Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The Archangel Group, Ltd. is a private consulting group “providing training and consulting to U.S. military, law enforcement and government agencies, in addition to schools of all levels in the fields of terrorism, security and combat tactics.” Following the shootings at Virginia Tech, the group took the initiative to investigate the Blacksburg tragedy. No government agency requested or paid for the group’s research. Their findings were published on September 5, 2008, in a report entitled: “AFTER ACTION REVIEW: An Evaluation and Assessment of the Law Enforcement Tactical Response to the Virginia Tech University Shootings of Monday 16 April 2007.”

This is the second of several articles the author plans on doing related to the Archangel Group’s report on Virginia Tech. This article takes a critical look at the credentials of the members of the Archangel Group who took the lead in writing their report of the shootings. To sit by and say nothing when faced with Archangel’s biases, self-serving analysis, and intellectual dishonesty, would be unconscionable.


I was deeply disappointed when I read the Archangel Group’s report on the Virginia Tech shooting. The report is clearly fashioned in the form of a legal argument designed to make a point or win a case—not designed to get at the objective truth. The most positive thing I can say is that the approach taken by the report is intellectually shaky.

The report is entitled, AFTER ACTION REVIEW--An Evaluation and Assessment of the Law Enforcement Tactical Response To the Virginia Tech University Shootings of Monday, 16 April 2007, and is dated 5 September 2008.

I have forty-one years of experience as an intelligence analyst, inspector for the CIA’s Inspector General, and an instructor for intelligence analysis for all levels of the federal government (CIA, FBI, DIA, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center), the state police intelligence units, and for numerous foreign governments including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian intelligence. If the Archangel Group had submitted their report to me in one of my classes, I would have given them a failing grade.

I was so thunder-struck by the poor quality of the report that I went back and took a closer look at the credentials and membership of the Archangel Group.

Do their backgrounds give them the skills necessary to a thorough analysis of a problem? Have they been trained in an academic field that emphasizes objectivity—or does their training emphasize argumentation and winning at all costs, no matter what the truth is? That closer look helped explain a great deal.

In the case of the Archangel Group, the answer to the above left me deeply worried. I have spent twenty years of my professional life trying to wean educated people from their biases and prejudice, both of which interfere with objectivity. Pages five, six and seven of the report lists the individuals who, “From the start of the investigation . . . were integrally involved in the effort (the investigation and writing the report) at different times.”

Almost all have police force experience—or as attorneys have defended or been consultants in law enforcement liability cases. I see a clear conflict of interest here. If the Archangel Group were to find the Virginia Tech Police or the Virginia State Police culpable in the Tech shootings, I doubt if any police force or law enforcement official would ever hire them.

Two of the individuals’ credentials appear to fall in the tactical area—one is the oversight commander for a SWAT team in Pennsylvania and a major in a police department; the other is the director of training for the Archangel Group. He too has experience in training SWAT teams as well as Armed Forces Special Units. Both have outstanding resumes if you are looking for tactical training in dealing with a shooter or shooters on a college or university campus. In terms of qualifications for drafting this particular Archangel Report, I found their credentials wanting.

A third member of the team is simply described as “an experienced law enforcement veteran.” I have no idea what that means or how that “experience” qualifies him to play a role in an analysis of the Virginia Tech shootings.

A fourth member is described as a “former navy corpsman and currently working for the Department of Homeland Security.” Here again, I am left scratching my head. What did the gentleman do in the navy and what does he do for Homeland Security. I teach classes for the Department of Homeland Security and many of my students from that agency would not be qualified to participate in the analysis and writing of this report.
Over the last two years I have had approximately 150 Homeland Security Intelligence Officers in my classes—the vast majority with experience in military intelligence, police work, and the legal profession. I reported to senior Homeland Security management that over 45 percent of their officers were substandard in the use of English—and as a result their analysis was seriously flawed. The readers of the Archangel Report need to know more if they are to make judgments about the report’s accuracy.

The team also consisted of a former Marine sniper; a man billed as having 18 years experience in law enforcement. Again, I have had Marine snipers in my class and I am not sure I would want them to play a role in an “objective” analysis of the Virginia Tech crime scene. Once again, the Archangel Group lets the reader down. Perhaps the former Marine is eminently qualified, but the biographical paragraph does not indicate that.

