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.

On Sext and Empires

By Jay Holmes

Okay, folks. Fess up. Did you “sext” anyone last week for Valentine’s Day?

For those of you who are older than Congressman Anthony Wiener and don’t read scandal sheets, let me explain “sexting.” It’s basically a text with a sexually explicit message or picture. It has superseded the old-fashioned, tried-and-true misguided email as the current best way to get yourself fired, divorced, or found by the US Marshall’s office. No more waiting for someone to check their email. Now, you can enjoy the instant calamity of text trouble.

So fess up. Did you “sext” last week?

Anthony Weiner with his flag up. image by Thomas Good, wikimedia

Anthony Weiner with his flag up.
image by Thomas Good, wikimedia

For those of you not familiar with Congressman Weiner—his parents gave him that name, not me—let me explain the short version of his sexting scandal. He was a congressman. Weiner liked texting. He also liked Facebook. Weiner got stupid, or perhaps just let his stupidity rise to the surface, and he sent a mild sext message to a 21-year-old college student. Somewhere in his sexting adventures, he sent a link to a picture of himself in boxer shorts while he was . . . saluting. If you want clarification, you’ll have to google that image for yourself. I’m not about to look.

The press found out and made it a huge story. To hell with minor insignificant details like billions of dollars and thousands of lives being spent on wars, mortgage corporations and banks destroying the economy, trillions of bogus taxpayer financed bailouts, or skyrocketing unemployment. But an excited congressman in boxers? That’s the important news, right? Weiner resigned. I don’t know what his wife said or did to him but I’m mot going to ask him. As long as he doesn’t send me any pictures of himself naked, I’m perfectly content to leave him alone.

So many of you will remember Weiner and his . . . well, you know. But I’d like to take a moment to remember another indiscrete message that did more than tumble a young congressman from power. One bad little message that got shared with an entire country and helped bring down an empire.

So what sort of wild, kinky message could bring down an empire? If you would like to read the actual message you will find it in US State Department file number 302022, group number 59. You’ll discover that it’s not all that “kinky,” but it is pretty wild.

In the winter of 1917, World War One raged in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Millions of Africans, Austrians, Belgians, Croatians, English, French, Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Luxembourgers, Portuguese, Russians, Serbians, and Turks were already killed or mutilated, and the war had settled into a bloody and expensive stalemate. The US had thus far maintained its anti-war neutral stance. Woodrow Wilson had, in fact, won re-election in 1916 on a simple “He Kept us Out of the War” campaign.

In desperation to counter the Royal Navy’s effective blockade of Germany and Austria, Germany repudiated the restrictions on submarine warfare that it had agreed to. This meant that neutral ships, including US ships, were now at risk.

Many of us were taught in grammar school that the German submarine attack on and sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania was a major factor in the US joining the war on the allied side. It wasn’t. The Lusitania was sunk in 1915. In the winter of 1917, the US still had not joined the war.

In January of 1917, the German government realized that lifting restrictions on U-Boat targets might possibly incite the US to join the war. They were worried that an influx of more American material and military strength would tip the balance against the Axis Powers (Austria-Hungary and Germany). At this time, the Germans were already supporting communist revolutionaries in Russia to collapse the Russian Army on the Eastern Front. They eventually succeeded. In late 1916, the Germans devised a slick plan to prevent the US from sending troops to aid the allies on the Western Front.

On January 16, 1917, German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann made the biggest mistake of his life. Trusting in the strength of the German diplomatic cypher system, he sent a coded Western Union Telegram to Germany’s Ambassador to Mexico Heinrich von Ekardt. It instructed Ekardt to negotiate a war alliance with Mexico against the US. Once the US declared war on Germany, Mexico would invade the US with Germany’s help. Mexico would in turn receive back Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. It was a nice little plan that relied on precise timing and the enthusiasm of Mexico. Mexico was not enthused.

Zimmermann Telegram, 1917National Archives and Records Administration

Zimmermann Telegram, 1917
National Archives and Records Administration

As expected, Great Britain intercepted the message. As was not expected, the British deciphered it. In January, when Germany announced a return to unrestricted submarine warfare, the US broke diplomatic ties with that country.

On February 24, 1917, Great Britain presented copies of the original and the deciphered messages to the US.

On March 1 of that year, US newspapers ran the story. With many Americans already angry at Germany’s renewed policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, the message threw gasoline on the flames of American opinion.

On April 6, the US declared war on Germany. The anticipated help from the US was slow to arrive, but eventually, my grandfather and several of his Marine pals, along with some American soldiers and pilots, showed up to the Western Front in time to help tip the balance against the exhausted Germans.

Clearly, Zimmermann would have been better off sending a sext message to some young Mexican Señorita. His wife might have found out and done a “Brunhilda Gotterdammerung” special on him, but Germany might have been able to sign a more favorable peace with the allies, and could have possibly avoided Hitler’s rise to power on the backs of starving, embittered German veterans, widows, and orphans.

