Aug 31, 2007

We Don't Need Another Fight Right Now

When you are already trying to hold your own against a couple of bad-asses in the meanest part of town, the last thing you need is for your drunken girlfriend to go start something with the biker gang on the corner.

Leaving aside the relative merits of a strike against the Iranians, why might America's military resist such action? First, consider the fact that the US has at the moment 162,000 troops in Iraq, 30,000 in Kuwait, 4,500 in Bahrain and 3,300 in Qatar - not to mention the two carrier battle groups in the Gulf or the 8,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. In the event of an American or Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, for example, the troops in Iraq, the Gulf and Afghanistan would be in even greater danger than they already are, vulnerable to an Iranian counterattack or, more likely, an Iranian-sponsored terror campaign.

Second, there exists a tremendous sense of guilt among the US senior officer corps for what is seen as a failure to stand up to the civilian leadership in the rush to go to war against Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Much of the current divide between America's generals and its junior officer corps boils down to a sense on the part of junior officers that their superiors largely acquiesced to whatever Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in the run-up to the Iraq war. The charge of spinelessness is one that hurts America's generals, especially as it comes from lieutenants and captains who have proven themselves on the battlefield of Iraq.

Third, in the wake of the Iraq war, professional military officers are more suspicious than ever of think-tank types with theories on how easy military victories can be achieved. As an active-duty US Army officer recently told me: "If I hear one more lawyer with no military experience explain to me how air power alone really can do it this time, I'm going to kill him."
[I and my Nellis komrads concur. -M1]

But that doesn't take into consideration that the Defense Department is the largest and most complicated department in the US government. As a bureaucracy, the Pentagon is almost Ottoman in terms of its scale and complexity. The system is dependent on thousands of mid-level military officers and civilian bureaucrats, and if a few determined bureaucrats set their minds to slowing a march to war, they can do it. The employees of the Pentagon can insist that every form be filled out in triplicate, that every authorization be approved by Congress, and bury those agitating for war in so much paperwork it would take a determined effort just to dig out.

The second thing those military officers and bureaucrats could do is leak information to the press should the administration begin taking secret steps toward military action. Prior to the Iraq war, officers rarely came into contact with journalists. But thanks to the personal relationships that have developed between journalists and the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly every mid-level US Army or Marine Corps officer has the name and number of at least one journalist in his or her rolodex.

Aug 30, 2007

Through The Veil

There is a paper from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) that may be of interest to some of our visitors here.

Through The Veil: The Role of Broadcasting in U.S. Public Diplomacy toward Iranians. (28-page pdf)

This study scrutinizes the problems that the United States faces in its public diplomacy with Iran by looking at various aspects of communication. What motivates the study is that an improvement in public diplomacy and broadcasting for Iranians would help the United States play a more important role in influencing trends and events not only in Iran but also throughout the region.

The paper first examines two initiatives that took place during the last decade: Radio Farda and VOA’s Persian Television. Second, it examines European public diplomacy initiatives toward Iran—more specifically, three radio stations: the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Persian service in London, Persian Radio France Internationale (RFI) in Paris, and Persian Deutsche Welle (DW) in Bonn. Analyzing different European broadcasting efforts toward Iran provides a better picture of the foreign information sources available to the Iranian audience. With a clearer understanding of the Iranian media market, the peculiarities and weaknesses of American broadcasting to the Islamic Republic can more easily be appraised. Finally, this study briefly explores the Iranian radio and television channels run by Iranian-origin private citizens who reside in the United States, mainly in Los Angeles.

Aug 28, 2007

Microeconomic Espionage: Incentives and Disincentives

A new study from the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS).

Microeconomic Espionage: Incentives and Disincentives. (40-page PDF)

[An] important difference is that between economic intelligence-espionage and business intelligence-espionage – the latter refers to the collection and analysis of information from a company, usually multinational, against another company. If those companies collect information by using clandestine means, the accepted term is industrial espionage. While industrial espionage is conducted by an entity of private sector, economic espionage is conducted by the government of a state by using its secret agencies against either governmental entities of another state (coined as macroeconomic espionage), or against private companies, usually multinationals, in order to support its indigenous companies (coined as microeconomic espionage).

According to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), economic intelligence-espionage refers to the case where the secret services of a state collect economic intelligence, while industrial espionage has to do with the collection of economic information by private companies.

Economic espionage has three distinct dimensions:

The first, macroeconomic espionage, refers to the use of secret agencies on behalf of a state’s government in order to obtain intelligence concerning the world economic developments and activities with the ulterior purpose the advancement of its strategic interests. In its basic form, macroeconomic espionage assists the political leadership of a state to conduct its internal and external economic policy with the optimum results. In 1949, Sherman Kent, the father of U.S. intelligence analytical domain, who had full knowledge of the value of macroeconomic espionage, asserted that intelligence services should track the current world economic developments as well as foreign economic doctrines and theories. Moreover, they should watch the supplying part of the armed forces, the development of new crops and methods of agriculture, changes in farm machinery, land use, fertilizers, and reclamation projects. Also they should pay close attention to the development of new utilities and the extensions of those already established, as well as to changes in the techniques and implements of distribution, new transport routes and changes in the inventory of the units of transportation. But, most importantly, in the atomic age, they must follow new discoveries as far as natural resources are concerned, especially those used in order to build nuclear weapons.

According to the second dimension, which is the topic of our interest in this essay, microeconomic espionage, the government of a state via its secret agencies is involved in the collection of intelligence in order to assist a company (usually a multinational), creating by that way a collaboration between government and company whose goal is to prevail over one’s opponents in the international economic arena.

The third dimension of economic espionage is economic counterintelligence. Randall M. Fort defines this term as "the identification and neutralization of foreign intelligence services spying on the U.S. citizens or companies and stealing information and/or technology for use within their own countries". Thompson Strong expresses the view that "the objective of the counter-C.E. [Competitive Espionage] operation is to make the C.E. investment ineffective or possibly too great in cost, at least perceptually". Samuel Porteous characterizes counterintelligence as not only a very important function of the secret services, but also the less controversial. According to his definition of the term, "a nation's counter-intelligence service simply seeks to advise government about and report on the activities of foreign intelligence services or their surrogates engaging in clandestine activities directed against their state’s economic and commercial interests."

Aug 27, 2007

Report: Large Scale Chinese Cyber Op Against German Government

[German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to China] has been marred by a report in SPIEGEL that a large number of computers in the German chancellery as well as the foreign, economy and research ministries had been infected with Chinese spy software. Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, discovered the hacking operation in May, the magazine reported in its new edition, published Monday.

The Chinese government has vehemently denied the report, with the Chinese Embassy in Berlin describing the accusation of state-controlled hacking as "irresponsible speculation without a shred of evidence."

But Prime Minister Wen Jiabao assured Merkel that measures would be taken to "rule out hacking attacks." During a news conference in Beijing on Monday, Merkel didn't comment on the specific allegation but said it was important that "common rules of the game" were observed in a globalised economy.

The so-called "Trojan" espionage programs were concealed in Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint files which infected IT installations when opened, SPIEGEL reported. Information was taken from German computers in this way on a daily basis by hackers based in the north-western province of Lanzhou, Canton province and Beijing. German officials believe the hackers were being directed by the People's Liberation Army and that the programs were redirected via computers in South Korea to disguise their origin.

German security officials managed to stop the theft of 160 gigabytes of data which were in the process of being siphoned off German government computers. "But no one knows how much has leaked out," a top official told SPIEGEL.

The hacking operation has triggered fears in Germany that China may also have infiltrated the computer systems of leading German companies, to steal technology secrets and thereby speed up its inexorable economic growth. The domestic intelligence service plans to help businesses hunt for spy programs in their computers.

