April 5, 2008

Mushroom Cloud over Tirana

Now that Albania is joining NATO, we can rest easy because the crack Albanian army is pledged to come to America's military defense in case we're invaded by, uh, Venezuela. So, let's check in on the latest from our latest ally ...

Oddly enough, the news from Tirana sounds a lot like the news from Miami Beach: old Albanian ammunition.

From BalkanInsight.com:

Thousands of Albanians have protested demanding Prime Minister Sali Berisha quit over an alleged cover-up of last month’s army depot blasts. ...

Berisha is accused of a cover-up into what was really going on at an army depot hit by a series of blasts on March 15, in the village of Gerdec, just 10 kilometers outside Tirana. 26 people were killed and more than 300 wounded...

The government finds itself also in a row involving arms trafficking allegations.

Last week, the New York Times alleged that senior Albanian politicians, including Prime Minister Sali Berisha and former Defence Minster Fatmir Mediu, were involved in the international trade of weapons.

Both Berisha and Mediu have denied the accusations.

The article accuses Albanian officials of murky deals with United States-based AEY Company, which had its contract with the U.S. military revoked last week amid claims by the paper it was supplying decades-old ammunition to the Afghan army.

Now, being a suspicious old bastard, my first assumption was that somebody blew up the Albanian government ammo dump to cover up how little weaponry was left after the politicians had looted it to sell to AEY and others. Here's a Youtube concoction somebody has created by combining footage of the aftermath of the explosion with what is allegedly cell phone calls between Efraim Diveroli and an Albanian businessman, implying that the explosion was a cover-up of the ammunition deal.

But now that I've seen the amazing video of the tactical nuke-sized mushroom cloud unleashed by this March 15 explosion, I recall Napoleon's purported maxim, "Never blame conspiracy for what is attributable to incompetence."

Generally, I hate videos, but, trust me, you'll want to watch this one. This 29 second video starts off with a telephoto shot of two fireballs about ten times the diameter of trees in the foreground. But at 0:05 into the video, an explosion orders of magnitude larger happens to the left of the original explosions, immediately vaporizing three multistory buildings at the bottom of the screen. The videographer zooms out to catch the mushroom cloud as it rises thousands of feet into the air. At 0:14, he's buffeted by the shock wave as it arrives, suggesting he's about a mile and a half away. (And, from a similar angle, here's the footage of another cameraman who got blasted even harder by the shock wave.)

Apparently, Albania has insane amounts of ammo left over from the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, who also built 700,000 bunkers across the countryside to repel attack. These pillboxes used three times as much concrete as the Maginot Line. Hoxha started out as a Stalinist, then broke with the Soviets over-deStalinification, allied with Red China, then broke with them as insufficiently Marxist, and went it alone, ready to fight the world if necessary.

Interestingly, at least until quite recently, the American company that had a contract to help Albanians dispose of their munitions was Science Applications International Corporation, which is sort of the military-industrial complex personified. SAIC is the anti-AEY, in that it has 44,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue, most of it from the federal government. And, yet, I'd never heard of it until this week. In contrast, AEY had only two employees, but both of them had MySpace pages.

(SAIC can be viewed more as a consultant's co-op than as a giant corporate powerhouse. Of course, that's how they want you to view it.)

Update: This is really confusing, but the shadowy American supercompany SAIC had the contract to dispose of Albanian naval munitions back in January, 2008. The American company that was working at the Gerdec ammunition dump when it turned into Nagasaki West was not SAIC, it was SACI -- Southern Ammunition Co., Inc. Got it?

Anyway, the video leads me to suspect the Gerdec catastrophe wasn't intentional. It's just too immense. And there was clearly lots and lots (and lots) of ammunition left over after all the thefts, enough to plausibly argue with auditors that they were just overlooking stuff in the vast (and terrifying) heaps laying around. So, maybe the AEY scandal didn't cause the Gerdec explosion. Maybe the causality was the opposite way around -- this colossal explosion happens, so observers start poking around more seriously about what the heck is going on with Albanian ammunition anyway.

