September 19, 2014
Airlines Halt Flights to Yemen Amid Fighting
September 19, 2014
SANAA, Yemen — Foreign airlines halted flights to the main international airport in the Sanaa because of heavy fighting between Shiite rebels and Sunni militias in the Yemeni capital, the state civil aviation authority said Friday.
Battles erupted a day earlier between the Shiite rebels known as the Hawthis and gunmen loyal to the Islah party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen. The two sides fought in Shamlan, a suburb of Sanaa that is home to the Islamic Iman University, an institution seen as a breeding ground for Sunni militants.
Amid the fighting, the Hawthis hit the headquarters of state television with mortars Thursday evening. Thousands have fled their homes in the area.
In a statement carried on the state news agency SABA early Friday, the civil aviation authority said foreign airlines suspended flights to Sanaa airport for 24 hours, after which they will review the security situation.
The Hawthis have emerged as a powerful new player in the chronically unstable, impoverished nation. Over the past months, their fighters have scored a string of victories in the north, defeating mainly hardline Islamist fighters, bringing them the doorstep of Sanaa.
In the capital, they have led a campaign of street protests calling for the replacement of the government and economic reforms. One of their protest camps is set up on the main road leading to the airport.
The Hawthis’ opponents accuse them of being a proxy for mainly Shiite Iran and of seeking to grab power, a claim the group denies.
The rebels’ advances add a new layer of turmoil in Yemen, where the government has long been battling one of the most powerful branches of the al-Qaida terror network. There is also a growing separatist movement in the south, a region that once constituted an independent state before it merged with northern Yemen.
September 19, 2014
CIA chief: ‘If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it’
September 19, 2014
Brennan has been locked in a heated dispute with his Senate overseers that escalated dramatically after CIA breached a network firewall. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency expressed frustration with his Senate overseers and the media on Thursday, even as he and his fellow heads of US intelligence agencies pledged to win back the trust of a skeptical American public.
“I certainly believe having the public’s trust makes all of our jobs much easier and better,” Brennan said on a panel at an intelligence conference, where he was joined by his colleagues at the helms of the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
But ahead of an impending clash with the Senate intelligence committee, which is due to release a public version of a report into CIA torture in the coming weeks, Brennan rejected “the narratives I see floating around the media.”
Brennan has been locked in a heated dispute with his Senate overseers that escalated dramatically after agency officials breached a network firewall set up to allow committee investigators access to CIA documents relevant to their inquiry. The committee chairwoman, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, said on the Senate floor on 11 March that the CIA “just went and searched the committee’s computers.”
After initially denying the breach during a public appearance that day at the Council on Foreign Relations, Brennan apologized for it in July once the CIA’s inspector general determined CIA officials had improperly accessed Senate staffer emails and conducted keyword searches on some of them.
But Brennan sharply defended his March denial of the firewall breach and rejected Feinstein’s “allegations” about the episode, without naming her.
“This is part of the mischaracterizations. The Council on Foreign Relations, [moderator] Andrea Mitchell, said, did in fact CIA officers hack into the Senate computers to thwart the investigation on potential interrogation? Thwart the investigation, hacking in – no, we did not, and I said that’s beyond the scope of reason,” said Brennan, who noted that he ordered the inspector general’s review of the incident.
“When the inspector general determined that based on the common understanding between the CIA and the [committee] about this arrangement of computers, that our officers had improperly accessed it, even though these were CIA facilities, CIA computers, and CIA had responsibility for the IT integrity of the system, I apologized to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact that we didn’t have a memorandum of agreement.
“What I’ve said to the committee and others is that if I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it, but I’m not going to take, you know, the allegations about hacking and monitoring and spying and whatever else, no. … When I think about that incident, I think there are things on both sides that need to be addressed.”
The Senate report, expected to be partially declassified this month, is said to have found post-9/11 CIA torture to be more brutal and less effective than it portrayed to the Bush administration and the Senate oversight committee. Many committee Republicans and the agency itself have already rejected the report’s findings as inaccurate.