The alleged attack has disappointed the German government because it has tried for years to promote friendly relations with China, and has voiced only muted criticism of China's human rights abuses and environmental pollution. The espionage is robbing Germany of its key resource in the fight for international markets, namely technological and engineering know-how.

"I'm very concerned about Chinese espionage in the field of technology," Hartmut Schauerte, an expert on China in the Economics Ministry, told SPIEGEL.

The head of domestic intelligence for the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, Johannes Schmalzl, said: "Sixty percent of our alleged cases (of economic espionage) are related to China."

Flying and Fighting in Cyberspace

A recent Air University Maxwell Paper presents a good survey on the topic of Cyberwar.

Flying and Fighting in Cyberspace (91-page pdf).

Just as the establishment of a separate Air Corps was necessary for the full development of airpower theory and air-mindedness, so is the establishment of a cyber command an important step in developing cyber power. The US Army Air Corps provided the sort of immersion in air thinking needed for theories of airpower to develop unconstrained by its ties to ground power. Air Force Cyber Command will create the same sort of environment for the development of cyber power.


One can create data, the basic resource of cyber power, at will; it is essentially unlimited and unconstrained as a “material” component of warfare. Data itself can have veracity; at the same time, it can be wholly or in part contrived in its representation of information, knowledge, and intelligence (and thus can be used to create a “fictive” universe)—a material component of the cognitive domain used to create influence effects. Unlike most material components of other operational domains, some of the data and information relevant to war fighting that reside in cyberspace are much more difficult to distinguish from data and information used in other societal activities.

The central challenge of war fighting in cyberspace thus becomes the war fighter’s ability to command, control, and manage a near-infinite, temporally rapid component (digital data) in establishing and applying force capabilities— reach, agility, presence, situational awareness, power projection, domain control, and decisive force—to achieve desired effects across the spectrum of war. This C2 task must increasingly occur in real time, not only at the signal and data levels but also at the information, knowledge, and intelligence levels. Because of the central role of the network in modern warfare and these unique physical attributes, both the content and the flow of data need to be characterized as distinct operational functions in organizational frameworks that support development of new cyberspace operating concepts.


This paper takes the position that cyber operations be designated as a mission activity focused primarily on noncontent operations involving content-based digital data and data flow. This mission category would encompass most network-warfare operations and only a limited subset of information-based operations (occurring in the cognitive domain)—as well as a limited subset of EW operations (occurring in the EM spectrum). We should broadly redefine the term "influence" as an effect achieved through the application of all types of military activity since almost all military operations have a role in influencing adversary/target-audience decision making as a first- or second-order effect. Likewise, we should address EW separately as a noncontent, energy-based activity rather than as an IO activity—as is currently the case.

To address the definitional, consistency, and complexity dilemma, one may propose a new conceptual framework for cyber operations within seven operational domains of war, one of which is cyberspace (table 3). This construct adopts a narrow definition of cyberspace operations focused on CNO actions on content data, as distinguished from operations involving derivative informational resources that reside, in part, in cyberspace (information, knowledge, and intelligence), as well as signature-based and energy based activities that also occur in the EM spectrum. An operational example of this type of organizing construct is used at the National Security Agency (NSA), which categorizes its signals-intelligence operations as communications intelligence (communications signals), electronic intelligence (electronic/noncommunications signals), foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (telemetry), and a small number of hybrids; further, for a range of functional and programmatic reasons, it maintains a separate IA directorate for CNO defense and related activities. The taxonomy has proven highly useful for manning, training, organizing, and equipping the NSA’s signals-intelligence and IA forces. Like the NSA model, table 3 distinguishes between informational- and energy-based activities occurring in the EM spectrum, associates the cyberspace domain with noncontent data and information actions in the information environment, and distinguishes a cognitive domain for information and perception- management activities (that are enabled in part, as are all other non-EM domain activities, by the EM spectrum).

Once you get past the doctrinal and organizational discussions, pretty decent overviews of Cyber ISR, Cyber Defense, Cyber Attack, as well as Cyber Weapon-funding are found.

This paper will likely serve as a useful primer for officers transferring into the new USAF Cyber Command.

Aug 25, 2007

DOD Creating 24/7 Iraq Communications Desk

Shaping the Bush administration's message on the Iraq war has taken on new fervor, just as anticipation is building for the September progress report from top military advisers.

For the Pentagon, getting out Iraq information will now include a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week Iraq Communications Desk that will pump out data from Baghdad -- serving as what could be considered a campaign war room.

According to a memo circulated Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, is looking for personnel for what he called the high-priority effort to distribute Defense Department information on Iraq.

The move -- requested by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England -- comes as administration officials are gearing up for a rash of reports on progress in Iraq and recommendations from the military on troop levels going into next year. The key report will come from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Other reports are expected from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, retired Gen. James Jones -- who will examine the progress of the Iraqi security forces -- and the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which will review whether the Iraqi government has hit security and political benchmarks outlined by Congress.

The Pentagon dismissed suggestions that the communications desk will be a message machine or propaganda tool, and instead said it is being set up to gather and distribute information from eight time zones away in a more efficient and timely manner.

"I would not characterize it as a war room," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Friday. "It's far less sinister than that. It's more like a library."

Morrell called it a "smarter way of doing business" and said the intent is to "create a central clearinghouse of information so we can pull in all that is coming out of Baghdad and Iraq and have it come into one point, so we can better be able to share it with people who are interested."

Some of the information collected, he said, would include data from briefings in Iraq, which take place when people on the U.S. East Coast are sleeping. ...

Defense officials familiar with the plan said it will provide information to other federal agencies, including the White House and State Department, so that officials can speak more consistently and accurately about the war.

The plan would put a team of people in the Joint Chiefs of Staff top-secret operations center.

Less than a year ago, Smith developed plans for teams of people to "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and "correct the record" when news agencies put out what the Pentagon considered inaccurate information.

At the time, he outlined an operation that resembled a political campaign -- such as that made famous by Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign war room -- calling for a "Rapid Response" section that quickly answers opponents' assertions.

It was set up to focus more resources on the Internet and blogs and book civilian and military guests on television and radio shows.

While portions of the plan were put in place, much of it was shelved when Donald H. Rumsfeld stepped down as defense secretary and Robert Gates took over. At the time, Rumsfeld was complaining bitterly that the news media were focusing too much on bad news coming out of Iraq and not enough on progress there.

Defense officials denied that the program was a propaganda tool or that it was set up to respond to the eroding public support for the war.

Aug 24, 2007

Nice One, Admiral

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has waded a second time into the political debate about the CATCH-ALL program, and this time appears to have stepped on his dick.

McConnell was pretty much forgiven when he lobbied Democratic lawmakers [with the White House on the other line] to accept the GOP bill last month that weakened FISA. However, there may be broad ramifications to his more recent mis-step.

McConnell was trying to lay the plumbing in the press for legislation that would grant retroactive immunity for telecoms that participated in the extra-legal warrantless surveillance programs. He appears to have made an exploitable legal blunder in his PR outreach.

The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that telecommunications companies assisted the government's warrantless surveillance program and were being sued as a result, an admission some legal experts say could complicate the government's bid to halt numerous lawsuits challenging the program's legality.

"[U]nder the president's program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us," Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in an interview with the El Paso Times published Wednesday.

His statement could help plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits against the telecom companies, which allege that the companies participated in a wiretapping program that violated Americans' privacy rights, former Justice Department officials said. ...

An appeals court in San Francisco is weighing the government's argument that these cases should be thrown out on the grounds that the subject matter is a "state secret" and that its disclosure would jeopardize national security.

The government has repeatedly asserted that any relationship between the telecommunications firms and the National Security Agency's spy program is classified. The firms' alleged cooperation and other details of the program, government lawyers have argued, are so sensitive that they cannot be disclosed. The government has argued the lawsuits against the telecom firms must be dismissed.

