US Navy Scandal–The Man with the Golden Silencer

By Jay Holmes

In November of 2013, the US Navy made public an investigation into the questionable purchase of firearms silencers* for US Navy SEAL Team 6. The silencers were for use with AK type weapons, such as the venerable Kalashnikov AK-47**. They were also to be “untraceable,” which is easily achieved by using simple, non-American designs without a serial number system or trademarks.

 

Beloved US Navy SEALs Image by Dept. of Defense, public domain

Beloved US Navy SEALs
Image by Dept. of Defense, public domain

 

So why would the grumpy US Navy inspectors be upset by the purchase of a few AK silencers for our beloved sailors in SEAL 6? Don’t the killers of Osama Bin Laden deserve to have the equipment they need? Sure, they do. But there were a few problematic details with these particular silencers.

First, nobody at SEAL 6 knew anything about the silencers in question. They never requested them, and they never received any of them.

Second, the Navy paid $1,600,000 for 349 silencers of the lowest imaginable quality. In fact, the silencers that my kids made for their third grade science projects were better quality.

Third, the order was completed with a no-bid contract given to a bankrupt auto mechanic, who just happens to be the brother of the civilian Navy Intelligence employee that requested the funds for the silencers.

In the spring of 2014, the US Attorney General’s office joined the US Navy in the investigation and brought the case before a federal judge. On October 30, US Judge Leonie Brinkema handed down a guilty verdict against two defendants, civilian Navy Intelligence official Lee Hall and auto mechanic Mark Landesman. Both are due to appear for sentencing in January 2015.

The disposition of two other civilian Navy employees is as yet unclear. Perhaps they were volunteered for target practice for SEAL 6. Well, probably not, but it’s always fun to imagine such things where people have indulged in such base corruption.

One marvelous piece of evidence that helped prosecutors was the fact that one defendant, the contracted mechanic Mark Landesman, was either too unskilled or too lazy to make the simple, low quality silencers himself. He instead subcontracted the work to a legitimate machinist and paid the machinist $8,000. That little detail fixed a clear value for the manufacturing of the silencers. There was no explaining away the $1,600,000 payment made by the Navy to Landesman.

One of the saddest things about this case is that, in spite of how lame their conspiracy was, they nearly got away with it. When US Special Forces need silencers, they don’t have to hire unemployed auto mechanics to make them. There are plenty of well-vetted contractors available that routinely supply such items.

I was half hoping that the defense team would roll out the old “this was really a CIA Black Ops job” defense ploy. It might have made the defendants eligible to be tried for Patriot Act violations, and then they would now be on extended all expenses paid vacations at a remote location in the Pacific Ocean, waiting for their preliminary hearing dates in the year 2090.

In this particular instance, though, we will have to settle for sentences ranging from five to fifteen years for the two guilty scammers and hope that the other two culprits don’t walk away untouched. SEAL 6 does indeed need lots of expensive items. So does every other group in the US military. But when traitors steal the taxpayers’ money, it damages national security.

Since 2010, the Navy has increased its efforts at preventing fraud and misallocation of resources. This case is probably the result of those efforts. With so many billions of dollars being spent on national defense, you can bet that plenty more scam artists will continue to do their best to rob you of your tax dollars. Let us hope that the Pentagon will continue to refine their defense against fraud.

*In the case of an AK-47, the term “suppressor” is generally more apt than “silencer,” but this story is referenced at other sites throughout the internet using the term “silencer.” For the sake of clarity and consistency, we have done the same.

**US military forces at times opt to use various non-American weapons for a range of operations.

Lone Survivor–Real SEALs and Unanswered Questions

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Lone Survivor Movie Poster

Lone Survivor is a movie about the 2005 Afghanistan mission, Operation Red Wings, in which a four-man team of Navy SEALs was tasked with scouting out Ahmad Shah—a terrorist leader aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEALs were compromised when local goat herders stumbled over them, and they were ambushed shortly thereafter. Three of the SEALs were eventually killed, along with sixteen more special operations operatives who were coming to their rescue. Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor, and the movie is based on his book about the mission.

image by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0 wikimedia commons

image by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0
wikimedia commons

The four SEALs were played by Mark Wahlberg (Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch (Lt. Michael Murphy), Emile Hirsch (Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Deitz), and Ben Foster (Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew Axelson). The movie was written by Peter Berg, Marcus Luttrell, and Patrick Robinson, and directed by Peter Berg.

Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz image from U.S. Navy

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz
image from U.S. Navy

Bayard:

The acting and production were excellent, and by all reports from veterans, the look, feel, spirit, and heart of the movie were accurate right down to the varying sounds of the rifles and the brass. Only a short portion of the movie was purely contrived to satisfy the demands of storytelling structure, but it was irrelevant to the main story of these extraordinary men, and it did not detract from the cinematic experience of this very real event in Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror.

Lt. Michael Murphy and STG2 Matthew Axelson image by U.S. Navy

Lt. Michael Murphy and STG2 Matthew Axelson
image by U.S. Navy

Holmes:

In my opinion, minors or those who have a low tolerance for vivid combat scenes should not see Lone Survivor. The movie is very detailed in its violence. However, in this case, we cannot call that violence gratuitous because it really happened. Excluding it would have made the movie a pure fantasy.

The production values were high. Even the fast-moving combat scenes were filmed with attention to detail. The film crew, lighting crew, and sound editing crew earned their paychecks.

Actors Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and  Emile Hirsch image from Lone Survivor movie

Actors Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch
image from Lone Survivor movie

My one technical criticism would be that the music was overdone at times for my taste. When fighting the Taliban in the mountains, there was no music to help shape the emotions and responses of the four Navy SEALS involved in the main mission. I suppose that when moviegoers pay $13.00 to see a war movie, the folks in Hollywood know that nobody will leave satisfied if they get a “realistic” piece of war without some emotional music thrown in.

image from Lone Survivor movie

image from Lone Survivor movie

The acting and directing were excellent. I have the impression that the entire crew worked hard to produce Lone Survivor. I am glad that they did. The men that the story is about deserved that.

The movie gives a brief view of the dull routine of living in the noisy, tedious reality of life for troops in a plywood-and-canvas base in Afghanistan, followed by the hell that awaits them when they step out of that life in Plywoodville. The troops don’t complain about Plywoodville. It’s a serious upgrade from the unsanitary conditions in Dustville, that town outside their base. Since Lone Survivor is a (mostly) true story about real people experiencing a real hell, giving them a warmer and more cheerful “normal” day would have been dishonest. It is best that we see their reality for what it is.

Bagram Air Base image from U.S. Air Force

Bagram Air Base
image from U.S. Air Force

However, the obvious, very real, billion-dollar-a-week questions are not even hinted at in this movie. Why did these men lack airborne communications support? Why were they fighting with so little available back up? What the hell is going on when we send men on such dangerous deep missions with so little resources? And where the hell are all those billions going in Afghanistan?

Lone Survivor was clearly not intended to touch on those vital public policy issues, but the movie did do a good job of hinting at what those four Navy SEALs went through in that brief portion of their service to the United States of America. For that slice of reality, I am grateful.

From left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings.

From left to right, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif; Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, N.H.; Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nev.; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, N.Y. With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wings.

Bayard & Holmes Rating: .44 Magnum

For those that want a glance at the war in Afghanistan from a warrior’s point of view, this movie deserves a .44 Magnum rating—our highest. It was fully worth the $13.00. For those who don’t wish to glance at that dark reality of operations in Afghanistan, stay home and watch the usual half-assed reporting about it on your television.

No Easy Day, Just an Easy Paycheck

By Jay Holmes

As most folks know by now, on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 author “Mark Owen” will release “No Easy Day,” a first hand account of the Osama Bin Laden mission. I have not read the book and will not guess at the veracity of its contents, but I find the controversy surrounding the release of the book rather interesting.

image from amazon.com

The author is a US Navy SEAL who was on the mission to kill (or capture) Osama Bin Laden. My guess is that the average American and many Europeans will be anxious to read about the details of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. The author apparently made that assumption as well and proceeded to write and publish his book. Some members of the SEALs have expressed their displeasure over the release of the book and have stated that they feel the author has violated the SEALs’ rule of never revealing secrets about their missions.