But, then again, maybe somebody did blow it up to cover up thefts. Or maybe just to hear the bang...

(By the way, listening to the alleged conversations, I don't hear Diveroli making any threats of violence, just suggestions of paying bribes with money and/or prostitutes. From this, he sounds more like a crooked businessman willing to do business with violent mobsters than a violent mobster himself.)

My published articl are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

But where did the several hundred million in small arms ammo disappear from?

Given the figures involved, there would still be a sizable hole in Albania's amoury if this explosion were an unrelated accident. My guess is the any accounting paper trail ended like the victims lives with that explosion.

Arn't Albanians purported to frequently be relatively ruthless criminals? Wasn't Sasha Cohen frightened enough to change his Borat character from Albanian? Remember Belushi?

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Albania. The country with the lowest IQ of any European country.

http://www.volkmar-weiss.de/table.html

Muswell Hillbilly said...

And I foolishly thought this AEY story couldn't get any awesomer.

gcochran said...

I thought everybody was familiar with SAIC: I guess it all depends who your homies were.

testing99 said...

Most likely Steve it was stupidity in handling the ammo dumps that caused the explosion. There was an even LARGER explosion IIRC in Oakland that wiped out most of the Black Stevedores. They went on strike for better safety and were imprisoned.

After Hoxha was deposed something like that was likely just a matter of time.

SAIC has a HUGE HQ in Falls Church. I used to pass it every day. They are also very big in computer security. FWIW I've heard they are very solid in who they hire and how they operate.

Ian said...

Steve wrote:
> Generally, I hate videos

I am curious why ...

Steve Sailer said...

1. They often bogged down my four-year-old PC.

2. I can read faster than I can watch.

3. They're much harder to skim than text. I end up laboriously going back to see stuff I missed.

headache said...

Great work Steve. Now you know why the NYT were so desperately avoiding the ethnic angle. You can say it was threatening to blow up in their faces.

BTW, the KLA were always really just a type of mafia gang. Albanians all over Europe have a reputation for being criminals. Its amazing what sort of people the self-righteous and respectable international community will support when it suits their designs.ns.

headache said...

Maybe somebody did blow it up to cover up thefts and it got out of control because he was too dumb to determine the actual size of the would-be explosion.

Jeff Burton said...

SAIC is a "Beltway Bandit." They got fat and happy milking lucrative federal contracts. I sub-contracted for them back in the early '90's - they marked up my invoices by insane amounts - not that I cared, because I was doing fine anyway.

Anonymous said...

SAIC is about as shadowy as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrup-Grumman, or any other large defense contractor. They just specialize in areas the general public (and most news reporters) don't care about.

Steve-since you appear to lack knowledge in this area, I'd suggest you look up CACI ("Captains and Colonels Incorporated," as the wags like to call it) and Vinnell (which appears to be a Northrup-Grumman subsidiary nowadays).

SAIC, CACI and Vinnell were in this field a long time before over-hyped newbies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy.

They have their faults, but, in my opinion, the criticism of them has been inaccurate. They're about as clumsy and inept as any other big bureaucracy, but the field they specialize in makes their screw-ups seem a lot more sinister than they really are.

Planetary Archon Mouse

Anonymous said...

Steve-

I know you are on a limited budget, but if you're looking for something to replace your 4 year old PC, why not try the Asus Eee? The lower end models run about $350 with tax included, and, from what I know of your habits, I think it will be more than sufficient for most of your needs. (If you have trouble using the version of Linux on it, you can get Windows on it, although it increases the cost, and then you'll need to shell out more money to get the MS Office Suite on it.)

The one downside to it is the size of the hard drive, but you can get an external USB drive for storage. (I'm a weirdo in that I don't do much photography or video, so I can backup all my data in under 4 GB, but I realize most people need more than that.)

