Saturday, January 14, 2006

Online NewsHour: Equipping U.S. Troops With Armor -- January 11, 2006

Online NewsHour: Equipping U.S. Troops With Armor -- January 11, 2006 Here is the link to an excellent transcript and video regarding the Marine body armor study. The discussion is between Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (Ret) who I debated on Scarborough Country on Monday. He is a paid consultant for the Pentagon and Lt. Col. Roger Charles (Ret) who runs the Soldiers For The Truth (www.sftt.org) a nonprofit organization founded by David Hackworth to address soldiers issues. Roger Charles and Nat Helms are responsible for saving future marine and soldiers lives by getting the Pentagon moving quickly on this critical upgrade of body armor. This Lehrer Hour discussion is worth watching to better understand this important issue.

Marine Lethal Torso Injuries: Body Armor Study

Thanks to Ed Fields. Here is a direct link to the declassified section of the body armor study the Marines conducted which showed design changes in body armor would have saved approximately 80% of those KIAs hit in the upper torso.
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Humvee improvements fall on soldiers - Jan 14, 2006

CNN.com - Humvee improvements fall on soldiers - Jan 14, 2006: "TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) -- Soldiers exposed to Iraq's increasingly lethal roadside bombs, which can rip through armored Humvees, are drawing on wartime experience and stateside expertise to protect their vehicles with stronger armor and thermal detection cameras.

The upgrades are being done by individual soldiers and units as the Pentagon decides how Humvees should be changed, and follow public criticism of the Bush administration for not armoring all Humvees ahead of the war."

Nearly three years after rolling into Iraq in trucks covered in many instances only by canvas roofs, the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade is adding extra layers of armor to its Humvees.

Col. Michael Steele, the brigade's commander, said he ordered the improvements because the insurgents' roadside bombs -- known to the military as "improvised explosive devices" -- have become bigger and harder to detect.

"The responsibility of the commander is to figure out what we need to respond to this evolving threat. The easiest, the fastest and most appropriate answer is add additional armor," Steele said.

Iraqi insurgents are also using more anti-tank mines and making bombs that can penetrate the Humvee's current armor. Among the more deadly devices are explosives shaped to funnel a blast through Humvee plating -- sophisticated bombs that officials suspect are being imported from neighboring countries like Iran.

Because additional armor won't always stop such explosives -- one bomb destroyed an Abrams battle tank last month, for instance -- a National Guard unit in Baghdad has added detection devices and other measures to protect its Humvees.

Drawing on the part-time soldiers' backgrounds as mechanics, electricians and carpenters, the 126th Armor Battalion based in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan, added thermal imaging cameras and a 6-foot boom that can be lowered in front of the Humvee. Dangling chains and an infrared countermeasure on the boom can help trigger explosives before the Humvee is directly over them, said Lt. John Caras.

Caras, a former Marine, was the driving force behind the improvements, which have been made to six of the unit's Humvees.

"Right from the beginning, I was looking for ways to go on the offensive," he said of the upgrades, which also include extra bulletproof glass around the Humvee gunner and lights and sirens to help with traffic control.

Many Humvees around Iraq also jam signals like cell phones, garage door openers and other remote-control devices used by insurgents to detonate explosives.

U.S. troops in the past have hardened soft-skin Humvees by using upgrade kits or by attaching spare steel to their vehicles, and the Army's chief of staff now requires that all combat vehicles in Iraq be armored. The military now has more than 25,000 armored Humvees in the country.

No Humvee successor in sight Commanders in Iraq and at the Pentagon have debated how to further improve the Humvee. The Army also has tested several vehicles to replace it, but a successor has not been developed.

There have been 43 bomb and mine attacks on Humvees operated by the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade since September, killing nine soldiers and injuring dozens.

Given those numbers, Steele said the need for new armor was apparent.

"There are a whole bunch of IEDs that are above the current protection level for the armored Humvee," he said.

"Everybody has been trying to do something over the last couple of years."

Army officials would not comment on where Humvees have failed or detail how the armor improvements differ from current designs.

Nearly all the 530 Humvees in the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based brigade, which is deployed to north-central Iraq, will be upgraded at a makeshift assembly line the brigade created at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.

Maj. Tom Bryant, the brigade spokesman, said the armor program is not a reaction to faulty equipment but a response to change on the battlefield.

"We're not interested in creating controversy," he said. "It's about saving soldiers lives."

'I'm not willing to wait'

While the brigade plans to upgrade all its Humvees, the program is not in official use elsewhere. Francis Harvey, the secretary of the Army, was briefed on the improvements to the Humvee's armor months ago.

There is no Humvee armor strong enough to protect against roadside bombs packed with thousands of pounds of explosives, which the Army categorizes as "catastrophic IEDs," Steele said.

"There is nothing wrong with the Army," he said. "But I'm not willing to wait. I'm not sure I would be the priority, and I don't know how many of my guys could be hurt or killed between now and then."

The National Guard unit's Humvee improvements also have been passed up the chain of command, but it's not clear if the military plans to make the changes on more vehicles.

Caras said the additions like the infrared camera -- which might detect the thermal footprint of a bomb hidden among roadside debris -- help turn the Humvee from an armor-wrapped defensive shell into an offensive vehicle.

"It's about moving to where the problem is and counteracting it," he said. "Your purpose is to move against any enemy that's out there."

Commanders in both units say insurgents are adept at hiding their work and improving their bombs. And they are quick to learn.

"All the stupid ones are dead," said Capt. Jamey Turner of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a brigade commander in Beiji.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Soldiers for the Truth - Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits

Soldiers for the Truth: "Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action.

The soldiers asked for anonymity because they are concerned they will face retaliation for going public with the Army's apparently new directive. At the sources' requests DefenseWatch has also agreed not to reveal the unit at which the incident occured for operational security reasons.

On Saturday morning a soldier affected by the order reported to DefenseWatch that the directive specified that 'all' commercially available body armor was prohibited. The soldier said the order came down Friday morning from Headquarters, United States Special Operations Command (HQ, USSOCOM), located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It arrived unexpectedly while his unit was preparing to deploy on combat operations. The soldier said the order was deeply disturbiing to many of the men who had used their own money to purchase Dragon Skin because it will affect both their mobility and ballistic protection.

"We have to be able to move. It (Dragon Skin) is heavy, but it is made so we have mobility and the best ballistic protection out there. This is crazy. And they are threatening us with our benefits if we don't comply." he said.

The soldier reiterated Friday's reports that any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action.

As of this report Saturday morning the Army has not yet responded to a DefenseWatch inquiry.

Recently Dragon Skin became an item of contention between proponents of the Interceptor OTV body armor generally issued to all service members deploying in combat theaters and its growing legion of critics. Critics of the Interceptor OTV system say it is ineffective and inferior to Dragon Skin, as well as several other commercially available body armor systems on the market. Last week DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that determined that 80% of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Interceptor OTV body armor they were wearing was more effective. The Army has declined to comment on the report because doing so could aid the enemy, an Army spokesman has repeatedly said.

A U.S. Army spokesman was not available for comment at the time DW's original report (Friday - 1700 CST) was published. DefenseWatch continues to seek a response from the Army and will post one as soon as it becomes available. Yesterday the DoD released a news story through the Armed Forces News Service that quoted Maj. Gen. Steven Speaks, the Army's director of force development, who countered critical media reports by denying that the U.S. military is behind the curve in providing appropriate force protection gear for troops deployed to Iraq and elsewhere in the global war against terrorism. The New York Tiimes and Washington Post led the bandwagon of mainstream media that capitalized on DefenseWatch's release of the Marine Corps study. Both newspapers released the forensic information the Army and Marines are unwilling to discuss.

