base near Balad - and its zillions of names
September 27, 2008

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Contractors and Overseas Clinics

Contractors Using Military Clinics
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, May 7, 2009

Military clinics and field hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan have supplied more than $1 million a month in health-care services to civilian contractors during the past two years without seeking reimbursement from their employers, as provided by law, according to a new audit by the Defense Department inspector general.

The report, issued Monday, noted that all costs associated with both emergency and primary medical care are reimbursable to the government and are the responsibility of the contingency contractor personnel, their employer or their health insurance provider.
The United States desperately needs to overhaul its entire health care system and just provide care for everyone. 

The Report itself is an interesting read. I admit I kept wondering why does the government even rely on private insurance when using contractors overseas? It just adds a middle man with fees resulting in an unnecessary expense. Not to mention, half of the insurance companies fight or severely delay payments. So what's the benefit of using private insurance to begin with?

D-2009-078 PDF Health Care Provided by Military Treatment Facilities to Contractors in Southwest Asia 
Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Auditing, May 4, 2009 
(Project No. D2008-D000LF-0241.000)

Statistic from the Report:
U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) census data for the first quarter of FY 2008 stated that there were about 223,200 contractor personnel in USCENTCOM’s area of responsibility.
As a side note, according to this press release, as of August 1, 2008, there were 134 investigations involving contracts for Southwest Asia (Iraq and Afghanistan). Fascinating website. I should hang out there more often.

Department of Defense - Office of the Inspector General


Military Fails to Collect From AIG for Care to Injured Contractors
by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, May 7, 2009
The report, however, found that no agency in the Defense Department enforces the policy. Insurance carriers or defense contractors are rarely charged when civilian contractors are treated at military medical facilities, the report found.

As a result, the Pentagon often pays twice for contractors' medical care: once in paying premiums to AIG and other carriers for insurance and a second time in failing to bill the companies for providing care to injured civilians.

Senate Hearing on AIG Care for Contractors Injured in Iraq Postponed Until June
by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, May 12, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Back in December, I stumbled on an old interview with Ryan Manelick in a Swiss news article in which it was revealed that Ultra Services procured vehicles for the US Army.

Ryan Manelick, lui, a 30 ans. Il est Texan. Il n'a qu'un seul client, l'armée américaine qu'il approvisionne en unités sanitaires, électroménager, meubles, ordinateurs ou voitures d'Europe et des Etats-Unis.
If Manelick arranged the purchase of the Nissan Patrol SUV for Kirk von Ackermann, then I wonder if he's also the one who revealed to von Ackermann that the vehicle had a bad tire (exact problem unknown). Which would explain how investigators knew for certain that von Ackermann was aware of the problematic tire before setting out. It also explains why the investigators accepted the information at face value. 

The question in my mind is this: did Manelick offer any suggestions to von Ackermann as to how and/or where to repair that tire? Did any of the investigators think to ask Manelick?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

25 Fraud Investigations Underway

Some U.S. troops tempted by reconstruction cash
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2009

The Justice Department has secured more than three dozen bribery-related convictions in the awarding of reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least 25 theft investigations are underway.
From the news article, it sounds like these investigations all involve funds issued under the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP). It is my understanding that Ultra Services supply contracts - totalling around $10-14 million - were paid with CERP funds. So it's possible someone might be looking into Ryan Manelick's case. But that's really just a guess on my part.


Coincidentally, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight held a hearing yesterday titled, Improving the Ability of Inspectors General to Detect, Prevent, and Prosecute Contracting Fraud. Testimony was provided by Mr. Charles W. Beardall, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations, Department of Defense. His testimony, available in PDF, goes into a great amount of detail about coordination and collaboration of the different agencies and organizations involved in fraud investigations.

Statement of Charles W. Beardall PDF
Deputy Inspector General for Investigations
Department of Defense
before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight
on "Improving the Ability of Inspectors General to Detect, Prevent, and Prosecute Contract Fraud"
April 21, 2009

See Page 6:
To date, [Defense Criminal Investigative Service] DCIS has initiated 173 investigations relating to [Department of Defense] DoD operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these investigations, 41 percent involve procurement fraud offenses; 42 percent involve corruption offenses; and 14 percent involve theft, technology protection, and terrorism.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Iraq Contractors Fight for Care

A great new series of articles and investigations from T. Christian Miller, author of Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq with Los Angeles Times, ProPublica and ABC News, on the failure of the Defense Base Act to provide care for injured contractors after they return from Iraq.

Injured War Zone Contractors Fight to Get Care From AIG and Other Insurers
By T. Christian Miller, ProPublica and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times - April 16, 2009
Civilian contractors died like soldiers. They were injured like soldiers. But back home, the U.S. government consigned the wounded and their families to a private insurance system that shunted them to substandard treatment and delayed their care as they suffered from devastating injuries, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and ProPublica has found.