"[D]isclosure of the information covered by this [state secrets] privilege assertion reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States," McConnell said in a sworn affidavit filed in a federal court in San Francisco in May.

David Kris, a former Justice Department official in Republican and Democratic administrations, said McConnell's admission makes it difficult to argue that the phone companies' cooperation with the government is a state secret. "It's going to be tough to continue to call it 'alleged' when he's just admitted it," Kris said. ...

A challenge for the plaintiffs is to make a case using only public facts, said Kris, co-author of a new book, "National Security Investigations and Prosecutions." McConnell has just added to "the list of publicly available facts that are no longer state secrets," increasing the plaintiffs' chances that their cases can proceed, Kris said.

McConnell's statement "does serious damage to the government's state secrets claims that are at the heart of its defenses," said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology and an expert on state secrets privilege.

In his interview, McConnell also said that open discussion on matters such as these "means that some Americans are going to die."

But Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said that McConnell's disclosure shows that "an important element of a program can be discussed publicly and openly without endangering the nation."

Fein noted that in the 1970s, President Richard Nixon argued national security would be harmed if the Church Committee permitted hearings on government surveillance of civilians. "These Cassandran cries that the earth is going to fall every time you have a discussion simply are not borne out by the facts," he said.

Mr. McConnell made the remarks apparently in an effort to bolster support for the broadened wiretapping authority that Congress approved this month, even as Democrats are threatening to rework the legislation because they say it gives the executive branch too much power. It is vital, he said, for Congress to give retroactive legal immunity to the companies that assisted in the program to help prevent them from facing bankruptcy because of lawsuits over it. ...

Mr. McConnell ... put new information on the public record in the interview, on Aug. 14 while in Texas for a border conference.

Mr. McConnell said, for instance, that the number of people inside the United States who were wiretapped through court-approved warrants totaled "100 or less" but on the "foreign side, it's in the thousands." The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves national security wiretaps, told Congress it approved 2,181 eavesdropping warrants last year. The court and the administration have not been willing to break out how many Americans were in those orders. ...

Mr. McConnell also offered the administration's first public discussion about a classified series of rulings by the intelligence court that he said had restricted the agency’s ability to collect foreign intelligence.

He said one judge this year gave broad approval for the agency’s eavesdropping program. But another judge, he said, ruled in the spring that the administration would have to obtain a warrant for any "foreign to foreign" communications that passed through an American telecommunications center.

The administration obtained a stay of that ruling until May 31, he disclosed, but after that date he intelligence officials had "significantly less capability" to track foreign communications. The ruling sent the administration "in the wrong direction," he added.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has petitioned the intelligence court to make public its secret wiretapping rulings, expressed frustration on Thursday with the timing of Mr. McConnell’s comments.

"If this ostensibly sensitive information can be released now, why could it not be released two months ago, when the public and Congress desperately needed it?" asked Jameel Jaffer, director of the group's national security project.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said the interview "was quite striking because he was disclosing more detail than has appeared anywhere in the public domain."

"If we're to believe that Americans will die from discussing these things," Mr. Aftergood said, "then he is complicit in that. It’s an unseemly argument. He's basically saying that democracy is going to kill Americans."

Aug 23, 2007

The Day India Burned – Partition

Of all the episodes in Britain’s Imperial past, its ham-fisted partition and subsequent abandonment of India is one of the most outrageous.

As seen below in the 90- minute documentary The Day India Burned – Partition, Britain behaved with a stunning disregard for India’s national well- being, as it drew up a partition between India and Pakistan almost on a whim, and then got out sharpish as chaos flared in its wake.

By the time of the partition in August 1947, India had been the jewel in the empire’s crown for nearly 200 years. But after being bankrupted by the Second World War, it was clear that Britain could no longer afford to maintain its Indian army. The empire had well and truly crumbled, so it was up to dashing old Louis Mountbatten to trot over and sort out all this bally bother.

Following a series of negotiations between Mountbatten, Muslim leader Mohammed Ali Jinha, and Indian national congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru, it was eventually decided that India would be split up, and Pakistan born, in the summer of 1948. But the following day, Mountbatten suddenly announced that Britain would actually be leaving a year earlier than planned. Sorry about that, old fruit, but must dash, what?

Violent civil unrest was already on the increase by this point, notably during the three- day Calcutta riots of 1946, in which around 5,000 people were killed. As Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims all slaughtered one another (and, in some cases, their own), the British army hid in case they became outnumbered by the rioters. This allowed for horrific scenes of violence to go unmonitored.

The film gathers an impressive number of contemporary eyewitnesses to tell their sides of the tale, including Nehru’s niece, Mountbatten’s daughter, and Gandhi disciple Ashoka Gupta. By the end, the message had come across loud and clear: the partition was a dreadful disaster, Britain is a twit, humans are capable of truly monstrous deeds, and Richard Dawkins is right – religion can be one of the most destructive tools known to mankind.

Partition: The Day India Burned - BBC Documentary (all parts 10 minutes in length)

New NIE On Iraq -- Key Judgments

The Key Judgments section of an updated NIE on Iraq has been released, Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive (10-page PDF).

Key Judgments (all emphases in original):

There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007. The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks. Coalition forces, working with Iraqi forces, tribal elements, and some Sunni insurgents, have reduced al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s (AQI) capabilities, restricted its freedom of movement, and denied it grassroots support in some areas. However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.

We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance. Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.

Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence. Two new drivers have emerged since the January Estimate: expanded Sunni opposition to AQI and Iraqi expectation of a Coalition drawdown. Perceptions that the Coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition. At the same time, fearing a Coalition withdrawal, some tribal elements and Sunni groups probably will continue to seek accommodation with the Coalition to strengthen themselves for a post- Coalition security environment.

• Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia. The Iraqi Government’s Shia leaders fear these groups will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government, but the Iraqi Government has supported some initiatives to incorporate those rejecting AQI into Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry elements.

• Intra-Shia conflict involving factions competing for power and resources probably will intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security. In Basrah, violence has escalated with the drawdown of Coalition forces there. Local militias show few signs of reducing their competition for control of valuable oil resources and territory.

• The Sunni Arab community remains politically fragmented, and we see no prospective leaders that might engage in meaningful dialogue and deliver on national agreements.

• Kurdish leaders remain focused on protecting the autonomy of the Kurdish region and reluctant to compromise on key issues.

The IC assesses that the emergence of "bottom-up" security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them. A multi-stage process involving the Iraqi Government providing support and legitimacy for such initiatives could foster over the longer term political reconciliation between the participating Sunni Arabs and the national government. We also assess that under some conditions "bottom-up initiatives" could pose risks to the Iraqi Government.

• We judge such initiatives are most likely to succeed in predominantly Sunni Arab areas, where the presence of AQI elements has been significant, tribal networks and identities are strong, the local government is weak, sectarian conflict is low, and the ISF tolerate Sunni initiatives, as illustrated by Al Anbar Province.

• Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded, and neighborhood security groups, occasionally consisting of mixed Shia-Sunni units, have proliferated in the past several months. These trends, combined with increased Coalition operations, have eroded AQI’s operational presence and capabilities in some areas.

• Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi Government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government.

• Coalition military operations focused on improving population security, both in and outside of Baghdad, will remain critical to the success of local and regional efforts until sectarian fears are diminished enough to enable the Shia-led Iraqi Government to fully support the efforts of local Sunni groups.

Iraqi Security Forces involved in combined operations with Coalition forces have performed adequately, and some units have demonstrated increasing professional competence. However, we judge that the ISF have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent of the Coalition on a sustained basis in multiple locations and that the ISF remain reliant on the Coalition for important aspects of logistics and combat support.