About two weeks ago, I became aware that the Pentagon was “concerned” about the release of the book because the book had not gone through its review process—a process which the Pentagon routinely requires for books about military operations, procedures, facilities, equipment, etc. that are published by members and ex-members of the US military. A Pentagon spokesman even mentioned that the Pentagon wished it COULD review the book prior to its release. Apparently, the mere Pentagon with its military judicial system, backed up by the US Justice Department, is helpless in the face of an author and a publishing company and could only WISH to see the book before its then-projected September 11 release date.

Is this the same Pentagon that routinely invites people to vacation in Guantanamo, Cuba so it can ask whatever questions it or the CIA might have on their numerous and well financed minds? Am I to believe that the same Pentagon that commands the greatest military force in history has been left begging to review a book before its release, while media members stroll through fashionable Georgetown restaurants flashing their copies? It’s summertime. Perhaps a few hundred thousand people in the military and at the Justice Department have all gone on extended vacation, and the Pentagon simply can’t get anyone to answer the phone. Maybe they forgot to pay the bill and the phones are shut off.

Maybe. But maybe not. The Pentagon, the Justice Department, and the White House, along with lots of other government agencies, have always proven themselves quite agile when it comes to reviewing and redacting books before publication, and even suppressing books after publication. In fact, their willingness to redact has nearly rendered the Freedom of Information Act useless. But I’ll save my personal anger over those black ink wielding clowns in Washington for another day.

On August 30, 2012 a Pentagon spokesman, apparently just returned from a long vacation or an exceedingly long nap, announced that the Pentagon will use “all legal means available” to do something about “No Easy Day,” but they haven’t quite figured out what that might be. Apparently, too many folks have not yet returned from their vacations. My point today is that I simply can’t buy the helplessness that the Pentagon is presenting to the public concerning “No Easy Day.”

So what’s with all the theatrics? Is someone in the White House or Pentagon hoping to drive up sales of the book? Why would they do that? What politician, if any, will be assisted by the publication of “No Easy Day”? I have no idea. I suppose that I will have to grit my teeth, pay for a copy and then decide.  I haven’t convinced myself to take the bait. I still haven’t recovered from the indignity of paying to see “The Bourne Legacy,” and I don’t want to be duped by what might turn out to be “One Easy Political Scam.” Who knows? Perhaps it’s a great book without any hidden agendas. Time will tell.

I suppose that I will eventually cave in and read the book. In the meantime, I would love to know what the hell is going on over at the Pentagon when they can’t lay their hands on a copy of a book or remember how to “invite” someone in for a frank conversation about the rules. If this is really the state of affairs in the Pentagon, then someone’s mother or the taxpayers should take away all of their expensive and dangerous toys until they remember how to behave like grown up bureaucrats.

Interestingly, since the Pentagon announced its “concerns” and made a great show of public hand-wringing, sales of “No Easy Day” have soared to well over half a million. My writing partner and I are thinking there’s a great a marketing opportunity in this for some of us thriller authors. After all, having the Pentagon upset about our book would be more publicity than we could ever afford to purchase for ourselves.

Therefore, we hereby officially announce that our current work in progress will include titillating and previously untold facts concerning how a special forces team kidnapped Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and installed a puppet alien life form to rule in his place. We will also reveal details about how the Pentagon has created a portable black hole device that can suck in cash at a velocity greater than the speed of light. Only those who buy our book will ever know these great national secrets, and we certainly hope for the sake of our sales that the Pentagon will wake up in time to express its anxiety about the fact that we did not ask them to review it first.

Top Secret preview from our upcoming book, the actual alien life form known as Hugo Chavez captured on film by David Shankbone.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

Rescue Mission and Upping the Stakes in Somalia

By HOLMES

Yesterday, we received the pleasant news that a Navy SEAL team freed two kidnapping victims in Somalia, Poul Hagen Thisted and Jessica Buchanan.

I wish to express my gratitude to all of the members of the rescue team and to the many supporting units that made the rescue possible. Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Very well done. I am also grateful that the President made the decision to authorize the attempt.

