Friday, January 25, 2013

GUN CONTROL AND THE FOOLS OF CHELM: A Treatise by David Mamet


Rarely have I read a more brilliant treatise on the second amendment. Pulitzer prize winning playwright David Mamet on governments which claim the right to tell people what they "need" and what they do not "need."

Sadly, I am afraid that Mr. Mamet must not prepare himself to have his intellect and his compassion questioned and denigrated by those on the extreme left of the debate. I've already seen the first headlines.

Please follow the link to GmanCaseFile.com for the article.

http://gmancasefile.com/1/post/2013/01/gun-laws-and-the-fools-of-chelm-by-david-mamet.html

"Chief's Special;" The Mother of All Gun Control and the .357 Magnum


    FEINSTEIN GETS A GUN.

    Follow link below to GmanCaseFile.com

    http://gmancasefile.com/1/post/2013/01/chiefs-special.html


Friday, January 4, 2013

THE YELLOW-BRICK ROAD OF GUN CONTROL


 THE YELLOW-BRICK ROAD TO OBLIVION

 The panacea of "Gun Control" as a stand-alone option to school violence



The Wizard of Oz is a classic piece of literature and cinema in which an innocent girl and her lovable dog find themselves in a world they don’t recognize and where there is danger at every turn. Oz is a place where even an innocent young girl could meet sudden death at the hands of unimaginable evil. It is also the story of a quest to return to the familiar, warm and safe world she once knew.

America is on its own, similar, post-Newtown quest. We have all been thrust into a new world where innocent children meet sudden death at the hands of unimaginable evil, and we are all desperately longing for the world we knew before, where loving friends embraced us, where we were safe, and where the world still made sense.

Like Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Unlike Dorothy, we can’t go back.

Yet still, we’re being told to follow a ‘Yellow-brick road’ which promises to guide us back to safety and security. But this road is both monolithic and naive. It is a route which depends upon equal parts wishful thinking and emotion. But the hard truth is that the genie is out of the bottle; guns will never be erased from the world, nor this society in particular. Depending solely on a solution which has at its core a requirement for the complete unavailability of guns is simply a dizzy panacea Neville Chamberlain might have championed. Prohibition taught us that, the 'war on drugs' tells us that, and the increasing size of the 'nuclear fraternity' tells us that.

People from all sides of the political spectrum have suggested road maps out of our current crisis. It seems, however, that many want to disregard answers which do not support their pre-determined position or advance their political view of firearms (good or bad), the second amendment or civil liberties. One example is the suggestion of putting armed protection for the children in schools, which is inexplicably drawing criticism.

Likely, most of the criticism is due to the source of the suggestion; Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), rather than due to the merits of the suggestion. The reluctance of some Americans to be willing to protect the lives of their own children in school is mind-boggling and frankly, troubling.

Sadly, the road of gold we’ve been told to follow leads not to the promised land, but to the land of false hope. Along the way we, like Dorothy, are meeting a cast of strangely familiar characters.

Sometimes, it's not the brain people lack,
 it's the common sense

THE STRAW MAN

Oz’s straw man, “Scarecrow,” had a specific need; he lacked a….well, he lacked knowledge.

John Crisp, a teacher at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, is in all likelihood a principled, intelligent man. However, he recently commented on a topic on which he appears to have little experience or knowledge. Mr. Crisp opined on the topic of armed guards in elementary schools (as postulated by the NRA) on January 2, 2013 in a syndicated newspaper editorial.  In that editorial, Mr. Crisp alleges;

“The NRA imagines that no deranged killer would dare enter a school protected by a retired police officer with a .38 revolver.”

No, they actually don’t, Mr. Crisp. You and you alone have postulated that our children be protected by “a retired police officer with a .38 revolver.”  What was actually said, according to the transcript, was a call for "qualified" armed security, and your glib statement about a .38 revolver is not helpful; especially at the time when anti-gun movements are labeling anything more capable than a revolver a 'semi-automatic' weapon. Your answer intentionally infers lack of qualification or ability. Putting untrained, armed persons (even ex-police officers) in schools is not a safe option, and not one that anybody is seriously advocating.

I have no idea of what Mr. Crisp teaches at Del Mar College, but he apparently has not made himself familiar with the behavior, actions, history, strategy or statistics involving active shooters and active-shooter attacks. I have. I spent years studying and instructing on active shooter prevention and interdiction. I am a certified firearms instructor, and have spent hundreds of hours instructing law enforcement officers and private executive protection teams how to respond effectively to an active shooter. I spent  more than two straight years training active-shooter response teams at a major university how to effectively end an active-shooter attack on their campus.

Mr. Crisp's first misconception is with the attacker himself.

Almost always, the active shooter’s end-game is to die in the attack. Their homicidal ideation requires control of the world around them to the point that they cannot allow themselves to be killed by law enforcement. Part of the satisfaction they get is denying that ‘privilege’ to anybody but themselves. Therefore, in almost every single recorded case, the active shooter has ended their attack, fled or (usually) killed themselves at the moment they were engaged by any armed resistance, police or civilian. This is a statistical fact, not some imagined theory about what such an attack would look like. This fact is proven by the Newtown shooting itself. Lanza, though he was wearing a ballistic vest, killed himself when confronted by the first police officers. He had no intention of “shooting it out.” It mattered not their training or even their weaponry. He killed himself at the sight of them!

I have been an FBI first-responder to a school shooting where five-year olds were machine-gunned coming back into the school after playing soccer. I have seen the blood, I have spoken with terrified parents. I have been on site while the SWAT teams searched for the shooter. I spent years on those SWAT teams. I have interviewed a school-shooter hours after he shot children. He told me face to face that he had chosen the school he attacked over all others he cased because the others had security. He didn’t even remember whether the guards which intimidated him were armed or not.