• The deployment of ISF units from throughout Iraq to Baghdad in support of security operations known as Operation Fardh al-Qanun marks significant progress since last year when large groups of soldiers deserted rather than depart their home areas, but Coalition and Iraqi Government support remains critical.

• Recently, the Iraqi military planned and conducted two joint Army and police large-scale security operations in Baghdad, demonstrating an improving capacity for operational command and control.

• Militia and insurgent influences continue to undermine the reliability of some ISF units, and political interference in security operations continues to undermine Coalition and ISF efforts.

• The Maliki government is implementing plans to expand the Iraqi Army and to increase its overall personnel strength to address critical gaps, but we judge that significant security gains from those programs will take at least six to 12 months, and probably longer, to materialize.

The IC assesses that the Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition (the Unified Iraqi Alliance, UIA), Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. Divisions between Maliki and the Sadrists have increased, and Shia factions have explored alternative coalitions aimed at constraining Maliki.

• The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decisionmaking, and increased Maliki’s vulnerability to alternative coalitions.

• We judge that Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shia leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government.

Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months. The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.

The IC assesses that Iraq’s neighbors will continue to focus on improving their leverage in Iraq in anticipation of a Coalition drawdown. Assistance to armed groups, especially from Iran, exacerbates the violence inside Iraq, and the reluctance of the Sunni states that are generally supportive of US regional goals to offer support to the Iraqi Government probably bolsters Iraqi Sunni Arabs’ rejection of the government’s legitimacy.

• Over the next year Tehran, concerned about a Sunni reemergence in Iraq and US efforts to limit Iranian influence, will continue to provide funding, weaponry, and training to Iraqi Shia militants. Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants, particularly the JAM, since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.

• Syria has cracked down on some Sunni extremist groups attempting to infiltrate fighters into Iraq through Syria because of threats they pose to Syrian stability, but the IC now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq in a bid to increase Syrian influence.

• Turkey probably would use a range of measures to protect what it perceives as its interests in Iraq. The risk of cross-border operations against the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (KG) terrorist group based in northern Iraq remains.

We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safehaven would erode security gains achieved thus far. The impact of a change in mission on Iraq’s political and security environment and throughout the region probably would vary in intensity and suddenness of onset in relation to the rate and scale of a Coalition redeployment. Developments within the Iraqi communities themselves will be decisive in determining political and security trajectories.

• Recent security improvements in Iraq, including success against AQI, have depended significantly on the close synchronization of conventional counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. A change of mission that interrupts that synchronization would place security improvements at risk.

Vapid, Uninspiring, Banal

David J. Trachtenberg, a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, has some constructive criticism today of the main overt U.S. propaganda tool -- the Voice of America.

VOA's purpose goes beyond delivering the news with impartiality and objectivity. VOA's legislative charter requires it to "present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively." To do this, VOA should use its editorials to articulate and explain US foreign-policy decisions.

For nearly 40 years I have listened to America's official "voice" on shortwave radio. VOA editorials are also accessible on the VOA website. Unfortunately, they are mostly vapid, uninspiring news reports posing as editorial opinions "reflecting the views of the United States government." They fail to articulate the rationale and context that would help others understand US policies. ...

Colorless VOA editorials are commonplace. One cites an assistant secretary of State as saying the US "will not fully normalize relations with North Korea until there is 'full denuclearization' on the Korean peninsula." What this means or why the US insists upon it are questions that a foreigner seeking clarity about US policy might be forgiven for asking, but which the editorial does not address. Another VOA editorial on US policy toward Nigeria is nothing more than a news report quoting a State Department official's testimony before Congress.

VOA is no stranger to controversy – the latest involves a short-sighted cutback in worldwide broadcasts. However, the message is just as important as the messenger. And VOA's message is muffled, as if the US itself were merely a spectator in the global war of beliefs. Simply quoting American officials without providing a more robust context for their comments is insufficient to explain US foreign policy to global audiences. It is a detached, achromatic approach that risks conveying neutrality. But the US cannot afford to be neutral for the sake of appearing impartial. What is needed is a more forceful, clear, and compelling articulation of US policy.

VOA's editorial approach appears to be influenced by fear – fear that it may say something provocative, fear that it may seem heavy-handed, fear that its journalistic integrity and credibility may suffer, fear that it may be seen as a propaganda outlet for an administration that is increasingly disliked by the audiences it targets. In this regard, VOA is hurting its own cause, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors – the oversight body responsible for America's international broadcasts – should make fixing the banality of VOA's editorial content a top priority.

It is hilarious that Mr. Trachtenberg has been listening to this crap for "nearly 40 years", and is only now noticing the indisputable shortcomings of the service.

Even the most homesick Americans abroad usually tire of the VOA within a few days and switch to the BBC.

Mr. Trachtenberg might hold some kind of record here for tenacity.

Aug 22, 2007

One Trick Ponyism

A new group of prominent conservatives plans to begin a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign Wednesday to urge members of Congress who may be wavering in their support for the war in Iraq not to "cut and run."

The group, Freedom's Watch, is rolling out television, radio and Internet advertisements in more than 20 states and 60 Congressional districts.

Ari Fleischer, President Bush's former press secretary and a spokesman for the group, said it would initially spend $15 million on the effort, which will also encourage voters to put pressure on their representatives for continued support of the war.

Mr. Fleischer declined to say in an interview Tuesday which members of Congress were on its list, but he indicated that it would include some Republicans as well as Democrats.

Mr. Fleischer said the central message of Freedom's Watch is that "the war in Iraq can be won and Congress must not surrender."

The advertisements feature Iraq war veterans and parents of veterans who lost family members in the war urging lawmakers who have supported the war not to switch their vote.

Aug 21, 2007

Xinhua Only

China's readers were given a taste of the Mao era at the weekend, when at least five state newspapers published nearly identical front pages, the latest sign of tightening control ahead of a Communist Party meeting.

All led with a story about China's leaders directing a mining company to do everything possible to rescue miners trapped in a flooded shaft, carried the same picture of President Hu Jintao visiting Kazakhstan and a piece about China deepening cooperation with its neighbours, laid out identically.

While many of China's state newspapers prioritise similar news, or publish identical headlines on sensitive stories, it is rare to see entire pages carrying not only the same news, but the same pictures, layout, headlines and text.

"It's like going back 30 years!" laughed one Beijing journalism professor, who asked not to be named, referring to the the Sunday front pages of the People's Daily, Economic Daily, Liberation Army Daily, Beijing Daily and Guangming Daily.

China's leaders gather later this year for the five-yearly 17th Party Congress, at which leadership changes are expected.

The sensitivity of the congress, combined with the country's opaque political culture, mean a tighter political atmosphere, from media to non-governmental organisations.

"This is the most important political event in five years. They can't afford for anything to go wrong," said Xiao Qiang, a China media expert at the University of California at Berkeley.

"They're instructing in much more detail and about many more news items -- Xinhua only, Xinhua only, Xinhua only," he said, referring to directives to use only reports carried by the country's official news agency.

"It also makes those editors at those papers think, 'the last thing I want to do at this stage is make any political mistake'."

Aug 20, 2007

Sharing a Common Playbook

The U.S. and Great Britain are each introducing new programs in line with the main GWOT Strategic PSYOP plan:

[There is] something new in Britain's mosques: an effort to teach basic citizenship issues in a special curriculum designed to reach students who might be vulnerable to Islamic extremism.

Over the long haul, the British government hopes that such civics classes, which use the Koran to answer questions about daily life, will replace the often tedious, and sometimes hard-core, religious lessons taught in many mosques across the land. Often, these lessons emphasize rote learning of the Koran and are taught by Pakistani-born imams who speak little English and have little contact with larger British society.

Written by a Bradford teacher, Sajid Hussain, 34, who holds a degree from Oxford University, the new curriculum is being taught in some religious classes in a city that is increasingly segregated between South Asians and whites.

