WHO WILL STOP THE TANKS?
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Days before the horrible shots rang out, thousands of Chinese who sought nothing more than freedom converged on Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demonstrate for, among other things, the freedom to speak. They knew what they risked that warm June in 1989; it wasn’t police who showed up to disperse the group, it was soldiers and tanks. But the demonstrators did not disperse. In the end, hundreds or even thousands of these brave souls were shot and machine-gunned into silence. One man, however, galvanized the world with his selfless resistance. He will forever be known as “The Tank Man.” The photo of this man standing in front of a line of tanks, stopping their advance on the Square, somehow made everyone in the world a little stronger and braver.
The bravest people in the world are rarely found in governments, in the courts or even on the legal bench. The people who reside in such places are often those who have become most adept at swinging deals, of “give and take” and of compromise. No, the bravest men and women are most often found in Gulags, North Korean labor camps, or Chinese reeducation “centers.” Or in front of firing squads—or tanks. These people are in those places not just because of what they said, but because they refused to ‘unsay’ it. Most could have capitulated and remained, if not free, at least safe.
Like millions of people throughout history who refused to betray their faith, their ideals or their countrymen, they knew that when you betray the truth, you betray not just yourself, but all those who share that truth and have fought for it shoulder to shoulder with you. They echo the truth spoken by Benjamin Franklin two hundred years ago;
“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security,
deserves neither liberty nor security.”
I would add:
“He who would trade anybody else’s liberty for some temporary
security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”
From newspapers, from op eds, from Italian victims and from international judicial review bodies we hear that there is tyranny today in Italy and it resides in the judicial system. This is the same system that recently sentenced six seismologists to prison for failing to predict an earthquake—a feat that science still regards as impossible.
This is the same judicial system that exonerated a man for the rape of an 18 year old girl because she was wearing tight jeans, which the court opined could not have been removed without the girl’s assistance. Therefore, the rape, I mean sex, had to be consensual. This was the decision of the Italian Supreme Court, not a college fraternity ethics committee. The decisions of the courts, the inconceivable reasoning, and the contorted logic validates the general perception that the Italian judicial system is largely an archaic, byzantine, misogynistic 'good-old-boy' network which depends on coercion, superstition and political deals to achieve their ends. Few people with knowledge of the Italian system (and who are not a part of it) would dispute that statement. There are, of course, notable exceptions and honorable judges, but as a rule, ‘Italian justice’ is a contradiction in terms. It remains that way because nobody has yet stood in front of the tanks.
It is not politically expedient for the Italian judicial system to endorse the truth of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s innocence, because it will expose police and judicial misconduct, perjury, and evidence tampering. It will, they believe, embarrass “the system,” and hurt national prestige. (Not realizing that their current strategy is devastating their global credibility.) While Knox remains safely (or so it is hoped) ensconced in a country where evidence and rule of law win out in the vast majority of cases, Sollecito remains under Italian control, awaiting his fate. And Sollecito is apparently the system's best hope of saving face.
Sollecito has, of course, steadfastly held to the truth that he and Amanda were together the night that burglar Rudy Guede slaughtered Meredith Kercher, stole her money, keys and phone, then danced and bought drinks with her money until 4:30 a.m. before fleeing to Germany—again using Meredith’s money. The Italians need Sollecito to say Amanda wasn’t with him the night of the murder; or have him at least allow the possibility she might not have been with him. Though he has steadfastly stated that she was with him, it seems like so little to ask. But it could steal twenty two years of an innocent woman’s life.
During four years in prison, Raffaele never wavered in his dedication to the truth and to his and Amanda’s innocence. This was bravery, this was honor. After his exoneration, Raffaele co-wrote a book entitled “Honor Bound,” in which he defined his unfailing defense of Amanda and the truth as “honor” in the face of extortionate pressure to change his story. The pressure came both from the Italian judicial system and his family to turn on Amanda and lie; destroying her “alibi” in return for his freedom. According to Raffaele's own book, since the first days of the horrible case, his family has chosen the easy way out--capitulate to the corrupt prosecution, perjure yourself and escape.He never did so. I have always admired him for that and always will.
While working on “Honor Bound,” Raffaele stayed in my home with my family and me for a short time. He is a delightful, gentle, intelligent young man and we enjoyed his visit, as well as visiting with his family. At that time, we thought the horrendous ordeal was over and that tyranny had been held at bay by truth, honor and bravery. But now the Sword of Damocles over Raffaele’s head has returned. In a stunning move, the Italian courts overturned the innocent verdicts of Sollecito and Knox (something legally impossible in most western or otherwise civilized nations), and are now -- according to well-placed sources--pressuring Raffaele to separate his defense from Amanda’s. The purpose is obvious; once separated, they can use Raffaele against Amanda. And this time, there are indications that Raffaele’s strength to resist may be waning. After all this time, why lose courage now? I might have an insight.
In 1996, I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through a year of particularly rigorous chemotherapy that was almost miraculously successful. In the years that followed, though, I had to face the threat of possible renewed chemotherapy, and not once did I believe I had the strength to go through it again. Returning to chemo is much more psychologically difficult than starting it the first time—because after the first time you know what you’re in for. I decided that the only reason I would endure chemotherapy again was for the benefit of my family. Returning to prison is likely the same. What was “doable” for Raffaele once, is likely inconceivable to him now.
Now, many in Raffaele’s family, two aunts and a sister in particular, have turned on Amanda (and her supporters) with inexplicable malice and ignoble vitriol, apparently in hopes of trading the freedom of their innocent loved one for the freedom of someone else’s innocent child. Raffaele remains largely silent in Amanda’s defense and the defense of his own supporters against the lies of his family, and one wonders whether he has the strength left to continue to fight the tyranny of the Italian judicial system or his family. Ironically, the women in Raffaele’s family seem to have taken control of him, while simultaneously complaining that he was easily manipulated by a woman.
Certainly, though my wife, my family and I have suffered dearly as a result of our defense of Amanda and Raffaele, I cannot claim to have as much at risk as he does. I am often asked what I would do if I was in his situation. I can tell you truthfully that I don’t know. But I can tell you equally truthfully that I know what “right” is, and what I hope I would do: Fight the tyranny, not just for himself, not just for Amanda, but for the hundreds and thousands who come after him. Raffaele was incarcerated partially because in the decades before his unjust persecution, others capitulated rather than risk the consequences of fighting the tyranny—and they bear partial responsibility for what happened to him. Absent adherence to what is right, the tyranny gains strength from the capitulation of others. It is a vampire which feeds on fear.
But really, the question of what I or anybody else would do in the same situation is a red herring. It’s a misdirection intended to change the subject from the topic of “what is right,” to “what is excusable.” The difference between the two is immense. Ultimately, one doesn’t have to be in someone’s shoes to know what is right or wrong. In fact, frequently, being a healthy distance away endows one with a clearer vision of right and wrong. When the Titanic was sinking, some men dressed as women to board life boats. At the time, some men were able to rationalize that atrocity. Whether or not others would have done the same thing has no bearing on whether the act was right or wrong.
We build monuments to those who stand up to tyranny and injustice. We do so not simply in admiration of their character but because they made the world better. These are people who went to jail—or died, because they refused to be complicit anymore in the tyranny and injustice under which they were forced to live. Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, are among that group. No monuments are raised to those who capitulate. Their memory lives on only as cautions against human failure.
Whether Italian judicial pressure and the threat of more than twenty years in prison ultimately causes an innocent man to implicate an innocent woman in a crime with which neither had anything to do, remains to be seen. But if it happens, it doesn’t change the truth, it simply weighs Italy’s justice system a little lower in the muck. In 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated because of his fight for freedom and equal rights for African Americans. The year he died, he summed up his decision not to accept injustice;
“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men
purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
When a person capitulates to save themselves from incarceration, only half of that person remains free. That part of themselves that houses weakness and self-interest escapes prison and remains with them forever. Their courage and their ideals, however, hear the doors to the prison clang behind them, never to return. In nations where this is allowed to happen, the innocent fill the prisons, and the guilty roam the streets. Still, I do not believe Italy has any intention of imprisoning Sollecito for a crime most rational people understand was committed by Rudy Guede, alone.
I, at least five other retired FBI agents, many DNA scientists and dozens of other subject-matter experts have seen the evidence in the Kercher murder and know the truth. In reality, it's not a complicated case. Only the investigation was (unnecessarily) complicated. The evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Raffaele and Amanda are completely innocent and while I hurt for Raffaele, I will never, never turn on the truth. I will champion Raffaele and Amanda's innocence and oppose what I know to be lies, regardless of the reason(s) they are told or who tells them.
It was such wonderful times celebrating the “Not Guilty” verdicts with Raffaele, his family, and those who put their lives and livelihood on the line in Raffaele’s and Amanda’s defense. But, as Dr. King once again so perfectly summed-up,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of
challenge and controversy.”