"Those headlines entirely miss the point," Speaks said.

The effort to improve body armor "has been a programmatic effort in the case of the Army that has gone on with great intensity for the last five months," he noted.

Speaks' assessment contradicts earlier Army, Marine and DoD statements that indicated as late as last week that the Army was certain there was nothing wrong with Interceptor OTV body armor and that it was and remains the "best body armor in the world."

One of the soldiers who lost his coveted Dragon Skin is a veteran operator. He reported that his commander expressed deep regret upon issuing his orders directing him to leave his Dragon Skin body armor behind. The commander reportedly told his subordinates that he "had no choice because the orders came from very high up" and had to be enforced, the soldier said. Another soldier's story was corroborated by his mother, who helped defray the $6,000 cost of buying the Dragon Skin, she said.

The mother of the soldier, who hails from the Providence, Rhode Island area, said she helped pay for the Dragon Skin as a Christmas present because her son told her it was "so much better" than the Interceptor OTV they expected to be issued when arriving in country for a combat tour.

"He didn't want to use that other stuff," she said. "He told me that if anything happened to him I am supposed to raise hell."

At the time the orders were issued the two soldiers had already loaded their Dragon Skin body armor onto the pallets being used to air freight their gear into the operational theater, the soldiers said. They subsequently removed it pursuant to their orders.

Currently nine U.S. generals stationed in Afghanistan are reportedly wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin body armor, according to company spokesman Paul Chopra. Chopra, a retired Army chief warrant officer and 20+-year pilot in the famed 160th "Nightstalkers" Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), said his company was merely told the generals wanted to "evaluate" the body armor in a combat environment. Chopra said he did not know the names of the general officers wearing the Dragon Skin.

Pinnacle claims more than 3,000 soldiers and civilians stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan are wearing Dragon Skin body armor, Chopra said. Several months ago DefenseWatch began receiving anecdotal reports from individual soldiers that they were being forced to remove all non-issue gear while in theater, including Dragon Skin body armor, boots, and various kinds of non-issue ancillary equipment.

Last year the DoD, under severe pressure from Congress, authorized a one-time $1,000 reimbursement to soldiers who had purchased civilian equipment to supplement either inadequate or unavailable equipment they needed for combat operations. At the time there was no restriction on what the soldiers could buy as long as it was specifically intended to offer personal protection or further their mission capabilities while in theater.

Nathaniel R. Helms is the editor of DefenseWatch Magazine. He can be reached at natshouse1@chater.net. Please send all inquiries and comments to dwfeedback@yahoo.com .

[bth: this is criminal. How can the Army be putting soldiers' safety and welfare first while denying them access to better equipment from the private sector. This is done al the time from camel back canteens to blood clotting agents to boots, gloves, flame retardant undergarments and body armor. This is bull shit and needs to be investigated.]
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Soldiers for the Truth - Is the Procurement System Actually Working AGAINST the Troops?

Soldiers for the Truth: "Recently, DefenseWatch Editor-in-Chief Nat Helms beat the mainstream press to the punch and broke a story regarding the complete breakdown in the DoD procurement system when he released the first in a series of articles concerning defective Interceptor body armor. In a multi-part series, Helms trumped the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and other major print and broadcast news outlets in his reportage of the irregularities in the awarding of government contracts, the quality issues with finished products and the lack of oversight (until very recently) of a program that had an immediate and direct bearing on the physical safety and survivability of U.S. Marines and Army soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The initial story and the follow-on series are the exact type of reportage that SFTT.org founder, the late Colonel David H. Hackworth, U.S. Army, (Ret.) wanted to be able to provide to those most in need of our oversight, namely the average American GI. As a member of the editorial staff of DefenseWatch, I am very proud of Nat Helms and his unflagging efforts to research this story and bring it forward into the light of day. At the same time, I am also proud that it was SFTT and DefenseWatch that broke this major story.

Helms' reportage was the public disclosure that the United States Marine Corps had conducted and completed a study that showed the inadequacy of the body armor system that had been fielded for the front line combat forces of the Marine Corps and the Army. This revelation, long overdue, is even more egregious in light of the fact that for the better part of the last three years, American military personnel, painfully and personally aware that government issued body armor was less than satisfactory, dug deep into their own pockets to pay for privately purchased body armor. Even three years ago, these soldiers and Marines knew that what they could buy, off the shelf, provided better protection than what the government was fielding through the massive military logistics system.

SFTT Foundation President Roger Charles, himself a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a retired USMC Lieutenant Colonel has also written on this subject, as well as other related procurement failures. Both Roger Charles and Nat Helms are combat veterans of the Vietnam War and have seen the overall improvement in weapons systems from that war to the one we are fighting today. While our aircraft are faster and carry more impressive whiz-bang technology than the old A-6 Intruders, F-100 Super Sabres, F-105 Thuds, F-4 Phantoms and F-8 Crusaders that routinely "flew downtown" to bomb the capital of North Vietnam, it seems unconscionable that we send grunts into the field with body armor that provides little, if any, real protection from the more primitive weapons used by Iraqi insurgents to kill and maim our ground troops and destroy our vehicles.

Given the fact that the war in Iraq was a completely voluntary one, the failure to provide equipment to our troops that exceeded minimal standards is an especially glaring one. In the three years since the United States attacked Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, more than 2,200 Americans have been killed in action or died of wounds. More than 15,000 Americans (the equivalent of an entire Army division) have been seriously wounded, with an inordinate number of those losing arms and legs. In view of the technological superiority and manufacturing capability inherent within the U.S. economy, the failure by the Department of Defense to correct qualitative and quantitative deficiencies in both body and vehicle armor is one that warrants, at the bare minimum, a serious look by a congressional investigating committee.

As someone who worked many years working inside the aerospace industry, in a career spent entirely in procurement, I believe I have a better than fair understanding of the how system is supposed to work. So when I read articles like those posted here by Mr. Helms or those published elsewhere, it was especially disturbing to me to when I read of the unnecessary deaths of so many fine soldiers and Marines who have dedicated themselves to protecting the rest of us from harm. Early in my career, I learned, in a formal training program conducted by Grumman Aerospace, that I was spending taxpayer dollars and with that role came a special responsibility – one that required me to conduct business honorably and ethically, remaining mindful that no matter how small the part I purchased, that someday, it would become part of a larger system and that an American GI's life might be hanging in the balance. As a veteran myself, even then, I knew that soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coasties still in uniform depended on the honesty and integrity of the system that provided them with the tools of their trade.

Unfortunately for those casualties of this latest war, it seems that too many military suppliers have only considered the potential for profits (at the expense of lives or limbs) and have, in too many cases, betrayed the GI on the battlefield. Much of this problem can be directly attributed to "no bid" contracts to suppliers with less than stellar reputations for quality. Another area of concern that merits review is the appointment of service secretaries and their deputies who come directly to the government from the very defense contractors they will be overseeing now that they are part of the administration. And all too often, despite prohibitions against the practice, far too many admirals, generals and senior field grade officers, many with recent program management experience find their way onto the payrolls of the defense companies they dealt with while still in uniform.

While the unethical and slimy transactions take place back here in CONUS, GIs continue to face a ruthless and determined enemy, using primitive but extremely effective and lethal field expedient weapons. It is a classic retelling of the David vs. Goliath biblical story. Sadly, at this point, Goliath is not the representative of the nasty Philistines, he is us.

At this time in history, we do not face a monolithic enemy with equivalent industrial capacity to the United States. Our soldiers and Marines face an insurgency, motivated by both nationalistic and religious fervor that wants the United States out of their country. They will do anything to achieve that end.

