Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

THE WEDDING PARTY MASSACRE

ON THE AFTERNOON of March 6, 2002, Lt. Cmdr. Vic Hyder and more than two dozen operators from SEAL Team 6 boarded two Chinook helicopters en route to eastern Afghanistan hoping that within hours, they would kill or capture Osama bin Laden.

Earlier that evening, general officers from the Joint Special Operations Command had scrambled the SEALs after watching a Predator drone video feed of a man they suspected was bin Laden set off in a convoy of three or four vehicles in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, where al Qaeda forces had fortified themselves. Although the video had revealed no weapons, and the generals had only tenuous intelligence that the convoy was al Qaeda — just suspicions based on the color of the man’s flowing white garb and the deference others showed him — they were nervous that bin Laden might get away again, as he had a few months earlier after the bombing of the Tora Bora mountains in December 2001. This was a crucial moment: Kill bin Laden now and the war could be over after only six months. The vehicles were headed east toward the Pakistani border, as if they were trying to escape. The mission was code-named Objective Bull.

Afghanistan’s Paktia province is about the size of New Hampshire, with 10,000-foot ridgelines and arid valleys with dried riverbeds below, nestled along the border with Pakistan’s tribal areas. The prominent mountain range often served as the last geographic refuge for retreating forces entering Pakistan. As the special operations helicopters approached the convoy from the north and west, Air Force jets dropped two bombs, halting the vehicles and killing several people instantly.

That was not how the SEALs wanted the mission to develop. Inside the helicopters, some of the operators had pushed to hold off any air attack, arguing that they had plenty of time to intercept the convoy before it reached the Pakistani border. “The reason SEAL Team 6 exists is to avoid bombs and collateral damage,” said a retired SEAL Team 6 member who was on the mission. “We said, ‘Let us set down and take a look at the convoy to determine if it’s al Qaeda.’ Instead, they dropped several bombs.”

The bombing stopped the convoy along a dry wadi, or ravine, with two of the trucks approximately a kilometer apart. Survivors began to flee the wreckage, and over the radio, Hyder and his team heard the order that the convoy was now in a “free fire zone,” allowing the Chinooks’ gunners to fire at anyone deemed a threat, regardless of whether they were armed. The SEALs had no authority over the helicopter gunners.

The two Chinooks landed separately, one near each end of the convoy. Both teams exited the helicopters to find a grim scene. The SEALs with Hyder came out and separated into two groups. One, led by an enlisted operator, took in the damage to one of the vehicles. Men, women, and a small girl, motionless and in the fetal position, appeared dead. Inside the vehicle were one or two rifles, as is customary in Afghanistan, but none of the men wore military clothing or had any extra ammunition. “These were family weapons,” said the retired SEAL.

The SEALs from the other helicopter immediately headed up a steep hill after landing to locate an armed man who had been shot from the helicopter. When they reached the hilltop, the operators looked down in disbelief at women and children, along with the man — all were dead or mortally wounded from the spray of gunfire from the Chinook’s gunners, who had unloaded after the free fire zone had been declared. They realized the man had been trying to protect the women and children.

Other SEALs on the ground proceeded as though the survivors were combatants. Hyder and an enlisted operator named Monty Heath had gone in a different direction and saw a survivor flee the bombed vehicle toward a nearby berm. Heath fired once, hitting the man, sending him tumbling down the back side of the small rise.

At that point, Hyder began assessing the damage and surveying the dead. “I was going around to the different KIAs with my camera to take photos,” Hyder told me in an interview, using the military term for enemies killed in action. “It was a mess.”

Hyder said that he and a few other SEALs began to bury the casualties near a ravine by piling rocks over them. As he did so, he approached the man Heath had shot. “He was partially alive, faced down, his back to me, and he rolled over. I shot him, finished him. He was dying, but he rolled over and I didn’t know whether he was armed or not. That was the end of that.” Hyder said that his single shot had blasted open the man’s head.

According to Hyder, the encounter ended there. But the retired SEAL who was on the mission tells a different story. According to this source, after shooting the man, who turned out to be unarmed, Hyder proceeded to mutilate his body by stomping in his already damaged skull. When Heath, who witnessed Hyder’s actions, reported them to his team leader in the presence of other members of the team, “several of the guys turned and walked away,” said the retired SEAL. “They were disgusted.” He quoted Heath as saying, “I’m morally flexible but I can’t handle that.” Heath refused to comment for this article.

The retired SEAL, who spent the better part of two decades at the command, said he never asked Hyder why he mutilated the corpse. It wasn’t necessary. He assumed it was a twisted act of misplaced revenge over the previous days’ events — specifically, the gruesome death of Hyder’s teammate Neil Roberts.

reset-5-1484005850

Top: Photo of helicopter on Takur Ghar. Bottom left: Screengrab from drone feed during the battle of Roberts Ridge. Bottom right: Candid photo of U.S. Navy SEAL Neil Roberts.

 

Photos: U.S. Department of Defense; Screengrab from video by U.S. Department of Defense; U.S. Navy by the Roberts family

LESS THAN 48 HOURS before Objective Bull commenced, a small reconnaissance group from SEAL Team 6’s Red Team had tried to establish an observation post on the 10,000-foot peak of Takur Ghar, overlooking the Shah-i-Kot valley, where forces from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division intended to strike the last redoubt of al Qaeda forces massed in Afghanistan. Neil “Fifi” Roberts, a member of the SEAL recon team, fell 10 feet from the back of a Chinook and was stranded as the helicopter took fire from foreign al Qaeda fighters who were already on the snow-covered mountaintop. Two hours passed before the SEALs in the damaged helicopter were able to return. They didn’t know it, but Roberts was already dead, shot at close range in the head shortly after his helicopter departed the mountaintop. A Predator drone video feed filmed an enemy fighter standing over Roberts’s body for two minutes, trying to behead the dead American with a knife.

Eventually, two other elements of a quick reaction force — one of which included Hyder — landed at the top of Takur Ghar. In the ensuing 17-hour battle with the al Qaeda fighters, six more Americans were killed, and several were wounded. After the bodies were recovered, Hyder and the other members of Red Team were forced to reckon with the mutilation and near beheading of their fellow SEAL. Hyder was new to SEAL Team 6, but as the ranking officer on the ground during that operation, he was technically in charge. He took Roberts’s death hard.

Neil Roberts was the first member of SEAL Team 6 to die in the Afghan war, and among the first elite operators who died after 9/11. Beyond the dehumanizing manner in which the al Qaeda fighters had treated his corpse, Roberts’s death pierced the SEALs’ self-perception of invincibility.

The battle of Roberts Ridge, as it came to be known, has been frequently described in books and press accounts. But what happened during Objective Bull, the assault on the convoy in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, has never been previously reported.

Roberts’s death, and the subsequent operations in eastern Afghanistan during the winter 2002 deployment, left an indelible impression on SEAL Team 6, especially on Red Team. According to multiple SEAL Team 6 sources, the events of that day set off a cascade of extraordinary violence. As the legend of SEAL Team 6 grew, a rogue culture arose that operated outside of the Navy’s established mechanisms for command and investigation. Parts of SEAL Team 6 began acting with an air of impunity that disturbed observers within the command. Senior members of SEAL Team 6 felt the pattern of brutality was not only illegal but rose to the level of war crimes.

“To understand the violence, you have to begin at Roberts Ridge,” said one former member of SEAL Team 6 who deployed several times to Afghanistan. “When you see your friend killed, recover his body, and find that the enemy mutilated him? It’s a schoolyard mentality. ‘You guys want to play with those rules?’ ‘OK.’” Although this former SEAL acknowledged that war crimes are wrong, he understood how they happen. “You ask me to go living with the pigs, but I can’t go live with pigs and then not get dirty.”

SEAL Team 6 patches. Clockwise from top left: Blue Squadron, known as the Pirates; Gold Squadron, known as the Crusaders or Knights; Red Squadron, known as the Redmen; and Silver Squadron.

NO SINGLE MILITARY unit has come to represent American military success or heroism more than SEAL Team 6, officially designated as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group and known in military vernacular as DevGru, Team 6, the Command, and Task Force Blue. Its operators are part of an elite, clandestine cadre. The men who make it through the grueling training represent roughly the top 10 percent of all SEALs. They are taught to live and if necessary die for one another. The extreme risks they take forge extreme bonds.

Made up of no more than 200 SEAL operators when the Afghan war began, SEAL Team 6 was the lesser known of the U.S. military’s elite “special mission” units. Created in 1980 and based at the Dam Neck Annex of Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach, the command prided itself on its culture of nonconformity with the larger military. The unit’s name itself is part of an attempt to obscure U.S. capabilities. When it was commissioned, the Navy had only two SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) assault teams, but founding officer Cmdr. Richard Marcinko hoped that the number six would lead the Soviet military to inflate its assessment of the Navy’s SEALs.

When SEAL Team 6 first deployed to Afghanistan in January 2002, the command had three assault teams, Red, Blue, and Gold, each with a mascot. Red Team, known as the Redmen, employed a Native American warrior as a mascot; Blue Team, known as the Pirates, wore the Jolly Roger; and Gold Team, known as the Crusaders or Knights, wore a lion or a crusader’s cross.

The prevailing narrative about SEAL Team 6 in news coverage, bestselling books, and Hollywood movies is unambiguously heroic; it centers on the killing of Osama bin Laden and high-profile rescue missions. With few exceptions, a darker, more troubling story has been suppressed and ignored — a story replete with tactical brilliance on battlefields around the world coupled with a pattern of silence and deceit when “downrange” actions lead to episodes of criminal brutality. The unit’s elite stature has insulated its members from the scrutiny and military justice that lesser units would have faced for the same actions.

This account of the crimes of SEAL Team 6 results from a two-year investigation drawing on interviews with 18 current and former members of the unit, including four former senior leaders of the command. Other military and intelligence officials who have served with or investigated the unit were also interviewed. Most would speak about the unit only on background or without attribution, because nearly every facet of SEAL Team 6 is classified. Some sources asked for anonymity citing the probability of professional retaliation for speaking out against their peers and teammates. According to these sources, whether judged by its own private code or the international laws of war, the command has proven to be incapable and unwilling to hold itself accountable for war crimes.

Most SEALs did not commit atrocities, the sources said, but the problem was persistent and recurrent, like a stubborn virus. Senior leaders at the command knew about the misconduct and did little to eradicate it. The official SEAL creed reads, in part: “Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.” But after 9/11, another code emerged that made lying — especially to protect a teammate or the command from accountability — the more honorable course of action.

