Friday, March 17, 2017

Somali Pirates Release Hijacked Tanker

Aris 13 oil tanker
The Aris 13 oil tanker, which has been released by Somali pirates, just off the harbour of Gladstone, Australia, in 2014 (Reuters)
(Reuters) Somali pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged oil tanker have released the ship and its eight Sri Lankan crew, bringing the first hijacking since 2012 to an unusually swift conclusion without the payment of a ransom.

The release followed a gunfight earlier on Thursday between the pirates and the marine force, and then intensive negotiations between the marine force, clan elders and the pirates.

"There has been discussion going on after the gunfight of this afternoon … We pulled our forces back and so the pirates went away," said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime police force for Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.

A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips
Related Book: A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips
A pirate confirmed the release had been made without a ransom payment. In previous hijackings, many crews remained in captivity for years before a ransom was paid. Eight Iranians are still being held.

But the pirates said they had agreed to forego a ransom after learning that Somali businessmen had hired the Aris 13, which was taking oil from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Pirates have traditionally been wary of tangling with Somalia's powerful businessmen.

"After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom," pirate Abdullahi told Reuters.

The release will be seen as a success for the regional Puntland government and its counter-piracy force, which is funded by the United Arab Emirates.

The hijacking was the first time Somali pirates have taken over a commercial ship since 2012 and followed an outpouring of anger by locals over foreign fishermen flooding into their waters. The Somalis are also angry with their government for licensing some of the ships.

The vessel was hijacked on Monday. Residents living near where it was being held said four civilians were injured by stray bullets during Thursday's gunbattle. In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

But attacks fell sharply after crews put safety measures into place and regional naval forces stepped up patrols. Some pirates returned to fishing, and others became involved in smuggling people and weapons across the Red Sea to Yemen.

© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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On Midrats 12 March 2017, Episode 375: Strategic Discipline & the Building of a New National Strategy with Frank Hoffman

Please join us a 5pm EDT (remember to "Spring Ahead") on 12 March 2017 for Midrats Episode 375: Strategic Discipline & the Building of a New National Strategy:

We are in the second month of a new President who is building a new national security

team. He and his team come to their positions with a very different view of the world and America's place in it than their predecessors had.
What direction will they take our nation? What role should realism, alliances, and the requirement to anchor all to a strategic discipline focused on the long term interests of our nation have on the decisions they make?
What do his initial steps and the people so far on his team tell us about where we are going? How may we may have to rethink the basic organizing concepts for America's role in the world?
Our guest for the full hour to discuss this an related issues will be Frank Hoffman.
Frank is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University.
He formerly directed the NDU Press operations which includes the journals Joint Force Quarterly and PRISM. From August of 2009 to June 2011, he served in the Department of the Navy as a senior executive as the Senior Director, Naval Capabilities and Readiness. He started at National Defense University in 2011 and became a Distinguished Research Fellow in December 2016.
He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in the summer of 2001 at the grade of Lieutenant Colonel. He has authored one book (Decisive Force; The New American Way of War, Praeger, 1996), over 100 essays and articles, and frequently contributes to Orbis, Joint Force Quarterly, the Journal of Strategic Studies, Parameters, the Naval Institute Proceedings and Marine Corps Gazette.

Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up later by clicking that link or by visiting either our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.

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Nimitz Conducts First Burial at Sea in Over Two Years

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) laid to rest 17 service members and one civilian during the first burial at sea held aboard in more than two years, March 15. Sixteen Sailors, one Soldier and one civilian were committed to the sea with full military honors after a ceremony officiated by the ship's command chaplains and Commanding Officer Capt. Kevin P. Lenox. "It's our way of honoring our shipmates and providing a dignified service to their loved ones so they can have closure," said Cmdr. Steve Mills, a native of Norman, Okla., and Nimitz' command chaplain. "Serving in the military is a big deal with its years of sacrifice and this is our final way of saying thank you." The chaplain recognized each service member individually as they were laid to rest, including Nimitz' own Machinist Mate 1st Class Kathryn Linde. A member of Nimitz's Reactor Department, Linde passed away July 2, 2016. A memorial service was held on board July 8, 2016. For the Nimitz, this ceremony provides some closure to the family and friends of Petty Officer Linde. A final valediction to a close friend. As a Sailor, it's tradition that we spend our lives protecting our country from the sea," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Harry Crawford, a native of Dallas and a member of the burial detail. "It's only right that we return to it in the end. With commitment to the ocean, they're with us wherever we go." The tradition of a burial at sea dates back to the days of sail. At the formation of the U.S. Navy, the body was sewn into a shroud of sail cloth and sent over the side with a religious ceremony. Active-Duty service members, retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged, Military Sealift Command personnel and any dependents of active duty personnel may request a burial at sea. Family members are given a letter of condolence as well as a national Ensign, photos of the ceremony and the navigational chart of the location of where the ceremony took place. "They were exactly like us," said Crawford. "Volunteering to serve their country when it needed them. It's only right that we volunteer one last time for them. We're here to serve them and honor those veterans and their sacrifice." Nimitz is currently underway to conduct Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), in preparation for an upcoming 2017 deployment.

For more information, visit,, or

For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit

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Japan launches new spy satellite to keep eye on North Korea

Japan launched a new spy satellite Friday, the country's space agency said, as the region grows increasingly uneasy over North Korea's quickening missile and nuclear programs.

The Radar 5 unit was carried into space on Japan's mainstay H-IIA rocket from a launch site in the country's southwest.

It is meant to replace an existing satellite that is approaching the end of its mission.

Japan began putting spy satellites into orbit in 2003 after North Korea fired a midrange ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the Western Pacific in 1998.

The threat has steadily accelerated and just last week Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles, with three landing in waters provocatively close to Japan.

Tokyo currently maintains three optical satellites for daytime surveillance and three radar satellites for nighttime monitoring. Two of those are backups.

The new satellite will succeed one of the three radar satellites that was launched in 2011.

The satellites are officially for "information gathering" — a euphemism for spying — but are also used to monitor damage in the wake of natural disasters.