The shooter also told me that he stopped shooting and fled the school when he heard sirens. He had intended to kill himself, but didn’t have it in him. It’s one thing to shoot a defenseless child, it’s another thing to kill one’s self or fight it out with cops. If school shooters were brave fighters, they wouldn’t be shooting children.

(As a point of fact, the following was true in the shooting to which I responded:

1. The gun used was a Chinese-made "knock-off" of an Uzi, which was shipped to the U.S. from China. Yes, a "knock-off" like a Gucci purse or fake Ray Bans. Knock off guns are made in dozens of countries around the world by unregulated, unregistered entities; much like cocaine.

2.  The gun was illegal in all fifty states.

3.  The gun was unregistered, and not purchased through a gun store; the purchase was illegal even if the gun was legal.

4.  The gun had been heavily modified--it had been shortened and converted to a sub-machine gun--by the shooter using tools he purchased at Lowes--not purchased or regulated gun parts.

5.  The shooter was a convicted felon who was not legally allowed to possess a firearm of any kind.

6.  The shooter was two months out of a mental hospital where he had checked himself in for "an overpowering urge to kill people." He warned the doctors not to release him--that he would kill.  They did, and he did.

7.  It was illegal to possess that gun on school grounds in California.

8.  In possessing the gun and committing the crime, the shooter violated over a dozen existing gun laws. Laws against what he possessed and used were useless.

9.  The U.S. Justice Department, specifically the United States Attorney in Seattle, Washington, refused to prosecute the individual who illegally procured the weapon for the known-felon shooter, even after a personal letter to Janet Reno from the United States Attorney in Los Angeles.

10.  It can hardly be said that gun laws allowed the crime. The shooter just ignored them. This was much more an abject failure of the mental health system.)

Mr. Crisp simply doesn’t understand the subject about which he is offering an opinion. This illustrates the importance of experts making decisions; not uninvolved, unfamiliar pundits. Crisp’s reasoning, by the way, would also invalidate the need for anybody to know first aid or CPR. Though nobody is suggesting “a retired cop with a .38,” just such a person at Newtown would have saved lives, regardless of Crisp’s opinion. Not because the retired cop would win a gun battle with Lanza, but because Lanza would have killed himself had he been confronted.

If I sound upset, it is because uninformed people are making fallacious arguments which have the potential of allowing the deaths of children.

There is another type of “straw man.” As those who have passed high-school level logic courses know, a ‘straw man’ is an argument which is invalid because it misrepresents the opponent’s position.  "Retired cop with a .38" is a straw man.

The NY Daily News' fantasy pick for school security
The straw man status of Crisp’s argument is well-demonstrated by an opposite straw man example in another opinion piece which nonetheless agrees with Crisp’s overall position on armed protection for children. This time, it’s (not surprisingly) the tabloid New York Daily News, which published the following breathless headline on December 21, 2012:

“NRA's 'ludicrous' proposal to have armed guards at every school would cost $3.3 billion”

They followed the headline with an inflammatory photo of an FBI SWAT agent and a caption which might one day be known as "the mother of all straw man arguments."

Intentional Stereotype.
“If NRA chief Wayne LaPierre had his way, all school kids would see something like this heavily armed FBI agent as they walked into their schools.”

Really? I couldn't find that in LaPierre's transcript. Well, which is it? A heavily-armed FBI SWAT agent, which will, according to one of the quotes in the article, “Ruin the learning environment," causing students to believe "...their schools are prisons," or an old, retired cop with a .38?

If you’re going to misrepresent the words of a man, you might at least both want to get on the same page.


THE COWARDLY LION

THE COWARDLY LION

On her journey in Oz, of course, Dorothy met a blustery but cowardly creature. To hide his fear, he tried to frighten others. He might have reminded one of the Daily News.

The Daily News headline screamed that protecting our own otherwise defenseless children in their schools would cost “$3.3 billion dollars” annually.

Is that all?

Following the attacks of September 11, the United States moved forward to protect airliners and their passengers, as well as those to whom they posed a danger to on the ground.

Sky Marshals were recruited and highly trained, and are on a large number of the tens of thousands of airline flights which launch throughout the United States every day. Does anybody doubt that Sky Marshals are highly skilled and well-armed? Does having  them on our planes make anybody feel less safe? Does their presence make anybody feel as if they are in not an airliner, but a prison?

Have you ever even seen a Sky Marshal on a flight of yours? Have you ever even known one was there?

If the Untied States could, within just a few months, create the TSA and institute the training and deployment of highly-skilled, highly-trained, plain-clothes professional security personnel on board flights, why are we unable to conceive of that for our children? If we are willing to protect 150 businessmen and vacationers on an airline flight, are we not willing to protect 500 unarmed, helpless, innocent elementary school children in their school? Do they deserve less? We have armed security in our banks. Is our money more important than our children?

No, we're not in Kansas anymore, and we're not going back. Yes, it’s a harsh reality that we have to contemplate our children being shot in their own schools. But does anybody doubt anymore that there is a danger?

Or are we simply lacking the courage to deal with the danger in a way which does not advance our personal political and social philosophies?

THE TIN MAN

THE TIN MAN


Finally, Dorothy met the Tin Man, a man who lacked a heart. He didn’t know how to love, he didn’t know how to care. He likely wouldn’t spend the money it took to protect somebody other than himself.

If the Daily News’ hysterical headline was true, it would cost $3.3 billion dollars annually to protect our children in their schools. To put that in perspective, TSA’s budget (including Sky Marshals) is $8.1 billion per year. Apparently, to some people, businessmen and women are more important than our children. Two-and-a-half times more important, to put a number on it.

