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The Hidden (And Not So Hidden) Messages in Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”, Part 1
by The Vigilant Citizen: "Symbols Rule the World, Not Words Nor Laws"
July 8, 2013

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“Eyes Wide Shut” was promoted as a steamy, suspenseful movie starring the “It” couple of the day: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. While the actors were prominently featured in the movie, it is everything around them that told the true story of “Eyes Wide Shut”. Stanley Kubrick’s attention to detail and symbolism gave the movie an entire other dimension – one that cannot be seen by those who have their eyes wide shut. This multiple-part series will look at the hidden symbolism of Kubrick’s final film.

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I remember when I first watched Eyes Wide Shut, back in 1999. Boy, did I hate it. I hated how slow everything was, I hated how Nicole Kidman tried to sound drunk or high and I hated seeing Tom Cruise walking around New York looking concerned. I guess I reacted the same way critics did at the time the movie came out and thought: “This movie is boring and there is nothing hot about it.” More than a decade later, equipped with a little more knowledge and patience, I re-watched the movie … and it blew my mind. In fact, like most Stanley Kubrick films, an entire book could be written about the movie and the concepts it addresses.

Eyes Wide Shut is not simply about a relationship, it is about all of the outside forces and influences that define that relationship. It is about the eternal back-and-forth between the male and female principles in a confused and decadent modern world. Also, more importantly, it is about the group that rules this modern world – a secret elite that channels this struggle between the male and female principles in a specific and esoteric matter. The movie, however, does not spell out anything. Like all great art, messages are communicated through subtle symbols and mysterious riddles.

Stanley Kubrick unexpectedly died only five days after submitting the final cut of the movie to Warner Bros, making Eyes Wide Shut his swan song. Considering the fact that Eyes Wide Shut is about an occult secret society that eliminates those who cross its path, some theories arose about Kubrick’s death and its suspicious nature. Did he reveal to the public too much, too soon? Maybe.

Let’s look at the main themes of Kubrick’s last creation.

The Modern Couple

The stars of Eyes Wide Shut were the “It” couple of 1999: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Those who were expecting the movie to be a sort of voyeuristic experience showing hot scenes of the couple were probably very disappointed. The audience rather got a cold, egoistic and profoundly unsatisfied couple, one that seems to be tied together not by pure love, but by other factors, like convenience and appearances. While the couple is very “modern” and “upper-class”, the forces that keep it together are the result of basic, primal and almost animalistic behavior. If we look at the instinctive behavior of humans and animals, males primarily look for females that have good child-bearing qualities while females look for a strong provider. Remnants of this behavior still exist today as males tend to display wealth and power to attract females while females showcase their beauty to attract males. In Eyes Wide Shut, the couple perfectly follows that instinctive script.

Tom Cruise’s character is called Dr. Bill … as in dollar bill. Several times during the movie, Dr. Bill either waves his money or his “doctor badge” at people to get them to do what he wants. Bill is part of the upper class and his dealings with people of the lower class are often resolved with money.

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In order to get this taxi driver to wait for him in front of the mention, Dr. Bill tears up a hundred dollar bill and promises him to give him the other half when he comes back. Dr. Bill's motto is probably "Everybody has a price".

Played by Nicole Kidman, Alice lost her job in the art world and is now fully supported by her husband’s salary. While she lives very comfortably, Alice appears to be extremely bored with her life as a stay at home mother. The name Alice is most likely a reference to the main character of Alice in Wonderland – a fairy tale about a privileged girl who is bored with her life and who goes “through the looking glass” to end up in Wonderland. In Eyes Wide Shut, Alice is often shown staring at the looking glass – grooming herself or … maybe looking for something more to life.

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Alice spends a lot of time in front of the mirror being pretty - maybe because it is the only "attribute" that keeps her in that social status. Her daughter, Helena (maybe named after Helena of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world) follows in her footsteps.

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Promotional images for the movie feature Alice kissing Bill but looking at herself in the mirror, almost as if she was seeing an alternate reality.

While the couple shows signs of fatigue, Bill and Alice put on their “happy masks” when it is time to attend social events. Like the elite people they socialize with, there is a big difference between the facade they put on and reality.

Brushing With the Elite

Bill and Alice go to a classy party given by Victor Ziegler, one of Bill’s wealthy patients. Judging from Victor’s house, he is not simply rich, he is part of the ultra-elite. While his party is very elegant and is attended by highly cultured people, it doesn’t take long for the viewers to realize that this facade hides a disgusting dark side. Also, small details inserted by Kubrick hint to a link between the party and the occult ritual that occurs later in the movie.

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When entering the party, the first thing we see is this peculiar Christmas decoration. This eight-pointed star is found throughout the house.

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The star at Zeigler’s house is nearly identical to the ancient symbol of the star of Ishtar.

Knowing Kubrick’s attention to detail, the inclusion of the star of Ishtar in this party is not an accident. Ishtar is the Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war and, mostly, sexuality. Her cult involved sacred prostitution and ritual acts – two elements we clearly see later in the movie.

“Babylonians gave Ishtar offerings of food and drink on Saturday. They then joined in ritual acts of lovemaking, which in turn invoked Ishtar’s favor on the region and its people to promote continued health and fruitfulness.”
– Goddess Ishtar, Anita Revel


Ishtar herself was considered to be the “courtesan of the gods” and had many lovers. While inspired in bed, she was also cruel to the men that got attached to her. These concepts will constantly reappear in the movie, especially with Alice.

During the party, Bill and Alice go their separate ways and are both faced with temptation. Alice meets a man named Sandor Szavost who asks her about Ovid’s Art of Love. This series of books, written during the times of Ancient Rome, was essentially a “How to Cheat on Your Partner” guide, and was popular with the elite of the time. The first book opens with an invocation to Venus – the planet esoterically associated with lust. Interestingly enough, Ishtar (and her equivalents in other Semitic cultures) was considered to be the personification of Venus.

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Sandor drinks from Alice’s glass. This trick is taken right out of Ovid’s The Art of Love. It sends Alice a message that is not very subliminal: “I want to exchange fluids with you”.

Sandor’s name might be a reference to the founder of the Church of Satan: Anton Szandor Lavey. Is this Kubrick’s way of saying that this man, who urges Alice to cheat on her husband, is a part of the occult elite and its decadent ways? The Hungarian man is apparently skilled in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) as he nearly hypnotizes Alice with well-calculated phrases about the futility of married life and the necessity of pursuing pleasure.

Meanwhile, Bill is discussing with two flirtatious models who tell him that they want to take him to “where the rainbow ends”.
While the meaning of this enigmatic phrase is never explicitly explained in the movie, symbols talk for themselves.

Rainbows Everywhere

Rainbows and multicolored lights appear throughout the movie, from the beginning to the end.

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The name of the store where Bill rents his costume is called “Rainbow”. The name of the store under it: “Under the Rainbow”. Kubrick is trying to tell us something…Something involving rainbows.

As if to emphasize the theme of multicolored rainbows, almost every scene in the movie contains multicolored Christmas lights, giving most sets a hazy, dreamy glow.

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Almost every time Bill enters a room, the first things we see are multicolored Christmas lights.

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Sometimes Christmas lights are the focal point of attention.

These lights tie together most scenes of the movie, making them part of the same reality. There are however a few select scenes where there are absolutely no Christmas lights. The main one is Somerton palace – the place where the secret society ritual takes place.

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Sharply contrasting with the rest of the movie, Sommerton is completely devoid of multicolored lights. Everything about this place is in sharp opposition to the “outside world”.

In Eyes Wide Shut, there are therefore two worlds: The Christmas lights-filled “rainbow world”, where the masses wander around, trying to make ends meet and the other world… “where the rainbow ends”- where the elite gathers and performs its rituals. The contrast between the two worlds gives a sense of an almost insurmountable divide between them. Later, the movie will clearly show us how those from the “rainbow world” cannot enter the other world.

So, when the models ask Bill to go “where the rainbow ends”, they probably refer to going “where the elite gathers and performs rituals”. It might also be about them being dissociated Beta Programming slaves. There are several references to Monarch mind control (read this article for more information) in the movie. Women who take part in elite rituals are often products of Illuminati mind control. In MK Ultra vocabulary, “going over the rainbow” means dissociating from reality and entering another persona (more on this in the next article).


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The models ask Bill to leave the “rainbow world” (there’s a Christmas tree right behind them) to indulge in the debaucherous rituals of the occult elite.

Behind the Curtain

Bill’s flirting with the models is interrupted when Ziegler calls him to his bathroom. There, we get a first glance of “where the rainbow ends” – the dark truth about the elite.

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Bill meets Ziegler in his gigantic bathroom. The man is dressing up and is with a naked unconscious woman…who is not his wife.

If we rewind a little, when Bill and Alice first entered the party, they were welcomed by Ziegler and his wife in a room filled with Christmas lights. We saw two respectable couples talking about respectable things in a room full of enchanting lights. But when Bill goes “where the rainbow ends” (notice there are no Christmas lights in the bathroom) we see reality: Ziegler with a Beta programming slave who overdosed on goofballs. When the woman gains consciousness, Ziegler talks to her in an odd, paternal matter, highlighting the fact that he’s the master and she’s the slave. The luxurious setting of this scene is Kubrick’s way of saying that extreme wealth does not necessarily equal high morals.

Ziegler then urges Bill to keep everything he just saw a secret. The world “where the rainbow ends” must never be revealed to the outside world. It operates in its own space, has its own rules and depends on the masses’ ignorance.

Questioning Marriage

While Alice ultimately rejected Sandor’s advances, she was nevertheless enticed by them. The next day, Alice tells Bill that she could have cheated on him at the party. When Bill tells his wife that he loves and trusts her, she completely loses it. She then proceeds to tell him a story about how she was once ready to cheat on him with a naval officer she met in a hotel. This cruel story highlights the “Ishtar” side of Alice as she brings up in her husband feelings of jealousy, insecurity, betrayal, and even humiliation. In short, Alice purposely summoned everything that is negative in relationships to pop Bill’s “love bubble”. This wake-up call prompts Bill to embark on a strange journey around New-York city, one that has multiple levels of meanings. That strange night will ultimately lead him to the exact opposite of a monogamous relationship: Anonymous, masked copulation with strangers in a ritual setting. Bill’s journey will be further analyzed in the second part of this series of articles.

Conclusion of Part One

The first part of this series about Eyes Wide Shut took a broad look at Bill and Alice, a modern couple that has the “privilege” of brushing with the upper-echelon of New York. While everything appears great on the surface, Kubrick quickly tells the viewers to not be deceived by appearances and to not be impressed by exhibitions of wealth. Because, behind the “rainbow world”, exists a dark and disturbing reality, one that Kubrick exposes in many subtle ways throughout the movie.

While Bill and Alice are simply “guests” in the elite circle, they are nevertheless fascinated and attracted by it. They see in this lifestyle a way of fulfilling their dark and secret needs. In the next part of this series, we’ll look at the occult meaning of Bill’s journey – a story told by subtle symbols peppered throughout the movie.

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Part 2
July 18, 2013

The second part of this series of articles on Eyes Wide Shut takes a closer look at the elite secret society discovered by the film’s main character, Bill Harford, and how it resembles real life organizations. Was Stanley Kubrick trying to warn the world about the occult elite and its depraved ways?

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In the first part of this series on Eyes Wide Shut, we looked at main characters of the film and the symbolic world Kubrick created around them. We saw that Bill and Alice Harford are a married upper-class couple that was not immune to the temptations of adultery. We also saw that the couple was in contact with the upper-echelon of New-York and its decadent ways – a world that fascinates Bill, but that has a dark side, one that is kept from the public. In this article, I will jump straight to the most unsettling part of the movie: The secret society ritual.

When Bill learns that his wife has considered cheating on him, he embarks on a strange series of encounters (which I will analyze in the third and final part of this series), eventually ending up in a luxurious house in Long Island where he encounters a large gathering of masked individuals partaking in an occult ritual. Since he was never initiated into that secret society, Bill was not even supposed to know that it existed, let alone bear witness to one of its “meetings”. So how did he find out about this thing? Well, a little birdie told him.

Nick Nightingale

At one point during his strange night out, Bill meets his old friend Nick Nightingale at a jazz cafe. The professional piano player reveals to Bill that he is sometimes hired by mysterious people to play, blindfolded, during mysterious parties that are full of beautiful women. This juicy piece of information intrigues Bill to the highest degree because. Since his talk with his wife, he appears to be looking for some kind of … experience. Nick ultimately makes a big mistake and agrees to provide Bill with all of the information needed to access the venue.

A nightingale is the type of bird that is known for singing at night, just like Nick Nightingale “sings” secret information at the start of Bill’s fateful night.

The password to enter the ritual is “Fidelio”, which means “faithfulness”, a main theme of the movie. More importantly, as Nightingale points out, “Fidelio” is the name of an opera written by Beethoven about a wife who sacrifices herself to free her husband from death as a political prisoner.
This password actually foreshadows what will happen during that ritual.