Finally, there are two licensed attorneys. One has defended police officers in liability litigation and the other is a senior consultant to Archangel Group. Both men clearly are paid for their services. If their livelihood depends on selling those services, I would again ask—is there a conflict of interests? I think any court in the country would say there is. I have taught a large number of licensed attorneys in analytical skills over the last twenty years; I have done so at the FBI and CIA. The one point I would make is that as a group of well-educated individuals, the one characteristic that stands out most, is the desire to win at all costs—even at the expense of objectivity and truth.

In teaching analysis and writing, many of the licensed attorneys I have instructed lacked a basic grasp of professional English. Further more, their training is based on the use of passive voice sentences—passive sentences allow for greater interpretation in a court room setting. Most of the attorney-students I have had in class recoil at the use of an active voice sentence because it is difficult to manipulate those sentences. Furthermore, in doing the class room exercises the attorneys—more than any other group of professional people I have trained—cherry-pick the evidence to make their case. Such an approach to analysis is not objective. I see this cherry-picking in the Archangel Report.

On page five of the report, Archangel Group describes itself as “…a U.S. NGO (non-government organization) providing training and consulting to U.S. military, law enforcement and government agencies, in addition to schools of all levels, in the field of terrorism, security and combat tactics.” In other words, the Archangel Group is in business to sell its services to schools, the military, and police forces. I repeat myself, if you make money selling your services to the police can you really be objective in analyzing the role of the police in the nation’s worst school shooting?

I have reluctantly concluded that this report is not an objective analysis of the Virginia Tech shootings; it is a 144-page advertisement for the Archangel Group.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The Archangel Group, Ltd. is a private consulting group “providing training and consulting to U.S. military, law enforcement and government agencies, in addition to schools of all levels in the fields of terrorism, security and combat tactics.” Following the shootings at Virginia Tech, the group took the initiative to investigate the Blacksburg tragedy. No government agency requested or paid for the group’s research. Their findings were published on September 5, 2008, in a report entitled: “AFTER ACTION REVIEW: An Evaluation and Assessment of the Law Enforcement Tactical Response to the Virginia Tech University Shootings of Monday 16 April 2007.”

On September 13, 2008, Washington Post staff reporter Theresa Vargas wrote an article on the report entitled, “Report Hails Va. Tech Police Response.” The following is an examination of Ms. Vargas’s article.

This is the first of several articles the author plans on doing related to the Archangel Group’s report on Virginia Tech. To sit by and say nothing when faced with Archangel’s biases, self-serving analysis, and intellectual dishonesty, would be unconscionable.


Washington Post staff writer, Theresa Vargas’ coverage of the Archangel Group’s “After Action Review” of the shootings at Virginia Tech is an extreme disappointment. Anyone reading her article is left wondering, “Did you even read the 144-page report, Ms. Vargas?”

Ms. Vargas blithely accepts many of the reports assertions, does not investigate or compare the Archangel report with the findings of Governor Kaine’s review panel, and finally she accepts the report at face value. She does not give any indication that she critically examined the credentials of the people writing the report. Whatever happened to investigative reporting?

By engaging in such superficial journalism, Ms. Vargas has done nothing but help Virginia Tech and the police cover-up their shortcomings and weaknesses. She has played into the hands of school and police officials who engage in circular reasoning and disingenuous analysis.

Let me ask you Ms. Vargas—if the Archangel Group makes its living by selling its services to police and security forces, do you really expect them to be critical of the Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, or Virginia State Police? Let me pose this to you—Governor Kaine’s report on the shooting states that the Virginia State Police and ATF “declined” to turn over documents on Seung Hui Cho’s application to buy weapons. Why didn’t the Archangel Group report that? Others have described the refusal of the Virginia State Police and ATF to cooperate with the Governor’s investigation as “despicable.”