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CIA Asserts State Secrets Privilege in Torture Case

The Central Intelligence Agency formally asserted the state secrets privilege this week in order to prevent disclosure of seven categories of information concerning its post-9/11 interrogation program, and to prevent the deposition of three CIA officers concerning the program. The move was first reported in the New York Times ("State Secrets Privilege Invoked to Block […]

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Remembering the MS St. Louis and the “Voyage of the Damned”

stlouisGiven the current heated debate over immigration and refugees, this seems like a good time to remember the consequences of when the United States slammed the door on refugees. On Throwback Thursday, here is a revised and updated post from two years ago.

With immigration and refugee policy at the center of significant polciy disagreement, it seems worthwhile to remember the ill-fated voyage of the German ocean liner St. Louis in 1939. The ship carried 908 Jewish refugees who were fleeing from Nazi Germany. The ship and its passengers were denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada. Finally, the ship turned around and returned to Europe. Despite the US government's refusal to accept the refugees, private Jewish aid groups in the United States did manage to place most of the refugees in Belgium, France and Holland, to avoid returning them to Nazi Germany. Tragically, many were later captured when the Nazis invaded. Two-hundred-and-fifty-four of the refugees are believed to have died in the German death camps. The voyage has been the subject of at least one book and two movies. The movie, Voyage of the Damned, in 1974 was based on the book of the same name by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts.  A second movie, The Voyage of the St. Louis, was released in 1995.  Here is an A&E documentary from 1998, narrated by Patrick Tull.

The Doomed Voyage of the St Louis

Sadly, Americans have a long history of hostility to refugees. Even though our most sacred icon, the Statue of Liberty, notionally welcomes  "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free," Americans overall are usually less welcoming.  A public opinion poll in the United States in late 1938 showed that 67% of respondents were opposed to allowing "German, Austrian and other political refugees" to enter the country. Likewise, a 1939 poll asked if the US should "permit 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children to come in from Germany?" 61% responded "no."

Today, the opinions are split. According to a Pew poll from January, when asked how much of a threat to the well being of the United States would the arrival of large numbers of refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq have, 51% said a minor or no threat where as 46% said a major threat. The results split along party lines, the age of the respondents and their level of education.

Young people less likely to view Iraqi, Syrian refugees as major threat to U.S.

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The many survivals of Barbara Crawford

The reality of travelling steerage where diseases found the perfect conditions. ANMM collection 00005627

The reality of travelling steerage, where diseases found the perfect conditions. ANMM Collection 00005627

The year 1837 was a busy one for the colony of New South Wales. Busiest of all was Sydney Harbour, which saw thousands of convicts arriving and a growing number of immigrants. In addition to the free single men and women, whole families were travelling from Britain to try their luck with a new life.

On 5 November 1836 the immigrant ship Lady McNaughton left Ireland for Australia. On board was the largest number of children ever to immigrate to Australia at that time. Passenger lists show 196 of the passengers of the ship were under the age of 14. However, by the time the ship was about 300 kilometres from Sydney, 54 of the passengers had died – 44 of those being children. Even in the age of dangerous sea travel, this was an extraordinarily high death rate. The typhus fever on board showed no signs of abating, with some 90 passengers still afflicted.

Sydney harbour in 1837. Not the most prepared location for a typhus fever outbreak. 'View of Sydney Cove and Fort Macquarie' by Conrad Martens, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Sydney Harbour in 1837 – not the best-prepared location for a typhus fever outbreak. View of Sydney Cove and Fort Macquarie by Conrad Martens, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

But at this stage the ship met HMS Rattlesnake, on its way down to Port Phillip with Governor Bourke aboard. Upon hearing of the terrible state of the Lady McNaughton, it was decided that the Rattlesnake's assistant surgeon would go with the Lady McNaughton back to Sydney, as their surgeon had taken ill himself. Bourke sent instructions on the quarantine arrangements to be carried out in Sydney, where the colony was unaware that it was about to face its biggest medical challenge to date.

By the time Rattlesnake and Governor Bourke returned to Sydney on 8 April, the Lady McNaughton had quarantined its surviving passengers at Manly, on the northern entrance to the harbour. A further four adults and 10 children had died. Conditions at the isolated location were basic and life in makeshift tents in 37°C February heat did little to restore the passengers' health or stamina. Bourke proposed a more suitable and permanent solution, which proved to be timely, as only three months later the colony would be tested again.

The Quarantine Station, at Manly, in its early years. ANMM collection 00005538.

The Quarantine Station at Manly in its early years. ANMM Collection 00005538.

When the John Barry limped into Sydney on 13 July 1837, the horrors experienced on board could only have been imagined by those who had managed to survive on the Lady McNaughton. Three adults and 22 children had died. In an attempt to dampen local fear, papers played down the episode:

'We are happy in being enabled to state, from an authentic source, that the alarming reports current in town relative to a violent and dangerous fever raging on board the John Barry, are very nearly without foundation. A medical board went to the quarantine ground yesterday, where the John Barry is lying, and the Executive Council has been summoned to meet this morning to receive their report, which is of the most favourable description. The following is a correct account of the deaths on board since her departure from Scotland; three adults, two men and one woman, and twenty-two infants, whose deaths are attributed to their mothers living upon salt provisions; one of the infants died since the vessel has been in the harbour.'

Whatever the paper proclaimed, it had been very clear to those on board that it was a fever and sickness that had claimed lives.The Rattlesnake was back in Sydney at that time and it is interesting to think of her moored on the harbour with the John Barry close by,after being released from quarantine. After seeing firsthand the despair aboard the Lady McNaughton just three months before, the crew of the Rattlesnake must have been happy to keep well clear of the John Barry.

Aboard the John Barry when it arrived in Sydney was the Crawford family from Dundee. With eight children, and living in steerage where the fever had raged, the parents had done well to get all of them to Sydney alive. One of their children was six-year-old Barbara Crawford. We can never know if Barbara had noticed the Rattlesnake moored nearby in July 1837, but we can say for sure that in 1849 the sight of that same Royal Navy vessel would cause her to sit down and cry.

Extract of the passenger list of the John Barry, after it had been released from quarantine. Barbara's father is listed as Charles Crawford, tinsmith. Although it claims he had seven children, it is understood that another was born on the voyage. Image: NSW State Records.