For further perspective on the relative importance of $3.3 billion and our children (which the tabloid implied was "ludicrous"), the Daily News Headline for 1/2/13 screamed:

“'They told us to basically drop dead!' Angry New York residents and pols fuming over latest Sandy snub”

The snub, of course, was the failure of congress to vote on a $60 billion bill for relief for victims of hurricane Sandy. But $3 billion to keep our children from being shot to death in kindergarten? That's too much?

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

After 9/11, America’s number one national priority was the war on terrorism. I know, I was  in charge of the FBI’s Al Qaeda investigations squad in Los Angeles. But concurrently with combating terrorism, (which only the most na├»ve person would believe will ever be completely stopped), we began protecting our facilities, our airliners and our people, with security, with guards and with weapons. But after Newtown, armed guards to protect children are 'ludicrous?'

A cynical person might be tempted to believe that anti-gun activists don’t want security in schools because that might undermine the perceived need for gun control. Guns as a solution? Horrified silence.

Do we need to learn better how to keep guns out of the hands of psychotic people? Yes.

Do we need to keep unnecessarily dangerous weapons out of civilian hands? Yes.

Do we need to rigorously enforce existing gun laws? Yes.

Should we be working on those things immediately? Yes.

Will 'gun control' be sufficient in the short term? No.

Will 'gun control' solve the problem in the long term? No.

We need to deal with the situation as it is today, not what we want it to be in a year. And we need to deal with a world where guns--even if drastically reduced, even if controlled and criminalized--and regardless of the fondest hopes and desires of many people, will never disappear from the face of the earth.

Unlike Oz, when unimaginable evil arrives at our door, we cannot depend on a house to drop on the wicked witch. Unlike Oz, we cannot find comfort in beautiful scenery, bumbling but kind friends and comic villains. Our world is non-fiction, and our villains are terribly real and possess unspeakable evil we would have thought almost unspeakable just thirty years ago.

By not taking rational steps to safeguard our own flesh and blood while other steps (such as gun control) are underway, we are skipping down the yellow-brick road to oblivion.


Monday, November 5, 2012

A Veteran's Day Thank You


A VETERAN'S DAY THANK YOU.


Michelle's grandpa Richard “Dick” Ketchum, was the pilot of a B-24D in World War II. He was a larger than life (though not tall) gruff Texan rancher and one of my heroes. Knowing him was one of the great experiences of my life. Steve, Jr. found a post on-line from his late co-pilot which included a photo of Dick and his crew just prior to deploying to their temporary base at Benghazi, Libya. Richard is standing, second from the left.

Three months after this photo was taken, (12/1/43, nearly 22 years to the day from the birth of his granddaughter Michelle) over Cologne, Germany, they lost an engine en-route to the target and attempted to continue on their bomb run instead of abort, drop their bombs and return home at high-speed. They were sitting ducks. They and one other aircraft became separated from the protection of the bomb group and were set on by fighters. The other aircraft was shot down with no survivors.

Richard's plane caught fire, but he stayed at the controls until all the survivors got out. The wing then blew off, nearly trapping him in the tumbling aircraft. Crawling out of his seat, he was able to find his parachute (pilots and co-pilots didn’t wear theirs in the air). Amazingly, he succeeded in donning his parachute and bail out through the still-full bomb-bay, escaping less than a minute before the aircraft exploded. He eluded capture until the next day, and spent the balance of the European war in Stalag Luft I on the Baltic. After repatriation, he began training on the B-29 for the upcoming invasion of Japan. The war ended before he completed the training. He remained in the service after the war and commanded a DEW line station in northern Alaska in the 1960’s, flying until the end of his career.

Today; his children and his grandchildren (Michelle, Jeff, Eric, Chad, Heather, Terice, Carrie and Evan) know that 'the right thing' frequently requires sacrifice. I am grateful (most of the time) for the iron will and wisdom he taught my wife and his children and grandchildren—and now his great-grandchildren.

In this photo, Richard is standing, second from the right. His crew flew harrowing missions out of Benghazi and survived only a few missions after returning to England. The link I have to Benghazi and the sacrifice of Americans there is still fresh.

Dick’s late co-pilot, Clint Gruber, annotated the snapshot:

"This photo (taken with my camera) shows our crew at Hardwick in England in early August, 1943, just prior to flying to Benghazi to rejoin our Group after the low level Ploesti mission. We had just acquired a new Navigator and a new airplane which we named ROUNTRIP. Upon arrival at Benghazi, the powers that be, took away our ROUNTRIP and assigned IRON ASS (42-40769) to us." [It was in “Iron Ass” that they were shot down.]

Standing (L-R)

Navigator - Dave Stamper (KILLED)
Bombardier - Fred Grenwis (POW)
Co-Pilot - Clint Gruber (POW)
Pilot - Dick Ketchum (POW)
Eng/Top Turret Gunner - Leon Sellers     

Kneeling (L-R) (KILLED)

Waist Gunner - PJ Tramontin (POW)
Waist Gunner - Floyd Dawson (UNK)
Asst. Eng/Tunnel Gunner - John Sykes (POW)
Radio Operator - Nelson Crawford (POW)
Tail Gunner - Harry Byerman (KILLED)


Richard's pilot seat (note unfastened belt) in the wreckage of the cockpit of "Iron Ass" in a Cologne suburb.                                    Richard was 20 years old at the time of the shoot-down.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian Geologists Convicted of Manslaughter



“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE LANDED IN ROME. LOCAL TIME IS OCTOBER 22, 1487”

Sometimes something is so sublimely idiotic that it needs no comment. No introduction is necessary, no closing remarks called for. While the actions reported on in the following article are an exquisite example of that type of event, yet I can’t help but comment just a little. L’Aquila, Italy is 107 miles (as the tumbrel rolls) from Perugia where Amanda Knox was branded a witch in the year 2011 (A.D.) So, under the heading of, “You can’t make this stuff up, folks,” I submit the following:

7 experts convicted of manslaughter in Italy for failing to adequately warn about deadly quake

Published October 22, 2012

Associated Press

L'AQUILA, Italy –  In a verdict that sent shock waves through the scientific community, an Italian court convicted seven experts of manslaughter on Monday for failing to adequately warn residents of the risk before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.

