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?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Super Double Secret

Working away on the appeal letter for the NSA. I'm hoping to mail it next week. I know it's pointless but I have to at least try. I thought now would be a good time to tell you about my 'assistant' as my dear husband likes to call him.

My assistant is a schizophrenic neighbor - one who refuses to take his medication - who has been helping me with legal research. He likes to hang out in the law library so research gives him a good excuse to be there. If I described his general appearance, you'd understand but I don't want to prejudice your views on his character. Maybe one day I'll post a photo. Anyway, it's been a unique experience.

The first day I went by the law library to check it out, I ran into him. Over the next few days, he pretty much tracked me down (in other words, loitered at my front door basically stalking me and asking my neighbors where I was). Once he successfully intercepted me, he asked if he could make copies for whatever it was that I was working on. To be honest, I'm not sure he really understands about the FOIA appeal because he keeps asking when I go to court. I've explained that the first thing I need to do is file a letter appealing the decision to deny the FOI request. The details seem to get lost because he asked again today about my court date.

Anyway, that first day I gave him $20 for a copy card at the law library and suggested he see what he could find out about court cases that successfully overturned Exemptions 1 and 3 of the FOIA. The next day, he was waiting at my front door with a new briefcase (cost: approximately $20). He announced I would be receiving "reports" by mail. "Don't worry," he said, "they're classified." I had absolutely no idea if a report was in the mail literally or figuratively. It's kind of hard to tell with a schizophrenic who refuses to take their medication just where in reality things stand. He requested another $20 as he was getting short on funds. "It's all accounted for. I sent it to my book keeper." And yes, he actually does have a book keeper but that's a side story.

A few days later, next door received a large manilla envelope in the mail addressed to me care of the little shop. The return address was "Bob Smith, Esq." That first report came in a very official looking plastic binder with a cover letter. It was sealed inside of another envelope marked "Classified." I was just looking through the pile. So far, I've received 8 reports - which consist of various pages copied out of various law books, most not really applicable to the matter at hand.

For example, one recent report was a series of pages from the Supreme Court Reporter. I was looking for a specific case, and I guess the name of the Plaintiff was a problem. I received about ten pages from the Reporter for a variety of cases all beginning with the letter A.

I've probably given you the impression that his contributions to the appeal have been fairly useless. Not at all. In fact, it's his decidedly outside of the box perspective I've found very helpful. For instance, I asked him to look up information regarding the 3rd exemption of the FOIA. He came back with information regarding the 4th Amendment as applies to medical files. In other words, Privacy. I hadn't addressed Privacy in my appeal until his research pointed out the oversight.

I've told him repeatedly he doesn't have to mail the reports. But he always responds, in a slightly petulant tone, "I have the stamps."

Today he was really disappointed to learn we're almost done. On the other hand, it might be good timing. He goes back to court on Wednesday and he might not fare so well this time. You see, he usually represents himself and more importantly - he wins. Which, as one friend who knows him pointed out - what does that really say about the state of our legal system?

If I actually go ahead and follow this all the way to court, he'll be ecstatic. I can just picture him telling a judge he can't possibly go to jail for disturbing the peace because he's the lead attorney on a suit against the National Security Agency. I think I might stand a good chance of winning just on the basis of his participation.

I'm really tempted to scan and post one of his cover notes to me. But since they're classified, I really can't. They're secret.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Remains Identified - Fouty and Jimenez

Additional remains of two soldiers who were kidnapped and killed in Iraq have been located and identified. Remains of both soldiers were previously buried back in July 2008.

New remains of Lawrence soldier going to Arlington
February 1, 2009, Associated Press

Newly identified remains of a soldier from Lawrence will be buried with those of a comrade from his unit, who were both kidnapped and killed in Iraq.

The Army says the remains of Staff Sergeant Alex Jimenez and Specialist Byron Fouty of Waterford, Mich., will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Feb. 17 with full military honors.
Update: Fouty and Jimenez remains were discovered buried together in a shallow grave. The remains were separated and sent as requested to their families for burial. But a number of other additional materials, including some part of a uniform and weapon was not easily separated. It's from this group of materials that a second set of remains were finally identified as belonging to Fouty and Jimenez.

The newly identified remains were buried co-mingled in a single casket at Arlington Cemetary in a ceremony with full military honors. According to news reports, only 10% of all those eligible for burial at Arlington accept as the general preference is to bury loved ones near the homes of family.

There was a description of the actual process of laying the remains in the casket for burial - an Army blanket is placed in the casket on top of which is laid cotton. The remains are placed on the cotton and then covered with a white sheet. The blanket is folded over and a replica dress uniform of Jimenez, who held higher rank, is placed on top of the blanket.

Previous post:

Remains of Two Missing Soldiers Identified
July 13, 2008

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Graft in Iraq Investigation

This investigation is long overdue. According to the article, they're reviewing information provided by Dale Stoffel, an arms dealer who was killed in a drive by shooting in 2004. Stoffel described clandestine drops of cash hidden in pizza boxes to investigators shortly before he was killed.