Injured war zone contractors fight to get care

By T. Christian Miller and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2009
Civilian workers who suffered devastating injuries while supporting the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home to a grinding battle for basic medical care, artificial limbs, psychological counseling and other services.

Bailed-Out AIG Pampers Execs While Denying, Delaying Claims of Contractors Injured in Iraq

By Brian Ross and Avni Patel, ABC News, April 17, 2009
Insurance giant AIG, the same company that rewarded its executives with millions in bonuses and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a spa retreat at an exclusive California resort and private jets, has been nickel and diming employees of private contractors injured in Iraq, with a pattern of denying and delaying their claims, a joint investigation between 20/20, the Los Angeles Times and the non-profit group ProPublica has found.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FOIA update

FOIA responses take forever. 

According to my records, I've filed well over 20 requests to date.  I'm getting a little better at the wording and procedural issues that pop up in writing these letters. I've now got my first administrative appeal under my belt. I haven't filed a Mandatory Declassification Review yet or requested a Vaughn Index so there's still lots of room for new experiences. And who knows, maybe one day, a request will go to court.

So, let's see...I filed four FOIA requests with CENTCOM back in February of 2008. Still waiting. One with the State Department from 2007 which they actually contacted me about two months ago to say was on its way. It hasn't arrived yet. The appeal with the National Security Agency is still outstanding - while I'm not optimistic on that one, I did expect to get the rejection almost immediately. Not sure what's up with that. A few more FOIA requests outstanding with CENTCOM - one in particular that I hope they'll be forthcoming about. And a new one that I haven't yet received a response letter confirming its receipt and assigning a case number.

So while we wait...wanna learn a little about how to file an FOIA request?

A good place to start is the Department of Justice website page on the Freedom of Information Act. It provides a broad overview and is written in fairly simple and easy to understand language. They have a page, FOIA Post, that includes summaries of recent rulings that effect the FOIA. Good idea to look these over in case a recent ruling might increase the potential for a federal agency to release the information you seek.

After filing the administrative appeal with the NSA, one of the things I learned was the importance of writing an FOIA request with the view towards possibly pursuing information in court. Now, this doesn't mean you have to fill your request with legalese, but it does mean you want to leave a trail of bread crumbs that lead to the information you seek. For example, if you're requesting information that was mentioned in say a White House memo freely distributed to the public, cite and include the memo with your request.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University is a great resource for information regarding FOIA requests that bump up against National Security, otherwise known as Exemptions 1 and 3 of the FOIA and the lovely Glomar response (neither confirm nor deny the existence nor non-existence...) They have a new PDF booklet available online (includes information on Mandatory Declassification Reviews):
A National Security Archive Guide
Written by Kristin Adair and Catherine Nielsen
Edited by Meredith Fuchs, Yvette M. Chin, Malcolm Byrne and Tom Blanton
January 29, 2009
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is another great resource. They have an entire area of their website dedicated to Freedom of the Press Resources including an FOIA letter generator. Just plug in some information and it will spit out a letter for you.

And since I brought it up, the National Security Agency also has an area of its website devoted to the FOIA including their version of a handbook - which is really just basic contact information on where to send your request. By the way, NSA isn't all cloaks and daggers. They have aliens too! The NSA has one section devoted to FOIA requests for UFO's under their Declassification Initiatives.

The Department of Defense website for FOIA is the Requester Service Center. They have a handbook which includes a list of their Components and Commands with whom to file an FOIA request. Some times the tricky part with the Department of Defense is just figuring out who to file with.

Well, that's it for now. Back to waiting for the mail...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Ruling on 2003 Iraq Fraud

By James Glanz, New York Times, April 10, 2009
The decision, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., reverses a decision that had put a chill on what are believed to be dozens of pending whistle-blower cases involving contractors in Iraq. The earlier decision set aside a jury’s verdict in 2006 that the contractor, Custer Battles, must pay about $10 million in damages and penalties to the United States government and two whistle-blowers.

The jury had found that under the False Claims Act, Custer Battles filed fake invoices and vastly inflated its costs, as two former employees of the company had charged. But the judge in the case, T. S. Ellis III of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., ultimately made two rulings that would have freed the company from paying any damages.
Custer Battles left "an astonishing spreadsheet" that detailed billing at grossly inflated prices at a meeting in October of 2003. Big oops.

Court Revives Suit Over Iraq Work
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, April 11, 2009
The ruling noted that after an October 2003 meeting between Custer Battles's co-owners, Scott Custer and Michael Battles, and representatives of the CPA and the U.S. military, Battles accidentally left behind "an astonishing spreadsheet" that listed amounts invoiced and actual costs. For instance, the firm provided two flatbed trucks to carry new money that cost $18,000, while billing the authority $80,000, the ruling said.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Holder Memo

I wonder if this will effect the NSA appeal? 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Contractor Deployment Guide

I was looking for more background information on general identification requirements for contractors working overseas when I stumbled upon this Pamphlet. Fascinating reading. As far as I can tell, this is the most recent version. It really is a must read for anyone going to work overseas.