The defendants, all prominent scientists or geological and disaster experts, were sentenced to six years in prison.

Earthquake experts worldwide decried the trial as ridiculous, contending there was no way of knowing that a flurry of tremors would lead to a deadly quake.

"It's a sad day for science," said seismologist Susan Hough, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif. "It's unsettling."

That fellow seismic experts in Italy were singled out in the case "hits you in the gut," she said.
In Italy, convictions aren't definitive until after at least one appeal, so it was unlikely any of the defendants would face jail immediately.

Italian officials and experts have been prosecuted for quake-triggered damage in the past, including a 2002 school collapse in southern Italy that killed 27 children and a teacher. But that case centered on allegations of shoddy construction in quake-prone areas.

Among those convicted Monday were some of Italy's best known and most internationally respected seismologists and geological experts, including Enzo Boschi, former head of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

"I am dejected, desperate," Boschi said. "I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."
The trial began in September 2011 in this Apennine town, whose devastated historic center is still largely deserted.

The defendants were accused of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether small tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the weeks and months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have been grounds for a warning.

The 6.3-magnitude temblor killed 308 people in and around the medieval town and forced survivors to live in tent camps for months.

Many much smaller tremors had rattled the area in the previous months, causing frightened people to wonder if they should evacuate.

"I consider myself innocent before God and men," said another convicted defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis, a former official of the national Civil Protection Agency.

Prosecutors had sought convictions and four-year sentences during the trial. They argued that the L'Aquila disaster was tantamount to "monumental negligence," and cited the devastation wrought in 2005 when levees failed to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Relatives of some who perished in the 2009 quake said justice had been done. Ilaria Carosi, sister of one of the victims, told Italian state TV that public officials must be held responsible "for taking their job lightly."

The world's largest multidisciplinary science society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, condemned the charges, verdict and sentencing as a complete misunderstanding about the science behind earthquake probabilities.

There are swarms of seismic activity regularly in Italy and most do not end up causing dangerous earthquakes, said geologist Brooks Hanson, deputy editor of the organization's Science magazine. He said that if seismologists had to warn of a quake with every series of tremors, there would be too many false alarms and panic.

"With earthquakes we just don't know," Hanson said Monday. "We just don't know how a swarm will proceed."

Quake scientist Maria Beatrice Magnani, who followed the trial closely and knows the defendants professionally, called the outcome "pretty shocking."

She disagreed with putting scientists on trial, and contended that the death toll would have been lower had buildings in the quake-prone area been better reinforced.

The verdict left Magnani and others in the field wondering about the way they articulate their work.
"We need to be extremely careful about what we say, and the information we provide has to be precise. We cannot allow ourselves to slip," said Magnani, an associate research professor at the University of Memphis.

Comments on Twitter about the verdict abounded, with references to Galileo, the Italian scientist who was tried as a heretic in 1633 for his contention that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa as Roman Catholic Church teaching then held. In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared that the church had erred in its ruling against the astronomer.

Still, some experts argued that the trial was about communicating risk and not about whether scientists can or cannot predict earthquakes.

"This was about how they communicated" with a frightened public, said David Ropeik, a risk communications consultant who teaches at Harvard and offered advice to one defendant scientist. It was "not Galileo redux," he said.

Defense lawyer Filippo Dinacci predicted that the L'Aquila court's verdict would have a chilling effect on officials tasked with protecting Italians in natural disasters. Public officials would be afraid to "do anything," Dinacci told reporters.


Frances D'Emilio reported from Rome. AP science writers Alicia Chang in Los Angeles and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report


IN OTHER NEWS:

  •        In a daring pre-dawn raid, SWAT teams from Rome and Turin arrested the entire staff of the “Servizio Meteorologico” (Italian Meteorological Institute) for a 1908 snowstorm in northern Italy which killed 4 mountain climbers. While no one at the Servizion Meteorologico was actually alive in 1908, Italian authorities charged the 123 defendants as accomplices to murderer under the Italian judiciary doctrine of “six-degrees of separation”

  •       A court in Milan has handed down an indictment against the builders of a 30-story building which was hit by a light aircraft in 2001, killing three. The builders and architects were charged with “placing the building in air, which is where airplanes fly.” Milanese prosecutors are quoted as saying, “What’s so difficult about this? Air? Airplane? Is it not obvious?”
  •       The 250 year search for “The Boogie Man” continues in Sicily. Searchers have now begun to spread out on foot. Local citizens have been warned to obey their parents
  •           A request for extradition has been forwarded to the Irish Republic, demanding that they turn over “The Leprechaun.” He is accused of currency rigging, in that he has been proven to hoard gold near the end of the rainbow.
  •           Napoli, Italy: A warrant has been issued for a Neopolitan youth by the name of Pinocchio. He is wanted for perjury.

Police Composite Sketch of Suspect

  •           Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895) was convicted in absentia this week in Avezzano for failing to prevent the “Black Death” plague which took millions of lives in the years 1348-1350. The families of the victims have been awarded several billion euros apiece from the Pasteur family.