Since President Bush first appointed Secretary Rumsfeld to head up the Defense Department, there have been too may instances of policy failures with the potential to cause serious harm to the defense of the United States. Now, with a lack of objectively professional oversight for a procurement process with direct responsibility for the safety of combat troops, we have seen the tragic results. Right wing talk show hosts can smear critics of this failed policy till the cows come home, but those tactics do not change the fact that current procurement policies at the highest levels do not operate to the benefit of the end user of the gear at the tip of the spear.

If we are going to send our soldiers and Marines into hell-holes like Fallujah and An Najaf, then they should be protected to the maximum extent possible. They should have more than an even chance of going in the front door and coming out the back door in one piece. How many American Marines might be alive today had they been issued better body armor is really not the issue. The one that is and the one requiring real and honest answers is how did the system permit an inferior product to be issued, when its quality and protective capabilities were questioned from the very beginning
.

Far too many Americans have become casualties who might otherwise survived. It is long past time that those responsible for this perfidy answer for their malfeasance and greed. The soldiers and Marines who protect us from harm abroad deserve better from a citizenry who should be protecting them from the greed and avarice of the corporate and business elites.

Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at paulconnors@hotmail.com. Please address all comments and feedback to DWfeedback@yahoo.com.
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Pentagon to families: Go ahead, laugh

USATODAY.com - Pentagon to families: Go ahead, laugh: "When the stress of the war in Iraq becomes too severe, the Pentagon has a suggestion for military families: Learn how to laugh.

With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt 'ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho.'

No joke.

'I laugh every chance I get,' says the instructor, retired Army colonel James 'Scotty' Scott. 'That's why I'm blessed to be at the Pentagon, where we definitely need a lot of laughter in our lives.'

Scott, 57, is certified as a laughter training specialist by the Ohio-based World Laughter Tour, a group that promotes mirth as medicine. It touts scientific research that suggests chuckling can boost the body's immune system and decrease stress hormones.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, says the Pentagon is committed to the program and values Scott's skills. 'We sent him to the training,' she says"...
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More Body Armor Is On the Way for U.S. Troops

"The Army announced yesterday that it will soon start producing 230,000 sets of side armor plates and field them over the year to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, after a recently disclosed Pentagon study indicated that such plates could have helped prevent scores of troop deaths since 2003.

The Marine Corps has delivered 9,000 sets of the plates to Iraq, a number that will rise to about 30,000 by April, officials said yesterday. Each set of plates, together with a carrier and soft armor, costs about $450 and weighs about seven pounds, the officials said."

Army and Marine generals in charge of developing and buying equipment defended the pace at which they were getting the new side armor to troops, after a closed-door briefing yesterday on the matter on Capitol Hill. The generals briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee after lawmakers voiced concern over a classified Pentagon forensic study disclosed last week that for the first time linked gaps in upper torso protection to troop fatalities.

The scrutiny of body armor is the latest instance in which Congress has pressured the Pentagon to accelerate the distribution of protective equipment to U.S. troops -- from "uparmored" Humvees and trucks to bulletproof vests. More than 2,200 American troops have died in Iraq since March 2003, 1,741 of them in combat, according to Pentagon figures as of yesterday.

The forensic study of 401 Marines who died in combat in Iraq from March 2003 to June 2005 showed that 21 died primarily from injuries to the side of their torsos. The study, completed in August 2005 by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, concluded that those Marines might have benefited from improved protection, such as that offered by the side plates. The findings, if applied to all U.S. combat casualties, suggest that scores of deaths might have been prevented if the new side plates had been worn.

The Marine Corps finalized contracts for the production of the side plates in mid-September and production began six weeks later, with distribution starting in November, said Col. Shawn Reinwald, director for combat equipment at the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. The Marine Corps commandant decided on the need for side plates in June, he said.

The Army also identified a requirement for the side plates in the past year, when Army truck drivers running convoys in Iraq asked for them, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, the Army's acquisition chief, told reporters.

The Army took a design created by a commander in Iraq, minimized the plates' weight and this week determined the optimal size, according to Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, director of force development for the Army.

"It's a great success," Speakes said.

The generals said the side plates are the most recent in a series of body armor upgrades that have improved the likelihood of survival for U.S. troops. But they stressed that the added armor has drawbacks because it can limit troops' mobility and raise body temperature -- a major consideration, given the 130-degree heat in which forces are fighting.

"We don't want a medieval knight. We are not going to be hoisted onto a horse," Speakes said. "All of this is a very difficult trade-off. How much is adequate?"

As a result, the new armor will be supplied to all troops, but commanders will decide case by case whether the mission requires them to wear it, Army and Marine officials said.

[bth: So $450 per set with all attachments times 230,000 = $103.5 million. Not much when one considers that the death insurance for 300 soldiers and marines will be more than this amount.]
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Army Times - Body Armor: Services try to find right mix of protection, mobility

Army Times - News - More News: "Protecting troops is a top priority, but weighting them down with so much body armor that they are practically unable to move is not the answer to the continued deaths and injuries among armor-wearing deployed forces, military officials said Wednesday.

The Army and Marine Corps are rushing to buy and deploy improved body armor that provides more protection for the sides of the torso, which enemy sharpshooters have targeted as a weak point in U.S. troops' body armor configurations.

But military officials, called before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss the status of the improvements, said they have not yet found a perfect balance between fully protecting troops and weighing them down so heavily that they cannot accomplish their missions.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the Armed Services Committee chairman, said he was satisfied the services had the money and authority to get the necessary gear and understood the limitations.

"Everything that can be done is being done," Warner said.

Full body armor, with all the associated plates and extra protection, can weigh up to 125 pounds, a particularly heavy load in the extreme climates of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Warner said a fully armored service member could actually end up being more vulnerable than one with lighter armor and more freedom of movement.

"Nothing is more important to the Marine Corps than protection for our Marines," said Maj. Gen. William Catto, commander of the Marine Corps Systems Command.

The Corps began fielding side armor plates in June, with about 9,000 sets now in Iraq and about 28,000 expected by April.

The Army is moving more slowly. It has just completed testing of a side plate and pouch and is about to start production.

“Soldier protection is the highest priority of the Army,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s director of force development.

“We must not burden our soldiers with weight to the point that they become ineffective and susceptible to other dangers.”

The Marine Corps “is doing the absolute best it can” to provide better armor while balancing the demands of having equipment of bearable — and wearable — weight in an environment with high temperatures against the demands of missions requiring the kind of mobility that is just not possible when saddled with the complete set of vest, front, back, side and shoulder armor plates.

At a post-briefing news conference, Marine Sgt. Jared McNerney, dressed in full combat gear to show what equipment is available, said he prefers not to wear a full set of armor in the war zone because of the weight and lack of mobility.

“If I put them on, I can barely extend my arms over my head,” McNerney said. “I need the most mobility possible to climb through windows and jump over walls.”

Constant improvements are being made, Army officials said. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, Army deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and systems management, said the service is now in the seventh iteration of body armor development. He expects about 230,000 sets of improved body armor with side and shoulder plates will be available by the end of 2006.

The equipment, first requested by transportation troops involved in convoy duty, has been developed and tested and is about to enter production. Sorenson refused to provide more details about when it would be available, saying that information could help the enemy.

Similarly, Maj. Gen. Catto refused to release the entire six-page Navy medical study of injuries, saying parts of the report talk about specific vulnerabilities that could help those trying to harm U.S. troops.

The Navy study, completed last year, suggested that many deaths and injuries among troops wearing body armor were the result of wounds suffered near the edges of the interceptor body armor. Armor that is a bit longer in the torso, taller in the neck and covers more of the shoulder could save lives.

