American nuclear chief investigated over casino cheating

Navy Vice Admiral Timothy Giardina is accused of using counterfeit poker chips at an Iowa casino

Apparently, the US military would prefer the officers in charge of its nukes not be the gambling sort. Over the weekend it emerged that Navy Vice Admiral Timothy Giardina, the second-in-command of the US nuclear arsenal, is the subject of an illegal gambling investigation into the use of counterfeit poker chips at an Iowa casino. Admiral Giardina, who has not been arrested or charged, was suspended from his duties on 3 September, officials said on Saturday.

The admiral, a highly decorated submariner, graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1979 and has been awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, among several others, during his 34-year career. Before taking up his current post at the US Strategic Command in 2011, he was the deputy commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

The Iowa authorities reportedly launched an investigation of Admiral Giardina on 16 June, after being alerted to the possible use of counterfeit gambling chips in poker games at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Robert Kehlerr, the Air Force General who heads Strategic Command, learned of the investigation a month later, and referred Giardina’s case to the US Naval Criminal Investigation Service. Special agent David Dales of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation told the Associated Press that the case involved “a significant monetary amount”.

The Strategic Command is based around 18 miles from the Horseshoe, across the Missouri River at Offutt Air Force Base outside Omaha, Nebraska. It oversees the military’s nuclear-armed submarines, its nuclear bomber planes and its land-based nuclear missiles, as well as its satellites and cyberwarfare operations. Giardina remains assigned to the Command, but has been suspended from nuclear-related duties and other activities requiring security clearance, according to Command spokesperson Captain Pamela Kunze.

It is not known whether Admiral Giardina’s alleged actions compromised national security or Strategic Command operations, but Kunze said General Kehlerr had recommended he be reassigned. Admiral Giardina was previously scheduled to rotate out of his post later in 2013.

The US nuclear establishment had already been having an off year. In May, 17 launch control officers assigned to the maintenance of nuclear missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota were sidelined following a safety inspection. The officer in charge of their training was later relieved of duty. Last month, a missile unit at Montana’s Malmstrom  Air Force Base also failed a nuclear safety and security inspection; the commanding officer there was also relieved of duty.

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