The Raffaele I know would never betray the truth. In his heart, in his soul, he is an honest man dedicated to what is right and what is true. The Raffaele I know would never cede control of his life and future to his family and his lawyer. But every man has his limits. It is his choice now to either to rise to the occasion and fight injustice, or cave to blackmail and become part of it. I remember going to dinner one night, just Raffaele and me, and he mused aloud, “Why do [the Italian courts] get away with things like this?” I responded then as I do now; “Because people allow them to. Because people give in to extortion.”
It is now, ultimately, that Raffaele faces his denouement. I maintain my confidence in his character. Regardless, the world will soon learn whether he still has the courage to step in front of the tanks, or whether he has become an obsequious extension of the four women in his life and his father. If the latter is true, the answer to how the Italian courts "get away" with injustice will be found in his own mirror, and we will all watch in horrified sadness as honor is bound.
THE BERGDAHL TRADE
Before I go into detail on my observations on the Bowe Bergdahl hostage situation, I think it prudent to first discuss in the abstract the concept in play, in order that emotion not cloud the ramifications of negotiating with hostage takers. "So how did that work out for you?"
There is a very simple, true, universal and essential principle of civilized society: When people give in to extortion, extortion increases. When people do not give in to extortion, the extortion stops. Few people would dispute this reality. There may be deep and painful costs to standing up against extortion, but ultimately, in the long run the extortion stops, or at least dwindles to near nothing. Enduring the momentary (albeit deep) pain ultimately saves lives. Failing to endure results in long-term calamity. This is a tenet of civilized society which is ingrained in our psyche.
When you give in to terrorists, you don’t just tolerate terrorism, you encourage it. Trading anything to a terrorist in return for a hostage is like fanning a fire. Trading five dangerous terrorists for a single hostage is like pouring gasoline on the fire.
There is a word for this type of negotiation and deal: “Appeasement.” Appeasement will forever be linked with one man, Neville Chamberlain, who went to Germany to try to pacify a dictator named Adolf Hitler. Hitler had engaged in saber-rattling and was threatening war if he was not given the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia. In essence, he was engaging in a diplomatic extortion.
British Prime Minister Chamberlain participated in a conference in Munich in which the European powers bravely ceded parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for his promise not to invade and cause a war. The Czechs were not invited to the conference, and to this day refer to it as “The Munich Betrayal.”
On September 30, 1938, Chamberlain returned to England, waving a copy of the signed capitulation to the extortion and famously exclaimed, “I have returned from Germany with peace for our time.”
Within one year, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, and within the next six, over 60 million people—2.5% of the world’s population—had died as a result of that “peace.” Many believe that had the world stood up to Hitler at that point, WWII could have been averted.
At the time of Chamberlain’s return from Munich, future Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke presciently and eloquently in Parliament of Chamberlain's agreement:
“He was given the choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor and he will have war anyway.”
What the United States did last week was capitulate to a terrorist extortion. You can sugar-coat it with whatever words you like, but the truth remains the same. The Taliban will now be emboldened to take more hostages. And not just the Taliban. Every terrorist group in the world saw what happened. And every terrorist group now knows what they can get from this administration for a single American soldier, even of the lowest rank.
I do not say these things lightly. I have a dear cousin who has spent time in the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I myself have spent much time in Pakistan and Indonesia investigating al Qaeda. I understand the ramifications of what I am advocating.
Who then, are the most outspoken critics of this action? The men and women of our armed forces, and they are angry because the administration traded for one of their own! Incongruous? Hardly. Every soldier knows (or at least was told) that America will not negotiate with terrorists and that their repatriation after capture was not guaranteed. But they also understood that this policy reduced the possibility of them being used as hostages. These soldiers know that the decision taken by President Obama has put every overseas American soldier at higher risk. And they resent the release of terrorists that soldiers risked their lives to capture.
Every single American overseas fighting terrorism, every State department employee, every low level clerk at an Embassy is now at a significantly greater risk. I spent years in the FBI traveling overseas investigating terrorism in Indonesia, Pakistan and other garden spots. We knew—because we were told bluntly—that if we were captured by terrorists, no deal would be made to free us. That was okay with us, because we knew the potential hostage takers knew that, too.
Now, Americans going overseas have to deal with the fact that the terrorists know that they can trade an American--any American--for something valuable. And there are still 149 of their friends in Guantanamo Bay. Under the Obama equation, that’s just under 30 Americans.
To be fair, the administration is calling this a POW swap, which at the end of a conflict is certainly appropriate and right. But this wasn’t a POW swap. The group that held Bergdahl is a terrorist group. The prisoners at Guantanamo were not members of any organized army representing any specific nation, and have never been accepted as such. And POW’s are not held at threat of death if demands aren’t met. The administration itself has explained that Bergdahl’s life was in immediate danger. That mitigates against him being POW.
The administration is careful to refer to Bergdahl as a ‘prisoner,’ not a ‘hostage,’ much like they referred to the attacks at Benghazi as ‘demonstrations,’ and not ‘terrorism.’ The problem now is not simply with the administration’s foreign policy decisions, it’s the fact that Americans are having increasing trouble believing what they say about the decisions.
Call it what you want, but if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck—it’s a duck.
Maybe the President was trying to fulfill a campaign promise and empty Gitmo. I get that. He was elected. He gets to do what he had promised to do. But please do it without it seeming like a prisoner swap. At least the terrorists you let back out won’t be as inclined to take hostages.
Most troubling to me, however, is the fact that the administration failed to comply with the law that requires the President to give congress 30 days advance notice before negotiating an exchange of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
Not simply “within 30 days,” but specifically “30 days in advance.” I am deeply concerned because of the appearance that the administration might have intentionally ignored this law.
The administration says that they had to act quickly because Bergdahl's life was in danger. The point becomes then, how did you know his life was in danger unless you were already negotiating? That would indicate that they were negotiating prior to their reason for not notifying congress. If the peril to Bergdahl was found through other means, how was contact with the terrorists so immediately established?
Problematically, the administration can't get their story straight as to why they didn't advise congress as required by law. First, they said that they didn't have time because Bergdahl's life was in danger. Next, however, they claimed they just forgot.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told Senator Diane Feinstein that the failure to notify congress in advance “…was an oversight.” This, to say the least, stretches credibility. Even if it was true, it evinces a frightening level of incompetence and/or negligence. They forgot? It is difficult to believe that compliance with that particular law was “forgotten,” specifically because of the Obama administration's strong objection to the law when it was passed. At the time it was passed, they criticized the notification required by the law because, “It might tie the president’s hands in a prisoner exchange where time was of the essence.” Yes, it would. And that was the purpose of the law.
No administration can simply disregard laws they disagree with. Period.
THE HOSTAGE AND THE RANSOM
Many claim that Bergdahl is a deserter and some claim that he is a traitor. I do not have enough reliable information yet on which to base a decision. However, even with what has been reported, there is possible mitigation to his actions, even if he left the camp willingly.
Some people do not cope with battle well at all. Some collapse mentally. This is not unusual. It is possible that Bergdahl could not deal with war and his actions are a result of that. If that is true, then he is a casualty in a way. There is, however, not enough information available at this time to determine whether or not that is true.
It is also said that he is having trouble remembering English. I do not know if this is true, but if it is, I am puzzled. I know one American held in a foreign prison for four years, and while they occasionally forgot to speak English upon their release, their English had not degraded at all, though they were fluent in the language of their captor. Another person with whom I worked was an American imprisoned in Bolivia for two years. Not only was his English not impacted, he learned comparatively little Spanish. The fact that Bergdahl allegedly has forgotten English and speaks only Pashtu is troubling regardless of the reason.
According to USA Today, Bergdahl left a note behind when he left the camp saying that he wanted to “start over.” He left behind his rifle and body armor, but took a compass, knife, water, camera and a diary. He wasn’t going out looking for women or booze.
Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, search team leader the night of Bergdahl’s disappearance, told USA Today that the team intercepted radio and cellphone communications from a nearby village which described an American soldier who wanted to talk to the Taliban. Again, this will have to be investigated. Nothing is certain.
Significantly, soldiers from Bergdahl’s camp believed he was giving the Taliban information on military routes and times, because bombings and attacks on troops became more frequent and more accurate after his disappearance.
The Washington Post identified the terrorists released from Guantanamo Bay as:
“Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, 47. Once, the Taliban’s Interior minister, hard liner. Close ties to Osama bin Laden”
“Mullah Mohammad Fazl, 47. Senior commander Taliban Army, later Chief of Staff. Personally supervised the killing of thousands of Shiite Muslims near Kabul 1998-2001. Present at a 2001 prison riot which killed CIA operative Johnny Spann. His military file states, ‘If released, would rejoin and participate in hostilities’”
“Mullah Norullah Noori, 47. Also present during Spann’s death. May have been involved in Shiite massacre. Military file: ‘Continues to be a significant figure encouraging acts of aggression.’”
