Category Archives: People

Bagram Air Base Sandbags

Power on Syria, Nigeria’s fight with Islamists, and The Final Rule explained.

The latest debates over Syria as POTUS (and Congress) returns to D.C., Nigerian troops’ hard fight with Islamists, and a review of The Final Rule for hiring Vets,  all in today’s defense headlines.

September 7, 2013

Syria talks raise the dead: Wolfowitz & Rumsfeld

 

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Navy braces its ships for a hit.  Contributor Marc Selinger reports, “The U.S. Navy will probably have to cut about 25 aircraft and several ships from its planned purchases in the coming year if deep federal spending cuts remain in place . . . The affected aircraft in fiscal year 2014 will likely include helicopters, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and P-8A maritime patrol aircraft . . . . The Navy also could lose such vessels as a Littoral Combat Ship and an Afloat Forward Staging Base, as well as advance procurement for a Virginia-class submarine.”

2.  Put your money where your next big threat will be.  Contributor Charles Simmins reports, “The nations of Africa are increasing their spending on defense. The sum budgeted by these nations is expected to top $20 billion in the next ten years. Both local and multinational firms in the defense industry are rushing to participate in this growth spurt. . . . Islamic terrorism and regional instabilities have continued to grow. African governments recognize that their militaries must be modernized, better trained and better equipped. The increase in prices for minerals and oil of the last several years have left many nations with the cash to invest in their armed forces.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Super Tuesday. Congress returns and the Administration prepares the press. Reuters’ John Whitesides and Richard Cowan report, “Obama’s address to the nation from the White House on Tuesday will be part of a rejuvenated lobbying effort on Syria as Congress returns to Washington next week. A Democratic congressional aide said the administration is planning ‘a full-court press’ aimed at undecided lawmakers. . . . only 23 senators have been willing to go on record in favor of military force, while 17 are against. It will likely take 60 of the Senate’s 100 members to advance the measure to the House of Representatives. In the House, where 218 votes will be required to pass the resolution, only 25 members are on record in support of military action so far, according to the Post, with 106 opposed.”  And AP reports, POTUS taking the plunge while Sen. Al Frank lends his support.

2. U.S. UN rep explains Syria. American Forces Press Service’s Cheryl Pellerin reports, “Speaking to an audience at the Center for American Progress, Ambassador Samantha Power characterized Syria as lying at the heart of a region critical to U.S. security . . . . The Bashar Assad regime, Power said, has stores of chemical weapons that it recently used on a large scale and that the United States can’t allow to fall into terrorists’ hands. The regime also collaborates with Iran and works with thousands of extremist fighters from the militant group Hezbollah.”

3.  Egyptian military attacks Islamists and Al Qaeda in the Sinai. AP’s Ashraf Sweilam reports from el-Arish, Egypt, “Egyptian helicopters and tanks are attacking Islamic militants in villages in the northern Sinai Peninsula. He says ‘dozens’ have been killed or wounded. The Saturday assault came after Egypt deployed a column of armored vehicles and trucks carrying infantry into the region, a militant stronghold, in a major new counterinsurgency offensive . . . . Multiple al-Qaida-inspired militant groups have stepped up attacks against security forces in the Sinai . . . .” Aljazeera reports, using those pesky quotation-mark-fingers, “Egypt’s military sends reinforcements to the Sinai border area to ‘clean’ villages in the area of ‘terrorists.’”

4.  In Pakistan, drone takes out Haqqani network’s Mullah Sangeen Zadran. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “Yesterday’s drone strike in the Ghulam Khan area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan is reported to have killed Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior Haqqani Network leader who is on the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for supporting al Qaeda . . . . Sangeen has long been a supporter of al Qaeda and has encouraged foreign fighters to wage jihad in Afghanistan.” Also, Pakistan releases Taliban to facilitate Afghan peace efforts.