The effort has the backing of the Labour government as part of a hearts-and-minds campaign to better integrate the country's mainstream Muslims into British culture. Approximately two million Muslims, mostly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, live in Britain.

Since four British Muslim suicide bombers attacked the London transit system in July 2005 and two other major terrorist plots supposedly planned by British Muslims were alleged last year, officials have been struggling with how to isolate extremists.

The new prime minister, Gordon Brown, said at his first news conference last month that he wanted to demonstrate the "importance we attach to nonviolence, the importance we attach to the dignity of each individual," and in the process make unpalatable the "extreme message of those who practice violence and would maim and murder citizens on British soil."

"The question for us," he said, "is how we can separate those extremists from the moderate mainstream majority."

One of the virtues of the curriculum in Bradford in applying Brown's vision, according to his aides, is that it is taught by forward-leaning imams and is based on matching messages from the Koran to everyday life in Britain. The Labour government has been particularly concerned because, in part through its involvement in the Iraq war, it lacks credibility with large swaths of British Muslims.

An estimated 100,000 school-age Muslim children attend religious classes held at mosques in Britain daily, generally after regular school hours, said Jane Houghton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government. "The impact this teaching could have is quite considerable," she said.

And along the same basic lines (albeit being enacted exclusively abroad):

The State Department is launching what it says will be the first comprehensive public diplomacy effort targeting children, hoping to shape the views of Muslim youths ages 8 to 14 with a series of summer camps and enrichment programs designed to counter negative images of the United States.

The new initiative is the brainchild of Karen Hughes, a confidante of President Bush who has become the most powerful public-diplomacy czar in decades. Hughes has argued forcefully that the US government must reach out to children younger than age 14, a population the State Department has largely neglected because they are too young for traditional exchange programs.

"By the time kids get to high school, their impressions are already pretty well shaped," Hughes said in an interview Monday. She said she began to plan the initiative last year when she realized that the US government's programs for young people "weren't reaching down really young enough."

As a test of her idea, Hughes asked embassies in 14 Islamic countries this summer to come up with pilot programs for that age bracket, and spent nearly $1 million on projects that involved about 6,000 youths and hundreds of local partnering organizations. Participants included more than 2,000 girls in Turkey who attended a basketball camp and 80 children from rural schools in Malaysia who learned about Thomas Jefferson and other US heroes on an American-style camping trip with embassy staff and families.

But the programs also carry risks in nations with virulent anti-American sentiments, which are where most of the programs are aimed.

For example, 41 Iraqi students learned about baseball and the English language for three days this summer in Baghdad. A photo of the group meeting with US Ambassador Ryan Crocker hangs on the door of Hughes's office at the State Department -- but it cannot be publicly released for fear that the children may be harmed by terrorists because of their connection with the United States.

"There's always a risk, whatever you do, in a country where they really don't like you, particularly if you are talking to the kids," Patricia Kushlis, a retired State Department foreign service officer who now runs a public diplomacy blog called WhirledView. Nonetheless, some foreign policy specialists praised the notion of targeting public diplomacy efforts at average people, rather than elites and opinion-makers, and said children often develop their world view during ages 8 to 14.

"There is a generation, in the Middle East in particular, of 15 to 22 year olds, that during the most formative years of their lives has only seen the US as an imperialist nation," said Joshua Fouts, director of the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy, a Los Angeles-based think tank. "If kids aged 8 to 14 are all that's left, then it is important that we engage them." ...

The success of the new initiative will probably define the legacy of Hughes, whose initial efforts to reach out to average people in the Arab world were widely criticized as naive. In 2005, on her first trip as assistant secretary of state, she drew criticism for breaking cultural bounds by extolling the joys of having the freedom to drive a car to groups of women in countries where driving is limited to men.

Hughes modeled her program for children in the Muslim world on American summer camps and intended to use the term "Camp Friendship." But after critics said people abroad might associate "camp" with reeducation camps or even the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the State Department switched to calling them "youth enrichment programs."

Hughes said she hopes to greatly expand this summer's pilot project with $8.5 million she received from Congress this year. State Department officials will plan the expansion of the project after seeing exit interviews with the children.

Aug 18, 2007

Ivan 'Ne Lubit' BBC

The BBC's Russian-language service will no longer be heard on Russian FM radio, after the country's media regulator ordered that it be removed.

The broadcaster's last FM distribution partner in Russia, Bolshoye Radio, said it had been told to remove BBC content or risk being shut down.

Two other Russian FM stations have dropped BBC programming recently.

The BBC's Russian Service can still be heard online and on medium and short wave frequencies in Russia.

BBC executives said they would appeal against the decision.

"The BBC entered into the relationship with Bolshoye Radio in good faith," said Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News.

"We cannot understand how the licence is now interpreted in a way that does not reflect the original and thorough concept documents."

He said the licensing agreement allowed for 18% of Bolshoye's content to be foreign-produced.

Bolshoye Radio's owners, financial group Finam, told the BBC that Russia's media regulators required that all programming be produced by the station itself.

A spokesman for the company said management had made the decision without outside prompting and that it was well known that the BBC was set up to broadcast foreign propaganda.

"Any media which is government-financed is propaganda - it's a fact, it's not negative," the spokesman, Igor Ermachenkov, told the BBC.

A BBC spokesman, Mike Gardner, said: "Although the BBC is funded by the UK government... a fundamental principle of its constitution and its regulatory regime is that it is editorially independent of the UK government."

Critics say Russia is taking measures to curb media freedom ahead of parliamentary elections in December and a presidential poll in March.

Aug 17, 2007

The Great Game

If these documents are authentic, this Kazakh covert action failed to accomplish the objective. The OSCE report still panned the conduct of the 2005 election.

If they are forgeries, someone else's covert action is still in play.

What appear to be internal documents detailing an exchange between Kazakhstan's intelligence service and President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev suggest that Kazakhstan conducted intelligence operations against international monitors during the presidential election in 2005, aimed at swaying the conclusions of the monitors' reports. ...

(P)arliamentary elections are scheduled for Saturday, and Kazakhstan has made clear its hopes for a positive assessment from international monitors as a step toward achieving its goal of assuming the rotating one-year chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2009.

The bid could enhance Kazakhstan's credibility on the world stage and help offset allegations of widespread corruption, nepotism, government control of the media and violence against political opponents.

The documents, which have been circulating among diplomats since last month, raise new questions about election misconduct in the former Soviet world and suggest that the Kazakh intelligence service operated against observers from the same group its government one day hopes to lead.

A Kazakh diplomat in the United States called them a fake. Western diplomats who received them have reserved judgment and said they could become a point of contention when the European organization meets this month after its summer recess.

The documents include an operations summary under the letterhead of Nartay Dutbayev, former head of the National Security Committee, or K.N.B., Kazakhstan’s successor to the K.G.B.

Mr. Dutbayev resigned in 2006 when five of his subordinates were accused of murdering a prominent opposition politician and two members of his staff. He has left public life.

Dated Dec. 21, 2005, and marked "secret," the summary bearing his signature outlines "a number of measures" taken to "have an influence on the informational and operational activities of the body of international observers from O.S.C.E./ O.D.I.H.R."

The Office of Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights is the arm of the European group that monitors elections in former Soviet republics.

Its reports are influential. The United States often relies on them for its own assessment of a country's progress toward fair and transparent elections. They are widely cited by Western independent organizations and in news reports and by opposition movements throughout the former Soviet sphere.

The summary, addressed to the Kazakh president, described steps taken by the intelligence service to inhibit the observers' work and influence public opinion, including collecting pro-government and anti-opposition material "through operational measures" and planting it in the news media.

"Comprehensive measures were taken to compromise the unconstructive disposition of foreign individuals in the eyes of the public," the letter said.

