The authoritative biography of General Eric K. Shinseki, from November 28, 1942 to June 2003 on his retirement from The Army.
Big 7 Reb groups team up against Assad’s advances, success in Geneva is within reach, and Loya Jirga majority agrees to U.S. Soldier immunity to Afghan prosecutions – all in today’s defense headlines.
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. Security clearance reform on the Hill. Editor Lindy Kyzer reports, “Congress continues to debate next steps in the security clearance reform process. A senate hearing this week focused on position sensitivity designations. A new rule proposed by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would streamline the process for determining which positions are deemed ‘sensitive.’ Such a designation applies to positions with a potentially adverse effect on national security but which don’t require a security clearance. . . . [meanwhile,] the White House pushed back this week on Senate efforts to reform clearance procedures within DoD as a part of the 2014 Defense Authorization Bill.”
2. . . . ask what your company can do for you. Contributor Diana Rodriguez – a.k.a. D-Rod – with good advice on interviewing the interviewer, for your own sake: “A successful interview requires input from both parties- the interviewer and the job candidate. Although many private firms, and federal and state government agencies, are actively seeking out veterans to hire, a percentage won’t be hired because they fail to ask the right questions during an interview. Asking the right questions can help the interviewer form an impression of the applicant that may, in many cases, be as important as the answers given about their skills. “
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. In Geneva, just don’t screw it up. Reuters’ Parisa Hafezi and John Irish report from Geneva, “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva on Saturday to join talks on Iran’s contested nuclear program with Tehran and six world powers appearing on the verge of a breakthrough to defuse the decade-old standoff. . . . Diplomats said a formidable sticking point in the intense negotiations, which began on Wednesday, may have been overcome with compromise language that does not explicitly recognize Iran’s claim to a ‘right to enrich’ uranium but acknowledges all countries’ right to their own civilian nuclear energy. But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Iran’s demand to continue construction of a heavy-water reactor near Arak that could, when operational, yield bomb-grade plutonium remained one of the main outstanding issues.” AP’s John Heilprin and Jamey Keaten, also in Geneva, report, “John Kerry and world’s other top diplomats joined Iran nuclear talks Saturday, cautioning there were no guarantees their participation would be enough to seal a deal . . . .”
2. In Syria, new alliances against al Assad. Aljazeera.Com reports, “Seven major Islamist rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria have announced a merger to form an “Islamic Front” and pledged to build an Islamic state in a post-Assad Syria. . . . The factions joining the merger are Aleppo’s biggest fighting force Liwa al-Tawhid, the Salafist Ahrar al-Sham, the Idlib-based Soqour al-Sham, the Homs-based al-Haq Brigades, Ansar al-Sham, and the Damascus-based Army of Islam. The Kurdish Islamic Front also joined the front. . . . Amad Essa al-Sheikh, the head of the Consultative Council of the new Islamic Front, told Al Jazeera the goal of integrating the factions was to bring about ‘a paradigm shift in the armed rebellion by closing ranks and mobilising them to become the real alternative to the dying regime’. ”
3. Jan – Haqqani’s second – killed in Pakistan. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “The CIA-operated Reapers killed Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a top deputy in the al Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network, and two other commanders in an airstrike on a seminary in the settled district of Hangu. The hit was remarkable because US drones rarely stray outside of the designated kill boxes of Pakistan’s tribal areas, particularly the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, where a host of jihadist groups operate unfettered. Of the 352 strikes recorded by The Long War Journal since the drone program began, 95 percent have taken place in the two tribal agencies. Only four of the remaining strikes occurred outside of the tribal areas; the last was in March 2009.”
4. In Afghanistan, Loya Jirga immunizes troops. Khaama.Com reports, “The immunity for US troops which is considered to be one of the controversial terms of the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and United States, has reportedly been approved by majority. The national grand council (Loya Jirga) comprised of 50 working committees continued debate on the terms of bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and United States. According to reports, majority of the working committees have approved the article 13 of the bilateral security agreement, which gives exclusive US “the exclusive right” to try its soldiers accused of crimes in Afghanistan.” And, a big OOPS in Nangarhar.
5. Uni-Polar Disorder: DoD’s 8-point Arctic Prozac. The Defense Department’s new Arctic strategy is an 8-point approach to maintaining peace and security in a new frontier that climatic forces are poised to open in the coming years . . . . As global warming accelerates, the secretary said, Arctic ice melt will cause a rise in sea levels that could threaten coastal populations around the world — but it could also open a transpolar sea route. Hagel said that expanded tourism, commercial shipping, migrating fish stocks and energy exploration in the region will affect the eight Arctic nations — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden, along with the United States –- most closely. All, he said, ‘have publicly committed to work within a common framework of international law and diplomatic engagement.’”
1. Microsoft on the cheap. FederalTimes.Com reports, “The General Services Administration is looking for better deals on Microsoft software, according to a request for quotations released Wednesday. The RFQ is part of the agency’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and will reduce the prices agencies pay for purchases of Microsoft software . . . . Companies have until Dec. 18 to respond to the RFQ.”
2. Contractor windfall — $1.1 billion. NextGov.Com’s Bob Brewin explains, “The now moribund interagency program office charged with developing an integrated electronic health record for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments spent $1.1 billion during its five year life, with the bulk of that going to support service contracts, based on a Nextgov review of Pentagon reports to Congress and testimony. The two departments in February ditched efforts to develop the iEHR after costs spiraled to $28 billion and decided to pursue modernization efforts on their own.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. Welcome to the Dark Side. A remarkable read from DefenseMediaNetwork.Com’s George Galdorsi: “The expanding use of armed unmanned systems (UxS) is not only changing the face of modern warfare, but also altering the process of decision-making in combat operations. Indeed, it has been argued that the rise in drone warfare is changing the way we conceive of and define ‘warfare’ itself. . . . While few today fear that a 21st century HAL will turn on its masters, the issues involved with fielding increasingly autonomous UxS are complex, challenging, and increasingly contentious. While advancing other aspects of UxS improvements in areas such as propulsion, payload, stealth, speed, endurance, and other attributes are – and will remain – important, coming to grips with how much autonomy is enough and how much may be too much, is arguably the most important issue we need to address with unmanned systems over the next decade.”
2. Congress to OPM – C’mon up. FederalTimes.Com’s Sean Reilly reports, “The chairman of a House oversight committee has subpoenaed the Office of Personnel Management for contracts and other documents as part of an investigation into the process for granting security clearances. . . . Both Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has since disclosed sensitive secrets, and Aaron Alexis, another contract worker who killed a dozen people two months ago in a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, held clearances granted through a process ‘orchestrated’ by OPM . . . .”