Military officials told the Armed Services Committee they were already aware of the problem and are constantly looking for fixes and upgrades.

“What we wear today is different than what I wore when I was there a year ago,” Speakes said.

[bth: So here is a story from the Army Times. Note how it quotes Sen. Warner saying that armor weighs 125 pounds. Now this is not true, it weights around 23 lbs or so, but the errant quote of the Senator is published by the Army Times anyway? It is designed to deceive the public about the significance of the weight issue, to cloud the water if you will. So if the Army Times is called on the carpet on this obvious misstatement, it can always say, we'll we quoted the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and he was wrong not us. What B.S.

Next note that the production of 230,000 plates for the army hasn't begun yet. Why? The transportation companies gave them the design they needed last June? Well come to find out it was that the Army only agreed on the side panel sizes the day before this Senate hearing. This is such insanity. We saw the same thing early in 2005 when it was revealed that the Army had delayed two years before issuing one handed tourniquets to its troops even though the marines had done it two years ago after a joint medical commission concluded that the 10% of the fatalities would have been prevented with this device. In that case, the release was resolved the week after the Baltimore Sun ran its story and the day before a House Armed Services Committee Hearing was called to ask the Army about the delay -- they said that they had to pick the right nylon pouch to carry the tourniquet in! So here we are again, peat and repeat.]
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Military says armor has mixed benefits - The Boston Globe

"WASHINGTON -- Insurgents in Iraq now commonly use explosives that ''overmatch' American armor, the Army and Marine Corps warned yesterday in response to a recent study showing greater use of body armor might have saved the lives of some troops."

The two branches also warned that expanding the use of armor, as some members of Congress have demanded, could deprive troops of the mobility needed to avoid other threats.

In a set of talking points prepared for a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, senior officers sought to rebut the impression that they are not addressing lingering shortages of armor. They maintained that every soldier in harm's way has ''the best body armor in the world" and that ''no soldier leaves a US base in Iraq unless they are in at least an armored vehicle."

But they also asserted that increasing the amount of armor is not likely to offset the increasing strength of insurgents' weapons.

''The enemy our forces face continues to improve his means and tactics, " the paper said. ''He is employing sophisticated technology and tactics. They are using quantities and types of explosives that provide overmatch against even tanks."

Officers also warned that in the zeal to protect soldiers, commanders could weigh them down, making them vulnerable to other dangers.

For example, some Humvees outfitted with heavy armor have experienced greater rates of rollover and injury to passengers, officers said.

The Defense Department has been on the defensive since The New York Times reported that an internal Pentagon study had concluded that 80 percent of Marines who have died from wounds to their upper body might have survived had they been wearing the latest version of protective plates.

Officers have acknowledged that the military was slow to grasp the threat to US troops posed by improvised explosive devices in Iraq. But they asserted yesterday that protective plates are now being shipped to troops as quickly as possible. According to military data, 9,235 sets have been shipped to the Middle East, and 28,800 will be delivered by April. They declined to say how many sets are needed.

Complaints from military families have led Congress to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding to churn out more armored vehicles and body armor.

News of the Pentagon study sparked new outrage, as senators demanded to know whether the Pentagon was doing all it could to protect the troops. Army and Marine Corps leaders yesterday sought to allay some of those concerns to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Pentagon, they said, has provided nearly 700,000 sets of basic body armor to troops. It has has also provided 173,000 extra protectors to cover parts of the upper back left exposed by basic armor. Monthly production of armored Humvees has increased to more than 700 from 30 two years ago.

''It is a serious Army issue," said Colonel Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman. ''It is a huge priority and there is a Herculean effort behind the scenes to get soldiers what they need," including the recent establishment of a high-level task force to come up with new ways to spot and defuse roadside bombs.

But military leaders also urged lawmakers not to cling to the false hope that more armor will automatically save lives.

Describing increasingly powerful weapons being utilized by insurgents, the Army-Marine Corps paper said that armor alone would not suffice.

Officers also warned of the potential consequences of too much armor.

''We must not burden our soldiers with weight to the point that they become ineffective and susceptible to other dangers," Major General Stephen Speakes told reporters after the briefing. '

'In response to the changing battlefield conditions, and as new technologies emerge, the Army continues to develop improvements to soldier protection equipment to enhance survivability and mobility."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, Republican of Virginia, said he was satisfied that the armor issue is being adequately addressed.

''There is more than adequate money -- has been, is, and always will be -- to provide our troops the best equipment in the world," he said.

But not all senators were convinced.

''Too many soldiers in Iraq have put their lives on the line without the armor and armored Humvees they needed," Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

''I will continue to urge strong congressional oversight into the military's efforts to ensure every soldier has the best protection possible. Our soldiers and their families deserve nothing less."

Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

[bth: The overmatch issue is really not relevant to an evolving war where insurgent attacks become more effective and our defensive tools become more effective. What isn't said in this briefing is that our survival rates for IEDs are up substantially because of better vehicular and body armor. Now the IEDs are getting bigger and we are in an arms race spiral.

The talking points are designed to misinform the public rather than address the core issues of why improvements in armor that the army and marines have acknowledged are needed and indeed are beginning to produce took over two years to activate? Also the discussion of weight and mobility is also a bit of a red herring. Why? Well for one thing body armor has gotten lighter in recent years as technology got better. Mobility is important especially if one is dismounted, that's why the armor pieces like shoulder pads can be taken off when needed. The shoulder and side protection critical now because so many soldiers and marines are being attacked while in vehicles from the side. When the interceptor body armor was developed it was anticipated that the bulk of the fire would come from the front, but we're in a different war. Weight and mobility are less important while in vehicles than might have been anticipated in 1999 when the products were developed.

Keep in mind this was the same military that two years ago felt that 1/3rd of troops in Iraq didn't need ballistic armor and that the transportation companies - the ones that drive the supply trucks - didn't need it at all. That was of course nonesense that only got resolved when the families started complaining and national guard units realized that they were underequipped and taking disproportionate injuries. ...

We cannot afford to adapt in two year increments. We will lose this war unless the procurement process is integrated effectively into the Rapid Fielding Initiative. The insurgents are simply able to adapt faster than we can.]
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US soldiers have best body armor: Pentagon

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. troops in Iraq are using body armor that strikes a balance of protecting them while allowing movement to do their jobs and withstand hot temperatures, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee summoned defense officials to a closed briefing to explain a Pentagon report disclosed last week that said more complete body armor could have prevented or limited about 80 percent of the fatal torso wounds suffered by Marines killed in Iraq.

Army officials said improvements are being made to armor systems to provide more side protection but that mobility also is a concern.

'We must not burden our soldiers with weight to the point that they become ineffective and susceptible to other dangers,' Army Major Gen. Stephen Speakes told reporters after the briefing.

Congressional Democrats have pounced on the report, which was compiled by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at the request of the Marine Corps, as evidence of the Bush administration's flawed conduct of the Iraq war."

The report, which was not intended for public release, examined the cases of Marines fatally wounded from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005, and found weaknesses in the torso protective gear.

After The New York Times obtained the study and reported on it, the Pentagon released three of the six pages of findings, but said the remainder would reveal vulnerabilities in protective gear to the enemy.

The study said bullets or shrapnel hit the Marines' shoulders, the sides of their torsos or other areas not fully covered by ceramic plates contained in the body armor in at least 74 of 93 fatal wounds it examined.

"Either a larger plate or superior protection around the plate would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome," the study said.