The letter also alluded to efforts to divert the observers’ attention when they were not at work. "In order to prevent them from collecting biased materials, leisure activities were organized for observers, using operational resources," it stated.

The letter ultimately claimed that the intelligence service's activities had helped to divide the monitors into rival groups. But it noted that the mission still labeled the election undemocratic. ...

The documents were sent this summer by someone with connections inside the Kazakh intelligence service to European diplomats, including those in the Office of Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights in Poland, according to a Western diplomat who received copies and declined to be identified, citing diplomatic protocol. Their authenticity could not be determined. ...

Many of the autocratic governments in the former Soviet Union, shaken from 2003 to 2005 by popular uprisings after rigged votes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, have asserted that the European observers incited unrest, and the governments have taken measures to minimize the reports' influence.

The measures include commissioning or supporting parallel observer missions that reach pro-government conclusions, ignoring the independent reports on state-controlled television and hiring Western public relations firms to organize pre-election news media campaigns.

Kazakhstan this year also recruited people through its embassy in Washington to join the European group's ranks of temporary monitors, a tactic its critics say is meant to dilute the mission's reports and create dissension in its ranks.

Aug 16, 2007

Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse

A new study by a German think tank weighs in on the future of Iraq.

Der Irak zwischen Föderalismus und Staatszerfall: Interessen und Handlungsoptionen irakischer und regionaler Akteure (31 page PDF-- German only).

"Already today, the main priority is to prevent Iraq from breaking apart completely." That is the sober conclusion of a new study released Wednesday in Berlin on the situation in Iraq. Called "Iraq Between Federalism and Collapse," the study argues that there is little hope of a centralized power in Iraq and that the country's future depends on walking the fine line between decentralizing power and civil war.

The report, written by terror and Middle East expert Guido Steinberg under the auspices of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, says that a far-reaching decentralization is the country's only hope. And if it fails, the result could be devastating, including the possibility of full-scale civil war complete with foreign intervention.

"The basic assumption of this study," Steinberg writes, "is that a federalist solution will be the only possibility to maintain Iraq as a single country. The most important role of German and European policies should therefore be that of supporting steps toward a peaceful federalist solution." ...

The sectarian wrangling means, the study says, that the best solution -- that of a federalism free of ethnic and religious divisions -- has largely been rendered impossible. But even a federalism resting on the ethnic divisions that have been established seems challenging given the opposition from within the Shiite and Sunni factions to such a solution.

And that's not to mention the opposition of other countries in the region. "The discussion within Iraq is influenced to a large degree by the interests of neighboring countries," the report states. "Due to their potential to become involved, the Iraq federalists have to take their positions into account. And Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria all reject the ethnic-religious federalism model out of hand." Military intervention from Iraq's neighbors to protect their interests, particularly from Turkey in the north, is a very real possibility, the report warns. ...

All of which makes the immediate future in Iraq look bleak, Steinberg writes. The alternative to a successful federalism solution, he indicates, is chaos, more violence and a Shiite dictatorship. "Iraq is a failed state," the report concludes, "and will remain unstable for the foreseeable future."

For those who require a more optimistic assessment of the situation, you need look no further. In an article about the increased use of house-borne IEDs against American troops in Iraq, a PAO suggests we interpret the development as another sign of progress:

Officials attribute the increasingly sophisticated attacks to desperation on the insurgents' part after troops became too successful at finding roadside bombs and other explosives.

"It's a clear sign that they could not get to us by other means, and that's a good sign," said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a spokesman for the American operation in northern Iraq, describing the pattern of house bombs in that area. "Obviously we're countering the improvised explosive devices, and force on force, they know that they can't fight us."

But ambushes and rigged houses can cause many more casualties than smaller improvised explosive devices, which rarely kill more than one or two people at a time. Increasingly, Donnelly said, insurgents are creating a "daisy chain" of house bombs, in which an initial explosion can trigger blasts up and down a block.

Additionally, house bombs can be some of the most difficult explosives to detect because of the myriad ways they can be activated, Donnelly and others said. Some insurgents use powerful bombs or other munitions; others rely on homemade explosives. The blast can be set off by a trip wire, a pressure plate or a remote device. ...

Donnelly said that as U.S. troops become more skilled in identifying house bombs, al-Qaeda in Iraq will probably develop even more advanced techniques for attacking soldiers. But the American military's counterinsurgency abilities, assisted by increased cooperation from Iraqi citizens, would prevail, he said.

"There is no question that there is still a serious threat," Donnelly said. "But the gains we have made are tremendous. In the end, we will win, and they will be marginalized and pushed out."

Aug 15, 2007

Congress Holding Up Funds For Strategic Communication

We're talking about "chicken feed" for the DOD here. Yikes!

Before lawmakers left for the summer recess earlier this month, two key congressional defense committees recommended cutting funds for an effort at the Defense Department to implement what officials there call strategic communication.

That term describes concerted communication programs aimed at helping the military "understand and engage" what Pentagon officials consider key audiences worldwide, according to DOD budget documents released in February. The idea, the documents state, is to "advance national interests and objectives through the use of coordinated information, themes, plans, programs and actions synchronized with other elements of national power." ...

In the defense budget request for fiscal 2008, DOD wants $3 million for a line item called “strategic communication and integration.” The item is part of the request for the office of the undersecretary of Defense for policy. According to military officials and DOD budget documents, the Pentagon needs the money to pay for the implementation of about 60 objectives identified in the strategic communication road map.

But the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee inserted language into the emerging defense bills for fiscal 2008 that would deny funds for the effort.

House Appropriations Committee members cited procedural issues for declining the money, describing the request as an “unsupported program initiation” in their July 30 report on their version of the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill.

The Senate committee said the components of strategic communication -- public diplomacy, public affairs and information operations -- should be practiced separately. “Any attempt to integrate them could compromise the integrity of each of these functions,” senators wrote in their June 5 report accompanying their version of the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill. ...

Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Communication Integration Group, oversees the implementation of the road map. He declined to say what effect a lack of funding would have on the DOD’s strategic communication effort because both bills are still in a preliminary stage and have not been passed. “We want to see it funded so we can continue to execute the road map,” he said in an Aug. 2 interview.

Debate on the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations and authorization bills is expected to continue when lawmakers return to Washington after Labor Day.

Aug 14, 2007

Hint: It's Not About Fighting Terrorism

For over a year and a half, readers here have been treated to details of the CATCH-ALL program that are only now being uncovered by our intrepid news media.

A California appeals court will examine two cases this week that could impact the federal government's high-tech surveillance of Americans. The Wednesday hearings come after a new law that broadens intelligence officials' eavesdropping power.

The Bush administration wants the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the lawsuits, contending that they could jeopardize highly sensitive "state secrets." Because the privilege prevents litigants from obtaining classified data, the cases lack standing, the Justice Department argued.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1953 that the executive branch could bar evidence from court if it was deemed a national security threat, senior agency officials told reporters Monday. When the material in question is scrubbed from a case, the complaint may or may not fall apart, they said.

"We're not arguing that this means the judges should look at classified material secretly and rule in favor of the government on the merits of the claims," one staffer said. The government is simply pushing for "a decision that the case can't be litigated in light of national security interests involved."

In one case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation accused AT&T of collaborating with the National Security Agency in illegal spying on millions of customers. ...

In the AT&T case, EFF claims that the telecommunications firm provided the NSA a "dragnet" that collects "all or substantially all of the communications of U.S. citizens," a Justice official said. The second claim pertains to the alleged preservation of AT&T customers' call records.

Touché (but you have to wonder about the WaPo's capacity for embarrassment at how badly they were scooped):

So far, evidence in the case suggests a massive effort by the NSA to tap into the backbone of the Internet to retrieve millions of e-mails and other communications, which the government could sift and analyze for suspicious patterns or other signs of terrorist activity, according to court records, plaintiffs' attorneys and technology experts.