“You can’t win an investigation on us,” one former SEAL Team 6 leader told me. “You don’t whistleblow on the teams … and when you win on the battlefield, you don’t lose investigations.”

4-1484018393

BY THE TIME the two dozen Red Team operators departed for Objective Bull, tension had built up between Hyder, a commissioned officer, and the enlisted operators technically under his command. The situation was not particularly unusual. Historically, SEAL Team 6 is known as a unit where officers “rent their lockers,” because they typically serve about three years before rotating out, whereas the enlisted operators remain for much of their careers, often for a decade or more. Simply put, the unit is an enlisted mafia, where tactics are driven by the expertise developed by the unit’s enlisted assaulters, whose abilities and experience at making rapid threat decisions make up the command’s core resource. Officers like Hyder, who did not pass through the brutal SEAL Team 6 internal training program, known as Green Team, are often viewed with suspicion and occasionally contempt by the enlisted SEAL operators.

Even before the attack on the convoy and the alleged mutilation of the dead Afghan, Hyder had committed at least one killing with questionable justification. Several weeks earlier, in January 2002, Hyder killed an unarmed Afghan man north of Kandahar during the unit’s first ground assault of the war. In that operation, Hyder led a team of Red operators on a nighttime mission to capture suspected al Qaeda militants in a compound. After securing several detainees and cordoning the area, Hyder and his men waited for their helicopters to arrive and extract them. During the mission, the SEALs reported receiving small arms fire from exterior positions, though no one was hit. After 90 minutes, as the helicopters were nearing the rendezvous point, one of the SEALs alerted Hyder that an old man who had been lying in a ditch nearby was walking toward the SEALs’ position.

In an interview, Hyder said the man had approached his position with his arms tucked into his armpits and did not heed warnings from other SEALs to stop. Hyder acknowledged that the man likely did not understand English and probably couldn’t see very well. Unlike the SEALs, the man was not wearing night-vision goggles. “He continued to move towards us,” Hyder said. “I assessed he was nearing a distance where he was within an area where he could do damage with a grenade.” Hyder said that a week earlier, a militant had detonated a concealed grenade after approaching some American CIA officers, seriously injuring them. “He kept moving toward us, so at 15 meters I put one round in him and he dropped. Unfortunately, it turned out he had an audiocassette in his hand. By the rules of engagement he became a legitimate target and it was supported. It’s a question, why was he a threat? After all that activity, he’d been hiding in a ditch for 90 minutes, he gets up, he’s spoken to, yelled at in the dark … it’s disturbing. I’m disappointed he didn’t take a knee.”

Hyder, who was the ground force commander for the Kandahar operation, was cleared in an after-action review of the shooting. The rules of engagement allowed the ground force commander to shoot anyone he viewed as a threat, regardless of whether they were armed at the time of the shooting. But in the eyes of the enlisted SEALs of Red Team, Hyder had killed a man who didn’t have to die. Two of the operators with Hyder reportedafterward that the man was not a threat. One of those operators was Neil Roberts.

“The SEALs believe that they can handle the discipline themselves, that’s equal to or greater than what the criminal justice system would give to the person.”

The morning after Objective Bull, Red Team gathered at Bagram Air Base. Most of the operators held a meeting to discuss what had happened on the mission. No officers were present, and the enlisted SEALs used the meeting to address Hyder’s alleged mutilation of the dead Afghan the previous day. The discussion covered battlefield ethics. Inside a heated tent, as many as 40 SEAL Team 6 operators asked themselves how they wanted to treat their fallen enemies. Should they seek revenge for Roberts? Was it acceptable, as Hyder had done with the wounded man whom he executed, to desecrate the dead?

“We talked about it … and 35 guys nodded their heads saying this is not who we are. We shoot ’em. No issues with that. And then we move on,” said a former SEAL who was present at the meeting. “There’s honor involved and Vic Hyder obviously traipsed all over that,” he said. “Mutilation isn’t part of the game.”

Nonetheless, Red Team did not report Hyder’s alleged battlefield mutilation, a war crime. In what would become part of a pattern of secrecy and silence, the SEAL operators dealt with the issue on their own and kept the incident from their chain of command.

“The SEALs believe that they can handle the discipline themselves, that’s equal to or greater than what the criminal justice system would give to the person,” said Susan Raser, a retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent who led the agency’s criminal division but did not investigate this mission. “They have an internal process that they think is sufficient and they are not inclined to cooperate unless they absolutely have to.” Raser, who conducted investigations into both regular SEAL units and SEAL Team 6, said that in her experience, SEALs simply didn’t report wrongdoing by their teammates.

Senior leaders at the command knew the grisly circumstances of Roberts’s death had unsettled Red Team. “Fifi was mutilated,” said a retired noncommissioned SEAL leader who was involved in internal discussions about how to prevent SEAL Team 6 from seeking revenge. “And then we had to address a very important question, how do you get the guys’ heads straight to mitigate any retaliation for Fifi? Otherwise we knew it’s going to get out of control. A third of the guys literally think they’re Apache warriors, then you had the Muslim way of removing a head. I understand the desire, I don’t condone it, but there was definite retaliation.”

Hyder told me that he did not desecrate the body. “I deny it,” he said, adding that he didn’t understand why Heath would have claimed to have witnessed it. “Even if it was true, I don’t know why he would say that.” Hyder said he was not aware of the Bagram meeting held by the enlisted operators about him or the accusations. “Why would I do that?” he asked. “Somebody else is making this up. Memories get distorted over 14 years. They’re telling you how they remember it. There was a lot of chaos. I’m telling you the absolute truth.”

After the deployment, SEAL Team 6’s leadership examined Hyder’s actions during Objective Bull. For some of them, what was most troubling was not that Hyder might have taken gratuitous revenge for Roberts’s death on an unrelated civilian, but that on more than one occasion, as ground force commander, he had fired his own weapon to neutralize perceived threats. “If you have multiple incidents where the ground force commander pulls the trigger on a deployment, you have a total breakdown of operational tactics,” said one retired SEAL leader. “It’s not their responsibility — that is why we have DevGru operators.”

Beyond the story of the alleged mutilation, the sight of the dead civilians killed during the opening airstrikes of Objective Bull, especially the women and children, left members of Red Team with deep psychological scars. “It ruined some of these guys,” said the former SEAL operator on the mission.

Six days after Objective Bull, the Pentagon announced at a press conference that an airstrike had killed 14 people, who a spokesperson said were “somehow affiliated” with al Qaeda. Sources at SEAL Team 6 who were present during the operation estimated the number of dead was between 17 and 20. Inside the command, the incident became known as the Wedding Party bombing after it was learned that the convoy was driving to a wedding.

Hyder finished his tour at SEAL Team 6 shortly after returning from the Afghanistan deployment and was later promoted to the rank of commander, the Navy equivalent of a lieutenant colonel. He was awarded the Silver Star for his efforts at Takur Ghar to save Roberts and the rest of the Red Team recon element. A few years later, after Hyder’s name was mentioned for another rotation in Red Team, some of Hyder’s former operators informed SEAL Team 6 leadership that he was not welcome back in the unit.

Neil Roberts’s bent rifle was placed on the wall of Red Team’s room at the SEALs’ base near Virginia Beach, a visible reminder of their teammate, their first deployment, and the troubles that would follow.

2-1484018389

ONE CLEAR SIGN that all was not right with the command was the way sadism crept into the SEALs’ practices, with no apparent consequences. A few months after Objective Bull, for example, one of Hyder’s operators began taunting dying insurgents on videos he shot as part of his post-operation responsibilities. These “bleed out” videos were replayed on multiple occasions at Bagram Air Base. The operator who made them, a former SEAL leader said, would gather other members of Red Squadron to watch the last few seconds of an enemy fighter’s life. “It was war porn,” said the former SEAL, who viewed one of the videos. “No one would do anything about them.” The operator who made the bleed-out videos was forced out of SEAL Team 6 the following year after a drunken episode at Bagram in which he pistol-whipped another SEAL.

The SEALs’ successes throughout 2002 resulted in the Joint Special Operations Command choosing the unit to lead the hunt for al Qaeda, as well as the invasion of Baghdad in March 2003. The rise of JSOC as the sharp tip of America’s military effort led to a similar increase in size and responsibility for SEAL Team 6 in the early years of America’s two post-9/11 wars. By 2006, the command rapidly expanded, growing from 200 to 300 operators. What were originally known as assault teams now formally became squadrons, and by 2008, the expansion led to the creation of Silver, a fourth assault squadron. One result of the growth was that back in Virginia, the captain in command of the entire 300-SEAL force had far less oversight over tactical battlefield decisions. It was at this point that some critics in the military complained that SEAL Team 6 — with their full beards and arms, legs, and torsos covered in tattoos — looked like members of a biker gang. Questions about battlefield atrocities persisted, though some excused these actions in the name of psychological warfare against the enemy.

Against this backdrop, in 2006, Hugh Wyman Howard III, a descendant of an admiral and himself a Naval Academy graduate, took command of Red Squadron and its roughly 50 operators. Howard, who has since risen through the ranks and is currently a rear admiral, was twice rejected by his superiors for advanced SEAL Team 6 training. But in 1998, after intervention by a senior officer at Dam Neck, Howard was given a slot on Green Team. Because of Howard’s pedigree, SEAL Team 6 leaders running the training program felt pressure to pass him. After being shepherded through the nine-month training, he entered Red Squadron. Howard took the unit’s identity seriously, and after 9/11, despite the questionable circumstances that led to his ascent, his influence steadily grew.

In keeping with Red Squadron’s appropriation of Native American culture, Howard came up with the idea to bestow 14-inch hatchets on each SEAL who had a year of service in the squadron. The hatchets, paid for by private donations Howard solicited, were custom-made by Daniel Winkler, a highly regarded knife maker in North Carolina who designed several of the period tomahawks and knives used in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans.” Winkler sells similar hatchets for $600 each. The hatchets Howard obtained were stamped with a Native American warrior in a headdress and crossed tomahawks.

At first the hatchets appeared to be merely symbolic, because such heavy, awkward weapons had no place in the gear of a special operator. “There’s no military purpose for it,” a former Red Squadron operator told me. “But they are a great way of being part of a team. It was given as an honor, one more step to strive for, another sign that you’re doing a good job.”