    ·        The origin of cancer has allegedly been traced to the CIA by an Italian prosecutor in Firenza. The entire CIA is being sought for the crime, which is believed to have occurred on or before 6,000 BC.

    ·         Ethiopia was fined €600 billion by a court in Orbetello, Italy for armed resistance to Mussolini’s invasion in 1936. Demand is made for return of lost property.

    ·         A San Salvo court today indicted Pope Benedict XVI and (posthumously) Pope John Paul II for not being Italian.

    ·         In a landmark move, the Vatican today gave absolution to God for “innumerable acts of God” (including lightning, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and avalanches) which are believed to have killed untold people. They hope that this move will remove any obstacles God feels in dealing with humankind.

    ·         A reward of €1 million was announced today for the return of Italy’s second boot. It was allegedly lost in a card game in 1912.

    ·         A poll conducted just now shows that all reasonable Americans feel a burden in their hearts for our wonderful Italian friends (and others) who live at the mercy of Italian courts.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

REMEMBER BENGHAZI


The attack was expected by many, not the least of which was the small group of Americans inside the building. Still, the ferocity and organization of the assault was startling and confirmed their worst fears. For weeks, requests for reinforcements had come to naught.  Situated deep inside a hostile foreign country as they were, their vulnerability should have been obvious to all. But inexplicably, no help was sent.

The assault continued in waves throughout the day. Within a few hours of the firing of the first shots, the facility was aflame and the walls were breached. The remaining defenders were driven from the first building to a smaller one where they made their final stand, dying at the hands of pitiless intruders. The leader of the Americans was a young, charismatic, handsome lawyer who was liked by all who met him. In the weeks before the attack, he had personally requested more personnel to defend the facility. In the confusion of the final assault he had dreaded and tried to prepare for, he was separated from the group and died alone, a short distance away from the rest.

So died William Barret Travis, the commander of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. His last letter requesting reinforcements contained this poignant plea:

“I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase….”

Sadly, this situation should sound tragically familiar to Americans this month. The facts are eerily similar. Like the Alamo, a group of Americans, including Ambassador J. Chris Stevens, found themselves in an extremely vulnerable position deep inside a foreign country. Recognizing the risk, Ambassador Stevens, according to the Daily Mail, added his voice to the chorus of security personnel who had requested reinforcements over the past few months in an urgent cable sent on the morning of September 11, 2012.  He was dead by the end of the day. On the morning of September 11, approximately 125 heavily-armed attackers moved on the consulate, and in the ensuing battle, Ambassador Stevens and three other men died.



In 1836, the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” became an American war cry--as well as a tacit promise that no Americans will ever be abandoned to their fate while defending the United States. It appears, however, that some in the State Department have forgotten the Alamo.

I have worked as the chief FBI investigator on a consulate attack (Karachi, Pakistan, June 14, 2002), and I know  well the security threats of a consulate situated deep inside a country of hostile citizens, if not a hostile government. My team was threatened with a terrorist attack while in Karachi, and I know what precautions were necessary and I know what precautions were taken. I know that reinforcements were sent.

Make no mistake, the tragic death of Ambassador Stevens was unnecessary and avoidable.  In 1836 Texas/Mexico, efforts were at least made to reinforce the beleaguered garrison. But the technology of the time, the weather and logistics conspired to defeat attempts to arrive at the Alamo in time. Benghazi’s requests simply fell on deaf ears.

The events before, during and after the assault must be investigated and lessons learned. The actions of the State Department have raised many legitimate questions. And those questions must be answered.

1.       Was security for the Ambassador adequate?

Adequacy of security is easily evaluated empirically by its success or by its failure. It’s not a gray area. There is no other way to adequately quantify security. Security at the consulate is to protect the facility and the personnel, most importantly the Ambassador. In this case, the facility was sacked and burned; the Ambassador and his security team were murdered. The result could not have been worse.

There can be no other conclusion but that security at the consulate was tragically, cruelly and negligently inadequate.  To assert anything else is self-delusion.  Due to State Department decisions, the odds against the Ambassador and his team were insurmountable. They were, for all intents and purposes, abandoned to their fate. The multiple decisions to deny security to Benghazi’s American personnel were made NOT by State Department security people with boots on the ground in Benghazi; they were denied by State Department Executives sitting in air conditioned offices in Washington, D.C.

Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy defended the denial of multiple requests for additional security at Benghazi, using the bewildering explanation that the assault on the Benghazi compound was, "an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men." That answer begs the question; “What did you think you were defending against?”

An apt metaphor would be watching the prototype of a new airliner take-off on its first flight, lose its wings a minute later and crash into the ground killing all aboard--then having the manufacturer claim, “It flew well, until we encountered the unprecedented engineering problem of having to lift the weight of the entire airplane with the wings.”

Sadly, in a kind of “Flat Earth Society” intentional denial of the obvious, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs Charlene Lamb told the Congressional House Oversight Committee that State "...had the correct number of assets in Benghazi.”

Really  Ms. Lamb??  Do you think you'd get an Amen from the late Ambassador Stevens?

Oversight Committee chairman, Lebanese-American Representative Darrell Issa of California responded with the obvious: “To start off by saying you had the correct number, and our ambassador and three other individuals are dead ... doesn’t seem to ring true to the American people.”

2.       Who is responsible for the inadequate security at the consulate?

Easy. The State Department. This is one of the few facts State's executives are not denying. Now, it is left only to determine who ignored the frantic pleas for more security and to ensure that such a dereliction of duty never recurs.

