Saturday, March 31, 2012

Defense Base Act

The Department of Labor Office of Workers' Compensation Programs now has sortable tables of their summaries of Defense Base Act claims, including one by Employer:

Defense Base Act Case Summary by Employer

The data below reflects the number of claims cases created under the DBA for the time period specified, sorted by Employer. [...] The columns show the different Case Types: NLT ( no lost time), LTO (lost time 3 days or less), LT4 (lost time 4 days or more), DEA (death), COP (salary continuation), OTH (other or unknown).
Employers with fewer than 7 claims are not listed. Therefor, Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick's employer, Ultra Services is not listed.

When I first started researching the Defense Base Act, there was a significant lack of information available - including basics like what the acronyms stood for. So it's nice to see the Department of Labor website is now much more easy to navigate and chock full of information.

One frustration - how many contractors and their families did not file timely Defense Base Act claims simply because they didn't know the law existed? Not just a hypothetical, it's definitely happened.

Defense Base Act Case Summary Reports
US Department of Labor
Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP)
Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rand Michael Hultz Released

Murky information so far but all the same great news about the release of a previously unknown American hostage.

Press reports identify him so far as Randy or Rand Michael Hultz, abducted in Iraq on June 18, 2011, released to the UN in Iraq and has arrived at the US Embassy in Iraq. Brief mention in the following article of possibly two more unknown American hostages.

U.S. man released to U.N. after being held in Iraq
Detroit Free Press, March 17, 2012
Sadrist officials said Hultz was taken into the Green Zone immediately after the press conference and turned over to the United Nations mission in Iraq. U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri confirmed that the man was at the mission's compound Saturday night while the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad tried to verify his identity.

He was transferred to the U.S. Embassy late Saturday, spokesman Michael McClellan said.

Even Iraqi security forces were taken aback at the announcement. A senior Iraqi security official said intelligence indicated that the Promised Day Brigade had captured an American, but did not have enough reliable information to confirm it.

The official said two other Americans who worked as contractors for security firms still are being held by militants. He did not elaborate, and spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
At one point, there was a vague reference in a news report of an abduction in the summer of 2008 but no further information was ever released. Perhaps this is related.

Also see:

Militants Free American No One Knew Was Missing
By Jack Healy, New York Times, March 17, 2012

Americans Missing in Iraq - chart is updated as new information becomes available

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Television Review

Below is a link to a rather fascinating review of two new television shows that center around hostages. Fascinating because there are aspects of both stories that hit close to home.

In this case compelling stories make great television - but the fiction just scratches the surface of what in reality borders on mind blowing. Truth will always be stranger than fiction. There is so much more to the story than just the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of his colleague, Ryan Manelick. More than is ever likely to make it to print or screen.

Rewind TV: Homeland; Kidnap and Ransom; Melvyn Bragg on Class and Culture – review
By Andrew Anthony, The Observer, February 25, 2012

Scriptwriters the world over must have been shaking their heads with the defeated recognition of tinderbox makers who have just seen their first matchstick. It's one thing to place a character in the isolation of unique knowledge – that's an old Hitchcock trick, opening the way for all manner of paranoia-testing trials. But how much smarter to burden that character with psychotic tendencies, so that we can't be sure that what she thinks she's seeing is actually what's happening, and therefore we can't be sure of anything.

That's the intriguing predicament in which Claire Danes's Carrie Mathison places the viewer. She's a CIA agent who, as a colleague notes, "is a little intense" and, even by her own reckoning, has a problem with a "mood disorder", but who in fact is bipolar and may be in the grip of a manic episode.
If only they knew...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

NCTC missing 2010 Kidnapping

One of my ongoing projects is trying to find as much information as possible for the status table of Americans Missing in Iraq.

Every so often, I have to check in with the annual Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism. The National Counterterrorism Center typically provides statistical data for the annual reports beginning more or less with 2005. The data for 2008 is (sort of) missing and the link for 2004 is bad. Still, it's a good starting place, for comparing reported kidnappings between the Country Reports and the leaked SIGACT reports.
U.S. Department of State
Country Reports on Terrorism
The most recent Country Reports on Terrorism for 2010 from the Department of State were issued on August 18, 2011.
Terrorism Deaths, Injuries, Kidnappings of Private U.S. Citizens, 2010
Country Reports on Terrorism 2010
US Department of State
August 18, 2011
The report shows no known kidnappings in 2010 - which is surprising because an Iraqi American contractor, Issa T. Salomi, of El Cajon, California was kidnapped by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian backed insurgent group in Baghdad on January 23, 2010. Salomi was released in exchange for four militants in Iraqi detention on March 25, 2010.

Salomi was reported to be an 'Army civilian employee' by the Department of Defense. In theory, that should make him eligible for inclusion in the data, unless Asaib Ahl al-Haq is not classified as a Terrorist organization. Which I would have thought they were given that they kidnap people and then make political demands. I must be missing something here.

That's not the only oddity in all of this - in an article about Salomi's kidnapping, Officials confirm kidnapping of U.S. contractor in Iraq, authors Ernesto Londoño and Leila Fadel wrote:
The abduction of contractor Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., marks the first reported kidnapping of an American in Iraq since the summer of 2008. [emphasis mine]
But as of yet, I have not found one single reported kidnapping of an American in Iraq in 2008, anywhere.

Country Reports on Terrorism for 2008 is missing the data page for Terrorism Deaths, Injuries, Kidnappings of Private US Citizens. A pie chart in the 2008 Report on Terrorism at the National Counterterrorism Center shows only 4 kidnappings for that year - 3 in Afghanistan and 1 in Panama.

I like my data neat, clean, and tidy. And here I have 2 years of Kidnapping Reports from the National Counterterrorism Center that both fail and 1 more a little suspect.

It's little details like this that make me worry I've stumbled on some sort of Cuckoo's Egg. If you don't know the story, it's the discovery of a real life hacker who was selling nuclear secrets to the KGB. He was eventually caught, and all because of a 75 cent accounting error.

Tidy data does matter.

By Leila Fadel, Washington Post, March 28, 2010

Officials confirm kidnapping of U.S. contractor in Iraq
By Ernesto Londoño and Leila Fadel, Washington Post, February 6, 2010