Alongside Brennan, Adm Michael Rogers, the new NSA director, said he wanted to bolster public confidence in his agency that has been battered by the widespread digital and phone records surveillance revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Rogers declined an invitation by panel moderator Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast to quantify actual damage that Snowden’s disclosures have yielded, something that the NSA and its defenders have frequently asserted, without providing evidence.
“Those should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that I am watching groups change their behavior as a direct result of these revelations, groups that represent a direct threat to the citizens of this nation and those of our friends and allies,” Rogers said.
Separately, Rogers conceded that his agency was too slow to recognize the Islamic State (Isis) transitioning earlier this year from a terrorist group into the jihadist army that has invaded and conquered portions of northern and western Iraq.
“I wish we had been a little stronger on it,” Rogers said.
Rogers, Brennan and the acting head of the DIA, David Shedd, said US intelligence agencies lost a degree of visibility into Iraq once US troops withdrew in 2011, and suggested the same could occur in Afghanistan as US troop levels diminish amidst a persistent Taliban insurgency.
Afghans’ willingness to provide intelligence to the US will be part of “a larger risk calculus associated with the conditions on the ground,” Shedd said.
September 19, 2014
The following obituary appeared in the September 18, 2014 edition of the Washington Post:
Cynthia M. Grabo, intelligence analyst
Cynthia M. Grabo, 98, an intelligence analyst for the Department of the Army and the Defense Intelligence Agency, died Aug. 17 at a retirement home in Springfield, Va. The cause was congestive heart failure, said a nephew, Michael Moyer.
Ms. Grabo was a Chicago native. During a career spanning four decades until retiring in 1980, she worked as a researcher and writer for the old U.S. Watch Committee and its successor organization, the Strategic Warning Staff. She wrote a three-volume manual for training intelligence analysts. She received the DIA’s Exceptional Civilian Service Medal and a CIA award for outstanding contributions to intelligence. After her retirement, she served on the board of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
September 19, 2014
New trove of CIA articles on al-Qaeda, the Cold War and the Beiruit bombing, among many subjects
September 18, 2014
The CIA joined Twitter on Friday. Finally. (Photo via cia.gov)
The Central Intelligence Agency has released a new, extensive collection of declassified articles from its in-house journal, providing glimpses into the spy organization’s thinking on everything from Al-Qaeda’s secrecy tactics in Afghanistan to how it has managed public relations crises.
The documents, posted on the agency’s website Thursday, are from “Studies in Intelligence,” the CIA’s in-house professional journal. The publication’s mission is “to stimulate within the Intelligence Community the constructive discussion of important issues of the day, to expand knowledge of lessons learned from past experiences, to increase understanding of the history of the profession, and to provide readers with considered reviews of public literature concerning intelligence,” the agency said.
At times, the work is extremely blunt. For example, George Tenet, who led the CIA from July 1997 to July 2004, says that its agents should be honest with themselves about what they do.
“I cannot explain what we do here other than to say we steal secrets for a living and we take those secrets and put them into all-source products that make a difference to somebody,” Tenet said in a 10-page article that is heavily redacted. “If anybody thinks we are doing anything else here, they can come talk to me. But let’s be blunt about we do. There is no dishonor in it. We steal secrets for a living.”
Michael J. Sulick, an intelligence operations officer who retired in 2010, states in another article that the U.S. counterintelligence organization cannot afford to fail in finding enemy spies who are working for Al-Qaeda and other modern terrorist groups. Consider this passage:
Simply put, terrorist groups operate like intelligence services. Terrorists spy before they terrorize. They case and observe their targets. They collect intelligence about the enemy’s vulnerabilities from elicitation and open sources. They vet potential recruits by rigorous screening procedures. Like intelligence officers, terrorists practice stagecraft. Material found in al-Qa’ida safehouses in Afghanistan and other countries include training manuals on espionage tradecraft, such as the identification of clandestine meeting and deaddrop sites, techniques to recruit sources, covert communications and tracking and reporting on targets.
There are also articles on intelligence operations in the Korean War, the Cold War and the agency’s relationship with the media. In one analysis, for example, a writer skewers the explosive “Dark Alliance” newspaper series in the San Jose Mercury-News in 1996 that examined ties between the CIA, crack cocaine and the Contra army in Nicaragua.