After getting the details from Nightingale, Bill rents a costume at a store named “Rainbow” (more about the store in the next article) … and then proceeds to go to Somerton, the estate where the party is being held.

The Occult Elite

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The occult ritual takes place at Somerton, in Long Island. The building used to film the outside scene is Mentmore Towers in the UK.

The location selected to film the elite scenes is quite interesting. Mentmore Towers was built in the 19th century as a country house for a member of the most prominent and powerful elite family in the world: The Rothschilds. By selecting this location, was Kubrick trying to show his audience the “real world” equivalents to the ultra-elite shown in the movie? Incidentally, the name of Bill’s connection to the elite, Victor Ziegler, is of German-Jewish origins, like Rothschild.

It has been documented that the Rothschilds do actually partake in masked events very similar to those shown in Eyes Wide Shut. Here are rare pictures from a 1972 party given by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild.

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Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild and Baron Alexis de Redé at a 1972 party. Invitations were printed in reversed writing. One wonders if this party “degenerated” into something resembling what is shown in Eyes Wide Shut.

In the movie, when Bill enters the mansion, he mixes with a crowd of masked people silently watching the ritual. One of these people appears to instantly recognize Bill (or the fact that he doesn’t belong here).

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A couple wearing Venetian masks (more specifically “female jester” and “bauta” masks) slowly turn towards Bill and nod in a very creepy matter. Ziegler and his wife? Perhaps. Kubrick likes to keep things mysterious.

Venetian masks were originally worn during the Italian Renaissance in Venice and were a way for the powerful elite of the time to indulge in debauchery without reprisal.

“Though the precise origin of the mask-wearing tradition can’t be known for certain, the prevailing theory goes something like this: beginning in the Italian Renaissance, Venice was an extremely wealthy and powerful merchant empire. Its position on the Mediterranean sea opened it up to a myriad of trading opportunities across Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor, and its powerful navy allowed it to exert the military force necessary to defend its vast wealth. In a city-state so prosperous, it’s a small wonder that Venetian society was class-obsessed and rigidly stratified. One’s individual standing was immensely important for the perception of his or her entire family, and so naturally the pressure to act in accordance with the social morays governing one’s social standing was immense and stifling. The Venetians, the theory goes, adopted the practice of wearing masks and other disguises during the Carnival season as a way of suspending the rigid social order. Under the cloak of anonymity, the citizens of Venice could loosen their inhibitions without fear of reprisal. Masks gained so much popularity that the mascherari (mask makers) became a venerated guild in Venetian society. However, as word of the famed Venetian Carnival spread, more and more outsiders flocked to the city every year to take part in the festivities. The Carnival celebrations became increasingly chaotic and debaucherous as the years progressed until their decline in the 18th Century.”
– Geoffrey Stanton, Guide to Venetian Carnival Masks


Since then, Venetian masks have been used in elite circles and have somewhat become a symbol of its dark occult philosophy. Even The British Royal Family appears to enjoy the same type of masks and events.

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Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla at Clarence House with bauta masks.

That particular Royal event featured masked women who were as NOT dressed as those in the Eyes Wide Shut ritual.

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Models at the party attended by the Royal Family.

It seems evident that Kubrick carefully selected the Rothschild-owned location and hand-picked the masks worn by participants of the ritual, echoing real-life families and events.

Setting of the Ritual

When Bill enters Somerton, everything about the movie changes. There are no more colorful Christmas lights and no tacky decorations. Instead of incessant chatter between needy people, it is all about stillness and silence.

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Staring right at the camera (and at the movie viewers), the creepy masks are silent yet disturbing reminders showing the “true faces” of the elite. Note that the multi-faced mask on the left which is similar to the one worn at the Royal party above.

The music in the movie also changes drastically. The song heard in the background is called “Backwards Priests” and features a Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy played backward. The reversal or inversion of sacred objects is typical of black magic and satanic rituals. By having this Christian liturgy played backward right before widespread fornication is Kubrick’s way of stating that the elite is nothing less than satanic.

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Here we see Nick Nightingale playing the song “Backwards Priest”, meaning that people in the ritual actually hear that music and that the whole thing is choreographed to it. Nightingale is blindfolded because the “profane” cannot witness the occult rituals of the elite.

The interior scenes of the party were shot at Elveden Hall, a private house in the UK designed to look like an Indian palace. When the “festivities” begin, a Tamil song called “Migration” plays in the background, adding to the South-Asian atmosphere (the original version of the song contained an actual scriptural recitation of the Bhagavad Gita, but the chant was removed in the final version of the movie). This peculiar Indian atmosphere, combined with the lascivious scenes witnessed by Bill as he walks around the house, ultimately points towards the most important, yet most hidden part of the movie: Tantric Yoga and its Western occultism derivative, Sex Magick. This last concept was “imported” by British occultist Aleister Crowley and is now at the center of the teachings of various secret societies:

“Aleister Crowley’s connections with Indian Yoga and Tantra were both considerable and complex. Crowley had direct exposure to some forms of these practices and was familiar with the contemporary literature of the subjects, wrote extensively about them, and – what is perhaps the most important – he practiced them. In his assessment of the value of Tantra, he was ahead of his time, which habitually considered Tantra a degenerate form of Hinduism. Instead, he claimed that, “paradoxical as it may sound the Tantrics are in reality the most advanced of the Hindus”. Crowley’s influence in bringing Eastern, primarily Indian, esoteric traditions to the West extends also to his incorporation of the elements of Yoga and Tantra into the structure and program of two influential magical orders, the A.:A.: and the OTO.”
– Martin P. Starr, Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism


The above quote stipulates that Tantric concepts were incorporated in two important secret societies: the A.:A.: and the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis). The OTO is still extremely influential in elite circles and reaches the highest levels of politics, business, and even the entertainment industry. At the core of these orders is the Thelema, a philosophy created by Aleister Crowley that he summed up with the saying “Do What Thou Wilt”. This saying is actually a translation of “Fais ce que tu voudras” the motto of an 18th-century secret society, the infamous Hellfire Club.

Hellfire Clubs were said to be “meeting places of ‘persons of quality’ who wished to take part in immoral acts, and the members were often very involved in politics”. According to a number of sources, their activities included mock religious ceremonies, devil worship, and occult rituals. Although details are vague regarding that elite club, they were known for performing elementary Satanic rites as a prelude to their nights of fornication. These acts were however not just “for fun” or to “shock people” as some sources might claim, the members were initiates of occult mysteries and their rituals were based in ancient rites involving invocations and other forms of black magick.

In short, although Kubrick never actually names the secret society infiltrated by Bill, there are enough clues to understand what kind of club he is referring to. Most importantly, he is telling his viewers: These societies still exist … and they are more powerful than ever.


The Ritual and its Participants

The ritual begins with the High Priest, dressed in red, performing a ceremonial routine. He is at the center of a “magic circle” formed by young women who are very likely to be Beta Kitten slaves. Later, when Bill is unmasked, another magic circle is formed.

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Magic circles is a concept used in ritual magic during invocations. The placement of the people in this scene recalls magic circles. Right: A magic circle as pictured in an ancient grimoire.

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The last scene of the movie takes place at a toy store – a place full of highly symbolic items (more on it in the next article). Here, Helena Harford walks by a toy called Magic Circle – showing that the occult elite’s ways seep through popular culture, but are not noticed by those who have their eyes wide shut.

Amanda

At the beginning of the ritual, one of the Beta slaves goes to Bill and urges him to leave the house before he got caught. We ultimately learn that it was Amanda, the girl that was passed out in Ziegler’s bathroom. When Bill gets caught and gets (literally) unmasked by the High Priest, Amanda appears at the balcony in a very dramatic fashion and tells the High Priest she wants to “redeem” him, in a tone that approaches ritual drama. The Priest then replies “Are you sure you understand what you’re taking upon yourself in doing this?” This implies that she will be repeatedly abused and then sacrificed.

The next day, Bill discovers the true power of that secret society.

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Bill discovers in the newspaper that Amanda was found dead in a hotel room due to an overdose. The way in which this ritualistic murder is disguised as an overdose is highly similar to the many celebrity ritual deaths disguised as overdoses that occur in real life.

By freeze-framing and actually reading the above news article about Amanda, we learn important details about Amanda’s background (classic hidden sub-plot integration by Kubrick). To those “in the know”, the article perfectly describes the life of an entertainment industry Beta Programming slave (i.e. Marilyn Monroe). We indeed learn that Amanda was “emotionally troubled” as a teen and underwent “treatments” (a code word for MK Programming perhaps?), she had “important friends in the fashion and entertainment worlds”, and she had an “affair” with a powerful fashion designer who got “wowed by her private, seductive solo performances” (typical behavior of a Beta Kitten). What the article however conveniently doesn’t mention is that she was selling her body to elite people and being used in their occult rituals.

As it is the case for Beta Kittens who’ve gone “rogue”, she was eliminated by the people who controlled her life. The article states that she was last seen being escorted to her hotel room by two men and that she was “giggling” (drugged and dissociated?). Like “real life” elite sacrifices, “overdose” is cited as the cause of her death.

The High Priest

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Cloaked in red, the High Priest sits on a throne which features a very important symbol: A double-headed eagle topped by a crown.

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The double-headed eagle is one of the most ancient and prominent symbols of Freemasonry. A crowned double-headed eagle is representative of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry, the highest degree attainable. Is Kubrick implying that the High Priest is a 33rd Degree Freemason?

Like other participants of the ritual, the true identity of the High Priest is never revealed. However, Kubrick left a few clues hinting at his identity and his relationship with Amanda.

In the movie’s end credits (and sources such as IMDB), it is listed that the role of the High Priest was played by “assistant director” of the movie, Leon Vitali. If one carefully reads the news article mentioned above, Leon Vitali is the name of the London fashion designer Amanda had an “affair” with. Furthermore, the High Priest has an unmistakable English accent. We can, therefore, deduce that the High Priest is the fashion designer.

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A snippet of the article mentioning Leon Vitali.

This hidden subplot is interesting as it reveals the true nature of the fashion and entertainment industry. High-ranking individuals in these fields are initiated in occult secret societies and deal with MK slaves.

The Power of the Secret Society

When Bill is uncovered by the High Priest, he gets told that he and his family would pay for any transgression. The next day, he realizes that he is being followed by strange people and becomes paranoid.

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The headline of this newspaper is “Lucky to be alive”. This applies to Bill.

Right after Bill leaves the morgue to confirm that Amanda died, Ziegler calls him and invites him over.

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Taking place in Ziegler’s pool room, the back and forth between the two men is more intense than any game of pool.

Although Bill is a rich doctor, he is not part of the elite. Ziegler’s attitude towards Bill makes it very clear. While Ziegler appears to want to be honest and straight with Bill, we realize that he is simply trying to cover the ugly truth. After all, Bill is an “outsider”. He tells Bill:

“I don’t think you realize what kind of trouble you were in last night. Who do you think those people were? Those were not just ordinary people there. If I told you their names – I’m not gonna tell you their names – but if I did, I don’t think you’d sleep so well.”


Ziegler, therefore, admits that people attending the ritual were high-level, well-known and powerful people. Kubrick is making clear that the richest, most powerful deciders of the “real world” meet in these types of rituals … and that these rituals are off-limits to the profane.

When Bill mentions Amanda, Ziegler gets more defensive and replies: “She was a hooker” – meaning that she was a Beta slave that could be easily disposed of. Then Ziegler tells Bill that everything that happened at the ritual was a charade to scare him, Bill answers:

“You called it a fake, a charade. Do you mind telling me what kind of f—-cking charade ends with someone turning up dead?”


This highlights the fundamental difference between the public’s perception of occult rituals and what actually happens. Regular people are lead to believe that these elite rituals are nothing more than goofy meetings of people with too much time on their hands. In reality, these elaborate rituals often incorporate real attempts at Black Magick and include real blood sacrifices and other terrible acts.

Then Ziegler proceeds to tell Bill the same stuff media tells the masses when someone has been sacrificed by the elite: She OD’ed, she was a junkie, it was only a matter of time, and the police did not see any foul play.

Conclusion of Part II

The second part of this analysis focused exclusively on the unnamed secret society Bill stumbles upon and its ritual. Although nothing is explicitly spelled out to the viewers, the symbolism, the visual clues and even the music of Eyes Wide Shut tell reveals a side of the occult elite that is rarely shown to the masses. Not only does the movie depict the world’s richest and most powerful people partaking in occult rituals, it also shows how this circle has also the power to exploit slaves, to stalk people, and even to get away with sacrificial murders. Even worse, mass media participates in covering their crimes.

