In the past two parts, we have seen the rise and fall of Mike Connell, the Republican IT guru. Following his deposition about the events, Connell was killed in a small plane accident near his home. In this final installment I would like to examine some of the mysteries behind the crash and the way the investigation was handled.
Accident or Conspiracy?
The timing of Mike Connell's sudden death in a plane crash was. given the situation he was involved in, remarkably coincidental, to say the least. It is the kind of event that naturally creates speculation about conspiracy.
Of course, planes all too often do fall out of the sky. In the year of Connell's death, there were 156 other crashes and 884 other deaths. And the most likely scenario- as opposed to sabotage- would be problems with ice on the wings.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report speculates that the most probable cause of the crash was a combination of pilot error and weather conditions. Connell was faulted for deciding to conduct the flight into "known icing conditions."
The NTSB's early findings are subject to change and may contain errors but state that "no anomalies were noted with the flight control system that would have precluded normal operation." The report notes that damage to the propeller is consistent with a power-on impact and the landing gear was extended. The NTSB found that the instrument-rated Connell had received radar vectors that provided an intercept to the ILS approach for Runway 23, about two miles from the outer marker. The report states that, as the plane was inbound from the outer marker, "ATC advised [the aircraft] that it was left of course." After that, things -- including already poor weather conditions -- got progressively worse.
Connell responded to ATC with "correcting." The report states he was at that time still flying the 3,200-foot intermediate segment altitude for the approach. ATC then advised the pilot he was "well left of the localizer" and asked the pilot if he would like to be re-sequenced. The pilot responded with "like to correct" and at 2.5 miles from the airport asked to execute a 360-degree turn. Weather at the airport at this time was deteriorating. It was reported two minutes prior to the crash as visibility 9 miles, broken at 500 and overcast at 1,000 with a two-degree temperature/dewpoint spread hovering near freezing.
Approximately 15 minutes after the crash, visibility had dropped to 2 1/2 miles in mist with overcast at 400 and 1,000. While flying the approach, Connell had inquired about reports of icing and ATC responded it had none. After requesting the 360-degree turn, ATC directed the aircraft to climb and maintain 3,000 feet. Connell responded, providing confirmation and a heading, then declared an emergency. A witness saw the aircraft descend out of the clouds in a nose-down attitude with the engine "roaring" [emphasis mine] and lost visual contact when the plane descended below the tree line. The trail of wreckage was about 290 feet long. Connell earned his private certificate in 2006, held an instrument rating, and had a total reported flight time of 510 hours.
The idea, which has been suggested by experienced pilots is that Connell may have overestimated his abilities and decided to fly in conditions he was not experienced with. Because of a scheduled Christmas party that evening, Connell could very well have felt some degree of psychological pressure to return to Akron which might have affected his decision not to cancel the flight.
From an outsider's point of view, sabotaging a plane, as means to murder certainly seems very unreliable method. Like a lot of conspiracy theories, the more you look at the complications, the harder it is to believe. For example, how exactly could it be done? How could you remove traces of tampering? Above all, aren't there easier ways to "off" a person?
For a plausible theory of sabotage, these are questions that would need to be resolved. Otherwise, the death of Connell can only, at best, be considered highly suspicious and dreadfully ill-timed.
However in researching the case, Rebecca Abrahams, a documentary film and television producer, surprisingly found that the possibility of foul play by plane sabotage is not exactly so far-fetched. When she interviewed former CIA operative John Perkins about the plausibility of murder by plane crash, Perkins told her that plane crashes have always been a weapon of choice among Jackals, that is professional hit-men. He pointed out the advantages.
"It's so easy to cover it up. The evidence is destroyed and everybody knows airplanes are fragile anyway, small airplanes in particular. So it's a very clean type of assassination in terms of ways to do it because the area where the plane crash happens can be quickly cordoned off . . . and the evidence can be cleaned up very quickly and most of it is destroyed anyway. But if there's anything left, it can be disposed of very, very quickly."
No matter what you might think about the validity of the sabotage theory, there were several unusual things that occurred. Things that need to be explained.
First, there was the unexplained "lockdown" on information about the flight that denied first responders timely information about the number of persons on the flight.
According to Captain Lorin Geisner of the Greentown Fire Department, Connell’s personal items recovered from the crash site included a passport, a driver's license, a rosary and a laptop computer. One item, however, was conspicuously missing. His Blackberry. This, according to his family, would normally have been found in his backpack. The backpack was found zipped, the ear-piece also located but the Blackberry, with hundreds, possibly thousands, of sensitive files and e-mails relating to Karl Rove and the Bush administration was never recovered.
According to sources cited in the Simon Worrall piece, The Mysterious Death of Bush's Cyber-Guru, there were other anomalies. Normally, a night crash scene would be roped off and investigated in daylight. In this case representatives of the NTSB and FAA used light towers to photograph and document the scene. Connell’s plane was hastily removed to a secure hangar under cover of darkness. Who made this decision and why?
Court records related to the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell and filed by attorney Clifford Arnebeck refer an investigative report (by Kyle Hence of RAW STORY).
The reporter's notes Hence took while investigating the crash events are very interesting indeed. Of particular interest is his observation of military personnel at the crash.
Hence was curious to learn more about two soldiers in green uniforms who were at the crash site and, in fact, climbing through the wreckage that night and filmed on local television news coverage. He was interested to know why the official police report, detailed in every other way, had failed to mention the pair.
