Torture Plane: It Came From The Swamp

Elaine Chao’s selection for Transportation secretary is an curious one for those who are interested in the covert aviation scene. Obviously, it is curious for other reasons which are covered here and here. We think they’ve done a good job of raising relevant questions about the pick, so we’ll move on to her relationship to private businesses involved in covert operations including extraordinary rendition.

Most readers will be aware of her marriage to Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senator from Kentucky. What they might not be aware of is that McConnell served as the Jefferson County Judge/Executive (the top political office in the county which includes the city of Louisville) from 1977 to 1984, the year that he was elected U.S. Senator. In that role, he oversaw the selection of Richard A. Frey Jr. for the executive director of the Metropolitan Correctional Services Department.

In 1996, Frey was convicted of extorting $198,000 in bribes from Clifford Todd, the chairman of U.S. Corrections Corporation. To serve his prison sentence, Frey had to take a break from his role as the registered agent for Lambda Aviation in Louisville which was headed by Dan C. Hardman. The main location of Lambda was Fayetteville, North Carolina. Frey and Hardman had another partnership called Rafdan Enterprises which has scrutinized when it was found that Frey was pursuing multiple business projects while he was supposedly running the jail.

In 2001, they owned two Cessna Citations with the tail numbers N241LA and N242LA. Both of these aircraft were dispatched by the FAA as “Special Operations Flights” on September 11, 2001 at 6:32 pm after the terrorist hijackings and attacks according to the FAA timeline (on page 197). By early 2004, both Cessnas had been “sold” to Braxton Management Services LLC and were flying for Centurion Aviation Services of Fayetteville, NC, but Hardman was still affiliated with that business while Lambda Aviation eventually stopped submitting their annual reports. This seems like a shell game intended to hide the actual ownership of the aircrafts. But that’s a rabbit trail we will leave for later.

Centurion Aviation Services went on to provide covert services for the U.S. military for the 15-year long “war on terror.” They have long been suspected of providing support for the extraordinary rendition program. Numerous news and human rights organizations have investigated these allegations.

We just thought it was odd that the (probable) new Transportation Secretary and a longtime Kentucky politician were close to businesses such as these. The nexus of policy, profits, pals and patronage might be looming in the background.

Mitch McConnell’s face has been compared to that of a turtle’s. That’s just rude. But hey, turtles live in swamps, right? Maybe even the swamps that have supposedly been drained…

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Guy Cannady: Sanctions-Busting Teflon-Coated Double Agent

So George Guyton “Guy” Cannady was indicted and sentenced for 3 counts (22 counts were dismissed) on November 25, 2014. He got 3 years of supervised release and was fined, but he should have cash saved up from his previous, unpunished covert aviation ventures. While the trial was taking place, he was rehired by Dynamic Airways as their “Chief Strategic Officer” – a remarkable act of faith in a fellow standing trial on bribery and fraud charges.

But even before all of that took place, Cannady was a busy businessman in other suspicious enterprises. Following the release of the Panama Papers, we learned that a company named FlyGeorgia was being used as a conduit to circumvent economic sanctions against Iran. An Iranian national named Hosshang (or Houshang) Hosseinpour has been targeted by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of a broader effort to enforce the sanctions. Hosseinpour and two others set up a number of front companies, some based in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, to facilitate their plan. To quote from the Irish Times article cited above:

The files show that [Farhad] Azima and Hosseinpour appeared on corporate documents of a company that planned to buy a hotel in the nation of Georgia in 2011. That was the same year treasury officials asserted that Hosseinpour, who co-founded the private airline FlyGeorgia, and two others first began to send millions of dollars into Iran, which led to sanctions being taken against him three years later.

Farhad Azima is one of the infamous middlemen involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, the Savings and Loan scandal, and other weapons trafficking incidents. Unnamed in any of the Panama Papers reporting on FlyGeorgia is George Cannady. But he is right there lurking in the shadows of Azima and Hosseinpour.

