by John Hnatio
A small firm called Wesleyan Company invented a new way for soldiers to drink on the move when they are confronted with nuclear, chemical and biological agents on the battlefield. The invention was ingenious and forms the basis for drinking systems used to protect our soldiers today. But the story doesn’t end there. Wesleyan Company’s water drinking systems are now used by athletes all over the world because of their “on the move” advantages over the use of regular canteens and water bottles.
A true success story of how smart entrepreneurs make all of our lives safer and more fun through their discoveries. But what happened to the Wesleyan Company should be a warning signal to all of us that entrepreneurs who have great ideas that can lead to business success are an endangered species in America. The hunt to kill entrepreneurs is on and the hunter is the U.S. Government.
Let me share a truly astounding story with you about how our own government has corrupted the entrepreneurial tradition that, from our earliest colonial times, has made the United States the greatest economic and military power on the face of the earth.
For years, the U.S. Army was being criticized by a congressional watchdog agency called the General Accounting Office (GAO) for failing to provide our soldiers with the protective gear they needed in the event of a nuclear, chemical or biological attack on the battlefield. So when an entrepreneur who had the solution to the problem came along you would think that the U.S. Army would embrace him with open arms. Wrong.
When Wes Schneider, the inventor of the technology, brought the solution to the U.S. Army at Natick Laboratory (now called the United States Army Soldier Systems Center) in Massachusetts, instead of doing things the right way, the Army decided to simply steal all of his stuff. Of course, engaging in this sort of conduct violates the Constitution. But the Army didn’t give a hoot since it had developed its own internal system to avoid the rules—things like the Constitution and government procurement laws didn’t matter.
Amendment IV to the Constitution says that the government is not allowed to engage in unlawful search and seizure against U.S. citizens. Yet, that’s exactly what the Army did– they mounted an intelligence collection effort to find out how Schneider’s technology worked and then they secretly reverse engineered it. Amendment V of the Constitution says that government is not allowed to take a U.S. citizen’s property without fair payment. Again, the Army didn’t care. Once the Army stole all of Schneider’s ideas they gave them to their contractors to build the life-saving technology that the GAO had criticized them for years for not providing to the troops. Schneider was left out in the cold.
Why, you may ask, did the Army steal Schneider’s patented technology rather than simply procuring it like the government is supposed to do?
There is an often used adage that explains exactly why— “Follow the money.” The Army employees who stole Schneider’s technology knew that their promotions and awards depend on coming up with ideas to fix problems. They didn’t have any ideas of their own so they just stole Schneider’s instead. The Army generals in charge, on the other hand, saw the opportunity to give their own big defense contractor buddies the opportunity to make a great deal of money. Why would they do this? First, the Army generals wanted to take credit for avoiding the payment of government royalties to Schneider for the ideas they stole. Second, by giving their big buddy defense contractors Schneider’s technology, the generals could pave the road to being hired by the same defense contractors after they retired from the military at enormous salaries—the so-called “revolving door syndrome.”
What is so tragic about this case of war profiteering is that by taking the unnecessary time to steal and reverse engineer Schneider’s drinking system instead of lawfully procuring it, corrupt U.S. Army generals delayed getting the life-saving technology into the hands of the soldiers who really needed it. At the time, the Iraq war was underway and our troops were being contaminated with highly toxic residues from Saddam Hussein’s stockpiles of old chemical weapons and burning oil wells. All of this was happening while the Army itself was stealing and reverse engineering Schneider’s on the shelf ready to go product. As a result, thousands of American troops now suffer from Gulf War syndrome—a debilitating disease that causes fatigue, chronic headaches, and skin and respiratory disorders.
So, exactly how does the Army avoid the Constitution and the laws of the land that all of the rest of us have to follow? Well, in Schneider’s case the Department of Defense (DOD) went to congress and got permission to establish something called the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals or ASBCA for short. ABSCA is a kangaroo court run by the military for the benefit of the military. It is used to silence complaints. There is no appeal to its decisions. It is an entity unto itself where things like the Constitution and procurement laws are viewed as nuisances certainly not legal requirements. In Schneider’s case, a corrupt Army counsel and the ASBCA judge teamed up to hide the evidence. That was it. After years of fighting injustice Schneider was sent packing–now a broken and disheartened man.
How can this story possibly get any worse? It can and it does. One of the chief scientists at Natick Laboratories, a man who dedicated his entire life to the safety of our soldiers, made the mistake of telling the Army generals at Natick Laboratories that what they were doing was wrong. For the sin of committing this unspeakable truth, the Army generals turned on the scientist’s wife, a secretary who also worked at the Laboratory. She was harassed to the point that the scientist was forced to retire. The couple was so disgusted with their country that they now live in Canada. The Army lost its honor.
When ICM entered the case two years ago, the first thing we did is conduct an exhaustive investigation of exactly what happened. We found irrefutable proof that U.S. Army employees stole and reverse engineered Schneider’s technology. We came across tape recordings of Army officials admitting what happened. We reviewed thousands of pages of evidence and found that the judge and the U.S. Army counsel conspired to kill Schneider’s case before the ASBCA. Then we prepared the most exhaustive investigative report of its kind. We went to the Department of Defense Inspector General and the Criminal Investigative Unit of the Army to ask for an investigation. They never responded.
Next, we went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and reported the crimes. They never responded. Then we went to congress to report the situation. We gave Senator Cruz all of the information. We were given the complete run around. We were told that we must contact the DOD Inspector General before he would step in. But after the DOD and Army investigators stiff armed us for over a year Cruz simply abandoned his constituent. Representative Sam Johnson did exactly the same thing. Senator John Cornyn, Cruz and Johnson even refused to sign a letter asking for a GAO investigation.
On August 7, 2015, we took all of the evidence we amassed and organized it into what is called a Constructive Notice. A Constructive Notice is a legal document that sets forth, under oath, the facts of a matter in a sworn affidavit. We served our sworn affidavit to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Under the law Secretary Carter was given 30 days to rebut our affidavit of truth. By choosing not to respond, he admitted that the Department of Defense and the Army was guilty of stealing and then covering up what they did to Schneider.
To this day, no one in a position of authority has lifted a finger to undo the terrible injustice inflicted on Schneider and his family. Until the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, congress or someone else stands up for the rights of citizens like Wes Schneider we will have only an illusion of justice in America.
John Hnatio is the principal Investigator for the John Galt program for investigative Studies. In addition to the case of the Wesleyan Company, he has investigated two other major cases where the U.S. Government has engaged in violations of Amendment IV and V of the Constitution driving the small companies out of business. The criminal actions of the U.S. Government follow the same modus operandi as in the Wesleyan Company case.