“Abdul Haq Wasiq, 43. Deputy Chief of Intelligence for the Taliban. Used his office to support al Qaeda. Central to the Taliban’s effort to form alliances with other Islamic Fundamentalist groups.”
“Mohammad Nabi Omari, 46. Member of joint al Qaeda Taliban cell in eastern Khost province. ‘One of the most significant Taliban leaders detained at Gitmo’”
Back to Winston Churchill;
"An appeaser is one who feeds the alligator, hoping it will eat him last."
America has fed the alligator, and he is still hungry.
Eliot Rodgers, Ryan Chamberlain &
Life In A Sterile Concourse
We've now learned that Ryan Chamberlain did in fact have the (separated) precursors for a bomb in his San Francisco apartment. The list of components provided by the FBI included batteries, unspecified “green” explosive powder, ball bearings, a model rocket motor, a glass jar and a circuit board. These are just about the complete components necessary for an improvised explosive device (IED), colloquially known as a bomb.
As I speculated yesterday, when the FBI found the components for the bomb, they were not assembled and therefore not a danger to explode. The “green powder” is likely as we theorized yesterday; a green “smokeless powder.” Smokeless powder is used by hunters and target shooters to load their own ammunition to save money. It is available over the counter, and legal to purchase and possess in quantities up to 50 pounds. Therein lies the rub for the FBI. Nothing on the list they provided to the press was illegal to own in and of itself. However, I believe that the combination of these items in a single place would constitute proof that an IED was being constructed, which is illegal.
In the FBI, I worked on interdicting these types of threats and I believe that we were able to save lives by preventing planned attacks such as we've seen for the past two decades. But not all of them. Most perpetrators amassed explosives, and most planned to use (or actually used) legally obtained materials, such as ammonium nitrate, fireworks (black powder) as used in the Boston Marathon bombings, or smokeless powder.
The key in identifying and predicting future violence, however, lies not in the weapon of choice. This is simply because a person who might have lived 40 years normally, suddenly divorces, goes bankrupt, has a spouse die, loses their job, develops late-onset schizophrenia or combinations of all of them. Suddenly, a person like Chamberlain experiences several deep and painful losses and they become morose and “scary” within a few months, after 40 years of functionality. Someone who was at no risk to own a firearm (or smokeless powder, or knives, or a car, or a hammer) last year, suddenly becomes an extreme risk to have them this year. There is no possible way to keep all means of violence away from people determined to kill. The Isla Vista killer prior to Eliot Rodger, David Attias (ironically, also the son of a movie director), killed four and critically wounded a fifth with his weapon of choice: A 1991 Saab 900 Turbo, which was legally purchased and which he was licensed to operate. Cars, like guns, are heavily regulated.
Society changes after every disaster. After hijackings in the 1970’s, Americans began to step through magnetometers. Immediately following September 11, 2001, the U.S. created Homeland Security, TSA and enacted The Patriot Act. Subsequent to the attempted shoe bombing, we now have to take off our shoes to fly on airliners or enter some government buildings. Following the Columbine H.S. shootings, students began to walk through metal detectors.
In the post- Eliot Rodger and Sandy Hook world, I suspect that we are turning another corner, and the FBI presence in the Russian Hill neighborhood last weekend is a sign of our new times. To me, it’s an encouraging yet sad sign. It’s encouraging because at least one agency is taking seriously the obvious emotional decay and social media threats of compromised individuals. It’s sad because it marks yet another incident which will force non-violent Americans jump through more hoops.
For all of us to be safe from these types of crimes, we obviously have to begin interdicting them. And interdicting them depends not just on regulation of legally purchased items like guns, knives, model rocket motors or cars, but on the mental condition of individuals. I am not advocating for dangerous items to be universally available without restriction. On the contrary, I wonder how somebody with such obvious mental/emotional defects as Eliot Rodger was allowed to purchase a firearm of any type, in violation of existing laws. But even if he had been stopped from purchasing a firearm, it would not have helped his three roommates who he killed with a knife and a hammer. How many knives and hammers are in your homes?
Eliot Rodgers posted his plans, his pain and his dysfunction on social media far enough in advance of his attack that it was likely preventable. He had a long history of serious mental illness—to the point that his parents feared that he would kill himself or be a danger to others. Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Officers were called to do a “welfare check” on him in the days before the shooting. Yet, inexplicably, they made no check to even see if he owned weapons before the welfare check, because, according to a spokesperson, “The issue of weapons did not come up.” That rings false to me because weapons checks are made before the officers knock on doors. It does you no good to check after you've been shot through a front door you just knocked on. Obviously, the situation was not taken seriously even before the deputies arrived at the residence. I do not believe they were being careless. I believe they were likely jaded from so many false alarms throughout their careers.
Ryan Chamberlain had little if any history of mental illness. But when his world came crashing down around him, he also posted his pain and his dysfunction on social media. This time, however, somebody paid attention—and we learned that he apparently was making a bomb. Had this not been interdicted, what might the next headlines have been?
For these types of attacks to be stopped, the world is going to look a lot less like two uniformed officers knocking on a college student’s door, and a lot more like an army of FBI agents descending on a city block with vans, weapons, bomb trucks and hazmat suits.
And this is good. And this is sad because it turns out that we are our brothers’ keeper. But it works, and it feels better than living in a sterile concourse.
In the western world, anonymity is rightly regarded with suspicion. Newspapers refuse to publish anonymous letters to the editor, and little explanation is needed to explain this policy. It’s also a common understanding that people in masks are generally trying to do something illicit and not get caught. The Ku Klux Klan didn't wear masks because they were feeding the homeless.
In every human being, there is a distrust of anonymity ingrained in our DNA. The U.S. Constitution as well as English Common Law looks very dimly on anonymous witnesses and anonymously provided evidence—and for good reason. Unless one is allowed to “confront the witness,” the person’s veracity, motives and integrity are a complete mystery. Anonymity is the tool of anarchy, totalitarianism and hatred.
The Internet, sadly, has revolutionized anonymity. From consequences-free porn (men no longer have to go to the back area of a video store hoping not to be seen by someone they know) to the Aryan Nations hate site "Stormfront," new and more disgusting uses have been found for anonymity, and the means to hide from responsibility have multiplied exponentially.
More and more, we are seeing large groups of anonymous people spewing hate, lies and misinformation on the Internet—baseless accusations which could take the lives of innocent people as surely as similar lies did in the Salem Witch Trials. In the Amanda Knox case, an American woman and an Italian man, both clearly innocent, are continually vilified, demonized and caricatured by individuals and/or groups too cowardly to use their own name(s) in defense of a victim they claim they would (otherwise) lay their lives down for.
Those with legitimate expertise, insight or knowledge on a case or issue would benefit from revealing their identity. Would President Bill Clinton comment on a government policy anonymously, when his very name and experience commands respect and ensures his opinions a hearing? Of course not.
The fact that a person or persons hide behind an avatar and a fanciful moniker is in and of itself evidence that they know that their real identity would compromise their credibility. In other words, if we knew who they were, we would immediately disregard anything they said. In the Knox case, it’s people like the obsessive poster “Harry Rag” who spends so much of his time spewing hate and lies at Amanda Knox and her supporters that one wonders how he(?) keeps a job, if indeed he’s one person and not a persona created by a firm hired by prosecution attorneys. The fact that “he” sent rank pornography to my wife simply because she disagreed with him leads me to believe he is more likely a sick male than a rational committee. I regularly get hate mail from these anonymous trolls on this very website. Not once has any of them discussed actual case facts. Instead, they comment on my physical appearance (a favorite of theirs) and call me the most vile names--anonymously. Which is why it doesn’t bother me.
But how do they get away with this? They get away with it only when we or anybody else give credence to a single word they utter, type or print. Regardless of their argument, their stated position or their claimed knowledge, the fact is that these entities could be anybody. They could be blogging from a half-way house for sex offenders, or from the recreation room at an inpatient mental facility. Or, they could be groups of people at a public relations firm hired by those with a financial interest in the outcome of a particular trial. Regardless of which it is, it’s time society ignored those who do not have the courage of conviction to even stamp their opinions with their own name.
Today, I begin what I hope will be a continuing series; “Short Take.” It is designed for those who have less than, say, the two days it usually takes to read through one of my regular blog articles. “Short Take” will also allow me to post more often. Depending on your view of my writing, this is either very good or horribly bad news. I will be commenting on current events, my cases, and topics I believe would be of general interest. I will also continue the approximate bi-monthly “treatise” I tend to compose on issues. Thank you for putting up with the length of these articles. For what it’s worth, in 2013 and the first part of 2014, gmancasefile.com has averaged 12,000 unique visits per month. My sincere thanks to those of you who visit.
