by Martin Edwin Andersen – Writer. Historian. Strategic Communications Specialist

Human Rights Portal, Martin Edwin Andersen, Strategic Communications Specialist.

Shooting the messengers and circling the wagons: U.S. Southern Command’s war on national security whistleblowers


In May 2012, fellow whistleblower Jim Zackrison and I tried to convince the then head of U.S. Southern Command, Maj. General Doug Fraser, to have a real investigation conducted of what is now called the William Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS), located at the National Defense University. Zackrison specifically pointed  out that the Army Regulation 15-6 “investigator,” Saul Bracero (appointed by two of those singled out in our protected disclosures to investigate themselves and someone who employed an informal AR 15-6 probe in a Department of Defense civilian institution), admitted to him that he was just going through the motions in taking on the case and that no real change would be implemented.

Fraser then kicked our protected disclosures to Southern Command’s IG Glenn Olarte, who had done nothing about my supposedly protected disclosures when Ioffered them to him in June the previous year. Olarte then contacted me by email, saying that he “look[ed] forward to discussing or receiving via email any specific allegations [I] may have.” Given Olarte’s previous lack of action, and his friendship with several of CHDS’s leadership, I declined to move forward using that compromised channel.

On May 23, 2012 House Democratic Whip Congressman Steny Hoyer asked then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to have the ongoing wrongdoing at the Center investigated: “I am very troubled about Mr. Andersen’s allegations that the leadership at CHDS have actively worked to thwart recent and ongoing investigations.” In September 2016, with the DoD OIG still actively stalling on conducting a probe, outgoing Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin also asked that an investigation be carried out. On April 20, 2018, Marguerite C. Garrison, the DoD OIG Deputy Inspector General for Administrative Investigations, a notorious foe of national security and defense whistleblowers, tried to quash the effort. What follows below is a short review of how U.S. Southern Command and the National Defense University claim that they are supposedly promoting American values abroad, while fostering impunity and a lack of respect for the rule of law at home.

Exhibit #1

The Craig Deare / NSC Fiasco
The Illegal Honduras Military Coup
Pinochet’s Chile: Torture, Murder, International Terrorism
and the NDU Connection
GAO Report on shoddy work with whistleblowers by the DoD OIG
Fighting wrongdoing at the Department of Justice Criminal Division and
the Department of Defense U.S. Southern Command

Exhibit #2

From: James Zackrison
Subject: Stuff
To: “Martin Edwin Andersen”
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 9:39 PM
Mick, I spoke with a rep at the DOD IG today, my complaint has been received,
and given a case number. News will probably break shortly …
Cheers! Jim Z.

Exhibit #3

From: Cris Arcos
Date: Mon, May 30, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: FW: Frank McGurk
To: “Martin E. Andersen”
Thanks..I kind enjoy your keen preparation of our collective suicide…I am afraid
that your avalanche of memos and similar notes and bagatelles have made many
peoples’ sphincters snap shut…let us see what state of warpath they are
tomorrow… they will seek blood
(Please note that Cris Arcos is a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras and, at
the time he wrote the May 30, 2011 memo, he was the political advisor to
the William Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, the
educational arm of U.S. Southern Command.)

Exhibit #4

From: James Zackrison, To:
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2012 10:02 PM
Subject: NewsWatch item on CHDS

MGen D. Fraser, I received a copy of the News Watch sent out by Martin Andersen with the note about scandals at Southcom. I recognized what Mick was writing about, as some of the materials came from me. It occurred to me that perhaps you had not received a full report of this issue, and have presumed t impose on you with a few words about the serious abuse of authority at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, where I worked for three years. Mick used the term ‘Southcom office’ in part because you are the principal authority over that Center’s director, in essence, his direct supervisor. Richard Downie’smisuse of authority is something that should be reviewed and corrected, and you are in a good position to do just that.

Below is a summary of the interview I had with Colonel Bracero as part of his AR-
15-6 investigation into charges of abuse of authority (among other things) at CHDS.
Thanks for taking the time to read my note. There are quite a few individuals who
will back up the assessment of how things stand at CHDS …


James L. Zackrison …

Interview notes: Col. Bracero volunteered the information that CHDS is conducting the AR15-6 investigation as a result of an accusation of unethical behavior by the leadership at the Center. Near the end of the conversation he stated that he is under no illusion that there will be any changes resulting from his work, as it was commissioned by the Director and the results will be handled at the Director’s discretion. This is an Army procedure [possibly under the UCMJ], done at a civilian institution [e.g., not a military command, but a civilian-led and staffed component of the DoD], so the fit is not exact and thus the results are not binding.