For some of Howard’s men, however, the hatchets soon became more than symbolic as they were used at times to hack dead fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others used them to break doorknobs on raids or kill militants in hand-to-hand combat.

During the first deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it was common practice to take fingers, scalp, or skin from slain enemy combatants for identification purposes. One former SEAL Team 6 leader told me that he feared the practice would lead to members of the unit using the DNA samples as an excuse to mutilate and desecrate the dead. By 2007, when Howard and Red Squadron showed up with their hatchets in Iraq, internal reports of operators using the weapons to hack dead and dying militants were provided to both the commanding officer of SEAL Team 6 at that time, Capt. Scott Moore, and his deputy, Capt. Tim Szymanski.

Howard, who declined to answer questions from The Intercept, rallied his SEALs and others before missions and deployments by telling them to “bloody the hatchet.” One SEAL I spoke with said that Howard’s words were meant to be inspirational, like those of a coach, and were not an order to use the hatchets to commit war crimes. Others were much more critical. Howard was often heard asking his operators whether they’d gotten “blood on your hatchet” when they returned from a deployment. Howard’s distribution of the hatchets worried several senior SEAL Team 6 members and some CIA paramilitary officers who worked with his squadron.

reset-1-1484001268

Top left: Red Squadron tattoo. Top right: A bearded Red Squadron SEAL in Afghanistan. Bottom left: A Winkler hatchet similar to those issued to Red Squadron. Bottom right: Undated photo of Adm. Wyman Howard.

 

Photos: Facebook; airsoft-army.com; http://www.lightfigher.net; Facebook

BEGINNING IN 2005 and continuing through 2008, as U.S. Special Operations forces became more central to the American military strategy, the number and frequency of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan increased dramatically.

One former SEAL Team 6 senior leader said that he and others at the command were concerned that the scale and intensity of the violence in Iraq was so great that U.S. operators might be tempted to engage in retaliatory mutilations, a tactic al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency sometimes employed. “Iraq was a different kind of war — nothing we’d ever seen,” said the now-retired Team 6 leader. “So many dead bodies, so many, everywhere, and so the potential opportunities for mutilations were great.”

The operational tempo was very high. “On my 2005 deployment in Afghanistan, we only went on a handful of ops,” said a retired SEAL who served under Howard. “By the time we moved over to Iraq, we were doing missions as much as five nights a week. Iraq was a target rich environment, and Wyman allowed us to be more aggressive.” According to several former SEAL Team 6 leaders, it was JSOC commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal who ordered the increased operational tempo and pushed SEAL Team 6, including Howard, to conduct more frequent raids to help wipe out the insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Howard, according to two of his former operators, was more willing than previous officers to greenlight operations based on “weak” intelligence, leading to more raids and strikes. As a result, Howard became popular among the enlisted SEALs under his command, several of whom defended and praised him.

Howard’s critics argue that the hatchets were emblems of the rogue, at times criminal, conduct on the battlefield the commander was encouraging. “Every one of us is issued and carries a suppressed weapon,” said one former senior SEAL, referring to the Heckler & Koch assault rifles, equipped with silencers, issued to the operators. “There just isn’t a need to carry a two-pound hatchet on the battlefield.” For those who favored them, this former SEAL said, the hatchets could be justified as being no more than knives. “It’s a great way to explain it away, but they have the hatchets to flaunt the law. Our job is to ensure that we conduct ourselves in a way befitting the American people and the American flag. The hatchet says, ‘We don’t care about the Geneva Conventions’ and that ‘we are above the law and can do whatever we want.’”

Critics inside the command were troubled by the combination of battlefield aggression and Howard’s lack of military discipline. A retired noncommissioned officer said Howard’s encouragement and provision of Winkler hatchets was simply adding fuel to the fire. The power of the Native American mascot, he said, was not to be dismissed. Since the 1980s, when Red Team was first created, there were many operators in the unit who had experienced a “metamorphosis of identity and persona” into Native American warriors. “Guys are going out every night killing everything. The hatchet was too intimate, too closely aligned with a tomahawk, to have been a good idea.” The former SEAL, who himself had served in Red during his career, said that by giving operators the weapon of their battlefield persona, Howard sent an unmistakable message to his men: Use it. “That’s when you take away a hatchet,” the retired SEAL said. “Not provide them.”

During one Iraq deployment, Howard returned from a raid to an operations center with blood on his hatchet and his uniform. Back at the base, he gave a speech to a group of analysts and nonoperational officers in which he told them that his bloody appearance was a demonstration of how a battlefield commander should lead. One operator, who confirmed Howard’s remarks, added his own: “That’s the business we’re in.”

3-1484018391

3HEAD ON A PLATTER

THE DEATH AND attempted decapitation of Neil Roberts on Takur Ghar affected no one so profoundly as Britt Slabinski, the operator who led the rescue team back up the mountain only to find that Roberts was already dead. One former teammate who served with Slabinski described his effort that day — outnumbered and with inferior fire support, taking incoming fire from the moment the helicopter landed — as “one of the most heroic things I’ve ever seen.” On the day when SEAL Team 6 lost its first operator in the post-9/11 era, Slabinski became a unit legend.

By all accounts, Slabinski, a second-generation SEAL who joined Team 6 in 1993, was an excellent sniper and reconnaissance operator. Thin and lanky, he was less physically imposing than many SEALs but was charismatic and dedicated. After Roberts’s death, Slabinksi wanted revenge. In audio of an unpublished interview with the late Malcolm MacPherson, author of a 2005 book about Roberts Ridge, Slabinski describes in great detail an operation that took place about a week after Objective Bull. In that mission, known as Objective Wolverine, Slabinski and his fellow SEALs were sent in Chinook helicopters to follow a convoy they believed was filled with al Qaeda fighters escaping to Pakistan. A drone flying above the convoy showed the occupants of three vehicles were heavily armed.

After the Chinook miniguns strafed the vehicles and stopped them, Slabinski and his team of snipers landed and moved to a rise several hundred yards away from one of the trucks and began firing sniper rounds at the militants. In that brief firefight, the SEALs killed nearly 20 foreign al Qaeda fighters, some of whom carried U.S. military equipment taken from Takur Ghar. Slabinski told MacPherson that Wolverine had been “really good payback.”

“Just a phenomenal, phenomenal day. We just slaughtered those dudes.” After describing one particular fighter who from a distance had resembled Osama bin Laden, Slabinksi continued: “To this day, we’ve never had anything as good as that. Oh my gosh. We needed that … there was not a better group of people to go and do that. The guys needed that to get back in the saddle because everyone was gun shy.”

“I mean, talk about the funny stuff we do. After I shot this dude in the head, there was a guy who had his feet, just his feet, sticking out of some little rut or something over here. I mean, he was dead, but people have got nerves. I shot him about 20 times in the legs, and every time you’d kick him, er, shoot him, he would kick up, you could see his body twitching and all that. It was like a game. Like, ‘hey look at this dude,’ and the guy would just twitch again. It was just good therapy. It was really good therapy for everybody who was there.”

Audio from an unpublished interview with Britt Slabinksi conducted by Malcolm MacPherson, author of a 2005 book on the battle of Roberts Ridge.

Shortly after that operation, Slabinski returned to the SEAL Team 6 base at Dam Neck. He was awarded a Navy Cross, the second highest battlefield award for heroism. For several years afterward, the leaders at the command limited Slabinski’s battlefield exposure — assigning him to Green Team as an instructor, for example — hoping the psychological wounds from Roberts Ridge would heal.

By late 2007, Slabinski was deployed to Afghanistan as the senior noncommissioned officer in Blue Squadron. The war was entering its seventh year and had become intractable, with no clear path to victory. Early in the war, the SEALs’ mission was to hunt down al Qaeda’s senior leaders, who had largely vanished into Pakistan, but now Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the leader of JSOC, extended the mission to target the Taliban, who along with al Qaeda were moving back and forth across the Pakistani border with impunity. The SEALs were now going after low-level Taliban financiers and shadow governors.

Blue Squadron was led at that time by Cmdr. Peter Vasely, a Naval Academy graduate who had not gone through the advanced assault training of Green Team that the other members of SEAL Team 6 had endured. He was an outsider, despite having been at the command for many years. Like Vic Hyder, he struggled to command the respect of his men. Slabinski — experienced, charismatic, and by now legendary — bridged the gap.

According to two senior SEAL Team 6 sources, however, the leadership dynamic in Blue Squadron was a failure. By 2007, the command’s leadership was aware that some Blue Squadron operators were using specialized knives to conduct “skinnings.” Using the excuse of collecting DNA, which required a small piece of skin containing hair follicles, operators were taking large strips of skin from dead enemy fighters. The two leading officers at the command, Moore and Szymanski, were informed that small groups in each of the three squadrons were mutilating and desecrating combatants in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Slabinkski and others in the squadron had fallen under the influence of an obscure war novel, “Devil’s Guard,” published in 1971 by George Robert Elford. The book purported to be a true account of an S.S. officer who with dozens of other soldiers escaped Germany after World War II, joined the French Foreign Legion, and spent years in Vietnam brutalizing the insurgency. The novel, which glorifies Nazi military practices, describes counterinsurgency tactics such as mass slaughter and desecration and other forms of wanton violence as a means of waging psychological warfare against the “savage” Vietnamese.

“These fucking morons read the book ‘The Devil’s Guard’ and believed it,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders who investigated Slabinski and Blue Squadron. “It’s a work of fiction billed as the Bible, as the truth. In reality, it’s bullshit. But we all see what we want to see.” Slabinski and the Blue Squadron SEALs deployed to Afghanistan were “frustrated, and that book gave them the answers they wanted to see: Terrorize the Taliban and they’d surrender. The truth is that such stuff only galvanizes the enemy.”

One telling illustration of what had gone wrong with Blue Squadron occurred on December 17, 2007, during a raid in Helmand province. Slabinski had told his operators that he wanted “a head on a platter.” Although some of the more seasoned SEALs took the statement metaphorically, at least one operator took Slabinski at his word, interpreting it as an order.

Later that night, after Blue Squadron’s assaulters had successfully carried out the raid, killing three or four armed men and recovering weapons and explosives, Vasely and Slabinski conducted a walk-through of the compound. Vasely, who was wearing night-vision goggles, looked through a window and saw one of his operators, his back turned, squatting over the body of a dead militant. Vasely later told investigators he saw the operator moving his hand back and forth over the militant’s neck in a sawing motion. Alarmed at seeing what he believed was a decapitation, he told Slabinski to go inside and see what the young operator was doing. By the time Slabinski entered the room where the dead militant lay, according to three former SEAL Team 6 leaders, the operator had severed much of the dead man’s neck.