SHORT TAKE #1: FBI Search Reveals Explosives in S.F.
This is how a crime scene search is done. Are you seeing this, Giuliano Mignini? Listen to your experts in Rome.
4:40 a.m., Hollywood, California: I just finished a CNN New Day segment on the FBI search of the San Francisco apartment of Ryan Chamberlain II and the reports that he possessed explosives. (I'll post the segment later.) Sound-bites rarely convey the entire truth of a situation and this appearance was no exception, though CNN usually gives each issue five minutes, while many other outlets spend half that time. What I didn't get a chance to say was that judging from the protocol used by the FBI Evidence Response Team/Bomb Techs, there was no significant amount of explosives in Chamberlain’s apartment at all. Not trying to defend him, I don’t know anything about him. Just commenting on what I see and comparing it to what I know.
My squads (domestic and international terrorism) worked a LOT of bomb scenes and potential bomb scenes. When we found or suspected explosives at a location, the protocol required us to FIRST assess the potential danger with FBI Bomb Technicians (Bomb Techs) and determine from them--overgeneralizing here-- "How big an explosion could this amount of explosives potentially make?" We would get an estimated radius of blast damage, then add 10-50% for extra safety, and evacuate that big an area. In an apartment building, you would have to assess whether the potential explosion might bring down the structure. If unsure, you assumed it could. Needless to say, even small bombs or explosives caches resulted in large evacuations.
The FBI Evidence Response and Bomb teams in SF evacuated nobody. Not even the people in apartments next to Chamberlain’s. And it's not because they weren't following protocol. From what I saw on news footage, this warrant search was so "by the book" it could be used as a training video. If anything, they were erring on the side of caution. As somebody trained in the discipline, I can tell you that their execution was impressive. If I was their boss, I would be beaming with pride.
So I'd have to ask what type of explosives they found there. I lean toward the conclusion that they found components which are harmless unless combined. For instance, empty foot-long lengths of threaded galvanized pipe, end caps and cans of smokeless powder—the makings of a pipe bomb. If the three aren't combined there's no danger. Maybe blasting caps? Fuses? Uncombined explosive precursors? Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer not yet mixed with diesel fuel, the Oklahoma City bomb components? The list of possibilities is almost endless.
What would really be illuminating would be to get a copy of the search warrant and find out what their probable cause was to search the apartment, and what they expected to find there--and why.
As we go farther down the road of dealing with the violent mentally ill in our society, I can’t help but recognize that when and if guns are banned (or even made incredibly difficult to obtain and keep—like in SF) people will turn to other, unregulated means to cause death and destruction. And they will find that they can cause even larger casualty counts with commonly available items such as the aforementioned fertilizer and diesel fuel, threaded galvanized pipe and smokeless powder, even fireworks and pressure cookers like those used in Boston.
We can play Whack-A-Mole by banning one weapon system at a time as each pops up and causes mass casualties (the TSA model), but American can never be made a sterile concourse. As George S. Patton famously said, “Fixed fortifications are a monument to man’s stupidity.” It’s time to concentrate on the killer, and realize that the means can never be eliminated as long as a man has a car, gasoline, a hammer or a steak knife.
'If there's no evidence against her, she's obviously guilty.'
For months we have waited for the Italian appellate court in Florence to provide its “motivations” for their startling decision to overturn the unanimous October 2011 innocent verdicts of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. The appellate court had the exact same evidence in front of them as did the court which exonerated the two, with the addition of several pieces of evidence that even further bolstered the innocence of Knox and Sollecito. But unimaginably, the Florence court (apparently at the behest of the Italian Court of Cassation) convicted them. And all it took was the suspension of natural law.
The motivation document (in Italian jurisprudence) attempts to explain the decision of the court. This document is in, and after hearing only the first assertion of the translated report, I can tell you that just that one argument has convinced me. Guilty is the proper verdict. I have never seen a more convincing, clear and irrefutable document. “Guilty” of a crime which still victimizes Meredith Kercher and her family. Guilty of a crime which is as old as mankind itself, and tears at the fabric of society: The court of Alessandro Nencini is guilty of Judicial Corruption.
The “motivation” document produced by Judge Nencini alleges that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were able to do something that no criminal in the history of mankind has ever before been able to accomplish: Selectively clean up their own invisible DNA, leaving only the DNA of the man they wished to “frame.” To do so, they obviously had to possess the power to see DNA with their naked eyes, know whose it was (something the first Italian court famously couldn’t do with microscopes), and remove only their own. And most importantly, they had to clean the DNA from a bloody room without leaving a mark where the blood had been disturbed. This is like removing the underlying primer coat from a car’s paint without disturbing the paint job itself. It’s like doing a heart transplant through a sweat gland. It’s like removing Jesus from DaVinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” without anybody noticing. Even Batman’s foes never achieved this level of sophistication. You have to give Amanda and Raffaele credit for ingenuity. Or the Italian court credit for imagination.
Here is a rough translation of the court's logic with my underlined comments.
"It has been much discussed, especially by the defense of the defendants, whether a “selective” clean-up of the crime scene is possible by the authors of the crime. This possibility was denied on the basis of the empirical impossibility of a “naked eye” to identify and select the singular traces, often invisible, to destroy. It was also excluded that someone in the cottage of Via della Pergola, on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, after having committed the murder of Meredith Kercher, could “selectively clean” the traces left by the authors of the crime, destroying all of the traces of the defendants in question, and leaving at the crime scene all of those traces that would have lead investigators to Rudy Hermann Guede."
[Translation: Yes, we have heard for years that selective cleaning of DNA at a crime scene is an "impossibility," and people simply can't "see" DNA with the naked eye. We get that. But then how is it possible that Amanda and Raffaele's DNA weren't present at the place they killed Meredith?]
"The affirmation, if apparently agreeable theoretically, must be correlated with the case in question, of which there are certain peculiarities."
[Translation: Even if it's theoretically impossible, we must look at this impossibility in relation to this case.]
" It is peculiar, for example, that no traces of Amanda Marie Knox were found in the cottage of Via Della Pergola if not those which are refer-able to the murder."
[Translation: It is peculiar that no traces of Amanda Knox were found in the cottage in which she lived. That would be peculiar if the statement was true--but it's not. There were many traces of Amanda in the cottage--that were admitted into evidence. Just none in the victim's room where the murder occurred. How he can get away with that lie is a mystery.]
"The Court retains that in fulfilling its duty, it must limit itself to a reasoning that is founded upon objective facts;"
[Just not SCIENTIFIC facts]
"An argument characteristically objective that emerged procedurally was evidence that, after the murder of Meredith Kercher, selective or not, there was a clean-up of the traces of the murder, and a maneuvering of the body of poor Meredith into a position (between the armoire and the wall of the room and covered by a duvet)"
[None of which is supported by a scintilla of physical evidence or testimony]
"...that certainly doesn’t correspond with the position in which the girl died, at the end of the aggressive phase. Someone spent much time within the cottage on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, altering the crime scene and destroying numerous traces."
[Without leaving evidence of doing so.]
"The evidence provided by the Scientific Police proves this incontestable truth, which the reasoning must take into consideration."
[Translation: Amanda and Raffaele, if they killed Meredith, would have left behind evidence of their presence. But no evidence of their presence was there. This is a problem. So....]
1. Either it is possible (against scientific fact) to selectively clean DNA, or Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.
2. We have already decided that Amanda and Raffaele are guilty.
3. Therefore, the only conclusion left is that it MUST be possible to selectively clean DNA from a crime scene.
Extra credit: Without using blood stains of the victim; locate 3 separate DNA profiles in this photo (identify DNA donor by first and last name), circle their location. Show your work. You have five minutes.
This "logic" is mind-blowing and simply shameful. In order to believe these court motivations, one is required to believe the impossible. This is not an unprecedented requirement in Italian courts. In 2012, a court in L’Aquila, Italy suspended reality and convicted six seismologists of manslaughter for not predicting a killer earthquake. The fact that no earthquake in human history has ever been accurately predicted did not cause the court pause. Or embarrassment. Or shame. The seismologists were sentenced to 6 years in prison, each.
There are only two explanations for arguing the impossible in the motivations: Idiocy or corruption.
I reject the idiocy argument. No human being who possesses the intelligence to study law and rise to sit on a judicial bench, could look at this crime scene and believe the argument of selective and undetectable microscopic cleaning. In fact, I suspect that Nencini, rather than being an imbecile, is quite politically savvy.
No, this is a pre-determined court decision, made in contravention of science and every piece of reliable evidence. What’s the word for that?
Why did they convict? Ah, that’s where the report’s title “Motivations” is a misnomer. For it simply tells us ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the corruption, but not the ‘why.’ Ironically, the “motivations” report ignores the real motivations of the court in framing Amanda and Raffaele. Likely, it involves embarrassment, nationalism, anti-Americanism, money, protectionism or provincialism, or a combination of several. But the ‘why’ is less important than the corruption itself.