When Col. Bracero asked if I had seen any illegal activity at the Center, I said I had not seen any. But I did see much unethical behavior and activities that should have resulted in reprimands for the military’s favorite excuse, “the appearance of impropriety.” Examples cited included … bullying of many faculty or staff members by a group of individuals who received preferential treatment from the leadership; mismanagement of government resources to support a personal agenda; uneven application of rules to benefit specific individuals and to other’s detriment; little regard for the highly-vaunted academic standards by most of the faculty, and reprisals against those of us who dared to question the standards used at the Center.

Col. Bracero agreed with my assertion that the CHDS leadership was well versed in DoD bureaucratic intricacies, and thus were able to make the Center appear to be highly effective and efficient, despite serious problems of mismanagement and abuse of authority. I offered this opinion in answer to the question of illegal activity – the decision-makers and principal culprits were so good at filling out the proper forms and writing the reports seen by superiors that there was no feasible means of even explaining to investigators how bad was the work environment. I specifically cited Ken LaPlante’s comment that he used to work in an IG office, so he knew how to handle IG complaints successfully.

Col. Bracero seemed to understand that very well, and took some time to write down the quote accurately as I stated it. In that regard, he expressed the opinionthat my submission of a complaint to the DoD IG was the proper thing to do, but asked why I did so. My response was that I had little expectation of any result, but sought to document a bad situation so that any future investigation would have data available to augment its work. Col. Bracero again took care to write down my answer, especially the DoD IG’s answer that there was no evidence of illegal activity and therefore no action would be taken, and the fact that the DoD IG’s answer came within a few weeks of my submission, indicating that little effort had been taken to investigate the claims.

Col. Bracero’s comments indicated that he had found ample evidence of a very hostile work environment at CHDS, of serious unethical and mismanagement abuses, though few of these could be raised to the level of illegality, again confirming the viewpoint that the perpetrators knew how to work the system to their advantage. (Italics added.)

A serious issue has been the lack of oversight by any competent authority: I spoke at length of the original intent under Jay Cope’s original charter to have a “board of directors” including the DASD for the Western Hemisphere, CinC Southcom (the title at the time), several academics, and leaders from Latin America. I knew this because I was a Visiting Fellow at INSS during that time, and worked with Jay on a very few aspects of the project, though I witnessed many of them. The board of directors was to have an advisory role, but the DoD officials were to have authority to impose reforms as needed, something that never happened. The result has been that no one really cares what happens at CHDS so long as th statistics look good. Thus, if the senior management at CHDS is good at making itself look good, what they do and how they do it is completely irrelevant, no matter how unethical or abusive. …

After the phone conversation, Col. Bracero invited me to send him further anecdotes or explanations as I saw fit; I sent him an e-mail with a couple of examples I had not provided during the conversation. These are attached, below. Follow-up note: Col. Bracero, here’s a couple of issues that may help your investigation; two anecdotes regarding favoritism, and one on the damaging management style I encountered while working at CHDS.

Favoritism could be a bad thing: Craig Deare was good friends with the Director, being a fellow Army officer who followed in similar career tracks. As such, Craig could really do no wrong at the Center. Deare had the Ph.D. ticket punched, along with his rank and Pentagon assignments, and one on Congress, to boot. Regardless of his lackadaisical attitude toward his lectures, lax management style in the Academics division of the Center, he continued in Downie’s favor. The ethics challenge to his dating and marrying a subordinate (and contractor, to boot) did little to harm his standing with Downie, though the latter was forced into “demoting” Deare to mere “faculty” status. He continued as a strong force in the Center, with strong influence on faculty decision-making and an ability to take as many trips abroad as he saw fit, running any project he desired, ortrodding roughshod over all less-favored faculty or staff members. He was even given several awards for outstanding service, etc., even after having left the
Center. …

Ken LaPlante is a very chaotic leader – his management style is that of a boo camp sergeant, keeping everyone unsettled so he can benefit and manage things to his best advantage. One can never count on any support from him lasting more than a few hours. In one instance, David Spencer and I responded to a DoD announcement of end-of-year funds available for research projects related to counter-terrorism, responding to an e-mail sent to all the faculty by LaPlante. We had discussed the idea of conducting research on the Salvadoran participation in Iraq, seeking to publish a book or a series of lectures analyzing the decision-making process and the actual participation. We put together a proposal, requesting a bit less than $1.2 million, if I remember right, even setting up a
means to get the money allocated in the prescribed time for later expenditure.