Ms. Vargas—look at the Archangel’s manipulation of the facts when it comes to discussing why neither Virginia Tech nor any of the police departments called for locking the campus down after the first shooting. Archangel asserts that a lockdown would create “better mass killing conditions.” If that is true, why is the state university system of New York implementing a lockdown system on all its campuses? Indeed, the SUNY campuses at Binghamton and Oneonta already have such systems in place—four strokes on a key board and they can lock down nearly all campus buildings. You needed to delve more deeply into the idea of campus lockdowns to determine whether or not the Archangel Group is making a valid point. Your reporting would have been better served and more ethical if you had given the other side of the “lockdown” argument.

I am puzzled why Ms. Vargas’ article in the Post doesn’t talk about the fact that the line of reasoning in the Archangel report is internally inconsistent—first, according to the report, you cannot use hindsight to criticize the police and university. Then the report uses hindsight to justify the actions of both police and university officials. The report cannot have it both ways. No where does Ms. Vargas’ story indicate that the underlying tone of the report wanders back and forth from matter-of-fact, to shrill, to defensive and then back again.

Perhaps the most glaring omission from Ms. Vargas’ article is her failure to look at the report’s conclusions. The Archangel report is about Virginia Tech, yet the second paragraph of the summary deals with al-Qaeda. Using blatant scare tactics, the report asserts that “al-Qaeda and its associated groups have monitored this situation.” This is absolutely incredible. There is no connection between the Virginia Tech shooting and al-Qaeda. To put that connection in the conclusion is an incredible violation of intellectual honesty!! The al-Qaeda reference is sensationalism at its worst!

The report makes several references to the shootings at Columbine; that is fine. But no where does the report compare the shootings at Virginia Tech to the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law. No where does the report look at the parallels between the feeble actions of police and school officials to the events before, during, and after the two shootings—at both schools. If the Archangel Group wanted to do a thorough analysis of the Virginia Tech shooting then they would have looked at the similarities between the Virginia Tech and the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law. Such a comparison would have been far more insightful than only a comparison between Virginia Tech and Columbine.

Ms. Vargas—your story has let all of us down. You have done a disservice to the victims of school shootings everywhere. Your failure to follow the basic tenants of good journalism—to investigate and to analyze—has given a boost to the cover-up of the real story of the shootings at Virginia Tech and the Appalachian School of Law.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The willingness of some in our society to play with words for their own ends is inexcusable, particularly when peoples’ lives are at state. It is bad enough that we live in a society that seems hell-bent on word games and on destroying the English language—but when innocent lives are lost because of these games, it is inexcusable. Nothing is what it seems, everything is how one perceives something—everything has to be “win-win;” no one loses, no one fails. At least that is what some want us to believe.

Our children are being taught in school that they don’t fail, they only have “deferred successes.” Incredible, absolutely incredible!! Silly me, I thought that part of a child’s development rested on teaching her or him how to deal with adversity; how to learn and grow from failure. Was I wrong? I don’t think so. This sort of shallow and superficial word gaming mean we are ignoring the real world and raising our children in a dream world environment that will make them unsuited to deal with reality. Please, someone free us from this “win-win” nonsense! People lose, people lose every day!

In fact, in school shootings there are no winners—everyone loses.. We all lose, the murder victims lose, the families lose, and society in general loses. Once again the glaring weakness of society surfaced and no one is ready to face up to the harsh realities of what needs to be done. In the case of the school shootings here in Virginia, no one is ready to support, much less adopt, laws and rules to keep guns out of the hands of violent people.

The Second Amendment advocates revel in word games; they are particularly manipulative. Their word games are insidious. They raise the fear that if you do not own a gun your home will be broken into, that your wives and daughters will be violated, and that your children’s lives are at risk. Actually they are right on one point, our children’s lives are at risk, but it is because the Second Amendment advocates have blocked the passage of laws to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill; out of the hands of individuals who are a danger to themselves and others. If you need proof, just look at the facts surrounding the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech.

The Second Amendment proponents cite the Constitution as giving the American people the right or liberty to own guns. But the Preamble to the Constitution talks about ensuring domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty for all of us—not just gun owners. Clearly, the words of the founding fathers put the general welfare and tranquility—LIFE ahead of the right to bare arms. You cannot have liberty; much less own a gun, without life.