5.  In AFRICOM, Nigerian troops taking on Islamists and Sharia law. Reuters Lanre Ola reports from Maiduguri, Nigeria, “Nigerian soldiers have tracked down and killed 50 members of the Islamist sect Boko Haram in its northeastern stronghold . . . . Army units mounted the operation after suspected Boko Haram fighters killed 20 people in two attacks on Wednesday and Thursday in villages in  northeastern Borno State . . . . Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria, and other splinter Islamist groups, are the biggest threat to stability in Nigeria, Africa’s top oil exporter.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  $4.3 billion Veterans Health Administration contract awarded. AZCentral.Com reports, “TriWest secured the five-year contract to manage behavioral health and specialty care in Arizona and 27 other states. The company will arrange health care for veterans in rural regions not served by the VA or in communities where the VA cannot accommodate such care. . . . The VA contract means TriWest will ramp up hiring in Phoenix and Washington state, where it plans to open a call center at a yet-to-be-selected location. The company expects most of its 600 to 700 full-time positions will be in Phoenix.” Review TriWest.

2.  The Final Rule is out, “good faith” just wasn’t cutting it.  NationalLawReview.Com explains how they are meant to help Vets: “With the Obama Administration’s recent appointment of Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor, the enactment of these new regulations signals a renewed focus on increasing the numbers of veterans and disabled individuals in the U.S. workforce. . . . the Final Rule largely formalizes recruitment practices that, up until recently, have been considered ‘good faith efforts.’”

 

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  The NSA is tracking you.  Are you tracking you?  Time’s TechLand covers the latest in Activity Trackers that will make lazy people fell not so lazy: “You can buy an inexpensive pedometer to gauge your steps, but a slew of new self-tracking devices are available that do so much more, calculating things such as how many calories you’ve burned or how well you’re sleeping at night. Here’s what the best of the next-gen devices have the offer.”

2.  Straight to the moon. NASA is at it again, [hoax] rocket launch to the moon. USNews.Com reports, “NASA’s newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late Friday in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia that dazzled sky watchers along the East Coast. . . . Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon’s ever-so-delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another puzzle, dating back decades, is whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.”  [That’s $280 million well-spent, I’d say.]

3.  Better than the real thing – a man chooses prosthetics over pain. At Salon.Com, Norbert Nathanson tells his story: “I was relieved that those feet and lower legs that had been the source of life-long pain and humiliation, and a magnet for mindless stares of legions of strangers, were gone. . . . The impact was significant. As I recovered from surgery, tension flowed out of me and relaxation set in. For the first time in my life I was completely at ease.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Impending side-step?  At the G-20, President Obama subtly opened another door as many congressmen get spanked by their constituents: “President Barack Obama hinted Friday that he might not strike Syria if Congress rejects his authorization request. ‘I’m not itching for military action . . . . and if there are good ideas that are worth pursuing, then I’m going to be open to them,’ he told one reporter who asked if he was seeking alternatives to a missile strike.”

2.  The Screw-Up-and-Move-Up. What do we do with a lawyer unfamiliar with the Fourth Amendment?  Make her a federal judge in terrorism court, of course. TheGuardian.Com reports, “Valerie Caproni, the FBI’s top lawyer from 2003 to 2011, is scheduled to receive a vote on Monday in the Senate for a seat on the southern district court of New York. Caproni has come under bipartisan criticism over the years for enabling widespread surveillance later found to be inappropriate or illegal. During her tenure as the FBI’s general counsel, she clashed with Congress and even the FISA surveillance court over the proper scope of the FBI’s surveillance powers. . . . Even before the Guardian’s phone records revelations, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, lawmakers found Caproni to be complicit in surveillance abuses.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Six reasons to attack Syria. TheDailyBeast.Com contributor Michael Tomasky argues, “What most liberals are passionate about is one thing: opposition to U.S. militarism. That’s what really roils the loins. . . . Here are six consequences of not launching a strike against Syria, all of which could harm small-d democratic hopes in the region and, indeed, potentially increase the carnage.”

2.  “For Obama, a contradiction too many.”  Reuters’ contributor David Rohde argues, “The president should have demanded that Congress be called back from recess immediately. He should also have immediately made a far more personal and passionate case for strikes. But what may doom the president’s effort, in the end, is not his short-term tactics. It is years of contradictory policies and unfulfilled promises by Obama himself.”

3.  The folly of empire?  Unlikely-but-regular contributor to Aljazeera Paul Rosenberg argues, “Attacking Syria is not the same as invading Iraq, we are told. And of course, that’s right. . . . There are two things that attacking Syria and invading Iraq have in common, which US elites utterly ignore. First is the sheer frequency with which the US attacks other countries. Second is the casual disregard for dire and deadly negative consequences, so long as US elites convince themselves their motives are pure. . . . This is what it means to be an empire. The players change endlessly. The folly never does. It only grows darker and more dire over time.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Anticipation of attack is worse . . . .