Extract of the passenger list of the John Barry, after it had been released from quarantine. Barbara's father is listed as Charles Crawford, tinsmith. Although it claims he had seven children, it is understood that another was born on the voyage. Image: NSW State Records.

The Rattlesnake had returned to Australia in 1847 under the command of Captain Owen Stanley. The vessel was undertaking a survey the region of Evans Bay near Cape York in October 1849 when they came across a group of Kaurareg people, among whom was Barbara Crawford. Still less than 20 years old, Barbara had been living with the Kaurareg community for what she thought had been four to five years. She had been rescued by them after her vessel was wrecked and her husband presumed drowned.

Despite living and learning the ways of the Kaurareg, Barbara chose to return to Sydney aboard the Rattlesnake. After being taken aboard Barbara told her story to the artist Oswald Brierly, who was travelling with the survey at the time and had been one of the first to talk to Barbara ashore. Over the long weeks of the journey, Barbara talked to Brierly nearly daily and he wrote down everything she could tell him about her time with the Kaurareg people, drawing and recording what she could tell him of their language, beliefs and way of life. In 1849 this was a significant insight into the traditional way of life of the Indigenous people of the area.

An article about HMS Rattlesnake which briefly the discovery of Barbara Crawford. Image: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 1850, via Trove.

An article about HMS Rattlesnake which briefly related the discovery of Barbara Crawford. Image: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 1850, via Trove.

The Rattlesnake moored back in Sydney in February 1850, and after four months aboard, no doubt it was a bittersweet farewell to the ship as Barbara was reunited with her family. After the usual public interest in her experience, little is definitely known about the next stage in Barbara's life. It is believed she later remarried and died in 1912. No records remain to indicate whether she and Brierly kept in contact, but as Barbara was illiterate, it seems unlikely.

The discovery of Barbara is often overlooked as part of the Rattlesnake's voyage to Australia in 1847. It became overshadowed by the subsequent death of the captain and the rise to fame of another crew member, the impressive Thomas Huxley. But in hindsight, the survival of Barbara through the trials of the John Barry, a later shipwreck, five years in the extremities of Cape York and her return to Sydney aboard the Rattlesnake is as worthy a story. The contribution of what Brierly recorded from his and Barbara's conversations is as significant to our understanding of the world as the charts and collections that were made by others.

— Myffanwy Bryant, Curatorial Assistant

Want to find out more surprising stories? Why not check out our collection online (Warning: you might lose a few hours doing this).

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“Leftist Fight Club” at Public Fla. University Promotes Violence Against Republicans

MARCH 14, 2017

A club at a taxpayer-funded university in Florida advocates violence against political conservatives and trains members in a "leftist fight club" open to everyone but Republicans. The group is called Knights for Socialism and, though there are hundreds like it in college campuses across the country, it appears to be in a class of its own for openly threatening violence. Judicial Watch obtained records under Florida's Sunshine Law about the group which is operating at the University of Central Florida (UCF), a publicly-funded institution in Orlando with an enrollment of about 55,000.

The club's mission is to "establish a new society based on socialism in which democracy is extended from politics to the economy and where production of goods and services is based on human need instead of private profit," the records obtained by Judicial Watch state. The group describes itself as a "coalition of Marxist-Leninists, Anarchists and Democratic Socialists" and assures "no discrimination shall be made on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or veteran status." The Knights for Socialism claims in its college club application form that all students are welcome to join because "we are all comrades." However, in social media posts promoting its leftist self-defense classes, the group states "this event is open to everyone and anyone, EXCEPT REPULICANS."

In the records obtained recently by Judicial Watch, the university includes a cover letter noting that the Knights for Socialism has not yet been formally approved by the administration, which is still reviewing the application. "This organization has only recently submitted their materials to become a registered student organization, they are not yet an officially recognized registered student organization," the letter accompanying the group's constitution states. "These documents have not been reviewed or approved by the Office of Student Involvement."

But it appears that the Knights for Socialism has been quite active on the sprawling campus and the club has utilized social media to promote its violent and hateful leftist powwows. The news site of a group dedicated to exposing bias and abuse at the nation's college campuses has published the alarming details. At a recent Knights for Socialism workshop the UCF club taught left-wing students to "BASH THE FASH" (beat up Republicans) with a "Leftist Fight Club." The event was open to everyone but Republicans. The social media event page read like this: "In response to the record number of hate crimes against Latinas, Immigrants, Muslims, Women, the LGBTQIA+ community, Jews, African Americans and other minorities since the rise of Donald Trump and other Alt-Right Neo-Nazis, Knights for Socialism has decided to host a series of self-defense clinics for anyone that wants to learn how to BASH THE FASH."

An amateur boxer offered hand-to-hand combat techniques at the leftist self-defense event to teach socialist students how to protect themselves from hate crimes by those who sympathize with "Donald Trump and other Alt-Right Neo-Nazis." Women were specifically urged to attend, the article says, because a rise in sexual violence is expected during the Trump presidency. "Ladies: The Commander in thief is a sexual predator and rapist," the Knights for Socialism warn in their promotional material. "He has normalized sexual assault and it is expected that sexual violence against women is going to skyrocket in the next 12 months. Please join us! There will be other women there for you to spar against!" The group promoted its event with an illustration of a Nazi soldier getting kicked in the stomach, presumably by a socialist. A large swastika hangs over their head with the following messages; "kick their ass," and "stop the alt-right."

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Guardian's Anti-Piracy Solutions Prevented Hijacking of Maersk Contonu

In Novermber 2016, Guardian's barriers prevented the hijacking of the Maersk Contonu by preventing pirates from accessing the deck.

Had the Aris 13 been fitted with our Guardian anti-piracy barriers the ship would have been protected from illegal boarding, protecting vessel, cargo and crew, thus saving the shipping company possibly millions of dollars of ransom and lost cargo, and the crew possibly many months of captivity in fear of beatings and possibly worse.

Shipping companies must take responsibility for their vessels and crew and it's time to take a comprehensive overview of methods to protect their assets. Many companies are still gambling on getting through HRA's with minimal protection. This is no longer good enough.

Mariners shouldn't have to put their freedom on the line to earn a living. They deserve to work in a safe environment and be protected from risk.

