SOFREP the wannabe TMZ of the Veteran Community..

By Posted in - Domestic Policy & Epic Fail & Media Appearances & Selfless Service & Veteran Issues on March 7th, 2018

Written proudly by Toby James Nunn, (a dirty legged grunt.)

As a military blogger and sideline enthusiast for the past couple of years I come across writing and practices that really makes us question the motives of the author and publisher. Here at Stew and the Nunn we pride ourselves in promoting positive veteran stories as much as possible and always giving a chance and coverage to veteran/military writers when possible. Personally, this is a calling for me and why I have been actively engaged in several different ventures specifically doing just this which has led to starting a media company and help founding a publishing company focused purely in the military and veteran space.

Why is it that even those within the military blogging community see the need to behave worse than tabloid media and are pure click-bait sites without supporting the demographic base they claim to. SOFREP is clearly the “National Inquirer” of milblogging and its editor/owner Jack Murphy is clearly not journalistic, but simply a man seeking sensational headlines and popularity in the terms of readership. Any veteran with an ounce of military cultural understanding sees right through this yet they continue to publish click-bait stories hoping for monetization. The recent publication of the ISIS ambush in Niger to which one can witness the death of American soldiers is beyond the pale yet not as bad as Jack Murphy’s self-righteous attempt to justify his ego over the feelings of the families, team members and community. This however is just part of a greater pattern. I chose to dig into their writing without using the video or apology to avoid drawing more attention to that but instead tackled their big “Investigative expose” on a Service Connected Veteran Owned Business. A business within the community that has a great reputation and is out there doing all it can to help veterans with work and opportunities rather than painting them as anything but productive members of society. SOFREP accusing TigerSwan of inciting violence and propaganda might be some of the most hypocritical statements of recent times. How quickly does one man’s ego run from investigative reporting to fictional writing and fake news? I’d ask Jack Murphy of SOFREP and his writing /investigative staff, but prefer to use his own style against him and pretend to ask without any opportunity to rebut. Then if they contact me I might put a meaningless asterisked footnote on the page.

One thing that always amazes me though is how petty jealousies and archaic rivalries lead people to push their personal agenda versus supporting the greater veteran community when it’s very clear that those they direct their hate to are simply just doing it better or enjoying a little more success.

So let’s start at the middle of this story and give some context. Last year the Dakota Access Pipe Line and especially its media coverage and protests captivated me. My wife is a water conservationist by profession and is highly educated in the field, so water is a strong point of discussion at the house. I was generally curious about this pipeline and the potential damages to the environment and of course from surface value how big companies were able to push around the federal, state and local governments to impose this issue on the sacred land of the Sioux. Of course, like many it took very little research to learn that this “protest” was more about sticking it to “the man” than actually protecting sacred lands or potentially killing millions with contaminated water. The tribal leaders met with the Pipe Line companies along with the Army Corps of Engineers and leaders and agreed to several things ranging from placement, easements and funding. It was also very clear that the majority of those protesting this Pipe Line were not directly going to be affected or local and this was clearly a call to action for “Eco Warriors” to make a brave stand on an issue and this was the fight of all fights. Celebrities were tweeting about it; some news agencies were covering it, but mainly this was an information battle versus an environmental one.

There was a call to action for Veterans to come stand and “fight” that went viral and with it was a crowd funding campaign to pay for the support and needs of the risen force. This was spearheaded by Wesley Clark Jr, (the son of former Army General and Presidential Candidate Wesley Clark} and his partner in crime Michael A Wood Jr. a former Marine and Baltimore Police Officer. Unfortunately, after the large influx of Veterans to the protest in order to help and protect, and $ 1,155,660 (*according to goFundme site) raised, the veterans found themselves out in the cold without support and the funds that were raised for them. Living in a freezing, muddy camp without the promised support to get home and without the promise of supplies to support them there like sleeping bags, warm tents, food, etc. There has not been an accounting for the money and it appears that Wesley Clark JR and Michael A Woods JR successfully raised money and used it for their own purposes and have escaped any accountability for their defrauding of those that chose to support them.