3. “Staring down the Taliban in the Race to Eradicate Polio from Earth.” A special report from Wired.Com contributor Matthieu Aikins: “The smallpox campaign represented a new kind of success brought about by cooperation on a global scale, one that permanently made the world a better place. Researchers studying smallpox are the only people who have to be vaccinated against it anymore. It’s gone. With that success behind them, public-health officials naturally wanted to repeat it with other diseases. After a 17-year campaign, a cattle infection called rinderpest was officially eradicated in 2011. But the struggle to eliminate a second human affliction has proved more difficult than anyone imagined.”
1. They pushed the button, Jim. . . .The big red one. In Geneva, we work to diminish “nucular” options; on The Hill, Senate Dems leverage them: “the rule change represents a substantial power shift in a chamber that for more than two centuries has prided itself on affording more rights to the minority party than any other legislative body in the world. Now, a president whose party holds the majority in the Senate is virtually assured of having his nominees approved, with far less opportunity for political obstruction.”
2. If it’s not a secret, you can’t leak it. That was Easy!: “Excessive government secrecy feeds public mistrust and may be fostering a culture of leaks, a Democratic lawmaker said Thursday in urging a fundamental re-look at the scope of the classification system. ‘It totally undermines public confidence in our institutions,’ Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said at the National Archives and Record Administration’s headquarters in downtown Washington. ‘We simply classify too much information for too long at too great a cost.’”
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. “The Arabs’ Iran Dilemma.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Salah Nasrawi argues, “The best way to keep Iran in check, and to address the rise of sectarianism and its threats to internal security, would be to enact the long overdue democratic reforms that are vital for stability and to reduce tensions in the region through a new effective security and cooperation framework.”
2. “What the filibuster’s demise means for the Supreme Court.” Reuters’ contributor Reihan Salam argues, “Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has ended the filibuster for district and appeals court nominees and executive branch appointments, it’s only a matter of time before the filibuster goes away for Supreme Court nominations and legislation as well.”
3. “Without the filibuster, a tyranny of the majority.” WaPo contributor Senator Lamar Alexander argues, “This was the most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them. It creates a perpetual opportunity for ‘tyranny of the majority,’ which Alexis de Tocqueville called one of the greatest threats to American democracy.”
1. War on Xmas.
Rouhani’s “government of prudence and hope” while Obama reassures Israel, U.S.M.C.’s General Amos asks for Gurganus’ and Sturdevant’s sabres, and the sidewalks are rolled-up in Washington, D.C. – all into today’s defense headlines.
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. In S. Korea, SecDef Hagel: “I love a parade.” In a pageant worthy of North Korea or Soviet-era Russia, the South Korean government rolled out its hardware for visiting dignitary Secretary Hagel. Reuters’ Jack Kim reports from Seoul, “The ballistic Hyeonmu-2, with a range of 300 km (190 miles), and the Hyeonmu-3, a cruise missile with a range of more than 1,000 km (620 miles) were put on public display for the first time in a rare South Korean military parade. Both of the indigenously developed missiles have been deployed. They were unveiled in February after the North conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of international warnings, two months after it successfully launched a long-range rocket and put an object into space.”
2. Obama to Israel on Iran: take a Prozac. Aljazeera.Com reports, “The United States reserves the right to keep all options, including military action, on the table with regards to engaging with Iran, the US president has said after holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. . . . Netanyahu would have been heartened by Obama’s reassurances that Iran would have to prove itself and that Israel had the right to defend itself.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif calls Netanyahu a big, fat liar, and CBS call him a “wet blanket.”
3. Syrian rebels to Assad regime: bring us his head. Syria, peace talks unlikely. Time’s Aryn Baker reports from Tripoli, “Even if the two sides can overcome their significant differences to come to the table — the Syrians and the Russians say Assad is an integral part of the transition, even as the opposition insists it will not take part in any transition government that includes him — fighters on the ground say they have lost too much to accept anything short of Assad’s death.” See related from Reuters: “Russia doubts mid-November date for Syria peace talks.”
4. In Pakistan, Bilal Zadran named new drone target. Successor to Mullah Sangeen steps into the crosshairs. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “Bilal is said to have been named to succeed Mullah Sangeen as Sirajuddin Haqqani’s deputy during a ‘high level meeting of [the] Haqqani Network’ . . . . Mullah Sangeen, who was the Taliban’s shadow governor of Paktika and is on the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for supporting al Qaeda, is thought to have been killed in a US drone strike on Sept. 5 in the Ghulam Khan area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.” Also, from LWJ’s Roggio, “Pakistan condemns latest drone strike in North Waziristan.”
5. Afghanistan’s next president? Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Khaama.Com reports, “Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the main political opposition leader of Afghanistan has formally nominated for the upcoming presidential election of Afghanistan. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the national coalition of Afghanistan formally registered with the Afghanistan independent election commission to run for 2014 presidential elections. Karzai’s elder brother Qayum Karzai, foreign minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Adbul Rab Rassoul Sayaf and Ali Ahmad Jalali are the other potential candidates who are expected to run for the presidential run-off.”
6. Gurganus and Sturdevant: Camp Bastion takes out two USMC general officers: USAToday.Com reports, “The Marine Corps commandant said Monday he has asked for the retirement of two general officers in the wake of an attack last year in which 15 insurgents breached a fortified coalition base in Afghanistan, killing two Marines and destroying or damaging more than a dozen coalition aircraft.”
1. Contractors might weather shutdown with rainy-day funds. GovExec.Com’s Charles S. Clark explains that “damage a spending lapse might inflict on contracting companies this year would depend on their ability to use past-year funds. . . . ‘people are saying prayers, but most companies have been to this movie’ . . . . They know what to expect and how to prepare – in contrast with sequestration because no one had thought of that.’”
2. $4.7 billion Army dollars for commo contracts. NextGov.Com reports, “The Army has awarded year-end communications contracts valued at $4.7 billion, including a $4.1 billion deal Thursday with 12 companies for long-haul communications and transmission systems. These companies will compete for task orders on the five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract supporting the Defense Communications and Army Transmissions Systems program, which provides satellite and terrestrial communication systems to Army and Defense Department organizations, including the National Command Authority.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. Leaks alert al Qaida – worse than Snowden. McClatchyDC.Com’s Lindsay Wise and Adam Baron explain, “The U.S. government-ordered closure of 19 U.S. diplomatic facilities in August has prompted a new controversy, this one about whether news reports at the time alerted al Qaida leaders that their communications were being monitored. Obama administration officials, speaking anonymously to The New York Times, are claiming that those reports, especially one by McClatchy, caused, in the Times’ words, ‘more immediate damage to American counterterrorism efforts than the thousands of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.’” Read New York Times’ original piece.