2.  The real holdup in Congress.

3.  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

 

IMG_0213

Daily Intelligence: Syria in the House, Fed hiring tips, and two-factor authentication

On Syria, the administration faces a tough fight Wednesday in the House, the role of leadership in hiring, and two-factor authentication gadgets, all in today’s defense headlines.

by Ed Ledford

September 4, 2013

 

Short-life sentence & the de-bearding.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Thought police – the Insider Threat Task Force. In the wake of Bradley Manning’s Wiki-leak, the Administration established the Insider Threat Task Force. Contributor Chandler Harris revisits this strange, surreal tale: “program presses managers and employees of federal agencies to monitor their co-workers for ‘indicators’ such as stress, divorce and financial problems and report them. Those who fail to report such signs could even face criminal charges. Leaks to the media are considered espionage.”

2.  K.I.S.S. – Old principles are hard to break. Like those in most every profession, we spoke a specialized language among our military colleagues. In the civilian job market, it sounds like Greek. Contributor Tranette Ledford’s offers great – and understandable – advice on translating you into civilian: “Your training may be unparalleled and having a security clearance is a definite asset.  But your ability to demonstrate these assets comes down to your ability to communicate them clearly to hiring managers. . . . If you still aren’t sure about how your resume translates, get some feedback from civilians.  They’ll be the first to question terms with which they’re unfamiliar.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Senate on Syria – 90-day window, no bootsDefenseNews.Com contributor Susan Davis reports, “Members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee hammered out a deal on Tuesday evening that would set a 60-day deadline for military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible, according to a draft of the resolution. The proposal, drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would also bar the involvement of US ground forces in Syria, according to the draft.”

2.  Senate Syria vote today & a “broader strategy.” Reuters’s Jeff Mason and Yara Bayoumy report, “Leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they reached an agreement on a draft authorization for the use of military force in Syria . . . . However, the draft is much narrower than the request made by Obama and includes a provision barring the use of U.S. troops on the ground. . . . Obama said on Tuesday the United States also has a broader plan to help rebels defeat Assad’s forces. ‘What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad’s capabilities,’ Obama said. ‘At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.’”

3.  Now comes the House of Representatives – a tough fight. AP’s Bradley Klapper’s pre-game for the Administration’s House debates: “While the administration was making progress in the Senate, it also needed to persuade a Republican-dominated House that has opposed almost the entirety of Obama’s agenda since seizing the majority more than three years ago. Several conservative Republicans and some anti-war Democrats already have come out in opposition to Obama’s plans, even as Republican and Democratic House leaders gave their support to the president Tuesday.”

4.  Even Egypt suspects AljazeeraAljazeera.Com reports, “Egyptian authorities are deliberately jamming [Aljazeera’s] satellite signals . . . . Trackers have pinpointed locations east and west of Cairo, and specifically identified military installations as the source of the satellite interference. After the military takeover in Egypt on July 3, Al Jazeera became one of several media outlets that have come under increasing pressure. . . . Egyptian authorities deported on Monday three members of a TV crew working for Al Jazeera English, the sister channel of Al Jazeera’s Egypt channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, after they were detained for nearly a week and accused of working illegally.”

5. In Afghanistan, $1.1 million bank heistKhaama.Com reports, “Shegofa, an Afghan female employee transferred USD 1.1mn from Azizi Bank and has left Afghanistan. According to reports, the employee has transferred the amount to a relative’s bank account outside of Afghanistan and has escaped from the country together with her family.”  Take the money and run.  Also in Afghanistan, Minister of Finance Mohammad Aqa Kohistani works to privatize the New Kabul Bank: “Kabul Bank was seized by the government in 2010 after the exposure of a staggering $900 million fraud, which led the International Monetary Fund to temporarily halt its hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to the country. Renamed New Kabul Bank, the institution was bailed out by the government.”

6. In Iraq, democracy is on shaky groundCSMonitor correspondent Tom A. Peter reports from Baghdad, “Many Iraqis are worried that democracy, never firmly rooted here, is sliding away from their country. On Saturday, Iraq’s security forces stopped demonstrators from protesting against the parliament’s pension program, which activists say is excessive. In Baghdad, police closed off several main roads and bridges to stop protesters from reaching designated gathering places. . . . Iraqi officials said they forbade the protests because a large gathering would have been susceptible to a terrorist attack.”