The only “idiocy” which manifests itself in this travesty is the belief that the world will look at this decision and not instantly recognize it for what it is—thuggery. It is the kind of idiocy that allows Kim Jung Un to believe that people outside of North Korea accept that he is a beloved leader because his people sing his praises. He hopes we don't notice that they do so at gunpoint. It is the idiocy of a basic underestimation of the reasonableness of the rest of the world. It is also provincialism.
One of the court’s statements says; “It is not believable that a group sexual intercourse had started. This hypothesis is not consistent with the personality of the English girl.” That it was equally (and demonstrably) inconsistent with the personality of the American girl apparently did not matter. It just didn’t register on the court’s Richter scale. This kind of provincialism is Donald Sterling-quality prejudice masquerading as legal jargon. Don't confuse official language with truth. Al Capone gave out business cards which said he was a "Used Furniture Dealer."
The vast majority of Italians with whom I regularly correspond fight for real justice and reject this verdict, hoped it wouldn’t come, but ultimately suspected it might. Likely, they just didn’t expect that it would be this outlandish. They are doing what they can to fight a corrupt system, and I admire them. But there are limits to what you can achieve when one side has the ability to suspend scientific reality at will.
When decisions are repeatedly handed down which fly in the face of science and known fact, and innocents are imprisoned apparently to protect cronies or institutions, it results in an appearance of third-world corruption, or mafia tactics. This primitive, crude and dishonorable verdict is more evidence of a cancer undeserved by the fine people of Italy, a country which was the first to bring the hope of justice for the common man to the entire world.
This unprincipled decision has shaken, and will continue to shake to the core the world’s belief in the justice of Italy's legal system. And we saw it coming. You know, maybe the court in L’Aquila got it right after all. Maybe earthquakes are predictable.
Damage done to Italian courts by L'Aquila earthquake and Knox verdicts.
The Disappearance of MH370
The Perils of Premature Conclusions
Crash investigations and criminal investigations have common enemies: The desire for a quick resolution, the fear by investigators of being perceived as ineffective or incompetent, and the resultant danger of premature conclusions. Beautiful downtown Leadville, Colorado.
I have been asked by CNN and friends to add my voice to the discussions of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (MH370). I feel well qualified to do so: I supervised Al Qaeda investigations for the Los Angeles FBI after 9/11, and these investigations obviously involved plots to down and/or hijack airliners. I have also been an active pilot (and for several years a professional pilot) since age 16. I have been involved in the investigation of two airline crashes suspected of being the result of terrorist acts (PSA 1771, December 1987) and TWA 800 (July, 1996). On FBI SWAT, I was extensively trained in retaking airliners from hijackers. Even growing up, I was steeped in airlines and airline security. My father (also a pilot and former FBI agent) was Manager of Security for United Airlines, authored two textbooks on aircraft and airline security, and sat on several FAA security committees.
One thing I have learned in the investigation of terrorism, violent crime and airplane crashes is that there is almost never a scenario which will answer all outstanding questions about a particular incident, nor will the correct scenario explain every circumstance you know to be true. There will always be mystery. That is why people still debate the Kennedy assassination, and why some still refuse to believe the obvious truth of the attacks against the U.S. on 9/11 by al Qaeda. Even if we had the flight recorder results in front of us, they would not answer all of our questions regarding MH370. This is because regardless of what happened on the ill-fated plane, people were afraid, people were confused, and people did not act logically at all times—and logical actions are the stuff on which we base all of our assumptions. So regardless of whether this was a hijacking, an airplane crash or anything in between, no scenario will explain every eventuality. But we are in no danger of running out of scenarios; some of them ludicrous.
One particularly silly assertion is that persons unknown flew the aircraft above its certified ceiling of 43,000 feet to the height of 45,000 feet in order to incapacitate the passengers due to lack of oxygen.
This shows a profound misunderstanding of modern aircraft. A Boeing 777’s cabin altitude at 43,000 is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Climbing to 45,000 (2,000 feet above its rated ceiling) would bring the cabin altitude no higher than 10,000 feet. For comparison, Leadville, Colorado is a town of 2,602 people situated at 10,152 feet above sea level. It is likely that the inhabitants do not consider themselves incapacitated. If one wanted to incapacitate passengers, they could simply depressurize the airplane at any altitude above, say, 25,000. No need to climb.
In all the speculation that I have heard on the fate of MH370, I have seen authorities in Malaysia making the same crucial investigative error over and over and over: They are making conclusory statements rather than observational statements. Here’s what I mean by that:
If I walk into a dark room in my house and the lights are off, there are dozens of different possibilities which would explain the lack of light from the bulb. These range from the light simply being switched off at the wall, to a bad bulb, to an overdue electric bill. All I can say with certainty (without further investigation) is that the bulb is not illuminated. If I flip the wall switch ‘on’ and the bulb doesn't go on, I have only eliminated one or two possibilities. If I state conclusively at that moment that the bulb is burned out, I am, in actuality, only guessing.
The Malaysian authorities are taking observations and making conclusory statements which are not supported by known fact. Instead of stating that “…at some point the transponder signal was no longer received by air traffic control,” they make the jump to say that “..one or the other of the pilots manually turned the transponder off,” and then provide no evidence to support that claim. There could be a dozen different reasons why the transponder signal was no longer received by air traffic control. Even if a transponder lost part of its function, such as altitude reporting, (something a pilot could switch off in the cockpit), it does not indicate that the pilot did so. Just because a pilot could do something does not mean he actually did. It could mean that the altitude-indicating functions of the transponder were interrupted—by electrical problems, for instance.
As an aside, I have spent many weeks in Indonesia and that part of Asia investigating terrorism and terrorist attacks. What I found was a reluctance on the part of host nations to cooperate fully in investigative tasks and a strong fear, bordering on paranoia about sharing investigative results. Our investigations were hampered, and the number of FBI agents allowed in-country to investigate attacks against Americans or American assets were greatly limited. This does not bode well for the investigation of MH370.
Another conclusory statement I have heard was that “..the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) has not been triggered.” This is not necessarily true. An ELT is like any other transmitter—including your cell phone—in that it relies on an antenna to broadcast a signal. If you disconnect any transmitter or receiver (such as your car radio) from its antenna, even though everything else might be completely functional, you would receive no stations. If the antenna of the ELT was disconnected for any reason, such as the aircraft coming apart, or an onboard fire, the device itself might transmit beautifully, but would have no antenna with which to broadcast more than a few feet from the aircraft. This type of scenario has occurred with enough regularity that the FAA is concerned about it. Most notably Sen. Ted Stevens’ plane crashed in 2010 killing everyone on board. No emergency locator transmitter signal was received. It was later determined that the emergency locator transmitter worked flawlessly, but during the crash, the antenna wire was severed. Certainly airliner antennas are more robust and better able to survive a crash, but they are not immune to fire or damage.
Fire inside airliners not as unusual as people would like to believe. In August, 1980, a Saudia Airline Lockheed 1011 suffered a cabin fire soon after takeoff, which many people still attribute to a passenger attempting to cook on an open fire; (not unheard of among religious pilgrims which made up the bulk of the flight’s passengers). When notified of the fire, the pilots donned their smoke masks and attempted to make it back to Riyadh Airport. They touched down safely and were even able to turn off the runway before being overcome by smoke. Tragically, and possibly because of the fire, they did not—or could not— depressurize the aircraft and firemen were not able to enter the aircraft. There were no survivors among the 287 passengers on board even though the aircraft landed safely.
In 1996, a ValuJet DC-9 experienced a fire which was caused by cargo in the forward hold near the nose of the aircraft. The pilot immediately turned back to the airport after takeoff, but the fire spread rapidly, progressively interrupting electrical power to the aircraft one system at a time, before it affected the pilot's ability to control the aircraft, likely burning through hydraulic lines and or cables. The DC-9 crashed without further radio communication and again there were no survivors. Both of these fires caused the death of everyone on board within minutes of the fire breaking out. Sometimes, the very first indication of an electrical problem is the inability to communicate outside of the aircraft. A less-stressful flying day
MY OWN EXPERIENCE
As a pilot, I have experienced an inflight fire in the cockpit. Ironically, this occurred 25 years ago this month, but the memories will never leave me. In March of 1989, I was the pilot of an FBI aircraft operating as “Ross 75,” in the process of a rendezvous with another FBI aircraft, “Ross 32” over the coast of Southern California. As I was communicating with Ross 32 and sliding into position well below him, a high-pitched, painfully-loud squeal erupted in my earphones and the earphones of my copilot. I instinctively looked at my gauges, and noticed that the electrical charge in the aircraft was pegged on the high side, well into the red zone. This was a very serious problem. It indicated that the alternator was putting out power wildly in excess of the aircraft’s needs, and I knew that the excess power would be routed directly into the battery, which would heat up, and had a high likelihood of exploding. I didn’t know how long I had to remedy the situation.
