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article imageOp-Ed: Pentagon intelligence official indicted in covert weapons deal

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 6, 2015 in Crime
In the pantheon of shady deals, things just don't get much shadier than this.
Senior Navy intelligence official David W. Landersman has been indicted on charges of alleged theft and conspiracy.
The charges are in connection with an ongoing federal investigation regarding the covert production and shipment of rifle silencers that were illegally manufactured, Gawker notes.
Landersman, the former senior director of intelligence for an obscure office at the Pentagon — the Navy's Plans, Policy, Oversight, and Integration (PPOI) Intelligence Directorate — which ran covert programs, is the third person to be charged in a clandestine case that has resulted in two convictions thus far, The Washington Post reports.
Prosecutors contend that Landersman arranged a $1.6 million defense contract for his brother, a California hot-rod mechanic who was bankrupt, so that he could manufacture untraceable (and therefore unregistered) rifle silencers that were nothing more than junk and only cost $10,000 in parts and labor to manufacture.
Other defendants that were involved say the silencers were designed specifically for a top-secret military operation that involved Navy SEAL Team 6, the commando unit that killed Osama bin Laden. The silencers had to be obtained outside the usual channels, they said.
Court documents say that Landersman is accused of allegedly conspiring with his brother, Mark Landersman, and Lee Hall, a former subordinate at PPOI, NavyTimes reported.
The documents say Landersman invested an undisclosed $50,000 in his brother's company, Advanced Machining and Engineering. It's alleged that Hall, PPOI's former director of intelligence, funneled the $1.6 million into a bogus contract with the company to manufacture 349 silencers by using plans they found on the Internet.
Mark Landersman allegedly paid a California machine-shop owner around $10,000 to manufacture the silencers before shipping them in four boxes to Maryland, where they were intercepted by agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
A Justice Department press release indicates that Hall and Mark Landersman were convicted in late 2014, NavyTimes reports.
David Landersman couldn't be reached for comment on Friday, but his attorney, Stephen Ryan, said (predictably) in a statement that Landersman should be cleared of the charges.
"Col. Landersman is an American hero who has won the Silver Star and Bronze Star, and we look forward to him clearing his good name," Ryan said.
Court documents say that Landersman is implicated because he allegedly used his government email to orchestrate the ill-gotten contract with his brother and Hall, NavyTimes reports.
It's also alleged that David Landersman sent an email to his brother that was linked to an article titled "How I built a 300 AAC Blackout Suppressor," and the note read "Look this over ... Looks very much like what we're going to send you ...".
The article contains a warning to follow federal firearms laws before constructing the silencer or face the risk of "hard prison time."
"Wow, looks simple!" Mark Landersman allegedly responded.
Landersman is still employed by the Navy, but he's been reassigned to a clerical job pending the outcome of the investigation, PopularMilitary reports.
Navy Spokesman Commander William Marks said that Landersman is "no longer performing duties in any way associated with intelligence." Marks also reported that Navy officials are considering what appropriate administrative action to take in response to the incident.
Hall and Mark Landersman have not been sentenced as yet.
Hall and the two brothers apparently went to considerable lengths to conceal the $1.6 million silencer purchase from Navy officials and contracting representatives, the Washington Post reports. Three Navy officials say they had approved Landersman's request, but the money was supposed to be spent on intelligence studies, not a weapons deal.
But here's where things get weird:
Although Hall had told one Navy official that the silencers were meant for the SEAL Team, representatives from the team told agents from the the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that they did not order the silencers and didn't even know anything about them, Gawker notes.
The purpose of the silencers was never established and the trial featured a steady stream of intrigue with carefully phrased references to black operations and classified projects. Numerous filings in the case were sealed. Military officials also requested that participants at the trial be prohibited from making overt references to the Navy SEALs.
It definitely sounds to me like nothing good was going to come of this. And really, what else are silencers used for except to quiet the gun when you're shooting someone? Perhaps someone who's more knowledgeable about guns than I am can provide some insight here; it would certainly help.
It isn't known what part of the world the silencers were going to be used in, but according to court filings and pretrial testimony, the silencers were part of a top-secret operation to help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas, Gawker reports.
It sounds an awful lot like someone hoped to make a killing in the financial sense and the physical sense. There are just days when I read about something that I wish I didn't know about. This is one of those days.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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