7.  In AFRICOM, Sailors in schools for stability.  Amphibious Squadron Four, Public Affairs’ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine reports from Port Victoria, Seychelles, “Although school was not currently in session, Sailors and Marines also were able to interact with local children who were playing music in a classroom. Sailors showed the children some American dance moves, and the children demonstrated their dance steps as well. . . . Service projects like the one conducted with the school serve to continue Naval Forces Europe-Africa efforts to strengthen maritime partnerships with East African nations like Seychelles in order to enhance regional stability.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Fed-Hiring: It’s a leadership issue  WaPo contributor Tom Fox offers some savvy tips for getting the right people: “Given the current fiscal climate and an ever-increasing workload, it is imperative that as a federal manager you make smart hiring decisions. While this should be the norm even during ordinary times, it is not always an easy task to get the best talent given the obstacle-laden nature of the federal hiring process. Managers often view hiring as an HR function, but the truth is that it is a leadership issue.”

2.  $58 million Alliant Techsystems Operations win. DefenseIndustryDaily.Com covers Australia’s buy of “low rate initial production of the XM1156 Precision Guidance kit . . . . ATK was already the US Army’s top supplier of artillery propellant and fuses, so this is a natural extension for them. . . . This is a very fast turnaround, and would be impossible for many countries, but Australia sits alongside NATO allies in a category that can negotiate contracts just 15 days after DSCA notifications.”

3.  One to watch: Army aviation contracting under investigation. Reuters reports, “The Pentagon has opened a criminal investigation of an Army aviation unit that awarded tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts to Russian and U.S. firms for maintenance and overhaul of Russian-made helicopters . . . . Investigators are examining potentially improper payments by the Army aviation office to contractors as well as possible personal connections between members of the Army unit and the contractors, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Two factor authentication – the new standardWired.Com contributor tracks GitHub’s release: “Coding platform Github released two-factor authentication today, one of the many tech companies putting that extra step between you and hackers who want access to your account. . . . Two-factor authentication gives your login username and password combination a bit of backing. When you login using these credentials, instead of immediately being approved, the two-factor authentication will send a special code either by text message or through an app for you to enter as a second form of proof.”

2.  iPhone announcement – 10 September. Time’s Jared Newman reports, “Apple has sent out invitations to the press for a September 10 event, and unless the rumors are completely off-base, that’s when the company will announce the next iPhone. . . . rumored features include a better camera, faster processor and maybe even a fingerprint reader. New color options, such as gold-colored plating, are rumored as well.”

3.  Wireless pitfalls in the small-business office. PCWorld.Com contributor Paul Mah navigates obstacles to successful wireless networks for the small business: “Mobile devices are now as essential to workplaces as copy machines and coffee makers. That means a fast, reliable wireless network is essential as well. But building one isn’t as simple as plugging in your ISP-supplied router and connecting your smartphone. In fact if you’ve never done it before, putting together a Wi-Fi network robust enough to support your business can be pretty tricky. To shorten the learning curve, we’ve highlighted some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  D.C.’s delegate’s insightful foreign policy: love of the manPJMedia.Com reports on Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton’s reason she would support Obama on Syria: “’If [Obama] gets saved at all, I think it’ll be because, it’ll be because of loyalty of Democrats. They just don’t want to see him shamed and humiliated on the national stage.’”  [Thankfully, Norton cannot vote in Congress, being a D.C. rep.]

2.  McCain is a betting man. I’m betting he supports Obama on Syria. HuffingtonPost.Com, among hundreds of others, reports, “At some point during the conversation, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) – who has been skeptical about President Barack Obama’s proposal for “limited” action in Syria – was taking a break to play poker on his phone.”  [In related news, McCain later consulted his Mystical Magical 8 Ball to answer his question, “Should I support Obama in Syria?”  The answer: “Concentrate and ask again.”]

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Deconstructing ghosts of the ‘Nam. DefenseOne.Com contributor Kevin Baron deconstructs our defense leaders’ language: “In questioning the automatic flag-waving of Americans for the troops, Hagel wrote, ‘I wonder how many of us here at home actually picture the grunt in the mud and grime with the cold stench of death hanging over him . . . .’ Get the picture? One man prosecuted military strikes from above. The other smelled their effects on the ground.”

