Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lawsuit Filed Against US State Department

The families of three private security contractors - Joshua Munns, Jonathon Cote and John Young of Crescent Security Group, kidnapped in Iraq on November 16, 2006 and later beheaded - are suing the US State Department.

State Department sued in death of Anderson man, other contractors in Iraq
By Ryan Sabalow, The Record Searchlight, March 25, 2010
PDF of the suit accompanying the article Munns et al v. Clinton et al

Mark Munns of Anderson said in an interview Wednesday that the suit was filed in hopes of learning what U.S. officials know about the abduction and what steps they took to find his son, Joshua Munns, and the other men abducted with him. [...]

The suit demands the State Department pay the families their children's life insurance benefits because the contractors were working by proxy for the government at the time.

Crescent Security, the firm for which Munns and the other contractors worked, hasn't paid any death benefits owed to the contractors' surviving family members, the suit says.

The State Department also has been uncooperative in trying to help the family recover the money, the suit alleges.
Be sure to read the PDF of the actual court filing that accompanies the original article.

Looking over the suit, at the very least, it certainly sounds like Crescent Security held 'dead peasant' life insurance policies for its employees.

But what about injury and/or detention? If the Crescent Security insurance policy included Kidnap & Ransom (K&R), what kind of access did the insurance carrier provide to a hostage negotiator? If the company didn't carry injury and/or detention, then the families should qualify for benefits under the Defense Base Act regardless of whether or not Crescent Security carried DBA coverage.

Assuming precedent was set, William Palmer, Munns' attorney, may not be aware of a recent ruling from the Department of Labor in the case of Kirk von Ackermann who disappeared in Iraq on October 9, 2003.

An investigation by the Department of Defense determined von Ackermann was killed during a botched kidnapping by hostile forces. But because Kirk von Ackermann's employer failed to secure DBA insurance, there were substantial delays in awarding the survivor benefits due under the War Hazards Compensation Act. In late 2009, the Department of Labor finally issued a ruling finding in the von Ackermann family's favor and benefits awarded.

It all comes down to the question of just what kind and how broad was the war-risk hazard coverage Crescent Security carried on its employees.

One last thought on the suit...was Jennifer Foo the Casualty Assistance Officer assigned to the case as per the Missing Persons Act? Was Counsel appointed to represent the abducted men?

I've written about this before but just to recap: as American civilian contractors working in support of US operations in Iraq, the abducted employees should have been covered under legislation commonly known as the Missing Persons Act. Family should have received notification that counsel was appointed to represent the abducted men's interests within 45 days of detention. By Day 100, an unclassified summary report should have been provided to the men's family. At the one year anniversary, Day 365, they should have received notification of the meeting of a Board of Inquiry. If that board reached no definitive conclusion as to their whereabouts, additional inquiries should have been held which the family would have had the right to attend. Family could have passed concerns to the counsel as well as provide information and/or objections to any recommendations by the Board of Inquiry.

Additional Reading

The Business of Kidnapping - war-risk hazard premiums and hostage negotiators
February 16, 2010

Book - Big Boy Rules by Steve Fainaru
November 23, 2008

Munns et al v. Clinton et al in filings and dockets at
Plaintiffs: Mark Munns, Crista Munns, Dennis Debrabander, Sharon Debrabander and Lori Silveri
Defendants: Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton and Jennifer Foo
Case Number: 2:2010cv00681
Filed: March 22, 2010
Court: California Eastern District Court
Office: Sacramento Office
Presiding Judge: Lawrence K. Karlton
Presiding Judge: Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton
Referring Judge: Kimberly J. Mueller
Referring Judge: Magistrate Judge Kimberly J. Mueller
Nature of Suit: Contract - Other Contract
Cause: 42:1983 Civil Rights Act

Previous related posts

A Sliver of Justice - finding by the Department of Labor in favor of the von Ackermann family
Janaury 10, 2010

Defense Base Act vs War Hazards Compensation Act- non-hostile vs hostile Type of Casualty
December 23, 2008

Iraq Contractors and The Missing Persons Act - legal obligations of the US Government
July 24, 2008

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:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Issa Salomi - Released

Great news this morning via the Defense Base Act Compensation blog (thank you, Marcie!), Issa Salomi has returned home - very much alive - to his family:

Militant Iraqi group releases American hostage
By Leila Fadel, Washington Post, March 28, 2010

The Pentagon said the circumstances surrounding the disappearance in January of Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., were under investigation. But the militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, suggested on a Web site the group uses that Salomi was released in exchange for four detainees in U.S. custody.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Salomi's kidnapping followed the breakdown of talks between the Iraqi government and the group that U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped would lead to reconciliation. The U.S. military has released hundreds of the group's members in a failed attempt to neutralize it.
No news on Alan McMenemy or Ahmed Qusai al-Taie. At one point, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous suggested they were working on 'returning' him.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alan McMenemy of Scotland

IT consultant, Peter Moore, and his four security guards were abducted by insurgents dressed as Iraqi policemen from the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad in May of 2007. Remains of three body guards were returned to the UK. The last is still missing, Alan McMenemy of Glasgow, Scotland.

Baghdad hostage Peter Moore: kidnappers shot Britons as they tried to escape
By Colin Freeman, UK Telegraph, March 14, 2010

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Moore cast doubt on the widely-held theory that the Shia militant group which abducted the men had deliberately murdered them in order to step up pressure for a prisoner exchange.

Instead, he said he had been told that two of the guards - Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst - were gunned down as they tried to flee a militant safe house where they were being held. A third, Alec MacLachlan, was killed after he tried to grab a gun that his captors left lying on a table, while the fourth, Alan McMenemy, died when his captors thought that security forces were preparing to raid their hide-out. They are thought to have shot Mr McMenemy in panic as they were about to flee, only to discover afterwards that the raid was a false alarm. Mr McMenemy is the only one of the four guards whose body has not been recovered, although the Foreign Office believes he too is dead.
For those unaware of the writer's significance to this blog, Colin Freeman was the journalist who first broke the story of the disappearance of contractor Kirk von Ackermann.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Evidence - physical and other

Thinking out loud about what, if any, physical evidence might still be available to investigators looking into the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick.

For what it's worth....
Aerial footage - recorded by any of the more than 500 unmanned aerial vehicles operating in Iraq in 2003

Base Access Records - showing entrance and exit to/from bases under US control in Iraq

Audio recordings - of satellite and cell phone calls, incoming and outgoing (from intercepts of the National Security Agency)

Inventory - review of Kirk von Ackermann's personal belongings - including his notebook as well as determining what was missing

Background check - of passing patrol and/or check point personnel who first arrived on the scene

Ultra Services communications - from the web server including emails and records, also who had superuser access to server
Mechanics - interviews with area mechanics, especially at FOB Pacesetter and Camp Anaconda, to see if anyone remembers von Ackermann was seeking to get his tire fixed

Additional Reading

Army Regulation 195–5 (PDF)
Criminal Investigation
Evidence Procedures
Department of the Army
Washington, DC
June 25, 2007

Friday, March 05, 2010

Foreign Affairs Manual - hostage and missing

The US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) includes sections on hostages and missing persons that I thought were worth including here.

U.S. Department of State

Foreign Affairs Manual

I'm of the opinion that the US government should have a dedicated office for hostage affairs/missing persons of US citizens abroad. It would have a core of permanent staff in addition to representatives from US government agencies such as the FBI, Department of State, Department of Defense (POW-MIA, Casualty Affairs, Criminal Investigation Division, etc). One of the things the office should be responsible for is coordinating regulations and reporting requirements by publishing an annual manual.

Just a thought.

Monday, March 01, 2010

1457 Civilian Contractors Have Died in Iraq

AP reporting 1,457 civilian employees have died in Iraq as of December 31, 2010. The article doesn't include information on kidnappings and/or missing Americans.

It's worth pointing out something peculiar about that particular figure of 1,457: it's apparently been revised down from 1,459 reported in February. (Not sure what that means in terms of where the discrepancy originated.)

Iraq: Key figures since the war began
By The Associated Press, March 1, 2010
Deaths of civilian employees of US government contractors as of December 31, 2009: 1,457.
Also see:

Iraq: Key figures since the war began (link expired)
By The Associated Press, Washington Post, February 1, 2010
Deaths of civilian employees of U.S. government contractors as of December 31, 2009: 1,459