3.       Why was added security not given?

This is an open question. It is almost incomprehensible that no further security was provided. This must not be skipped over, sideswiped, or swept under the rug. A decision made at State killed four brave men just as certainly as the fire in the safe-house did.

As an FBI counter-terrorism supervisory agent, I remember vividly the frustration of working with the State Department not only in Karachi, but in Indonesia and other unstable countries. The problem was not usually with the State Department Regional Security Officers (RSO’s), who by and large were brave men and women who were fighting the same bureaucratic battle as the FBI, but it lay with the ambassadors and the Washington “suits” who were making decisions for us on the exact opposite side of the world.

The former State Department RSO for Benghazi , Eric Nordstrom, was apparently feeling the same sense of what I like to call ‘betrayal by inertia.’ In a conversation about security at Benghazi with his boss, Nordstrom complained;

"You know what makes it most frustrating about this assignment? It's not the hardships. It's not the gunfire. It's not the threats. It's dealing and fighting against the people, programs, and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me.”

I know that frustration well.

4.       Why were the initial reports to the press and to congress by the State Department untrue?

The reports made by high State Department officials were not simply mistaken, they were demonstrably false at the time they were made. They reported situations that were plainly fabrications, and held on to those stories for days after they were disproved in almost every way. Even today, Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, states that far from unorganized mob action as sworn to by State, the attack instead was "clearly" planned and conducted by terrorists.

While Panetta concedes that it “took a while” for information to be gathered which resulted in that conclusion, it does not explain why the State Department was reporting almost immediately facts that had no basis in reality. If it “took a while” to learn that the assault was a planned terrorist attack, why did State allegedly know “immediately” that riots and demonstrations (which did not occur) were going on at the consulate prior to the attacks?

As horrible as the deaths in Benghazi were, I am just as horrified by the apparent attempt by the State Department to protect themselves rather than allow others to learn from their mistakes, and thereby protect their own people.



Finally, possibly the most important question:

5.       Why was the FBI investigative team held in Tripoli for three weeks, and who made that decision?

When the FBI responds to an attack against American interests overseas, it deploys an “Extra-Territorial” investigative squad. These are sometimes known as “Fly Teams.” There are only a handful of these squads in the United States, the most notable being based in the New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles offices. I created the Los Angeles Extra-Territorial Squad and was their first supervisor. In that capacity, my squad and I responded to attacks against many US assets around the world, including the 2002 car-bombing of the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.

Each ET squad is backed up by an FBI Rapid Deployment Team (RDT), consisting of crime scene and evidence collection experts, intelligence analysts, bomb technicians, weapons of mass destruction experts, SWAT team members for security, and various other specialty agents who would be needed at the site of a terrorist attack. The ET squad runs the investigation. In my time as the ET squad supervisor, one of my biggest jobs was simply to ensure that the FBI could gain access to countries and terrorist crime scenes. I found that among all of the many impediments to access to crime scenes and successful investigation in foreign countries, the biggest impediment was almost always the US Department of State. 

On June 14, 2002, a car bomb was detonated outside of the consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. 12 people were killed, and 51 injured. My team was deployed immediately, but we were stunned to find that we were limited by the State Department to four investigators. Total.

When operating overseas, the FBI must obtain “Country Clearance” for its agents from the State Department, and the number and location of the agents are strictly governed by State. Four investigators were in no way adequate to investigate a case on which the bomb scene itself was almost a half-mile in diameter. 

In that situation, the State Department cited the “political sensitivities” of the Pakistani government for its devastating investigative limitation. The FBI team was protected at Karachi by approximately 10 members of a deployed U.S. Marine Corps “Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).” However, at one point during the FBI team’s investigation in Karachi, a real, actionable threat against the FBI team and the Marines was discovered. At the time, there was little thought of evacuating, and the decision was made to remain on site and conduct the investigation. 

The restrictions on the FBI investigation of the Benghazi consulate attack in Libya have raised troubling and broadly unresolved (yet easily answered) questions.

A three week delay in reaching the crime scene compromises any serious chance of finding certain types of evidence. A three week delay in reaching an unsecured site compromises the probative value of any evidence recovered. In short, a three week delay in reaching an unsecured crime scene devastates any chance of an effective forensic investigation.

A.      Was the decision to detain the FBI team made by the Libyans?

Unlikely. The Libyans are in no political situation to dictate U.S. government actions in the country at this time, especially when an ambassador has been killed by Libyans.

B.      Was the decision to hold the FBI team in Tripoli made by the FBI?

No.  This would not be in character for the FBI; especially the current FBI. Director Robert Mueller is a former Marine who has shown no tendencies to be overprotective of his agents overseas. His management style with the agents has been characterized as “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Mueller is not one to let the risk to agents keep the FBI from conducting important investigations, especially the murder of a U.S. Ambassador. It is not in his makeup. It is also not in the makeup of ET teams to do anything but chomp at the bit to get working on scene. And a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of adequate size to protect the investigative team could be quickly deployed.

C.      Did the CIA make the decision to keep the FBI away from the Benghazi consulate?

No. That assertion is almost silly. Never once has the CIA posed any objection to a full and complete investigation of these attacks. The FBI would never divulge CIA operations of which they became aware during an investigation. I know because I personally have conducted investigations at facilities overseas where the CIA operates. That the CIA is present at a location is not germane to the investigation or the subject of attacks against U.S. facilities. The CIA is not responsible for security at embassies or consulates; the State Department is.  And State would scream bloody murder (pun intended) if CIA tried to keep the FBI out of an investigation of the killing of one of their own. Sadly, dozens of times over the last few decades, State Department personnel have been murdered, many in facilities where CIA operations “may” be occurring. In fact, in every situation in which I have been involved, the CIA has been an invaluable partner in the investigation. The assertion that the CIA kept the FBI out of Benghazi is simply the latest in an epic series of misstatements about the truth of this attack and its investigation. 