ALMOST 90 POUNDS OF ARMOR

Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, Armed Services Committee chairman, said he was satisfied that the Pentagon has "periodically upgraded the body armor consistent with facts and findings" from the medical community, on-scene commanders and service members themselves

Adding more body armor to existing systems that can weigh nearly 90 pounds could "reduce the mobility of the individual to a point where he or she can't even protect themselves in trying to dodge certain situations in combat," Warner said.

The Pentagon is in the process of getting new side and shoulder protections but Democrats on the Senate panel questioned why it did not move faster after the report came out in June.

"Our troops not only deserve the best equipment available but they have a right to receive this equipment in a timely manner," said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

"Too many soldiers in Iraq have put their lives on the line without the armor and armored Humvees they needed," said Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Major Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, deputy for the Army's acquisition and systems management, said 230,000 sets of new side armor were to be delivered to Iraq throughout this year. He said a series of improvements to existing armor fielded in January last year already was providing some side protection.

Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said he would push legislation requiring the Pentagon to provide "the most complete personal body armor protection to military personnel serving in combat operations." The bill would offer a protective equipment allowance of up to $1,100 to each service member to buy body armor from military suppliers.

There have been 2,210 U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war, which began in March 2003, with more than 16,000 wounded in combat, according to Pentagon figures.

[bth: I have yet to actually find a copy of the released study. If someone has it could they send it my direction?]
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Army Sending Added Armor to Iraq Units

Army Sending Added Armor to Iraq Units - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 - Army officials said Wednesday that they had decided to send additional body armor to Iraq to protect soldiers from insurgents' attacks."

The ceramic plates now worn by most members of the military shield just some of the upper body from bullets and shrapnel, and the Army said it would buy plates that would extend this protection to the sides of soldiers. The officials spoke after a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held after The New York Times reported last week that a Pentagon study had found that extra armor could have saved up to 80 percent of the marines who died in Iraq from upper body wounds.

In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' sides, shoulders or areas of the torso where the protective plates did not reach.

The Marine Corps, which commissioned the study in December 2004, began buying side plates in September for its 26,000 troops in Iraq. Army procurement officials said they began studying a similar move last summer after receiving requests from troops in Iraq, but were hampered by the need to supply a much larger force of 160,000 individuals.

The Army had begun supplying small quantities of side plates to soldiers much earlier in the war through its Rapid Equipping Force. Armor Works of Tempe, Ariz., which is making the plates for the marines, said it shipped 250 sets in November 2003.

Another manufacturer, the Excera Materials Group of Columbus, Ohio, said that since late 2004 it had shipped 1,000 sets of side plates to Special Forces personnel, the Air Force and individual units that used their own procurement money to buy the armor.

Citing security concerns, the Army has in recent days urged armor contractors not to disclose information about their work, even if the information is not classified, industry officials said.

"Neither you nor any of your employees are authorized to release to anyone outside your organization any unclassified information, regardless of medium, pertaining to any part of your contract," says a letter from an Army research and procurement unit that The Times obtained.

In Congress on Wednesday, Army and Marine officials defended their efforts to procure additional armor, saying they had to weigh the benefits of additional plates against adding weight and restricting mobility. Citing those concerns, Marine officials said last week that they remained reluctant to buy shoulder plates or larger plates for the chest and back.

"This is a continuous evolution," Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army director of force development, said after the Senate briefing.

[bth: note the Army says that they were delayed in placing the orders because they need to produce a lot of sets. This does not makes sense because like all things production starts with the purchase order and then proceeds. How does not doing anything for over six months help field equipment? It doesn't. Also important to note that the contractors have been silenced. ... What is not being said here is that the contractors had plenty of capacity. The delay was in placing the purchase orders in the first place. That's why the contractors have been ordered to shut up. Somebody in Congress needs to ask the contractors whether or not they have unutilized capacity.]

Troops to get new armor - Report of lack of protection leads to closed-door Senate hearing on delays

"WASHINGTON -- The Army announced yesterday that it plans to distribute 230,000 side-protecting armor inserts to troops in Iraq over the next year amid growing criticism that the Pentagon has delayed life-saving upgrades to body armor.

A Pentagon study done last summer but only disclosed recently found that improved armor might have prevented or minimized torso wounds that proved fatal to Marines in Iraq.

That report prompted Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican, to summon Pentagon brass to Capitol Hill yesterday to explain delays and material shortages that have plagued the Army and Marine armor programs.

'We will complete the delivery of this particular equipment this year ... 230,000 that will be done throughout this year,' Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson said of the side plates yesterday.

But Sorenson refused to provide details on production and distribution, which annoyed some Democrats who attended the closed-door meeting. 'We wanted to know why the Army has had all these delays and he didn't have a good answer,' said one Senate staff member who attended.

Marine commanders requested improvements to side armor last June, but few of the inserts have made it to the field. That's prompted criticism from Senate Democrats, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, who says hundreds of soldiers may have died needlessly as a result of inadequate armor.

The unreleased study that prompted the briefing was done last summer by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner. It looked at 93 fatal wounds from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005. The study found that of 39 fatal torso wounds in which the bullet or shrapnel entered the Marine's body outside of the ceramic armor plate that protects the chest and back, 31 were close to the plate's edge.

"Either a larger plate or superior protection around the plate would have had the potential to alter the final outcome," the report concluded.Sorenson said the Army has already modified its Interceptor vest seven times since the 1990s.

A more extensive upgrade was approved after truck drivers complained their sides were unprotected by existing armor, he said.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said soldiers in Iraq will get 3 1/2 -pound ceramic side plates as well as the Velcro-attached pouches into which the plates will fit on the vest.

The Marines have shipped 9,235 side-plate inserts to Iraq since November; About 19,000 more will be given to troops by April, according to Maj. Gen. William Catto of the Marine Corps' procurement arm.The delay in the Army program, Pentagon officials say, resulted from shortages of some materials needed to produce the ceramic armor plating and the lack of a single large contractor who can produce mass orders. The Pentagon has also been sensitive to concerns that soldiers, already burdened by 75 pounds of battle gear in a desert war, would refuse to wear additional armor.

Larger plates could "reduce the mobility of the individual to the point where he or she can't protect themselves in trying to dodge a certain situation in combat," said Warner.

Catto said that extra shoulder protection is available to any Marine who wants it, but many are willing to trade additional safety for mobility.

Still, many Democrats seemed unimpressed by the military's explanations. Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, yesterday introduced a bill that would provide a "protective equipment allowance" of $1,100 for each soldier deployed to Iraq. And Clinton campaign aide Ann Lewis sent out an e-mail message to the senator's supporters and donors slamming the Bush administration's body armor policy as "unforgivable."

Glenn Thrush writes for Newsday. The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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Photo from Paki air attack Posted by Picasa
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An incendiary threat in Iraq

..."Al-Hakim's latest position is a prescription for a national breakup and an endless civil war. It is also a provocative challenge to Washington, which helped broker the original promise of significant constitutional changes. On the basis of that promise, Sunni voters turned out in large numbers, both for the constitutional referendum and for last month's parliamentary vote. Drawing Sunni voters into democratic politics is essential for creating the stable, peaceful Iraq that President George W. Bush has declared to be the precondition for an American military withdrawal.

The most unacceptable defect of the new constitution for Sunnis is its provision for radically decentralizing national political and economic power by transferring it to Iraq's disparate regions. In a quirk of geology, most of Iraq's known oil deposits lie under provinces dominated by Shiites or Kurds, while the Sunni provinces of the west and north are resource-poor and landlocked. Iraq as a whole is rich enough to support all of its people relatively comfortably. But a radically decentralized Iraq would leave the Sunnis impoverished, aggrieved and desperate, and would drive them into the arms of radical Sunni groups in neighboring lands.