The stories alleged that drug traffickers in California were sending money to help the contras in Nicaragua, which turned out to be true. But it also implied the Contras caused the U.S. crack epidemic at the time with the CIA’s knowledge, which turned out to be a reach. The series was by Gary Webb, a journalist who committed suicide in 2004 after years of insisting he was right. The CIA writer’s name is redacted. His or her analysis, in part:
After this surge of publicity that questions the Agency’s integrity, the media itself soon begins to question the veracity of the original story. A completely one-sided media campaign is averted, and reporting on the issue becomes polarized rather than wholly anti-CIA. By one count, press stories skeptical of the charges against CIA actually begin to outnumber those giving the story credence. A review of the CIA drug conspiracy story — from its inception in August 1996 with the San Jose Mercury-News stories — shows that a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s (DCI) Public Affairs Staff helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.
Another article is gripping in its firsthand account of witnessing the aftermath of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 299 French and American service members. The author’s name is redacted. Here’s an excerpt:
At 1500, as we are finishing an elaborate lunch, our hostess tells us there has been an explosion at the Embassy. She has known for an hour and a half, but hadn’t wanted to ruin our lunch. She speaks in an unconcerned way, and when I accuse her of joking, another guest steps in to remind me that this happens to the Lebanese “all the time — we are used to it.” With sick feelings in our stomachs we pile into the car and search for radio stations with news — the stations are being rather blase about it. As we drive back, I look at the ruined towns around me with a fresh eye. Now they are grisly.
The full collection is available here.
September 19, 2014
James Clapper: We underestimated the Islamic State’s ‘will to fight’
September 18, 2014
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam — underestimating the enemy’s will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.
Clapper’s comments came in a telephone interview Wednesday, in which he summarized the elements of a new National Intelligence Strategy released this week. Clapper also answered some broader questions about intelligence issues confronting the country.
Asked whether the intelligence community had succeeded in its goal of providing “anticipatory intelligence” about the extremist movement in Syria and Iraq that has declared itself the Islamic State, Clapper said his analysts had reported the group’s emergence and its “prowess and capability,” as well as the “deficiencies” of the Iraqi military. Then he offered a self-critique:
“What we didn’t do was predict the will to fight. That’s always a problem. We didn’t do it in Vietnam. We underestimated the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese and overestimated the will of the South Vietnamese. In this case, we underestimated ISIL [the Islamic State] and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. . . . I didn’t see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn’t see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable.”
Intelligence officials haven’t publicly discussed the prospects for success of President Obama’s small-footprint strategy for combating the Islamic State through a coalition of nations, without directly committing U.S. combat troops. But some officials appear wary.
“If I were head analyst, I don’t think I’d make a call yet,” one senior intelligence official said, requesting anonymity. “I haven’t fit together the contributions that each of the coalition members might make.”
“This will be a new paradigm where we are looking to others to make substantive contributions,” the senior official continued. “I view it as a test. We haven’t done this before. We have always built around a major force contributed by the U.S. We’re going to try a different approach. . . . At this point, I am reluctant to make predictions about how it will turn out.”
Clapper said he believed that the Islamic State posed a “strategic threat . . . long term” to the United States, given “their actions and their statements about the inevitability of confrontation with the U.S.” But he said he couldn’t provide a timeline about how soon the group might have the networks and capabilities to attack the U.S. homeland.
Asked about threats beyond the Middle East, Clapper amplified comments that prefaced the intelligence strategy he released Thursday.
China is described in that document as “opaque about its strategic intentions” and “of concern due to its military modernization.” Clapper explained: “I’m looking at what I find [to be] impressive and disturbing programs, across the board, which the Chinese have embarked on to modernize their military in all branches and all realms, including cyber and space. It’s very impressive what they’re doing.”
As for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Clapper expanded on the strategy’s statement that “Russia is likely to continue to reassert power and influence in ways that undermine U.S. interests.” He said that while Putin was a “throwback” to the Cold War era of confrontation, he had used a masked approach in Crimea and eastern Ukraine that avoided open display of military power.