2.  If you must, go alone, but go nonetheless. CSMonitor.Com contributor Jonathan Zimmerman argues, “I’m glad that President Obama decided to seek congressional approval before proceeding with a strike against Syria, which would give any such action more legitimacy at home. And I also admire his efforts to get the rest of the world behind a strike. But if that doesn’t work, the US – and Mr. Obama, as commander in chief – might have to go it alone.”

3.  “GOP should support Obama on Syria.”  WaPo contributors Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton argue, “We are Army veterans. One of us served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq; the other conducted patrols along the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. We understand the gravity of using force. . . . Congress has its own constitutional duty to defend U.S. interests, and those interests shouldn’t be neglected simply because we have doubts about Obama.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Swift kick in the pants.

2.  Damned red tape.

3.  New axis of evil?

 

COW HILLS - LEDFORD

Syria’s broad effect, Afghan National Police outnumbered, and DEA’s Hemisphere Project

Refugees fleeing Syria threaten stability in neighboring nations, the ANP dwindling in the face of combat losses, and the NSA has nothing on the DEA, all in today’s defense headlines.

by Ed Ledford

September 3, 2013

Diana – Perseverance Incarnate & Ten Things for Tuesday.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  How (not) to squander your security clearance.  From the vaults, contributor Janet Farley with 7 deadly security sins: “There are a number of ways you could potentially jeopardize possession of your ever-so marketable credential. Let’s count some of the ways, extrapolated from the 2011 annals of industrial security clearance decisions made, shall we?”

2.  Cover letters – first impressions. Also from the vaults and contributor Janet Farley, 5 steps to an effective cover letter: “a cover letter is what introduces your sterling credentials to a potential employer. It is that segue that matches their needs with your qualifications. It is the valuable chance to use your real voice vice resume sentence fragments to pique the interest of the reader.”

 

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

*Israel-U.S. fire missiles in Med: breaking news from AP, among others: “Israel says it has carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea amid heightened tensions as Washington weighs sea-launched strikes against Syria.”

1.  Losing in Afghanistan – the Afghan National PoliceTheGuardian.Com reports Gen. Dunford’s fair but dire conclusion: “Afghanistan’s police and army are losing too many men in battle, and may need up to five more years of western support before they can fight independently, the top US and Nato commander in the country has told the Guardian. . . . Dunford admitted that Nato and Afghan commanders are concerned about Afghan casualty rates, which have regularly topped more than 100 dead a week. ‘I view it as serious, and so do all the commanders,’ Dunford said. ‘I’m not assuming that those casualties are sustainable.’”

2.  Syria – diving too deep?  Reuters’ Steve Holland and Thomas Ferraro evaluate the stakes this Tuesday morning: “President Barack Obama’s efforts to persuade the U.S. Congress to back his plan to attack Syria were met with skepticism on Monday from lawmakers in his own Democratic Party who expressed concern the United States would be dragged into a new Middle East conflict.”

3.  Syria – pressure on neighboring countries reaching crisisAP’s Karin Laub and John Heilprin lay out the tides as refugee numbers mount to disastrous proportions: “Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Syria is hemorrhaging an average of almost 5,000 citizens a day across its borders, many of them with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Nearly 1.8 million refugees have fled in the past 12 months alone, he said. The agency’s special envoy, Angelina Jolie, said ‘some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse’ if the situation keeps deteriorating at its current pace. Most Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.”  See also Aljazeera.Com’s report, “UN: Syrian refugee numbers cross two million.”

4.  Marines heading to West AFRICOM. Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa reports, “An international task force of Marines embarked the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) landing platform dock HNLMS Rotterdam (L800) Aug. 30 as part of a 3-month comprehensive effort to strengthen capabilities with African partner forces in West Africa. The ship and combined security cooperation task force, comprised of U.S., U.K., Spanish and Dutch Marines, will conduct practical application exercises in security techniques and tactics alongside forces from partner nations Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Benin.”

 CONTRACT WATCH

1.  DoD’s clean energy contract race – two front-runnersChicagoBusiness.Com contributor Paul Merrion reports, “With more than a hundred firms in the running, New Generation Power Inc. and Acciona Energy North America Corp. were among 22 solar-power contractors selected . . . by the Army Corps of Engineers, allowing them to compete for contracts with individual bases and other military sites. Congress has mandated that military installations must get 25% of their power from renewable energy by 2025.”