I have no idea what relationship, if any, this investigation will have on the case of Ryan Manelick.

Inquiry on Graft in Iraq Focuses on U.S. Officers
By James Glanz, C.J. Chivers, and William K. Rushbaum, New York Times, February 14, 2009

The investigations, which are being conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Justice Department, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command and other federal agencies, cover a period when millions of dollars in cash, often in stacks of shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills, were dispensed from a loosely guarded safe in the basement of one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces.

Former American officials describe payments to local contractors from huge sums of cash dumped onto tables and stuffed into sacks as if it were Halloween candy.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Colin Freeman

Colin Freeman, the journalist who first broke the story of Kirk von Ackermann's disappearance, spent 40 days as a hostage in Somalia. I feel absolutely horrible that I was oblivious to his plight until tonight. You can read about his time - spent mostly in caves - below. The last one, My 40 Days in a Cave Held By Somali Gunmen, is an in-depth piece, full of that lovely biting wit of his.

Colin Freeman celebrates freedom
By Olga Craig, January 6, 2009

Colin Freeman: The moment my Somali kidnap hell began
By Colin Freeman, January 6, 2009

My 40 Days in a Cave Held By Somali Gunmen
By Colin Freeman, January 10, 2009, UK Telegraph

The links below are specific to Freeman's writings that are of interest to the Missing Man. His book about his time in Iraq is a great read, The Curse of the al-Dulaimi Hotel. He covers the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick's murder in the book, including the only first hand account of the isolated road where von Ackermann's vehicle was discovered abandoned.

Curse of the al Dulaimi Hotel - Pt II (image)
August 16, 2008

Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man
by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

Bay Area civilian vanishes in Iraq
by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 2003

Mystery surrounds US businessman missing in Iraq's 'Sunni triangle'
by Colin Freeman, Telegraph, November 9, 2003

Take it easy and waterski through Baghdad
by Colin Freeman, The Scotsman, October 26, 2003

Friday, February 06, 2009

POW/MIA - National Security Act of 1947

I'm spending my free time at the local law library trying - more or less hopelessly - to do research for the NSA appeal. I stumbled on a bit related to POW/MIA in one of the books I was reading today on National Security Intelligence.

Makes me wonder, if information is unintentionally acquired prior to the disappearance of someone, but it's later determined that the information might be useful in determining what happened, under whose authority does the information then fall? It's unclear, especially since it wasn't originally collected for investigative purposes.

But that's a separate side issue and unrelated to the appeal at hand. At least, not at this point.

National Security Act of 1947 as amended. Unclassified.

SEC. 117. (a) REQUIREMENT - (1)The Director of Central Intelligence shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, establish and maintain in the intelligence community an analytic capability with responsibility for intelligence in support of the activities of the United States relating to individuals who, after December 31, 1990, are unaccounted for United States personnel.

(2) The analytic capability maintained under paragraph (1) shall be known as the 'POW/MIA analytic capabiltity of the intelligence community'.

(b) UNACCOUNTED FOR UNITED STATES PERSONNEL - In this section, the term 'unaccounted for United States personnel' means the following:

(1) Any missing person (as that term is defined in section 1513(1) of title 10, United States Code).

(2) Any United States national who was killed while engaged in activities on behalf of the United states and whose remains have not been repatriated to the United States.
What exactly is a 'missing person'? To find out, it's necessary to visit the United States Code, Title 10 - Armed Forces, Subtitle A - General Military Law, Part II - Personnel, Chapter 76 - Missing Persons. I've covered this before, but it never hurts to take a look at the information again.
U.S. Code Title 10 § 1513

In this chapter:
(1) The term “missing person” means—
(A) a member of the armed forces on active duty who is in a missing status; or
(B) a civilian employee of the Department of Defense or an employee of a contractor of the Department of Defense who serves in direct support of, or accompanies, the armed forces in the field under orders and who is in a missing status.
Such term includes an unaccounted for person described in section 1509 (b) of this title who is required by section 1509 (a)(1) of this title to be considered a missing person.
(2) The term “missing status” means the status of a missing person who is determined to be absent in a category of any of the following:
(A) Missing.
(B) Missing in action.
(C) Interned in a foreign country.
(D) Captured.
(E) Beleaguered.
(F) Besieged.
(G) Detained in a foreign country against that person’s will.

(3) The term “accounted for”, with respect to a person in a missing status, means that—
(A) the person is returned to United States control alive;
(B) the remains of the person are recovered and, if not identifiable through visual means as those of the missing person, are identified as those of the missing person by a practitioner of an appropriate forensic science; or
(C) credible evidence exists to support another determination of the person’s status.
Additional Reading - just for fun:

National Security Investigations and Prosecutions
By David Kris, J. Douglas Wilson, West Thomson, 2007