"It's human nature to start taking things for granted again when danger isn't banging loudly on the door."
- David Hackworth
The U.S. Army has conceded a significant loss of records documenting battlefield action and other operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and has launched a global search  to recover and consolidate field records from the wars.
In an order to all commands and a separate letter to leaders of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the service also is taking immediate steps to clarify responsibility for wartime recordkeeping.
The moves follow inquiries from the committee’s leaders after a ProPublica and Seattle Times investigation  last year reported that dozens of Army and National Guard units had lost or failed to keep required field records, in some cases impeding the ability of veterans to obtain disability benefits. The problem primarily affected the Army but also extended to U.S. Central Command in Iraq.
McHugh, in his letter to committee leaders , said that while the Army had kept some of the required records, “we acknowledge that gaps exist.”...
-bth: the loss and deliberate distruction of records was not an accident but an unspoken policy.
R&D Magazine bestowed one of its coveted R&D 100 Awards on Proteus co-developers Battelle, The Columbia Group and Bluefin Robotics.
Proteus, a new class of underwater vehicle that is unique in its ability to operate in either manned or autonomous mode, has been recognized as one of the best technical products of the year. With large payload capacity, long range, high endurance, and advanced autonomous behaviors, Proteus provides capabilities unavailable in other unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
The awards, known as the “Oscars of Innovation” in the science and technology world, recognize the most significant scientific accomplishments and products of 2012. Battelle, along with the national laboratories it has a role in managing for the U.S. Department of Energy, won a total of 17 awards, bringing its historical tally to 298.
“We’re proud that this promising new vehicle has been recognized for the unique maritime technology and engineering accomplishment that it is,” said Steve Kelly, President of National Security at Battelle and the Chairman of the Board for Bluefin Robotics.
Combined with its long range and large cargo capacity, this dual capability provides a highly flexible undersea vehicle that can transport divers or deliver payloads at distances of hundreds of miles without human intervention....
....The $225 monthly cut in pay would come regardless of the service member's base salary, which can range from a low of roughly $18,000 a year for a brand new recruit to a high of nearly $235,000 a year for a four-star general with more than 40 years in the military. Troops also can receive a variety of other allowances for housing, clothing or job specialties.
Defense officials described the proposal on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Under the plans being discussed, troops would still receive the extra money if they serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The U.S. does not have any military members now serving in Iran.
Some of the countries that could likely be dropped from the list include Bahrain, where the Navy's 5th Fleet is located; Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Haiti and several former Soviet republics....
-bth: interesting that Iran is on the list.
...Israel was recently anointed as the world’s largest exporter of the small surveillance planes, according to a major study by the Frost & Sullivan international business consulting firm. The handful of Israeli companies that manufacture the drones earned at least $4.6 billion in sales during the last eight years, Frost & Sullivan said in its report. That tally includes exports of the planes themselves and operating and communications systems and payloads. American defense companies probably manufacture more drones, but they send much of them to the US military and its close allies, Frost & Sullivan’s Eran Flumin told Quartz. Also, US restrictions limit the number of drones that American firms can export.
Israel doesn’t have as strict export curbs. And drone manufacturers like state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries as well as Elbit Systems and Aeronautics Defense Systems have been busy in recent years, Flumin says, expanding their geographic footprint and locking up lucrative new deals. The Frost & Sullivan report did not contain a comparable estimate for American exports for 2005 to 2012. But Flumin and analyst Yakov Baranes said Frost & Sullivan estimates that US companies exported less than $3 billion worth of similar products during that same time period....
-bth: ridiculous US export laws have allowed Israel to capture markets that could have been won by US companies. These antiquated and bureaucratic regulations in the US are costing the US high tech jobs.
Complaining about the government is a key part of being American, the first amendment to the Constitution. But it seems like a bit of a trickier proposition these days, with the government listening to everything you say online. In the interest of preserving your freedoms and bolstering our fair nation, here is the full articulation of the deeply paranoid and complex life you must live in order to assure that the government leaves you alone.