Slabinski did not report the decapitation, however. He told Vasely that the operator had been trying to remove the dead fighter’s chest rack, a small vest that can hold ammunition and clips. Slabinski told Vasely, and later, Navy investigators, that there had been “no foul play.”

After leaving the compound and returning to their base in Kandahar province, Vasely reported to Moore, his superior officer, that he believed he had witnessed a war crime, a mutilation. Vasely told Moore he wanted an investigation into the incident. Moore, sitting in his office in Virginia Beach, pressed Vasely: What had he actually seen? Was there another explanation?

Moore told his deputy, Szymanski, who was in Afghanistan, to sort things out. Ten days later, the internal JSOC investigation was closed. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service then opened an investigation but was forced to rely on photographs and witness statements because active hostilities made the alleged crime scene inaccessible. When investigators approached the operator accused of mutilating the dead fighter, he exercised his right to remain silent and his right to counsel. A few days after the attempted interview, investigators obtained photos purporting to be of the dead fighter. No cuts were visible in the photos, according to a military official who has reviewed the file. Three weeks after the incident, NCIS closed its investigation, concluding that there was no evidence the SEAL had violated the laws of armed conflict. But according to multiple SEAL sources, the incident did in fact occur.

Szymanski, according to these sources, was directed by Moore to make the episode disappear. “Tim took a dive,” said a former noncommissioned SEAL officer, and it was “at Moore’s direction.” Szymanski had known Slabinski for at least 15 years. They had bonded over Roberts’s death.

Although Blue Squadron had avoided criminal charges, their battlefield conduct continued to set off alarms within the command. Some SEAL Team 6 leaders were appalled by how easily Vasely and Szymanski had folded under Moore’s pressure.

Within two weeks of the apparent beheading, Moore deployed to Afghanistan. While he was there, he confronted the Blue Squadron troop and the operator who’d tried to behead the Taliban fighter. A former SEAL Team 6 leader who has knowledge of the episode told me Moore shamed Slabinski and the squadron for their conduct. That was the only punishment. (The Intercept is withholding the name of the operator, who believed he was following an order. He remains on active duty and has not responded to requests for comment.)

One of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders, who investigated several Blue Squadron incidents, including the mutilation of bodies, said he repeatedly asked the operators why they felt the need to commit such acts. “Often we’d hear, well, they’re savages,” the former leader said. “They don’t play by the rules, so why should we?”

The Intercept submitted three pages of questions to both Adm. Szymanksi, who as head of Naval Special Warfare now commands all SEALs in the Navy, and Capt. Vasely, who currently runs the operations divisions of JSOC. Both declined to comment. Moore did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson at Naval Special Warfare, which oversees SEAL Team 6, declined repeated requests for interviews and refused to answer a detailed list of questions, writing in a statement, “We do not entertain or support public discussion of classified information because it puts our forces, their families and our future operations at great risk.” The SEAL command asserted that “all members of Naval Special Warfare are required to comply with the Laws of Armed Conflict in the conduct of military operations.”

reset-3-1484001272

Top: Capt. Peter Vasely with members of Blue Squadron in Afghanistan. Bottom: Britt Slabinski, left, and Capt. Timothy Szymanski, commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Group, after Slabinski was blackballed by SEAL Team 6 in Norfolk, Va., March 25, 2011.

 

Photos: http://www.navyseals.hu; Robert J. Fluegel/U.S. Navy

IN 2010, WHEN Slabinski was up for a promotion at the command, SEAL Team 6 leaders conducted two internal inquiries before making a decision. Almost immediately, the issue that received the most scrutiny was the December 2007 attempted beheading. According to two former SEALs, Slabinski told his teammates and superiors that his remark about wanting a head was figurative and not a literal order. By then, there was no question about whether the attempted beheading had occurred; the question was why.

“We didn’t debate whether Slab had told his guys he wanted a head on a platter — he copped to that. The only issue was, was his order real, or just talk?” said one of the retired SEALs involved. “It didn’t make a difference. He said it and one of his operators did it because he believed he was following an order.”

Ten officers and master chiefs voted unanimously against allowing Slabinski to return to the command. At that point, the second inquiry was commissioned by the SEAL Team 6 commanding officer, Pete Van Hooser. Evidence was presented that Slabinski gave an order to shoot all the men they encountered during another raid, whether or not they were armed. According to the New York Times, Afghans accused Blue Squadron of killing civilians during that operation, but a subsequent military investigation determined that all those killed had been armed and hostile. When Slabinski was confronted by the command’s senior enlisted leader about whether he had instructed Blue Squadron operators to kill all males during the operation, code-named Pantera, Slabinski acknowledged that he had done so. The second inquiry also uncovered the “head on a platter” remark as the instigation for the beheading in December 2007, but the command’s senior enlisted leader told Slabinski he would not get the promotion or be allowed to serve at the command again because of the Pantera order. Overall, it had become clear that Slabinski’s run as a leader on the battlefield caused Blue Squadron to come “off the rails,” according to a former SEAL Team 6 leader.

Slabinski has not responded to multiple queries and requests for comment, though he did deny to the New York Times in 2015 that he gave the illegal pre-mission guidance to kill all males. In his interview with the Times, Slabinski asserted that it was he who had witnessed the operator slashing at the dead fighter’s throat, saying, “It appeared he was mutilating a body.” Slabinski portrayed himself as trying to police his men and said that he gave them “a very stern speech.” He claimed to the Times that he told his men, “If any of you feel a need to do any retribution, you should call me.” Slabinski says nothing in the Times story about Vasely ordering him to investigate the scene or the remark about a head on a platter.

“To this day, he thinks the guys turned on him,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders. “Well, they did. What we didn’t do was turn him in. You will step over the line and you start dehumanizing people. You really do. And it takes the team, it takes individuals to pull you back. And part of that was getting rid of Britt Slabinski.”

Two other SEAL Team 6 leaders with a combined 35 years at the command said the removal of Slabinski and the failure to pursue official punishment was an indictment of the senior officers — they had failed one of their most basic duties, to hold themselves and others accountable for wrongdoing.

When Szymanski, who was then commanding officer of all regular East Coast-based SEAL teams, heard that Slabinski had been rejected by Team 6, he requested him as his senior enlisted adviser. The request was approved and Slabinski was promoted.

“If a guy cuts off another guy’s head and nothing happens, that becomes the standard,” said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders. “You’re moving the bar and buying into an emotional justification, ‘War is hell.’ If you’re not disciplining your force, you’re saying it’s OK.”

Slabinski retired from the military in 2014 after 25 years in the Navy. The operator accused of the attempted beheading has experienced difficulties as a result of his service. Last year, the command became concerned about his psychological condition, determining that he was medically unfit to deploy again. His superiors believed he had become “unglued” over the 2007 deployment. He was quietly removed from Team 6 and returned to a regular SEAL unit. He has told at least one former SEAL Team 6 teammate that he hopes to never deploy again.

“He’s just beginning to suffer for what he did,” said another SEAL Team 6 leader.

5-1484018395

Kai, stop bringing up such a senseless topic. How can you be raising such a sensitive political matter at a palm wine joint? And please, stop denigrating baba by likening him to your failed Jonathan. Jonathan failed all of us and that is why we all voted him out, including you. You were part of the change. Sai baba! Baba for life! Baba and Chelsea are the same. I love baba just as I love the blues. We will vote him again in 2019 if he agrees to run. Sai baba. Why are you laughing now? Does this sound funny? I have my dagger here to finish your life fa!

Sorry, I wasn’t laughing. But why are you this ferocious? Does viciousness run in your blood or is it because you are from… Where are you really from sef? Anyways, it doesn’t really matter. I hear most of your people are like this. You must not talk about their pinup even when they are being roasted by the same obsession.

Grammar…but who told you baba is roasting us? Are we chickens? Besides, your people are more violent than my people. I hear sound of bombs and grenades coming from there every now and then. They are claiming they own the entire country. Is it not only Boko boys that are troubling my people? Have you ever heard of kidnapping and militancy around my area? Take your time please! Sai baba!

I can’t just control this laughter but in a rancorous manner. Did I hear you say sai baba again? Well, I remember how it was activated. We all started with the stimulation of ‘sai baba,’ but at the middle of last year, some people started chorusing ‘why baba’. I have heard ‘chie’ baba from a few people and very soon, it will be ‘haba baba.’

Shut your ‘moronic’ and odious mouth. Buhari can never end up like Jonathan. Forget about what PDP is saying. They are trying everything possible to sabotage his government. I will continue to support baba, even if…

Even if what? Baba has failed us; he has even failed the group he used in removing Jonathan. I mean…ennnnn. What’s the name of the group again? This Oby Ezekwesili’s group, I mean that Aisha Yesufu’s group.

You mean BBOG?

Exactly! Can’t you see that they are now asking baba to be cautious, if not he will end up like Jonathan? In fact, they are like cat and dog now, and baba does not want to see them. I wonder why he is doing that, even when they staked everything for him and helped him win the election.

What did they stake for him? Are you daft? Did you ask why they formed the group? It was for appointment, but since baba only considered one of them, the rest are now angry. Could he have appointed all of them as Ministers? It’s not fair. Do they think baba is too old that he can’t decipher blue from white?

But he used them? Why is he now refusing to dine with them?

Because they are making impossible demands. They are asking baba to rescue the abducted Chibok girls. Is that not suicidal, I mean cheerless? How can you ask our President to go to the Sambisa forest to liberate those girls? I pity the security forces in the forest because it’s an awkward task. No government can rescue those girls. The forest is a noxious zone. After all, your Jonathan said the abduction was a facade’ so why troubling my baba?

Gbam! You don dey speak oyibo now. But baba said he was coming to rescue those girls or has he now agreed that there were no such girls?

Baba is also a politician. Baba is not just a military man. A politician capitalizes on every little opportunity to triumph over his challenger. At least, he got our votes with the sentiments of that abduction. Whether true or false, baba has won the election and now he is our President. He used the group wellaaaa.

Tufiakwa! He is not my President. I wish Jonathan won. I regret everything today. The sleepless night, the argument at newspapers stands, the social media campaigns and everything. I think I betrayed my people who would have preferred Jonathan to continue.