So, whatever your worst ever text, email, or phone message indiscretion was this Valentine’s Day, you can share it with us. You could not possibly have done anything worse than Zimmermann did so go ahead and fess up. Though we can’t speak for your significant other or your employer, we’ll still love you.

Why General Petraeus Had to Resign

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

CIA Director General David Petraeus resigned three days after the election due to an illicit Hokey Pokey round with his female biographer, Major Paula Broadwell. Many people have approached us with the question, “Why did General Petraeus have to resign? So he got a little strange on the side. Clinton got a lot of strange, and he never left office.” We can only comment on what we know or think we know. Just like most of you, the FBI doesn’t share their files with us.

General David Petraeus and Major Paula Broadwell, image from US Navy

So why did General Petraeus have to resign? An excellent question. The short answer is, “Because he was the Director of the CIA, and the CIA is in charge of our nation’s secrets.”

I know. I can hear your confusion now. “But I thought the incumbent administration and the mainstream press were in charge of keeping secrets during an election year.”

A superb observation, and you have good reason to be confused.  *cough, cough, Benghazi, cough, cough*  We are all within our senses to question the timing of the General’s resignation—only three days after the election—when the FBI had the information well before the election. Can’t have that little scandal casting aspersions so close to the vote, can we? We’ll let you talk amongst yourselves on that one.

But beyond the timing of the resignation, this is simply a case of a man spending too much time with a lady whose only purpose in life was to record his stories and admire his deeds. Apparently, she admired him in every way she could. We’re guessing if she’d been a lesbian or happily married, or if his biographer was a dude, General Petraeus would still be the CIA Director, and his wife would not be ready to shove him through a wood chipper right now for his infidelities.

But why did he have to resign?

When it comes to security and trustworthiness, it’s all about shame. Are people doing things they are ashamed of? If yes, that means they can be blackmailed. People who can be blackmailed are a far greater risk to national security than people who are shamelessly immoral.

For example, certain communities of individuals with high security clearances in isolated locations have quite the swingers clubs going. It’s no big deal to security, though, because their spouses are part of the action. They can all share indiscretions with their neighbors and friends in any number of ways we shall not dwell upon, and it is no threat to the nation’s security because they are open about it. They are unashamed and cannot be blackmailed over their behavior.

To go back to the Clinton comparison, Clinton was shamelessly immoral. He lied to his wife, to Congress, and to the American people without blinking. Monica Lewinsky was not his first extramarital playmate, and she probably hasn’t been his last. He was well-practiced in the art of enjoying his side dishes, and he was confident that while Hillary might not be happy about it, she wasn’t going to unhitch her wagon from his political star. When Clinton was caught out, he basically responded with, “Yep. You caught me. How about that?” And after a few tearful performances and well-acted apologies he got away scot free. No potential for blackmail.

General Petraeus is another story. He is in a committed relationship with a wife of decades who isn’t as hardened to her husband’s hanky panky as Hillary Clinton was even before Bill took office. More than that, the fact that he chose a mid life crisis who evidences instability by sending harassing emails to other women indicates a certain inexperience on his part. His indiscretions were indiscreet, and that made him vulnerable to outside pressures.

We give General Petraeus credit for leaving of his own volition. To the best of our knowledge, he was not coerced into resigning. We respect him for his honorable choice and for putting this nation’s best interests ahead of his own career. Not everyone in a political position would do so in this situation.  *cough, cough, Bill, cough, cough*  We wish General Petraeus and his wife all the best as they sort through this difficult situation, and we will be relieved when, if ever, the press gets off of their backs.

Many people are looking to tie the General’s resignation to Benghazi and the hearings coming up around that incident. There absolutely are outrages around the motives behind the Ansar Al-Sharia attack on our US Consulate and the string of lies perpetuated by the Obama administration around that event. Those violations of American trust and abuses of power need to be exposed. (See Intelligence Perspective on Benghazi)

To the best of our knowledge, however, the Obama administration did not dispatch Paula Broadwell to seduce General Petraeus. As far as we know, the General remains responsible for his own penis. To what degree the president controlled the release of information and as to what his motives might have been, that’s a bit more difficult to say.

One thing is indisputable, though. General Petraeus has conveniently provided the mainstream media with something to talk about other than Benghazi. We find it interesting that all of the same media outlets that did their best to avoid accurate coverage of Benghazi are now doing their best to make sure there is no Petraeus accusation left behind.

Our conclusion? Where General Petraeus’ actual affair is concerned, a cigar is just a cigar. Let’s all hope we don’t start hearing more about cigars.

The Secret Service and its Not-So-Secret Booty Call

By Jay Holmes

This week, we have been treated to two dire federal government scandals in the news. One of those scandals involves misappropriation of funds for partying and luxury travel by General Services Administration big wigs and their tax payer funded minions. But another, similar, and more troubling scandal occurred in Colombia.