2. Azure is secure: Microsoft’s cloud seems ready. VentureBeat.Com contributor Eric Blattberg explains, “Microsoft federal chief technology officer Susie Adams announced that Azure was granted Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) status from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program’s (FedRAMP) Joint Authorization Board. That’s one step away from a full Authority to Operate (ATO) status . . . . FedRAMP certification means the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. General Services Administration deem the platform secure — at least from nefarious hackers outside the NSA — which will help Microsoft snag lucrative government contracts.”
3. UNPLUG YOUR LAPTOP! 80% – 40% (remember the numbers) Wired.Com confirms the old spouse’s tale: “In order to squeeze as much life out of your lithium-polymer battery, once your laptop hits 100 percent, unplug it. In fact, you should unplug it before that. Cadex Electronics CEO Isidor Buchmann told WIRED that ideally everyone would charge their batteries to 80 percent then let them drain to about 40 percent. This will prolong the life of your battery — in some cases by as much as four times.”
4. Good news for our injured Vets: “Rewired nerves control robotic leg.” Nature.Com reports, “A 32-year-old man whose knee and lower leg were amputated in 2009 after a motorcycle accident is apparently the first person with a missing lower limb to control a robotic leg with his mind. A team led by biomedical engineer Levi Hargrove at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Illinois reported the breakthrough last week in the New England Journal of Medicine1, including a video that shows the man using the bionic leg to walk up stairs and down a ramp, and to kick a football.”
1. We’re just warming up – Debt Ceiling is the real mosh pit. TheDailyBeast.Com explains, “An honorable Congress knows in its bones that the full faith of the United States of America is at stake. The mere threat to withhold authorization, in fact, is as damaging to our credit rating as actually defaulting. Sure, it’s great political theater, but it does lasting damage to America’s reputation and credibility, and makes one wonder how long the rest of the world will allow the dollar to remain the global reserve currency. . . . Neither President Obama—nor any president—should negotiate on the debt-ceiling authorization. Not now, not ever. The full faith, honor and credit of the United States of America must never become an ideological football that gets tossed under the domed Capitol in Washington.”
2. The Chicken Dance – White House and Vets pairing up. WaPo’s Steve Vogel reports, “Veterans groups have reacted angrily to news that an extended government shutdown will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs unable to make disability compensation and pension payments to veterans. Losing the payments could have a devastating impact, particularly on severely wounded veterans who are unable to work and depend on the VA checks, said Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. ‘Congress and the White House, they’re playing chicken with people’s lives,’ Tarantino said. ‘That’s where this becomes scary.’”
3. During shutdown, W.H. interns still won’t get paid. BuzzFeed.Com reports, “Advocates for ending unpaid internships in D.C. are cheering the White House’s decision to furlough its interns during the government shutdown. ‘The fact that they’re being treated the same as the workers is a step in the right direction,’ said Mikey Franklin, leader of the FairPay campaign, which is urging the White House and other federal agencies to pay their interns. ‘The fact that they’re not being made to take on even more of the roles of paid employees is a good thing.’”
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. The Debt Limit – the real fight. WashingtonExaminer.Com’s Timothy P. Carney argues, “A government shutdown won’t be a huge deal. It will have many bad effects, but a brief shutdown has little lasting effect. Hitting the debt ceiling, on the other hand, is a far more dangerous situation.”
2. “Obama has made a difference in Syria, but . . . .” WaPo’s Walter Pincus argues, “Obama Boo Birds, who mostly don’t believe in the United Nations, are whining that the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the program doesn’t call for immediate military action if Syria doesn’t follow through. They ignore that Obama has ordered the U.S. Navy force to remain in the area.”
3. “Make a deal with Rouhani: Iran has hawks too.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Muhammad Sahimi argues, “Rouhani ran on a platform that promised the Iranians a ‘government of prudence and hope’, and ever since his election he has been busy trying to deliver by resurrecting many other dead corpses, ranging from Iran’s economy that contracted by more than five percent last year, to re-opening the national Movie House that had been closed by the Ahmadinejad administration, and allowing some of the politically-active university students that had been expelled over the past several years to enroll again. But, the most important dead corpse that Rouhani has been trying to revive is the US-Iran relations and the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.”
3. California hello.
The phone call heard around the world, the U.N. passes resolution on Syrian chemicals, and al-Shabaab’s plans for London – all into today’s defense headlines.
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. Falsified background investigations. Must read contributor Ashley LaGanga’s excellent primer on Reuters’ important Exclusive: “Hundreds of U.S. security clearances seen falsified.” LaGanga notes, “Of the more than 350 cases Reuters identified, the violators were both special agents of OPM as well as background investigators from private firms. While federal employees at OPM conduct many investigations, the majority are contracted to private entities such as USIS and CACI, among others.”
2. The National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI). Contributor Jeffrey Bennett deep-dives the NACI and explains its nuances: “The National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI) is a background investigation primarily for federal employees who will not have access to classified information. This investigation is appropriate for positions designated as public trust positions that require responsible and trustworthy employees, but with no national security impact. The primary reason that the NACI is not an appropriate investigation for a security clearance is that a credit check is not required.”
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. On Iran, Khodahafez – The Presidents’ breakthrough.
a. A phone call from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to President Obama cracks the “taboo.” Reuters reports, Obama and Rouhani “spoke by telephone on Friday, the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades and a sign that they are serious about reaching a pact on Tehran’s nuclear program. . . . Obama has said for years he was open to direct contact with Iran while also stressing that all options – including military strikes – were on the table to prevent Iran building a nuclear bomb. . . . [Rouhani] said Iran would bring a plan to resolve the decade-long dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program to an October meeting with the six powers in Geneva. He offered no details about that plan, but emphasized that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.”
b. Optimism in a sea of pessimism. AP’s Josh Lederman and Nedra Pickler describe, “Iranians awoke Saturday to learn that their president, Hassan Rouhani, had spoken directly to Obama, breaking through a barrier that had left American and Iranian presidents divorced from such contact for 34 years. . . . By the end of the call, Obama was suggesting that a breakthrough on the nuclear issue could portend even deeper ties between the U.S. and Iran, a notion that would have seemed unfathomable in recent years.”
c. Success. So Iran’s President Rouhani calls his week of diplomacy at the U.N. America.Aljazeera.Com reports, “Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Friday declared his first visit to the United States a success — and it was hard to argue with that assessment, if the measure was the number of important world leaders he met, the speeches he gave and the respectful audience he was given at and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. But for Tehran, the measure of success of Rouhani’s outreach will be whether Iran achieves relief from punishing sanctions — and that will depend on the outcome of the tough, detailed bargaining on its nuclear program that gets under way in Geneva next month.”
d. The groundwork – SecState Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Thursday, setting the stage for the historic call, Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Zarif. Radio Free Europe reported, “The brief encounter between Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at UN headquarters in New York on September 26 was one of the highest-level meetings between the United States and Iran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. . . . Kerry was upbeat, but cautious. . . . ‘Discussions were very substantive, business-like,’ Zarif told reporters.