Most of the proponents of wide-open gun ownership are pro-life people. But, for them pro-life only seems to apply to the unborn. They are not pro-life if you are already here. The are not pro-life when it comes to our children in school; they are not pro-life when it comes to those of us who are here and walking around—if they were they would be working feverishly to protect our school children; they would be working to keep guns out of the hands of the unfit.

The worst word game of all is the failure of the Second Amendment advocates to recognize that life, according to our founding fathers, was more important than the liberty we have; more important than owning guns. Our founding fathers recognized that without life there can be nothing else—Second Amendment advocates ignore that fact.

The Declaration of Independence came before the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The founding fathers began the Declaration with the following: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

Without the Declaration of Independence, there would be no Constitution, there would be no Bill of Rights guaranteeing us the right to bare arms. But, the Declaration of Independence puts the right to life in the primary position of human rights. How can a secondary right trump the most basic right we have—LIFE? It does not make sense!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


If you are getting ready to send your daughter or son to college, part of your selection process should be to familiarize yourself with the prospective school’s security procedures, policies, and emergency plans.

For those of you sending your daughters and sons to school in Virginia these questions are extremely important. I have lived in Virginia for over forty years and all three of my sons went to Virginia colleges and universities. If I were selecting schools for my children today, I would probably not select a Virginia school because of the poor state of campus security—compared to other states. Compounding the problem in Virginia is the fact that the state’s legal system operates under the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity—meaning you have little or no legal recourse against a state school even in cases of gross negligence.

Parents also need to know that if their child is killed or hurt by someone on school grounds, Virginia is one of the most difficult states to prove premises liability. The Virginia Supreme Court time and time again refuses to recognize the responsibility of a business proprietor to protect “its invitees from unreasonable risk of physical harm.” The whole question of “foreseeability” is hard to pin down. But the Supreme Courts of other states do recognize that there is a point where a proprietor can be held responsible for not taking action to protect “its invitees.” Courts in other states do recognize that there comes a point when violent behavior is predictable and a proprietor can be held responsible for ignoring the warning signs.

If the Virginia courts back away from holding people accountable, how will our schools and universities ever be safe?

If you are sending a son or daughter to a college or university, in many instances you do so at a terrible risk.

The following are some questions to ask:

1. Does the school have a plan in place that identifies aberrant behavior, and what steps will the school take to remove potentially dangerous individuals from the campus?

2. Does the school regularly review and update its security procedures?

3. Has the school brought the students into the dialog on what should be done in the case of an emergency?

4. Does the school have a campus-wide warning system in place, such as sirens, text messaging, and cell phone warnings?

5. What is the relationship between campus security and the local and state police? How closely do they cooperate and do they have a coordinated emergency plan?

6. What would happen to a student if he or she were found to have a weapon on campus?

7. How do you define weapons?

8. How quickly can campus security lock-down or secure all buildings on campus?

9. What is the school’s policy on bringing guns (or any weapon on campus including sling shots) onto campus?

10. What is the school’s policy if a student is caught sending harassing or threatening emails to someone?

11. Can a student, staff, or faculty member be directed to seek a psychological evaluation and treatment?

12. How quickly are parents notified if a student is causing a problem or disturbance—or appears to be exhibiting behavior that others consider threatening?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Searching for Answers; Searching for Justice

Two years following the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law I wrote the following article. The article appeared in two Virginia newspapers, but three others refused to print it for such reasons as: The article makes elected officials in Virginia look bad, and You live more than 50 miles from where the newspaper is published. These same newspapers willingly printed the words of Peter Odighizuwa who was sitting in a jail more than 50 miles away—and, by the way, the elected officials who “look bad” are the ones the papers endorsed for election.

Searching for Answers; Searching for Justice

Everyone sympathizes with the families when innocent men, women and children are gunned down in the all-to-frequent acts of violence in this country. Who didn’t agonize for the families and victims of Columbine? Every parent feels a deep sickness in the pit of the stomach when there is a school shooting—a sickness mixed with relief that, thank God, my child was not killed.