Although Sunnis are a minority in Iraq, they are an overwhelming majority in the Arab world. An irreconcilable split between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis would leave the Shiites even more dependent than they are now on Iran and American troops.

Constitutional changes are needed in other areas as well, especially in regard to women's rights and the overly broad prohibitions against former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. But decentralization is the most dangerously explosive issue right now. Al-Hakim seems perversely determined to it."
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Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11

.... "Jeffrey Smith, the former General Counsel for the CIA under the Clinton administration, also weighed in on the controversy Wednesday. Smith said he wants to testify at hearings that Bush overstepped his authority and broke the law. His own legal opinion on the spy program was included in a 14-page letter to the House Select Committee on Intelligence that said that President Bush does not have the legal authority to order the NSA to spy on American citizens, aides to Congressman John Conyers said Wednesday evening.

'It is not credible that the 2001 authorization to use force provides authority for the president to ignore the requirements of FISA,' Smith wrote, adding that if President Bush's executive order authorizing a covert domestic surveillance operation is upheld as legal 'it would be a dramatic expansion of presidential authority affecting the rights of our fellow citizens that undermines the checks and balances of our system, which lie at the very heart of the Constitution.'

Still, one thing that appears to be indisputable is that the NSA surveillance began well before 9/11 and months before President Bush claims Congress gave him the power to use military force against terrorist threats, which Bush says is why he believed he had the legal right to bypass the judicial process.

According to the online magazine Slate, an unnamed official in the telecom industry said NSA's 'efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a 'data-mining' operation, which might eventually cull 'millions' of individual calls and e-mails.'"
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Murtha sees 06 Iraq withdrawal

"WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., expects 'the vast majority' of U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of this year, CBS News reported."

Murtha, who touched off a political firestorm on Capitol Hill last fall when he said U.S. troops should be redeployed from Iraq immediately, said Congress will come under pressure from voters to withdraw troops from Iraq.

"I think the vast majority (of troops) will be out by the end of the year and I'm hopeful they'll be out sooner than that," said Murtha in an interview set to air Sunday on "60 Minutes." Portions of the interview were aired Friday on "The CBS Evening News."

Murtha said President George W. Bush's advisers will urge the president to withdraw troops or risk losing the November congressional elections.

"I think the political people who give him advice will say to him, 'You don't want a Democratic Congress. You want to keep the Republican majority, and the only way you're going to keep it is by reducing substantially the troops in Iraq,'" said Murtha.

Bush has said decisions on troop strength will be based on the advice of military commanders there, not by Washington politics.

[bth: He's to the point as always.]
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Bush Admin. Launched Secret Smear Campaign Against Murtha... | The Huffington Post

"The Huffington Post has learned the Bush administration recently asked high ranking military leaders to denounce Congressman John Murtha. Congressman Murtha has called for the Bush Administration to withdraw US troops from Iraq."....

[bth: this is about par for the course.]


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Top Qaeda Aide Is Called Target in U.S. Air Raid - New York Times

Top Qaeda Aide Is Called Target in U.S. Air Raid - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 - An American airstrike carried out on a village in the Bajaur tribal region of northwest Pakistan early Friday was aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, and Pakistani officials were trying to determine if he had been killed, American and Pakistani officials said Friday. As many as 17 people were killed in the airstrike, Pakistani officials and witnesses said.

The American and Pakistani officials said they believed that the attack had been carried out with a missile launched from a Predator drone aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment, but the attack was described by other American and Pakistani officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the operation.

Villagers and security officials said the aircraft, which they described as American, swept into the Pakistani tribal region from Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan about 3:15 a.m. local time Friday and fired missiles at residential buildings in Damadola, a village several miles from the border.

CNN and ABC News reported Friday night that Mr. Zawahiri, an Egyptian, might have been killed in the attack, but their reports could not be confirmed.

Citing unidentified American sources, CNN said intelligence suggested that Mr. Zawahiri had been in a building that was struck. ABC, citing anonymous Pakistani military officials, said on its Web site that five of those killed were high-level Qaeda figures. "....

Witnesses from Damadola said 14 of the dead belonged to one family and included several women and children. Sahibzada Haroon Rashid, a member of Parliament who lives in a village near Damadola, said he saw a drone surveying the area hours before the attack.

"The drone has been flying over the area for the last three, four days, and I had a feeling that something nasty was going to happen," he said in a telephone interview.

"I was awakened from deep slumber by the noise of the drone and then, together with thousands others who too had been woken up by the plane's noise, saw jets targeting the area," he said. "One plane circled the area and dropped illuminating flares and the other planes fired missiles. There were loud explosions."

He said the planes' targets were three houses, all belonging to jewelry dealers. "The houses have been razed to the ground," said Mr. Rashid, who said he had visited the scene. "There is nothing left. Pieces of the missiles are scattered all around.

The impact of the explosions have been huge. Everything has been blackened in a 100-meter radius."

A spokesman for the Pakistani military, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, said he did not know the cause of the blasts. "People heard explosions and as a result, there were a number of casualties," he said. "My information is that 11 to 14 people have been killed."

This is the second report of an American attack on civilians in a Pakistani tribal region in recent days. Eight people, including women and children, were reported killed last Saturday when a helicopter fired at the house of a local cleric in North Waziristan close to the Afghan border.

Pakistan lodged a strong protest with coalition forces on Monday, but said it was still investigating whether the missiles had been fired from Pakistani airspace or from Afghan territory.

[bth: note that while all seem to acknowledge a drone in the area, the eyewitness reports include multiple aircraft, flares and large bombs. ... Question: if the drone was known to be there, why would al-Qaeda stay at a known location under its watch?]
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ABC News: Pakistani Military Sources Say Zawahiri May Be Dead

ABC News: Pakistani Military Sources Say Zawahiri May Be Dead: "Jan. 13, 2006 -Today, according to Pakistani military sources, U.S. aircraft attacked a compound known to be frequented by high-level al Qaeda operatives. Pakistani officials tell ABC News that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, may have been among them.

U.S. intelligence for the last few days indicated that Zawahiri might have been in the location or about to arrive, although there is still no confirmation from U.S. officials that he was among the victims. "

The attack took place early this morning Pakistan time in a small village a few miles from the border with Afghanistan.
Villagers described seeing an unmanned plane circling the area for the last few days and then bombs falling in the early morning darkness.

Eighteen people were killed, according to the villagers who said women and children were among the fatalities.

But Pakistani officials tell ABC News that five of those killed were high-level al Qaeda figures, and their bodies are now undergoing forensic tests for positive identification.

Officials say Zawahiri was known to have used safe houses in this area last winter and was believed to be in the area again this winter.

Zawahiri, who appeared just last week in a new videotaped message, had increasingly been taking the operational reins of al Qaeda, and is thought by U.S. officials to be the current true mastermind of the terrorist group.

Pakistani officials tell ABC News that the bodies of the five suspected al Qaeda figures will be recovered at first light in Pakistan, but it will still take a day or two for any kind of positive identification. U.S. officials in Washington did not comment.

[bth: now this may be excellent news!]

Early Warning by William M. Arkin

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com: "The National Security Agency story has pushed military spying on anti-war groups off the front pages, and the Pentagon appears to have seized upon administrative error to explain away its slide into domestic spying.

The Department of Defense now says that analysts may not have followed the law and its own guidelines that require the purging of information collected on U.S. persons after 90 days.

The law states that if no connection is made between named persons and foreign governments or transnational terrorist organizations or illegal activity, U.S. persons have a right to their privacy and information about them must be deleted.