“We are going to be faced with the challenge of discerning early on these stealthy, creeping invasions, soft invasions — not overt legions of motorized vehicles . . . but a different form of aggressiveness.”
Asked whether U.S. agencies had met his goal of providing “anticipatory intelligence” when it came to Putin in Ukraine, Clapper said that Putin himself probably hadn’t planned on intervention until Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev in February . “This was ad hoc on the part of the Russians,” Clapper said. “Their game plan took a while to develop in their minds.”
Clapper concluded with a sardonic account of his job as captain of a leaky intelligence vessel, buffeted by what he called a “perfect storm.” He said the agencies under his command, including the National Security Agency, had to “throttle back” on some intelligence collection “because we need to recover foreign intelligence partnerships and commercial partnerships.”
“We are accepting more risk in this country because of that,” Clapper warned. He offered a caustic mission statement, which he repeated publicly Thursday: “We are supposed to keep the country safe, predict anticipatory intelligence, with no risk, and no embarrassment if revealed, and without a scintilla of jeopardy to privacy of any domestic person or foreign person. We call that ‘immaculate collection.’ ”
September 19, 2014
U.S. Goal Is to Make Syrian Rebels Viable
New York Times
September 19, 2014
REYHANLI, Turkey — In a secret office near the Syrian border here, intelligence agents from the United States and its allies are laying the groundwork for what they hope will become an effective force of Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops in the international battle against the extremist Islamic State.
The office, the Military Operations Command, has slowed funding to Islamist groups, paid salaries to thousands of “vetted” rebels and given them ammunition to boost their battlefield mettle.
But even the program’s biggest beneficiaries — the rebels themselves — acknowledge that turning this relatively small group into a force that can challenge the well-funded and well-armed Islamic State is a challenge that will require tremendous support from its foreign backers.
In President Obama’s strategy of building an international coalition to fight the Islamic State without American troops, these moderate rebels loom large as the best force to fight the extremists in Syria. While the House approved an aid package for the rebels on Wednesday and the Senate followed on Thursday, at present the rebels are a beleaguered lot, far from becoming a force that can take on the fanatical and seasoned fighters of the Islamic State.
Short of arms, they are struggling to hold their own against both the military of President Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists of the Islamic State. Their leaders have been the targets of assassination attempts. And some acknowledge that battlefield necessity has put them in the trenches with the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, an issue of obvious concern for the United States.
While they long for greater international support and hate the Islamic State, sometimes called ISIS or ISIL, ousting Mr. Assad remains their primary goal, putting them at odds with their American patrons.
“Just as the priority of the international community is to fight ISIS, our priority is to fight Assad,” said Hamza al-Shimali, the head of the Hazm Movement, which has received arms and salaries from the Military Operations Command.
On Tuesday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the fight against the militants would include the training and equipping of 5,000 Syrian rebels, and Saudi Arabia has volunteered to host the training program on its territory.
This scaled-up training program would be overseen by the Defense Department, unlike the current covert program here and a similar program in Jordan, both overseen by the C.I.A.
While much about the new program remains unclear, the work of the command here since it began operations this year gives a sense both of how the United States seeks to build this force and the challenges it will face in doing so.
So far, the program has focused on a small number of vetted rebel groups from the hundreds that are fighting across Syria, providing them with military and financial help, according to rebel commanders who have received support.
The process is run by intelligence officials from a number of countries. The United States provides overall guidance, while Turkey manages the border, and Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia provide much of the funding.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, analysts have blamed the multitude of funding streams for creating a divided rebel movement with hundreds of groups seeking to please foreign backers.
This has changed in recent months. Turkey, which once allowed smugglers and fighters to move freely across its border with Syria, has clamped down, making it harder for private funders to get in.
At the same time, most of the support from governments who back the rebels is now channeled through the Military Operations Command.
This sidesteps the Syrian National Coalition, the exile body that is supposed to guide the rebellion but has little credibility inside Syria. Also sidelined was the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was widely accused of mismanagement and all but collapsed this year amid a leadership dispute.