An entry in the Business Registry of Georgia shows that Cannady was a partner in Georgia Transport Management with Levan Tskhadadze. Tskhadadze had formerly been a manager at manager at Hosseinpour’s front company FlyGeorgia. Other people who list FlyGeorgia as an employer are Ursula Freseman, Lalit Dang, and Iranian former intelligence officer General Ali Asgari Reza. Freseman and Dang also list Heavylift International Airlines as a former employer. Heavylift is one of Farhad Azima’s many companies with which notorious weapons trafficker Viktor Bout was at one time affiliated.

One has to wonder why Cannady was partnering with someone like Tskhadadze. Was he simply going for the big profit? Was he opposed to the sanctions and attempting to express his stance by circumventing them? There have to be less risky ways of pursuing those goals. Or was he a variety of double-agent who wanted to get inside information on the sanctions-busters with whom he dealt? If so, on who’s behalf was he working?

We would hazard a guess here: It’s possible that Georgia Transport Management in the country of Georgia is connected to the one in the state of Georgia. Actually, it has to be since George Cannady is intimately connected to both of them. The company in the U.S. was Atlanta Air Service Inc from 2002 until 2006 when it became Atlanta Air Service LLC and became Georgia Transport Management LLC in 2015. Cannady was the owner of AAS where he partnered with Ronnie B. Powers. And now we are connecting back into previous stories which shed some light on their covert activities. To restate our question: For whom has George Guyton Cannady been working?

One journalistic investigation into this operation only piles on more question marks. Emanuele Ottolenghi did some good gumshoe work for his in-depth piece in Tablet magazine on the sanctions evaders. Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and has advocated for regime change in Iran. Ironically, the FDD’s Long War Journal has promoted Gryphon Airlines, another business in which Cannady had a management role and a business which has also produced a terror suspect.

So, what’s going on here?

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Drone Warfare Contracting in Rural Virginia – part 2

In an earlier post, we reported on DoD contracts in Bridgewater, Virginia (population about 6000) which showed the small rural town might be involved in airborne systems necessary to the well-known drone strikes of the last decade. In April 2015, Jeremy Scahill wrote in The Intercept, an online publication focused on the Edward Snowden leaks, about a leaked “U.S. intelligence document ... [which] confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program.” The document itself is linked here.

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Relevant to the contractor Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater is the image of the Beechcraft C-12 Huron (the military designation of the King Air 200) Guardrail labelled “MARSS SIGINT/FMV” on the second page. This aircraft was used for the U.S. Army’s Aerial Common Sensor, but this program was terminated in 2006.

So if the C-12 Huron Guardrail (ACS) program was terminated, how is it related to MARSS and why is it showing up in this document from July 2012? In a word: Outsourcing. Here’s an article on that trend as it relates to MARSS. Dynamic Aviation is one of the aviation companies who has benefitted from military programs being “terminated” and then contracted out in the name of cost-cutting and efficiency. It also doesn’t hurt that the drone assassination program itself is diffused in multiple layers of government intelligence agencies, DoD departments, primary contractors and subsequent subcontractors. Getting a handle on that spider’s web is a challenge, but we try to do what we can.

An article on the Army’s website sheds some light on EMARSS (Enhanced MARSS). Search down in the page to find the reference, but first notice the photo of the Dash-8 in the slideshow at the top. That’s a Dynamic Aviation aircraft (tail number N8100V).

Next up: Shedding some light on the other C-12 labelled “LIBERTY SIGINT” and it’s connection to a disappeared L-3 Communications executive. Things get spookier.

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Dynamic Updates

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Dynamic Airways and Guyana: The (New) Odd Couple

Dynamic Airways will be back in business in Guyana eight months after the CEO of their previous partner company there admitted that he was guilty of embezzlement. An article explaining the deal, done in partnership with Roraima Airways, is here. The arrangement itself promises “scheduled flights [to Guyana] from New York and Toronto.”