It has come to light that (allegedly) eleven Secret Service agents and perhaps ten Marines were involved with prostitutes at a local bordello. Apparently, they took the twenty plus prostitutes back to rooms that were being used by the Americans at a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. The prostitutes later claimed under-payment by the Americans. It seems that it was the price haggling that brought the activity to light.

The Secret Service is probably one of the least understood law enforcement agencies in the United States. While this is certainly a major black eye for the agency, I would like to take a closer look at the Secret Service before discussing why the prostitutes matter to anyone other than the Americans’ significant others at home.

The US Secret Service was started in 1865 by President Lincoln to combat the rampant counterfeiting of US currency. The US Treasury estimated at the time that one-third of all US currency in circulation was counterfeit.

Once established, the Secret Service quickly gained a reputation for skill and integrity, and with no FBI on the scene yet, they took on a broad range of crime fighting responsibilities in addition to protecting our currency, including murder and fraud cases. Also, while the Secret Service does not currently involve itself in intelligence gathering or counterintelligence work, it was the first non-military intelligence agency in the United States.

Most people think of the Secret Service in conjunction with protecting the President and visiting heads of state. However, that was not that agency’s responsibility until 1901, after the assassination of US President McKinley. In 1968, Congress tasked the Secret Service with protecting ex-presidents and major presidential candidates, as well.

Although the Secret Service and it’s 6,600 members are best known for presidential protection, the majority of their work remains in protecting the American currency and combating financial crimes. The Secret Service currently operates a major task force against internet crime, and they have been responsible for the capture and successful prosecutions of several major internet crime rings.

If you ask a federal prosecutor in your area what they think of the US Secret Service, there is a good chance they will tell you they are always happy to prosecute a case for the Secret Service. That’s because they can count on well-built files detailing meticulous investigations with proper handling of suspects, witnesses, and evidence. The Secret Service, in its remarkably scandal free 146 year history, has quietly established a reputation for integrity and professionalism.

Then the debacle in Cartagena happened. In an odd twist of fate for an agency that has, on several occasions, had to develop expertise in protecting a couple of presidents from their careless sexual practices, the Secret Service finds itself involved in its own sex scandal.

Apparently, Secret Service Agents and US military personnel were partying at a local sleaze joint named the “Pley Club,” where they decided to get themselves played. Witnesses claim they were drinking heavily, and that some of them were bragging that they were on the President’s protection detail. So thus far, that’s three problems.

The first problem is that they went to a sleaze joint while on a foreign assignment to protect the President. The only reason why US personnel or local assets in their employ would go into a sleaze joint prior to or during a presidential visit would be on an undercover assignment to observe a suspected threat, or to gather intelligence from sleaze joint employees friendly to us.

The second problem is that they drank alcohol. Nobody shoots better when they are drunk or hung over. They all should have known better.

The third infraction is that they called attention to the fact that they were on the President’s protection detail. That set them up as potential targets for any of the myriad drug dealers, terrorists, hostile foreign intelligence agents, and other major scumbags who have operatives in Cartagena at any given time.

Then the major violation of rules occurred. They employed twenty-one prostitutes, each a potential Booty Spy, and took them back to hotel rooms which contained, among other things, communications schedules and the President’s detailed itinerary. All Secret Service agents are trained to be aware of the danger of Booty Spies so it is flabbergasting that they would have committed this infraction.

In another show of bad judgment, they ended the night by creating a public disturbance with the hookers, which was perhaps prearranged by the hookers at the behest of hostile foreign agents. An argument broke out in the lobby of the hotel about payment for whatever sexual services were delivered. That public disturbance was an embarrassment to the White House and to the USA.

While some pundits are pointing out the obvious hypocrisy in Congress’ outrage and their demand for swift justice when they’re facing their own General Services Administration partying scandal, the fact remains that these agents cannot be trusted with the President’s security. Regardless of one’s personal political preferences, most Americans would agree that having a President embarrassed, injured, or killed is never a good thing for the nation.

The US military personnel involved in the scandal may have had less training in Booty Spy operations if they were not trained in intelligence, but instead were simply there as highly trained shooters. Nonetheless, this incident won’t look good on their records because they may have violated a curfew set for them by their commander. Nobody (on our side) wants hung over shooters covering the President.

I agree that the Presidential Protection Team needs a major shake up and some intense retraining. (Call it the “IF You Mother %$@#&%* pull a stunt like those idiots pulled your ass is cooked” training module). I could teach that class in half an hour with a twenty minute coffee break included.

image from ‘Gladiator’ by DreamWorks Pictures

Piper’s note: Actual photo of Holmes teaching that class.

I do not agree that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should be fired or taken to task for what occurred. His directives were clear and correct. The team in the field violated them. There is no value or justice in running him off.