Jonathan would have killed this country.

So what has your Buhari done to this country so far? Revived it? Name one thing that your baba has done positively?

Okay wait…he has decimated Boko Haram.

How?

Don’t you read papers and press releases? Do you know why SK Usman always uses ‘remnant’ when he is issuing a press statement on Boko boys?

Talk is cheap!

Be serious my friend. The era of Boko Haram is over.

How can you say that? Where then are the abducted Chibok girls? Where is Shekau? Is he now dead for the third time?

You see, you don’t read. Shekau is a title. They have killed two title holders. One was recently wounded on the arm.

That sounds very funny. So we can say Shekau, the Emir of Sambisa. How many of the dead bodies have they recovered? How did the military know he was injured in the last raid? If they could be specific about the nature of the injury he sustained in the raid, then why didn’t they capture him or are they turning Sambisa to Boko Haram forest reserve? Very soon, the military will tell us the name of the hospital Shekau was taken to, and mention even the name of the doctor handling his case. Abeg, don’t let me derail from the topic. All I know is that baba has done nothing. He is living on his past glory.

Thunder fire you! Will you stop this nonsense?

No! The nonsense makes sense.

No sense. Jonathan finished our economy before baba took over.

But baba said he was coming to change things. Was he coming to lay blames? He studied the economy and said there was need for change. Now people are already saying we need to change the change. And I’m wondering what he has changed so far?

So many things.

Like wounding Shekau in the arm? Like promising that we will soon be out of recession? Like taking pump price of fuel to N145. Like promising that price of rice will soon fall from the current N20,000. Like completing the Abuja- Kaduna rail project Jona started? Honestly, he has tried to convince us to be a little patient with him. He may end up being worse than Jonathan. If I want to juxtapose, then I will say Jonathan was the best president we didn’t give a chance.

You are mad! You call yourself a media practitioner, yet it’s only at ‘palm wine joint’ you can claim super man in politics. How many articles have you written against the government of the day or are you afraid too?

I’m not afraid of anything. What is there to be afraid of? Is this situation not even worse than prison? What’s the difference? Didn’t you see Dasuki that day? That man don chop up. At least, he has rest of mind. Ask other journalists. People have refused to give brown envelops because they are also managing to survive. Many companies are folding up. Even Dangote is wailing, so I’m no longer afraid. Even Salkida willingly handed himself over to the security forces the other day.

Nonsense! ‘Jagbajantic’ bear parlour journalism. No matter the badbelle, baba will bounce back.

I won’t take it personal with you. I will be here next week to continue the argument with you. But remember I bought a bottle for you today, so you must return same next week. This is an era of change.

Useless man! Where is the money? I’m even thinking of how to survive this weekend. I have only 500 naira left for tomorrow’s garri. You know a cup now sells for as high as 50 naira.

Call baba to epp you. After all, who him epp for this country?

Ali Adoyi is an Abuja based journalist.

General Ishola Williams was at peace with himself that Friday afternoon when the team arrived at his office, in the Iju area of Lagos. This was the man who made news in 1993 when he walked out on the army and General Sanni Abacha on the premise that the army takeover was immoral. Far removed from the life of pleasure and putrid abundance that is the lot of many other retired generals, the team
met the general engrossed in his research work in peace and conflict studies.

General Williams, erstwhile head of the Nigeria chapter of Transparency International, is presently on the faculty of the Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group, a forum he is using to espouse issues that generate conflict in Africa among other development issues. Given his exchange with Gen. Abacha and another squabble when as a colonel he queried a chief of army staff, General Williams was asked
whether he considered himself a troublesome officer. In responding to the contrary, he
nevertheless admitted that he may be controversial.

Undoubtedly so, as is revealed in
this interview during which he spoke on the rot in the army, the fight against corruption among
many other issues. (more…)

Please fellow Nigerians be calm, the Command in Chief is just trying all he can to solve the security challenges and reduce the sufferings of Nigerians at the same time.

Moreover his orders, (Yes, ORDERS, because there was no deliberation on the checkpoints issue in the meeting with the Service Chiefs) were that  Checkpoints all over the country should be dismantled with immediate effect and the Police should step up to the plate in handling Internal Security and replace Check points with Policemen where ever necessary, with the exception of Volatile areas and areas where the Armed Forces are already engaged in Campaigns to salvage the territorial wealth and people of the Republic from both External and Internal Insurrection.

The President’s strategy may not go down well with everyone including those in the Situation Room at the Villa, but I think the wise thing to do is to Pray for the President and his plans, because if the plans should fail, we all will suffer for it (Including The President). Give it some time and Spend that time Praying.

This is a Story… based on true events, you never can tell… but read it first and tell me what you think. Now lets start, mind you, a lot of rules will be broken in this piece…  it was originally written for Vanity Fair Magazine… be warned.

18years old Alexis Neiers, days after her arraignment for being an alleged member of the Bling Ring. Photograph by Susanna Howe.

18years old Alexis Neiers, days after her arraignment for being an alleged member of the Bling Ring. Photograph by Susanna Howe.

Alexis Neiers told cops that she and Nick Prugo had been drinking at Beso, a trendy bar-restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, when Prugo got a call from Rachel Lee telling him to come and meet her. It was July 13, 2009. Neiers said she knew that Prugo and Lee—both 19 and former classmates at Indian Hills, an alternative high school in Agoura Hills, an affluent suburb of Los Angeles—had been burglarizing the homes of celebrities. This “included Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, and others she was not sure about,” according to the L.A.P.D.’s report.

Neiers, 18, said that she was drunk and “not sure what was going on” as Prugo parked his white Toyota on the road by a house in the Hollywood Hills. Later, she said, she would find out that it was the home of Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom. Her friends knew that Bloom was in New York shooting a movie; they researched this kind of information on celebrity Web sites like TMZ. They discovered the locations of stars’ homes on Google Maps and celebrityaddressaerial.com.

Neiers said that Lee and another girl, Diana Tamayo, 19, got out of Lee’s white Audi A4, and the four kids walked uphill to Bloom’s residence, a stark, black mansion. Neiers didn’t want to go inside, she said, but still she followed. She told police that Prugo, Lee, and Tamayo seemed to be covering their faces with their hoodies, apparently in order to hide from security cameras. Lee cut a section out of the chain-link fence surrounding the property, Neiers said, and the kids crawled through it.

She said they went around the house, checking windows and doors, finally finding an unlocked door by Bloom’s pool area. They went inside and the other kids started to “ransack” Bloom’s home, according to Neiers. That night, they would allegedly steal close to $500,000 in Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton luggage, clothing, and artwork. “What are you doing? Get me the fuck out of here,” Neiers said she screamed. Then she went outside and threw up and peed in the bushes.

The Fame Monster

On November 16, Neiers arrived at Los Angeles Superior Court for her arraignment with an E! reality crew in tow. Her show, originally intended to be about her life as a party girl on the Hollywood scene, had now become a chronicle of her effort to stay out of jail. She was being charged that day with one count of residential burglary of Orlando Bloom’s home. In the media, she was being called a member of “the Burglar Bunch,” “the Bling Ring,” nicknames for the most successful and outrageous burglary gang in recent Hollywood memory: a gang of well-off kids from the Valley.

Camera crews from local news stations, Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, and TMZ were waiting outside Department 30 on the third floor of the courthouse. Producers from various shows murmured as Neiers—a former hip-hop- and pole-dancing instructor—sat calmly on a bench, allowing a makeup woman to touch her up.

A leggy girl with long, dark hair and shimmering blue-green eyes, Neiers was wearing a tweed miniskirt, a pink sweater, and six-inch Christian Louboutin heels. “I have a pretty cool shoe collection going on right now,” she said.

The L.A.P.D.’s report on the Bling Ring states that Nick Prugo told cops that Rachel Lee—a Korean-American girl from Calabasas, a wealthy suburb in the Valley—was “the driving force of the burglary crew and that her motivation was based on her desire to own the designer wardrobes of the Hollywood celebrities she admired.” Charged in the case are Neiers; Prugo; Lee; Tamayo; their friend Courtney Ames, 19; and Roy Lopez Jr., 27, a bouncer Ames knew from a waitressing job. (All have pleaded not guilty, except for Lee, whose arraignment was pending at press time.)

Between October of 2008 and August of 2009, the alleged members of the Bling Ring collectively stole more than $3 million in jewelry and high-end designer goods from a number of Young Hollywood players: Hilton, Lohan, Patridge (a regular on the reality show The Hills), Bilson (former star of The O.C.), original Beverly Hills 90210 cast member Brian Austin Green and his girlfriend, actress Megan Fox. They are said to have tried to rob High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale too, but fled when discovered by a female houseguest.

The thieves apparently had a taste for luxury brands: Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany, Cartier, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent. They allegedly stole clothes, shoes, handbags, makeup, perfume, underwear. They also took Green’s Sig Sauer .380 semi-automatic handgun.

At her lawyer’s office, a week before her arraignment, Neiers denied any involvement in the burglaries. “I’m a firm believer in Karma,” she said, “and I think this situation was attracted into my life because it was supposed to be a huge learning lesson for me to grow and expand as a spiritual human being. I see myself being like an Angelina Jolie,” she said, “but even stronger, pushing even harder for the universe and for peace and for the health of our planet.” She was sounding almost like a real celebrity. “God didn’t give me these talents and looks to just sit around being a model or being famous. I want to lead a huge charity organization. I want to lead a country, for all I know.”

Moments before her arraignment began, a news producer approached, asking Neiers for an interview. “I’m going to make a statement on the courthouse steps,” the pretty defendant promised. She runway-walked into the courtroom as the cameras started rolling.

The Rat

Nick Prugo has a different take on the events of the night of the Bloom burglary. “We didn’t even go to Beso that night,” he said. A slender boy with an angular face and small brown eyes, he was sitting in front of the fire at the Encino home of his lawyer, Sean Erenstoft, on a rainy night in December.

Charged with seven counts of residential burglary, each bringing a possible sentence of two to six years, Prugo is potentially facing serious time. In October, he confessed to police without first getting a deal. For weeks after he was arrested, on September 17 (after being fingered by a tipster), he denied everything; but then, he says, he was finding it difficult to breathe, sleep, eat—“I was even losing my hair.”

“He confessed to crimes we didn’t even know he committed,” Officer Brett Goodkin, the lead investigator in the case, said on the phone. “Even though I was charged with more, you know, things,” Prugo said, “I still think it was the right thing to do.”