Hence was told that it was not uncommon for the the CAP to be used in search and rescue. According the highway patrol officer that Hence spoke to, the pair had arrived, offered help and were quickly turned away. When shown stills of the soldiers climbing through the plane wreckage, the officer back peddled on his original statement and told the reporter the pair were asked to help locate the electronic tracking device.
The local deputy sheriff in the area, also a Civil Air Patrol captain and Public Affairs Officer for nearby squadron, told Hence that he was not aware of any CAP involvement. He offered a few names of people it might have been. The highway patrol had not asked for credentials of the soldiers on the night of the crash.
According to the incident report prepared by the state highway patrol and examined by Raw Story on site, Sgt. Leo Shirkey was the first law enforcement officer on the scene at 6:22. Off duty Post Commander Lt. Eric Sheppard and Trooper McCarthy, a plain-clothed investigator from the Canton Post, arrived within an hour.
The incident report lists the Stark County Examiner Harry Campbell as arriving at 7:03 PM to collect the body.
An FAA Aviation Safety Inspector arrived at the scene several hours later, and a clean up crew worked through the night to prepare the plane for transport and storage.
By midnight that evening the site had been cleared and by sunrise the wreckage had been moved to a hanger at Akron-Fulton airport.
Despite this notable efficiency in cleaning up the plane wreckage, widow Heather Connell reported that, to her horror, she found body parts of her husband at the crash scene six days later. She told an interviewer "How is that a proper investigation? How is that acceptable? How dare they leave pieces of my husband lying there!”
On Dec. 20, the plane wreckage was moved by Belden Village Towing to a hangar owned by Summit Aviation at Akron-Fulton International, a non-commercial airport which houses a large Lockheed Martin facility. The State Highway Patrol said that hangar space at nearby Akron-Canton Regional Airport was not available.
Kyle Hence later visited Summit Aviation on Dec. 24 and located the wreckage, which was being held in a building without gated security or security camera surveillance. NTSB officials had examined the wreckage the day before.
Thus, according to this information, the wreckage was apparently left unattended and unsecured for three days.
Coincidentally, the day before the Connell crash marked the death of a famous whistle-blower,Mark Felt, better known as "Deep Throat". Felt played a key role in secretly supplying journalists with information during the Watergate scandal. That name would suddenly- and shockingly- materialize once again in the Connell case.
According to an article in The Brad Blog, the Connell mystery took a very disturbing turn when the family received a memo penned by someone using the name "Mark Felt." The memo was a kind of after-action report and copies were also sent to, among others, the FBI 's supervisory special agent in Cleveland.
According to this report, Mike Connell was targeted for assassination by a team that was tasked to eliminate an "NST" or a national security target. According to the accompanying letter, the author writes that the after-action report "is not supposed to exist." In addition to the FBI in Cleveland, the document was sent to five other parties.
The details of the report explain how at least three members of the team were involved in sabotaging the aircraft at College Park Airport just prior to Connell's flight.
The after-action report stated that the area was "sanitized" and the team exited College Park airport via Indian Creek Park at 0557. The team was reported to be OOA (Out of Area) at 0642.In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, and owing to the airport's proximity to the national capital, the operations of the airport have been severely restricted by the Transportation Security Administration in the interest of national security.
Hoax? Stephen Spoonamore reportedly thinks so. Whether or not it was somebody's attempt to play a sadistic hoax on the family and the investigators in the Connell case, it would have certainly taken a lot of gall (and stupidity) to send the memo to FBI offices. With all of the sophisticated lab testing at their disposal, it would have required a great deal of arrogance and confidence that the memo would not be traced to its origins.
Attorney Cliff Arnebeck has spoken bluntly about his opinions of Karl Rove in this interview:
Rove is a common criminal, and his technique is to suppress the targeted classes of voters, defame the Democratic candidate, and then tamper with the votes, preferably using electronic voting machines. He creates the appearance that the defamatory attack worked and reversed the pre-election polling, and then he attacks the exit polling as being not accurate.
When asked by the interviewer how he thought Rove could have gotten away with stealing the 2004 Presidential election, he replied,
In that case, Rove used the Iraq War as cover. He could paint people as unpatriotic for daring to question the integrity of the wartime commander in chief. I believe Rove destroyed emails that would Thus, you have a story of a religious man whose reported mission to "saved innocent babies" allowed him to be corrupted to a point that he helped put people in power that wished to prolong a needless war. Heavy stuff but I somehow doubt Hollywood will be making the film anytime soon.
On December 22, 2009, one year after Connell's death, nearly to the day, Judge Algenon L. Marbley denied a motion for re-consideration, effectively closing the case.
There is a lot more to the story. There always is. Certainly more research should be done on SMARTech, the company that owns the servers in Chattanooga, Tennessee and its owner and former friend of Connell, Jeff Averbeck. I'll save that for another time.
Like many events during the Bush-Cheney years, the mystery behind the inopportune death of the man who knew so much about the GOP computer secrets will sadly remain unsatisfactorily unresolved. That is regrettable, I think. The corruption case was fairly strong but without a few more pieces of key evidence it was to be unsupportable in any court.
For his part, Connell, like Icarus paid the price for flying too high, and like Faust, came to regret his bargain with dark powers.