We at Guardian stand proudly beside our strapline, which proclaims 'Safeguarding Seafarers Worldwide'. We are working tirelessly to get Guardian onto as many vessels as possible to take care of our mariners, who bring in over 90% of good consumed by British consumers alone. The world would be a very different place without them transporting our good across the globe, but they get very little recognition for all their hard work.

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Somali Pirates Release Hijacked Ship

Somali pirates released a hijacked oil tanker and its eight Sri Lankan crew on Thursday, a Somali security official and the pirates said, bringing the first hijacking since 2012 to an unusually swift conclusion without the payment of a ransom. "There has been discussion going on after the gunfight of this afternoon ... We took our forces back and thus the pirates went away," said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the Puntland maritime police force.
A pirate confirmed the release was made without a ransom payment.

(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Executed for Cowardice

Rev Richard Griffiths served as a chaplain to the forces in the 24th Field Ambulance, Eighth Division, of the British Army in France. He was 49. He wrote about his experiences in a detailed journal. The extract below describes the execution of a deserter. 

3 June 1915: I received the shocking confidential information that one of the men was condemned for repeated desertion and cowardice and is to be shot. The message came late last night and I have been with him most of the afternoon. I sat on the edge of the dug-out talking, with him crouched on the straw. The bullets and shells did not matter, as this lad pleaded with me to do all I could for him, and I tried to bring him to truth, honour and God. Many thoughts weighed up. 

Pro: His youth, not yet 20. His circumstances—an only son and his mother a widow. His health—he repeated that his head troubled him, and he did not know what he was doing. 

Con: The selfishness of a man wishing other people to face dangers for him and unwilling to take his share. What right has any man to ask that? The falseness of some of his statements. The need of discipline—on two battlefields he had run away, after being warned. The assurance that every consideration must have been weighed by the Court Martial, the Brigadier, the General, the Corps Commander, the Army Commander and the Field-Marshal—and yet one's last lingering wonder is whether penal servitude would not have answered the offence. Those responsible have decided not. 

Film Depiction of a WWI Execution

4 June 1915, 4.30 a.m.: It is all past—the hideous business. The actual agony was over in three minutes and the burial in another five. Everyone was assembled by 3.30 a.m. He was a man who had made many scenes, and it was thought I should not speak with him again, and I felt that that was right. The sandbag bank, the hollow in front of it with the stake. The long grass and oat stalks. The trench made for the purpose, along which were lined small detachments from other battalions. The firing party about 20 paces in front. The Provost Marshal, the Colonel, three or four officers, the doctor. I put on my black scarf and stood at the side, almost too stunned to pray. Behind came the prisoner, scarcely able to walk, pleading and groaning. As he turned the corner he suddenly dashed from his guard and ran wildly across the broken ground, stumbling, panting, able in his despair to reach an astonishing speed, and for the time, to outdistance the men, laden with their equipment. He was eventually caught, and as he came back facing us, he presented a pathetic figure. He was tied to the stake. His eyes were bandaged. "Past 4 o'clock," said the Colonel to the Provost Marshal. A sudden quick crack and the huddled earthly form was separated from the soul gone to the beyond. 

4 June 1915, later: The strain of this morning has been rather much. Other men have gone from us, so many now, good and gallant—known to be sinful, some of them, but redeeming so much by dying bravely. One likes to recall them at a time like this. That abject cry: "Can I have the bandage off, sir? I want to see the sky"—cut short with the sharp crack, the quiet thud, the absolute silence, the stillness. The quick "about turn" to the firing party. The swish of an enemy bullet in the long grass across the path — it was difficult to pray.

Published in the Guardian, 26 July 2014

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China’s Navy Gets a New Helmsman (Part 1): Spotlight on Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong

China Brief – A new leader has just taken the helm of the world's largest navy. Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong (沈金龙) reportedly replaced Admiral Wu Shengli (吴胜利) as PLAN Commander on January 17, 2017. Authoritative state media reports have offered few details on Shen, making it important to analyze a broad array of Chinese-language sources to distill what his elevation may mean for China as a maritime power.

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Opinion Analysis: No systemic exclusion of members on the basis of rank in United States v. Bartee, No. 16-0391/MC

CAAF decided the Marine Corps case of United States v. Bartee, __ M.J. __, No. 16-0391/MC (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. A majority concludes that there was no systemic exclusion of court-martial members on the basis of rank despite the fact that the convening order duplicated an earlier order that was found to have systemically excluded, affirming the decision of the Navy-Marine Corps CCA.

Judge Sparks writes for the court, joined by Judges Stucky and Ohlson. Judge Ryan concurs. Chief Judge Erdmann dissents.

CAAF granted review of a single issue:

The systematic exclusion of individuals by rank from the member-selection process is prohibited. Here, the military judge dismissed the panel for violating Article 25, UCMJ, but the convening authority reconvened the exact same panel the same day. Is this systematic exclusion based on rank reversible error?

Lance Corporal (E-3) Bartee demanded trial by a general court-martial composed of members with enlisted representation. The convening authority's staff judge advocate prepared a draft convening order appointing only officers at paygrade 0-4 and above and enlisted personnel at paygrade E-8 and above, and the convening authority signed that order. But Bartee objected to the composition of the panel on the basis that it improperly excluded members of junior ranks.

Article 25 requires a convening authority to select members based on various criteria, but rank is not among them. "[T]he military judge sustained Appellant's objection to the panel and found that the selection process had excluded potential members based on rank." Slip op. at 2. But then:

The staff judge advocate then provided the convening authority (now General Coglianese) with an amended convening order (1c-13) consisting of the same list of names. The convening authority also received the full roster of over 8,000 potential members and was informed he could substitute any of those names who fit the Article 25, UCMJ, criteria if he so desired. The following day (September 30th, 2014), the convening authority appointed the exact same panel. In a letter addressed to the military judge he stated that, "I know these individuals personally and selected them specifically because I am convinced they meet the qualifications for membership." He also confirmed that he recognized he could have chosen from among the full roster of "roughly 8,000 Marines and sailors" and that he personally selected this panel based on Article 25, UCMJ, criteria.