Before we begin, we'll note that technically the NSA isn't allowed to look at the stuff you do online. Thanks to the Patriot Act, it can (and does) store the metadata on phone calls Americans make every day—who was called, how long the call lasted, maybe some location data. The NSA also pulls in online content, but can't do so legally on targets in the United States. This is part of the PRISM program you may have heard about, in which the NSA can access data from an array of companies in near-real-time. In practice, the NSA's procedures are sufficiently lax that it does collect information (content) from Americans, of course. And until 2011, it collected metadata on emails, including subject lines and to- and from-addresses.
That is the worst case scenario. Yes, the NSA is definitely slurping up scads of information about your phone calls. It probably isn't storing your Facebook chats, emails, and Skype calls. Our goal with this guide is to detail exactly what you need to do to assure that it can't, even if it wants to. As you will see, it is a cumbersome process.
-bth: this is a good reference article.
The 112th Congress (2011-2013, R.I.P.) was relentlessly mocked for its amazing ability to not get things done, but the new edition is on pace to set an even greater standard for futility. The 112th, which ended its last session on January 3, passed 220 laws, the fewest of any Congress since they started keep statistics, and more than 100 fewer than the previous record low. Yet, six months into its term the 113th Congress is actually on pace to pass even fewer laws than that. Just 15 bills have become law this year, compared to 23 over the same period in 2011. (It also doesn't help that they rarely show up to work.)...
-bth: these people are the worst ever.
...As for the latest trove of chemical weapons reported, Ja'afari said, they were just discovered Sunday.
"The Syrian authorities have discovered yesterday in the city of Banias 281 barrels filled with dangerous, hazardous, chemical materials .. capable of destroying a whole city, if not a whole country and the investigation is still undergoing," he said.
"These various other chemical materials were found in a secret storage controlled and monitored by the armed terrorist groups," he added.
The industrial chemicals were listed as 79 barrels of polyethylene glycol (PEG), 67 barrels of mono ethylene glycol, 25 barrels of mono ethanol (or ethanolamine) and 68 barrels of diethanolamine (DEA) and 42 barrels of triethanolamine (TEA).
In addition to the cache of chemicals found in the coastal town of Bania, Ja'afari recalled that "Turkish authorities" announced about two weeks ago the arrests of 12 people he identified as terrorists headed for Syria "carrying with them 2 kilograms of sarin gas. These terrorists were coming from Libya and they had the gas, sarin, aboard the civilian airline that transported them from Libya to Turkey."
WASHINGTON — NSA leaker Edward Snowden claims the spy agency gathers all communications into and out of the U.S. for analysis, despite NSA claims that it only targets foreign traffic.
The fugitive systems analyst spoke in video released Monday, filmed by The Guardian in June in Hong Kong before Snowden fled to avoid extradition to the U.S.
Snowden is believed to be stranded in a Moscow airport, trying to reach any country that has granted him asylum.
Snowden also said NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander lied to Congress by saying the agency could not determine how many U.S. communications are gathered – something Snowden says NSA auditing tool Boundless Informant does.
NSA did not directly answer the question, referring to an Alexander speech in which he talked about how the NSA fit into the larger counterterror team of the administration. Alexander has also said such data gathered by NSA programs can only be analyzed when linked to foreign targets.,,,
-bth: So Snowden is saying that the NSA is exceeding its legal authority and lying to Congress. These seem to be verifiable or not. If Congress chose to actually investigate this matter and found he were correct, then it seems legal action could be brought against those who testified and lied and against those running the NSA. Does Congress have the guts for this? I doubt it.
...There have been other points of contention as well. Meeting with foreign ambassadors recently, Mr. Karzai openly mused that the West was to blame for the rise of radical Islam. It was not a message that many of the envoys, whose countries have lost thousands of people in Afghanistan and spent billions of dollars fighting the Taliban, welcomed.