"The scale of these deployments is . . . vastly in excess of what would be needed for any likely application or any likely combination of applications, other than surveillance," says an affidavit filed by J. Scott Marcus, the senior Internet adviser at the Federal Communications Commission from 2001 to 2005. Marcus analyzed evidence for the plaintiffs in the case. ...

Tomorrow's hearing will focus only on whether the two lawsuits should be dismissed on the basis of the government's assertion of a "state secrets privilege." The outcome could determine whether the courts will ever rule on the legality of surveillance conducted by the NSA without judicial oversight between 2001 and January 2007, when the Bush administration first subjected the program to the scrutiny of a special intelligence court.

"If the courts take the position that the state-secrets privilege prevents the case from going forward, I think effectively there'll never be a decision about the legality of the program," said Cindy Cohn, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal director. ...

President Bush and his aides have confirmed that the NSA, beginning in late 2001, monitored electronic communications between the United States and overseas without warrants in cases in which one of the parties was believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. But administration officials have recently acknowledged that the NSA program was broader, and intelligence sources inside and outside the government have described a vast effort to collect and analyze telephone and e-mail communications that were later scrutinized by the government for desired information. ...

Some of the evidence also suggests that the NSA efforts were not limited to overseas e-mail communications and included the collection of purely domestic traffic. ...

Marcus, the former FCC adviser, said in a legal declaration recently unsealed in the case that the operation described by Klein "is neither modest nor limited" and was far more extensive than needed if it was focused only on international communications or on tasks other than surveillance.

"I conclude that AT&T has constructed an extensive -- and expensive -- collection of infrastructure that collectively has all the capability necessary to conduct large-scale covert gathering of [Internet protocol]-based communications information, not only for communications to overseas locations, but for purely domestic communications as well," said Marcus, a veteran computer network executive who worked at GTE, Genuity and other companies before joining the FCC.

James X. Dempsey, policy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the evidence gleaned from the AT&T case appears to confirm that "there is a massive surveillance capability built into the network" by the federal government. But, Dempsey added, "the mere fact that the capability has been built and utilized still does not answer the fundamental question -- has it been exercised under constitutional parameters? That, in a way, is what these cases are trying to get to."

For a concise explanation of why the CATCH-ALL program is a fraud as advertized, see: Effective Counterterrorism and the Limited Role of Predictive Data Mining.

Aug 13, 2007

How Nice Of You To Join Us

I have a feeling that the coffers for this year's Christmas party at the U.S. Embassy Islamabad might be a little light after Musharraf changed his mind this weekend and made a last minute visit to the U.S.-organized "Peace Jirga" in Kabul.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made an unusually frank acknowledgment Sunday that Islamic militants are operating in tribal areas on his nation's side of the border with Afghanistan and providing support to Afghan insurgents fighting government and NATO troops.

Musharraf's comments came in a joint appearance with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the closing session of a four-day tribal gathering in Kabul, the Afghan capital, at which the neighboring nations pledged to cooperate in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

A ... notable absence among the 650 turbaned and bearded tribal elders from both sides of the border was that of the Taliban, and of the consortium of Pakistani religious parties and leaders who have the most influence over radical militants in the lawless areas of Pakistan's North West Frontier. These, after all, are the groups at the root of both countries' problems, and without their participation — or even that of any groups that have influence over them — the effect of the jirga will be little more than cosmetic.

The jirga aimed to provide an opportunity for tribal elders to formulate a strategy to combat the region's escalating terrorism threat, but it has little political legitimacy, and no capabilities for enforcement, laments political analyst and radio talk show host Dad Noorani. "This jirga was just a show, and will have a symbolic effect only," he says. "There is no guarantee that the achievements and recommendations made in this jirga will reduce the tensions in the region. It's the equivalent of throwing cold water on coals."

The jirga was to have taken place in the Afghan city of Jalalabad last December as a Pashtun inter-tribal meeting to discuss the trans-border incursion of insurgents from Pakistan into Afghanistan and the presence of al-Qaeda and foreign fighters in the Pashtun tribal territories.

But it changed to become a conference between official delegations of the two countries. The Pakistani delegation was mainly composed of Pashtuns, with no major national figures from Punjab or Sindh among them. The majority of the speakers from both sides defended the official position of their respective governments in the ongoing blame game between the countries.

In any case, a traditional jirga is not the right mechanism to overcome historic rivalries between Pakistan and Afghanistan. For the majority of Pakistanis, such as Punjabis and Sindhis, the jirga has no historic or legal significance.

The absence of major Punjabis, the dominant ethnic group, proves that Pakistan tried to limit it to a traditional council among Pashtun tribes. ...

There is a difference in perception between Afghanistan and Pakistan in terms of resolving issues between the countries. While Afghanistan looks at them in a more traditional and tribal way, such as the jirga, the majority of Pakistanis don't live under such a tribal structure.

In addition, Pakistan's military and civilian leadership does not want to leave its national strategic interests in the hands of a traditional assembly. It considers the jirga as simply a matter of inter-Pashtun dialogue.

The Afghan authorities should have focused mainly on finding solutions to the Pashtun problem in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, because Pashtuns remain the main supporters and backers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Historically, Afghanistan is much better positioned to interfere in Pashtun tribal affairs than Pakistan, because in the past 200 years the majority of its rulers have been Pashtuns who have also claimed authority over the Pashtun tribes in Pakistan.

Aug 11, 2007

The "Fragging Story" Deke

In the second part of Stan Goff's three-part series on the death of Pat Tillman, he refutes the July 27, 2007 Associated Press report that alleged that Tillman may have been intentionally murdered, and hints that the new "fragging" narrative was concocted to divert attention from the August 1 congressional hearing into the actual controversy -- the conveniently misreported details of the fratricide incident:

Let me say for the record, again, that I do not believe that Pat Tillman was targeted for assassination.

A second lieutenant and an infantry sergeant are not tasked with anything as politically sensitive as assassination. I am speaking as an alumnus of Delta Force, one of the few organizations that actually might be entrusted with this kind of operation (and then only very rarely). It doesn’t matter what you see in the movies.

The decisions that placed Pat Tillman at exactly the place and exactly the time of his death were made ad hoc, on the spot, at a series of junctures that could not have been controlled, including a vehicle that unexpectedly broke down, one key decision made by an Afghan jinga truck driver and Pat’s own decision (following two on-the-spot decisions by members of his platoon in direct response to a completely unexpected situation) to move forward into the position where he was shot.

The mystique of Special Operations (including the Rangers, who are the Special Operations’ shock infantry component) is useful as a deterrent, but it is not reflective of a reality. The Pentagon and others want you and the rest of the world to believe this mystique, because your fear and the fear of the rest of the world is what maintains the efficacy of a huge bluff. This government wants us to spin out as many scary fantasies as possible, because it serves the dual purpose of either portraying opponents of the military as “conspiracy nuts” or promoting precisely the myth of spooky invincibility that keeps us in line.

I came straight from the bowels of this system, and I have written three books exposing the worst aspects of the military. If they haven’t yet cut my brake lines or shot me when I’m out fishing, then they didn’t kill Pat Tillman because he criticized the war in Iraq and read a book by Noam Chomsky...

There is nothing the Pentagon would rather do with this case, aside from making it evaporate, than turn it into a debate about whether Pat was assassinated or not. He wasn’t, and so they can not only poke fun at any of us who propose that hypothesis, they can relax as we all bark up the wrong tree.

What they do not want is a rigorous examination of the motives, decisions, and events that might lead a larger public to see how they have been spinning prevarications to call an imperial Oil War democracy-building. ...

And now, at last, I will briefly describe the cover-up.