The secret society in the movie closely resembles the infamous Hellfire Club, where prominent political figures met up to partake in elaborate Satanic parties. Today, the O.T.O. and similar secret societies still partake in rituals involving physical energy as it is perceived to be a way to attain a state of enlightenment. This concept, taken from Tantric yoga, is at the core of modern and powerful secret societies. Although none of this is actually mentioned in Eyes Wide Shut, the entire movie can be interpreted as one big “magickal” journey, characterized by a back-and-forth between opposing forces: life and death, lust and pain, male and female, light and darkness, and so forth … ending in one big orgasmic moment of enlightenment. This aspect of the movie, along with other hidden details, will be analyzed in the third and final part of this series of articles on Eyes Wide Shut.

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Part 3
August 16, 2013

In the third and final part of this series on Eyes Wide Shut, we’ll look at Bill’s journey as a whole and at its underlying esoteric meaning. We’ll see how symbolism placed by Kubrick connects all of the women in the movie, making Bill’s encounters a multi-faceted exploration of the feminine principle.

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The previous parts of this series of articles on Eyes Wide Shut were solely dedicated to the secret society discovered by Bill. This elite club, attended by the world’s most powerful people, deals with Satanism, black magick, and even ritual sacrifices. Aided by his friend Nightingale, Bill infiltrates one of the secret society’s occult rituals and witnesses a ceremony presided over by a high priest. Then an orgy ensued.

In the second article, I explained how real life secret societies, such as the Hellfire club and the O.T.O., actually practice these kinds of rituals. The occult principles behind them derive from Tantric yoga, where the energy generated by physical arousal is used to reach a “higher state”. This concept was reused (and maybe corrupted) by Aleister Crowley who called it “Sex Magick”. According to him and his peers, knowledge of this type of magick was the biggest secret of past secret societies and was only disclosed to the highest initiates.

There is, however, no (direct) mention of any of this in Eyes Wide Shut. In fact, the ceremony witnessed by Bill, with its elaborate choreography and its creepy music, appears to be one big, empty, phony piece of dramatic theater that simply exists to give the rich people some kind of mystical reason to engage in gratuitous debauchery. While Kubrick stripped the occult ritual of all of its esoteric, “magickal” meaning, he did infuse the entire movie with it. If one looks at the pace of the movie, at Bill’s journey and the people he encounters, it becomes somewhat apparent that the “magick” does not occur during the ritual itself but during the movie as a whole. Was Kubrick somehow initiated into occult secrets? Was he trying to communicate them through his movie? Let’s look at the concepts behind the ritual.

Kundalini Rising

The concept of magick through reproductive forces is said to originate from ancient ritual practices, as traces of it can be found in Hinduism, Taoism and in Medieval secret societies, such as the Knight Templars. In today’s Western world, the O.T.O is said to be the heir of this path as it claimed by Aleister Crowley and his acolyte, Theodor Reuss.

“Theodor Reuss was quite categoric: the OTO was a body of initiates in whose hands was concentrated the secret knowledge of all oriental orders and of all existing Masonic degrees.(…) The order had “rediscovered” the great secret of the Knights Templar, the magic of sex, not only the key to ancient Egyptian and hermetic tradition, but to all the secrets of nature, all the symbolism of Freemasonry, and all systems of religion.”
– Peter Tomkins, The Magic of Obelisks


The basic principle behind this “great secret” is the raising of the Kundalini or “life force”, an energy that can be used for magickal purposes.

“In all Tantric magic, the essential requirement – whether in the ecstasy of couples or the solo ritual of a priestess – involved the raising of the energy known as the serpent of fire, or kundalini. This mysterious energy described as lying dormant in the lowest of the seven chakras, can be aroused by two distinct methods, called, traditionally, the right- and the left-hand path. The right hand allots supremacy to the male principle, the left to the feminine. As the serpent power is aroused, according to clairvoyants, it climbs up the backbone of the adept, energizing each chakra, till it emerges from the skull – symbolically as the snake’s head like those so clearly depicted in Egyptian statuary.

(…)

As adepts describe the rising of the serpent, it unites with the “many-petaled lotus of the cerebral region” to bring about illumination – or the highest form of initiation - as the current “climbs from the duality to unity by reversing the path it originally took the chakras to procreate humanity.”

Details of the OTO’s initiation into Hindu and Tibetan Tantra, including ceremonies involving the use of “exudation” from specifically trained priestess were brought to a wider public by Crowley’s follower Kenneth Grant. Sacred courtesans, experts in ritual eroticism, known in India as nautch girls (…) were exceptionally honored.”
– Ibid.


While sacred courtesans were “exceptionally honored” in Eastern esotericism, today’s twisted black magic orders use Beta Programming slaves and dispose of them when they are through with them. In short, the exact opposite of being “exceptionally honored”.

Kundalini rising, the concept behind Tantric magic is wholly represented in a single image, Eliphas Levi’s depiction of Baphomet.

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This famous depiction of Baphomet includes all of the symbols of Sex Magick – the rising of the kundalini (represented by the phallic pole wrapped by two serpents) through the union of opposite forces. The torch above the goat head represents illumination.

So what does all of this have to do with Eyes Wide Shut? At first glance, nothing much. While we see a ritual involving “sacred courtesans” in the movie, there is absolutely no mention of “kundalini rising” during the whole thing. However, if we take a closer look at Bill’s journey as a whole, from the beginning of the movie to the end, we realize that the real ritual does not occur at the elite mansion but within Bill’s head. As he encounters new women and is exposed to new opportunities, his kundalini rises – and Kubrick added clues to denote this fact.

The Movie as a Ritual

While Eyes Wide Shut appears to be all about sexuality, nobody in the movie ever reaches climax. While Bill has many chances of satisfying his urges with attractive women, it never actually happens. However, as the movie progresses, there’s a definite increase in desire and lust, but Bill manages to keep it under control. Managing this “life force” is at the core of Tantric magic. Viewers are constantly reminded of this process several times during the movie when Bill imagines his wife with a naval officer. Each flash is increasingly intense – going from kissing to all-out copulating.

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As the movie progresses, Bill’s flashes of Alice cheating on him become more intense. Towards the end of the movie, she’s about to reach climax. These scenes reflect Bill’s kundalini rising. Having these flashes would be hurtful and painful and they remind the viewers that Bill’s journey started out of pain and humiliation.

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Towards the end of the movie, Bill is so horny that he gets flirty and grabby with a complete stranger, minutes after he met her. While that scene was rather odd and surreal, it reflects his “progress” in the ritual.

The very last lines of the movie conclude and define Bill’s journey. After running around New York and getting aroused by all kinds of stuff, Bill stands face-to-face with his wife and talks about how “awake” he is now. With his “life force” fully charged, Alice ends the movie with a phrase completing the ritual:

“- I do love you. And you know, there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible.
– What’s that?
– F*ck.”


Ending the movie on that particular note suggests that the entire journey was one of increasing intensity, one that ultimately leads to a “magickally charged ” climax, the goal of Crowleyan-magick.

Bill’s journey was not all fun and games, however. As the movie progresses, there is a constant back-and-forth between pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion, life and death, and so forth. The path is all about duality and, just like the floors of Masonic lodges are checkered in black and white, Bill’s journey consists on his alternatively stepping on black and white tiles – seeing the dualistic nature of all things.

Eros and Thanatos

Bill’s night out in New York City is characterized by numerous encounters with the female gender – each one of them offering a “cure” to a broken heart. However, each encounter also bears a potentially destructive aspect to it, one that counterbalances its appeal and attraction. While Bill is looking to procreate, he sees that his urges engender pain and even death. Bill’s journey is, therefore, a back-and-forth between man’s two basic impulses as defined by Freud: Eros and Thanatos.

Freud saw in Eros the instinct for life, love and sexuality in its broadest sense, and in Thanatos, the instinct of death, aggression. Eros is the drive toward attraction and reproduction; Thanatos toward repulsion and death. One leads to the reproduction of the species, the other toward its own destruction. While each one of Bill’s encounters promises the sweet temptation of lust, they also have a destructive counter side.

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Bill’s first encounter occurs when he visits one of his regular patients that died. The dead patient’s daughter kisses Bill and tells him that she loves him. We, therefore, see in this scene a juxtaposition of concepts of lust and desire with death. Also, if Bill went with this woman, it would ultimately hurt her husband – another bad side of succumbing to lust.

Each one of Bill’s female encounters promises gratification but ends up being interrupted by something negative, such as guilt or potential danger. Also, every time Bill is in contact with the sleazy-yet-tempting aspects of lust (prostitution or slavery), he quickly discovers the dark, exploitative and destructive side of it.

For instance, right after Bill enjoyed the “delights” of seeing MK Kittens at work at the elite ritual when returning his costume, he immediately sees the dark side of it all. The shop owner, who previously caught his underage daughter with two Asian businessmen and was outraged by it, had a sudden change of heart.

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Standing behind his business counter, the shop owner sells his underage daughter as if she was another product. After enjoying masked slaves in lavish rituals, Bill sees the other side of the “trade”: Young girls being sold by exploitative people to a system feeding on minors, turning them into MK slaves. Is that why this store was called “Rainbow”?

Bill’s journey is, therefore, one that continually alternates between the primal allure of lust and the destructive social constructs that are erected around it. There is nothing more basic and instinctual than carnal attraction, but our modern world has made these relations complex, bound by rules, and prone to exploitation. While lust is nature’s way of pushing humans to procreate, social constructs have created all kinds of fetishes, distortions, games, and perversions around this primal urge … to the point that it has been denatured and debased into an unhealthy obsession.

As Bill navigates between joy and pain, monogamous marriage and anonymous debauchery, we notice that there’s a common thread uniting his various encounters.

Red-Headed Women

The most important women in the movie are Bill’s wife, his daughter Helena, Amanda (the Beta slave who was sacrificed at the ritual) and Domino (a prostitute he met on the street). All three adult women are somewhat physically similar as they are tall, well-proportioned, and red-headed. They also appear to be connected on “another level”.

While Alice is a respectable, upper-class lady, she makes a living using her looks in a loveless relationship, a little like what a prostitute would do. On the other hand, the time spent between Bill and Domino is sweet and tender, a little with what happens in a loving relationship. Alice is therefore not very different from Domino, and vice-versa.

There are also links with Amanda. While Alice was (probably) not at the occult ritual attended by Bill, when he comes back from it, she describes to him a dream that is similar to what he just witnessed and what Amanda just experienced.

“He was kissing me. Then we were making love. Then there were all these other people around us, hundreds of them, everywhere. Everyone was f-cking. And then I …I was f-cking other men. So many. I don’t know how many I was with. And I knew you could see me in the arms of all these men … just f-cking all these men.”


Alice’s dream “connects” her with Amanda who was at the ritual and who actually lived Alice’s dream.

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The day after the ritual, Bill finds his mask creepily “sleeping” next to his wife. Is this Alice’s way of saying that she’s aware of what’s going on? Maybe that she’s participating in this? Is it a warning from the secret society? Alice never acknowledges the mask, so I guess we’ll never know.

Was Domino in the ritual? It is also interesting to point out that “Domino” is a type of mask used in these types of gatherings.

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A Domino mask

Looking closer at the “magic circle” formed by the women of the ritual, we can identify a few women who could be Domino. The day after the ritual, Bill shows up at Domino’s house with a gift, but her roommate informs him that she is HIV-positive … and that she might never be back again. Is this true or was Domino yet another “casualty” in Bill’s journey? Like Amanda and Nightingale, Domino mysteriously disappears after the ritual.

The fact that these women are all connected reveals one fundamental fact: Bill’s journey is not about a specific woman, it is about the feminine principle as a whole. It is an esoteric quest to understand and “be one with” the feminine principle that is opposite to his.


Helena Down the Same Path?

Throughout the movie, Helena (Bill’s daughter) is shown to be groomed to be another Alice. There are also some cues linking Helena to Domino. For instance, there’s a stroller in front of Domino’s apartment and, at the end in the movie, in the toy store, Helena is very interested in a stroller and shows it to her mother.

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Domino on her bed with a stuffed feline, a symbol of Beta Kitten programming.

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An entire row of this exact same toy is at the store where Helena shops in the final scene of the movie.

There is also something strange about the scene above: The two men behind Helena happened to be at Ziegler’s party at the very beginning of the movie.

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The two same men at Ziegler’s party: same hair, same physical stature and the guy on the right wears similar glasses.

Why are these two men in the store, looking at toys? Is New York City such a small town? Was Kubrick lacking extras to appear in that scene? Unlikely. Could it be that they’re part of the secret society that’s been following Bill and his family? Strange fact: When the men walk away and disappear from the shot, Helena appears to follow them … and we don’t see her for the rest of the movie. The camera indeed zooms onto Alice and Bill, who are completely absorbed with themselves. Is this a VERY subtle way of saying that their daughter will be sucked in by the Beta slave system of the secret society? Another enigma.

In Conclusion

Stanley Kubrick’s works are never strictly about love or relationships. The meticulous symbolism and the imagery of all of his works often communicate another dimension of meaning -- one that transcends the personal to become a commentary on our epoch and civilization. And, in this transitional period between the end of 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, Kubrick told the story of a confused man who wanders around, desperately looking for a way to satisfy his primal urges. Kubrick told the story of a society that is completely debased and corrupted by hidden forces, where humanity’s most primal urge -- procreation -- has been cheapened, fetishized, perverted and exploited to a point that it has lost all of its beauty. At the top of this world is a secret society that revels in this context, and thrives on it. Kubrick’s outlook on the issue was definitely not idealistic nor very optimistic.