2. U.N. Syria Resolution, but without a punch. No worries, we’ll be happy to oblige. Reuters reports, “The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Friday that demands the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons but does not threaten automatic punitive action against . . . Assad’s government if it does not comply. . . . The resolution does not allow for automatic punitive action in the form of military strikes or sanctions if Syria does not comply. At Russia’s insistence, Friday’s resolution makes clear a second council decision would be needed for that.” See also Aljazeera.Com, Syrian “Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem tells Al Jazeera his nation is committed to destroying its chemical weapons stockpile.”
3. Mercenaries. AP’s Larry Neumeister reports, “Two former American soldiers – one nicknamed “Rambo” – and a German ex-soldier faced charges Friday that they plotted to kill a U.S. drug enforcement agent and an informant for $800,000 in an assassination plan created by drug agents who wanted to catch trained snipers gone bad . . . . ‘The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends’ . . . . The indictment described 48-year-old Joseph Hunter, also known as ‘Rambo,’ as a contract killer and leader of the group of ex-snipers.”
4. London – in al-Shabaab’s crosshairs. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “A document found after Somali troops killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s former leader in East Africa and a senior Shabaab commander, details a plot to conduct multiple Mumbai-like attacks that target civilians in London. The plot highlights how al Qaeda and Shabaab seek to strike civilian targets outside Somalia, and foreshadowed Shabaab’s attack on the Eastgate Mall in Kenya this week. . . . Shabaab’s external terror teams are to emulate ‘the tactics used by our brothers in Mumbai.’ In the Mumbai attack, small teams of Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters armed with assault rifles, grenades, and bombs fanned out across the city and attacked civilians. More than 170 people were killed during the Mumbai siege, which lasted for three days. Shabaab targeted train stations, a theater, two posh hotels, and a Jewish center during the attack.”
1. Contracting failures. Reuters Exclusive by Tabassum Zakaria explains the unfortunate facts: “Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management . . . . The inspector general’s office said it has referred 22 former background investigators for debarment, but no decisions have been reached by OPM. A debarment is usually for a specific time period and means the person cannot contract with another federal agency. The Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled an October 1 hearing on government clearances and background checks.”
2. $68 million worth of Raytheon Sidewinders for Belgium. Exactly why Belgium needs a Sidewinder . . . . DSCA.Mil posts, “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Belgium of AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $68 million. The Government of Belgium has requested a possible sale of 40 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II All-Up-Round Missiles . . . . The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, Arizona.”
3. $1 billion, practically, by Japan for Boeing AWACS. Also from DSCA.Mil, “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Japan of an E-767 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Mission Computing Upgrade (MCU) and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $950 million. . . . The principal contractor will be Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, Washington.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. Information risk – get the Board involved. Wired.Com contributor Steve Durbin, global vice president of the Information Security Forum (ISF) explains, “From cyber to insider, organizations have varying degrees of control over evolving security threats. With the speed and complexity of the threat landscape changing on an almost daily basis, all too often we are seeing businesses being left behind, sometimes in the wake of reputational and financial damage.”
2. Action-Reaction: NSA’s quick response to Snowden. VentureBeat.Com contributor Kevin Poulson reports, “When on June 9 Edward Snowden stood up in Hong Kong and revealed himself to the world as an NSA whistleblower, the Justice Department wasted little time in targeting his email provider. A new appeals court filing today shows the government served a court order on Texas-based Lavabit the very next day, demanding metadata on an unnamed customer that the timing and circumstances suggest was Snowden.”
3. Sea-basing: our Navy’s sharp edge. DefenseMediaNetwork.Com reports that “only the U.S. Navy has a blue water fleet able to operate, simultaneously, on all the planet’s major oceans, providing a mobile force not needing any other nation’s permission when it moves into place during a crisis. That fleet is by far the largest in the world, with more supercarriers (100,000 tons or more) than all other navies’ smaller flat-tops combined, plus more large-deck amphibious warfare ships of similar size to most other carriers than the rest of the world’s fleets.”
1. The South’s gonna do it again. Led, mostly, by Southerner (well, Texas) Ted Cruz, hyperbolic hyperbole has reached “one of the most dangerous points in our history.” NationalJournal.Com paints the subtle, fluorescent picture: “This isn’t just congressional business as usual, Harkin said. It’s much, much more dire: ‘It’s dangerous. It’s very dangerous. I believe, Mr. President, we are at one of the most dangerous points in our history right now. Every bit as dangerous as the break-up of the Union before the Civil War.’” [See also, Charlie Daniels – Daniels fiddled while Washington burned.]
2. Anticipation of shutdown is worse than shutdown itself. WaPo reports that in the DoD, the scramble to respond to the threat of shutdown impedes work as much as a shutdown: “’The planning itself is disruptive,” an exhausted [DoD Comptroller Robert] Hale told reporters. ‘People are worrying right now about whether their paychecks are going to be delayed, rather than focusing fully on their mission.’” So, all cyber-terrorists should take note: cut the money and the mission goes in the toilet.
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. The Phone Call – 3 Takeaways. Time contributor Michael Crowley argues, “The call was only a symbolic step, but still a very important development in the showdown between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program. Here are three reasons why: . . . Iran’s hard-liners must have allowed it. . . . Rouhani did the smart—and maybe cynical—thing. . . Diplomacy just got easier for Obama. . . . we’re closer to the beginning of this story than the end.”
2. “Rafsanjani and Khamenei: The Rouhani element.” In part III of his lecture on Iran (that we all should read), Aljazeera.Com contributor Akbar Ganji argues, “No other people in the region have as positive a view of the US as the people of Iran. If free elections are held in Iran, the pro-democracy majority would undoubtedly win handily. The Iranian society has gone through a real transformation in all aspects, and has grown enough that the garment of Velayat-e Faqih is too small for its body, and does not fit but by force.” Catch up on parts I and II of Ganji’s triptych: Rafsanjani and Khamenei: A brief history and Rafsanjani and Khamenei: The Ahmadinejad years.