Ed. note for June 14, 2010: please use this new link DA PAM 715-16

Contractor Deployment Guide
Pamphlet 715–16
Department of the Army
27 February 1998

DA PAM 715–16
Contractor Deployment Guide

This new Department of the Army pamphlet provides procedures for contractor operations within the Department of the Army.
The Pamphlet includes a short section on Hostages (see page 6), which contains some information that I don't recall reading before.
Chapter 11

11–1. Hostage aid

a. Hostages

When and where the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, declares that U.S. citizens or resident aliens of the United States rendering service overseas have been placed in a “captive” status as a result of a “hostile action” against the U.S. government, a wide range of benefits accrue to that person and that
person’s dependents. For example, captives can continue to receive their full pay. Captives can claim some, but not all, of the benefits of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. A person designated as a captive or his/her family members are eligible for physical and mental health care benefits at U.S. government expense. A spouse
or unmarried dependent of a designated captive is eligible for certain education benefits. If a designated captive ultimately dies from hostile action caused by his/her relationship to the U.S. government, the Secretary of State may provide death benefits to the captive’s survivors.

b. Any person possibly affected (e.g., family members and dependents) may petition the Secretary of State to make the declaration of coverage. Pursuing benefits and remedies under these laws is up to the contractor employee and/or the employee’s family members, dependents or employer.
As far as surprises. Seems basic. But what exists on paper and what's done in reality are two different things. So, the question that really needs answering is: what identification were Ultra Services personnel expected to carry back in Iraq in 2003?

Identification mentioned in the Contractor Deployment Guide:
Visas - as needed
Invitational Travel Orders
Uniformed Services Identifications and Privilege Card (DD Form 1173)
Geneva Conventions Identity Card (DD Form 489)
Personal Identification ('dog tags')
Local In-theater Identification (Baghdad International Airport, etc)
Authorization to carry a weapon (from Theater Commander or State Department)
Record of Emergency Data Card (DD Form 93)
Company Id
Drivers license
Record of Immunizations
Medical information ('medical tags')
Not mentioned:
Common Access Card (DD Form 1172-2)
Looking over the list above, what exactly was the green id card issued to Kirk von Ackermann featured in the Rolling Stone article? Was it still valid? And what happened to all of the other identification he should have been carrying?

Always questions.


Base Access
March 20, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Base Access

Color me completely baffled today. An article via Ms Sparky...

KBR Work Presents 'Security Risk' Says Pentagon Official
By David Murdock, The Huffington Post, March 19, 2009
In what appears to be a stunning lack of due diligence, the Pentagon has allowed private contractors to grant civilians access to military bases, including in highly sensitive areas like Iraq and Afghanistan, without evidence of appropriate background checks.

The revelations were detailed in a recent report that the Acting Inspector General of the Department Defense, Gordon S. Heddell, delivered to the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. The report describes how, since 2002, Common Access Cards -- the IDs that both troops and civilians use to pass through military checkpoints around the world - may have been granted to nearly 40,000 civilians without proper vetting.

Some basic information on Common Access Cards can be found here and here. Suffice it to say, access cards are not new. As time marches on and technology improves, more security features are added to the id's. Methods of displaying identification are also not new.  When on base, contractors are generally supposed to carry identification at all times, usually in one of those black neck pouches that are commonly found at an office supply store. 

Which brings us to Kirk von Ackermann's id badge. 

Von Ackermann's id badge was featured in the Daniel Halpern's Rolling Stone article, Death of a Contractor. The id shown was issued in 2003 by United States Army, V Corps, and very clearly marked: No Escort. 

Now one really odd thing about this particular photo ID is that it doesn't conform to Geneva Conventions for identification established back in 1949. Examples and more information here. For comparison, here's an example of a 'Geneva Conventions Identification Card for Civilians Accompanying Forces' in use prior to 2006 from the Department of Defense Common Access Card website.
So did von Ackermann have another id? And if he did, what was this id used for and what happened to the id that should have conformed to Geneva Conventions?

Anyone else getting the unpleasant feeling that base security was a bit low rent?

The military loves paper trails and back in 2003, to get an id from an organization within the Department of Defense - like the U.S. Army -contractors and civilians were expected to complete an application, DD Form 1172-2. So did von Ackermann complete a DD Form 1172-2 or did everyone in Iraq play by a completely different set of rules? 