The troop decisions are also being made against a backdrop of growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan and rising concerns that the country’s presidential election could either be delayed for months or longer, or be so flawed that many Afghans would not accept its results.
Preparations for the election, scheduled for next April, are already falling behind. United Nations officials have begun to say the elections probably cannot be held until next summer, at the earliest. If the voting does not occur before Afghanistan’s mountain passes are closed by snow in late fall, it will be extremely difficult to hold a vote until 2015.
Of potentially bigger concern are the rumors that Mr. Karzai, in his second term and barred from serving a third, is trying to find a way to stay in power. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly insisted that he plans to step down next year.
The ripple effects of a complete American withdrawal would be significant. Western officials said the Germans and Italians — the two main European allies who have committed to staying on with substantial forces — would leave as well. Any smaller nations that envisioned keeping token forces would most likely have no way of doing so.
And Afghanistan would probably see far less than the roughly $8 billion in annual military and civilian aid it is expecting in the coming years — an amount that covers more than half the government’s annual spending.
-bth: the US population has been ready to leave since OBL was killed. The military was all for staying until their budget got cut and is in actual decline. The politicians in DC are finally figuring out that Karzai isn't our friend and the public won't blame the politicians or leaving now. Everyone wants to leave, the Afghans be damned. We are creating a fictional compromise from the Taliban because we need it. They have not changed or compromised and will undoubtedly reassert their Pashtun agenda over lesser powers in Afghanistan as soon as they are able.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's top special operations commander ordered military files about the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout to be purged from Defense Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.
The secret move, described briefly in a draft report by the Pentagon's inspector general, set off no alarms within the Obama administration even though it appears to have sidestepped federal rules and perhaps also the Freedom of Information Act.
An acknowledgement by Adm. William McRaven of his actions was quietly removed from the final version of an inspector general's report published weeks ago. A spokesman for the admiral declined to comment. The CIA, noting that the bin Laden mission was overseen by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta before he became defense secretary, said that the SEALs were effectively assigned to work temporarily for the CIA, which has presidential authority to conduct covert operations.
"Documents related to the raid were handled in a manner consistent with the fact that the operation was conducted under the direction of the CIA director," agency spokesman Preston Golson said in an emailed statement. "Records of a CIA operation such as the (bin Laden) raid, which were created during the conduct of the operation by persons acting under the authority of the CIA Director, are CIA records."
Golson said it is "absolutely false" that records were moved to the CIA to avoid the legal requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
The records transfer was part of an effort by McRaven to protect the names of the personnel involved in the raid, according to the inspector general's draft report.
But secretly moving the records allowed the Pentagon to tell The Associated Press that it couldn't find any documents inside the Defense Department that AP had requested more than two years ago, and could represent a new strategy for the U.S. government to shield even its most sensitive activities from public scrutiny.
"Welcome to the shell game in place of open government," said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private research institute at George Washington University. "Guess which shell the records are under. If you guess the right shell, we might show them to you. It's ridiculous."...
-bth: the military views FOIA as a game to be avoided instead of a public right to know what its government is doing.
...A weak, partitioned Afghanistan may not be a desirable outcome, but a “soft” partition now would be far better than a “hard” partition later, after years of chaos and bloodletting — and infinitely better than the medieval Taliban’s return to power and a fresh reign of terror. Indeed, partition may be the only way to prevent Afghanistan from sliding into large-scale civil war and thwart transnational terrorists from re-establishing a base of operations amid the rubble.
-bth: worth reading in full.
Disappointed with the hesitant approach of its allies in the Western and Arab world in condemning the coup in Egypt, Turkey is continuing its efforts to push the international community to re-instate Mohammed Morsi as president of Egypt.
Led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Ankara’s diplomatic campaign includes the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and prominent Arab countries, such as Qatar.
“Our message is clear: Call this a coup,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “Military coups are unacceptable, in Egypt or elsewhere. Undoing the coup and re-instating the toppled government should be the priorities of countries with a democratic understanding.”
