It turns out the use of the word 'raid' for the search on Duke Cunningham's Rancho Santa Fe home was well-chosen. According to a piece just out in the North County Times, the feds who showed up at the house broke the locks on the front door to gain entry.
Now, as you might expect, Duke's lawyers are crying foul, charging the investigators with grand-standing and "an appalling abuse of government power." And I must confess that I was a bit surprised at the rapidity and the no-nonsense style of these raids today at what something like a half dozen locations across the country. (If I'm not mistaken, investigators conducted simultaneous raids/searches at MZM HQ (DC), Mitch Wade's home (DC), Duke Cunningham's home (SD), the Duke Stir (DC) and perhaps other locations.) I think those of us not intimately familiar with law enforcement tactics are often surprised when we see people in power given the same treatment ordinary targets of criminal investigations are given everyday.
That said, this is a United States Congressman. And to the extent there's any politicization at DOJ or the Pentagon, I really doubt it's anti-Duke. So what's up exactly?
Along those lines I noticed this snippet at the end of the piece in the North County Times ...
Back in Washington, Keith Ashdown of the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said he was surprised at the government's actions.
"There must be some reason why they had to move this quickly," said Ashdown, the group's vice president of policy and communications. "Remember, this is a U.S. congressman."
It doesn't speak directly to the question. But there's also this passage in the report out in tomorrow's WaPo ...
The search warrants were executed at the company's headquarters two weeks to the day after an MZM official who worked closely with Wade shredded a large stack of documents on the third floor of MZM's Washington headquarters, two sources with knowledge of the incident said independently yesterday. They said the official destroyed the documents on June 17 in a waist-high machine during Wade's final hours in the office, an act that one source described as "weird" because of the timing.
Wade and his attorneys agreed the previous evening that he would surrender control of the company to other senior MZM officials, and they also agreed that he could pack up his office papers at a set time on June 17, one of the sources said. But Wade angered the firm's new managers by arriving earlier than agreed, according to this source. Both sources said he was in the building when the shredding occurred.
The nature of the destroyed documents could not be learned, and the executive who did the shredding did not reply to phone calls and e-mails seeking his comment. The shredding was halted when it became apparent to the new company managers, the sources said. Another senior MZM official affixed a note to the door in mid-morning that day, ordering employees of the company not to enter the room where the machine was located, they added. Wade was eventually permitted to take other documents from the building in boxes, under the supervision of company attorneys, the sources said.
Now, one other snippet that may or may not be related. Down in the depths of the A section in tomorrow's Post (A18) is a piece by the irreplaceable Walter Pincus. As Pincus explains, John Negroponte, the new intel czar is going to take a look at changes made at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, the site of that titanic screw-up over the aluminum tubes. And down at the end of the piece Pincus discusses MZM's role as contractor at the NGIC ...
On Oct. 18, 2002, MZM got the first of what would grow to be a series of orders for NGIC work. This initial one was for a seven-week, $194,000 study analyzing a computer program concept called "FIRES," according to material provided by the Pentagon. FIRES was a program first suggested by an NGIC employee who believed that if U.S. operatives around the world collected blueprints of important buildings worldwide, an important intelligence database could be developed.
At the time, the NGIC's senior civilian employee and executive director was William S. Rich Jr. Rich had been the top civilian official at the NGIC since its inception in 1994. In September 2003, Rich retired from the NGIC and thereafter went to work as senior executive vice president for strategic intelligence for MZM, according to former NGIC colleagues and Pentagon documents. Rich has not returned telephone calls, and MZM has refused to comment on its NGIC work.
Other NGIC employees have been hired by MZM. The former sergeant major at the NGIC, George A. Peeterse, is an MZM vice president. Contacted by telephone at home last week, Peeterse declined to discuss MZM or the NGIC. "We have been told to refer all questions to MZM headquarters in Washington," he said.
More on this tomorrow.