Instead, the military command has built direct ties with rebel leaders it deems moderate and active inside Syria.
These groups include the Hazm Movement, which was founded this year; the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, whose leader, Jamal Maarouf, has vowed to fight both ISIS and Mr. Assad; and other groups that came to prominence while pushing the Islamic State out of parts of northern Syria.
The groups’ leaders include a former aviation engineer in the Syrian Army and a fighter pilot who defected in his jet to Jordan in 2012. Others have more modest backgrounds. One was a farmer. Mr. Maarouf worked in construction in Lebanon. Mr. Shimali sold office supplies and real estate.
An opposition official involved in the program said that it now helped eight main groups, although others had received support, too. It is now paying monthly salaries of at least $100 to about 10,000 fighters in northern Syria, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program.
In debate Wednesday before the House approved Mr. Obama’s request for aid to the rebels, questions were raised about whether there were, indeed, any moderates among them. Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who tracks Syria, said the answer depends on definitions.
“There is definitely a moderate opposition if what you mean by that is nonjihadist, willing to confront the Islamic State and not working openly with other jihadists in the country,” he said. “But are they Western liberals? No.”
Mr. Tabler said that most of the rebels hail from rural, Sunni areas where Islamist thinking has long held sway and often colors their thinking.
The commanders have reacted cautiously to Mr. Obama’s announcement that he would strike the Islamic State in Syria as well as in Iraq. Like most in Syria’s opposition, they remain angry that the United States backed away from bombing Mr. Assad after his forces killed hundreds of people in chemical attacks near Damascus last year.
While most support the strikes, they consider them proof that the United States only wants to protect itself, not save Syrian lives.
“The international position has to be to fight all kinds of terrorism, both ISIS and the regime,” said Sheikh Tawfiq Shahabuddin, the head of the Nureddin Zengi Movement. “You can’t treat only one part of the disease.”
The program’s results so far have been limited. While the groups receiving support can boast no major advances, they say they are gaining fighters, some of them from Islamist groups who now struggle to get funding, with the rerouting of state money and the Turkish clampdown on the border.
Still, the challenges are many.
Lt. Col. Fares al-Bayyoush, the former aviation engineer who now heads the Fursan al-Haq Brigade, acknowledged that his men had fought alongside the Nusra Front because they needed all the help they could get.
Sometimes, he said, that help comes in forms only a jihadi group can provide. He cited the rebel takeover of the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun, saying that the rebels were unable to take out one government position until the Nusra Front sent a suicide bomber to blow it up.
In another town nearby, Nusra sent four bombers, including an American citizen.
“We encourage them actually,” Mr. Bayyoush said with a laugh. “And if they need vehicles, we provide them.”
Geography is also a problem. Most of the groups are centered in the northern provinces of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama, putting them at least 100 miles across open terrain from the Islamic State’s stronghold in the northeastern city of Raqqa. Moving fighters in that direction would mean abandoning fronts with the government.
The United States also participates in a similar command center in Jordan that helps rebels in southern Syria, but its fighters are farther away.
Even if the training goes as planned, the rebels will be outnumbered. While the United States has proposed to train and equip 5,000 rebels, the Central Intelligence Agency has said it believes that the Islamic State has between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria.
And in starting the process now, the United States will have to play catch-up with the group, which has been training its recruits at four camps in Raqqa Province, the largest of which is based in a seized oil company compound and named after Osama bin Laden.
Despite the challenges, the rebel commanders remain optimistic that the United States will provide the support they need to become an effective fighting force capable of taking on the Islamic State.
“We want to be hand in hand with the West, and for the future of Syria to be with the West,” said Col. Hassan al-Hamada, the former fighter pilot. “The problem is that the Americans work very slowly, and we are paying the price in blood.”
September 19, 2014
U.S. Faces Tough Struggle on Ground to Oust ISIS
Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper
New York Times
September 19, 2014
WASHINGTON — The American air campaign to thwart the advance of fighters from the Islamic State has been the easy part of President Obama’s strategy in Iraq and Syria. Soon begins the next and much harder phase: rolling back their gains in Mosul, Falluja and other populated areas, which will require American advisers to train and coordinate airstrikes with Iraqi forces.