Thanks to RL, I now know that the database of 'suspicious incidents' in the United States first revealed by NBC Nightly News last Tuesday and subject of my blog last week is the Joint Protection Enterprise Network (JPEN) database, an intelligence and law enforcement sharing system managed by the Defense Department's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA).

What is clear about JPEN is that the military is not inadvertently keeping information on U.S. persons. It is violating the law. And what is more, it even wants to do it more."...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Al Qaeda Video is 'Green Light' for Attack, Analyst Warns

Al Qaeda Video is 'Green Light' for Attack, Analyst Warns -- 01/11/2006: "The recently released video message from al Qaeda's number two leader is part of a pattern that signals a countdown to a major terrorist attack within the next 30 days, warns a Washington D.C.-based analyst.

The new video was aired by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite network on Jan. 6. In it Ayman al-Zawahiri portrays U.S. government discussion of troop withdrawal from Iraq as a victory for Islam.

'If your forces with all its aircraft, missiles, tanks and fleets are moaning, bleeding and looking for an escape from Iraq, then will the hypocrites, conspirators, infidels (the Iraqi government) resist what the 'greatest power in the world' has failed to resist?' al-Zawahiri asked.

But it is not the content of the video that is a sign of a possible imminent strike, said terrorism expert Christopher L. Brown. Instead, it is the timing of the video that is consistent with previous patterns. Brown, a researcher with a Washington think tank, has briefed members of Congress and senior administration officials on key threats, and he has prepared testimony and briefing materials for officials at the Department of Defense, State Department, CIA, National Security Council and the White House.

The pattern Brown observed is that each Zawahiri video appears to be part of a pair, with the second video followed by a significant attack within 30 days, outside of the major combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The videos released on Sept. 9 and Nov. 9, 2004, were the first "set" and were followed by the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, bombings on Dec. 6, 2004. The second "set" of videos was released Feb. 20 and June 26, 2005, followed by the July 7 London bombings. A third set of videos was released Aug. 4 and Sept 1, 2005, followed by the bombings in Bali, Indonesia, on Oct. 1, 2005.

A Cybercast News Service exclusive report on Sept. 8 of last year detailed Brown's warning regarding an impending October attack.The fourth set of videos, according to Brown's theory was released on Oct. 23, 2005 and last week -- Jan. 6.

"This pattern has held for at least three of al Qaeda's last large-scale attacks," said Brown, "This most recent video is likely a signal that a large-scale operation is about to be launched within the next 30 days. The question is where."

[bth: if he's right we'll see an attack before Feb. 6, 2006.]
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My Lai massacre hero buried

My Lai massacre hero buried - Yahoo! News: "LAFAYETTE, United States (AFP) - Hugh Thompson, the US army helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese civilians from American troops during the My Lai massacre, was buried with full military honors. "

Thompson, who died of cancer at a veteran's hospital in nearby Alexandria, Louisiana, on January 6 at the age of 62, was eulogized as a peacemaker during his funeral service in a packed Lafayette chapel.

Larry Colburn, a crewmember aboard the helicopter then-Chief Warrant Officer Thompson flew at My Lai, was among those attending the funeral, which included a 21-gun salute and a helicopter flyover.

Looking at Thompson's flag-draped coffin, Colburn said: "Hugh was a problem solver. My Lai was a problem. War is a problem. Hugh solved the problem of My Lai without firing a shot."

On March 16, 1968, Thompson led the rescue of more than a dozen Vietnamese civilians at My Lai, an incident one American general described as "one of the most shameful chapters in the army's history."

"It was probably one of the saddest days of my life," Thompson told a 1994 conference on the massacre at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Up to 504 Vietnamese civilians were killed by US troops at My Lai including as many as 210 children aged 12 or younger, according to historians.

Thompson recalled that he and fellow crewmembers Colburn and Glenn Andreotta began that day flying a reconnaissance mission over My Lai. Initial intelligence reports suggested heavy activity by Vietcong guerrillas.

Thompson's objective was to draw enemy fire so other helicopter gunships could identify enemy positions.

But as his helicopter hovered overhead, Thompson recalled, he noted a large number of bodies lying in the village below.

"Everywhere we'd look we'd see bodies," Thompson said. Most of the villagers had been shot and left for dead.

Thompson and his crew landed and set colored smoke grenades by the wounded for medical evacuation. As they returned to their chopper, however, a soldier appeared and shot to death an elderly woman Thompson had marked for rescue.

The trio then flew to another part of the village where Thompson encountered a lieutenant preparing to blow up a bunker filled with wounded Vietnamese.

Although outranked, Thompson ordered the lieutenant and his men to stand down.

"Thompson put his guns on the Americans and said he would shoot them if they shot another Vietnamese," said William Eckhardt, the chief prosecutor at the My Lai courtmartial.

A furious Thompson reported the massacre in progress to army superiors who ordered a ceasefire. Thompson also ordered two other helicopters to evacuate about a dozen wounded villagers to hospital for treatment.

Thompson subsequently testified at criminal trials of the army officers, an act which initially left him ostracized by others in the military.

Thompson was one of the chief witnesses against Lieutenant William Calley, the only person convicted of a crime in connection with My Lai.

Calley was sentenced to life in prison but president Richard Nixon' reduced his sentence to several years of house arrest.

As a combat pilot Thompson was shot down four times in Vietnam. He suffered a broken back in his last crash and received a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Thompson retired from the army in 1983 as a first lieutenant after 20 years of service. As a civilian, he worked as a commercial helicopter pilot and as a counselor for veterans in Louisiana.

In 1998, Thompson, Colburn and, posthumously, Andreotta, were awarded the Soldier's Medal, the army's highest award for battlefield action without encountering the enemy. Andreotta died in a helicopter crash shortly after My Lai.

In his last years, Thompson was a guest lecturer at military training academies for the army, navy and marines.

In a 2003 address to the US Naval Academy Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics, he told navy midshipmen: "If you tell someone to do something you had better be right."

Spurious attempt to tie Iran, Iraq to nuclear arms plot bypassed U.S. intelligence channels

The Raw Story Spurious attempt to tie Iran, Iraq to nuclear arms plot bypassed U.S. intelligence channels: "Several U.S. and foreign intelligence sources, along with investigators, say an Iranian exile with ties to Iran-Contra peddled a bizarre tale of stolen uranium to governments on both sides of the Atlantic in the spring and summer of 2003.

The story that was peddled -- which detailed how an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq prior to the start of the war in March of 2003, and stole enriched uranium to use in their own nuclear weapons program -- was part of an attempt to implicate both countries in a WMD plot. It later emerged that the Iranian exile was trying to collect money for his tales, sources say."

By all credible accounts, the source of this dubious tale was Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer who used middle-men and cut-outs to create the appearance of several sources. Ghorbanifar played a key role in the Iran-Contra scandal that threatened to take down the Reagan administration, in which the U.S. sold arms to Iran and diverted the proceeds to Nicaraguan militants.

While the various threads of the larger story of Ghorbanifar and his intelligence peddling began in December of 2001, meetings in Paris in 2003 are far more important in illustrating -- as a microcosm -- the larger difficulties faced in untangling the facts relating to global intelligence trafficking....

Ghorbanifahr has strong ties to Michael Ledeen, and both of them were involved in a controversial meeting in Rome of 2001. That meeting, whose purpose is unknown, included high level officials in Italian intelligence, Iranian nationals and Larry Franklin, a former Defense Department analyst who current pled guilty to charges of passing classified information to Israel and Iran. Also in attendance was Middle East expert Harold Rhode, also under investigation for charges of passing classified information to Israel and Iran. Both Rhode and Franklin worked for Feith in the Office of Special plans.