A rescue team parachuted near a compound at night, walked to the compound, and killed the pirates. Then, helicopters picked up the rescuers and the victims and left.

There is never a guarantee that the victims will not be killed before the rescue can be affected. The President decided to order that the risk be taken, in part because one of the captives, an American named Jessica Buchanan, was ill and possibly in danger of dying of an infection.

One pleasant improvement over the press releases about this rescue as compared to the Osama removal operation is that, so far, fewer details are being released. My preference would be to not even state that Navy SEALS were involved, but instead simply say, “The US Military and its allies conducted a successful rescue of two kidnap victims in Somalia yesterday, and all nine pirates were killed without loss to the rescue team or the victims.” Which units? How many rescuers? How did they do it? Which allies? They did it with magic fairy dust and a light saber. Leave the world guessing.

There have been some interesting comments by members of the media in response to the rescue. One commentator focused on the fact that the US and its allies rarely visit the locations where the pirates are in Somalia. True. In my view, a few more unannounced visits by unidentified US military units would go a long way toward reducing piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Pirates have been left to live safely and comfortably in their warrens for too long, and many of them are increasing their inventories of military equipment. Saudi Arabia has openly accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of training and supplying the pirates. This would be consistent with the IRG’s past conduct, and consistent with its long-standing policy of supporting terrorism against nearly anyone.

The pirates have, in a couple of recent cases, used highly sophisticated electronics equipment to track and identify targets. It’s not the sort of equipment that one normally sees at garage sales in Somalia.

The equipment and training might, in fact, be coming from IRG units. The Iranian government would likely deny any allegations, but the IRG does not take orders from the Iranian “government.” They take orders from their own leadership and the simple-minded, bogus religious leaders who they support. These are no longer the Revolutionary Guards thugs of the eighties.

The mullahs may understand a limited number of things about the world beyond their personal harems and hash dens, but they have always clearly understood that normal Iranians would not indefinitely tolerate the sort of abuse that they intended to dish out. To deal with the fact that they have always known they deserved to be stoned to death by their countrymen, they have consistently poured oil revenues into expanding the IRG and improving its capabilities.

The mullahs have succeeded in their goal. The IRG is now very large and very capable. The one draw back to that strategy is the same one that Hitler had to deal with on “The Night of the Long Knives” in Germany on June 30, 1934. Hitler’s Nazi paramilitary, the SA, and its senior members had become too powerful, and it became a threat to the very man who it was supposed to be working for. Hitler had to use his other state police organizations to quickly wipe out Ernst Rohm, the leader of the SA, and disband his many followers.

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any pending IRG plots to replace the quirky mullahs who run Iran. It is, however, operating with increasing independence from its own unified command system, and that makes it more likely that the IRG is supplying the pirates.

The other source of weapons and technical support for the pirates is wealthy businessmen in the region. Certain wealthy businessmen are reputed to be supporting the pirates with the intent of the pirates conducting more lucrative raids and sharing the profits with them.

Given that most wealthy Middle Eastern businessmen live above the law (whatever small bit of law there may be in their country) this is a possibility. The fact that some pirates have now been operating out of Yemen supports this notion. Also, two hijackings have recently taken place far outside of the anti-pirate patrol area off of the coast of Somalia, which indicates that the pirates are vastly improving their operational capabilities.

The common thread among pirates of various culture groups is that they like profit and dislike loss. They especially dislike the loss of their own lives. By operating against pirate bases in Somalia and Yemen whenever the mood moves them to do so, the US military could, at a low cost in dollars and lives (our lives), change the profit/risk ratio in the pirating business in the Indian Ocean.

Most pirates are not suicidal. In my opinion it’s long been time to up the stakes.

We. Are. At. War.

By Piper Bayard

My heart is heavy today thinking about our soldiers killed when our enemies brought down their Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan last week. Seventeen Navy SEALs, five conventional forces, three Air Force forward air controllers, five Army helicopter crew members, and eight Afghan military personnel. I did not know them, but I know others of their ilk. To a person, they are the most honorable, high-minded people I’ve ever met. To lose these devoted men to an enemy attack is not only a tragedy for their families and friends, it is a tragedy for every American.