In several videos, Wesley Clark JR claims that 4000 Veterans converged on the DAPL protest site to protect the protesters from the violence that the energy companies were inflicting on the defenseless “Water Protectors” who were primarily tribal natives from the immediate area. We do know that many of the protesters were not local and that is why the protests camps swelled to such large numbers as people came from all over the country to support in this cause.

This seems like this would be a bigger story for SOFREP to write about since it was thousands of Veterans being defrauded and conned by a couple of suspect, show boating veterans that claim to be the voice of the demographic. The fraud and abuse of Veterans is apparently overlooked so a personal attack can be made on Veteran Owned Business hired to employ their expertise on stability and governance and to provide command and control elements to an otherwise chaotic situation with many different actors, roles and organizations.

This however was not the focus of their original hit piece but instead Jack Murphy avoids reporting or writing about a tragic scene of non-fiction so that he can try his hand at fiction.

 

FULL DISCOSURE: I would like to call myself friends with James Reese the owner of TigerSwan International. A few years back when I was tasked with taking a Gold Star father and escorting him into Iraq to see where his son was Killed In Action not many people would take my calls or offer any help. I was able to make some magic happen in addition to the rest of the team working on it with us and after we got some of the major obstacles out-of-the-way I reached out to James Reese and he was more than willing to help us. I want to add that this was not a financially driven decision on his part as his company donated the majority of the cost and most within his team performed their tasks pro bono based on his recommendation and belief in the value of this particular mission. James and I were successful in getting the Father into Iraq and out without injury to him or us. I have the utmost respect for his professionalism and have witnessed first-hand his desire to see people; especially veterans of all forces, shapes and sizes succeed. Headline News did a documentary on the mission and titled it, 108 Hours: A Fathers Journey, feel free to check it out.

With that said, imagine my surprise when I read an article that is painting this extremely philanthropic man who I watched help several entire families escape violent situations (providing for them a fresh start), and help another family find peace and find ways to employ as many people as possible and truly affect positive change in the most dire of places being accused of ordering the vicious and violent attacks on innocent people and on fellow veterans.

I couldn’t believe it, but a wise man (my father) would often repeat the words of President Reagan, “Trust but Verify”

Jack Murphy lays out a pretty fictional tale in his article that he claims is a “warning” on SOFREP radio (episode 133). This warning is for future of special operators getting out of the service and working for companies like TigerSwan that could be leading them down an immoral and illegal path. His claim that JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) guys like James Reese and John Porter leverage their status as former Delta Force leaders to coerce impressionable recently separated warfighters to commit crimes and to have secret agents is beyond crazy.

So let’s break down the accusations that have been made. The beginning of his article revolves around the conjecture of two security company owners sitting around in a hangar talking about business and practices. Then making strange comments about a 3rd company’s owner providing surveillance on the others wife. This unsubstantiated claim is both irrelevant and purely placed to virtue signal. I believe Mr. Murphy has been watching too many re-runs of The A Team. The article then goes into talking about the situation on the ground before 3 September 2016 and the actions taken by the pipeline to take advantage of a local festival and the protesters distraction by it to move forward with progress. The idea that security companies are exclusive in this type of decision is putting a lot of faith in them for one, but what makes all this information interesting to me is when I interviewed people for this piece I found out that Tiger Swan didn’t even meet with Energy Transfer Partners in Houston to discuss this opportunity until 6 September. So again, the author is painting a picture of a company being involved in decisions and activities before they are actually even part of anything.