Slip op. at 2-3 (emphasis added). Bartee renewed his objection but the military judge overruled it, "finding that any appearance that the members had been excluded according to rank was resolved by creation of the second order in compliance with Article 25, UCMJ." Slip op. at 3. Bartee then elected to be tried by a military judge alone rather than by the relatively high-ranking panel.

Judge Sparks' opinion for the court affirms the military judge's ruling with the conclusion that "there was no systemic exclusion of members based on rank and that the convening authority did not violate Article 25, UCMJ." Slip op. at 2. In reaching this conclusion Judge Sparks applies the three-factor analysis from United States v. Dowty, 60 M.J. 163, 171 (C.A.A.F. 2004), which includes whether the case involves:

(1) Improper motive to "pack" the member pool;

(2) Systemic exclusion of otherwise qualified members based on an impermissible variable like rank; and

(3) Good faith efforts to be inclusive so courts-martial are open to all segments of the military community.

Slip op. at 4 (quoting Dowty, 60 M.J. at 171). Considering these factors, Judge Sparks finds that "there is no credible evidence indicating bad faith or improper motive on the part of the staff judge advocate or convening authority in redrawing the second panel, despite the fact that it was comprised of the same members," slip op. at 5, and that:

In his letter to the trial court, the convening authority expressly stated that he considered the Article 25, UCMJ, criteria and personally selected the panel only on the basis of that criteria, and confirmed that he was cognizant of the roster of "roughly 8000 Marines and sailors" from which he could have drawn members. We are satisfied that–despite the composition of the second panel being identical to that of the first–any improprieties were cured in the steps taken by the convening authority the second time around. Panel 1c-13 was not tainted by systematic exclusion according to rank.

Slip op. at 6.

Judge Ryan only concurs in the result because she believes that Bartee waived this issue when he elected to be tried by a military judge alone:

Appellant voluntarily chose a military judge-alone trial, for undisclosed reasons, and thus waived his right to complain about the composition of a panel that was of no further relevance to his court-martial.

Concurring op. at 1.

Chief Judge Erdmann dissents, however, suggesting that the majority's opinion provides a means to bypass the Article 25 criteria:

It is not difficult to envision that when a panel is held to be solicited in violation of Article 25, a convening authority need only be provided with an alpha list of his command, state that he knew he could select anyone in his command, and then reinstate the improperly convened panel with impunity.

Diss. op at 9.

Chief Judge Erdmann also disagrees with Judge Sparks' application of the Dowty factors:

As to the first factor, the record reveals that the SJA's primary motive was to improperly start the (top-down) process with a list of senior panel members, such that only if he could not find satisfactory senior members, he would work his way down through the ranks. The second factor needs little discussion as both lists were the admitted products of a system that excluded every member of the command under O-4 and E-8. As to the third factor, intentionally excluding a majority of potential panel members from consideration on the sole basis of rank is the antithesis of good faith efforts to be inclusive.

Diss. op. at 8. He concludes:

When the convening authority selected the same improperly convened members to the second panel, the taint of the initial panel remained, thus depriving Bartee of both a fair panel and the appearance of a fair panel.

Diss. op. at 10.

Case Links:
NMCCA opinion
Blog post: CAAF to revisit the exclusion of members on the basis of rank
Appellant's brief
Appellee's (Government) brief
Appellant's reply brief
Blog post: Argument preview
Oral argument audio
CAAF opinion
Blog post: Opinion analysis

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Argument Preview: Reviewing a military judge’s suppression ruling in United States v. Gurczynski, No. 17-0139/AR

CAAF will hear oral argument in the certified Army case of United States v. Gurczynski, No. 17-0139/AR (CAAFlog case page), on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, after the argument in Richards. A single issue continues an interlocutory Government appeal of a military judge's ruling suppressing evidence:

Whether the military judge erred in suppressing evidence of child pornography a digital forensic examiner discovered during a search for appellee's communications with a child victim.

Private (E-1) Gurczynski is charged with two specifications of wrongful possession of child pornography, and the suppressed evidence is the images that are the subject of the specifications. These charges are tangentially related to Gurczynski's commission of sexual offenses with a child (and other offenses) to which he pleaded guilty in 2014 (CCA op. here). The images were discovered on devices seized from Gurczynski pursuant to a warrant that authorized a search for evidence of communications with the child victim.

In his ruling suppressing the images the military judge found that:

"[SA CJP] opened item 18 – the thumb drive – and saw several file names of videos normally associated with child pornography" and "[SA CJP] immediately suspected that these video files were child pornography." (JA 167) (emphasis added). The military judge did not find SA CJP saw an image preview indicative of child pornography, nor did he find that SA CJP's suspicion was based on an image preview. (JA 167).

The military judge also found that "[w]ithout seeking or obtaining a new search warrant, [SA CJP] opened one file and viewed it and determined that, based upon his professional experience in such matters, the video was child pornography." (JA 167).

Appellee's Br. at 10. The military judge determined that this action exceeded the scope of the warrant and suppressed the resulting images. The Army CCA affirmed. Gurczynski's brief relies heavily on the military judge's finding of fact as a basis to affirm the suppression.

The Army Appellate Government Division, however, asserts that the military judge got the facts wrong:

Putting aside counsel's argument, then, the unrebutted evidence was that the DFE opened the thumb drive in "picture view," meaning that an image preview of each file was displayed on his screen. (JA 17-19).

Appellee seeks to avoid this evidence by asserting that the military judge found otherwise. (Appellee's Br. 10). The military judge wrote, "During the course of the exam, [the DFE] . . . saw several file names of videos normally associated with child pornography … . " (JA 167). Appellee thus relies on an unreasonable negative implication to suggest that the military judge found as a matter of fact that the DFE did not also rely on the picture view. The force of a negative implication depends on the circumstances. A sign on a storefront that reads "No Dogs Allowed" should be read to also exclude monkeys, since it is apparent that the sign's author sought to highlight only those animals most likely to be brought inside. So too a sign that reads "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" should not be read to allow the service of customers wearing a shirt and shoes but not pants. See United States v. Robinson, 28 M.J. 481,483 n.* (C.M.A. 1989) (citing Sullivan v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877 (1989)). Here, the military judge failed to consider and grapple with the evidence that the DFE used picture view. Therefore, Appellee's desired negative implication – that because the military judge did not mention image previews, he affirmatively found that the DFE did not use image previews – is not reasonable under these circumstances.