His grim tale focuses on a single man, Bill, who is looking for an undefined something. Even if he appears to have everything, there is something missing in his life. Something visceral and fundamental that is never put into words, but that is quite palpable. Bill cannot be complete if he is not at peace with the opposite of him: the feminine principle. Bill’s quest, therefore, follows the esoteric principle of uniting two opposing forces into one. As suggested by the last lines of the movie, Bill will ultimately “be one” and get physical with his wife. After that, the alchemical process and the Tantric ritual would be complete. However, as Kubrick somehow communicates in the final scene, even if these two extremely self-absorbed, egotistical and superficial people believe they’ve reached some kind of epiphany, what does it really change? Our civilization as a whole still has its eyes wide shut … and those were Kubrick’s last cinematographic words.
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:37 am

Headmaster of the Hun School Retires To Hard Work in Community Activities
by Walter Il Waggoner
New York Times
July 6, 1976

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Paul R. Chesebro has ended a 50‐year career as an educator, the last 25 years of them as headmaster of the Hun School in Princeton. But he feels his work is far from done and has committed himself to a heavy agenda of community service.

A tall, lean man with an air of benevolent patience, Mr. Chesebro, 70 years old, sat in his office last week enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of imminent retirement, his desk drawers empty except for a stack of recent testimonials that included a signed photograph from President Ford.

“As of July 1,” he said, “I'll be off campus. But I'll have an office of my own somewhere and be working as hard as I can in three activities.”

The activities are those with which Mr. Chesebro has been associated for years—for almost as long as his life in Princeton, which began as a graduate student at Princeton University in 1927.

Tireless in work he believes will benefit individuals and the community, Mr. Chesebro will carry on actively in the Greater Princeton Chamber of Commerce, of which he will be president next year; Rotary International, where ‘he will continue his devotion to its youth programs, and the Mercer County Heart Association, which he says is one of his ways of remembering his father, a hard‐working Connecticut farmer who died of a heart seizure on Sept. 21, 1938, during the New England hurricane that blew the roof off his barn and flattened his orchards and cornfields.

Mark Left on School

If he has made a name for himself in the community, Dr. Chesebro, as he is known locally—he has an honorary doctorate on top of his B.A. from Amherst 50 years ago and his master's degree from Princeton—has also left his mark on Hun School.

When he became headmaster in 1951, after 11 years of teaching mathematics at Princeton High School, Hun School had 75 students and two buildings, and was in deep financial trouble. Now, after a memorably harrowing experience of having to raise $25,000 in 10 days or seeing the school close on the very eve of his taking the headmaster's chair, Dr. Chesebro can talk of 500 students, eight buildings on a 45‐acre campus and a secure portfolio.

His influence on at least some of those students has been as constructive as on the physical plant of this fashionable 62 — year — old preparatory school, which sends 95 percent of its graduates to Ivy League and other colleges.

Alan L. Marcus, who graduated from Hun School in 1966 and was master of ceremonies at a testimonial dinner for Dr. Chesebro on June 19, said the other day that his former headmaster “was certainly the embodiment of the philosophy of Hun School, which was to be educated not only in the books but in how to deal with your fellow man.”

Mr. Marcus, now a successful young public relations counselor in New Jersey, added.

“Were is not for Dr. Chesebro, with his particular method of guidance and preparation, I could never have achieved what I have achieved in life.”

Dr. Chesebro's accomplishments in education and comnunity service have been recognized on many occasions over the years. In 1973, the Greater Princeton Chamber of Commerce close him Princeton's Man of the Year, and he has received citations from both Rotary International—of which only 100 have been awarded by the 770,000‐member worldwide service organization — and the county heart associations.

The climax came June 19 at his retirement dinner.

Governor Byrne issued a proclamation noting Dr. Chesebro's 25 years as the Hun School's headmaster and 50 years as a Princeton educator; Mercer County commemorated his public service with its own proclamation; Vice President ‘Rockefeller wrote him a letter congratulating him on “an extraordinary career in education,” and Elisha Hasek, writing for the White House, sent him a photograph of President Ford inscribed “with best wishes.”

As he strolled with visitors among the several new buildings of the school, including the Paul Ridgely Chesebro Academic Building, Dr. Chesebro exhibited the informality that students and associates have identified as his particularly effective style.

“Hello, Bob,” he said to a maintenance supervisor working among some shrubs.

“Hiya, Doc,” the worker replied.

“He's the kind of a man who's harder to get than member of the faculty,” Dr. Chesebro remarked.

‘A Very Large Family’

In his commencement address to the class of 1976, Dr. Chesebro described the headmaster's job as being “akin to that of a parent of a very large family.”

His own attitudes, toward family, young people and society in general, have been influenced by the life he led growing up in Connecticut, he said.

First of all, he explained, “I liked the idea of going to school, which was looked upon with great favor by my parents.”

His father, he said, was farm market gardener.

“Every summer I worked on the farm,” he said, “when I was in high school especially, working from daylight to dusk. It was a life of dirt, sunsrine and fresh air.

“I feel that I have blessed, but unfortunately these days not many youngsters, can grow up in the healthy atmosphere I had.”

Little remains in Dr. Chesebro's office that can be clearly identified as his personal belongings. But on the wall above the desk there is a pair of mounted deer heads that had been given him by a friend from Texas.

“I'll leave those to my successor,” he remarked, “and he can do what he wants to with them.”

His successor is Thomas M. Woodward Jr., who has been assistant headmaster of Haverford, (Pa.) School.
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:08 am

Dr. Robert J. Edwards
Obituary Condolences
Published in Daily Press from July 25 to July 30, 2006

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NEWPORT NEWS - Dr. Robert J. Edwards, USMC Lt.C.(Ret), died on Sunday, July 23, 2006, at the age of 86. Born April 13, 1920, he was the son of the late Rev. Harold J. and Catherine S. Edwards. Dr. Edwards received a B.S. Degree from Hobart College in 1942 and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Rochester in 1951. After the conclusion of World War II, he was released from active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and taught in the Biology department at Hobart College for several years. He was recalled to active duty to serve in the Korean War, which at that time he accepted a regular commission. In 1969, Dr. Edwards retired from the USMC with the rank of Lt. Colonel, after 21 years of active duty and 6 years of reserve duty. He had 10 months of combat duty in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, 12 months in the Korean War and 13 months in Vietnam at the DMZ during the TET offensive. His duty assignments included Artillery Battalion Commander, National Security Agency Division Chief, Marine Division Assistant Chief of Staff G-2 (intelligence), Assistant Chief of Staff G-3 (plans), and Commanding Officer of the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station Marine Security Detachment. Dr. Edwards was awarded 22 combat and service awards including the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with Combat 'V,' the Navy Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry 1st Class and the Presidential Unit Citation with Star. Dr. Edwards joined the faculty of Christopher Newport College in 1969 as a member of the Biology department. From 1971-1972, he was chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences; 1972-1974 he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate of Virginia; 1973-1977, he served as Associate Dean of the Faculty. This office later became Vice President for Academic Affairs, which Dr. Edwards served from 1977-1982. He resigned this position in 1982 and returned to full time teaching in the Biology department. The CNC Board of Visitors presented Dr. Edwards the Mace Award and Plaque of recognition 'For exemplary and judicious administration of the academic life of Christopher Newport College.' He retired from full time teaching in 1985, but continued to teach for several years as Professor Emeritus and also taught as an adjunct professor at Thomas Nelson Community College for over 10 years. Among his volunteer endeavors, Dr. Edwards was a docent at The Mariners' Museum, and volunteered at the Virginia Living Museum and the Refill Pharmacy at Langley AFB. He was a member of MENSA and an elected member of Sigma XI Society, which is dedicated to research in the sciences. He was awarded the Key to the city of Miami Beach in 1957, in recognition of public service while Inspector/Instructor of the Miami based Marine Corps Reserve Artillery Battalion. He is survived by his loving wife, Edith Herman Edwards; Edith's family in Germany; and a niece, Lynne Crogan of Tewksbury, Mass. The family will receive friends from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1, followed by a memorial service at 7 p.m. at Peninsula Funeral Home. Interment will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 7 in Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Virginia Living Museum, 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:09 am

Little-known cemeteries accepting new burials for state's veterans
by Christopher Baxter
The Virginian-Pilot
Aug 25, 2007

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Phil Holwager, a retired Navy chaplain, visits the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk, where he will be buried. (Steve Earley photos | The Virginian-Pilot )

Phil Holwager walked slowly along the orderly rows of headstones at the state veterans cemetery in Suffolk, satisfied with his decision to someday lie here.

The former Navy chaplain saw many military burial grounds during his 36 years of service, but found the freshly cut grass and young cherry trees of Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery to be the best match.

1972
LCdr P.J. Holwager, DC, Sep 72, Task Force Delta
-- Chaplains With Marines in Vietnam, 1962-1971


"I was here for Memorial Day, and I was very impressed with the dignity and honor expressed here," said Holwager, 74, who lives in Suffolk with his wife. "I could have picked Arlington, but probably my family would never make it back up there after I was buried."

Holwager is among an estimated 737,000 veterans in Virginia - about a quarter of whom live in Hampton Roads - entitled to interment at a state or national cemetery.

But of the 16 national sites in Virginia, including Arlington National Cemetery, only three are accepting new burials, said Dan Kemano, director of cemeteries for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

State officials have addressed that shortage by opening two state veterans cemeteries - the Suffolk site and another in Amelia - each with enough room for the next 80 years. But many don't know those sites exist.

More than 500 veterans were interred at the Suffolk site last year, Kemano said, comparable to any cemetery in the region. "But if you look at the size of the veteran population, we should be doing much more than that," he said.

Most veteran deaths have been from the fading 2.9 million-World War II generation, according to government estimates. A 20-year-old who served in 1945 would be 82 today.

State and national officials also are preparing for the influx of 7.3 million Vietnam War veterans near or past retirement age. They represent a "huge potential" for interments, Kemano said.

They are less likely to have pre-purchased burial sites, common among World War II veterans who were heavily solicited by commercial cemeteries, said Kemano, who worked for 10 years in the private sector.

"In the '70s, '80s and '90s, there was a lot of telemarketing," he said. "Private cemeteries had salespeople that went out and sold plots. It was an honest venture, but without it our volume would probably be much greater today."

Virginia veterans who did not pre-buy plots now have the option of being buried at the cemeteries in Suffolk, opened in 2004, and Amelia, which opened in 1997.

The sites are often closer to residents than the few open national cemeteries, making them more convenient for family members, Kemano said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs established the State Cemetery Grants Program in 1978 to serve veterans communities that were too small to require a national cemetery, but lived beyond an hour of a site.

"The national standard is you service an area generally in a 75-mile radius around a location," Kemano said. "About 90 percent of our veterans come from within 50 to 60 miles of a site."

Besides Suffolk and Amelia, a third state facility will open in 2010 in Dublin. And researchers at the University of Virginia have been commissioned by the state to study future needs, specifically in Northern Virginia.

Culpeper National Cemetery will fill in 15 to 20 years, Kemano said, leaving many veterans in that area outside the 75-mile range.

Researchers will consider many factors before releasing their report in the fall, said John L. Knapp, senior economist with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.

One factor is anticipating future needs for space. For example, a traditional casket burial takes up a 4-by-10 space at the Suffolk cemetery, while an in-ground cremation burial requires 4 feet by 4 feet.

About two-thirds of veterans preferred a casket burial. About one-third wanted cremation, according to the 2001 National Survey of Veterans, and of those, most planned to have their ashes scattered, not buried.

Knapp said he also will consider other burial options for veterans, such as church-run cemeteries, which may already hold family members.

Increasing awareness of existing facilities, however, is the goal, said Anne Atkins, a spokeswoman for Virginia's veterans services.

"You've got thousands and thousands of Vietnam veterans, and they have no idea they or their spouse are eligible for burial in a veterans cemetery," she said.

The department had planned paid advertising in the Suffolk and Amelia areas, Atkins said, but funding may fall short. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine wants to cut state spending to balance the budget. In that case, the department must rely on word-of-mouth.

That's how Holwager heard of the Suffolk cemetery four years ago. He's one of the most recent Vietnam-era veterans to submit a pre-application for burial.

"I tend to put things off, but I finally got around to it," he said. "To be honest, it's a relief."

Christopher Baxter, (757) 446-2405, christopher.baxter@pilotonline.com
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:17 am

Virginia Guard Military Funeral Honors Program honors veterans
by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne
May 1, 2012

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SUFFOLK, Va. — Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program were on hand to pay proper respects to the remains of seven military veterans April 30, 2012 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. The veterans were buried with full military honors in a ceremony attended by family members, fellow veterans and members of the local community.

