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More Reasons to Worry About Ionatron

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Since my last post about improvised explosive devices (IEDs) I’ve been digging some more into this odd little company that says the government’s going to fork over $100 million for their Star Trek-like ray gun. It turns out that respected New York Post investigative reporter Christopher Byron has been all over them since last May.

“Much of Ionatron's support at the Pentagon is now coming from the office of J. David Patterson, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who last month helped NBC Nightly News prepare a soft news feature in which Ionatron was expected to play a starring role concerning "directed energy" weapons research,” wrote Byron.

And Patterson isn’t their only powerful friend. Again, according to Byron:

“[Ionatron chairman Robert] Howard’s newest venture, Ionatron, is closely tied to the politically well-connected Philadelphia law firm of Blank Rome LLP, which may explain the company's greased ride into Washington. Blank Rome's chairman David Girard-diCarlo, is widely viewed as a Republican Party king-maker and is reported to have strongly pressed the White House to name Pennsylvania's Republican governor, Tom Ridge, to the post of homeland security chief following the attacks of 9/11. Howard's ties to Girard-diCarlo's firm come by way of the head of Blank Rome's New York office, Robert Mittman, who appears as attorney of record on numerous Presstek and other Howard-linked SEC filings dating back to the mid-1990s. He also appears, at around the same time, as attorney of record for a California-based penny stock company called U.S. Home and Garden Inc., which eventually wound up being merged with Ionatron in March 2004, thereby giving Howard a revived post-Presstek presence on Wall Street.”

And I discovered, that according to the Center for Public Integrity, Ionatron, a company with less than $20 million in yearly revenues, lavished Blank-Rome with $200,000 worth of lobbying fees in 2004, $20,000 more than Raytheon paid the same firm the same year though they raked in $20.2 billion. I mention Raytheon because when you read the Byron links you'll see that he makes a very convincing case that Ionatron stole the technology from Raytheon (where most of the Ionatron principals once worked).

He also wrote about Ionatron’s cosy relationship with one of the most powerful men in the Senate. When it came time to decide whether or not to fund Ionatron “it received a hearty thumbs-up — along with a personally penciled-in defense spending supplemental budget authorization of $18 million — from chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Thad Cochran.” Cochran received a $9000 campaign contribution from the folks at Ionatron in return for transferring their HQ from Arizona to Cochran’s home state of Mississippi.

Besides Byron, Defensetech.org also started digging but so far the rest of the mainstream press seems to have swallowed whole the awe-shucks coolness of a present-day ray gun.

Furthermore, though Ionatron’s facility wasn’t harmed during Katrina let’s see if they hide behind the disaster to gobble up even more U.S. taxpayer, no-bid pork. After all, you can't claim you'll make much of a dent in post-Katrina Mississippi unemployment when you have just 70 employees.

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