3. “The key stumbling blocks U.S. and Iran face.” Reuters’ contributor David Rhode argues, “A historic phone call Friday between the presidents of the United States and Iran could mark the end of 34 years of enmity. Or it could be another missed opportunity. In the weeks ahead, clear signs will emerge whether a diplomatic breakthrough is possible.”
1. Chic Chicks.
The United Nations’ General Assembly comes to life, Afghan warlord Ismael Khan – “The Lion of Herat” – and other gear up for their future, and Congressional sniping hits new levels as shutdown looms – all in today’s defense headlines.
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. Because not everyone can be the 82d Airborne Division. But at least you can have a cool motto. Contributor D.B. Grady explains what “Otatsiihtaissiiststakio piksi makamo ta psswia” has to do with ““9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a.” All the way!
2. Why they can’t keep secrets, either. Also from contributor D.B. Grady, a quick tutorial on other nations’ clearance processes: “The security screening process is in many ways a measurement of how interesting your life has been. (Only the most fascinating of people can fill out all four boxes in Section 5, which asks for a list of the applicant’s aliases.) . . . there’s a remarkable overlap in structure and process by other nations.”
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. POTUS – building diplomatic opportunities in New York. AP’s Julie Pace’s read-ahead on President Obama’s address at the United Nations, which precedes Iranian President Rouhani: “Seeking to build on diplomatic opportunities, President Barack Obama is expected to signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies. . . . The president’s address will be closely watched for signs that he may meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven’t had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.” See also Time’s “Handshake that could shake the world.”
2. At the U.N., Syria tops the agenda. TheGuardian.Com updates on what’s happening – and not happening – at the United Nations:
a. Include Iran in a Syria solution: United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs said, “there is a fresh opportunity for a political, diplomatic approach to the Syria crisis, now that Damascus has acknowledge it has chemical weapons and agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. . . . Jeffrey Feltman also suggested that Tehran would have to play a role.”
b. Thursday, time to talk nukes: “The last round of nuclear talks with Iran took place in Kazakhstan in April, but the negotiations have been stalled for eight years. . . . Since the election of a new pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, in June, Tehran has signalled that Iran might be ready for a compromise on the nuclear issue and Zarif, a American-educated former ambassador to the UN, is conducting an intense diplomatic offensive at the UN, arriving five days before the general assembly and meeting a large number of foreign ministers.”
c. Ladies and gentlemen, the new Iran: “There is little doubt Rouhani will deliver the rhetoric. The devil as ever will be in the fine print. It may be that the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has empowered him to make a deal that critically falls short of international expectations, in the hope that the momentum building around Rouhani would bounce the West into giving away more than it intended.”
3. Muslim Brotherhood outlawed in Egypt. Aljazeera.Com reports, “An Egyptian court has banned all activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ordered authorities to seize all of the group’s assets . . . . The ruling opens the door for a wider crackdown on the vast network of the Brotherhood, which includes social organisations that have been key for building the group’s grassroots support and helping its election victories.”
4. It’s been a long time, too long. Thursday, SecState Kerry will meet his Iranian counterpart in the first such conference in over 30 years. McClatchyDC.Com reports, “In a diplomatic milestone, Secretary of State of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet here Thursday for talks that analysts say could pave the way for warmer U.S.-Iranian relations after a decades-long freeze. . . . Thursday’s meeting, however, will be about Iran, and analysts who specialize in U.S.-Iranian relations say the time could be right for steps toward a detente: The U.S. and Iran are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict but both are looking for a solution to the bloodshed, and Iran is feeling the burn from sanctions on its petroleum exports.”
5. In Kenya, at least 62 dead . . . and counting. AP’s Jason Straziuso and Tom Odula report from Nairobi, “Nairobi’s city morgue is preparing for the arrival of a large number of bodies of people killed in the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Kenya. The government official says morgue employees were told to prepare for many bodies. . . . Authorities have said they are involved in a final push to clear out the remaining attackers. But authorities have before referred to their operations as final.”
6. In Afghanistan, 49 Taliban dead over 24 hours. Khaama.Com reports, “The interior ministry of Afghanistan following a statement announced that the operations were jointly conducted by Afghan police, Afghan army, Afghan intelligence – national directorate of security and coalition security forces. The statement further added that the operations were conducted in Helmad, Farah, Herat, Logar, Uruzgan, Zabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces of Afghanistan.” In Kabul, Afghan security forces derail twin suicide attacks.
1. The Scorpion – “The world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft.” DefenseMediaNetwork.Com reports, “Industrial powerhouse Textron (think Bell Helicopter, Cessna, and Textron Systems) and small startup AirLand Enterprises, LLC (website under construction) have joined forces to create the Scorpion light tactical aircraft. The joint venture, Textron AirLand, LLC, has boldly or foolishly designed the clean-sheet Scorpion without a requirement, in the midst of budget constraints both domestically and internationally. . . . Mission capabilities that the Scorpion hopes to fulfill include border security, maritime security, counter narcotics, aerospace control alert, humanitarian assistance/disaster response, and irregular warfare support.”
2. $60 million worth of avionics to Tunisia. DSCA.Mil announces, “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on September 18 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Tunisia of F-5 avionics upgrades and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $60 million. . . . The principal contractor will be Northrop Grumman of St. Augustine, Florida.” [Given all the other distractions in Congress, expect this proposal to slide through unopposed. Good timing.]
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. IPOs aplenty in the tech world – NASDAQ and NYSE. Pull together the gambling money. VentureBeat.Com contributor Dylan Tweney reports, “Almost all of the . . . companies will have valuations well under $1 billion, although the largest by market capitalization will be Pattern Energy, which will hit the $1 billion mark almost exactly if its offering prices at $20, the midpoint of the proposed range. The next largest companies would be Violin Memory ($874 million valuation at the midpoint of its range) and RingCentral ($804 million). . . . Notably, 11 of the 13 companies will list their shares on the historically tech-friendly Nasdaq, while two — RingCentral and Violin Memory — will list on the NYSE.”
2. Sell it. If you need some extra cash now that you bought the new iPhone, here’s where to get the best deals. Time reports, “cashing in on old electronics is easier than ever. Take your smartphone to a retail store for an immediate trade-in, or sell it online if you don’t need the cash immediately.”
