Monday, September 29, 2014

So Just Who Is This Brian Howard Guy?

FAA fire suspect Brian Howard (FACEBOOK/April Howard Connor) The 36-year old Naperville, Illinois man accused of sabotaging the FAA's Air Route Traffic Control center in Aurora last Friday and effectively shutting down all flights in and out of Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports made his first appearance in court today. Until late today, little had been reported about the man who set fire to sensitive equipment at the traffic control center before he attempting to take his own life. Initial reports told us only that Brian Howard was a contract worker at the center who had allegedly become disgruntled after learning he was going to be transferred to Hawaii. Family members contacted authorities early Friday morning after seeing a Facebook posting Howard had made warning of his intentions of causing harm to the traffic control center and himself, but their call came too late to stop Howard. The FAA is relying on traffic control centers in Indianapolis, Cleveland and elsewhere to route traffic through Chicago while repairs to the Aurora center are being made.

Typically when these high-profile events happen, one of the cable news stations like CNN or news rags like the Daily Mail almost immediately have access to family and friends close to the culprits or victims to weave a narrative for our absorption, along with plenty of pictures. To my surprise, that didn't happen in this case despite the havoc Howard managed to wreak on the nation's air travel for several days. A couple of days ago, the Northwest Indiana Times revealed that Howard was a 1996 graduate of Highland High School. Nobody from the Highland area offered information about him, but they did manage to find a U.S. Marines officer who lives and works in North Carolina who claimed to know him in high school. "Maj. Michael Kaniuk of the U.S. Marine Corps grew up with Howard and played soccer with him at Highland High School," the Times reported. "Kaniuk, who now lives and works in North Carolina, said Saturday he was surprised to hear of the allegations against Howard, which he deemed a “terrible tragedy." “I would never have pegged him as a guy that would do something like he is alleged of doing,” Kaniuk said. Isn't that what they always say?

According to the Times, Howard joined the U.S. Navy in 1996 upon his graduation from high school. He graduated a year later from the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut. The U.S. Navy issued a press released upon his graduation in which military officials said "as a graduate of the course, Howard demonstrates his ability to excel in an elite underwater force." The training program for the Navy's nuclear submarines is limited to male candidates only and requires passing a physical and mental screening. CBS 2 in Chicago reported that Howard served in the Navy until 2000. He earned a good conduct medal and other awards before being honorably discharged. CBS 2 also released the first photograph of Howard that I could find anywhere on the Internet.

Earlier news reports mentioned the fact that Howard was a contract employee at the air traffic control center in Aurora but did not name that contractor. CBS 2 identified his employer for the past eight years as Harris Corp. Do you remember that name? You should. The Florida-based technology company is a major defense and national security contractor. It's been in the news a lot lately because of the Stingray technology it has developed for use by the National Security Agency and law enforcement agencies across the country to illegally capture all of our cell phone communications. Details about the devices are not made available on the company's website. Marketing materials contain a disclaimer that anyone caught distributing the product to anyone outside law enforcement agencies or telecommunications companies could be committing a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this year that both the Indiana State Police and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have acquired Stingray technology, although neither would comment publicly on how they are using the technology. Harris Corp. had been hired to modernize communication systems in FAA centers.

During a brief court appearance today, Howard was described as wearing hospital green scrubs after being transported from a suburban Chicago hospital to the Dirksen federal courthouse in Chicago with a bandage around his neck where he had supposedly used a knife to cut himself. Howard is represented by Ronald Safer, a prominent white collar criminal defense attorney and managing partner at the Chicago law firm of Schiff Harden. Safer typically represents high-profile corporate clients. He previously spent ten years working as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago. "He made a tragic mistake," Safer said of his client. "Only someone who’s deeply troubled would do that." Safer described Howard's actions as a cry for help. "Friday morning, Brian tried to take his life. That he did so in a way that inconvenienced — and more — many, many people is unacceptable, and he deeply regrets that,” Safer told reporters. The judge ordered Howard held without bond. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges federal prosecutors filed against him.

1 comment:

Flogger said...

If the the person who is now in custody was named Ahmad, we would probably have 24/7 Coverage on the Mega-Media, and endless unsubstantiated speculation on his motives, and personal life.

This is a huge incident. The economic cost must be running into the billions. There is the equipment damage, the cost to repair it, plus all the cancelled flights, and re-routing necessary. There is also the costs to the passengers.

The Mega-Media IMHO seems to go out of it's way to shield the name of the Contractor. Typically, nothing seems to happen to the Contractor, Snowden was a Contractor also for the Feds.

You might think the Mega-Media might dispatch a small team to the HQ of the Contractor, just to ask some questions. You know the answers would be, "No Comment", etc.