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.