Gov't Div. Reply Br. at 10-11. Fundamentally, while the military judge found that the agent saw suspicious file names and then expanded the scope of the search to view the contents of the files, the Army Appellate Government Division asserts that the agent's search involved contemporaneously viewing both the filenames and the contents. The Division also argues that the scope of the warrant properly included all of the contents of the digital media.

The Navy-Marine Corps Appellate Government Division filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Army Appellate Government Division. The brief "joins in Appellant's Brief of December 21, 2016, and writes to supplement Appellant's arguments." Amicus Br. at 2. This seems like nothing more than the Government getting a second bite at the apple, however it is expressly authorized by CAAF's Rule 26(a). This odd arrangement – where one Appellate Government Division can purport to represent the entirety of the Government but a second Appellate Government Division can file a second brief offering complementary arguments – is part of why I made the editorial decision to stop using the term the Government to refer to the Appellate Government Divisions.

Case Links:
ACCA opinion
Appellant's brief  (Army App. Gov't Div.)
Appellee's brief
Appellant's (Army App. Gov't Div.) reply brief
Amicus brief: N.M. App. Gov't Div.
Blog post: Argument preview

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Huge Scandal Continues To Rock US Navy

Rear Adm. Ted
Rear Adm. Ted "Twig" Branch, Bruce Loveless' former CO, speaks to the crew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. 2012 U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Spec. 3rd Class Heath Zeigler

By Marty Graham (Reuters) A retired U.S. Navy admiral appeared in federal court in San Diego on Tuesday on charges that he took bribes, including expensive meals, hotel stays and prostitutes in exchange for sharing classified information and steering the Navy's 7th Fleet to a defense contractor in Asian Pacific ports.

radm_bruce_loveless US Navy
Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless. Photo by U.S. Navy

Bruce Loveless, 53, is one of eight current or retired naval officers and one U.S. Marine charged with bribery in an indictment unsealed last week, the latest in a long-running criminal probe known as the Fat Leonard case, in reference to a nickname for Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, at the center of the scandal.

In return for the bribes, the officials are accused of sharing information on ship movements and sending ships to a half dozen Glenn Defense Marine Asia port locations. The Singapore-based company was contracted to clean, stock and refuel the Navy ships.

Another retired admiral, Robert Gilbeau, pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to investigators. Loveless, Gilbeau and a third admiral were all reprimanded by the Navy and retired in 2016.

In 2015, Francis and the company pleaded guilty to bribing navy officials over 10 years while billing the Navy $200 million for work in a half dozen ports, according to court documents. As part of his guilty plea, Francis agreed to pay $35 million in restitution and cooperate with federal prosecutors in the probe.

The latest indictment claims that in 2007 Francis hosted a "raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Perignon available at the Shangri-La" (hotel), running up a $50,000 bill.

So far, 25 people have been indicted in the case, including two Glenn Defense employees and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent who prosecutors say kept Francis informed about the investigation.

The new indictment includes the admiral, four captains and a commander, a lieutenant commander, a chief warrant officer and a Marine Corps colonel. All are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and face a maximum of 25 years in prison.

Captain David Lausman is also charged with obstructing the investigation and making false statements.

(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Dan Grebler)
© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Noble Caledonia Cruise Ship Rams Pristine Coral Reef

Cruise Ship M/V Caledonian Sky
Cruise Ship M/V Caledonian Sky. Photo by Noble Caledonia
(TheGuardian) One of the main coral reefs at Raja Ampat, an Indonesian island chain home to perhaps the world's richest marine biodiversity, was severely damaged this month when a Bahamian-flagged cruise ship smashed into it at low tide, according to an official report.

The 90-meter Caledonian Sky, owned by tour operator Noble Caledonia, ran aground in an uncharted shoal in West Papua province after completing a bird-watching trip on Waigeo Island on 4 March.

Book: Devils on the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams, Schemes, and Showdowns That Built America's Cruise-Ship Empires
Related Book: Devils on the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams, Schemes, and Showdowns That Built America's Cruise-Ship Empires
The British-owned company described the incident as "unfortunate" and said it was "cooperating fully with the relevant authorities". Damage to the vessel was minimal and it has already set sail after being questioned by investigators.

An official evaluation team found that the ship had been caught in low tide despite being equipped with GPS and radar instruments, according to team member Ricardo Tapilatu, head of Pacific Marine Resources at the University of Papua.

"A tugboat from Sorong city was deployed to help refloat the cruise ship, which is something that shouldn't have happened because it damaged the reef even worse," Tapilatu said. "They should've waited for high tide" to refloat the vessel.

The 4,290-tonne Caledonian Sky, which was carrying 102 passengers and 79 crew on a 16-night journey from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines, damaged approximately 1,600 square meters of coral at a diving site known as Crossover Reef.

The incident resulted in the destruction of the ecosystem's structural habitat and the reduction or loss of diversity of eight coral genera, including acropora, porites, montipora and stylophora.

"This is what we found during our investigation into the site," Tapilatu said. "We are currently finishing the report and will submit our recommendations to the district office next week."

Local homestay operator Stay Raja Ampat posted on Facebook: "How can this happen? Was a 12-year-old at the wheel? Anchor damage from ships like these is bad enough, but actually grounding a ship on a reef takes it to a whole new level."

Due to Raja Ampat's special biodiversity and its status as one of the world's most popular dive-sites the evaluation team will recommend the company pay compensation of $800-$1,200 (£650-£985) per square meter, for a total of $1.28m-$1.92m, according to Tapilatu. The standard rate is $200-$400 per square meter.

"If the ship's owner disagrees with the claim, then typically the government will take it to court," Tapilatu said. If the company and government can reach an agreement, it will likely take a year or two for the district administration to receive the cash.

Tapilatu said the money would be used to revive the reef, a process he estimated could take a decade; to set more mooring buoys across the area to prevent ships from sailing into shallow zones; and to map out sailing tracks.