“Today we find ourselves writing the final chapter of their lives,” said Phil Holwager, a retired Navy chaplain who spoke during the service. “We are here as fellow Americans putting the unburied remains of heroes back in their proper place. We have come together to show care and concern and it is our responsibility to lay to rest their remains”

The Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program performs funerals at cemeteries throughout the state after receiving requests from funeral homes and various Casualty Assistant Centers at Army installations.

It is currently averaging more than 200 funerals a month and its members have performed more than 2,000 ceremonies this fiscal year, according to Bob Huffman, coordinator of the Military Funeral Honors Program and retired state command sergeant major of the Virginia National Guard.

The Guard Military Funeral Honors Program provided its first military funeral honors service in January 2007. At that time there were only two teams performing funerals, and team members from Gate City and Fort Pickett performed 157 funerals in the fiscal year.

In 2008, the program expanded and performed 433 funerals. The program established new regional offices in Suffolk, Fort A. P. Hill and Petersburg in 2009 and expanded even more by performing 1,263 funerals.

There are now more than 90 Soldiers who serve in the program, both full time and part time, according to Huffman. All members must meet Army height and weight standards and must have passed the Army Physical Fitness Test. New members are then trained by certified instructors who have been to the Military Funeral Honors Course at the National Guard Professional Education Center in Little Rock, Ark.

Huffman said the program needs more traditional Soldiers in order to keep pace with the increase in honors request. To inquire about joining the program you can contact Huffman at 434-292-9051 or by email at bob.huffman@us.army.mil.

To view photos from this event, visit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao ... 570087922/

Additional reporting by Cotton Puryear, Department of Military Affairs
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:06 am

Former U.S. Marine Gets Life in Prison for Okinawa Rape and Murder
by Motoko Rich
December 1, 2017

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An American resident of the Japanese island of Okinawa prayed last year at the site where Rina Shimabukuro’s body was found. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

TOKYO — A court on the Japanese island of Okinawa sentenced a former United States Marine to life in prison on Friday after convicting him of the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Japanese woman.

The former Marine, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, confessed to raping Rina Shimabukuro and abandoning her body in Uruma, an Okinawa village, in April of last year, Kyodo News reported.

At the time of the killing, Mr. Shinzato, who served in the Marines from 2007 to 2014, was a civilian working for a contract company on Kadena Air Base, an American military installation on Okinawa. He denied an intent to murder.

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Kenneth Franklin Shinzato admitted that he raped Ms. Shimabukuro but said he hadn’t meant to kill her. The case drew an outraged protest from the Japanese government. Credit Ryosuke Ozawa/Kyodo News, via Associated Press

The case stoked extreme anger on Okinawa, where about 47,000 American troops are stationed. It also drew an outraged protest from the Japanese government. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised the case in an uncharacteristically public display of anger during then-President Barack Obama’s trip to Japan last May for a Group of 7 summit meeting and a visit to Hiroshima.

According to the indictment in Naha District Court, Mr. Shinzato stabbed Ms. Shimabukuro in the neck with a knife and hit her on the head with a bar to subdue her before raping her. The attack killed her.

Ms. Shimabukuro’s body was found three weeks later in woods near Onna, a village north of Uruma, where Mr. Shinzato had dumped her.

Crimes committed by American service members or other personnel on Okinawa have long been a source of tension between the United States and Japan. Last month, a Japanese driver was killed in a collision with a military truck driven by a Marine stationed in Naha.
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:09 am

Sailors plead guilty in rape case that sparked Japan curfew
by Travis J. Tritten and Chiyomi Sumida
Stars and Stripes
February 25, 2013

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Before I get into that, I want to talk a little bit about the subculture of the Marine Corps, how when you enter into the Marine Corps, and I think this goes without saying for all the other services, that you're not a man until you've taken advantage of a woman. You're not a man until you've sexually abused to some point. And what happens is these young, impressionable kids enter into the Marine Corps, 18 and 19-year-old kids, and the only people they learn from are the people around them and their platoon sergeants, or whoever. And they see everyone doing it, and so they themselves have to do it too, because they want to fit in, they don't want to be ostracized and whatnot.

-- Testimony of Rafay Siddiqui on Gender and Sexuality, Winter Soldier, by Iraq Veterans Against the War


CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Two U.S. sailors pleaded guilty Tuesday to raping and robbing an Okinawan woman in October, a case that led the military to impose a Japan-wide curfew for all American servicemembers.

Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, were accused of carrying the woman to an apartment building parking lot and raping her for nearly an hour. Browning was also charged with stealing 7,000 yen (about $87) from her bag.

The guilty pleas came at the start of the sailors’ trial in a Japanese court. Prosecutors are expected to propose sentences on Wednesday, and the court will issue the final verdicts and sentences on Friday.

The case outraged Okinawans, many who have harbored ill feelings toward the U.S. military since a 1995 incident in which three servicemembers abducted and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl.

The victim in the case was walking home from work early on the morning of Oct. 16 near Kadena Air Base, according to details presented by the prosecution at the trial Tuesday. Dozierwalker asked Browning if he wanted to rape the woman and Browning said he did.

The sailors spoke to the woman in broken Japanese, but she ignored them, prosecutors said. They followed her to her apartment door and grabbed her from behind. One sailor covered her mouth; the other grabbed her by the legs. They then took her to the parking lot where they repeatedly choked and raped her.

Afterward, Dozierwalker and Browning went to a bar and bought alcohol with the money stolen from the woman’s bag, according to prosecutors.

The entire 50-minute assault was captured on security cameras and was shown to the Japanese jury Tuesday.

“The pain in my neck and throat will go away some day, but the pain, humiliation and despair that I experienced will never go away,” according to a written statement by the victim read to the court. “I know it will stay with me and continue to haunt me. I will never forgive them.”


The woman was not present at the trial, and Japanese authorities have shielded her identity.

Police apprehended Browning and Dozierwalker at a nearby hotel later that morning. The two sailors, assigned to Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Texas, were scheduled to return to the United States the day of the incident.

During the trial, each of the sailors claimed they had only followed the other and denied instigating the attack.

Off-base incidents involving servicemembers have recently complicated relations with the Okinawans that already were strained. Crime, particularly rape, remains a top reason why many have demanded reductions in the large U.S. military presence on the island, where most American troops in Japan are based.

Following the incident, U.S. commanders in Japan imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that recently was relaxed by an hour. Further alcohol-fueled off-base misbehavior sparked restrictions on drinking.

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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:24 am

Inslaw Update
by Virginia McCullough
Google Groups
8/30/99

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I must add some comments to MC's response to my posting. The list of names that I suggest Al Fayed investigate will, in my opinion, lead back to a single group of people who have been getting away with murder (and I mean that literally) for years.

Shortly after the murder of reporter Jos. "Danny" Casolaro in the fall of 1991, I was encouraged to phone into The Dave Emory talk show broadcast out of Foothill College in Los Altos. The show was already in progress and the subject was the murder of my friend and associate, Danny Casolaro. Emory, working for the non-profit KFJC, later sold the tape of this and subsequent shows as a package called "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Danny and I had been sharing information on a number of subjects among them the following:

(1) CIA contract officer Michael Riconosciuto who, following his revelations about the DOJ's theft of Inslaw's PROMIS[E] software, was sitting in jail on a questionable drug charge. Currently he sits in a Florida prison following his conviction. After his conviction one of his attorneys, John Crawford, died a very mysterious death and all of Michael's files housed in Crawford's home/office disappeared. A source told me that he/she had proof of the murder and the home invasion. A woman named Vali Delahanty, a girlfriend of Riconosciuto's long time confidant and front man - John Munson - was murdered and her body and that of Atty Crawford showed up at the same mortuary the same day. Relatives of both families expressed great fear to the mortician stating that their loved ones had been killed because of what they knew about the dealings of Michael and Marshall Riconosciuto, long time business associates in Pyrotronics (aka Red Devil [safe and sane] Fireworks). In 1983 Moriarty was jailed having been convicted of laundering money and supplying prostitutes to California's elected officials in California's biggest political scandal of the century. He spent 2-1/2 years in a luxury crowbar hotel and was out and supporting Michael's wife, Bobbi and their children in a beautiful hotel he owned in Southern California during 1992/1993. Moriarty was a close friend of Richard Nixon and helped arrange Nixon's first trip to China through his fireworks connections. Moriarty also accompanied the President to China as an honored guest.  

The list of murders connected to the Riconosciutos is as long as one's arm and longer. Their credentials go back to one of the key witnesses before the Garrison grand jury, Fred Lee Crisman aka Jon Gold. Under the name Gold Crisman called "Murder of a City - Tacoma" - a must read for any student of assassinations and UFOs.

(2) In the spring of 1991 Rayealan Russbacher suddenly appeared in my life. A strange woman named Rita Hill later contacted me and wanted my husband and me to attend a speech that a church was sponsoring in San Jose. Hill told me that Dave Emory, author and acquaintance Rodney Stich and others would be attending. I thought better of it but Hill later brought over pictures of the cozy little group with Emory pictured next to Hill. For the remainder of 1992 Rayealan Russbacher kept calling me and sending me all kinds of material about her alleged pilot husband, Gunther. One of her greatest male supporters invited us down to the Monterey area for another of Rayealan's talks. We declined. Later this individual wired up his house as booby trapped bomb and invited the cops over meeting them at the door with shotguns blazing. He was jailed continuing to ramble about underground bases, Bush and "CIA pilot" Gunther Russbacher.

(3) The author of "Unfriendly Skies", Rodney Stich, and I had met in our mutual fight against the corrupt bankruptcy system that operates in California. That fight resulted in the jailing of crooked bankruptcy trustee Charles Duck and the murder of bankruptcy attorneys, Dexter Jacobson and Gary Ray Pinell in 1991. In 1990 Rodney Stich, in poor health and about 70 yrs old, was jailed as a "vexatious litigant" in an attempt to shut him up. Eventually he was moved to Camp Parks FCI in Dublin, California. Lo and behold, enter fellow prisoner Gunther Russbacher. The two men became soul mates based upon their mutual interest in flying. Assuming one believes Gunther is a pilot. Gunther would tell Stich that he controlled companies supplying arms to those involved with the Hausenfraus fiasco. Eventually Stich was released from jail.

On 4/30/91, Russbacher called Stich at his home from jail at Terminal Island. Gunther was upset and talked about his role in the October Surprise. On May 1, 1991, a helicopter crash at Fort Ord was reported in the Monterey Herald. Russbacher called Stich and asked that Stich record the conversation. Gunther said that he was supposed to be on that flight and die but a friendly Navy officer had visited him in jail and drugged Gunther's coffee to prevent him being placed on the copter.

Now Rayealan Russbacher contacts Rodney and weaves her unusual love tale. She says that she met her second husband at the (Monterey) Naval Postgraduate School. When I last talked to Barbara Honegger she was also working there. Rayealan stated that her late husband, John Dyer, was the Dean of Science and Engineering at this same school. Rayealan's love tale read like a cheap dime store novel that can only be read, without laughing, by young girls under the age of 14. Stich asked me for help in publicizing the Russbacher fable and I declined. However, I did put him in touch with Dave Emory and Harry Martin of the Napa Sentinel.

Without the support of Stich/Martin/Emory the Russbachers would have remained relatively unknown. The interesting hype is that the Riconosciuto story was effectively buried in an avalanche of Russbacher publicity. The Russbachers continually implied that Riconosciuto was just a minor CIA operative of little importance who did not know how to keep his mouth shut. All the while the Russbachers were singing like birds. I now believe that THEIR job was to discredit Riconosciuto so that his story about the Cabazon/Wackenhut joint venture and Inslaw would not be believed.  

When Stich was writing another book he FAXed me the phony CIA documents dealing with Russbacher that later appeared in his book (another version of "Unfriendly Skies"). I looked at them and could not believe that Stich would consider them to be valid. Several important names were misspelled; it was obvious that they had been created by a bad cut and paste job; (and) the english was atrocious. I called Rodney and told him that they were phony. In addition, I FAXed him a phony document that had been mailed to me accusing the government of prosecuting Gunther and stating that both he and Riconosciuto were innocent, long-term CIA operatives. This letter had also been mailed to Emory and Martin. It appeared to be written on DIA letterhead signed with the last name "Zafonte". Like Stich's documents, this document had serious errors. Edwin Meese was called Edward Meese; the english was bad and there were many misspellings. I located Zafonte in Virginia and spoke with him about the letter. He denied any knowledge of either Russbacher or Riconosciuto and very emphatically denied writing it. Furthermore, he told me that he had retired from DIA four years ago.

Stich has told me that he believes that he was going to be sent back to jail on further contempt charges and he thinks that the only thing that keeps him out of jail is a declaration Gunther Russbacher introduced on his behalf. It is my belief that the government has simply lost interest and does not consider Stich a threat but an asset who can be well used as an unwitting disinformation agent. Rodney's most recent book "Drugging America" was recently released.  