3. Go private. Blackberry takes itself out of the market. Reuters reports, “Smartphone maker BlackBerry has agreed to go private in a $4.7 billion deal led by its biggest shareholder, allowing the on-the-go email pioneer to regroup away from public scrutiny after years of falling fortunes and slumping market share. The $9 a share tentative offer, from a consortium led by property and casualty insurer Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, will set a floor for any counteroffers that might emerge for Blackberry, which has been on the block since August.”
1. Damn freshmen . . . . Senate freshman Ted Cruz (R-TX) turns the Good Old Party against itself and twerks the Congress along the way: “A master of fiery conservative oratory, the freshman senator is trying to block funding for President Obama’s health-care law with a strategy that, if successful, will almost certainly lead to a partial government shutdown next week. The Texan has become the face of an effort variously described as the ‘dumbest idea,’ leading Republicans to a ‘box canyon’ and ending with their political ‘suicide note.’” See also, “Republicans’ dangerous rationality” and “GOP Extremists.”
2. Obama + Clinton = Love. The President teams up with the putative next president’s husband to win on healthcare. Reuters’ Jeff Mason and Steve Holland report, “Clinton’s effort to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system while president, spearheaded by his wife, former first lady Hillary Clinton, failed in Congress, dealing them a major political blow. But it called attention to the plight of millions of Americans who did not have insurance. . . . Hillary Clinton, who is a potential presidential candidate in 2016 and served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term, will introduce the two men.”
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. Must Read: The Warlords Get Ready. Der Spiegel’s Christian Neef with an in-depth pregame on the Afghan warlords’ first moves after we leave: Ismael Khan, “The Lion of Herat,” “foresees a return of the fundamentalist Taliban, the collapse of the government in Kabul and the eruption of a new war between ethnic groups. He sees a future in which power is divided between the clans as it was in the past, and in which the mujahedeen, the tribal militias seasoned by battles against the Soviets and later the Taliban, remain the sole governing force.”
2. “Bring on the shutdown.” Slate.Com contributor Matthew Yglesias argues, “A little government shutdown isn’t the worst thing in the world, and it’s much better to have this fight now rather than entertain months of herky-jerky crisis.”
3. “Why diplomacy with Iran is doomed.” Aljazeera.Com contributor John Glaser argues, “There are a multitude of outstanding issues and grievances beyond the nuclear matter that have great potential to spoil this window for peaceful reconciliation. But the greatest spoiler of all lies in the fact that Ayatollah Khamenei, who holds ultimate control no matter who is president, is convinced Washington is out to overthrow his government. Worse still, he has good reason to believe it.”
3. More guns!
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani arrives in the United States next week, the science behind advanced biometric scanning, and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar walks out of a Pakistani prison – all in today’s defense headlines.
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. And you thought Congress did nothing. Contributor Ashley LaGanga corrals activity by the Senate’s Homeland Security and Foreign Relations Committees and, in the House, the Armed Services Committee and Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies.
2. Cyber security spending beats the budget. Contributor Jillian Hamilton explains why cyber security is the place to be, and more: Who’s Moving, Hiring, Firing, and more.
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. Iran – a history lesson. AP’s Bradley Klapper walks us through a history we need to understand if we are going to understand events as they unfold in Iran: from CIA coup to Revolution to Hostage Crisis to Iran-Contra, and more: “President Hasan Rouhani’s recent overtures have raised hopes of a thawing of U.S.-Iranian relations, which have experienced few ups and countless downs since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and subsequent hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.” If you really want to dive deep, try Persian Mirrors – an easy, elementary read.
2. Chemical Files – Scrutiny in Syria commences. Aljazeera.Com reports, “The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says it has begun to examine the first details of Syria’s chemical arsenal supplied by the government of President Bashar al-Assad. . . . Syria is believed to possess about 1,000 tonnes of chemical toxins, and has agreed to destroy them under a joint Russian-US proposal designed to avert a US strike on Syria. James Bays, Al Jazeera English’s diplomatic editor, said the submission was very significant. ‘If we go back to just two weeks ago, Syria would not even say that it had chemical weapons.’”
3. Cease-fire between in-fighting rebels in Syria. McClatchyDC.Com reports, “A tense cease-fire appeared Friday to have halted fighting between key factions of the rebel movement that’s battling to topple Syria’s President Bashar Assad. . . . The main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, harshly criticized the Islamic State in a statement that said the group’s al Qaida-inspired values ‘run counter to the principles that the Syrian revolution is trying to achieve.’ It said the main rebel groups were pursuing an agenda that was ‘moderate and respects religious and political pluralism while rejecting blind extremism.’ But at least one analyst of the rebel movement said it was unlikely that such words would lead to a severing of ties between the groups, if for no other reason than the U.S.-backed rebels were dependent on the Islamic State’s battlefield prowess and its fighters’ zeal to defeat Assad’s better-equipped army.”
4. Taliban co-founder released from Pakistani prison. Khaama.Com reports, “According to reports, Pakistan has released former Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from prison. . . . Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is one of the senior members of the Taliban group, and was directly involved in the establishment of the Taliban group along with four others including Mullah Mohammad Omar. He was arrested by Pakistani security forces in Karachi city three years back. He will be released from prison following president Hamid Karzai’s request.” Also, in Afghanistan, an example of the potential power of local tribal elders: “national army soldiers were freed after local tribal elders met with the Taliban militants to broker talks for the freedom of the abducted soldiers.”
5. In AFRICOM’s AoR, Boko Haram attacks spread to Nigeria’s capital. The BBC reports, “A cell of suspected Islamist militants has opened fire on security forces in Nigeria’s capital Abuja . . . Boko Haram is most active in north-eastern Nigeria, where a state of emergency was imposed in May. If confirmed, it would be the first time Boko Haram has staged an attack in Abuja this year.”
1. The Snowden-Alexis Affair. UPI.Com reports, United States Investigation Services (USIS), the same contractor vetted them both. As ClearanceJobs.Com predicted, “The contractor that vetted Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis is the same firm that vetted national security secrets leaker Edward Snowden . . . USIS, under criminal investigation over whether it misled Washington about its background checks’ thoroughness, originally denied it did a check on Alexis . . . .” See related in WaPo, USIS excuse: “pressure to do more, faster.”
