Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Gossip Grapevine or the Anatomy of a Lie

Still wandering through the piles of my research files on the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick.

One of the topics I'd like to cover is email - specifically some background on the ultra-services.com email server. You know what small offices are like - everyone loves the water cooler gossip. Well, taking things a step further, there is a very good chance someone was intercepting and reading Ultra Services email. At a later date, I'll walk readers through all of the technical research that lays out the details and who I think was involved in the snooping but for now, I'm just going to provide a general overview.

Ultra Services had a website and used company email. The website was ultra-services.com and the company email addresses were john@ultra-services.com, ryan@ultra-services.com, charles@ultra-services.com, kirk@ultra-services.com, etc. It was a pretty basic set up.

The IP address for ultra-services.com was a co-located server in Turkey. Because of the domains associated within that specific block of addresses back in 2003, it's fairly easy to deduce that some if not all of the Turkish colleagues who were involved with Ultra Services had easy access to others emails - both incoming and outgoing.

For those who are too confused by the above tech talk, the shorter version is this - all of the company email passed through a co-located server that pretty much looked like it was controlled by the Turkish 'partner' in Ultra Services. Ownership and control of a co-located server makes it very easy to set up automatic forwarding and/or archiving of emails as they go in and out. No one would know about it unless they were in on the secret. This is standard operating procedure at large multi-national companies, especially defense contractors. But I doubt most of the American employees at Ultra Services would have given it much thought back in 2003.

Now why is this important? Why should it matter if a bunch of the Turkish employees were sniffing around their colleagues emails? Well, from what I've pieced together from various stories I've heard over the years, frankly, I think someone was lying.

While I can't go into detail at this time, it is my belief that some of the content in those emails was passed on to Army investigators as fact when in truth, the content was a fabrication. Those fabrications may have ultimately lead investigators to put together a false picture - a picture that I worry sidetracked the investigation into the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and eventually misdirected the investigation into Ryan Manelick's murder.

Let me walk you through what I am trying to describe.



Hypothetical scenario. Imagine the following chain of events...
Email from Person A to Person B
Person A: Hey, I think something funny is up. I saw John with someone suspicious and I think he passed something under the table to the guy he was meeting with. I bet it was a kickback for a contract.
Person C reads the email and shares it with another colleague, Person D. Person C also reports the story to Army investigators - as first hand fact - that John was seen handing envelopes to a suspicious man.

Army investigators question everyone at Ultra Services. Person D feeling self important  confirms the story as first-hand fact. Person B tells investigators he heard about it from Person A.

Army investigators ask Person A about the story. Person A is caught in a bind so for whatever reasons, he lies a second time and tells Army investigators the story is true.  
Maybe I am the one who is exaggerating. After all, it's not like I have cold hard scientific facts at hand. However, there are at least three 'stories' that I am aware of that I have good reason to believe were based on gross exaggeration and/or fabrication.  While I do have a fantastic imagination, I worry that the original repeating of some of these email stories as truth - rather than at most just idle gossip picked up around the office - may have severely misdirected investigators.

By way of a more concrete example, here's one of the stories:

One More Story
By Megan von Ackermann, Missing in Iraq, December 13, 2006
It was months after Kirk went missing, and there were CID agents in our livingroom. We were all sitting around the table, two dark-suited men, my mother and I. It had been a long and strange conversation. There are any number of stories that could come out of it, but there's just one I want to tell right now.

It was nearly the end of the whole interview. They had been kind, calm, reserved but suddenly they were uncomfortable. They shifted in their chairs and exchanged a look. Finally one cleared his throat.

There was one more thing, something that might be hard...

I didn't know what to think. If they knew what had happened to Kirk surely they would have said something at the start, not waited until the very end of a couple of hours of talk. Months of horrible imagined scenes came quickly to mind.

... there was talk (he said) ... someone had mentioned ... a Russian woman that Kirk might have become friends with.
The above actually ties in with this bit of information from Colin Freeman's very first article in the UK Telegraph:

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 [von Ackermann] 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.
In more blunt terms: Kirk von Ackermann was rumored to be having an affair with a Russian hostess who worked at a club in Istanbul. Some immigrant Russian women were known to work in Istanbul as prostitutes for pimps who held their passports hostage. Until they buy back their passports, they are essentially trapped. There was speculation that the 'hostess' was actually Russian intelligence trying to recruit American contractors who were working in Iraq. My understanding is investigators never located the woman or the club. Most likely, because she didn't exist.

Now imagine an entire criminal investigation driven on this kind of rumor and innuendo....

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