In February of 1992 Rayealan suddenly contacted me saying she was terrified because Ross Perot was sending a plane to San Jose to pick her up so that she could visit Gunther in his prison in St. Charles, Mo. Perot was also sending two of his men to the prison to verify the fact that Gunther could really fly an SR-7l. She asked me to drive to Santa Cruz and copy all of the material she had on Gunther and his notes and documents so that someone else would have a copy in case something happened to her "like happened tp Danny Casolaro". She also asked me to phone the hotel that Ross Perot had booked her into and ask them for extra security for her and to explain to them what had happened to Danny Casolaro. I did both of these things and shortly after I had called the hotel my phone rang. At the other end of the line was a man with a slight southern accent ranting and raving about "this is my show" "you are not going to rain on my parade" "this small hotel is now terrified", "how dare you", "who do you think you are?" This tirade went on for fully ten minutes before I responded by saying, "I know this is your dime, but it is my time. Who are you?" Only then did the voice calm down a little and I learned that I had been called by soon-to-be presidential candidate Ross Perot. In the future I would look back on this as just one more set up by the Russbachers.

(4) About October of 1992 I was contacted by Paul Wilcher who, on the eve of the senate hearings to confirm Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote a masterful 7-page letter detailing Thomas' conflict of interest with his mentor and promoter, Senator Daniforth.

Unfortunately Wilcher became obsessed with the Russbacher story, traveling to Russbachers prison in St. Charles, Missouri to record 55 tape recordings with Russbacher. Russbachers identified Wilcher as Gunther's constitutional attorney. Rayealan ordered Wilcher to give all his tapes to Rodney Stich and told me that she thought Wilcher was not to be trusted because he was losing his mind. In my conversations with Wilcher his total personality changed from a focused, bright person to one continually rambling about Russbachers and conspiracies. Wilcher sent the tapes to Stich and on May 21, 1993 he wrote a 101-page letter to Janet Reno. The Thomas letter is concise and cloaked in legalese. The Reno letter is rambling and full of accusations that are not supported either by the law or by documentation. An odd informant named Michael Fuller predicted to Washington D.C. correspondent Sarah McClendon the day that Wilcher would die and die on that date he did. Fuller also claimed to me that he knew Danny Casolaro although no documentation supported his allegation.

Russbacher and Riconosciuto also shared a Chicago based, Christian, far-right attorney named James Vassilos who had close ties to The Liberty Lobby and Sherman Skolnick's Committee up the Court, it was Vassilos who filed Riconosciuto's lawsuit against Judge Bua involving the Inslaw case. All of the material held by Congressman Jack Brooks for the Riconosciutos was returned to Vassilos and signed for by him on September 19, 1992 according to a letter from the Congressman to Bobbi Riconosciuto dated 2/17/93. Shortly thereafter Vassilos was arrested while traveling with Rayealan Russbacher and then later disbarred by the state of Illinois.

In July of 1993 Rayealan Russbacher appealed to the Patriot network saying that she was turning the 350-page report that the late Wilcher wrote on Gunther's involvement in the October Surprise to the people at Contact (part of the Patriot network). There are references to audio and video tapes already pre-paid that will be mailed out when they are completed. In early September 1993, Harry Martin FAXed a one-page letter to the American Patriot Network accusing Gunther of skimming $15 million off the top of a CIA proprietary company. Martin also identifies "The Napa Sentinel" as the "creator" of Gunther. Martin also goes on to identify an Air Force Colonel as the real pilot involved in the October Surprise. By so doing, Martin calls the man he created a liar and implies all of the Rae Allen writings are also false. Rae Allen responded by calling Martin's criticism of the missing $15 million "a small bone". On 12/17/93 "The Napa Sentinel" published an a article heralding Russbacher's release from prison with not a word about Martin's earlier criticism of Russbacher's story. Stich shortly thereafter FAXed me several stories that appeared in Patriot-type newsletters urging people to stop contributing to the Russbacher's because they are now considered frauds. Stich tells me that Gunther was supposedly jailed in Austria convicted of tearing up a hotel room while drunk and disorderly. Rayealan was allegedly back in Soquel where she told she planned to get a job at a minimum wage.

(5) AND ALL TRAILS LEAD BACK TO THE CABAZON RESERVATION where the documents were first released by Cabazon Indian Fred Alvarez. As he dug into the files of "Dr." John Philip Nichols, a long time CIA agent, and liberated hundreds of sensitive documents he told the reporters, "You are talking to a dead man". Weeks later in June of 1981, shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected President, Fred Alavarez and two friends were tortured and murdered in the backyard of his home on Bob Hope Drive near Indio, California. Fred had in his possession a letter dated in October 1980 from Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan thanking him for writing about his concerns about what was happening on his reservation. Fred Alvarez had stumbled upon a mecca for gold for arms, for drugs, for biological weapons, for murder. He had found the original Iran Contra and asked the man who would implement it for help in eliminating it.

Most of the preceding material came from a letter I wrote dated 12/30/94 to a long time CIA operative who ran the CIA's bank, BBRD & W in Hawaii. His name is Ron Rewald and he was in jail in 1994 at San Pedro, CA. We had been corresponding for some time and he was interested in my analysis of Rodney Stich because he was talking to Stich about publishing a book. Rewald had written about his days in the CIA. The letter was 13 pages of detail plus attachments. It did not deter Rewald from agreeing that Stich publish his book entitled: "Disavow".

There is much more to this long tale but you are probably asking "What does this have to do with Al Fayed and the death of his son and the Princess?" In order: (1) a pattern of falsified classified documents, (2) the same old worn out players, (3) the set ups of other people to take the fall, (4) the protection of the real perpetrators behind walls of lies, (and) (5) the deliberate destruction of individuals who swim too close to Casolaro's Octopus.

ALL TRAILS LEAD BACK TO THE CABAZON RESERVATION!

Virginia McCullough vmccu...@hotmail.com
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Re: Mrs. Kay Griggs on How the Government Works

Postby admin » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:09 am

Part 1 of 2

The Crimes of Seal Team 6
by Matthew Cole
January 10, 2017

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Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, SEAL Team 6 is today the most celebrated of the U.S. military’s special mission units. But hidden behind the heroic narratives is a darker, more troubling story of “revenge ops,” unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities — a pattern of criminal violence that emerged soon after the Afghan war began and was tolerated and covered up by the command’s leadership.

1. 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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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 reported afterward 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.

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2. BLOODY THE HATCHET

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.

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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.”

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3. HEAD 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.”

[x]
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.”

DEVIL'S GUARD
CONDEMNED TO DEATH FOR THE BLOODBATHS OF WORLD WAR II, THEY SERVED THEIR SENTENCE -- ON THE KILLING FIELDS OF VIETNAM.
The fascinating, true story of the French Foreign Legion's Nazi battalion

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

This book is being published to provide the reading public with a clear insight into the mind and personality of an unregenerate Nazi, to show the dehumanization of men in war, and to illustrate the ironies and hypocrisies to which men are driven in defense of their actions.

The publication of this book in no way indicates that the publisher agrees with or condones the points of view it expresses.

-- Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford




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.”

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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.

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4. A KIND OF SPORT

ON THE SECOND floor of the SEAL Team 6 headquarters in the Dam Neck naval annex, a computer, known as the “ops computer,” stores the classified data on every mission the unit has completed for the past decade. Here, commanders returning from a deployment leave their hard drives with technicians who transfer PowerPoints, after-actions reports, and photos of each operation a squadron conducted abroad. The database contains photographs of persons killed by SEAL operators during their missions and other mission documentation.

Some of those photographs, especially those taken of casualties from 2005 through 2008, show deceased enemy combatants with their skulls split open by a rifle or pistol round at the upper forehead, exposing their brain matter. The foreign fighters who suffered these V-shaped wounds were either killed in battle and later shot at close range or finished off with a security round while dying. Among members of SEAL Team 6, this practice of desecrating enemy casualties was called “canoeing.”

The canoeing photos are dramatic documentary evidence of the extreme and unnecessary violence that began to occur during multiple high-risk, exhausting, and traumatizing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. “There is and was no military reason whatsoever to split someone’s skull open with a single round,” said a former SEAL Team 6 leader. “It’s sport.”

The former SEAL Team 6 leader said that he first noticed canoeing in 2004, and that it does occur accidentally on the battlefield, but rarely. He said canoeing became “big” in 2007. “I’d look through the post-op photos and see multiple canoes on one objective, several times a deployment,” the retired SEAL said. When SEAL Team 6 operators were occasionally confronted about the desecration, the SEAL leader said, they’d often joke that they were just “great shots.”

Canoeing was just one of several acts of mutilation frequently carried out by SEALs. Two different sources said that over a six-year period — roughly 2005 through 2011 — battlefield reports and accounts of atrocities, particularly mutilations and taking of trophies, were ignored by SEAL Team 6 leadership. One source said his superiors repeatedly refused to address the issue.

The lack of battlefield discipline was not limited to a single squadron. Unlawful violence, aberrations from rules of engagement, mutilations, and disrespect of enemy casualties, actions that had been isolated at the beginning of the Afghan war, had by this point spread throughout SEAL Team 6.

In the early years of the war, SEAL Team 6 had an inflexible standard: Shooting people who were unarmed was forbidden and anyone who did so had to demonstrate the target had displayed hostile intent. Operators and officers prided themselves on their ability to kill only those who were deemed a threat.

If a SEAL couldn’t justify the threat after a shooting, he was quietly removed from the unit. But even that rule evolved over time. SEALs were given wide berth as long as they could explain why they made the decision to shoot an unarmed person. In 2007, for example, a Gold Squadron sniper was pushed out of the unit after he killed three unarmed people — including a child — in at least two different operations. He was allowed to return to the regular SEAL teams. No investigation into an unjustified killing has ever resulted in formal disciplinary action against a member of SEAL Team 6.

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Top left: CIA paramilitary officer and former SEAL Team 6 member Richard Smethers. Top right: Adm. William McRaven. Bottom: McRaven, left, and Capt. Scott Moore, right, then commander of SEAL Team 6. Photos: United States Navy

IN 2008, TENSIONS began to rise between SEAL Team 6 and the CIA over operations in Afghanistan. Paramilitary officers from the CIA, including a covert joint unit under the agency’s command called the Omega program, worked closely with the SEALs. These small teams of CIA, Seal Team 6, and Afghan commandos operated under the agency’s Title 50 authority, which governs covert activities. This meant there was less oversight over their missions — and less accountability if things went wrong.

Late that year, the CIA joined operators from Gold Squadron for an operation near Jalalabad. According to a CIA officer with direct knowledge of the incident, the CIA requested that the SEALs capture, rather than kill, their militant targets. During the pre-dawn raid, a small team from Gold Squadron breached a compound that was home to an insurgent cell that had targeted a U.S. base. Inside, they found six militants, four in one room, all sleeping with weapons near their beds. Despite orders to detain the men, the SEALs killed all six. In the room with four of the suspected insurgents, four SEALs counted down and canoed each sleeping man with a shot to the forehead. One of their teammates killed the other two targets in another room. All six were photographed.

The CIA team on the operation was angry because they had lost an opportunity to interrogate the suspected militants. “These were guys who were running a cell near our base,” the CIA officer said. “We could’ve used the intel.” Outside the compound, the SEALs were quick to show the photos to others on the assault team. “They were smiling, almost gleeful,” he said. “Canoeing them was funny.”

Shortly after that operation, a CIA paramilitary officer named Richard Smethers, who was himself a retired SEAL Team 6 officer, complained to his CIA superiors in Kabul that SEALs were committing atrocities. Smethers threatened to expose the SEALs for what he believed was a series of war crimes; the canoeing incident was just one of several operations in which Smethers alleged that Gold Squadron operators violated the laws of war. Over a period of several weeks, a fight erupted between SEAL Team 6 and CIA officers in Afghanistan. The SEALs quickly intervened and made a deal with the CIA station in Kabul. Gold Squadron was set to redeploy to the U.S., and the SEALs promised to rein in their operators. In exchange, Smethers, who never filed an official allegation or complaint, was sent back to the U.S.
Smethers did not respond to requests for comment.

According to multiple members of SEAL Team 6, the fight with the CIA was one of the few instances in which the command’s battlefield misconduct was in danger of being exposed. A retired noncommissioned officer who tried to police the unit said the command suffered from “unspoken oaths of allegiance” among both the officers and the operators, and that the first instinct when misconduct surfaced was to “protect the command and then the men” rather than hold bad actors accountable.

“It’s important that you put this stuff in context,” the CIA officer said. “I’m not going to tell you this didn’t happen. Yes, we — they committed war crimes. It happens in war. War is an adrenaline rush. After three or four deployments in, you need more to get that stimulation. We didn’t hit women or kids. We killed bad guys. And afterwards, we added the psychological warfare.”

The CIA declined to comment for this article.