Pentagon officials are more willing than their counterparts at the White House to acknowledge that this will almost certainly require American Special Operations forces on the ground to call in airstrikes and provide tactical advice to Iraqi troops. “There is no one in this building who does not know that clearing out the cities will be much harder,” a senior Defense Department official said in an interview. “That’s when the rubber is going to meet the road.”
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this week described this phase as “extraordinarily complex.”
Urban warfare in Iraq has been challenging for the United States, which had 70 troops killed in the second battle of Falluja in 2004 and fought hard to regain control of cities like Mosul, Baquba and Baghdad. So it will be even harder for the Iraqis, who have so far proved ineffective in combating the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Military officials say they plan to use Iraqi security forces, Kurdish fighters and local Sunnis — whom they hope to turn against the militants — to roll back the Islamic State’s gains. They see the Sunnis as playing a similar role to what played out in the Sunni awakening during the surge in Iraq.
Assembling those ground forces, however, will take time. General Dempsey said that of the 50 Iraqi brigades whose readiness the United States had closely examined, 26 “were assessed to be reputable partners,” with adequate equipment and leadership, to be loyal to the government and not overly sectarian.
But many of the Iraqi units will require training and re-equipping before they are ready to begin a major counteroffensive.
The United States is trying to institutionalize the Sunni tribal awakening by establishing new national guard units that it would have a crucial role in training and equipping. The idea is to avoid the need to send a largely Shiite army to Sunni areas and to win the allegiance of local Sunnis. In their attempt to seize urban areas from the Islamic State, the Iraqis’ firepower will be limited. On Saturday, Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said that the Iraqi military would not use artillery or carry out airstrikes in populated areas — an effort to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and avoid alienating the Sunni population.
A senior State Department official said Sunday that the Iraqi air force’s “targeting is not nearly as precise as ours, and they’ve made some real mistakes.”
“So that’s why Prime Minister Abadi yesterday announced that even in populated areas in which ISIL has control, we are not going to do airstrikes or artillery-type stuff because it could harm the civilians,” the official said.
It falls, then, to the United States and other allied nations to conduct the airstrikes, which will need to be carefully coordinated.
In the past week, the offensive strikes that Mr. Obama promised have started slowly, targeting a few scattered Sunni militant positions — a truck here, a small boat on the Euphrates there, an artillery position somewhere else — in what is known in the military as “plinking.”
American military advisers are already working closely with Iraqi battalions in the field and have not limited themselves to staying in Iraqi brigade headquarters, American officials said. But so far none have been used to call in airstrikes.
The operation to take back the Mosul Dam, in which fewer than 200 Iraqi Counterterrorism Service commandos played the critical role, along with Kurdish fighters, posed a particular challenge.
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the Central Command, had recommended deploying American military advisers to coordinate airstrikes in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces who had never worked together before and indeed spoke different languages.
Given Mr. Obama’s reluctance to put American advisers alongside Iraqi combat troops, a workaround was arranged, General Dempsey noted Tuesday in testimony at a Senate hearing. He said that the Kurds would pass targeting information on Islamic State positions to an operations center in Erbil manned by Iraqi and American troops, and they, in turn, would pass the information on to American aircraft. It was a bit of a Rube Goldberg command structure, but it worked.
But this arrangement, as General Dempsey signaled, is unlikely to be sufficient for the next, more challenging phase of rolling back the Islamic State’s gains in Iraqi cities.
In fact, General Austin said that air controllers would be needed. “He shares my view that there will be circumstances when we think that’ll be necessary, but we haven’t encountered one yet,” General Dempsey said of General Austin.
But the White House made clear on Wednesday that requests to use the advisers to call in airstrikes to provide tactical advice on the battlefield to Iraqi units would need to be approved by the president on a case-by-case basis.
In weighing such requests, the White House may have to choose between the increased risk to American personnel and the danger that without the use of advisers on the battlefield, the counteroffensive may stall.