The Current Administration is busy sending ever more Special Forces to Afghanistan, while pulling out “regular” troops. They are doing this as a way to cook the personnel books for the upcoming election. The theory is that one Special Forces soldier is the equivalent of two “regular” troops. The Current Administration wants to be able to win votes by saying, “We have reduced our forces in Afghanistan.” That doesn’t mean we have achieved half of our as-yet-to-be-defined goal in that country. It means that much of the American public wants Afghanistan to go away, and politicians are in the business of making people think they are getting what they want.

This completely ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a “regular” soldier. Each and every job in the military is important, from the supply clerks stateside to the deployed infantry, artillery, medics, and cooks, every soldier is important to the functioning of the whole. Special Forces are trained as Special Forces. They have a specific function. They aren’t a distillation of our military; they are one part of a diversely trained, functioning military. Therefore, to “reduce our presence in Afghanistan” and try to fill the gap with Special Forces is the same as saying, “Your left leg is really strong so we’re going to cut off your right leg.”

This is my Two Cents. I’m calling out our Current Administration for putting its political interests above the interests of our nation, and above the interests of the men and women who serve our country.

We are at war. Our enemies are Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I would ask you, Current Administration, what is our specific goal? It hardly takes a student of military history to know that a war can’t be completed if there is no defined goal, and I and others have yet to hear one. And no. While “protecting the American people” is a politician’s answer, it is not a specific military goal.

Also, every Al-Qaeda and Taliban dollar comes from opium or oil—either the opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, or the oil dollars coming in from their sympathizers. If we cut off their funding, we eliminate their relevance on the planet.

I would ask you, Current Administration, what are you doing to eliminate the opium production in Afghanistan? I know you engage people to encourage farmers to grow soybeans instead of poppies. But is it just an option you give them? Or do you destroy the existing poppy fields? Do you have buyers for those soybeans? Do you take on the drug lords as the full allies of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban?

And more, what are we doing to eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? We only get around 20% of our oil from the Middle East (U.S. Energy Information Administration). Surely we can cut back our usage and develop alternative fuels by that much. We’re hardly on a petroleum shoestring in this country.

Current Administration, you are telling us to buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend, and the war is something happening “over there.” We don’t need to look back past World War II to see that, when you transmit that message, you are not behaving like an Administration at war.

Our nation is not behaving like a nation at war.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to step up and accept responsibility for the fact that we are, indeed, at war. Send whatever troops, equipment, and ordnance are necessary to root out our enemies. Stop cooking the personnel books for your election image.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to ruthlessly destroy the poppy fields and the drug lords of Afghanistan without apology, and to commit to long-term, Marshall Plan style reconstruction in Afghanistan, as we did with Japan and Germany. Fill the vacuum left behind by the elimination of the criminal enterprise with viable options people can actually eat and sell on the open market, and prevent a re-infestation of criminal, extremist vermin.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to not allow oil from any Middle Eastern countries to be marketed in America, unless those countries openly, consistently, and unapologetically stand as our steadfast allies against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and all Islamic extremists.

And I challenge us as Americans to behave as a nation at war and reduce our gasoline consumption, as our grandparents did in WWII. If we cut our oil consumption by 20% and wholeheartedly develop alternatives, we will need nothing from the Middle East.

Take a moment and imagine how different our Middle Eastern policy would be if those countries were no more relevant to us than Easter Island. Isn’t that worth a few bicycle rides? A bit of car-pooling and public transportation?

If our Current Administration and we, as a nation, accept responsibility for the fact that we are at war, . . . if we develop the WWII mindset that each and every one of us is responsible for the war effort, . . . Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will dry up and shrivel into footnotes in our children’s history books. America’s strength has always been in her independence. I call on us all to remember who we are.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with our deployed troops, and with the families, friends, and commanders of the fallen. May our country step up and do them justice.

What’s your Two Cents about our Current Administration replacing our “regular” soldiers with half as many Special Forces?

Click here to learn more about the men our enemies killed last week.

All the best to all of you for a week of independence.