Charles C. Thompson II is a network news veteran, both as a founding producer of ABC's "20/20" and as Mike Wallace's producer at
CBS's "60 Minutes."
An experienced print journalist, Tony Hays' recent 20-part series on narcotics trafficking received an award from the Tennessee Press Association.More ↓Less ↑
When Daniel Scott Burrus stole gas masks, flight bags, flak jackets,
helmets, magazines for .223-caliber ammunition and night-vision goggles
from the Oklahoma Air National Guard this year, he was indicted by a
federal grand jury. Shawn Timothy Nelson was shot and killed after he
stole a tank from a California National Guard base in 1995. But when
several National Guardsmen in Al Gore’s backyard were caught filching
military equipment from area Guard units in 1992, then-Sen. Gore,
according to the investigator that handled the case, stepped in and kept
the thieves from being court-martialed.
The 1990s saw a plethora of cases involving theft from U.S. military
facilities, many from the National Guard, as in the 1993 case of Mark S.
Carter, a former Michigan Guardsman who told a congressional committee
that he hawked M-16 rifle parts at a gun show because of “severe
In Tennessee, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, many of the
National Guard units came back with quantities of equipment they had not
previously been assigned, much of it surplus. Some 2 or 3 million
dollars worth of that equipment disappeared from National Guard units
surrounding the Cookeville, Tenn., area.
Then-National Guard Capt. Richard Holt, a lifetime police officer and
later chief of police in Cookeville, was assigned by the Tennessee
National Guard to track the missing equipment. His investigation led
him to a number of local guardsmen and other citizens.
“It wasn’t tremendously difficult” to find the culprits, he told
WorldNetDaily. When the dust had settled, Holt had relocated $1.2
million worth of the missing property, mostly on the farms and property
of guardsmen and other prominent citizens of the Cookeville area. One
non-commissioned officer had two expensive graders on his property.
Holt retrieved the property and set about preparing cases against his
“I wanted to prosecute all of them,” Holt remembered, “but I
especially wanted to court-martial the guardsmen involved. They
deserved to be drummed out of the service.” But before he could bring
charges, a letter came from Gore’s office urging a halt to the
“He just shut us down,” said Holt of the 1992 investigation he
headed. “He said the whole matter should be dropped.”
Nothing Holt could do kept the cases active. He has since retired
from the National Guard and now works with the Tennessee District
Attorney General’s Conference.
Just as perplexing as Gore’s alleged protection of the government
thieves, is what happened to the equipment that wasn’t retrieved.
According to federal government sources, much of the material that has
gone missing from military installations now has links to militia and
A 1996 Dayton, Ohio, Daily Herald story details a June 1994 incident
when a self-storage unit was found to contain numerous military items
including several crates of “military explosives.” Other searches
related to the incident uncovered photographs of camouflage-dressed men
atop an armored vehicle equipped with large caliber machineguns. The
storage unit was located in Hendersonville, Tenn. — less than 100 miles
from Putnam County.
In fact, an analysis of government records by the Dayton Daily News
indicates that during the Clinton-Gore years, theft of military weapons
has been rampant — but has netted the defendants little or no jail
“More than three times every week,” reported Russ Carollo and Jeff
Nesmith of the Daily News, “the military reported losing explosives and
other weapons.” Of 166 weapons-related courts-martial studied by
Carollo and Nesmith, less than half (78) were sentenced to more than six
months. Another third received confinements of 90 days or less.
But that’s just when they’re caught. The growing lack of fiscal and
property oversight during the Clinton-Gore years seems to have
aggravated an already severe problem. A 1997 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
article notes that many thefts go unreported by the Army, such as the
1996 Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., case involving the theft of 54 claymore
mines — more than the Army had reported in the previous seven years.
The Air Force Audit Agency reported in 1994 that some 1,200 M-16 rifles
were unreported in the Air Force’s small-arms registry. Las Vegas
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent Ed Verkin recalls that
when he called a military base to notify officials of one of their
weapons he had recovered — which was then lying on his desk — military
personnel denied that it was missing.
For Holt, these stories make perfect sense.
“When politicians interfere with prosecution, civilian or military,
it sends a message to everybody else that they can risk stealing
government property with a fairly good chance at impunity,” he told
WND. “In the case I investigated, Al Gore seemed more interested in
protecting his friends than safeguarding the taxpayers’ money.”