D.      Did the State Department make the decision to keep the FBI away from the Benghazi consulate?

In my years of overseas experience, this is the only plausible explanation.  During my investigative work overseas; travel, lodging, logistics and governmental contacts were all controlled by the U.S. State Department. In fact, frequently they attempted to control FBI investigations. They seemed at times to resent the presence of others in “their” turf.

The questions about inexplicable actions in Benghazi before and after the attacks of September 11 MUST be answered and the State Department held accountable for their actions and their inactions. The House Foreign Affairs committee has held hearings twice in the last three months on State Department inaction in the case of Americans held illegally overseas. I testified at both hearings, yet the State Department declined to appear and answer questions or even defend themselves from criticism on both occasions. 



CIRCLING THE WAGONS

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now taken responsibility for the failures of security in Benghazi. Fine. And what will be the action taken against the person responsible? In any high government position, if a mistake is made that costs millions of dollars, the person is routinely sacked or resigns. If an entire facility is destroyed because of mistakes, the sacking and resignation usually occur more quickly, and congressional investigations occur. But now we have a situation where an entire facility is destroyed, millions of dollars is lost, the State Department is humiliated, lies are told, and four good men, including an Ambassador, have died violently. So I ask, what action is the government going to take against the person who has admitted responsibility?

Saying, “I take responsibility,” isn’t the end. It’s the beginning. If action isn’t taken, it says to the American public that the men who died weren’t worth the job of the Secretary of State. You don’t leave a person in office who makes those kind of mistakes. Taking no further action in this matter will be tantamount to a cover-up.

The kind of people we send to out of the way places like Benghazi, or who flocked to defend the Alamo are the type of people whose bravery we sometimes don’t understand. These are the kind of people for whom personal responsibility is paramount. These are the kind of people who put their put their lives on the line (let alone their career) for what they believe in. This is not a common mindset in Washington. Sadly, a more common Washington mindset is the frequent State Department “circle the wagons and protect the guilty” mentality that not even armed Libyans can pierce. Group cowardice is a formidable wall. 

The State Department executives in Washington who are responsible for the safety of their own people in Benghazi may not know how to keep an Ambassador alive, but they never neglect adequate protection for themselves.

"I'm here for you Chris. 
And by 'here,' of course I mean here in Washington, DC.
Just let me know if you need anything....."


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

STATE-SPONSORED KIDNAPPING

“STATE-SPONSORED KIDNAPPING”

THE ILLEGAL CAPTIVITY OF JACOB OSTREICHER


Last week, I was called to testify before the congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee, Human Rights Subcommittee. My appearance was at the request of the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey. The hearing was called to investigate the illegal arrest and imprisonment of  American Jacob Ostreicher, and the inaction of the United States government (read “State Department”) on the case.
As I said in my testimony on Wednesday, June 6, (appended to this article, below), Jacob is essentially a political prisoner accused of a crime which never happened. Not only can the government of Bolivia not provide a single iota of proof that Jacob Ostreicher committed a crime, they cannot provide a single iota of proof that a crime was even committed. Yet Jacob remains in a squalid, dangerous prison; one run by the inmates themselves. (See my blog, “Three Days in Hell,” 4/17/2012). He must pay to have a cell, he must pay to eat, and he must pay protection money to stay alive.
The judges and prosecutors in the country are puppets of Evo Morales and must toe the line or risk prison themselves. The defense lawyers, in turn, are many times puppets of the prosecutors. In fact, in the very prison in which Jacob is being held hostage, there is a special wing just for prosecutors, lawyers and judges. The inference is inescapable: “Play ball” or join the person whose innocence you are championing. Either way, the innocent arrestee has no chance of release.
During the Foreign Affairs hearing on the 6th, Congressman Smith voiced his interest in attending a scheduled legal hearing for Jacob in Bolivia, yesterday, June 11, 2012. I cautioned him, though, that I felt that there was exactly “zero” chance of the hearing taking place. Only once has a hearing for Jacob gone forward, and in that hearing months ago, Jacob was ordered released on bail. Before he could even muster out of the prison, the judge reversed himself sheepishly, in wording that sounded oddly like a person speaking with a gun to their head. In fact, the judge criticized himself for putting “..too much emphasis on evidence presented to him.” That’s a nearly verbatim translation. Since that date, no hearing has taken place, though many have been scheduled.  Yet Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey was on a plane in less than 48 hours. It was an act that provided the only ray of hope in a dark tragedy.
The reason no hearings will ever take place is that there is no evidence to support the charges against Jacob, and like a student who has no homework to turn in, the Bolivians are doing whatever they can to avoid the inevitable moment of truth. Yesterday, with Congressman Smith in attendance, the hearing began this morning in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Almost immediately, the judge ordered the hearing postponed. No surprise. But what happened next would have put tears of pride in the eyes of Joseph Stalin. (And trust me, Evo won’t take that as a criticism.)
Jacob’s defense attorneys strenuously objected to the postponement, and the judge, between a rock and a hard place, finally agreed to hold the hearing at 3:30 pm, which incensed the prosecutor. At 3:30, when the hearing reconvened, the Minister of Government, (MOG) (not the Minister of Justice), ordered the judge to recuse himself from the case, apparently because his ruling that the hearing should take place showed favoritism to Jacob. The judge refused. The MOG then threatened the judge with prosecution if he did not recuse himself from the case. Even in a judicial world with little pretense of propriety, this threat was blatant. The judge, instead of recusing himself, sent the matter up to the Supreme Court to decide—in effect cancelling the hearing. This appeal will result in yet another delay of months before the next hearing.  If this judge recuses himself or is forced out, he will be at least the third judge removed from the case.
Tragically, this whole charade is simply a shell-game to keep Jacob in a prison they are betting he will not survive. One must seriously consider whether the aim of the Bolivian government is to ensure that there is no Jacob for whom a congressman would fight.
 