I keyed the microphone button and transmitted to the other aircraft, “Ross 32, ‘75’ is going to be off the air for just a second or two.”
No time for an explanation, no time for discussion, no time for anything other than the notification. Seconds after this transmission, a smoky fire erupted violently in my cockpit. I remember vividly the realization that I had only a few seconds to get the airplane safely on the ground—or into the ocean below me. The cockpit was filling rapidly with black smoke and I was having difficulty seeing out the windshield. A yellow glow under the instrument panel above my legs added urgency—this is an area shared by my legs and the fuel lines. The engine—ironically on the other side of the firewall—was running perfectly well.
I remember my first two steps—turn toward the nearest airport and lose altitude! Fires will burn into your fuel lines, into you, and sever control lines or cause major structural failure. We were fortunate. We were able to extinguish the fire by the time we reached 500 feet. But then, we had to deal with the fact that we had no electrical power, no communications, no transponder, flaps or landing gear, and were unable to even call for help. But we were fortunate. Had the battery exploded, no clue to our demise would have existed except my brief radio call “I’ll be off the air for a second.”
Recently, several friends (independently) forwarded to me the same article on the disappearance of MH370, written by a Canadian pilot by the name of Chris Goodfellow who had a startlingly simple and logical explanation to what might have happened aboard the ill-fated plane. Goodfellow’s article postulates that upon deviating from its intended course, MH370 did not turn to a random heading; it turned to a heading that, according to Mr. Goodfellow, led directly to the nearest runway large enough to accommodate a Boeing 777. If that is true, it speaks volumes to me. When I experienced my fire, I had one goal in life however short I felt that life might be: Get was my aircraft on the ground or in the water as soon as possible. I turned directly towards the nearest airport which would accommodate my aircraft.
The investigation of crimes and crashes share a truism: The most logical, simple scenario is usually the actual
scenario. The facts we have regarding MH370 are consistent with a cascading loss or deactivation of electrical and electronic componentry in the aircraft. That is generally not consistent with the takeover of an aircraft where the hijackers don't want to be seen by radar. If a hijacker has trained well enough to take over an aircraft and hijack it, he knows to turn off all the instruments all at once. He doesn’t have any reason to turn off one instrument right away, and then turn off another 15 minutes later. That makes no sense. However, a cascading failure of electronics is not only consistent with a fire or other malfunction in an aircraft, it is a leading indicator of that scenario.
I believe that it is entirely possible,
and consistent with the vast majority of known facts, that a fire of unknown origin aboard MH370 disabled its ability to communicate and eventually caused the incapacitation of the crew. The aircraft was likely “trimmed” for controlled flight, which would cause it to tend to remain in stable flight. If the crew and passengers were subsequently overcome by smoke, I believe all further flight occurred autonomously by the aircraft much as Payne Stewart's plane flew from Florida to South Dakota after its occupants were incapacitated. In that incident, the plane, destined for Dallas, flew north and continued for four hours before running out of fuel.
I believe that it is unlikely that we will ever find the crash site of MH370. But any search should likely begin at a location where the aircraft would have run out of fuel (considering the different fuel burns at the same power settings at lower altitudes.)
If the aircraft was below its cruising altitude, it would use an immensely higher amount of fuel per hour. HIJACKING?
There is abundant reasonable and mostly responsible speculation that the aircraft might be on the ground somewhere and that the passengers were kidnapped and may be alive. As a terrorism investigator, I do not find the logic of that scenario compelling. First, no ransom demand nor claim of responsibility has been made by anybody credible. Secondarily, the logistics required for such an undertaking are immense. The aircraft would have been on the ground now for well more than 10 days, and food and water for 239 passengers would be required (as well as dozens of guards to keep them in custody—remember, you have to have guards 24 hours a day, so assuming 8 hour shifts, triple the number of guards it would take to control the passengers at any given time.)
The other logical leap required is that nobody has noticed or reported a Boeing 777 in a place one has never been seen before.
Also, it takes at least five or six thugs to keep the passengers on an entire airliner passive in flight. And as the terrorists learned with United 93, sometimes even that isn’t enough. So they would likely need 10 or more thugs to control the passengers on a 777; and not one single individual meeting that definition has come to the surface.
Do I think that a hijacking scenario is impossible? No. Do I think it's likely? Not at all.
Also, “stealing” the aircraft to use as a weapon later
makes little sense. To use it, one would have to fill it up with jet fuel (approximately 45,000 gallons),
then, take off towards a target city thousands of miles and many hours of flight time away—all without a flight plan. It would be incredibly easy to identify, intercept and interdict an aircraft with a radar signature the size of the moon. As soon as it got within 1,000 miles of a major city, it would simply glow. As we saw with 9/11, the reason that terrorists must
use the aircraft immediately after acquisition is to take advantage of the temporary passivity of the passengers, the confusion of air traffic controllers, and the authorities’ reluctance to down an airliner full of innocent hostages. Once an airplane like MH370 is on the ground, there is no reason to believe that these hostages are onboard the aircraft anymore, so no reason to keep from shooting it down.
It is too early at this point to establish a proximate cause of the disappearance of MH370. But at this moment, I believe that Mr. Goodfellow’s scenario of a cabin fire (regardless of its source) is likeliest scenario. http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/03/mh370-electrical-fire/
I have been encouraged of late by the outpouring of support for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito by a particularly important group, at least to me: Brits.
As a proud Welshman by heritage (my grandmother was born in the Rhondda Valley, the daughter of a coal miner), I have always considered my British heritage a source of great pride and an important part of my identity, which I have attempted to pass on to my children.
So it has not been without some emotional pain that the Knox/Sollecito case has seemed to cleave along national lines (notwithstanding a few Americans of dubious motive) creating a ‘gap’ between myself and some British citizens. That people with whom I would otherwise likely enjoy spending a pub evening are capable of such vitriol, especially directed and my wife and me, is more disappointing than the vitriol itself.
The thought that I (or my wife) would decide such an important matter on national pride and not facts is an anathema to me—especially if the allegation is that I am prejudiced against the British. Michelle’s grandfather was a B-24D pilot stationed at Hardwick near Norwich in 1942. He flew 10 missions before being shot down over Cologne, Germany. (Or as he liked to say, “10 takeoffs and 9 landings.”) We visit Britain often and plan to be back soon. (We’ll likely see some of you then.) Tragically, the painful disconnect seems to result not from a difference of opinion, but a large “gap” between fact and fiction.
Ironically, I am accused of siding with Amanda because she is an American, and a woman. Interesting fact: More than 90% of all the people I ever arrested were American. I am completely comfortable with the fact that Americans can be criminals. Are American criminals to be favored above non-American criminals? It makes no sense. I have also arrested American women—some of them very attractive. In fact, I’ve never arrested a woman who was not an American.
I want the killer of Meredith Kercher to be punished to the full extent of the law. The problem is that the evidence clearly establishes that the killer of Meredith Kercher was a lone attacker, Rudy Guede. And because of the tragic mistakes of the Italian investigators and prosecutors, Rudy Guede will leave jail after serving a sentence unworthy of Meredith’s suffering and the Kercher’s loss.
Certainly, even if another irrational verdict is handed down, no rational person believes that America, or any other civilized country would extradite one of their own citizens to the host of such a witch trial. Certainly Britain would not, and I would support Her in that decision.
Of more significance is a historical look at what happened after the first, tragic "guilty" verdict for Knox and Sollecito in December, 2009. Almost immediately, there was a worldwide outcry from rational people over the injustice. This cry of "foul" rose in strength and volume, and it took only two years to reverse the travesty.
If this appeals court acquiesces to the outrageous demands of the Court of Cazzione, history shows us that a chorus of indignant cries will soon be heard and justice will not be denied. It will strengthen pro-justicve groups for years to come--at the potential (albeit temporary) cost of the freedom of one fine, innocent man.
Lately, however, I have enjoyed some encouragement.
More and more, a large group of British nationals are concluding that the evidence certainly clears Knox and Sollecito of any crime, and are becoming more involved in their defense. It does my heart good to know that Scots, Welsh, Irish and English, are joining the cause, as well as Australians, Canadians and Europeans from more countries than I can quickly call to mind. It is a great relief to realize that for every angry, misinformed Brit that I have encountered, I am finding even more who display the characteristic British fairness, civility and sober judgment.
It’s my hope that I too, can counterbalance certain misguided, hateful Americans, and that these articles help to close the gap between fact and fiction regarding the Kercher murder.
The protection from double jeopardy is one of the oldest and most important legal tenets in western civilization. According to some sources, the Athenians initiated the concept 1,700 years ago, and ironically, the Romans first codified the principle in 533 A.D. Britain considers the protections against double-jeopardy to be a “universal maxim of the common law.”