2.  Government contracting in plain EnglishPRWeb.Com covers Government ContactingTips.Com and new recommendations for succeeding in contract competition: “GovernmentContractingTips.com is a website that is devoted to showing small business contractors all the opportunities there are in government contracting. The website’s home page breaks down their new ‘First Steps to Government Contracting’ guide into easy to follow lessons. Each lesson displays all the basic knowledge a contractor should be aware of when entering the federal marketplace.”  Check out GovernmentContractingTips.Com.

 TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  NASA – vision for the futureAviationWeek.Com wakes us up to NASA’s relevance to the future of technology: “So NASA’s unveiling of a new strategy for aeronautics research is a bold and welcome move from a bureaucratic agency that often seems to have lost its sense of direction . . . . The aeronautics reset is based on the fundamental assumption that U.S. leadership in civil aviation will be at risk in as little as 20 years unless the nation acts to keep the pipeline of new technologies flowing. The revitalization plan—spearheaded by the associate administrator for aeronautics, Jaiwon Shin—was inspired by the story of Kodak, which through complacency and lack of vision saw its domination of the photographic film and camera market wiped out by digital imaging and smartphones.”

2.  Terrorism, drugs, . . . the incremental erosion of the Fourth Amendment?  NYTimes.Com contributor Scott Shane covers the latest and previously unreported government data collection project, The Hemisphere Project: “Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day . . . . the program at least touched on an unresolved Fourth Amendment question: whether mere government possession of huge amounts of private data, rather than its actual use, may trespass on the amendment’s requirement that searches be ‘reasonable.’”  Related, read VentureBeat.Com’s “Have we passed peak surveillance?”

3.  The professional-scale DSLR camera you’ll want to own – and can.  At $399, it’s time to get serious about your photography bent.  Time exposes Sony’s new Alpha 3000 DSLR: “a DSLR that is small, inexpensive and easy for beginners to use, while still being powerful enough for a more experienced photographer . . . .”  [I’m getting one of these.]

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Rhetoric-ing himself into a corner: Obama’s backdoor might just force him to use it. TheDailyBeast.Com’s Michael Tomasky unravels the riddle and concludes, “I think this posture invites an avalanche of no votes. Obama and Kerry should have just used very oblique language suggesting that in the event of a congressional defeat, they’d reassess the situation or something like that. A posture such as that would at least let members of Congress know that their votes here really matter.”

2.  A confession: “’. . . I’m the idiot?’” asks Palin.   With one eye on the White House – and the other spinning counter-clockwise – Sarah Palin offers her Middle East policy.  WashingtonTimes.Com’s Jessica Chasmar writes, “In a Facebook post titled ‘Let Allah Sort It Out,’ former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin condemned President Obama’s decision to get further involved with the ongoing civil war in Syria. ‘So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?’ Mrs. Palin asked on Friday.  [Incidentally, Palin can see Syria from her back porch.]

 OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “Striking Syria: Illegal, immoral, and dangerous.”  Aljazeera.Com contributor Phyllis Bennis argues that “whatever Congress may decide, a US military strike against Syria will still be illegal, immoral and dangerous, even reckless in the region and around the world. Congress needs to say no.”

2.  “On Syria: Be Clear, Then Hit Hard.”  Time contributor Walter Russell Mead argues, “What needs to come next is more clarity about what he plans to accomplish in Syria. I don’t ask that the President share his innermost thoughts with the world at this time; I only ask that he develop a clear strategic concept in his own mind. If he has a serious strategy, the rest of the world can watch it unfold; military leaders are under no obligation to telegraph their moves.”

3.  America’s identity is the pointChristian Science Monitor’s Editorial Board argues, “If US lawmakers accept that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, they too must weigh the balance between affirming America’s identity as a global ideal leader against a humility in knowing the history of America’s war-waging disappointments.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Punishing Assad.