For Turkey, establishing an interim government is meaningless and what should be done is to announce immediate elections with no restrictions on any political group, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Not underlining these points would be a very bad message to not only Egyptians but to those who are in search of democracy in other parts of the world,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Daily News yesterday.
Erdoğan called Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the U.N. late on July 6, following Davutoğlu’s intense phone diplomacy with his American and Qatari counterparts, John Kerry and Khalid al-Atiyya, respectively, as well as some other regional and European politicians over the weekend.
Turkey found itself alone in strongly condemning the Egyptian army’s ouster of Morsi as a coup d’état and calling on the Egyptian military to restore the democratically elected government with full power; its allies in the Arab world and in the West, however, either congratulated the army or preferred to use a milder language against the plotters....
-bth: another in a string of bad decision from Turkey.
Analysts believe that insurgents in Afghanistan form similar networks to street gangs in the US. So the software for analysing these networks abroad ought to work just as well at home, say military researchers
In the last 10 years or so, researchers have revolutionised the way military analysts think about insurgency and the groups of people involved in it. Their key insight is that insurgency tends to run in families and in social networks that are held together by common beliefs.
So it makes sense to study the social networks that insurgents form. And indeed that’s exactly what various military analysts have begun to do, including those in the US Army. A few years ago, a group of West Point cadets and offices developed some software for gathering information about the links between the people who make and distribute improvised explosive devices.
In testing this tool in Afghanistan, they found they could perform the same tasks as a traditional analyst in just a fraction of the time.
Now the US Army is adapting this technology to help the police tackle gang violence....
...British tourists were feared to be at risk of terrorist attack last night after the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a call to arms after the military coup ousted Islamist Morsi.
In a chilling statement, he called for sharia law, claimed democracy had failed and vowed to target Christians, who he said were involved in “a war on Islam”.
It led to concerns about the safety of tourist areas popular with Britons.
Islamist terror group Ansar Al Sharia, which was linked to the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, said it would gather arms and start training for the imposition of Islamic rule.
More than 1,000 people were injured as fighting swept the country yesterday.
A running battle took place in Cairo and 12 people died when Islamists opened fire at an anti-Morsi rally in Alexandria.
Meanwhile liberal Mohamed ElBaradei was appointed interim prime minister....
-bth: Muslim Brotherhood threw rivals and children off buildings yesterday.
PESHAWAR: Jamil Afridi, the brother of alleged CIA informant Dr Shakil Afridi, filed another application to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government seeing permission to meet his brother at the central prison in Peshawar.
Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in jail on May 24, 2012 for allegations of aiding banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Islam (LI). The doctor is also has also been alleged of helping CIA in hunting down Osama bin Laden by launching a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad.
A tribal court of the Khyber Agency had sentenced Afridi, who is currently being held at the central prison in Peshawar, and soon after the verdict legal experts and human rights activists challenged the administration’s decision. A panel of lawyers, mostly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), had obtained Afridi’s power of attorney to challenge the verdict in court....
The Attorney General’s office said in a statement: “The searches in the Stuttgart area and in Belgium were directed against two men of Tunisian origin who are suspected of collecting information and items for the commission of radical Islamist bombings with remote-controlled model aero planes.”
According to the Telegraph two of the suspected plotters were students in the aeronautics department at the University of Stuttgart, who were developing systems for using GPS to guide pilotless aircraft, according to the German public broadcaster SWR....
-bth: I see no reason that this general method of attack would not be successful against fixed and unsuspecting targets
WASHINGTON — More than 650,000 civilian Defense Department workers will begin taking the first of their 11 unpaid days off next week, but the cut in salary they will see in the three months may pale compared to what officials worry could be larger scale layoffs next year.
Roughly 85 percent of the department's nearly 900,000 civilians around the world will be furloughed, according to the latest statistics provided by the Pentagon. But while defense officials were able to shift money around to limit the furloughs this year, there are widespread worries that if automatic budget cuts go forward for 2014, thousands of civilian, military and contract jobs could be on the chopping block....