"The government has had talks about compensation with the ship company, and I'm optimistic that this won't go to court. Unfortunately, there will not be any moves for coral revival until we get the money." said Andi Rusandi, a director for the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

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Trump & Congress “Get It” – Says Coast Guard Commandant

Admiral Paul Zukunft USCG
"We are, first and foremost, an armed service." said Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, in today's annual State Of The Coast Guard Address

In his annual State Of The Coast Guard Address today USCG Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft focused on topics that are priorities to the Trump administration and Congress including the Coast Guard's role in border protection, law enforcement and infrastructure.

Zukunft also reiterated the role of the Coast Guard in national security and, as a branch of the Armed Services, in national defense.

he Finest Hours: The True Story of the Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias
Related Book: The Finest Hours: The True Story of the Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias

The commandant's speech comes less than a week after the Office of Management and Budget announced a proposed 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard's diminutive $9.1 billion budget. Zukunft did not address this news directly but did acknowledge a history of fiscal challenges that need to be rectified in order to improve the nation's military readiness.

"The Coast Guard is an armed service." said Zukunft. "Yet we are not postured to benefit from vital national security investments because our funding is classified incorrectly."

But the Commandant's tone remained positive stating that "the Trump Administration and Congress – get it". Zukunft called for the Coast Guard to build six new icebreakers, add 5,000 active duty billets in the next five years and replace the Coast Guard's inland cutters.

The speech also prioritized other Trump initiatives including working directly with the head of Russia's Coast Guard, improving border security and the use of technology to increase the surveillance and military capabilities of the Coast Guard. "We lack enough 'eyes in the sky.'" said Zukunft. "The Coast Guard must acquire land-based, unmanned or remotely piloted systems (drones) in a meaningful way."

The Commandant made scant mention of anything related to the maritime or offshore industries with the exception of the role short sea shipping could play to alleviate the problems with America's infrastructure, another Trump priority. "Our waterways are a critical part of our infrastructure. They provide resiliency while they relieve other modes of transportation." said Zukunft. "Just one tank barge takes the equivalent of 144 trucks off our already congested highways…. Overall, I'm talking about millions of trucks removed from our roads.

Missing from the address was any mention of the U.S. Merchant Marine or the American mariners sailing with Coast Guard licenses or shipyard workers building merchant ships flagged by the Coast Guard. The Commandant also failed to mention anything about the topic of highest priority to most gCaptain readers… the Coast Guard's role in the search and rescue of mariners in distress.

You can watch the full address here: 2017  State Of The Coast Guard Address

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Watch Live Tonight: SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch EchoStar 23 Satellite @ 1:35 am ET

Watch Live Tonight: SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch EchoStar 23 Satellite @ 1:35 am ET

Maiden Voyage for Boaty McBoatface, the Yellow Submarine

Having successfully completed sea trials, the new yellow submarine Boaty McBoatface is about to be deployed on its maiden voyage, on a research expedition to some of the the deepest, coldest waters on earth. 

Boaty McBoatface is one of three autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) developed at Britain's National Oceanography Centre (NOC) designated as Autosub Long Range vehicles. Each are able to travel thousands of kilometers on missions lasting several months at a time.  The NOC website notes: The ability to travel under ice and reach depths of 6000 metres will enable Boaty and friends to explore 95% of the ocean. Boaty and similar autonomous vehicles will help oceanographers investigate the processes driving change in the Polar Regions, including the extent of the ice melt, and conduct a range of research in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans without the need for the constant presence of a research ship. Scientists won't need to wait to get access to the data, since Boaty will periodically surface and transmit the data back via a radio link.

Boaty's first mission will be to investigate water flow and turbulence in the dark depths of the Orkney Passage, a 3.5km deep region of the Southern Ocean. The data it collects will help scientists understand how the ocean is responding to global warming. Boaty will be carried aboard the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research ship James Clark Ross, departing from Punta Arenas in Chile on 17 March. 

The lead scientist Prof Alberto Naveira Garabato, from the University of Southampton, said: "The Orkney Passage is a key choke-point to the flow of abyssal waters in which we expect the mechanism linking changing winds to abyssal water warming to operate. We will measure how fast the streams flow, how turbulent they are, and how they respond to changes in winds over the Southern Ocean. Our goal is to learn enough about these convoluted processes to represent them in the models that scientists use to predict how our climate will evolve over the 21st century and beyond."

If the somewhat unusual name, Boaty McBoatface, sounds familiar it is because that was the most popular choice on an internet poll to name the newest UK's new polar research ship. The name was initially suggested by journalist, James Hand, and things got out of control, as they often do on the internet. The idea of a research vessel named Boaty McBoatface went viral and quickly became the name of choice. Adults, however, intervened and announced that the new ship will be named RSS Sir David Attenborough.  Britain's Natural Environment Research Council did promise to name a research submarine Boaty McBoatface, and they have lived up to that promise. 

Boaty has beaten Sir David to the water by over a year. RRS Sir David Attenborough is still under construction and is not expected to be in service until at least 2019. 

'Boaty McBoatface' to leave port

Thanks to David Rye for passing the news along. 

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Somali Pirates Hijack First Commercial Ship Since 2012

An EU NAVFOR photo showing the Aris 13 being held at anchor off the northern coast of Puntland, Somalia, March 14, 2017. Photo: EUNAVFOR
An EU NAVFOR photo showing the Aris 13 being held at anchor off the northern coast of Puntland, Somalia, March 14, 2017. Photo: EUNAVFOR

ReutersBy Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI, March 14 (Reuters) – Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew on board, Somali authorities said on Tuesday, the first time a commercial ship has been seized in the region since 2012.

Security forces have been sent to free the Aris 13, a regional police official said late on Tuesday.

"We are determined to rescue the ship and its crew. Our forces have set off to Alula. It is our duty to rescue ships hijacked by pirates and we shall rescue it," Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, director general of Puntland's marine police forces, told Reuters by phone.

Puntland is a semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia. Alula is a port town there where pirates have taken the tanker.

Area where the MT ARIS was hijacked off the coast of Somalia. Map credit: Oceans Beyond Piracy/One Earth Future
Area where the MT ARIS was hijacked off the coast of Somalia. Map credit: Oceans Beyond Piracy/One Earth Future

Experts said the ship was an easy target and ship owners were becoming lax after a long period of calm.