According to Energy Transfer Partners (the company responsible for the overall pipeline) TigerSwan was brought in to consult and provide situational analysis. Then after a small 2 man element on the ground were able to evaluate what they saw, develop a plan to assist in the safe progress of the construction. As relayed through TigerSwan directly, they state that this extremely small element was able to ascertain the need for a coordination structure to get the many different moving elements working in alignment better. This was a complex situation with different government agencies, multiple security contract companies, sub-contractors, an existing public relations problem and a highly volatile and emotional issue. Shawn Sweeney (one of the VP’s of TigerSwan) and one other TS manager were the first on the ground team to make the assessment. The article references internal conversations about profitability, margins and optics. Which apparently is a strange phenomenon to Mr. Murphy as I can’t seem to have a single business meeting without any of that stuff coming up. I guess that’s because that is basic business. The inclusion of this information is subjective as I imagine it’s pretty hard to figure out what profit margins there might be with only two men on the ground and providing the best intelligence one can often come from prolonged exposure to the information, not quick shutter flashes of it. Mr. Murphy also makes the claim that “Millions of Dollars per month” were paid to TigerSwan but that is not accurate. Perhaps with the over 5 security companies working on this project I can imagine there might have been more than a million a month spent, but TigerSwan did not earn that kind of money on this project according to TigerSwan staff and owners. At the end of the day in a business, there is revenue and then there is profit, and on a services contract such as this most of the revenue is back out the door to the service providers.

There is no doubt that Mr. Murphy understands this as his military record is far more accomplished than mine, but even I a simple Infantryman knows that best reconnaissance is “on the objective”, and sending a small unit out to provide that back to the commander to help develop a plan falls simply in troop-leading procedures. To suggest that there is some nefarious agenda behind men of business ensuring that engaging in enterprise is profitable seems slightly strange. My understanding of business is to provide a service/product to a customer/client for more than the actual cost of providing it so that the margin between the actual expense of activity and invoice is worth engaging in the effort.

The next point that Mr. Murphy states this that upon arrival of Tiger Swan and their implementation of tracking Significant Acts (SIGACTS) stated a strong upsurge in these Significant Acts. This is an interesting way of presenting the information since prior to the event there wasn’t a centralized tracking system or metrics system and now there is. So from no reporting at all to reporting would be an “uptick”. If one was to look at the numbers from 1 company then add the other 4 companies, there will obviously be an increase. To blame TigerSwan for the surge in SIGACTs based on reporting practices is a pretty weak and non-provable position. Then to accuse TigerSwan of acting as “both the arsonist and firefighter” (to close that point out) is as close to a playground comeback like “your momma dresses you funny” which again is purely virtue signaling.

 

The article then takes an even stronger fictional turn when it states TigerSwan brought in faux protesters that were there to agitate and incite violence. Quoting Eddie Stormcloud (a Native American that was present who spoke with SOFREP about the fake protesters willingness to acquire guns and have them brought in), appears like sound reporting except nowhere in the quote does Eddie Stormcloud state anything factual about how he knew these people belonged to Tiger Swan other than opinion. I have no doubt that there were agitators in the camps and have no doubt that they would prefer weapons as there was weapons all around them. Not to mention a young lady blew her arm off with a propane IED in a violent clash with law enforcement. Back to the point at hand though, Jack Murphy of SOFREP is accusing TigerSwan both in his article and on SOFREP Radio of planting “ninja” like operatives with no digital imprint into the camps to incite violence that TigerSwan in turn would have to deal with. This type of deep state fear mongering speech and psychological warfare approach works for some aspects of the media trying to influence the public, but when your readership and listening demographic can apply the 5th principal of patrolling (known as common sense) it hardly passes the smell test. On face value I have a hard time believing not one, but a group of operatives working for any private company has the ability to be devoid of any identity or electronic signature. The guy in the bar who can’t tell you a story because its classified and he would have to kill you approach is definitely a weak hand to play. So, when asked about these ghost operatives, law enforcement had no issue debunking this in addition to Tiger Swan debunking it.The TigerSwan identities were known as they were the part of the entity to identify them along with Law Enforcement and if SOFREP would have asked would have gotten the intelligence reports with said information. The follow on claim that two unidentified individuals showed up in the TigerSwan office claiming to be sent there by the founder of TigerSwan, James Reese, was adamantly denied and dispelled by TigerSwan as no one recognized or knew them, and Mr. Reese didn’t hire them. TigerSwan believes it was an attempt to gain information on TigerSwan versus providing TigerSwan with information. An official within one of the Law Enforcement Agencies involved stated that there were paid informants in the camps however no private entity had them and Shawn Sweeney of TigerSwan and one of the original members on the ground for them refused to pay sources. They have a policy about that in place as it tends to devalue the intelligence. I myself (with zero experience) believe that Law Enforcement would be well served to have “confidential informants” reporting information, as that’s typically leads to arrests. A sworn in witness is usable in a court of law, a person hustling for money is unreliable at best hence TigerSwan’s policy to not pay “sources”. But let’s grab some perspective on this claim as well. TigerSwan at this time and at any given time have operations happening globally. They currently have over 300 host nation coalition personnel working for them in Syria and are engaged in several other countries like Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Afghanistan and in northern Africa, as well as the US. Yet Jack Murphy thinks James Reese is managing a small group of secret ninjas because that’s what CEO’s of global companies do? This is where reading Mack Bolan novels and dreaming of the elusive Bond super villain leads us down the path of personal shattered dreams rather than an azimuth back to reality.