He said that on the night of the Bloom burglary “my parents were out of town. Alexis’s mom had kicked her out of the house. So Alexis moved in with me.” Neiers also told cops that her “mother kicked her out of her home.” Prugo, according to the L.A.P.D. report, said the reason was that Neiers had been smoking OxyContin. “Obviously it’s not true,” says Neiers. “Nick Prugo’s credibility is questionable at best,” says her lawyer, Jeffery Rubenstein.

“Miranda Kerr, a Victoria’s Secret model, was dating Orlando Bloom, and Rachel [Lee] wanted Victoria’s Secret model clothes,” said Prugo. Lee’s lawyer, Peter Korn, would say only, “I don’t want to participate in the media attention in this case.”

“We planned to meet” at Bloom’s, Prugo said. “Me and Alexis met Rachel and Diana. We went up to the house.” The surveillance video from Bloom’s residence on the night of the robbery shows four youthful-looking figures coming up a lamplit hill, all covering their heads with their arms and hoods while walking backward, apparently trying to hide their faces from security cameras. “How would a drunk person, so sick, throwing up,” as Neiers claimed she was, “be walking backwards up a hill?,” Prugo asked.

Whenever they robbed celebrities’ homes, Prugo said, it went like this: “You grabbed a suitcase and filled it up with whatever you wanted.” He said Lee called it “going shopping.” “In [Bloom’s] master bedroom, Rachel found a stash of Rolexes and, like, fifteen hundred dollars. Alexis grabbed a Louis Vuitton laptop-size bag and she was rocking it as a purse. Miranda Kerr had a dress there by Alex Perry—like, a one-of-a-kind runway dress. She took that.”

The Bloom surveillance video shows two of the four figures coming and going up and down the hill with large bags several times between three and four a.m. The bags are so unwieldy that one of the figures stumbles. Prugo said that he and Neiers left around five a.m., but Lee and Tamayo went back inside because, Lee said, “‘I want artwork ‘cause I’m moving to Vegas and I want stuff to decorate my house.’”

Some time later, Prugo said, he sold most of Bloom’s Rolexes to Johnny Ajar—a.k.a. “Johnny Dangerous,” and, according to the police report, their “fence”—a thuggish ex-con and promoter at Les Deux who would allegedly get Prugo and his under-age friends into the club. When cops searched Ajar’s home, they found Brian Austin Green’s pistol. Ajar is now in Los Angeles’s Twin Tower Correctional Facility, charged with possession of narcotics and a firearm. “He gave us $5,000 for, like, 10 Rolexes,” Prugo said, “which is I guess a ripoff now that I think of it.”

Ajar’s lawyer, Michael Goldstein, says, “I find it troubling that Prugo, who according to most of the players is the mastermind of these burglaries along with Lee, is now implicating everyone else while my client remains incarcerated.”

“I Loved Her”

It was left to the adults dealing with the aftermath of the Bling Ring—cops, lawyers, the victims—to ask “Why?” “Why did they do this?” asked Audrina Patridge, whose home was burglarized on February 22, 2009, Oscar night. “I watched the surveillance videos,” she said, “expecting it to be these big scary guys, and instead it was these two kids”—allegedly Lee and Prugo.

In the grainy video, a girl and boy who seem to resemble Prugo and Lee enter Patridge’s Hollywood Hills home (they got in through an unlocked door). They pick through her things. The girl looks composed; the boy looks jumpy.

“They took bags and bags of stuff,” Patridge said. “They took my great-grandma’s jewelry, my passport, my laptop, jeans made to fit my body to my perfect shape.” The estimated value of her stolen property was $43,000. Patridge said she believes the thieves were motivated by her fame. “Rachel Lee was a big fan of me. I was her target,” she said she’d heard from cops. “She’s a little obsessed girl, I gotta tell you. She’s going to get what she deserves.”

“Were teenagers too enthralled by stars?” asked The New York Times. “They did it for the money. This was their job,” said Officer Goodkin, who took over the case from detectives when Prugo’s lawyer approached him with his client’s confession. But Goodkin said he was also struck by the “stalkerish” aspect of the crimes. “It may be a stretch, but is wanting to wear somebody’s clothes that different from wanting to wrap yourself up in their skin, like that guy in The Silence of the Lambs?

Meanwhile, Prugo said that he and his accomplices never discussed “why.” “We just did it. I know it sounds dumb, but Rachel just wanted the clothes. She wanted to look pretty.” As for himself, Prugo said, “I was just following Rachel … I loved her almost like a sister.”

Nick and Rachel

Nick Prugo met Rachel Lee in 2006 at Indian Hills, where he had transferred after being kicked out of Calabasas High School for excessive absences. He was a troubled kid who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D., for which he was prescribed Concerta, and “anxiety issues,” for which he was given Zoloft. He said that Lee was “the first person I felt was, like, my best friend.” They became “inseparable,” in constant contact, phoning, IMing, texting.

She was a fashionable girl whom Prugo and Neiers describe as “spoiled” and “haughty.” She had troubles of her own; apparently she didn’t get along with her mother, Vickie Kwon, a North Korean immigrant and owner of two centers of the tutoring company Kumon. Prugo claims, “Rachel hates her stepfather,” whom her mother married when Lee was in her early teens. (Neither Lee nor Kwon responded to requests for comment.)

Around this time, Prugo said, he was also becoming estranged from his parents, Melva-Lynn and Frank, a senior vice president at IM Global, a film-and-television sales-and-distribution company, and the foreign sales agent for the low-budget blockbuster Paranormal Activity. “Me and my parents had a falling-out,” Prugo said, not wishing to elaborate. “I can’t blame them. Whatever I’ve done, it’s my responsibility.”

He said that he and his new friend, Lee, “bonded over fashion. I like fashion, I like clothes. I like to think that I’m a stylish guy.” He dreamed of designing his own line, as did Lee, who talked about attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in L.A. “A lot of the Hills girls went there.”

Throughout the 10th grade, Prugo said, they were a couple of “carefree kids,” “smoking weed, hanging out at Zuma Beach, going to parties with a lot of under-age kids doing beer pong.” And then, that summer, things started to change, when Prugo said Lee proposed they rob the house of a boy in Woodland Hills whom Prugo knew to be out of town. “I’m like, O.K., whatever, just wanting to please her.”

“I’m in the house,” he said, “walking back and forth, freaking out. I mean, it’s weird to go through somebody’s things.” But Lee, he said, was always “very into it, focused”—so relaxed that when they burglarized the home of Rachel Bilson, on May 9, Lee took the time to go into the bathroom and have a bowel movement.

At that first burglary in the Valley, Prugo said, Lee found a box with $8,000 in cash under a bed. Which calmed him down. “We each get four grand. Like, this isn’t so bad. We didn’t kill anybody.” The next day, they went shopping on Rodeo Drive.

Prugo said they fell into a nearly nightly ritual they called “checking cars”—taking credit cards and cash from unlocked Bentleys, Mercedeses, and other fancy rides parked in their neighborhood. The next day, they’d go shopping. “We’d go to, like, Kitson,” a Melrose boutique popular with starlets. “We’d walk in, stylized and beautiful. We’d use the cards—no one would question.”

Meanwhile, Prugo said, he was developing a cocaine habit, “so I was also stealing for drugs.” (Arrested for possession in 2009, he’s entered into a Deferred Entry of Judgment program, hoping to get the charge dismissed. He says he’s clean now.)

He says he doesn’t remember exactly why he and Lee decided to start burglarizing celebrities’ homes, except that “these were women with, like, fashion sense. Rachel watched The Hills, Gossip Girl—all those shows. She loved their clothes.” They started “checking up on celebrity Web sites. We’d be like a little research team.” They’d drive by celebrities’ homes to do surveillance, figuring out how to get in.

They picked Paris Hilton as their first victim, Prugo said, because they figured she was “dumb.” “Like, who would leave a door unlocked? Who would leave a lot of money lying around?”

One night in October of 2008, he says, he and Lee entered Hilton’s sprawling tile-roofed mansion in a gated community in the Hollywood Hills, opening the front door with a key they had found under the mat. “Stupid,” Prugo said, shrugging. He said he found the sensation of suddenly being in Hilton’s home “horrifying. There was that percentage of ‘Wow, this is Paris Hilton’s house,’ but as soon as I put my foot in the door I was just wanting to run out.”

He says he served as a lookout at the top of the stairs while Lee went into Hilton’s bedroom to search for valuables. “I was sweating unnaturally. Every five minutes, I was yelling, Let’s get the fuck out of here. She was like, It’s fine, it’s fine, let’s keep going.”

Lee took some expensive bras and a designer dress that night, he says (he can’t remember which; there would be so many). They took a bottle of Grey Goose vodka from Hilton’s “nightclub room.” They took “crumpled cash,” he claims, “fifties, hundreds,” from Hilton’s purses.

The idea was to take so little that the heiress wouldn’t notice—and so they could come back again. Hilton actually didn’t notice or at least didn’t report any of the Bling Ring burglaries until December 19, 2008, when Roy Lopez allegedly stole close to $2 million worth of her jewelry, stuffing it into one of her Louis Vuitton tote bags. Lopez has been charged with one count of residential burglary. His lawyer, David Diamond, says his client “did not steal anything” from Hilton.

“We found about, like, five grams of coke in Paris’s house” on another night, Prugo told police; he says they snorted it and left. Then they “drove around Mulholland, having the best time of our lives.”

“I don’t know why anyone would listen to allegations made by a self-confessed thief,” said Dawn Miller, a rep for Hilton.

My So-Called Real Life

At Alexis Neiers’s home in Westlake Village on the afternoon of her arraignment, the E! reality crew was filming a scene in which Neiers’s parents recount for their younger daughter, Gabrielle, what happened in court that day. Neiers’s mother, Andrea Arlington Dunn, and father, Mikel Neiers, stood in the living room, taking direction from E! supervising producer Gennifer Gardiner, who was feeding them lines: “Tell her, ‘Everything’s going to be O.K., Gabby.’”

“Everything’s going to be O.K., Gabby,” said Dunn, who was still dressed for court in a brown suit. A former Playboy Playmate, Dunn—now married to Jerry Dunn, a production designer for television—is a masseuse and holistic health-care practitioner. Their house, which sits on a rolling, manicured street, is decorated with religious talismans and floor-standing statues of Buddha which Dunn said she got at the closing of a Thai restaurant.