SMETHERS’S THREAT TO expose Team 6 came just as Vice Adm. William McRaven settled in as the new commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. McRaven became the first Navy SEAL to lead JSOC and was already familiar with Dam Neck’s status as the disrespectful sibling in the U.S. special operations family. In the early 1980s, a group of seasoned enlisted SEAL Team 6 operators kicked McRaven off a training exercise, relieving him of his already tenuous command for being too rule-bound. McRaven was subsequently transferred from the unit.

Just eight months after taking over JSOC, after a series of complaints from the Afghan government over special operations night raids and civilian deaths, McRaven sought to pull Team 6 back from its overly aggressive stance. He ordered a pause in most SEAL and JSOC operations over a two-week period in February 2009. Although the stoppage was not limited to the SEALs, his former unit pushed back against a new set of operational guidelines.

First, the SEALs would now be required to do “call outs” before entering a compound. The intention was to permit women and children to get out of harm’s way before operators conducted their assault. The operators were unhappy about the new restriction, arguing that call outs gave up the tactical advantage of surprise. McRaven’s other directive required a more extensive post-operation review to document and justify combatant deaths. Previously, the command had required only a frontal shot and a profile of each dead militant. The new rule required a full photographic accounting of who was killed, photos of the entire body, where the target was when he dropped, what weapons he held, the vantage point of the operator when he fired, and other atmospherics.

This directive had one primary purpose: to protect U.S. forces from accusations of unjustified killings by Afghan government officials
. The photos and other review documents could be shared with local officials to justify operations. But the directive had another benefit. With more extensive photographic documentation, SEAL operators had less time to fire unnecessary rounds into the dead, and they had to use the photos to explain why they fired their weapon. As a result, photographs of canoed enemy fighters virtually ceased to appear in after-action reports.

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MCRAVEN’S NEW ORDERS set off a struggle between the JSOC commander and SEAL Team 6’s enlisted ranks that played out in a series of high-profile hostage rescues ordered by President Obama. The first and best-known was the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips, captain of the commercial vessel the “Maersk Alabama,” in April 2009 from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Red Squadron snipers killed three pirates who were holding Phillips in a lifeboat. But McRaven, who commanded the operation, had not ordered the snipers to fire, and neither had a SEAL Team 6 officer. The sniper team leader acted under his own “emergency assault” authority to kill the pirates as soon as all three could be taken out at the same time. McRaven, who was informed of the killings only after he knew Phillips was safe, was incensed.

After the operation, $30,000 in cash, which the pirates had stashed in a lifeboat, went missing.
The SEALs were suspected of taking the money. The FBI and NCIS investigated two members of Red Squadron and conducted polygraphs, but the money was never recovered and neither of the SEALs was charged.

Then, in October 2010, SEAL Team 6 set out to rescue a British aid worker named Linda Norgrove, who had been taken captive in Afghanistan. The operation, code-named ANSTRUTHER, an homage to Norgrove’s Scottish heritage, was authorized by British Prime Minister David Cameron. The operation commanded high-level interest because Norgrove, though in Afghanistan as an aid worker for DAI, an American NGO, secretly worked with Britain’s MI-6, according to four U.S. military and intelligence sources. Two of these sources told me that the British government informed SEAL Team 6 mission planners that Norgrove worked for the spy agency, and that they had been tracking her movements since the abduction. Asked for comment, the British government told The Intercept that it does not comment on security matters and would “neither confirm nor deny” that Norgrove worked for the intelligence agency.

During a late-night raid at a northern Kunar compound, Silver Squadron operators killed several captors but accidentally killed Norgrove when an inexperienced SEAL threw a fragment grenade at one of the captors.

The operation’s team leader believed that a suicide vest had been detonated by one of the captors, and two Silver Squadron operators initially withheld the fact that a grenade had been thrown. Consequently, the SEALs initially reported to JSOC senior leaders that Norgrove had been killed by her captors.

Later, a JSOC officer watching drone footage of the operation noticed one of the SEALs throw an object that landed and exploded near where Norgrove’s body was found. One of the two SEALs who knew about the grenade eventually told his team leader, who then failed to inform his commanders until he was confronted the next day.

The operation commanded high-level interest because Norgrove, though in Afghanistan as an aid worker for DAI, an American NGO, secretly worked with Britain’s MI-6.


After a joint British-American investigation into the operation identified the failures and recommended that only the SEAL who threw the grenade be punished, McRaven personally traveled to Dam Neck and determined that all three SEALs involved in the cover-up should be thrown out of SEAL Team 6. The “admiral’s mast” was an unprecedented disciplinary action at the command, which had always been allowed to discipline itself. Normally, SEAL Team 6’s commanding officer, a captain, would conduct a captain’s mast, a form of non-judicial punishment. According to a senior JSOC official, the Norgrove operation was an “I told you so moment.” Even so, two of the three SEALs later returned to the unit.

In the world of SEAL Team 6, where operators never face criminal charges — despite allegations of war crimes, unjustified killings, and corruption — the admiral’s mast was a serious rebuke. One former SEAL leader who attended the proceeding told me McRaven’s message to the command’s leadership was clear. “What you’re saying is you have no faith in the commander,” he said. “All of us were upset.” The former SEAL Team 6 leader told me that for the unit’s operators, the greatest punishment was being kicked out of the unit in front of their peers.

McRaven, who did not respond to requests for comment, also held a meeting with a large group of senior officers under his command and said that SEAL Team 6 had effectively made lying to protect a teammate an honorable course of action, according to a person who attended the meeting. “He told us they had put unit and self before mission and country,” the retired officer said. “He reminded us all that our first loyalty was to the Constitution.”

Tactically, however, the command was winning on the battlefield, and despite McRaven’s directives, there was no serious internal scrutiny of the SEALs’ most excessive conduct.

“Several of us confronted the officers,” said one former noncommissioned officer who tried to stop the criminal behavior. “We knew what needed to be done to police the kids.” The former senior enlisted leader said he pressed several commanding officers to address what he believed were war crimes. “We failed to fix the problem,” he said. “It wasn’t complex, and had it been several one-off events, a guy chopping a head off — it wouldn’t be such a failure. But this started in 2002 and continued through the wars. Our leadership punted and I’m not sure it will ever be corrected.”

The failure of SEAL Team 6 to hold itself accountable for battlefield atrocities has resulted in lasting consequences for operators at the command. “No one prepared our guys for the collateral damage and the second- and third-order effects of this war,” the former SEAL leader said. “Night after night of kill or be killed. [There was] so much savagery. I’m not condoning the behavior — there’s no justification to hacking a body — but we didn’t prepare them either. If I told you I cut off a head after an operation, explaining that I got caught up in the moment, went over the line one time — you’d have sympathy for me. War is awful and it’s human to go too far, but this isn’t one time. This is multiple times on each deployment.”

5. THE PRESIDENT’S OWN

ALTHOUGH CANOEING AS a ritualized form of enemy mutilation ceased to be a widespread practice after McRaven’s clamp-down on the SEALs’ atrocities, it did not entirely cease. And though the gruesome and illegal practice has never been previously reported, at least one canoeing incident is quite well known, if hidden in plain sight.

By the time Robert O’Neill entered Osama bin Laden’s bedroom in the Abbottabad compound on May 2, 2011, the al Qaeda leader was bleeding out on the floor, possibly already dead, after being shot in the chest and leg by the lead assaulter on the raid. That operator, known as Red inside the unit, is still an active-duty member of SEAL Team 6 and has never been publicly identified. O’Neill entered the room, walked over to where bin Laden lay on the floor, and shot him twice in the face. He then stood above the now indisputably dead man and canoed him, firing a round into his forehead and splitting open the top of his skull, exposing his brain. Osama bin Laden had been branded by SEAL Team 6.

O’Neill has not been shy about the fact that he canoed bin Laden. “His forehead was gruesome,” he later told Esquire magazine. “It was split open in the shape of a V. I could see his brains spilling out over his face.” He has even alluded to the grisly practice on Twitter. What he has not done is name the practice or reveal that by canoeing bin Laden he had secured the ultimate war trophy, the culmination of a decade’s worth of bloody “sport” by elements of SEAL Team 6 who considered themselves craftsmen of killing.

The story of the bin Laden raid has been told and retold, but crucial details have never been made public. And from the moment President Obama announced the operation’s successful conclusion in a televised address, a variety of individuals and institutions have sought to profit from the elimination of America’s most hated enemy.

Two different SEALs, Robert O’Neill and Matthew Bissonnette, have publicly taken credit for killing bin Laden. According to multiple sources, both of their accounts contain multiple self-serving falsehoods. The texture of those accounts reveals much about what went wrong with the most celebrated special operations command in the U.S. military. The falsehoods, both significant and slight, demonstrate that even when conducting the most important missions, SEAL Team 6 was unable to rise above the culture of deceit, personal enrichment, and self-aggrandizement that has corrupted a fighting unit legendary for its discipline and code of honor.

“The beauty of what they have constructed,” said a former teammate about how Bissonnette and O’Neill cornered the market on the bin Laden raid, “is that there is only one guy, essentially, who can come forward and say they’re lying — and he won’t ever talk.”

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Top left: Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette in 2001. Top right: Robert O’Neill with his tattoo of two bloody feathers, representing his kills. Bottom: Winkler hatchet from Bissonnette’s personal collection. Photos: U.S. Navy; U.S. Air Photo by Force Technical Sgt. Brian Snyder; Instagram

O’NEILL’S AND BISSONNETTE’S careers mirrored one another. They each entered Red Squadron at the same time, and were both recipients of the Winkler hatchets handed out by Wyman Howard. They were both talented and competitive, and they were determined to profit from their experiences as SEALs.

Bissonnette was viewed by Howard as the prototypical SEAL Team 6 operator: a college-educated enlisted man with a savvy understanding of tactics and technology. O’Neill, by contrast, was not considered as clever as his teammate, but he was a deadly sniper and had a successful tour as a team leader in Red Squadron.

Both men were notorious among their teammates for their self-promotional tendencies — a trait not well-suited for a “team-first” environment. In the end, their inclusion in the bin Laden raid and their roles defined where they fit in: Bissonnette worked closely with the CIA and SEAL Team 6 superiors during the planning phase to help plot out the assault, and would lead a team of operators to find and kill bin Laden’s courier. O’Neill was chosen as a team leader for a group providing external security but ultimately traded that leadership role for a junior spot on the team he and Bissonnette believed would get the first shot at bin Laden.

The 23 SEAL Team 6 operators assigned to the mission prepared constantly for the entire month of April 2011, practicing on two different full-scale mock-ups of the bin Laden compound. Tactically, there was little about the upcoming raid that was complex. Unlike the hundreds of other assaults SEAL Team 6 had carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the operators would plan and carry out a raid within a matter of hours, this time they had weeks to prepare. They had detailed plans of the Abbottabad compound provided by the CIA and knew where they could expect to find bin Laden. The SEALs’ biggest concern was how much time they would have, which was dictated by the amount of fuel the two Black Hawks could carry for the round trip.

The planning was so meticulous, one retired SEAL Team 6 leader told me, that a helicopter pilot warned mission planners that one of the two stealth Black Hawks they were to use would likely experience a “vortex ring state,” which means air disturbed by the rotors would prevent the helicopter from getting the lift necessary to continue hovering. The pilot noted that the two mock-up compounds had chain link fences around the buildings, allowing the air to disperse, while the real compound had thick concrete walls.

Less than a week before the assault, Bissonnette and O’Neill got into a shouting match at the Dam Neck base over who would sell the inside story of the raid. Several of their teammates on the mission had to intervene, according to a former SEAL Team 6 operator. A former SEAL Team 6 leader told me that O’Neill and Bissonnette originally agreed to cooperate on a book or movie project after the raid was over, but later had a falling out. The former SEAL leader said the extensive amount of training for the mission, combined with Bissonnette’s planning role, gave both men ample opportunity to find ways to put themselves on the third floor, in a good position to kill bin Laden.

Despite claims by John O. Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, that the raid was a capture or kill operation, the SEALs were told explicitly to kill bin Laden. There was no plan for capture, and no contingency for a surrender. “They were told, ‘Go in, kill him, and bring the body back,’” said a former SEAL Team 6 leader involved in the raid.

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In this May 5, 2011 file photo, local residents and media are seen outside the house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Local residents say Pakistan has started to demolish the compound in the northwest city of Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden lived for years and was killed by U.S. commandos. Two residents say the government brought in three mechanized backhoes Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012, and began destroying the tall outer walls of the compound after sunset. They set up floodlights to carry out the work. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed, File) Local residents and media on May 5, 2011, outside the compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Photo: Aqeel Ahmed/AP

ON MAY 1, two stealth Black Hawk helicopters took off from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and headed east toward Abbottabad. The flight took 90 minutes, and as the Black Hawk Bissonnette rode in approached the compound walls, it effectively slammed on the brakes. The pilot who had warned that one of the helicopters would stall was right. Bissonnette’s helicopter crashed into bin Laden’s side yard. Bissonnette and his teammates were nearly killed, and many of the operators aboard ended up with chronic injuries.