2.  Palin’s Middle East policy.

3.  Politics, as usual.

 

Daily Intelligence: Carnage, Anarchy in Egypt; NSA’s doormat; Moto-X; Upward Falling Payloads

While violence rages in Egypt, Administration influence wanes, Afghan civilian casualties grow, NSA debacle expands, DoD struggles with sexual assaults, and DARPA awards its Upward Falling Payload contract, all in today’s defense news headlines. 

collected by Ed Ledford

August 17, 2013

Surf’s up in Surveillance Summer

 

 FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Maryland – the kinder, gentler D.C.  Contributor Charles Simmins covers SatelliteToday.Com’s analysis of Maryland’s business boom: “The state’s access to Washington, D.C., is one of the greatest attractions for firms doing business in Maryland. Hughes’ Defense and Intelligence Systems told SatelliteTODAY that the quality of graduates produced by the University of Maryland has been a key factor in the four decades that the company has been in the state. A 2011 expansion by Boeing was cited by the state’s Secretary of the Department of Business & Economic Development as being based upon the local quality of life and the abilities of the local workforce.”

2.  Retrospective irony – we should have seen it coming.  In the wake and bow wave of NSA spying, remember how enamored many of us were with the intelligence community’s super computers.  Contributor D.B. Grady wrote, “The intelligence community doesn’t get enough credit for its contribution to the information age. When government and industry were still only tepidly considering the weird and alien concept of ‘computers,’ the IC was charging forward, having immediately recognizing the utility of processing power and its possible applications. Today, the spy world continues pushing the limits of what computers can do. Here are a few famous supercomputers used by the intelligence community.”

 THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Unraveling in Egypt.  Observers anticipate that the violence in Egypt will only grow worse – at least in the short term – and some analysts have uttered the words “civil war.”  NPR.Org reports, “At a mosque near Cairo’s Ramses Square . . . about 700 people have barricaded themselves inside, refusing to come out for fear of arrest and further violence . . . . Police and military forces have surrounded the area and the situation is tense. . . . The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a week of rallies against Morsi’s ouster. Meanwhile, groups that support the military government are calling for counter-demonstrations today.”  From Aljazeera, a few of the day’s images in “Bloodbath in Egypt.” From Reuters, “. . . after a day of carnage . . . . Egypt ever closer to anarchy.”

2.  In Afghanistan, they got him.  Australia avenges the green-on-blue attack in Uruzgan nearly two years ago.  LongWarJournal.Org’s Lisa Lundquist reports, “Yesterday the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, announced that Australian forces had tracked down and killed a former Afghan National Army soldier who was involved in an insider attack nearly two years ago in Uruzgan province. The rogue soldier, Mohammed Roozi, was hunted down earlier this week by a joint Afghan / Australian / International Security Assistance Force unit in the northern province of Takhar, far from the Australian base in Uruzgan where the green-on-blue attack took place in November 2011. . . . According to General Hurley, Australian troops never gave up searching for Roozi. Hurley also stated that his forces are still trying to track down other green-on-blue attackers, including Hek Matullah (or Hikmatullah), who killed three Australian soldiers at a base in Uruzgan in late August 2012.”

3.  Also in Afghanistan, civilian casualties risingVOANews.Com reports, “Officials in Afghanistan say militants have killed at least 17 people in three separate locations. . . . Civilian casualties have spiked this year because of the increased violence. The United Nations said in its mid-year report that casualties were up 23 percent compared to the first six months of 2012.”  Radio Free Europe adds, “The UN report said 1,319 civilians died and 2,533 were injured as a result of conflict in the country from January to the end of June.”

4.  AFRICOM’s CJTF-Horn of Africa trains Burundi National Defense Force troopers.  U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Norris from CJTF-HOA Public Affairs reports, “Marines and Sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 recently completed a four-week logistics operations engagement with more than 80 Burundi National Defense Force soldiers in preparation for future deployments supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia, an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia. . . . the exchange was successful because of the mentors’ experience and expertise and the Burundi soldiers’ dedication to learn new techniques.”

 CONTRACT WATCH

1.  $10 billion in the cloud on the Interior Department table.  Indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts leave the door wide open at the Interior Department.  NextGov.Com reports, “A slate of contracts to provide cloud computing services to the Interior Department could add up to $10 billion . . . . 10 vendors will compete with each other to win 10 specific contracts to provide cloud goods and services, Interior said in the statement Wednesday. Each of those contracts has a maximum value of $1 billion for a total possible value of $10 billion for the entire slate of contracts.”   At the trough, Verizon, AT&T, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Smartronix, Unisys, Aquilent, Automonic Resources, CGI, GTRI.  Let’s eat!