The Iraq war provided a telling example of what can happen when the Iraqis operate largely on their own. In March 2008, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki decided to mount an operation to retake Basra called “Charge of the Knights.”
The Iraqi military and the Shiite militias fought to a bloody stalemate until the United States dispatched FA-18 jets, AC-130 gunships and Predator drones.
To help the Iraqis’ Basra campaign, American commanders also arranged for three rifle platoons from the 82nd Airborne to team with Iraqi battalions so they could call in airstrikes and back up the Iraqis. An Iraqi battalion sent from Anbar Province in the West deployed with its Marine advisers and also had success.
But even with American help, the counteroffensive against the Islamic State may confront an enemy that is rapidly adapting to the American airstrikes by hiding equipment and troops under trees and tarps, and eschewing many electronic communications that American intelligence services can intercept.
“They’re beginning to adapt now,” General Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
And this is just the Iraqi part of the campaign. Attacking forces of the Islamic State in Syria will come later, but first the United States will have to train the Syrian rebels who will fight the militants on the ground.
General Dempsey said this week that Pentagon planners estimated that it would take eight to 12 months to train the first 5,400 soldiers; the goal is to train about 5,000 a year, Pentagon officials said.
But those numbers would be only the beginning of the forces the Pentagon believes will be necessary. General Dempsey said that American planners estimated that 12,000 personnel would be needed to control liberated areas in Syria and restore the border with Iraq.
The Central Intelligence Agency recently estimated that the Islamic State had 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, two-thirds of them based in Syria. The advance of the militants through Iraq led to the larger estimate.
David R. Shedd, acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said at a conference in Washington on Thursday that it was “very difficult to measure the size and capability of the truly committed.”
But some seasoned military officials have questioned whether the strategy that Mr. Obama and his advisers have developed will be sufficient to defeat the Islamic State.
“Unfortunately, the strategy in many ways will be made up on the fly,” said Gen. James N. Mattis, who retired from the Marine Corps and is a former head of Central Command. “It would be better if clearly defined political end states were objectively and persuasively conveyed at the outset.”
September 19, 2014
U.S. court rules Navy wrongfully monitored computers in child porn probe
September 18, 2014
A U.S. appeals court has thrown out evidence against a Washington state man charged with possession of child pornography, saying his conviction revealed that naval intelligence agents were improperly peering into both civilian and military computers.
In a strongly worded decision made available electronically on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the case uncovered an egregious overstepping of bounds by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that “amounts to the military acting as a national police force to investigate civilian law.”
Court documents show the NCIS launched an investigation in 2010 for online criminal activity by anyone in Washington state, whether connected with the military or not, and found child pornography on a machine belonging to a civilian.
The evidence collected by NCIS special agent Steve Logan from a federal office in Georgia was turned over to civilian law enforcement, and Michael Dreyer of Algona was later convicted of possessing child porn and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
"Agent Logan had no idea whether the computers searched belonged to someone with any affiliation with the military at all,” the 9th Circuit ruling said. “Instead, it was his ‘standard practice to monitor all computers in a geographic area,’ here, every computer in the state of Washington.”
The case comes during a national debate over privacy rights and the scope of U.S. government surveillance programs since details of data-gathering were leaked last year by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
The government argued the military’s computer searches in Washington state were proper and legal, and said protocol was to hand over evidence collected to civilian law enforcement.
The appeals court dismissed that argument, saying the surveillance violated the Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits military personnel from participating in civilian law enforcement activities.
"To accept (the government’s) position would mean that NCIS agents could, for example, routinely stop suspected drunk drivers in downtown Seattle on the off-chance that a driver is a member of the military," the ruling said.
The panel’s ruling, filed last week, will send Dreyer’s case back to the district court with an order to exclude the NCIS evidence. NCIS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jenny Durkan, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, could ask the case be heard by the entire court of appeals.
September 19, 2014
Australian PM cites “chatter” of attacks on government, parliament
September 19, 2014
SYDNEY, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Intelligence “chatter” has revealed that militants plan to attack Australian politicians and government buildings, the prime minister said on Friday, a day after hundreds of police carried out a sweeping counter-terrorism operation.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had ordered security boosted at Parliament House in Canberra, amid mounting concerns over the possibility of attacks by Australians radicalised in Iraq or Syria.