To further attempt to reinforce his evil empire image Jack Murphy uses common Tactics, Techniques and Procedures from John Porters (the TigerSwan project manager) past to validate a possible connection to the protests at DAPL. This also made the coffee come out my nose since what we consider “guerilla tactics” partly originated in what demographic?… In addition to that, he cites personal information about James Reese from a decade prior to further smear his character and ignore other major factors in James Reese’s departure from the military. According to Jack Murphy and his sources it all revolved around personal “indiscretions” that James Reese left the military, but he fails to mention that Mr. Reese was also battling cancer at the time and the demands of treatment can be distracting in high performance leadership.

 

Now, John Porter did have a baseball bat in his hand along with a young man standing next to him with a baseball bat and was officially counseled by James Reese about this issue and to include the optics, ethics and outcome if that behavior/language was ever used again. James Reese was very open with me when asked about this and spoke harshly about his disappointment in the circumstance. Keep in mind that protesters just trespassed onto private land, were out numbering the team, and were brazen and aggressive. However, trying to hang a bunch of conjecture on an open issue is stretching journalism a bit. I am not claiming to be a journalist, yet I seem to be offering a little more journalistic practice than Mr. Murphy by trying to find more than one source and trying to use a reliable one. Google is an amazing tool by the way, I found several videos of this event in seconds so not sure what Murphy was researching for months.

Murphy even dedicates a large portion of his piece to talk about a Kyle Thompson who was working for another security company called Silverton with inflammatory pictures and prose while attempting to weave a connection to TigerSwan. There is no connection as he never worked for them or had any position of control over him, so this is Mr. Murphy simply claiming one.

From what I can find much of the information used by Jack Murphy is taken from a couple of former disgruntled TigerSwan employees. Why didn’t he name the sources? When Mr. Murphy seems to continue his piece by attempting to discredit a product and service that TigerSwan provides that has nothing to do with the reason the article is being written. It leads to the appearance of something else is afoot. Why is SOFREP a so focused on discrediting TigerSwan product and services? What does this have to do with DAPL? What is the financial motivation to publish this dribble is it like the motivation to publish the ISIS propaganda video?

 

SOFREP writer Danielle Bizier writes a follow-up piece about TigerSwan called, TigerSwan: Propaganda masquerading as Analysis. Upfront I want to say that I do not know Mrs. Bizier but her resume and education on the surface is impressive. She opens her piece with the statement that “The ultimate goal of private security firm TigerSwan, hired by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), to manage the protesters at the Dakota Access Pipe Line, was to make money- apparently even if they had to cross a whole multitude of ethical lines to do so. As part of its investigation into TigerSwan’s more questionable practices, SOFREP was provided with several internal analytical documents for review.”