The need for such a prohibition is obviously to prevent governments (who are able to fund prosecutions ad infinitum) from simply wearing down the defendant’s financial, psychological or social ability to defend themselves, or at worst, keep a defendant in prison until their death.
The protection is important enough that it is included within the first five amendments to the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “No person shall be…subjected for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”
Double Jeopardy is defined by legal dictionaries as:
“A second [criminal] prosecution for the same offense after acquittal…or multiple punishments for same offense.”
Absent protections against double jeopardy, governments would be able prosecute over and over and over until they attain the verdict they are seeking, and then call the trial concluded and fair. Imagine in soccer (“football” outside the U.S.) a rule that would allow the home team to add as much time to the game clock as they like when their team is behind. Home teams would rarely lose.
WHAT IS “JEOPARDY,” AND WHEN DOES IT ATTACH?
"Jeopardy" is simply the legal term for danger or "risk."
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, jeopardy attaches any time a person’s “life or limb” (freedom or physical life) are in play as a result of a trial. The exact moment this occurs in a jury trial is the moment the jury is sworn-in or “empaneled.”
In Benton v. Maryland, (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court strengthened the double jeopardy provisions of the United States government by ruling that no state could hold double jeopardy protections less than those mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Remember that point.
WHEN DOES JEOPARDY TERMINATE?
Jeopardy terminates if and when The defendant is acquitted at any time.
Obviously, once they are acquitted, they are no longer at risk, and jeopardy terminates. However, if you then put them "at risk" once again for the very same charge for which they have already been acquitted, you have subjected them to "double jeopardy." This is true no matter how you couch it, what you name the proceeding, or how you camouflage it. A rose by any other name...would still stink.
This protection against double jeopardy attaches regardless of any and all post-trial evidence, even jury tampering found post-acquittal. Under U.S. law, an acquitted defendant could theoretically confess to the crime and not be subject to retrial on the main charge (though you might get them for perjury at that point). The reason for this severe restriction of a prosecutor’s power is the result of the excesses of King George III in the immediate pre-Revolution years in which he retried those who had been judicially exonerated.
This protection of the sanctity of a not guilty verdict is specifically designed to ensure that a jury, any jury, enjoys the power to nullify malicious prosecutions, judicial misconduct, and egregious behavior by the police.
WHY ARE U.S. APPEALS NOT DOUBLE-JEOPARDY?
Appeals in U.S. courts do not trigger double jeopardy for several reasons. First and foremost, no verdict of "not guilty" can be appealed. Ever. U.S. appeals are not retrials, and the person requesting the appeal is the defendant, never the prosecution. It is a protection from governmental power, not a protection of governmental power.
Secondarily, U.S. appeals deal only with procedural propriety of the previous court, and not the facts of the case. Sentencing is only involved if improper procedures were used by the previous court in the determination of penalty. In short, it is a procedural review of the previous court’s actions, and not a re-weighing of the evidence.
WHEN IS AN APPEAL NOT AN APPEAL?
I. An appeal becomes a retrial when the person "on appeal” has already been declared innocent or not guilty.
II. An appeal is a retrial when a second jury, (or third) is empaneled.
III. An appeal is a retrial when evidence is re-entered, and/or witnesses testify to facts of the case that deal with guilt or innocence, and not judicial procedure.
IV. Finally, a retrial exists when added penalties are requested by the prosecution.
Every one of these definitions of "retrial" have occurred in the involuntary "appeal" of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
“MAY I HAVE HYPOCRISY FOR $800, ALEX?”
The great irony in all of this is that the founders and proponents of the prohibitions against double jeopardy are the judicial ancestors of modern day England and Italy, the two countries from which so many jackals currently yelp for Amanda Knox’s head and advocate for her extradition should the current third trial court convict her and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
It is obviously in the best interests of Italy, the Kercher family, and Amanda and Raffaele for the witch trials end. But should they not, Amanda is not in danger of extradition. Tragically, Raffaele has no such protection.
“THE DAILY DOUBLE!”
Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were decisively exonerated (given a verdict of “innocent," a stronger vindication than “not guilty” under Italian law) in October 2011.
Under U.S. law, it’s over. Period. Or as the British say, “full stop.”
However, the Italians argue that this appeal of her innocent verdict has not triggered jeopardy a second time. This, they say, is because her case is simply winding its way through the “established Italian appeals process.” That it is winding it’s way through such a process may be true, but simply because something is an “established Italian process,” doesn’t make it legal in the U.S. or create a defense to U.S. laws. “Established legal procedures” in some countries include stoning, the cutting off of limbs, and double jeopardy.
Some who root for the Italians to imprison two innocents like to point out that the Italian Supreme Court allegedly "annulled" the decision of the appellate court which exonerated Knox and Sollecito. They can say what they want, call it what they want, but labels do not change the fact that the trial happened. And that is what matters. They may disagree with the court's findings, but they cannot pretend the trial didn't occur. The court might as well annul a rape and pretend that it didn't happen. (An judicial act which they have, tragically, gotten away with twice in the last five years.)
THE "DUCK TEST"
Poet James Whitcomb Riley coined a useful phrase at the turn of the 20th century. He observed wisely;
“When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."
Italian Supreme Court "Sparrow."
The Italians can call their procedure whatever they like, but American courts know a duck when they see one. And American law will define Italian actions in light of the U.S. Constitution, not questionable Italian legal procedures and the ramblings of malicious, anonymous trolls. What Knox and Sollecito are enduring is in no uncertain terms a second trial on a charge for which they have already been adjudicated "innocent." End of story.
The current appeals trial of Knox and Sollecito in Florence is a second (illegal) trial under U.S. law because:
1. It follows an innocent verdict
2. It is rehearing evidence not related to procedural issues
3. It empaneled a new jury
4. The prosecutors will ask for an increased sentence
a. Second time in jeopardy for “life and limb”
The Italian argument (and that of some British Internet trolls) is that Knox's earlier conviction/exoneration have no permanent legal bearing because nothing in Italy is finalized until the terminal verdict of the Supreme Court.
Sounds like an interesting argument until you consider that after the first verdict, Amanda and Raffaele were held in prison for two years (in addition to the two they had already served). Sounds like the verdict held some legal weight separate from any appeal.
When Knox and Sollecito were exonerated on appeal, they were released. If the exoneration and innocent verdict were simply procedural pieces on the way to a final verdict, then their custodial status would not have changed. Their imprisonment then release is prima facie evidence that the verdicts of previous trials were valid in and of themselves. The fact that after release, Italy now attempts to put them back in prison is the absolute definition of double jeopardy. Jeopardy is risk. They were put under risk of prison in the first trial, lost their freedom, and were then released after being found innocent. Now, they are at risk of returning to prison. Second jeopardy--same alleged crime. This is not rocket science. But it is apparently beyond the comprehension of some Italian prosecutors and British Internet trolls.
Ironically, for double-jeopardy not to attach in this case, Knox would have had to remain in prison. Her release validates that the court's innocence decision was a final decision of at least one court—which could be (against all U.S. law) appealed.
The point that is apparently lost on so many is this: What might be legal to subject an American citizen to in Italy--will not necessarily be seen as legally valid once they are in the United States. While the U.S. will not interfere with "established Italian legal procedures" involving an American in Italy, when that same American returns home, it will adjudicate all matters relating to them in accordance with American law. Even if the case is an Italian case.
More succinctly: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But in America, you'll do it their way." The reason American double jeopardy laws were created were for situations exactly like this.
The Knox haters frequently assert that she has been “convicted” of murder and is appealing that “guilty” verdict. Such a statement is actually a helpful admission of the attachment of double jeopardy. For the Italian system not to violate double jeopardy, each and every lower-court decision would have to be called “provisional” and not result in any incarceration or punishment until the final verdict of the Supreme Court, or until the prosecutors gave up. The assertion of a "guilty" status is evidence of the opposite.
Italy is a wonderful country populated by wonderful people. But their judicial system has fallen back to the days of the Inquisition, and it is they, not foreigners who are paying the price. There are several Italians still on trial after at least two "not guilty" verdicts.
Happily, the chances of Amanda Knox being extradited to Italy (if corrupt Italian courts ultimately have their way) are zero. Or less. Even absent the double jeopardy problem, it is doubtful that a single piece of the prosecution’s imagined “evidence” would be admissible in U.S. federal courts, which would make extradition even more of a pipe dream. It's one thing to extradite after double jeopardy for a real crime, it's quite another to extradite the victim of a kangaroo court following double jeopardy.
Secondarily, once false or contrived evidence is entered by Italian prosecutors into U.S. court, they bear responsibility under U.S. civil authority for any misstatements, misrepresentations and/or actions they make/take. They (individually) and the Italian government would bear civil monetary liability for any damages incurred by Knox as a result. I suspect that there will be few volunteers among the Italian prosecutors to come to America.