Our immediate supervisor, Michael Gold-Biss, was absent at the time – he was often not to be found in his office, being either on travel or working from home. The other faculty leadership was likewise out of town, so we approached Ken LaPlante for authorization. He acknowledged that the deadline for the project was indeed short-fused, and authorized us to proceed, noting the absence of faculty leadership made his uthorization appropriate. When it came time to actually put signature to paper the following week, LaPlante began a flurry of e-mails to everyone (not just the participants), claiming David and I had overstepped our authority and gone beyond anything he had authorized, had not informed our chain- of-command; basically he said he had authorized a “feasibility study” rather than an actual proposal, which made no sense, given the short-fused nature of the RFI. Basically, he lied to our faces, stating that he had never authorized us to do any of the work we did, this despite our having e-mails from him (with info copies to the chain- of-command) stating otherwise. At this time it was blatantly apparent that I was not going to be employed at the Center for much longer, so I was ignored in the ensuing ruckus, but David received a reprimand for having abused his authority as a faculty member and ignoring the chain-of-command in seeking funding to do research based on a personal whim rather than being directly related to this professional responsibilities.

A short time later, the Salvadoran Minister of Defense, a close friend of David Spencer, visited the Center and asked Downie about the proposed study of his countries’ participation in the Iraq war. He had not discussed his request with David, but had heard of the proposal from the MilGroup commander in San Salvador.

LaPlante and Costa later accused David of using the Salvadoran Minister of
Defense to further his personal ambition and ambush the Director with a project
that the faculty leadership had already cancelled. Shortly after this began the first
effort to not renew David’s contract with the Center; only Downie’s high opinion
of David has kept him employed as long as he has.

Exhibit #5

On Wednesday, May 2, 2012 9:33 PM, James Zackrison wrote:
Mick, here’s what I sent to Gen. Fraser. You can re-send it, as you have a better
success in getting through to him.

Cheers! Jim Z.

General Fraser,

A short time back I wrote you about the informal investigation into what
elsewhere would be called corruption at NDU/CHDS. I now presume on your
patience to offer a suggestion for how this problem can be resolved. When
SecDef Perry asked Jay Cope (NDU/INSS) to write up a proposed outline for
establishing the Center, one of the centerpieces of Jay’s work was a board of
directors to oversee the academic and management integrity of the
institution. To help garner support from various Latin American governments,
this board was to include several academics from, for instance, Chile, Brazil,
Argentina, mostly as observers. I believe in the final OpOrder the foreign
participation was dropped, but there was most definitely an overview committee,
either as a board of directors or board of visitors, including DASD-Whem, CINC
South (as it was then known), NDU president or vice president, and several well-
known academics from the US.

To my knowledge, this board was never convened, and it may have even been
dropped from the latest OpOrder giving the Center its mission statement and
authorizations. This lack of oversight has led to many situations where the
Center’s core mission is stretched beyond belief, lack of academic standards,
favoritism, and academic bullying. The current Director and his senior managers
are very good at working the system and making the Center look good to the
chain of command, but the many investigations and complaints about their
management belie that impression. I sincerely hope you look into this issue,
because the Center could be a great asset to your command, if it were managed
well. A board of visitors would go a long way toward meeting that goal.
James L. Zackrison

Exhibit #6

From: Martin Edwin AndersenDate: Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 7:01 AM
Subject: RE: Case Case 125147
To:; Cc: Tom Devine
Mr. Lloyd,
Please read this carefully. A former colleague, Dr. Evan Ellis, reported last month
that the OSD has taken direct action against Ken LaPlante, one of the primary
wrongdoers in my whistleblower complaint.
The apparatus of wrongdoing is still largely in place, however.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Mick Andersen
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Evan Ellis
Date: Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 12:55 PM
Subject: RE: FYI: Official evaluation just in from the U.S. Naval Academy:
To: Martin Edwin Andersen
Thanks, Mick. It’s actually pretty striking…OSD has relieved Ken of all hiring and
firing authority, decisionmaking authority with respect to travel…and is even
sending Walter Earle in to “oversee” the transition to make sure that US
government equities don’t get subverted by vested interests as they have so many
times before. They haven’t het sent in a MP to supervise Ken while he cleans out
his desk…but it’s all pretty striking.
Good luck with your job search!

Exhibit #5

From: Levine, Peter (Armed Services)
Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 4:44 PM
Subject: RE: Formal request for investigation of Center for Hemispheric Defense
To: Martin Edwin Andersen
We will refer the matter to the DOD IG for investigation.
Peter Levine
Staff Director
Senate Armed Services Committee