Roraima CEO and chairman of Guyana’s Private Sector Commission Gerry Gouveia distances the new partnership from the “defunct and controversial EZjet airlines,” but Gouveia himself has an interesting past. According to a Wikileaks cable, he had alleged ties to criminals which either caused his US visa to be revoked or made him ineligible to get one—the same fate of “Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee and Commissioner of Police Henry Greene (who are known associates and accomplices of drug traffickers and human smugglers)” according to the cable.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

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Drone Warfare Contracting in Rural Virginia?

Numerous defense contract listings on a Department of Defense website show the importance of small private military companies in the U.S. drone wars. While “drone wars” is the popular reference for what is taking place in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, it is really a misnomer. Missiles fired by fighter jets and battleships are also part of the weaponry used, and other manned aircraft are used in collecting information on high-value targets.

In a previous post, we highlighted Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia. In this post, we will list some contracts which are being “performed” in part at that location.

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The story, if any, behind these contracts is left to our readers to piece together, but we will point out that General Atomics is the maker of the Predator and Reaper drones.

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Is Ronnie Powers related to Austin Powers?

Maybe not, but both have been on-screen stars and “Men of Mystery”…

One of the co-conspirators in the USAF contracting fraud case that was mentioned in an earlier post was Ronald B. Powers, also known as “Ronnie.” Ronnie has an interesting past. You could say that he’s been very lucky. For one in 2005 he found himself in possession of Frank Sinatra’s Lear jet and apparently sold it to an “anonymous” owner. This is supposedly the jet that Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu used when they eloped. And we won’t mention the statements from Sinatra’s daughter that her dad was CIA-connected

Ronnie has also been lucky enough to have a few TV appearances. In 2005 he appeared on Discovery’s “Monster Garage” in the episode where they built a flying car. Discovery even did a short interview with Ronnie. Later in 2010, Ronnie and his crew at Atlanta Air Recovery were featured on “Ultimate Car Build Off” in a contest to build an underwater vehicle.

Back in 1998 Ronnie was listed as a Manager for SunAir, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona. The managers of SunAir (renamed to Sunrise Airlines) “managed” to bankrupt it in 2000 ((see pages 5, 12ff), and it’s operations were taken over by Wally Hilliard and Dekkers Aviation Group in Venice, Florida. Dekkers Aviation Group is named after Rudi Dekkers who ran the flight school where two of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers trained. The school—Huffman Aviation—was owned by Hilliard. The Dekkers-Hilliard duo have gotten into trouble for the type of cargo they have moved. Hilliard’s Lear jet was busted with 43 pounds of heroin on board in 2000, and in 2012 Dekkers was arrested in Houston on drug trafficking charges.

Another connection between Dekkers and Ronnie is N208BB, a Cessna Caravan 208B that flew for Florida Air (another Dekkers business) in 2001. In November 2001, it’s ownership was transferred to Global Aircraft Leasing, a Ronald B. Powers company. A few years later it went to Worldwide Aviation Service, a company linked to the CIA’s rendition program.

Ronnie is even listed as the incorporator for a former Blackwater subsidiary called Air Quest. Who is this guy? More importantly, who did he work for? Or maybe our “man of mystery” was just lucky and involved in things that coincidentally appear to be covert.

Keep repeating that word: “coincidence, coincidence, coincidence.”

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EZ Jet Founder Pleads Guilty

Sonny Ramdeo, the founder and former CEO of the defunct Guyanese airilne EZ Jet, has admitted guilt to charges including embezzling between $20 and $50 million. The funds were taken from Promise Healthcare/Success Healthcare in Ramdeo’s role as payroll manager for those companies. They were then used to financially support his EZ Jet airline which failed in late 2012.

EZ Jet had been accused of receiving funds from politically connected Guyanese and questioned about the viability of their business model. And in an interview with a blogging site, Ramdeo admitted to knowing that cocaine was being transported on EZ Jet flights.

Wait. Was the cocaine transporting a part of the business plan or an unfortunate incidental? Ramdeo has avoided a trial with his plea deal so this line of inquiry might be left in the dust. Did their partners Dynamic Airways and Swift Air know about this? Did the former World Airways executives – Robert DuBois, Richard Lee, Rick McGough – who worked for EZ Jet know? Maybe Richard Lee could talk about his past dealings with Gaddafi’s Libya. That might be tangential but nevertheless very interesting.