One day it is your child, or it is a member of your family. Two years ago a disgruntled student shot and killed the mother of our granddaughter, Angie Dales, and two faculty members at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. Two long years of pain and tears. I have watched Angie’s father nearly die from the anguish and stress; I have watched the grief on Angie’s mother’s face deepen as she copes with the tragedy; I have watched our granddaughter go—in a split second—from an exuberant seven year old to a morose child. The two-year journey since January 16, 2002 has been terrible.

Time does not heal. Time allows you to come to terms with what has happened—but some wounds never heal. How do you “heal” the hours of screams from a seven-year-old when she is told her mother has been gunned down?

Time helps you live with the anger and rage stemming from the fact that a human being bled to death because she did not get help—when the hospital was three minutes away. Time allows you to think about her plea not to let her die—without losing your mind.

Those of us left behind spend hours and days saying if only she hadn’t been in the student lounge, if only she had not cancelled her lunch with a friend.

But she was there.

In the search for answers we look for warnings, indications of violence. Could this shooting have been prevented? Yes! Were there were warnings that should have alerted authorities to the potential for violence at the school? Yes!

The indicators were there. They were clear; there were many. The Appalachian School of Law had no campus security on January 16, 2002. Peter Odighizuwa, the gunman, was a threat. Indeed, he was such a threat to the staff, that one employee—fearing for her safety—had had him banned from her office. Others expressed their alarm to school officials, yet nothing had been done. He had argued and fought with students and staff alike. Yet nothing was done. The school did nothing and ignored all the warning of danger time and time again.

Mr. Odighizuwa was not the only threat on campus. A year before Angie was murdered, she received the following from a fellow student after her computer accidentally sent a virus to another student:

“You fucking cocksucker, If you ever try to send me another virus again, I will track you down, cut your nipples off, and stick jumper cables in you and connect them to my truck. I’m not bullshitin. May the sheriff will find you hanging from a tree in Longbottom.”

The e-mail was reported to the school and to the police, but the investigation turned up “nothing.” No realistic investigation was conducted, and still there was no campus security. The family’s request to see the police investigation of the e-mail has been denied. We have been told it is “confidential.” Even the State Police promise to retrieve the report from Richmond and answer our questions has never been met—after months of waiting.

Indeed, a State Highway patrolman has angrily lectured us. He told the family we should be content the Mr. Odighizuwa will get his punishment in the hereafter. We should be content with that! The police claim they do not know who wrote the e-mail and that there is no connection to the murders on January 16th.

How would they know there is no connection if they do not know who wrote the e-mail?

In any case, there was a connection, because this was one more warning of danger to students that the law school knew about, but took no precautions for the safety of their students.

Our two-year journey has taken us to schools throughout Virginia. Is it unreasonable for us—or any parent—to ask that a school have campus security? No. Between 30 and 40 Virginia colleges and universities contacted—all sizes, private, and public—have campus security predating September 11th. The Appalachian School of Law had none.

We have been cautioned, warned not to press our questions, not to press for answers. Privately, friends in the legal profession tell us we will only bring more grief on ourselves. These friends have even raised the specter that in ways, both big and small, life will become difficult for us in the Old Dominion. Virginia’s politicians and legal professionals will close ranks to protect the law school, they warned. We have been warned that the legal establishment in Grundy has so many ties to the school and has so much invested in it that a retired coal miner and his wife, a retired school cook will never get their day in court. From Richmond, to Fairfax County, to Norfolk, to Grundy—the answers have been the same. Law firm after law firm has refused to take on the law school.

The American Bar Association says there is no more fitting response to the tragedy than to continue to build a program of legal education that promotes the rule of law, opportunity, and justice.

Where is Angie’s opportunity? Where is our justice when those in charge do everything they can to keep the truth from coming out?

When the police and school failed to bring the author of the hideous e-mail to justice, Angie told her family, “I guess I don’t amount to much.” You are wrong Angie, you mean everything to us and we will not let go of your memory, we will not let go of this fight for justice. On May 8th Angie should have graduated from the Appalachian School of Law—instead of attending the ceremony, we waited for answers.

Wherever you are, Angie, feel our anguish, feel our love. If you are calling our names, our hearts are answering.