National Security Agency (NSA) Deputy Director for Special Services Directorate, Colonel Nathaniel S. Hodge, has disclosed details of an on-going investigation in which some Korean and Sierra Leonean nationals were found with “hazardous materials and equipment that posed a national security risk to the lives of our citizens.”
The NSA, he said, has received intelligence that individuals were in possession of illegal “combustible and hazardous” materials, including cyanide. Agents from the NSA seized the individuals connected to the deal, along with an undisclosed amount of counterfeit monies, equipment and hazardous materials verifying their purpose, which was to smelt gold in a hotel room for shipment outside of the country.
In accordance with a July 11, 2014 letter from Cllr. Wheatonia Dixon Barnes, Deputy Minister for Administration and Public Safety, to NSA Director, Fumba Sirleaf, ordering a stay-of-investigation, Col. Hodge said, the NSA has turned over all of the evidence to authorities at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) since July 15.
The SSD Deputy added that the agency’s attention has been drawn to two recent publications in a local daily implicating the NSA in the operation.
“As such, the NSA wishes to note that in [contradition of] the glaring facts in this investigation, the National Chronicle Newspaper published a falsehood, concluding that a sensitive and clandestine operation of the NSA was empowered under the National Security Act of 2011.”
Col. Hodge dispelled this allegation in a statement issued to journalists at a press conference, attended also by a representative from the National Chronicle.
The NSA’s statement explained further that the NSA seized counterfeit money in the possession of the suspects amounting to US$49,300 notes in US$100 denominations. The ‘counterfeit notes', he said, have been turned over the MOJ as of July 15, as evidenced by the exhibits of a series communications between the two entities.
“We believe that the two National Chronicle publications are fabrications of the paper’s publisher, who is noted as extortionist [who] peddles his trade by soliciting stories on sensitive government matters and in turn published sensational headlines to further extort [money] from government officials,” the NSA statement said of the National Chronicle’s publisher, Philibert Browne.
The NSA branded Mr. Browne’s paper as “a blackmailing enterprise,” which Hodges said was in the habit of tarnishing the NSA’s contribution to pursuing legitimate investigations, especially transnational criminal organizations.
“The NSA wishes to reiterate its commitment in upholding its Constitutional responsibility, within the full rigors of the Laws of Liberia. As such, the NSA puts Mr. Browne and his dubious collaborators, in and out of government, on notice that we are aware of your collaboration for malicious and divisive mischief.”
But the newspaper’s publisher, Philibert Browne, says he stands by his story "110 percent".
When the Daily Observer contacted Mr. Browne via mobile phone Monday, he rhetorically wondered as to who he had ever extorted money from as claimed by the NSA.
“I stand by my story 110 percent because there is nothing fabricated about the story. Everything in the story is based on facts,” he told the Daily Observer.
On Monday, the paper published a story with the banner headline: “Amidst Ebola Spread, Pres. Sirleaf’s Son Steals Korean Businessmen’s US$284,000…”
The paper claimed it was concerned about the legal implications this issue poses to the government and the potential negative impact it may have on investors, among other things.