Likely the case will be that Ramdeo goes to prison for a long time while everyone else walks away unscathed.

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John Norman Sims: Well-connected Crook?

In our previous post, we highlighted the indictment of three U.S. Air Force contractors for contracting fraud among other charges. One of them, George Cannady, had been employed by North Carolina-based Dynamic Airways. John Norman Sims was the man inside the Pentagon who directed contracts to Cannady and his co-conspirator Ronald B. Powers.

Sims shows up in three entries on the government’s Excluded Parties List System (pdf) which tracks “those parties excluded from receiving Federal contracts, certain subcontracts, and certain types of Federal financial and non-financial assistance and benefits.” His most recent venture in government contracting was with Enkidu7 (whose website has reverted back to a generic template but here’s something about them) where he was the CEO according to a book blurb (image). Sims is in some way connected to another company called Cyber Dorylus, LLC. By looking up the internet domain name, the information below was found:

Domain Name: CYBERDORYLUS.NET
Registrar URL: http://www.godaddy.com
Updated Date: 2013-05-14 07:15:47
Creation Date: 2012-08-12 17:52:17
Registrar Expiration Date: 2015-08-12 17:52:17
Registrar: GoDaddy.com, LLC
Registrant Name: Ravi Gupta
Registrant Organization: Enkidu7
Registrant Street: 225 Kings Ridge Ct
Registrant City: Southern Pines
Registrant State/Province: North Carolina
Registrant Postal Code: 28387
Registrant Country: United States
Admin Name: Ravi Gupta
Admin Organization: Enkidu7
Admin Street: 225 Kings Ridge Ct
Admin City: Southern Pines
Admin State/Province: North Carolina
Admin Postal Code: 28387
Admin Country: United States
Admin Phone: (832) 628-7284
Admin Fax:
Admin Email: ravi6@gmail.com
Tech Name: Ravi Gupta
Tech Organization: Enkidu7
Tech Street: 225 Kings Ridge Ct
Tech City: Southern Pines
Tech State/Province: North Carolina
Tech Postal Code: 28387
Tech Country: United States
Tech Phone: (832) 628-7284
Tech Fax:
Tech Email:  ravi6@gmail.com

The registrant, admin and tech organizations are all Enkidu7 while the addresses appear to be Sims residence in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Digging further into the name “cyberdorylus” shows it to be another Virginia company with its principal address at 12500 Fair Lakes Circle Suite 150 in Fairfax. That address is also the address of StoneHedge Global Partners, a company run by William Jasien who happens to be married to the sister of former Virginia governor and senatorial candidate George Allen.

Another connection goes up to the Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. In April 2013, he announced the creation of a “Cyber Security Accelerator” which included Enkidu7 as one of the contributing organizations. It’s listed along with In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s technology incubator, and SAIC which has been mentioned here in previous posts.

So what is the relationship between Enkidu7 and the Fairfax, Virginia address of William Jasien’s business? And what is the intention of naming your internet company after army ants?

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Former Dynamic Airways Executive Charged in Contracting Fraud Case

George Guyton Cannady of North Carolina has been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice along with two other U.S. Air Force contractors for 34 counts including “conspiracy, bribery, theft of government funds, disclosing or obtaining contractor bid and proposal information, honest services mail fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and making false statements.” In 2010 after selling Prescott Support Company (an air cargo company contracted by the U.S. Government to fly “extraordinary renditions” – see here and here) and Atlanta Air Services, Cannady was hired by Dynamic Aviation as the Vice President of Operations for their Dynamic Airways subsidiary. A few months later, he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. In late 2011, Cannady left employment at Dynamic Airways.

 

Two other contractors were also indicted – John Norman Sims and Ronald Benton Powers. Powers was an associate of Cannady at Atlanta Air Services. Sims was the “inside man” at the Pentagon who allegedly took bribes from Cannady and Powers “so that he would continue to steer valuable USAF contracts to [their] companies.”

 

A trial date will be set soon so stay tuned…

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