2. $185 million to Lima, Ohio. ToledoBlade.Com’s Jon Chavez reports, The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center “will receive a $187.5 million contract from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to refurbish 84 of the country’s American-built Abrams tanks. The work will be performed over the next two years, starting around June, and is scheduled for completion by March, 2015. . . . The plant employs about 400 hourly workers and 100 salaried workers. The contract was awarded by the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. It continues work begun in 2008 to update Saudi Arabia’s tank force of 315 Abrams models. TACOM formerly stood for Tank-automotive and Armaments Command.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. Mutlifactor Real Time Biometric Scanning. VentureBeat.Com’s John Koetsier claims, “A new multifactor biometric system from FST21 that identifies known approved people as they walk up to a building or access point could have prevented something like the Navy Yard shootings that took the lives of 13 people . . . . FST21, which recently won an award from the security industry association ASIS for its In Motion Identification system, instead combines multiple technologies with as many as eight different identification schemes to achieve 99.7 percent accuracy, even when up to 100 people are approaching an entrance simultaneously. The difference is not just that the system identifies people on the go. It’s also that there is no key or card to steal or fake.”
2. Bye-bye Blackberry. Reuters’ Euan Rocha covers the slow, painful decline of the former king: “BlackBerry Ltd warned on Friday it expects to report a huge quarterly operating loss next week and that it will cut more than a third of its global workforce, rekindling fears of the company’s demise and sending its shares into a tailspin. The company, which has struggled to claw back market share from the likes of Apple Inc’s iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy phones, said it expects to report a net operating loss of between $950 million and $995 million in the quarter ended August 31, due to writedowns and other factors.”
3. Automation takeover. We’re slowly becoming irrelevant in some quarters. Salon.Com’s Andrew Leonard reports, “A closely related conclusion is that we may end up finding that John Maynard Keynes’ ancient prediction — widespread unemployment ‘due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor’ — is about to come true. A century’s worth of mainstream economists have scoffed at the notion that technological progress will have long-term negative impacts on employment, believing, with a near-religious intensity, that the productivity gains from technologically driven economic growth will translate into new opportunities in new domains.”
1. Federal Employee Unions vs. OMB. WaPo’s Lisa Rein reports, “The International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, which represents 25,000 federal workers, mostly military civilians, appealed Thursday to Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell to ensure that government workers are compensated for lost pay if federal agencies shut down on Oct. 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. . . . the financial hardship on federal workers during the current round of partisan bickering on Capitol Hill over government spending and the president’s health-care law is particularly dire now. Feds are in their third year of a pay freeze, and almost half the workforce has lost several days of pay to furloughs since March because of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.”
2. Point made. Again. And again. Time reports, “Despite all the hoopla, the result will disappoint any Republicans who harbor delusions of winning it. The Democratic-controlled Senate is certain to strip out the Obamacare provision House Tea Partyers worked so hard to embed in the measure. Next Wednesday, when the House returns to Washington, they will face sharp political pressure with precious few days to negotiate a compromise. If the two branches of Congress cannot agree, many of the non-essential parts of the federal government will shutdown on Oct. 1.”
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. “The key to unlocking Africa’s progressive future.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Jackson Mwenya argues, “Water and sanitation underpin development. They are integral to advances in health, gender, education, the economy and environmental sustainability. Until firm steps have been taken to halt the 5,000 child deaths every year in Zambia from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, how can we meaningfully talk about development and what it means to have one of the fastest growing economies in the world? With this in mind, it is little wonder that a burgeoning global movement on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) has emerged over recent years. It is a movement with particular strength in the global South, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”
2. “Iran’s offer is genuine — and fleeting.” Reuters contributor David Rohde argues, “Despite the risks, now is the time for Obama and Rouhani to launch the first direct bilateral negotiations since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. From Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons to the conflict in Syria, the American-Iranian rivalry is helping fuel instability in the region.”
3. “Both opportunity and peril over Iran.” WaPo contributor David Ignatius argues, “For a weakened but still ambitious President Obama, the biggest foreign-policy opportunity and danger of his presidency rolls into New York next week with the arrival of Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani. The Iranians have been signaling through various channels that they are ready to discuss a broad security framework — one that would limit Iran’s nuclear program short of producing weapons but also recognize the country’s interests in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.”
Israel applauds Egypt’s efforts in the Sinai, a surprise pause in the run-up to Syria, and Apple’s iPhone launch may eclipse Obama’s oration, all in today’s defense headlines.
by Ed Ledford
September 10, 2013
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. VetNet – Google’s tip of the hat to Vets and their families. Contributor Diana Rodriguez explains Google’s developments specifically for the war weary: “’Google for Veterans and Families’ was created in 2011 by veterans, families of veterans, and friends who work at Google. The developers and administrators of the site have special understanding of the challenges of service members and those who are making the transition to civilian life. . . . In November of 2012, Google partnered with other veteran and family advocacy organizations that are providing support and resources to veterans and families. VetNet is collaboration between veteran-focused non-government agencies designed to help and their families find careers.”
2. Rhyme to the reason – the logic of classification. Contributor Jeffrey Bennett reminds exactly why the government classifies certain information: “The US Government relies on a system of security classification to ensure users protect sensitive information at the right level. . . . Contrary to popular spy novels and movies, a classification cannot be assigned to hide legal violations, inefficiencies or mistakes. Nor can the OCAs assign a classification just to prevent embarrassment, prevent or restrict competition or delay the release of information that hasn’t previously required such a level of protection.”
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. Call it – DoD’s Crisis Line is there for Vets and families. American Forces Press Service’s Terri Moon Cronk explains, “When someone is in crisis and feeling despondent, reaching out for help is a stronger step to take than doing nothing, which can lead to a worsening state . . . . people contact the crisis line to discuss a variety of issues, from feeling suicidal, depressed or anxious to feeling pressure from finances or relationships, among a wealth of other concerns . . . . callers can expect a live person and not an electronic menu to answer their calls.”
2. Egypt takes on Sinai terrorists. TheGuardian.Com’s Patrick Kingsley reports from Cairo, “Egypt’s army has announced a full-scale assault on militant areas in the restive northern Sinai desert, in what a senior Israeli official has approvingly called Egypt’s first-ever serious counter-terrorism campaign in the region. . . . observers argued that this latest campaign, which began on Saturday, may be the largest in years.”
3. The President speaks to America – tonight. AP’s Bradley Klapper and Donna Cassata set the scene for tonight’s speech: “President Barack Obama is heading to Congress on Tuesday with fresh hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough that would allow Syria’s government to avert U.S. missile strikes if it surrenders its chemical weapons arsenal. Obama had planned to use the meetings with Democratic and Republican senators to personally lobby for his plan of targeted strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in retaliation for last month’s massive chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus. Instead, he signaled in interviews ahead of his trip to Capitol Hill that new diplomacy involving Russia and others could eliminate the risks of a repeat chemical attack without requiring an American intervention. He presents his case to the American people Tuesday night.”