Pat Tillman was the most well-known enlisted man in the entire military. When he enlisted, Pat received a personal letter from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thanking Pat for his enlistment. So Pat was on Rumsfeld's radar immediately. The fog of fame began then as the spin on Pat's enlistment was that he took a break from a lucrative football career because of 9-11. That's not how it was. Pat saw young men being marched off to war; and he didn't want to use his talent as an exemption. It's different.

The day Pat was killed outside Manah, officialdom developed a multiple personality disorder. On the one hand, there was bureaucrat's panic, because it was known almost at once that this was a case of "fratricide." On the other hand, the scriptwriters smelled a story with Pat's corpse propped up like a Greek statue that would draw all eyes away from the debacle of Fallujah-Najaf and the wanton racist cruelty of Abu Ghraib. So there was the bureaucrat's instinct to hide the facts in a period of waning legitimation; and there was the flack's instinct to tell a lie. Hiding a thing and lying about it are two different things, and they can be contradictory. That's how both the hiding and the lying began to unravel.

At the highest levels, there was a decision to be made about how far one could get away with the lie in the short term, and hide their own complicity in case the lie was exposed in the long term.

On April 29, Major General Stanley McChrystal -- commander of the task force that the Rangers served in Afghanistan, and head of the most secretive joint-service force in the US military -- sent a memo to John Abizaid, telling him to warn everyone all the way to Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, an investigation "will find that it is highly possible Cpl. Tillman was killed by friendly fire... I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public."

No reference to telling the truth... "which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public."

According to an unnamed source, Abizaid misled Congress on August 1, 2007, when he stated that this memo -- from the General in theater who directed the most politically-sensitive and secret operations in the military, which include units like Delta Force (now operating under a new name) -- did not "reach him" for "10 to 20 days."

This memo, it must be assumed, was a living organism that had to exercise its own initiative to "reach" its intended recipient.

Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire --instead of the enemy fire described in a fraudulent Silver Star citation drafted by officers who knew how Pat was killed -- was explosive news. Yet on August 1, 2007, Rumsfeld, his former-Joint Chiefs Chair Myers, and the ex-CENTCOM Commander John Abizaid -- not one of them -- could remember when, where, or how they learned of this explosive news.

We’re talking about a man at the top whose middle name was "Micromanager".

Aug 10, 2007

Show-Me-The-Metrics Command Emphasis and the Death of Pat Tillman

Many readers here are probably familiar with the fact that perception management activities suddenly become necessary after an unanticipated politically sensitive event such as the death of CPL Pat Tillman.

Stan Goff -- in the first part of a three-part series -- argues that it was the Pentagon's institutional emphasis upon domestic influence that led to decisions on the ground that resulted in Tillman's death itself.

The context for everything that happened after Pat's death requires this Pentagon propaganda-emphasis be center stage. Some people already understand this. What is not well understood is that this propaganda-emphasis likely played a central role in creating the conditions for Pat's death in the first place. Let me give that special emphasis, too:

The decision to split the Blacksheep Platoon on April 22 was forced on a platoon leader who stated to his superiors that splitting the platoon in this terrain would require a half-assed preparation cycle and potentially create a dangerous break in inter-platoon communications. This directive was designed with one purpose in mind: to be able to state that the platoon had reached their "target" on time. A timeline (a bureaucratic checklist) drove this decision -- not the intelligence. The push to provide evidence of "progress" in Afghanistan -- using the Rumsfeldian "metrics" of quantification -- as a counterweight to the bad news from the Fallujah-Najaf rebellions and the breaking Abu Ghraib scandal, created the sense of urgency throughout military commands there to send reports confirming that X number of missions were completed in X amount of time.

Military and Executive Branch perception management consultants develop expensive, detailed programs, employing an army of public relations experts. Just as Rumsfeld hired more than 20,000 private mercenaries to fill in the gaps in Iraq and to conduct activities that escape Congressional oversight, the Bush administration (like the Clinton administration before it) hired private contractors whose sole purpose in life is to re-construct the war in Southwest Asia as a story – using story conventions with which the American public is familiar and comfortable – conventions that resonate emotionally and mythically with our entertainment-media "social imaginary." That's the connection between the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch sagas. ...

This is how things work in the military. There is a fetish for quantification. "Accomplishments" are measured with extreme empiricism, presented in bullet-points that give numbers. This is true of performance evaluations and operational checklists.

The reason this is important in the story of Pat Tillman's death by fratricide is that the majority of readers -- even military veterans of a single enlistment -- are not familiar with military culture. They have impressions formed primarily by entertainment media that are generally downright silly.

Descriptions of doctrine, regulations, policies and procedures tell about ten percent of the story of what the military is. The other ninety percent can only be understood culturally. ...

When Cross-Functional Team Commander David Hodne was at the TOC in Khowst, he was a Major -- normally a staff rank (as opposed to a command rank). This was his opportunity in a cannibalistic OPMS to shine ... the shining demonstrated through bullet-points with numbers. The Blacksheep Platoon was due -- according to the mission timeline -- to conduct operations in Manah – not a high priority target -- "no later than" April 22, 2004. Whether that made sense in the real world, after the unexpected delay of a busted Hummer, was irrelevant.

The threat of missing a mission time is a source of extreme anxiety for any military officer.

To this we must add that this is Rumsfeld's military in 2004. A nuttier empiricist would be hard to find. Rumsfeld, who stole other people's ideas, then bastardized them in his grandiose imagination, had taken this arithmetic fetish and renamed it as part of the "Rumsfeld doctrine", which he called (with typical self-promoting grandiosity) "the Revolution in Military Affairs."

Rumsfeld's concept of Network-centric Warfare (NCW, a scalar bastardization of Col. John Boyd's warfighting theories, which were originally applied to individual air combat) measures success with "metrics," that is, with obsessive quantification. An interview with DoD Deputy Secretary for Public Affairs, Lawrence DeRita (one of Rumsfeld's closest advisors), gives a good example of this "metrics approach" and how it translates from operations into propaganda. Notice the emphasis on numbers in this quote:

Since it began last week, Victory Bounty has netted nearly 70 former Fedayeen fighters, including several general and field grade officers. The daily raids and patrols that our troops conduct every day are steadily and deliberately building a more stable and secure Iraq. On average, coalition forces are conducting almost 2,000 patrols every day, hundreds of night patrols, and many of those are conducted jointly with the Iraqi police.

This is really just an extrapolation of MacNamaran "body counts," but Rumsfeld thinks himself a military genius.

The point is -- at Donald Rumsfeld's level, where the war had to be justified to the American populace -- the bullet-points showing "accomplishments" were in demand from the highest offices of the military for inclusion into press releases and briefings.

In the psychological operations being directed at the American populace, which enjoy elevated importance when public support for the war is waning, this show-me-the-metrics command emphasis cascades down through the chain of command like an avalanche. It is facilitated by bureaucratic overinterpretation of command guidance. The emphasis from the top does not diminish as it moves further from the source; it is amplified by the desire to please the boss at every level. This process was in turn amplified by the personality of Donald Rumsfeld: autocratic, vengeful, and micromanagerial.

War is seen by officers as a career opportunity. This essential context is not taken up by Congress or the press, because you get into trouble when you deviate from ritual displays of fealty to US militarism. Congress, the press, the entertainment media, and the public have all taken the de facto loyalty oath that says never speak ill of the military. Militarism is our culture, our religion, and our economy.

This is precisely why we had to witness that awful fawning over Rumsfeld, Meyers, and Abizaid by Congress; and it is why no one was going to follow up on Dennis Kucinich's question about public relations firms working for the Department of Defense. He was trying to establish how important managing public perception at home is to the war effort, and how heavy the command emphasis was at this particular time to do two things simultaneously: (1) shift the focus off of Iraq' serial disasters, and (2) show how glowingly good everything was going in Afghanistan.