Planetary Archon Mouse

neil craig said...

Less amusing news from Albania is that our KLA allies were able to kidnap 300 Serb teens, dissect them & sell the organs to NATO members hospitals. Really.

The "war crimes prosecutor" admits this & that she made only the briefest investigation, which proved it was true after "reliable journalists" reported it to her but not to us.

As you will have seen, with the exception of a brief mention by Fox & a couple of Italian papers, this has had zero coverage in our allegedly honest press. Had it happened in Tibet we would have banner headlines.

http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/ips040108.htm

It seems a world, or at least Europe & America, run by organleggers who, perhaps merely because it is now technically possible, engage in obscenities Hitler never aspired to is what we have to look forward to.

Jody said...

I'm with Greg. I thought SAIC was far less secretive than RAND. And the reverse vampires.

TGGP said...

Between finding the Vanity Fair article from Lew Rockwell when it was first published and then linking to it in a recent AEY post, I never heard anyone reference SAIC. It's always Halliburton and occasionally RAND. SAIC is the biggest contractor though.

testing99 said...

Steve, try Linux to extend the life of your PC. Something like Ubuntu, just select/install a Window Manager like Fluxbox, XFCE that is lightweight and won't bog your computer down.

Ubuntu has lots of how-tos in viewing videos. I use it a lot and while there's a few tricks to get CNN and Fox videos to play, Youtube worked pretty straightforward. If you can follow a cookbook recipe you can install the codecs on Linux to see pretty much any type of video.

Try a "live boot" CD from Ubuntu, don't install, see if you like it. You can dual-boot or make the whole thing linux. If you have a real old machine (90's vintage) you can probably use it with Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux which is built just for that. All the downloads are free, just burn the iso files to CD and you're good.

If you can trade time for money, Linux can help you out.

Anonymous said...

Well what were those guys with the cameras expecting? Were they sitting up there, a mile or so away, waiting for an accident, or rare birds to fly by?

Do we know?

Half Sigma said...

SAIC is familiar to me, they had a contract to fix certain border inspection machines for DHS before the contract was stolen away by the Alaska natives.

Concerned said...

anonymous

1. would you please make up a nick?

2. SAIC is not as transparent as the other companies you cite. It's not public and th others are. I know because I looked it up on google finance to see how their stock was doing. Unless I got it wrong - can you cite the ticker?

Anonymous said...

e the guys with cameras. Just watching the vids it looks like a fire was already burning, so that, or a first unfilmed explosion would alert people to get the camera out. Than bang, bang & BANG etc.

James B. Shearer said...

Another consideration is that thieves robbing ammo depots probably do not always obey the appropriate safety regulations.

Anonymous said...

SAIC has been sued a number of times in fraud actions. One suit involved their bilking(alleged) on a Treasury Mint Plant in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. They paid out some sums in a settlement. Other googles searches reveal other False Claims Act qui tam actions
But, on any qui tam actions, they would be barred most likely(as to the private qui tam plaintiff) since any disclosure in the press bars a private qui tam action; THE JURISDICTIONAL BAR GAME TO PROTECT swindlers OF USA ACCOUNTS.
Strange, isn't it Congress set up news in the Press as a grounds to bar private qui tam actions. That must make the New York Times happy who may have been fed stuff from DOJ, to set up any bar to suits. The NYT a puppet of the Bush DOJ.
The FRONT seems to have a lot of connections inside the U S GOV, they didn't get the big load of ammo contracts because they liked young Efriam's Miami style KOOL breeze hair cuts. Cheney, so proud, the young and the restless Ak-47 runner, making it big, getting a slice of the pie( to show it is more than Halliburton). Your tax money at risk in the breakdown of accountability that is the trademark of the Cheney-Bush(W), Administration

Douglas Knight said...

SAIC is public, NYSE ticker SAI; google finance responded well to SAIC, too.

But they only went public in late 2006.