“STATE (DEPARTMENT) ‘ALLOWED’ KIDNAPPING”

I must preface this section of the article by saying that I believe that the State Department is one of the most essential organizations in the United States government, and it is staffed by and large, by honorable, brave and caring people. I hope that the situation with Jacob Ostreicher is an anomaly caused by nonsensical State Department policies, but I fear that it is much more than that.
By using the hearing sham, the Bolivians have checked the right boxes with a risk-averse U.S. State Department (see my testimony below), allowing them the cover of allowing the Bolivian “judicial process” to run its course. Amazingly, the State Department’s written evaluation of the Bolivian “justice” system is a scathing indictment of political retribution and corruption. Specifically, according to the 2011 State Department “Country Report on Human Rights Practices,” Bolivia’s “justice” system engaged in “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life (murder),” “arbitrary arrest or detention,” and “denial of a fair and public trial.” These are not my words, these are the words of the U.S. State Department. But now that an American is being victimized by these exact human rights issues, the Bolivian judicial system is legitimate. The State Department finds it a compelling argument that the Bolivian justice system should be allowed to continue in Jacob’s case without intervention.
Frankly, an innocent American in a foreign prison is an impediment to close relations with the host country, which is the State Department’s main goal. Jacob is a rock in the State Department’s shoe, and the life of one Jewish businessman is apparently is not worth the State Department’s best efforts. In support of that statement, I provide the following information which was entered into the congressional record on June 6, 2012:
Not once has the Charges d’Affaires John Creamer, chief U.S. diplomat in Bolivia, visited Jacob in prison. Not once. This is a strong message of ambivalence to the Bolivians.
Not once has a meeting with the Bolivian government been called to discuss the plight of Jacob. He has allegedly been mentioned, but only during meetings previously scheduled for other topics. Kind of a diplomatic, “Oh, by the way….” Again, a strong message, but the wrong one.
Not once has any staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia uttered the name Jacob Ostreicher in a public forum. In fact, if one had only the State Department to provide information on justice for Americans overseas, no one would ever have heard of Jacob Ostreicher.
Not once has the embassy contacted Jacob’s family unless they are replying to a call from the family or providing information promised during that call. Not once has the U.S. State Department unilaterally reached out to Jacob’s family. Not once.
Maybe they’re too busy.
On May 30, 2012, the House Foreign Affairs Committee posted notice of the hearing on Jacob Ostreicher’s case with the hearing’s subject and purpose listed as,

The U.S. State Department’s Inadequate Response to Human Rights Concerns in Bolivia: The Case of American Jacob Ostreicher”

 One would think that the State Department would consider Jacob’s plight a serious matter. If not Jacob’s plight, one would think that they would like to set the record straight and avoid criticism they might consider baseless. However, the State Department immediately declined to appear. Yet, four days later, and exactly four days before the hearing, Charges d’Affaires John Creamer made time to dance in Bolivian native costume in a Bolivian festival. El Deber, the main newspaper in Bolivia, explained that in order to learn the dance, Creamer had to take lessons four times each week for over a month. A total of 16 dance lessons before he donned the costume of the country illegally holding an American citizen fighting for his life in a squalid prison. A very busy man indeed.

All this while Jacob continued a hunger strike. As Jacob told me recently, the hunger strike is as much in protest of how the U.S. State Department is ignoring him as it is of his illegal detention by the Bolivians.


Charges d’Affaires John Creamer and wife, June 2, 2012, the 48th day of Jacob Ostreicher’s prison hunger strike.



The above photograph of Mr. Creamer and his lovely wife Liza dancing in Bolivian costume was proudly posted on the embassy website two days before the Foreign Affairs hearing which they refused to attend. A thorough search of the U.S. Embassy Bolivia  revealed no mention of “Jacob Ostreicher.” A website search engine query answered “no results” for Jacob’s name.
The U.S. State Department is completely aware of the corruption and use of the “judicial” system in Bolivia for political purposes. (Yet, they apparently believe it is good enough for an accused American.) The State Department knows for many reasons, not the least of which are the events of May 30, 2012, 8 days prior to the hearing. On that day, Roger Pinto Molina, a prominent Bolivian Senator took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz, requesting political asylum and protection from Evo Morales and his government.
Molina has accused the Morales government of human rights abuses, drug trafficking, the incarceration of political prisoners and corruption. In response, the Morales “Justice” Ministry has charged Molina with a series of crimes, including political corruption. Molina told the Brazilian Embassy diplomats that he feared for his life.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia linera said on June 6, the day of the U.S. congressional hearing, that Molina was not being persecuted, and that there were no political prisoners in Bolivia.
The vice president also said, “If he believes that….he didn’t commit these crimes, well, he should be happy to defend himself” in court. Molina is apparently aware of an accused person’s prospects of a fair trial (or any trial) in Bolivia. Apparently, Brazil, which shares a border with Bolivia agrees. Yesterday, June 11, the Brazilian government granted Senator Molina political asylum.
Senator Molina knew better than to stay in Bolivia, and it appears that he knew better than to seek sanctuary at the U.S. Embassy. Jacob, unfortunately did not have the same information Molina had. Jacob was too trusting. Of both the Bolivians and the Americans.