It is a different story for Raffaele Sollecito. Raff is a fine, gentle, intelligent man who lived with my family for a short time. We consider him a close friend. He lived across the hall from my teenage daughter, and I had no fear for her safety. It is Raff who is in danger from the Italians, for in order to save face in their obsessive quest to convict the innocent, the prosecutors must ultimately imprison the one person who has no U.S. legal protections, which means once again, the Italians—no one else—will suffer at the hands of their government. would behoove the Italian judiciary to cut their losses and do justice at this point, while the chorus of embarrassing jeers is still at a manageable level. If the Italians push this point and bring their “evidence” and their legal system into a U.S. federal court for examination, nothing but national shame (and civil liability) will result. Their judicial "stock" will fall in value to frightening levels in the western world.
In the earlier soccer game analogy where the time can be extended by the home team, it’s possible that the other team will just keep scoring and further humiliate the home team. Sometimes it’s smart to take the first loss and walk away with dignity.
I asked you earlier to note the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that ordered all U.S. states to provide at least the same protection against double jeopardy as does the federal government. It therefore implies that no definition of double jeopardy, domestic or foreign, is valid if it does not match the U.S. federal definition of double jeopardy. If that is the protection the Supreme Court requires of its own states, how much more will the Supreme Court provide protection for an innocent American against an overreaching, byzantine foreign prosecution. Even if Amanda Knox is convicted by a corrupt or incompetent Italian appellate court, and it is ratified by the quaint but archaic Italian Supreme Court, Amanda Knox will never be extradited, and will therefore never be a "fugitive," except in the mind of those who see demons in the flesh walking the streets of Perugia.
As we have said, double jeopardy protection in the U.S. Constitution is specifically designed to ensure that any jury can nullify the malicious prosecutions, judicial misconduct and egregious behavior by the police. The appellate court of Judge Hellman did just that in October, 2011. Sadly, the Italian Supreme Court appears bent on snuffing that very spark of nobility so bravely struck in Perugia just two years ago.
THE COURT OF INSANITY
We expect a verdict this month in the court-ordered proceeding in the Kercher murder appeal in Italy. (Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were fully exonerated over two years ago. But in May 2013, the Italian Supreme Court inexplicably ordered the case back to an appellate court in Florence, ostensibly to answer questions which somehow vexed them.)
Most court observers agree that if the case is decided on the merits of the “evidence,” then Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito will be exonerated—again. But if evidence really mattered, this case would never have gone to trial in the first place.
That the Italian Supreme Court would question the Appellate Court’s strong exoneration of Amanda and Raffaele should not have come as such a surprise. A year ago, before the Kercher decision, the Supreme Court ruled in a case that an 18-year-old woman could not have been raped by her instructor, because she was wearing tight jeans, which can’t be removed without her assistance. She was therefore, according to the court, a willing participant in the sex—much the same as a bank teller with a gun in her face is an accessory to bank robbery.
“But,” you think, “Surely that was an aberration.” Oh, if only. The Supreme Court’s decision regarding Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito was the meat-in-the-sandwich decision between the “jeans prevent rape” decision, and an even more stupid (if that were possible) decision by the same court last month. In this newest atrocity, the high court overturned the conviction of a 60-year-old pedophile social worker for having sex with an 11-year-old girl—because, they said, “the girl was in love.” You can’t make this stuff up—and you wouldn’t want to.
There was no denial by the defendant that sex between the two had occurred. Never mind that the age of consent in Italy is 16 when the assailant is in a position of authority (and 14 years old otherwise.) The 11-year-old was in love! This is not some country bumpkin outlying court, this is a central, Supreme bumpkin court. This is the court with whom rests a sober decision on the verdict in the Knox/Sollecito appeals court. Perhaps the court considers an 11-year-old girl an adult because she and the court share the same level of maturity and reasoning power. I am stunned that this court is not burning witches.
Certainly, all informed, unbiased people have discovered that the Kercher murder is no longer about facts and evidence; it is about Italy’s legal system “saving face.” (Spoiler alert: It’s too late.) Unless the appellate judge in this instance has the strength of character possessed by the last appellate judge, Pratillo Hellmann, then anything is possible. But know this; anything but a complete exoneration is a political expediency, not a judicial finding.
While I hope that Amanda will not have to deal with a false conviction and the travel restrictions an unjust conviction might impose on her, I do not fear that she will ever spend another day in prison—anywhere. Even if we ignore the obvious problem of double-jeopardy (regardless of what the Italian judicial system calls it), no civilized country would extradite one of its own citizens on the basis of such contrived, illegitimate evidence, or at the behest of a such a backwards legal system—even if it derives from a country as modern, sophisticated and wonderful as Italy. My fear is for Raffaele Sollecito, an Italian citizen. As usual, the main people to suffer when a legal system goes bad are the innocent people in that country.
In the words of “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln, “With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.”
There has always been a certain negativity about those who misguidedly believe Knox and Sollecito are guilty. Okay, let’s be real; with few exceptions, the group is malicious and hateful. They have promised violence, they have threatened lives, they have attempted to wreck careers and libel good people. They run the gamut from mean-spirited to simply psychotic. One attacked and tried to strangle his psychiatrist. Another is an accused stalker. Yet another claims to be Jesus Christ. These people wouldn’t be seated on juries, so why are we listening to them about evidence in the Kercher murder?
Recently, however, their actions fell to a new low. Deducing Amanda Knox’s love of animals by her website, some individual in need of psychiatric care posted a photo of a man holding the severed head of a cat. Threat? Maybe. Sick? Certainly. No wonder few of them will admit to their identity.
THE STRAW MAN
I am always curious about how my website articles will be viewed by people around the World Wide Web. My recent article on investigations and dealing with the families of murder victims has opened to very polarized reviews, to say the least.
The article had over 1,000 individual visits in 12 hours, and I have received not a single comment critical of the article. In fact, it is likely the most well received article (judging by comments on the site) that I have ever written.
However, my wife has received many hateful comments as a direct result of the article. My curiosity knows no bounds—why are those people afraid to comment to me? I wrote it, not Michelle, and she does not relay their comments to me unless I ask. What is the fear in pushing the “reply” button on my site? I suspect that they are terrified of me having their IP information and E-mail address.
(Until recently, my wife believed that she could influence people of good faith by discussing and debating the “evidence” of the Italian courts. It is because of that belief and desire that she can be easily found on the Internet—where she is hit by the vilest and perverse comments I have seen. I admire her for her optimism, but I believe that now she agrees with me that her efforts conclusively prove the truth of Matthew 7:6.)
Typically, in the responses to the article (second hand, as they were) the opposition had created a straw man argument to the piece. That is, they argued against and criticized me for saying something I never did. They claim I criticized a member of the family of murder victim Meredith Kercher, and that I positively linked that family member with a prolific, mean-spirited blogger, “Harry Rag.”
Of course, I did nothing of the kind. I was careful to take no position on the true identity of the blogger, though I did criticize him. In my defense, the opposition has steadfastly maintained that this blogger is not a Kercher. Therefore, I could not have been criticizing a member of the victim’s family. I have not accused any member of the Kercher family of any wrongdoing. In fact, I stated that if they had, they should be afforded great latitude and mercy due to their pain.
Possibly, what I said that so infuriated the anti-Knox faithful is to point out that even those who have sustained great, unjust and grievous pain, are not excused from responsibility for their actions. This is not an opinion, this is not intended to be hurtful, this is simply truth against which no one of good will could argue. And once again, truth has caused a great disturbance in the anti-Knox ‘force.’
The love of truth of those dedicated to the destruction of Amanda and Raffaele apparently knows no bounds. Unable to find truth in facts and actual websites, they have created their own truth. They have built a false “clone” of a Wikipedia page. Their knockoff deals with the Kercher murder case and is a fascinating read, if you’re into fiction.
The Wikipedia fake they created bears as much similarity to a real Wikipedia page as a $5 Rolex does to the real thing. Consequently many people will not notice that it is worse than valueless, and useless for even determining the time of day.
Conveniently, the site doesn’t have to stand up to any scrutiny but the authors.' He or she can say anything they want and not have pesky “editors” asking for attributions or proof. In short, it’s a great cancerous cyst of lies masquerading as a healthy organ. The authors then worked the system so that when “Amanda Knox” or similar topics are queried on the Internet, their site appears on as a response. It’s like a credit card number ‘phishing’ scam, except that they are attempting to steal two lives, not money.
Unsatisfied that this article was just sitting passively like a land mine, the group, (including that blogger I spoke of earlier, “Harry Rag,” who is not John Kercher, Jr. according to all these ‘truthies’) have forwarded this Wiki-knockoff to dozens if not hundreds of journalists around the world, attempting to influence…..truth.
No wonder the Knox-haters love the Italian Supreme Court so much.