Stolen Explosives Recovered; Four Suspects in custody

An unspecified tip led to the arrest Friday of four men in connection with the recent theft of a large quantity of high explosives and supplies that could enable the flattening of a large building, according to federal officials.

According to the limited details released by the FBI Friday, the explosives were recovered intact. Two unidentified suspects and one David Brown were arrested in Bloomfield, New Mexico, a small town 170 miles northwest of Albuquerque near the Colorado border. Brown’s brother Leslie Brown, was also arrested 60 miles further north, in Ignacio, Colo. The brothers were previously convicted of felonies and now face federal charges. Investigators are still searching for a fifth suspect in Bloomfield, according to Albuquerque’s Action 7 News.

The police report issued earlier this week indicated that thieves used blowtorches to cut the locks at Cherry Engineering Inc.’s explosives depot, eight miles south of Albuquerque. There are over a dozen trailers on the property owned by various companies, but, “the theft was from Mr. Cherry’s two explosive magazines,” said Tom Mangan, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “That’s where all the explosives, high explosives, were taken from.”

Mangan confirmed only that the theft took place sometime between December 13-18, giving the vandals a “huge head start.”

Missing: Half -ton of explosives from gov’t bunker in New Mexico – not a threat?!?

Among Tuesday’s “top” news was an upbeat story about U.S. soldiers digging up a cache of “aging” weapons in a remote part of the northern Iraqi desert. Ironically, this “domestic propaganda” buried the news of an ongoing manhunt in the southwestern desert of the United States.

The FBI has put $50,000 on the table for any information leading to the capture of over 500 pounds of military grade explosives, stolen sometime between December 13-18 from an unguarded, government funded “bunker.”

“We don’t have any suspect,” Wayne Dixie of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said on Good Morning America. “We don’t have any leads at this point.

The explosives were stored outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, at Cherry Engineering, Inc., a government approved site regulated weekly by the ATF. Chris Cherry, owner of the facility, is employed by the government-funded Sandia National Labs, and trains federal agents and police bomb quads in bomb disablement, according to Sandia’s website. He was honored by President Clinton in 1998 for “defusing the Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski.

There is no reason to believe that this theft poses a threat to New Mexico, according to Governor Bill Richardson. “We think it may be somebody trying to make a profit or somebody that has a mental problem, but we don’t know,” he said.

Officials say that the amount of stolen explosives would be enough to match the bomb that destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

According to KPHO-TV, 350 pounds of ammonium nitrate was stolen from the same facility only two years ago.

In the latest heist, pinned the biggest high-explosives theft in the U.S. in the past decade on Tuesday’s Good Morning America, roughly 170 pounds of the plastic explosive known as “C-4,” about 250 pounds of special, flexible – and virtually undetectable – “sheet explosives,” blasting caps and approximately 2,500 detonators were stolen from a federally certified explosives storage facility Monday night.

How could these warehouses possibly NOT be under 24-hour surveillance, you ask?!?

Tim Manning, director of the New Mexico Office of Homeland Security (via Albuquerque Trib):

“It is concerning to me that the same thing happened twice at the same location…. But it is also important to note that there is not any particular threat associated (with it).”

If this guy is in charge I’d say there DEFINITELY is a threat.

Gov. Bill Richardson promoted Manning in March 2005 from the directorship of New Mexico’s Department of Public Safety Emergency Operations Bureau (state FEMA). Undoubtedly his priorities with DHS were to increase security to meet the Bush administration’s claimed containment of what Gov. Richarson has called a “porous” border. As long as its nobody coming across the border for explosives, then there’s no threat, he might be told — so tunnel-visioned as to not even consider that the Rio Grande is probably the least likely point of entry for a terrorist into the U.S.

New Mexico’s FY05 Homeland Security Grant totaled just over $12,000 according to the Department of Homeland Security. Total grants (including Citizen Corps, and a handful of medical and security related initiatives) brought the total to $18 million — by far the lowest of any border state (and 30% less than Puerto Rico). [comparative state grant info – .xls]. That is to say, between 5 and 10 dollars per capita.