More than 800 police were involved in the security operation in Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday, which authorities said had thwarted a plot by militants linked to the Islamic State group to behead a random member of the public.
"There are close links between Australians fighting with ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and networks of support back here in Australia," Abbott told reporters, referring to the group otherwise known as Islamic State that has seized large stretches of territory in Syria and Iraq.
"The chatter involving Parliament House was chatter between Australians in Syria and Iraq and their supporters here in Australia."
"I’m not aware that specific individuals have been named as part of this chatter, but certainly government, government people and Parliament have been referred to as part of this chatter," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called the foiled plot an “extravaganza of brutality”, and said it was evidence of the radical group’s ability to attack targets outside the Middle East.
Australia is concerned over the number of its citizens believed to be fighting overseas with militant groups, including a suicide bomber who killed three people in Baghdad in July and two men shown in images on social media holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.
Abbott said at least 100 Australians are in the Middle East either fighting with or supporting Islamic State or other militant groups, a number that he said has been increasing in recent months.
At least 20 are believed to have returned to Australia and pose a security risk, and last week the national security agency for the first time raised its four-tier threat level to “high”.
Highlighting the risk of homegrown militants returning from the Middle East, Abbott pledged on Sunday to send a 600-strong force as well as strike aircraft to join a U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.
ATTACKS COULD HAVE BEEN WITHIN DAYS
Police said the Thursday raids were focused in western Sydney and the Queensland state capital of Brisbane, where two men were arrested on terrorism-related charges last week.
Authorities said that 15 people were detained during the operation, which involved heavily armed state and federal police officers swooping in on at least 25 properties in a highly coordinated pre-dawn raid spanning two states.
Sydney man Omarjan Azari, 22, has been charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and will remain in custody until a hearing in November, authorities said.
A second 24-year-old Sydney man was charged late on Thursday with possessing ammunition without a licence and unauthorised possession of a prohibited weapon. He has been released on bail.
"The advice of our police and security agencies was that attacks of this nature could take place within days," Abbott said, explaining the scope and speed of the raids.
Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said that warrants continued to be issued in connection with the raids, and that police were now searching the “extraordinarily large” amount of material seized in the operation for evidence.
Both he and Abbott, however, declined to confirm how many people detained during the raids had been released, or under what legal authority they were being held if no charges had been laid against them.
"A number of people are still being detained, but I’m not in a position where I can confirm under what legislation or provisions they’re being detained," Colvin told reporters.
About half of Australia’s population of roughly 500,000 Muslims lives in Sydney, with the majority in the western suburbs where the raids occurred.
Several hundred people protested late on Thursday against the raids in Sydney’s largely Muslim Lakemba neighbourhood, where they expressed anger that the raids, and new security laws aimed at targeting extremists, were unfairly focused on Muslims.
Senator Christine Milne, the leader of the opposition Greens Party, warned about the risk of alienating and perhaps radicalising elements of the Muslim population.
"The best way of keeping Australia safe is for the community to come together at a time like this," she said at a media conference.
"To make sure that we’re not having people feeling like they’re being marginalised. Like they’re being rejected. Like they’re being condemned because of the religion they believe in."
September 18, 2014
As part of a settlement agreement with former CIA employee Jeffrey Scudder, the CIA has, albeit very reluctantly, placed online 249 declassified or unclassified articles from its in-house periodical Studies in Intelligence. For those wishing to view the newly declassified articles, click here.
As you will see by scanning the newly released materials, the CIA’s censors redacted large portions of many of the articles. In two where I already have the complete and unredacted versions of the articles, I can tell you that most of what the CIA deleted from the articles was not sensitive in any way, shape or form; or had already been declassified either by the CIA or by other agencies of the US intelligence community.
This is a typical case of the left-hand not knowing what the right-hand is doing, and just further demonstrates that the CIA’s FOIA system is urgently in need of a major overhaul. It must be more than slightly embarrassing for CIA officials to realize that some outside researchers have a better handle on what has already been declassified than they do,