-bth: this does not begin to quantify the extraordinary damage being done to small defense contractors. This has been going on for months. The armed forces will use this to further damage small contractors in the hope that they will put political pressure on Congress and the President. Unfortunately the damage has already been done.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's effort to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it risks descending from "dysfunction to total failure," according to an internal study suppressed by military officials.
Largely beyond the public spotlight, the decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor, the report says.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the internal study after Freedom of Information Act requests for it by others were denied.
The report paints a picture of a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, a military-run group known as JPAC and headed by a two-star general, as woefully inept and even corrupt. The command is digging up too few clues on former battlefields, relying on inaccurate databases and engaging in expensive "boondoggles" in Europe, the study concludes.
In North Korea, the JPAC was snookered into digging up remains between 1996 and 2000 that the North Koreans apparently had taken out of storage and planted in former American fighting positions, the report said. Washington paid the North Koreans hundreds of thousands of dollars to "support" these excavations.
Some recovered bones had been drilled or cut, suggesting they had been used by the North Koreans to make a lab skeleton. Some of those remains have since been identified, but their compromised condition added time and expense and "cast doubt over all of the evidence recovered" in North Korea, the study said. This practice of "salting" recovery sites was confirmed to the AP by one U.S. participant....
-bth: worth reading in full. Congressional attention to this ineptitude would probably improve performance overnight. I could probably find more than 80 bodies with a metal detector and a history book.
....That said, both countries share a strong interest in maintaining partnerships with the United States and the European Union, their main trading partners and the custodians of the international financial system, in which each has a major stake. These are powerful reasons for staying on good working terms with Washington, but the United States should not assume that they will halt the new anti-American tack in Beijing and Moscow. That would be a dangerous misreading of history.
Before World War I, many assumed that mutual economic entanglement and the huge costs of war would prevent conflict among key European powers. On the eve of World War II, Communist Russia and Nazi Germany seemed the unlikeliest of allies, until the two-year-long nonaggression treaty known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact left Europe in ruins and many millions dead.
President Obama should see China and Russia as neither enemies nor friends, but as significant powers with their own interests, as the Snowden affair showed. Initially, Mr. Obama railed publicly and ineffectually at both, urging them to extradite Mr. Snowden. Only when he softened his public stance and hardened his private line did Beijing and Moscow begin to see the advantages of avoiding further confrontation.
Washington needs to understand that most security threats around the world — from Syria to Iran to North Korea — can’t be managed safely and successfully without Russia’s and China’s cooperation. With respect to Syria, this approach would mean appreciating Moscow’s historical connection to the country’s Alawite leaders as well as Russia’s concern over the fate of Syria’s Christians, especially Orthodox Christians. In dealing with Beijing, it would mean strongly protecting American trade interests while understanding that Chinese leaders face real obstacles in tackling their own domestic economic problems.
To gain the respect of Russia and China, the White House must first demonstrate that American leadership is essential to solving key world problems, including those vital to China and Russia. America can’t be seen as passive....
WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.
The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.
The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.
Last month, a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, leaked a classified order from the FISA court, which authorized the collection of all phone-tracing data from Verizon business customers. But the court’s still-secret decisions go far beyond any single surveillance order, the officials said.
“We’ve seen a growing body of law from the court,” a former intelligence official said. “What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets.”
In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.
The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.....
-bth: so an entire body of law exists in secret and beyond the scrutiny of the Congress, the public or the Supreme Court.
SHANGHAI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said the present government in Pakistan was a pro-business and investment-friendly regime, which would welcome Chinese investment for addressing the energy issues.
Addressing the Pakistan-China Energy Forum, which was attended by more than 50 prominent Chinese investors, the prime minister said that he was leading the government to pull the country out of an economic meltdown. He expressed the resolve to eliminate all bottlenecks leading to investment in the energy sector.
He said that resolution of energy issues was the top priority of his government, and the government would welcome all Chinese and foreign investment in this regard.....