Ledeen was consulting for OSP when all three were dispatched to Rome in 2001. He says the meetings had nothing to do with Iraq.

"The Rome meetings had nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq, but with Iran and Afghanistan," Ledeen wrote in an email. "I don't think a single word was pronounced, by anyone, on Iraq."

Later, in a phone conversation, Ledeen explained that the Rome meeting had to do with what his sources told him was going on on the ground in Afghanistan, namely that Iran was allegedly fueling the Afghan insurgency.

"I reported this back," Ledeen said. "This information saved American lives."

According to James Risen's New York Times article dated December of 2003, Ledeen was a paid consultant to the National Security Council at the time of the meeting. Risen reports that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was informed of the plans for the meeting and that Hadley expressed reservations given Ledeen and Ghorbanifahr's background.

The Office of Special Plans, however, authorized the meeting without notifying any other agency, violating protocol. They did not notify the Rome CIA station chief or the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Mel Sembler. ...

US turns against Musharraf

Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan: "KARACHI - Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 and, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, still in effect rules as a military dictator.

Musharraf's firm grip on the affairs of state has until now served Washington's interests well, as he has been able to steer the country into the US camp as an ally in the 'war on terror'.

However, with the Taliban nowhere near defeated in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda still unbroken (the two major reasons that the US solicited Pakistan's assistance in the first place), the US is looking at its allies in Islamabad in a new light"

Musharraf may be more the problem than the solution. An indication of how things have slipped in the region is news that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has openly called for a truce with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. This was not how events were supposed to play out. According to sources close to the power corridors in Washington who spoke to Asia Times Online, the administration of US President George W Bush is now convinced that a weaker Pakistani army is as necessary now as a powerful one was when Islamabad did a U-turn on its support for the Taliban soon after September 11, 2001.

This realization has taken root over the past few months, and developments since last November have been enough to set alarm bells ringing among the military leadership of Pakistan. Goings-on in Balochistan Rebellious tribesmen in the restive but resource-rich province of Balochistan have for decades challenged the writ of the central government in Islamabad. The Baloch insurgents have traditionally received weapons via Kandahar in Afghanistan, and via sea smuggling routes.

The Pakistani army has engaged in a number of operations in Balochistan over the years, and the most recent is continuing. The involvement of the military is highly unpopular not only among Balochis, but also among many segments of Pakistani society. What is new in Balochistan, and which is causing concern in Islamabad, is the emergence of two sons of insurgent tribal chief Nawab Khair Bux Muri as organizers of a strong financial network to fund the insurgency. "The whole operation of financing the Baloch insurgency is directed from Qatar, although this is a very unlikely place. One of the sons of Khair Bux Muri - Gazn Muri - has been shuttling between Qatar and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and is the main financial link between the insurgents in Balochistan, where command is in the hands of a brother, Balaach Muri," a top Pakistani security official told Asia Times Online.

"The real question, though, is not the transmission of money, but from where Gazn Muri is getting this kind of huge money. The answer lies in the activities of another brother, Harbayar Muri, who is based in London." Although the official would not spell it out in as many words, he was questioning how Harbayar Muri could raise funds in Britain, where there is a negligible Balochi expatriate community. It was a clear hint at the involvement of Western intelligence agencies, which have strong centers of operations in Qatar-UAE and London. .....

[bth: why I don't understand in this article is why the money flowing in to finance the insurgency via Qatar and the UAE could not be from wealthy arabs? I'm not sure about this author's conclusions but a very curious analysis.]

Iraq Needs Up To $8 Billion To Revive Health Sector

news - Iraq Needs Up To $8 Billion To Revive Health Sector: "Iraq's neglected health system needs up to $8 billion over the next four years for reconstruction, the Deputy Health Minister said, noting that US funds have not yet made much impact, reports Agence France Presse.

The United States pledged $786 million in 2004 to build clinics, repair neglected hospitals and buy modern medical equipment. But some 25 percent of the money - which is fast running out - was spent on security, a US health official said.

Asked in an interview how much money Iraq required to restore its health care system, Ammar al-Saffar, the Health Ministry's number two said: 'Over the next four years, we need $7 to $8 billion just for reconstruction. This does not include the operational budget.' He warned, however, that Iraqi coffers alone were incapable of funding such an investment. 'We are looking here and there for donations from the international community.'

Washington alone pledged to build and equip 150 primary healthcare centers to provide basic family doctor help to people at a community level. But the number was cut to 142 because so much cash was spent on security, the US health official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. In addition, attacks and security threats have delayed the work. The clinics were all due to be finished by mid-2006 but sources on the ground say this has become an unrealistic goal, estimating that it will take at least until the end of the year if not longer.

The US is also renovating 19 of Iraq's dilapidated hospitals. Only one has been restored to date in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, but it was later damaged in an attack and is again under repair, the US official said. The rest of the hospitals are due to be finished within six to eight months. As for some $75 million earmarked for medical supplies -- such as 5,000 hospital beds, mobile X-ray vans, ventilators for intensive care units and sterilizing equipment -- the money is expected to be spent by April.

Saffar said Washington had been a generous donor. But he regretted that the money was initially contracted to US rather than Iraqi firms because he said a lot of it vanished on overheads and other administrative matters, not to mention security.The main target now is to ensure the projects are completed, said Saffar. "We have to rescue the whole of the program with limited resources," he said. The US official admitted that progress had been slow, but he pointed to a lack of continuity at the leadership level.

Both Saffar and the US official hoped the upcoming creation of Iraq's first permanent, four-year government since the fall of Saddam -- following elections last month -- would provide new stability for the health ministry. Key objectives would be to agree on short-, medium- and long-term policies to restore the health sector -- both its physical structure as well as the quality and training of nurses and doctors, said Saffar, reiterating that the ministry also needed money

[bth: another indication of the dire financial situation developing for the Iraqi government. The government will be unlikely to form before March of 2006. Their health system will be operationally bankrupt by April 2006. I'm just telling people the next major problem for the Iraqi government is going to be cash flow.]

General in Prisoner Abuse Case Declines to Testify Further - New York Times

General in Prisoner Abuse Case Declines to Testify Further - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 - Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the former commander at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who also helped set up the interrogation operation at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, is declining to testify further about harsh interrogation practices and will retire from the service, Army officials said Thursday.

General Miller, 56, decided this week to invoke his right not to give testimony that might incriminate him and will not answer questions in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers who are accused of using dogs to terrify detainees at Abu Ghraib, Maj. Michelle Crawford, a military lawyer representing the general, said Thursday by e-mail.

The general's plans to retire after 34 years of service have not been announced, Army officials said, and it was unclear how the plans related to his decision to invoke his rights under military Article 31, the rough equivalent of invoking the Fifth Amendment in a civilian court. Invoking that right does not constitute an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. "...

[bth: very significant development.]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Problems Posting - Great Deal of News on Armor

FYI. For some strange reason, I've been having extreme problems accessing the blog today.

Blogger reports that the server is experiencing a problem and an engineer has been notified.

A great deal to report today on body armor but unable to get it posted effectively without the server being cleared up. Stay tuned.

Odd. ... Anyone seen my tin foil hat?

Link to Actual Army magazine Military Review article by British Brig. Gen. Nigel Aylwin-Foster

In an article published this week in the Army magazine Military Review, British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency. The Army has been slow to adapt its tactics, he argues, and its approach during the early stages of the occupation "exacerbated the task it now faces by alienating significant sections of the population."

[bth: the link above should take you to a .pdf file of the original article written by Aylwin-Foster. I've printed it out to read myself as I think the flamboyant comments of the media probably miss the important points in their drive to market news.]
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