The Aris 13 sent a distress call on Monday, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali port town of Alula, said John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy.

"The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon. Then it disappeared," said Steed, an expert on piracy who is in contact with naval forces tracking the ship.

Aircraft from regional naval force EU NAVFOR were flying overhead to track the ship, he said. The force declined to comment. 

Update – EU NAVFOR Confirms Fuel Tanker Pirated: The EU NAVFOR, which is currently operating off the coast of Somalia, said it received positive confirmation from the master of the Comoros-flagged tanker, Aris 13, that his ship and crew are currently being held captive by a number of suspected armed pirates in an anchorage off the north coast of Puntland, close to Alula.

The pirates brought the ship to the port town of Alula, district commissioner Mohamud Ahmed Eynab told Reuters by phone.

A pirate called Abdullahi told Reuters by telephone: "We are now heading on boats towards our colleagues holding the ship at Alula. We are carrying water, food and weapons for reinforcement."

The Sri Lankan government said eight Sri Lankan crew were onboard and the ship flew a flag from the Comoros islands.

Data from Reuters systems showed it made a sharp turn just after it passed the Horn of Africa on its voyage from Djibouti to Mogadishu.

The 1,800 deadweight tonne Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website, managed by the French transport ministry.


Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, the head of private maritime security company Dryad Maritime Intelligence, said the vessel was an easy target because it was low, slow and close to the coast.

Crews were beginning to relax their vigilance after a period of relative security for shipping, he said.

Now that the ship was captured, Somali authorities must ensure it was contained and not used as a mothership, he said, referring to a hijacked vessel used to launch attacks.

"The way that the authorities react now is crucial," he said.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

That year, Ocean's Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy was about $7 billion. The shipping industry bore roughly 80 percent of those costs, the group's analysis showed.

But attacks fell sharply after ship owners tightened security and vessels stayed further away from the Somali coast.

There had only been four attempted attacks by Somali pirates in the past three years, the bureau said.

Intervention by regional naval forces that flooded into the area helped disrupt several hijack bids and improved security for the strategic trade route that leads through the Suez Canal and links the oilfields of the Middle East with European ports.

Before Tuesday's hijacking, only one crew remained captive in Somalia. The crew of 17 Iranians was taken two years ago, but four are believed to have died, four were rescued and one escaped, Steed said, so only eight remained.

"They're from Baluchistan in Iran," he said, referring to a violent and restive eastern province. "No one really cares about them."

(Additional reporting by Keith Wallis in Singapore, Abdiqani Hassan in Bosaso, Ranga Sirilal in Columbo and Jonathan Saul in London; Editing by Alison Williams)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

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Irish Coast Guard SAR Helicopter Involved in Fatal Crash Off Ireland; One Dead, Three Missing

File photo showing a Sikorsky S92 helicopter
File photo showing a Sikorsky S92 helicopter belonging to the Irish Coast Guard. 

An has died and three others were missing after a Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter crashed off the west coast of Ireland during a rescue operation, the Coast Guard said on Tuesday.

The victim has been identified as Irish Coast Guard helicopter pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. Captain Fitzpatrick was reportedly rescued and taken to a local hospital where she later died.

A major search and rescue operating for the three people still missing was underway Tuesday off Mayo county in Ireland approximately six miles west of Blacksod.

The Irish Coast Guard says it lost contract with the helicopter at approximately 1 a.m. after the helicopter crew had completed an early morning medevac of a crewman aboard a UK registered fishing vessel approximately 150 miles west of Eagle Island. 

The helicopter involved has the call sign Rescue 116 and is based out of Dublin. 

The search operation is being coordinated by the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centre in Malin Head and involves SAR helicopters from Sligo and Shannon, the Irish Air Corps, two RNLI lifeboat crews, and at least five local fishing vessels.

"As the search for the Dublin based helicopter R116 is currently underway I would like to express my sincere support and sympathies for all those involved, particularly those family members who are awaiting news of their loved ones," said Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross.

The Rescue 116 helicopter is reported to be a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter, which is operated by CHC Helicopters for the Irish Coast Guard.

In January, Sikorsky called for a mandatory, fleet-wide inspection of all S-92's in operation worldwide following an on-going investigation into a December 28 rig landing accident on a platform in the North Sea. The mandatory inspections however were only expected to take 24-48 hours.

"This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned. As we await further information I would like to appeal for space to be given to the relevant professionals involved in the search operation to complete their work. Once again, I send my utmost support to all those affected," Ross added.

The Irish Coast Guard has five S92 aircraft in its SAR fleet.

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Coast Guard To Nab Hoax Callers With Advance Voice Forensic Technology

Diane Neal As USCG Agent Abigail Borin CGIS
Actress Diane Neal Investigates a Hoax Mayday call in her role as USCG Investigative Service Agent Abigail Borin, in the hit television show NCIS
by PA2 Diana Honings (USCG) Temporary Denial of Service 911 hoax calls plague our nation's first responder agencies. Hospitals, police and fire departments, and other public service entities are continually vulnerable to bomb threats, active shooter situations, and general false emergency claims.

Similarly, there is a growing hoax call problem on the Channel 16 maritime distress frequency. Regrettably, these perpetrators often go unpunished due to a lack of offshore geo-location capability for Coast Guard and local law enforcement investigators.

As part of a project to better identify, geo-locate and prosecute SAR hoax callers, representatives from the USCG R&D Center and the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) have partnered with forensic scientists at Carnegie Mellon University. This CMU team specializes in voice forensics and audio analytics, which serves as a critical part of the R&D Center's plan to tackle the SAR hoax call phenomenon.

The overall project employs enhanced direction-finding equipment, social media monitoring and awareness efforts to find potential hoax callers, but the real crux of the prosecutorial value lies in CMU's audio forensics capabilities. CMU technology provides voice forensics analysis that can glean several key biometric and environmental "cues" enabling Coast Guard technology agents to identify criminals.

To further deter serial and future SAR hoax callers, the Coast Guard R&D Center has partnered with media representatives from Rutgers University's Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA) to publicize the Coast Guard's approach to identify, geo-locate and prosecute these criminals.

This article was originally posted to USCG Compass by PA2 Diana Honings

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