2.  Upward Falling Payloads?  DARPA’s on it.  DailyFinance.Com reports, “Sparton Corporation (NYS: SPA) was awarded a Phase 1 contract for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Upward Falling Payload (UFP) program. Sparton, under the UFP program, will design a system intended to live on the sea floor and release payloads. This enablement would represent a game changing capability for mission commanders.”  What, exactly, is an Upward Falling Payload?: “The Navy’s ‘Upward Falling Payloads’ could hide in the ocean depths until needed, then launch to quickly create a distributed presence across a maritime region.” Cool . . . unless you’re a whale.

 TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Audit reveals NSA’s innumerable privacy breachesWaPo’s Barton Gellman reports, “The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008 . . . . Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.”  Finally, Congress is stirred: “New revelations from leaker Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency has overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008 are stirring renewed calls on Capitol Hill for serious changes to NSA spy programs, undermining White House hopes that President Barack Obama had quieted the controversy with his assurances of oversight.”

2.  No aliens named Roger at Area 51TheAtlanticWire.Com breaks the exciting news – there is an Area 51, but, unfortunately, no Martians.  Philip Bump writes, “Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. . . . The project started humbly. In the pre-drone era about a decade after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower signed off on a project aimed at building a high-altitude, long-range, manned aircraft that could photograph remote targets.” See related from AP: “UFO buffs and believers in alien encounters are celebrating the CIA’s clearest acknowledgement yet of the existence of Area 51, the top-secret Cold War test site that has been the subject of elaborate conspiracy theories for decades.”

3.   Moto-X gets a hot, detailed review.  Finally, Google’s influence on Motorola comes through.  VentureBeat.Com’s Devindra Hardawar reports, “It offers the most comfortable Android phone experience I’ve seen yet, with hardware that shows iPhone levels of obsession and features that you can’t find anywhere else. And it’s readily accessible for just about anyone, even though it still manages to be plenty innovative. . . . Perhaps the most important thing about the Moto X is how it completely moves the conversation away from mere specs and toward how we actually use our devices.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Code name “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants.”  Brig. Gen. Jeff Sinclair joins mentors in the ongoing mockery-inviting parade of horribles.  WaPo reporter Craig Whitlock does a deep-dive into Sinclair’s court-martial: “Congress and President Obama have demanded a crackdown, alarmed by a recent string of scandals and frank admissions by military leaders that they have systematically failed to address the problem.”  PBS.Org’s “Newshour” transcript adds context: “there’s a focus on kind of care and support for the victims. What there needs to be a focus on is to lock up sexual predators. And nothing addresses that. They haven’t grappled with those issues at all.”

2.  NSA’s Un-witting Watusi.  World’s best intelligence agency claims ignorance – it’s an oxymoron, with emphasis on moronThe Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman reports, “The NSA’s director of compliance, John DeLong, repeatedly said in a conference call with reporters that the 2,776 violations reflected no willful effort to violate Americans’ privacy. . . . however, ‘a couple’ of willful violations in the past decade. He didn’t provide details.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Get the NSA back to ChurchTheAtlantic.Com contributor Conor Friedersdorf argues, “The time is ripe for a new Church Committee, the surveillance oversight effort named for Senator Frank Church, who oversaw a mid-1970s investigation into decades of jaw-dropping abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies. . . . For more than a decade, the NSA has repeatedly engaged in activity that violated the law and the Constitutional rights of many thousands or perhaps millions of Americans.”

2.  “How Obama Lost His Influence in Egypt.”  TheDailyBeast.Com contributor Josh Rogin argues, “The Obama administration seems powerless in its effort to persuade the Egyptian military to halt the violence against civilians that has resulted in hundreds of deaths this week. The crisis lays bare the diminished U.S. influence on the Egyptian military compared to only two years ago.”

3.  Civil war in Egypt would be catastrophic.  Contra Costa Times editorial board argues, “Egypt is not just another country ‘over there’ in the Mideast; it plays a vital stabilizing role in a very unstable region. What happens there will have impact throughout the globe.”

 THE FUNNIES

1.  Hempfest 2013.  You missed it.

2.  No Tiananmen Square.

3.  Bat to the Future.

4.  Bloody path to democracy.