Bissonnette and a small team of SEALs moved from the helicopter to a small building adjacent to bin Laden’s main house. After the SEALs tried blowing the building’s gated front door, someone inside fired several rounds out a window. They were the only shots not fired by the SEALs during the raid. One of Bissonnette’s teammates then put his gun through the front door, which was now slightly ajar, and shot the gunman in the head. He was Ahmed al Kuwaiti, one of bin Laden’s couriers.

Afterward, Kuwaiti’s wife confirmed that bin Laden could be found on the third floor of the main building, just as the team had been briefed. Bissonnette and his team then moved to the main house.

Once inside, the SEALs proceeded slowly and methodically. O’Neill’s teammates shot and killed Kuwaiti’s brother and his wife on the first floor. After blowing open the iron gate blocking the main stairway, the lead assaulters, among them Bissonnette and O’Neill, followed the operator known as Red up the stairs. Red encountered and shot bin Laden’s son just before the second floor landing, and the SEALs following behind him fanned out into the hallways and rooms on the second floor to search and secure the area. It was then that both Bissonnette and O’Neill hung back on the stairway. Both should have remained on the second floor. Instead, as Red began his ascent to the third floor, they followed him up, hoping to get in on the kill. O’Neill was closer to Red, one of the first five assaulters. Bissonnette was much farther back down the stairwell.

As he approached the third floor bedroom, Red saw bin Laden standing in the doorway, peering out. He was unarmed and wearing pajamas. A few of his female relatives were nearby. Red came to a stop and fired two shots with his suppressed rifle. One shot hit bin Laden in the chest and the second shot glanced off his hip or thigh as Bin Laden stumbled backward into his room and fell toward the foot of his bed.

Red could see bin Laden bleeding out from his chest wound but he still had not entered the bedroom.


Red watched bin Laden fall. He later told his teammates that it was possible one arm was twitching reflexively as he died, but otherwise he was effectively dead and not a threat. The distinction was crucial. As the lead assaulter, it was Red’s job to make the most important tactical judgments because he largely blocked the view of the SEALs behind him. According to several former members of SEAL Team 6, the most basic principle of assault training is “follow your shot,” meaning that an operator who has fired on a target must ensure the target no longer poses a threat. Your teammates beside and behind you will cover all the other possible angles and areas of a room as you move forward.

Red could see bin Laden bleeding out from his chest wound but he still had not entered the bedroom. Then, as two of bin Laden’s eldest daughters began to scream, Red quickly corralled them at the doorway, a move considered heroic by other SEALs on the mission. Had the daughters been wearing explosives, Red would have died while shielding his teammates from much of the blast. Instead, he held them back long enough for his teammates, including O’Neill, to enter the bedroom.

O’Neill and two or three more assaulters moved past Red into the bedroom as bin Laden lay on the ground. O’Neill then fired two rounds. According to his own description, the first two rounds hit bin Laden’s forehead. Then O’Neill canoed bin Laden with a final shot.


Conflicting accounts have emerged about how many other SEALs fired rounds into bin Laden’s lifeless body, though one former SEAL Team 6 leader who viewed the body in Jalalabad told me the body appeared to be intact aside from the chest wound and obliterated face.

The SEALs had been specifically asked to avoid shooting bin Laden in the face. O’Neill’s decision to canoe the al Qaeda leader made him unrecognizable.
A SEAL who spoke Arabic interviewed bin Laden’s wives and daughters until he was able to get two positive identifications. O’Neill later implied in the Esquire profile that he shot bin Laden because he wasn’t sure Red’s shots had hit the target. He also claimed that bin Laden had been standing when he fired and that a weapon was visible nearby. Yet immediately after the mission, O’Neill described shooting bin Laden while he was on the floor. The two weapons found on the third floor were not discovered until the rooms were searched. Neither was loaded.

O’Neill’s canoeing of bin Laden cost his teammates precious time, but his final shot to bin Laden’s head was unremarkable to them. They ransacked the compound for documents and media for intelligence, left the survivors inside, and returned to Jalalabad air base with the body.

THE RED SQUADRON assaulters later gathered in a private area of Bagram Air Base and debriefed the mission in front of a military lawyer. The squadron’s commanding officer recorded it on a cellphone. Bissonnette claimed he shot and killed al Kuwaiti and had fired bullets into bin Laden on the third floor. According to three sources familiar with the debrief, Bissonnette never fired his weapon at Kuwaiti. At least two of Bissonnette’s teammates who were with him when al Kuwaiti was killed were angry about the deception — taking credit for a teammate’s actions on a mission was unprecedented and dishonorable — but did not contradict him in the presence of a military lawyer. Several of Bissonnette’s teammates later informed their superiors that he had lied about his actions.

During the debrief, Red was identified as having hit bin Laden with a fatal shot, and O’Neill was credited with putting security rounds into him after bin Laden had already gone down. There was no discussion of a visible weapon, no claims that one of bin Laden’s wives had been used as a shield or a threat. The raid, several of the SEALs said afterward, was one of the easiest missions they’d ever conducted. There were no heroics, and, apart from al Kuwaiti’s shots, no firefight.

The SEALs in the unit were furious that the White House revealed to the world that Navy SEALs had carried out the raid, violating the traditional code of silence about their missions.


Some of the assaulters on the mission were also angry with Bissonnette and O’Neill because they neglected their responsibilities after bin Laden’s son was shot. Instead of helping search and secure the second floor, both headed to the third floor, hoping to get a chance for the historic kill. Both operators were accused of breaking with standard operating procedure to get themselves in position to be among the first to see or kill bin Laden. Morale at Red Squadron fell apart shortly after the team returned to Virginia Beach from Afghanistan. The SEALs in the unit were furious that the White House revealed to the world that Navy SEALs had carried out the raid, violating the traditional code of silence about their missions. Within hours, news trucks and reporters fanned out through the seaside town looking for anything affiliated with Navy SEALs.

O’Neill was soon removed from his role as a team leader in Red Squadron after he was observed publicly bragging in Virginia Beach bars that he was the man who shot bin Laden. Bissonnette left Red Squadron soon after the raid and retired from the Navy almost one year later. He had already set himself up for a profitable future. While on active duty, he’d formed a consulting company with four other SEALs and secured a contract with one of the command’s biggest equipment suppliers.

Bissonnette’s bestselling book, “No Easy Day,” was published in September 2012, four months after he retired and less than two weeks after O’Neill got out of the Navy. The publication came as a surprise to the Pentagon because Bissonnette had failed to clear it as required.


In the book, Bissonnette implies that he was directly behind Red just below the third floor when bin Laden was shot, and was one of the next two SEALs who entered bin Laden’s bedroom. His account credits Red with the shot that felled bin Laden and holds that he and a third SEAL — presumably O’Neill — fired several rounds into bin Laden as he was lying on the floor.

After the raid, the White House struggled to describe the exact circumstances of bin Laden’s death. First, bin Laden was armed, involved in a firefight, and using one of his wives as a human shield. Then officials took all three of those details back, though they maintained the al Qaeda leader posed a threat. Bissonnette’s book was the first eyewitness account, and it contradicted the Obama administration’s narrative.

After the publication of “No Easy Day” — which in one chapter describes in great detail the specialized gear, along with brand names, Bissonnette wore on the bin Laden mission — the Navy opened several inquiries into Bissonnette’s outside business contracts. They soon discovered he had violated a series of Navy regulations. A joint NCIS-FBI investigation into whether he disclosed classified material in the book lasted two years. During the investigation, Bissonnette surrendered a photo of bin Laden’s dead body that he had unlawfully retained.

Bissonnette eventually settled his legal case with the government, agreeing to return $6.7 million in profits from the sale of “No Easy Day” and giving up any proceeds from future sales of the book.

Other active-duty SEAL Team 6 operators who worked with Bissonnette on his various consulting deals were punished as a result of their profiteering. The unit conducted a captain’s mast on at least seven SEALs for revealing sensitive information during a series of promotional videos for the video game “Medal of Honor: Warfighter.” The reprimand ended the careers of two veteran SEAL Team 6 noncommissioned officers.

Although Bissonnette was able to sell a book and tell his story first, O’Neill arguably got the better deal. In March 2013, Esquire’s profile of O’Neill portrayed him as a humble “quiet professional” who after 16 years in the Navy would no longer have health insurance and was otherwise a downtrodden American hero. The account did not dwell on the fact that O’Neill had chosen to separate from the Navy nearly four years before he was eligible for extensive retirement benefits.

In O’Neill’s account, he did not see Red fire his shots at bin Laden because he was looking back down the stairs for reinforcements. When he finally entered the bedroom, alone, bin Laden was standing uninjured, a weapon nearby, his wife in front of him like a human shield. Only inches from his target, O’Neill claims, he shot bin Laden twice in the forehead. Bin Laden dropped and O’Neill fired the security round that canoed him.

Some of O’Neill’s teammates were outraged he’d been so brazenly inaccurate and self-serving in his account. For many on the raid, including those who had been present in bin Laden’s bedroom with O’Neill, it was the first time they’d heard anyone in the command say the terrorist leader was standing, posing a threat of any kind.

In 2014, O’Neill unveiled himself as the man who killed bin Laden in an hourlong Fox News special, just as Bissonnette published a second book. The former teammates both hit the press circuit, each telling reporters off the record that the other was a liar. Already a popular motivational speaker, O’Neill now charges up to $35,000 per speech. Today, he is a paid on-air commentator for Fox News and is reportedly eyeing a run for the Senate in his native Montana. He even has his own line of clothing.

Both Bissonnette and O’Neill declined to answer questions for this article.

The truth about what happened in bin Laden’s bedroom may never be fully known. One former SEAL Team 6 leader who was involved in the raid told me he was never too concerned about the discrepancies between O’Neill’s and Bissonnette’s claims. A veteran of hundreds of raids and assaults during his career, the former SEAL said he disagreed with the order to kill bin Laden, regardless of whether he was armed, and compared it to Britt Slabinski’s order to his Blue Squadron men in 2007. “I didn’t give their different accounts much thought,” the SEAL said. “They shot an unarmed dude. It was disappointing. I’d almost wish they’d beaten him to death. That seems more fair.” And here were two guys who set out to make money off a mission that required 23 SEALs to pull off: “It’s dishonorable.”

Bissonnette and O’Neill are no longer welcome at SEAL Team 6 headquarters. The command’s top noncommissioned officer placed their names on the SEAL Team 6 rock of shame, the unofficial list of unit pariahs. The list also includes Britt Slabinski, who was blacklisted in 2015 following the New York Times article that quoted him denying he’d ever ordered his men to kill unarmed Afghan targets. “That’s what’s wrong with my community,” the former SEAL Team 6 leader told me. “Our sense of what’s right and what’s wrong is warped. No one was upset that he ordered a beheading or all the men shot even if they were unarmed. They were mad because he spoke to the New York Times and lied.”

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SEAL Team 6 headquarters at Dam Neck naval annex, Virginia Beach, Va., showing the 30-foot trident sculpted from a fragment of the World Trade Center. Photo: Google

SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER the bin Laden raid, in October 2011, SEAL Team 6 held its annual “stump muster,” a reunion of current command members and their families, as well as past leaders and senior operators. That year’s reunion, the first under Wyman Howard as commanding officer, was held at their new headquarters, a $100 million, state of the art testament to the stature of the command as the home of the “President’s Own,” the clandestine global force capable of striking anywhere, killing anyone, the tip of America’s military spear. Outside the main entrance stands a 30-foot trident sculpted out of a fragment of the World Trade Center.

At the reunion, a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean, a small group of current and former master chiefs stood around drinking and telling war stories. One retired senior SEAL Team 6 leader was there who led the unit during the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the years, he had worried about battlefield discipline and retaliation after Neil Roberts had been nearly beheaded, and he had feared his men would seek retribution in Iraq during the height of the violence there. He’d left the SEALs before the worst of the atrocities had taken place, though his former teammates would occasionally call him to report what was happening on deployments. He’d been told that Blue Squadron had collected ears and that mutilations had become common. He wasn’t surprised. After more than 30 years in special operations, he knew that elite forces would inevitably cross ethical, moral, and legal boundaries if they were given too long a leash. When he first arrived at Dam Neck, operators in the unit who had served in Vietnam warned him that war crimes and battlefield atrocities hung like a cloud over the entire unit — even if only one SEAL had participated.

Sitting with old friends, the retired SEAL was handed a ring-bound portfolio. Opening it up, he saw a collection of photographs, more than a dozen canoed enemy heads. He was told that the photographs were part of SEAL Team 6’s “greatest hits” of terrorists killed since 9/11. They were not the private collection of some individual operator, but the command’s official after-action pictures. The old sailor put the portfolio down. After a short while, he quietly left the base. He hasn’t returned since.

Illustrations: Attila Futaki, Colorist: Greg Guilhaumond
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