Certainly Tim Manning had a more manageable budget early in his career, as before his very eyes sprouted one Brownie of a resume: leading New Mexico’s post 9/11 and anthrax scare tactics, the state’s search for the remains of Space Shuttle Columbia, and various wildfires etc.

NM’s state FEMA budget is unclear, however, it goes without saying that on a federal level, DHS is proving to not have its priorities straight, if they have any priorities at all. Furthermore, since coming clean on an embellished resume listing him as an Oakland A’s draft pick, Governor Richardson seems to have been in outer space. Literally.

Just last week, Richardson attracted the attention of one Sir Richard Branson with an announcement to begin funding construction of a $225 million spaceport with local, state and federal funding. Govtech.net quotes a statement from Gov. Richardson from last week:

“New Mexico’s Spaceport will be a magnet for space companies to bring their business here, which will send a message far and wide that we embrace entrepreneurs, adventure and innovation.”

Space.com reports that the Virgin Group’s Richard Branson will soon announce plans to launch space flights on Virgin Galactic — from New Mexico — beginning as soon as 2009.

When not dreaming of intergalactica and shrugging off the need to guard various missle silos, not to mention the notoriously weak security at Los Alamos, AP’s Barry Massey brought this news last week:

The New Mexico governor has taken 40 trips on the sleek state-of-the-art chopper since December 2003, when the state bought it for $3.8 million.

But another political sell-out, that Richardson — and he once actually seemed to be a decent Dem. I wish our national guard was around to take care of the home front almost as bad as the soldiers themselves.

I give Richardson a pass, however, as he is but another victim of the Rove Republic — careless to the point of endangering any notion of “homeland security” to fulfill its hollow, destructive and increasingly scandalous legacy.

Bomb rigged with C-4 Explosives

American Hostages: At Home and Abroad (updated)

American citizens and embassies abroad are given no assurance of help from the central U.S. government in the event of a hostage situation. At the same time, the White House is preoccupied with manipulating U.S. courts to deny fair trials to American citizens detained without clear charges (which in itself sounds like hostage-taking).

The lawyers for Jose Padilla told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that “the government has repeatedly altered its factual allegations to suit its goals, and it has actively manipulated the federal courts to avoid accountability for its actions,” according to the Sunday New York Times.

After actively petitioning the Court to transfer jurisdiction of the case, in November, Attorney General Albert Gonzales freshly indicted Padilla, who had been detained for over three years as a suspected al-Qaeda operative, with unrelated charges.

The administration, now wants the Court to vacate its decision so there will be no case for Padilla to bring to the Supreme Court (his lawyers filed an appeal in October).

The Times article later quotes a statement from the 4th Circuit, asking both sides to submit new briefs:

“in light of the different facts that were alleged by the president to warrant Padilla’s military detention and held by this court to justify that detention, on the one hand, and the alleged facts on which Padilla has now been indicted, on the other.”

(Stacy’s got more at Cafe Politico)

The current hostage situation in Iraq involving four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team is especially intriguing. While the “Christian” in CPT might imply that President Bush would be greatly concerned about crusaders of his faith being kidnapped and threatened with death by evil terrorists, this is far from the case.

While CPT is grounded in the Christian faith, and two of the four hostages are American, the organization is international, and committed to peace, regardless of religion.

Jonathan Bartley, director of the UK-based religious think-tank Ekklesia, which partners the CPT recently told The Observer:

CPT teams were there in Falluja; they told the world of Abu Ghraib months before it came out officially; they are recognised as an outstanding team with an incredible track record.

The only reason these hostages are still alive, after being kidnapped last month, is because the UK government sent Anas Altikriti, a senior sponsor of the British anti-war movement and a member of the Muslim Association of Britain to Baghdad.