Mikel Neiers, Alexis’s father, a tall man in a blazer and jeans—a former director of photography on Friends who Alexis says “has been in the industry forever”—was looking rather shell-shocked. “He doesn’t really have a place right now,” Dunn said, explaining why her ex-husband sometimes lives with the family.

“I’ve had a lot of struggles with my dad falling off the face of this earth and not being a father,” Alexis had complained earlier. (Her father declined to comment on this.) Continuing on the theme of her difficulties, she said, “I had a boyfriend who was into drugs.”

Alexis’s “dysfunctional background” was the reason why, she said, she “related so well” to Tess Taylor, who sometimes also lives in the Neiers-Dunn household. Taylor, 20, a Playboy Cyber Girl, is still being investigated for her role in the Bling Ring burglaries, according to sources in the L.A.P.D. Taylor’s lawyer, Jeffery Rubenstein, had no comment.

Alexis met Taylor (a stage name; her real name is Adler), a dark-haired bombshell, in ballet class when they were toddlers. “We took her in” six years ago, Alexis said. “My mom kinda fell off the face of the planet,” Taylor said on the phone. She said she doesn’t know where her mother is. “I feel like she’s my other half,” said Alexis, “I love to go out and dance with my sister.” They can also be seen making out with each other in the straight-to-DVD teen flick Frat Party.

It was their ubiquity on the Hollywood club scene that got E! interested in the girls for their reality show, tentatively titled Pretty Wild, last year. The pilot—which airs in March; unfortunately, I may be in it, having been around while they were filming—includes a wild night in which Alexis and Taylor hit the club Wonderland in Hollywood with their friend rapper Mickey Avalon. “He’s such an awesome guy!” Alexis says.

The morning after, October 22, the L.A.P.D. showed up at Alexis’s door with a search warrant. In the house, cops found a Marc Jacobs handbag allegedly belonging to Rachel Bilson and a Chanel necklace allegedly belonging to Lindsay Lohan. Alexis denies stealing the items, saying, “I have receipts for everything.” The reality-crew cameras kept rolling as Alexis exited Van Nuys Jail that night after being bailed out on a $50,000 bond. Taylor was released after questioning.

It was through Taylor that Alexis had come to know Nick Prugo—who knew Taylor via mutual friends in the “Valley party scene.” (Taylor went to Oak View High School, while Alexis was home-schooled.) “I didn’t care for Nick,” Alexis said, “because he took all of Tess’s attention. There was a lot of jealousy between me and Tess and him.”

“Tess wanted me to be her little best friend,” said Prugo. “Tess and Alexis got into a fight about me.” He also claims that Rachel Lee was “jealous” of his friendship with the girls.

Alexis said Prugo told her and Taylor that he was a “stylist” for his father’s film company, which was presumably why he had access to the expensive designer clothes he would let the girls “borrow.” And that is why, Taylor explained, she could be seen in a tryout for a commercial for Axe body spray wearing a vest that cops say belongs to Rachel Bilson—because “Nick dressed me for the commercial.” Prugo maintains that Alexis and Taylor were aware the clothes were stolen, and made up the story about his being a stylist as a cover for Alexis’s mother.

“Nick really liked the life we had,” Alexis said. “He wanted to live like us. He wanted to tag along with us to the clubs we went to, like Apple, Guys & Dolls, Teddy’s, Ecco. It was known that we were out hanging out with Emile Hirsch and Leonardo DiCaprio—just, like, typical Young Hollywood.”

“They were the first people that brought me out to clubs,” Prugo allows.

Later in the afternoon, Gabby and Dunn were in the kitchen, filming a scene in which they were arguing about how to deal with Taylor and Alexis’s excessive partying. The producer, Gardiner, fed them lines: “‘You need to be a stronger parent, Mom!’ ‘These girls are out of control!’”

Alexis went onto the porch to smoke a cigarette. She started discussing the Bling Ring. “Rachel’s a klepto freak,” she said. “She was so manipulating, so conniving. Nick always did what she said. Rachel was in charge. She started it all. Nick, he was a dude—why would he be knocking off chicks’ houses?”

“The Beautiful, Gorgeous Things”

By the beginning of 2009, the Bling Ring was in full escalation mode. “While this activity started as a twisted adventure for Prugo and his small group of friends fueled by celebrity worship,” says the L.A.P.D. report, “it quickly mushroomed into an organized criminal enterprise.”

Between October and December of 2008 there had been four more burglaries of Hilton’s house. By February there were allegedly more people involved: Diana Tamayo, president of the class of 2008 at Indian Hills, an illegal Mexican immigrant, according to cops, voted “Best Smile,” and Courtney Ames, an old friend of Lee’s who went to Calabasas High School and whose stepfather is famed welterweight Randy Shields. “Wanna smoke a bluuunt,” Ames wrote on her Facebook page in November.

“I didn’t want all these people coming in,” Prugo said. “I found it odd that Rachel would want to involve more people.”

Still, he participated in the planning of the December 19, $2 million heist of Hilton’s jewelry, allegedly stolen by Roy Lopez, who cops say had been brought in by Ames. She and Lopez had worked together at Sagebrush Cantina, a bar-restaurant in Calabasas. (After Lopez was arrested, on October 22, he produced the majority of Hilton’s jewelry, which was returned to her. Lopez, cops say, had not had the criminal sophistication to fence it.)

I met Ames—a light-eyed girl with dyed black hair—at Art’s Deli on Ventura Boulevard one night in November. A friend of hers had told me she’d be there. “I didn’t do any of this,” she said flatly. “I’m not into that whole crowd that’s into fame.”

She has been charged with one count of residential burglary of Paris Hilton’s home. The L.A.P.D. has pictures of her at Les Deux—where she met her boyfriend, Johnny Ajar—wearing a Diane von Furstenberg leather jacket allegedly belonging to Hilton. Ames’s lawyer, Robert Schwartz, denies that she was involved in the burglaries.

The stuff, the designer goods—as Prugo said, “the beautiful, gorgeous things, like Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent”—was accumulating, and, according to Prugo, the kids were wearing it around the Valley and to Hollywood clubs. “Diana’s, like, entire personal wardrobe was made up of clothing she stole,” he said. “Patently false,” said her lawyer, Howard Levy. Tamayo has been charged with two counts of residential burglary of Lohan’s home and the attempted burglary of Ashley Tisdale’s.

The kids seemed to be insatiable—and fearless. They allegedly kept on robbing even after Audrina Patridge posted the surveillance video, believed to be of Lee and Prugo, on her Web site in February. Patridge had hoped that someone would come forward to identify the thieves, but, miraculously, no one did, even though the video was picked up by TMZ and ran on L.A.’s local news stations.

“I was watching KTLA and I saw us and I just broke down,” Prugo said. “Rachel made it seem like it was O.K.”

According to the L.A.P.D.’s report, the Bling Ring collectively burglarized Rachel Bilson a full six times in April and May, taking nearly $130,000 in property—so much stuff (clothing, jewelry, makeup, handbags), Prugo said, that they tried to unload some of it on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, scoring a few thousand dollars. In August, they allegedly robbed Brian Austin Green, but their real target was his live-in girlfriend, Megan Fox; Prugo said Lee liked her wardrobe.

Prugo also said that some of the kids continued to conduct surveillance on additional targets, including the homes of Disney stars Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Hilary Duff, and Vanessa Hudgens. Meanwhile, he said, he was becoming increasingly nervous about their activities—“worried, scared, just uneasy all the time, anxious, anxious.”

Lee may also have been growing concerned. In late July she moved to Las Vegas to live with her father, David Lee, an independent businessman from South Korea. Prugo helped her move, driving through the desert with her car filled up with bags of stolen property.

The Sting

But Rachel Lee couldn’t resist pulling off one last heist, Prugo said: “Rachel’s, like, biggest conquest was Lindsay Lohan. It was her ultimate fashion icon.”

Lee returned to L.A. from Vegas and, on the night of August 23, Prugo, Lee, and Tamayo allegedly burglarized Lohan’s Spanish-style home in the Hollywood Hills of close to $130,000 in clothes and jewelry. Lee and Tamayo were, “like, freaking out over Lindsay’s stuff,” Prugo said. “I didn’t even want to go to Lindsay’s, because I had a feeling if anything was taken,” in the way of surveillance videos, “it would be released.”

It was. On August 26, the L.A.P.D.—with Lohan’s permission—released her surveillance video to TMZ. Now there were two videos circulating (Lohan’s and Patridge’s), making it all but plain to see that they had captured images of the same people, and that there was a connection between the Hollywood Hills burglaries. Tips started pouring in as to the thieves’ identities. But police were already moving on information they had received from someone who said she overheard Lee and Prugo bragging of their exploits at a party. Cops used Facebook to ascertain that Lee and Prugo were “friends” with each other.

On October 22, two weeks after Prugo confessed, the L.A.P.D. was issued search warrants for Ajar, Tamayo, Ames, Neiers, Lopez, and Lee. They found Lee at her father’s Las Vegas home. “During the warrant service,” says the L.A.P.D. report, “Lee asked several officers if they would release her if she told them where ‘everything is.’”

“Hypothetically,” Lee allegedly said, “let’s say I might know where this property is located and who has it, how could that help me?”

“It is clear that Lee felt that she successfully removed all items of stolen property from the residence,” the report goes on. “However, when Lee saw” that cops had found a coat allegedly belonging to Lindsay Lohan and some topless pictures of Paris Hilton (stolen from Hilton’s unlocked safe) on the premises, “her mood instantly changed from being calm and collected to instantly becoming nearly hysterical, physically ill, and gagging as though she were about to vomit.

“Lee asked Detective [Leanne] Hoffman,” of the L.A.P.D., “if she had spoken to the victims. Hoffman replied that she had spoken to all of the victims. Lee became excited and asked, ‘What did Lindsay say?’”

Lee has been charged with three counts of residential burglary of the homes of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Audrina Patridge.

Postscript

It isn’t clear yet whether there will be a trial in the case of the Bling Ring. If there is, all the celebrity victims may be called to appear, and it’s possible that Nick Prugo will be the prosecution’s star witness. It isn’t a role he relishes—he’s been called “a rat,” although many other members of the Bling Ring told police of each other’s involvement as well—but, he said, “I’m just trying to help the police in any way I can.”

Awaiting the resolution of the case, Prugo is living at home, attending the University of Phoenix online, and seeing a therapist weekly. Since Lee was arrested, he says, he has not had any contact with her. “It was a real friendship, and this whole thing’s been really hard,” he said. “I still love her.”