4. Kerry said what? Slip of the tongue or well-played olive branch, SecState’s apparent gaff gets legs. Reuters’ Mark Felsenthal and Steve Holland report, “Russia’s offer to work with Damascus to put its chemical weapons under international control could be a big deal – if it is serious. . . . The president said he had explored the possibility of a proposal for Syria to cede control of its chemical weapons stockpile to international authorities with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting last week in Russia.” Aljazeera adds, “Russia is working on an ‘effective, concrete’ plan for putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and is discussing the details with Damascus . . . .”
5. Human Rights Watch – “Assad did it.” Time reports that Human Rights Watch (HRW) is convinced: “Human Rights Watch claims that all evidence suggests that forces loyal to Bashar Assad were behind the infamous chemical-weapons attack in Damascus. . . . HRW’s extensive investigation, which relied on expert analysis from chemical-weapons and arms specialists along with witnesses’ accounts, concluded that the surface-to-surface rocket systems used to carry out the attack, along with the large quantity of nerve agent that was deployed during the assault on Aug. 21, match up with equipment that is only possessed by government troops in Syria.”
6. AFRICOM – Armed Forces of Liberia bring Fort Jackson to Monrovia. Marine Corps Forces Africa’s Master Sgt. Brian Bahret reports, “U.S. Army instructors teamed with [Liberian First Sergeant James] Gant in a weeklong refresher course to help reinforce the concepts the drill sergeants learned at Fort Jackson. The refresher training revisited fundamentals including the importance of maintaining professional relationships, leadership skills, and core subjects designed to create a productive learning environment for the recruits.”
1. Boeing – on time and on target with KC-46 refuelers. American Forces Press Service’s Jim Garamone shares Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning’s good news: “Fanning said the program ‘is in a real healthy place.’ . . . Fanning visited Boeing’s KC-46 plant in Everett, Wash., recently. Two KC-46s now in production there will be ready for flight next year. The KC-46 is based on the Boeing 767 aircraft, which had its first flight in 1981. The company has 32 years of experience with the plane.” Read about the mighty KC-46.
2. Sequestration costs – rather than saves – $64 million. GovExec.Com’s Charles S. Clark reports, “Offering one of the more concrete examples of sequestration’s impact, the Defense Contract Audit Agency has calculated that the $11 million in cuts it absorbed this year likely prompted its auditors to take a pass on retrieving as much as $74 million in unmerited contractor billing.”
3. Contractor-Bashing at an all-time high, reports GovExec.Com’s Charles S. Clark: “Current budget constraints, curbs on contracts and congressional hostility toward the federal workforce have combined to create a climate in which ‘anti-contractor rhetoric has become at least as common a political tool as public employee bashing,’ a leadership commission convened by the Professional Services Council wrote in a report released Monday. . . . A sign of the tension, the leadership commission found, is the rise in contract award protests in response to the government’s increased preference for lowest price, technically acceptable proposals.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. Save the NSA the trouble – scan your own fingerprints. Big news for the soon-to-be-announced iPhone: “There are plenty of potential use cases for a fingerprint sensor in your smartphone, from making it easier to unlock the phone, to adding another level of security to your mobile wallet. The sensor would be the equivalent to the introduction of Siri in the iPhone 4S — it’s not an Earth-shattering feature, but it’s one that clearly distinguishes the slightly refreshed phone from its predecessor.” See also 10 iPhone predictions.
2. Facebook, Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft – their bid to regain some public trust. UPI.Com reports, “Facebook Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. sued a secret court for authority to reveal aggregate information about the national security orders they receive from Washington. . . . All four tech companies, in rare coordinated but separate lawsuits, say they want permission to reveal the aggregate number and nature of the national intelligence requests to respond to growing public concern and to regain the trust of users. . . . The tech companies, prevented from disclosing information under national security rules, say they also want permission to correct false allegations and incorrect news reports about what they supply to the FBI for National Security Agency use. They argue their constitutional free-speech rights are being violated.”
3. If you’re serious about secrecy, you might still outsmart the NSA. PCWorld.Com contributor Jaikumar Vijayan reports, “Though the National Security Agency spends billions of dollars to crack encryption technologies, security experts maintain that properly implemented, encryption is still the best way to maintain online privacy. . . . Steve Weis, chief technology officer at PrivateCore and holder of a Ph.D. in cryptography from MIT, said despite the NSA activities, the mathematics of cryptography remains very hard to crack. He suggested that it’s likely that the NSA managed to break through insecure and outdated implementations of some encryption technologies.”
1. Syrian Shimmy. Mixed messages and exaggerations confuse the whole damned thing: “Secretary of State John Kerry said in London Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S. attack by ‘turning over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.’ The Russian foreign minister subsequently made that offer to Syria, and the Syrian foreign minister reportedly welcomed the idea. Since then, the State Department has tried to walk back Kerry’s statement, with spokeswoman Marie Harf calling it a ‘rhetorical statement about a scenario that we think is highly unlikely’ at a press briefing.”
2. Dancing with the devil. The Hill asks Putin, “May we have this dance?” BuzzFeed.Com reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin could be giving lawmakers — and the White House — at least a temporary out. However, not all lawmakers are pleased with Washington’s sudden embrace of the Russian proposal. ‘I think they’re playing us like a fiddle,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the chief proponents for military action against Assad.
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. The difference between intelligence on Syria and Iraq. Reuters contributor David Wise argues, “There are important differences between the intelligence fobbed off on the public to justify the 2003 Iraq war and what is being said by government officials today. For one thing, the Syrians essentially admitted Monday that they have chemical weapons, when they started talking about turning them over to the international community. Nonetheless, the U.S. intelligence on Syria still leaves some critical unanswered questions.”
2. “Press Pause on the Rush to War.” USNews.Com contributor Michael Shank argues, “If America wants to reassert its moral weight in the world, there are more efficient and effective exercises that are less expensive and less likely to result in increased chaos, escalated violence and additional chemical weapons usage.”
3. God Bless America: Criticize our troops and we’ll kill you. An interesting social experiment proves a Salon.Com writer’s theory: “I had published an essay about the problems of uncritically repeating the slogan ‘Support Our Troops.’ Not everybody was happy with my argument. . . . Suddenly I went from being a troop-hating fag to a jihadist, awash in the new vocabulary of apocalyptic struggle — dhimmitude, swine, Taliban, anti-Semitism, Allah, terrorism, hijab, pedantry, oppressed women — informing the limitless Clash of Civilizations.” Read Salaita’s original opinion piece.
1. Computer Cam.