Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Idiot of the Week

It's been quite a while since we handed out one of these awards--and even longer since an airman won the dubious distinction.

Still, Captain Paul Borowiecki is deserving of "Idiot" honors. A missile combat crew member at Minot AFB, Borowiecki decided to steal a launch control device in 2005. According to his former supervisor, the Captain thought it would "be cool" to have one as a souvenir. As you might expect, that has landed Borowiecki in a lot of hot water.

The supervisor's comments came Tuesday, at an Article 32 hearing held at the base. An Article 32 is (roughly) the military equivalent of a grand jury, held to determine if the accused will face a courts-martial. A military judge will decide if Captain Borowiecki's case will go to trial; his ruling is expected soon.

According to witnesses who testified at the hearing, Borowiecki's actions could have resulted in disaster, had the control device had been compromised. As the Associated Press reports:

Borowiecki is accused of taking the launch control device...rather than destroying it as required when it was no longer in use. Officials say he admitted the theft in May and returned the device.

The domino-sized device is obsolete but Borowiecki’s supervisor, Capt. David Walbeck, testified that had the technology been compromised, it could have led to “unintended detonation” of a nuclear missile.

Admittedly, that detonation is at the "far end" of potential outcomes. But it doesn't excuse the actions of Captain Borowiecki, who had a spotless record until the theft was discovered. Incidentally, the control device is placed over other nuclear code components in an underground missile launch center, to detect possible tampering.

In recognition of his misguided quest for a classified souvenir, we believe Borowiecki is worthy of another prize: Idiot of the Week.


Brian said...

Ex-missileer here. The media calling it a "launch control device" is pretty misleading as that indicates it was a critical launch code or something.

The "device" is actually a TDI, which is a holographic sticker that is used to ensure two person control of codes-related items inside the console.

In no way whatsoever could this thing have lead to an unauthorized launch. At best it could possibly provide sensitive information about the design of the sticker.

Throw the book at him for lying, mishandling classified components, and violating procedures but trying to pimp this up as potential Armageddon calls into question the integrity of the entire court martial.

Joshua said...

Another ex-missileer here. Brian is right. TDIs do not give you ability to launch nukes. On a sad note, I served with Paul, and he was a good guy. I left a few weeks before this happened. I don't know what possessed him to do this.