He said he believes that confessing was “the turning point in my life. I want to make it clear that everything I had in my possession I gave back. It was really hard for me to do that, but the stuff wasn’t mine anyway, so I’m a piece of shit for taking it.

“I’m just really trying to make whatever amends I can, especially to these celebrities that I victimized,” he said. “I really want them to know that I’m sorry. I’m not really sure how I’m going to do that yet. But I really plan on making some formal apology to them. I don’t know how they’ll react. I mean, to have someone in your house, where it’s your most personal of sanctuaries … ” He seemed at a loss for words.

He was wearing a pair of good-looking shoes, shiny black sneakers. I asked him where he got them. “A thrift store,” he said ruefully. “Thirteen bucks.”

Written by Nancy Jo Sales a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

I’m an Ex-boy of the greatest Military School in the World.
When my peers were still playing with toys I was training with a loaded weapon.
When they were playing hide and seek I was learning Camouflage and Concealment.
When they were sleeping in thier beds I was laying Ambush in the forest.
When they were asking for guidance I was learning the four phases of war.
When they were trying to know the people in their neighbourhood, I already had blood brothers from all over Nigeria.

That’s why I know no matter what, come rain come shine, come Boko Haram, or whatever, Nigeria will hold on because their are thousands of my Blood brothers in the land who will always keep the peace and bond… no matter what.

Because Patriotism is part of their nature and our motto… DISCIPLINE, KNOWLEDGE AND PATRIOTISM…
is not just mere word but an integral part of our being. It is our Faith in our Fate.

Even before we were Teenagers, we vowed our Faith to Nigeria.
To the Supremacy of our Constitution.

Therefore, Whenever the clarion calls, Whatever the Price or Odds, There will always be an Exboy selflessly fighting for the Unity of the Nation.

DAMN PROUD TO BE ONE…
MORE COURAGE TO ALL THOSE IN ARMS…

Chris_Olukolade.jpg.pagespeed.ic.iZa2cpLylx

Brig. Gen. A.C. Olukolade – Defence Spokesman

The Nigerian Defence Headquarters has released a statement in reaction to the Amnesty International’s report earlier on Wednesday which indicted Senior Military officers of committing war crimes. The world humanitarian body mentioned names and called for a full investigation of the officers who they allege participated, sanctioned and failed to prevent the deaths of over 7,000 Nigerians since activities of Boko Haram started in Nigeria. in response to that, the Defense Headquarters reacted thus..

The Defence Headquarters has noted with dismay the gruesome allegations made by the Amnesty International against some senior military officers serving and retired of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is unfortunate that all effort made in the allegation was geared towards continuation of blackmail against the military hierarchy in which the organisation had embarked upon as far back as the inception of military’s action against terrorist in the North East. The officers mentioned in the report have no reason, whatsoever, to indulge in the allegation made against them. It is unfortunate that the organisation just went out to gather names of specified senior officers, in a calculated attempt to rubbish their reputation as well as the image of the military. The action, no doubt, depicts more of a premeditated indictment aimed at discrediting the country for whatever purpose. Each of the previous allegations had been thoroughly responded to and cleared in the public and officially. The title down to the body of the allegation smacks of the extreme bias, which is disturbing coming from an otherwise reputable organisation that is expected to be Just and fair to all. Unfortunately in this case, has taken a premeditated position, which is far from noble.

It is curious that a body that has never been able to seriously condemn terror in Nigeria now claims to have done an extensive research with the aim of discrediting the nation’s effort at curtailing terror.
It is clear that Amnesty International (AI) becomes more active in presenting distractive allegations whenever the terrorists are losing ground in the battle. It is very unfortunate that Amnesty International has used this report to further confirm its questionable interest in the counter-terrorism effort in Nigeria.
It will be recalled that the Joint Investigation Team was set up by the Defence Headquarters as part and parcel of efforts to ensure that no detainee suffer unjustly. The detention facilities were thrown open for visits and inspections by independent bodies such as International Committee of the Red Cross and other reputable international organisations and personalities.
Amnesty International is advised to stop playing the role of an irritant coming up loudly only when the terrorists are losing out and remaining silent or complacent whenever the terrorist heightens its atrocities. It is unfair to persist in effort to discredit Nigerian military by seeking all avenues to stigmatise individual officers of the nation’s military purely to satisfy an agenda against the security agencies and image of Nigeria before the international community.

(more…)

osama Bin Laden Library

The Obama administration on Wednesday declassified nearly 80 documents and other materials, including books and press clippings, seized from Bin Laden’s compound during the raid by Navy Seal members in May 2011 which resulted in the death of the world no 1 most wanted.

The materials showed that Bin Laden spent a lot of time reading. The books showed that Osama read a wide range of books from sober works of history and current affairs to wild conspiracy theories spun by anti-Semites.

He also studied his enemy the United States by reading the “9/11 Commission Report” as well as other reports on Al Qaeda by the Congressional Research Service.

The list of English-language books – which were all digital copies rather than printed editions – reads like a university reading list, largely made up of serious texts on international relations, politics and law.

So if you are looking for a reading list this summer, here is help.

The full list of English language books:

  • The 2030 Spike by Colin Mason
  • A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by IA Ibrahim
  • America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
  • America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky
  • Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
  • The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
  • The Best Enemy Money Can Buy by Anthony Sutton
  • Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century by Bev Harris
  • Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier
  • Bounding the Global War on Terror by Jeffrey Record
  • Checking Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions by Henry Sokolski and Patrick Clawson
  • Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D. by CR Haines
  • Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies by Cheryl Benard
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman
  • Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert
  • Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (only the book’s introduction) by C Christine Fair and Peter Chalk
  • Guerrilla Air Defense: Antiaircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerrilla Forces by James Crabtree
  • Handbook of International Law by Anthony Aust
  • Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky
  • Imperial Hubris by Michael Scheuer
  • In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure by Asim Abdul Maajid, Esaam Ud-Deen and Naahah Ibrahim
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II by William Blum
  • Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
  • Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification. Joint hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, August 3, 1977. United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
  • New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
  • New Political Religions, or Analysis of Modern Terrorism by Barry Cooper
  • Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
  • Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
  • The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (1928)
  • Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins
  • The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague
  • Unfinished Business, U.S. Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century by Michael O’Hanlon
  • The U.S. and Vietnam 1787-1941 by Robert Hopkins Miller
  • Website Claims Steve Jackson Games Foretold 9/11, article posted on ICV2.com (this file contained only a single saved web page)

The documents ‘probably used by other compound residents’ includes

  • Art Education: The Journal of National Art Education Association, “Islamic Art as an Educational Tool about the Teaching of Islam” by Fayeq S Oweiss (March 2002)
  • Arabic Calligraphy Workshop by Fayeq S Oweiss
  • Published Work Sample from Fayeq S Oweiss (2004)
  • Resume for Fayeq S. Oweiss, PhD (2006)
  • Delta Force Extreme 2 Videogame Guide
  • Game Spot Videogame Guide
  • Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition by John Berardi and Michael Fry
  • Guinness Book of World Records Children’s Edition 2008 (scans of several pages from)
  • Is It the Heart You Are Asking? by Dr. Islam Sobhi al-Mazeny (suicide prevention guide)
  • Silkscreening Instructions
image

Prof. Attahiru Jega (INEC Chairman)

The February 14 Presidential elections have been postponed to March 28, 2015.

This information was made public by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) at the
Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, says that the election was postponed because all the security agencies in the country have expressed to him, in writing, that they cannot be available to support the elections if it holds on February 14. This decision was made after several hours of meetings chaired by Jega on charting a way forward as regards organising a free, fair,and
violence free elections.

Jega gave reasons for the postponement saying:
“There are several things needed to conduct a credible election. Some are within the control of
the elections but others are not. One of the things not in our control is security.”

He continued saying, “It has become pertinent to consider the security situation in the country.
INEC is a election organising commission, not a security organisation”
“We have done wide-ranging consultations before taking our decision. The presidential elections will now hold on March 28, while the state elections will hold on April 11, 2015.”
He appealed for peace and assured that the decision was “taken in good faith and best
interest of deepening democracy.”
A leading African election expert and senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in Abuja, Jibrin Ibrahim, who
was at the meeting, disclosed that Jega, during the meeting stated that security operatives from all the nation’s agencies informed the commission that they were commencing a six weeks special operations against Boko Haram insurgents in the north eastern corridors of the country and an election would only be a distraction.

We shall bring you more details as soon as we get them.

As reported on today

.ng

image

The Fallen Hero

A symbolic but tragic reminder of the enormous sacrifices the Nigerian military has been making in defence of the nation in the ongoing war against terror was brought to the fore yesterday by the painful news of the death of a  Lieutenant who was killed in the line of duty barely a month to his wedding.

image

His wedding invitation card

Lt. Kyom Leo, who had planned to wed his fiancee, Miss Angela Gaiya, on August 30, in Kaduna was killed in an ambush while on a mission to search for the Chibok schoolgirls. With his death, he joined the long list of fallen heroes as the military intensifies the counter insurgency campaign against the Boko Haram sect.

image

The late Lt. Kyom as a 3rd year cadet in NDA

The sad news was announced yesterday by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) through their twitter account @DefenceInfoNG and later on their website http://www.defenceinfo.mil.ng.

The message which was confirmed by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, stated:  “This is his WEDDING IV but killed by #BokoHaram in an attempt to #BringBackOurGirls. A #HERO is gone”#RIP Lt. Leo”

The statement reads: “2nd Lieutenant Leo of the Nigerian Army was one of the three gallant soldiers killed in operation as insurgents ambushed our troops during a patrol to dislodge insurgents around Delwa, Borno State.
“His emotional story told on various social media channels, continues to draw myriads of sympathies, tributes and encomiums from friends and family and other well-meaning people all over the country.

“One Miss Nkechi Afamu, a friend to the late soldier wrote ‘RIP LEO, my childhood friend. We all parted ways after Kaduna crisis in 2000. I can’t believe you are gone, what happens to Tida and Wyari your lovely sisters. I can’t question God but it’s hard to say goodbye. Rest On KY. We will all miss you’.”

The statement added that Leo was a deeply religious and courageous soldier whose steadfast belief in the country for which he paid the ultimate price would “continue to inspire the Nigerian Military to protect our territorial integrity and rid Nigeria of all forms of insurgency and aggression.