From what I understand, military installations are restricted areas with security ratings. Areas are rated Level I, Level II and Level III. Level I is the least secure and has the fewest restrictions, Level II comes with more restrictions followed by Level III the most secure with the most restrictions. The lowest level, Level I, requires an escort if a visitor to an area is not cleared for access. Von Ackermann was cleared for access, so he had a No Escort badge. But according to the news piece at The Huffington Post, so did a lot of other folks and they had much more official identification than von Ackermann. Which just makes you wonder who in the heck was free to wander around bases in Iraq back in 2003.


Anyone who reads this blog knows I have a serious problem with the assumption Kirk von Ackermann disappeared from where his vehicle was found. His behavior that day was so out of character, so irrational, that investigators actually floated the idea he staged his own disappearance.* But there is a much more rational explanation for the sudden and swift departure of basic common sense. Simply put, von Ackermann was abducted and killed elsewhere - likely an American base - and the most likely candidate is Camp Anaconda. All of this, of course, means an imposter placed the call to the Iraqi employee.

Now, on a fairly regular basis I try to tear down and poke holes into the above theory because quite frankly, I don't want to be right. Two of the easy to spot weak points have always been the id badge and base access - both of which tie into getting on to and off of a base.  

I had this wild and crazy assumption that military bases in Iraq actually might have tight security. Oops. Apparently no. Yet another myth shattered. 

So much for poking holes.

*Mystery surrounds US businessman missing in Iraq's 'Sunni triangle'
By Colin Freeman, UK Telegraph, November 9, 2003
The strange circumstances of the case have prevented investigators from ruling out the possibility that he has tried to fake his own disappearance. In particular, they are thought to be puzzled as to why he chose to drive alone that day, rather than taking an Iraqi colleague as he normally did.

The Bridge Theory (includes decision chart) 
March 25, 2008

The ID Badge
April 14, 2007

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Annual Longshore Conference

Photo Source U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command

The Annual Longshore Conference is March 19 - 20, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. I attended the previous conference organized by Loyola University College of Law and the U.S. Department of Labor in the fall of 2008 in Washington D.C. and found it very informative. Pretty much everyone who knew anything about the Defense Base Act was there.

From the registration brochure:

This year’s program will address several timely topics of importance to any workers’ compensation practitioner.

We will examine issues of competing jurisdiction. Despite decades of litigation seeking clarity in competing jurisdictional schemes, significant problems remain in navigating the myriad compensation programs that exist in the maritime field. Recent amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act will impact return to work issues in workers’ compensation claims. Medicare Set-Asides continue to be important in settlements of longshore claims, and recent changes to the regulations and procedures for MSA will be explained.

We will also address various practice issues, such as trying claims before the Office of Administrative Law Judges, posthearing proceedings, and attorney fee claims. We will have medical experts address the expanding field of chronic pain conditions, and the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders. With the War on Terror continuing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we will explore the Defense Base Act and War Hazards Compensation Act, as these remain important extensions of the [Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act] LHWCA.
The Defense Base Act/War Hazards Compensation Act Handbook is on sale through Loyola College of Law for $60. Call (504) 861-5441 or Toll Free at (866) 250-8617 to order. For more information, email

For anyone with an interest in the Defense Base Act and/or issues facing American contractors working overseas, absolutely buy a copy of the DBA/WHCA Handbook. Most of the chapters were written by lawyers and judges whose careers are narrowly focused in DBA law.

Additional Reading

Defense Base Act Practice: We're Not in Kansas Anymore
By Roger A. Levy, Editor of the DBA/WHCA Handbook, Lexis/Nexis, August 19, 2008

U.S. Department of Labor
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) webpage

Monday, February 23, 2009


It's done. I sent the appeal letter off in the mail today. It's 12 pages long with another 30 or so pages in enclosures. Maybe once I get the next response back, I'll post some of the appeal letter for grins and giggles. 

I can't help but picture a government automaton seated in a bleak gray office stamping REJECT on all of the FOIA letters that come across the desk, my latest in particular. I don't hold out much hope that my appeal letter will overturn the initial response of neither confirming nor denying the existence or non-existence of the material I seek.

Which, by the way, I haven't exactly divulged what it is that I am seeking.

I requested two audio recordings and/or segregable portions of otherwise exempt material (in other words, transcripts). Specifically, I filed an FOI request with the National Security Agency for an audio recording of the October 9, 2003 satellite phone call that Kirk von Ackermann placed to the Iraqi employee in which he asked for assistance with the flat tire. The second audio recording I requested was one from the previous day in which he left a message on his home answering machine in the United States - that he had arrived safely at a base in Iraq.

The significance of the second recording is that it's what triggered the recording of the first - if statements by public officials are to be believed. The content of neither phone call warrants classification. And as both intercepts are the result of the NSA program revealed by the President, the Attorney General and the Director of the National Security Agency, it's a bit silly to pretend recordings of the intercepts don't exist.

But the NSA will. And an automaton will stamp my letter: REJECT.

Do you think they even bother to read the letters or do they stamp first and then just pretend to read the letters?