 

Only stating that a former TigerSwan employee furnished the documents Danielle Bizier goes into the slide decks as if that are the smoking gun Alex Jones at Info Wars has been waiting on to prove the dangers of the deep state and the invasion of Texas from Operation Jade Helm. It’s a fairly common practice to prepare slide decks or presentations for perspective or existing clients on certain issues in any business. This is not marketing as much as business development. The great conspiracy seems to be more with SOFREP’s need to damage TigerSwan’s reputation more than TigerSwan’s leadership’s personal army of non-identifiable ninja’s. Was this piece to share internal documents an attempt to bolster the hit piece written a few days prior? It appears to be since it quotes itself in the article. A quote that is completely not substantiated in any way and uses verbiage in an attempt to put everyone from the company in a specific box regardless of background and skill set.

“These were the masturbatory fantasies of former Special Operations soldiers eager to relive their glory days and maintain relevancy in their lives after service.”

 

Of course this must be true of every former Special Operations soldier. Which means Jack Murphy himself must be trying to live out his dream of ever being relevant. It appears in both his article and podcast that he has a disdain for JSOC members or that he is trying to validate himself in some way. “I was basically Infantry” or “I could’ve been CAG if I wanted to” statements commonly heard by simple guys like me, are ringing in my ears as I read this. The let me be your martyr approach by Jack and crew seems pretty predictable. Jack’s statement of wanting to “warn” people about these types of companies is just demonstrating that they live up to the worse perpetrated stereotypes of veterans especially those from Special Operations. A guy with direct action experience is not suited to handle complex situations or business issues? I guess Evan Hafer of Black Rifle Coffee and Matt Best should rethink their lives as each have taken their experience and translated into solid business practices. Gentlemen like Jim Hanson a former Special Forces NCO now President of Security Studies Group might disagree or my friend Dr. Mike Simpson, a former Ranger, Special Forces Engineer & Medic turned JSOC Doctor who is working as an ER Doctor while successfully operating a startup, clearly refute this point. I refute it! SOFREP is so out of touch with whom they claim to represent or be it’s embarrassing. Yet that’s what the mainstream media said about TMZ, so we can probably look forward to more fiction and click bait than actual relevance. I encourage y’all to find your “news” elsewhere, with so many great platforms out there like Havoc Journal or Bouhammer.com instead.

(1) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Philip Crabtree - Reply

    March 7, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Well said. I had my own frustrations with SOFREP a few years ago. Being in Armor but working as a speechwriter on a GO’s staff, I noticed SOFREP would basically repost commonly accessed articles from such publications as Army Times or Stars & Stripes and put them behind paywalls with a “dangling carrot” headline and taste of the article. Personally, I consider this an unethical business and journalistic practice. I dumped both their newsletter and podcast. I was finally able to dump the email list asking me to subscribe to the crate club.

    Here’s the thing I want to point out to people. There are all kinds of unscrupulous people who come from all branches of the Army and other service branches. We like quick and easy ways to assess character, so we like brands like badges, titles, or patches. In PR, we call it branding, and we say that a brand equals a promise of a set of attributes. This doesn’t always bear out. The fact is that there is a murdered SF Soldier who is allegedly dead at the hands of two SEALs in Africa. SSG Melgar certainly didn’t deserve this.

    In this era of brand astute Veterans and consumers, we must evaluate what the post-service brand stands for. I get it. Some Veterans are trying to figure out what to do when they leave the service. I’ve been there. Two years after retiring, I’m still going through transition. Sometimes there are false starts or a series of testing the waters, but that should not weaken the values we have lived as professional men of arms. If we are “Soldiers for Life”, then we must deliver on the U.S. Army brand even after becoming civilians.

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