In Baghdad, Alikriti held urgent meetings with trade union leaders, politicians and the Association of Muslim scholars – a group with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood and within days had an extension granted to the original deadline for the hostages execution. “It was absolutely extraordinary,” he told the Observer:

‘I cannot remember a time when people from opposite ends of the Muslim spectrum came together to say the same thing.’

That same week, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, British citizen Moazzam Begg, called for the hostages’ release.

Reuters recently reported that the Muslim Brotherhood is open to meetings with U.S. officials, but the American government is hesitant to act without the approval of the standing Egyptian government.

Obviously, “negotiating with terrorists=bad.” Of course, it would seem that anybody the U.S. negotiates with at some point seems to turn to “islamofascism.” (just tell me how Bush’s Saudi connection is NOT funding “islamofascists.”).

UPDATE: Washington Times confirms high-ranking Iraqi officials have been freed and returned to Iraq by U.S. forces.

Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel blogs that to secure the release this weekend of German anthropoligist (and convert to Islam) Susanne Osthoff, “Germany traded the freedom of Hezbollah terrorist Mohammad Ali Hamadi, who tortured and murdered Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem,” aboard hijacked TWA flight 847 in 1985.
(NOTE: this is completely speculative, as nobody else has reported this, including Reuters, who directly asked the question).
UPDATE Reuters confirms this report Tuesday morning.

Today, the Islamic Army of Iraq website broadcast a video in which an unidentifiable victim was murdered, followed by shots of Ronald Schulz‘s identification card. I recently wrote about this kidnapping here.

Families and friends “keep hope alive,” unsure of the fate of the above hostages.

Associates Press reports: “Insurgents in
Iraq have kidnapped more than 240 foreigners and killed at least 39 of them.”

The latest from a New America

Bush to Press December 19 (CTK)[updated at bottom] Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) was one of the few Congressmen who were told of the NSA secret wiretapping in confidentiality. Today he released the handwritten letter he wrote to Vice President Cheney in 2003 voicing his concern. View the letter here (.pdf).

The web site of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has release this statement tonight:

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today asked four presidential scholars for their opinion on former White House Counsel John Dean?s statement that President Bush admitted to an ?impeachable offense? when he said he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge.

Mr. Dean says impeachable. Do you agree?

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) suggested impeachment this morning on WAOK radio:”He deliberately, systematically violated the law. He is not king, he is president.””

Kitty Felde’s 20-minute interview with Sen. Boxer last night before her return to D.C. was broadcast today on KPCC and can be heard here.

Orin Kerr finds constitutionality may not be the issue in an extensive legal analysis at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Confirm Them can’t confirm Kerr’s admittedly tentative analysis, but is certain that this will be a huge issue come next month’s Alito hearings.

Digby refutes the statements supporting Bush’s secret spy program made by Gonzales and Hayden

Will Bunch elaborates on yet another New York Times revelation by Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter:

I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president?s desperation.

SoCalPundit goes spin-cycle on the president’s Monday morning press “smack down,” calling it too entertaining to be flagged by AP for its numerous inaccuracies lies. Ezra Klein posts Good Job. Liar, “but only because it deserves repetition.”

———–

UPDATE 1: AP Military Writer Robert Burns reports Tuesday morning from Iraq:

The number of U.S. airstrikes increased in the weeks leading up to last Thursday’s election, from a monthly average of about 35 last summer to more than 60 in September and 120 or more in October and November.

UPDATE 2: Total number of FISA applications rejected, 1979-2004: 4 (two of which were later granted, 1758 were approved in 2004). source: EPIC

UPDATE 3: (via Daily Pundit): The Washington Times reports:

U.S. forces yesterday flew eight newly released “high-value” Iraqi detainees out of the country aboard a special military aircraft, in a move other officials said was aimed at furthering a secret peace process with Sunni hard-line groups.
….An additional 16 high-value detainees — most of them depicted in a U.S. pack of cards identifying top Saddam officials — are to be released imminently or have already been freed, according to a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

This wouldn’t amount to negotiating with the…….. nah.