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.