Oct 26, 2011

A Motocrossin' Karzai Under Moonlit Firmament

Think my chronic (intermittently as such) dinner-date is vectoring POTUS'ward. We agree on nuthin' but manners and appreciation of certain harsh & easy geo-climes (Fla.& Baltics). Comity makes the world go 'round, an effwit was heard a mutterin'

Just saw that Karzai ("I will side with PAK in a conflict with US") will be receiving a visit from McChrystal. Which contractor McC will be representing is a mystery for now.  But SMC 101 would argue to look skeptically at stuff like this:
“Karzai has always liked to feel he had a special relationship with the Americans beyond with the ambassador,” said Bruce Riedel, who conducted the first review of Pakistan and Afghanistan policy for President Obama in early 2009.

“This could be a way to develop a useful back channel for Karzai, as well as a back channel for the administration. It could let McChrystal say things that might not be all the politic for Ryan Crocker to say.”
Hilarious, considering that Karzai is an entirely created and owned product of the same folkz who used to sign Riedel's paycheck 
The reality is in this head. Mine. I'm the projector at the planetarium, all the closed little universe visible in the circle of that stage is coming out of my mouth, eyes, and sometimes other orifices also. --Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49

Bioterrorism Preparedness - Shortcomings & Clusterfuckery

Next Sunday's NYT Magazine will feature a piece on possible shortcomings (and actual clusterfuckery) in US preparedness against bioterrorism.

The Article explains why we have not yet developed a needed new Anthrax vaccine:

Five years later, the cancellation of that contract is still a matter of fierce debate in biodefense circles. Many experts say that the decision had less to do with science than politics. Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, recently studied the role that lobbying may have played in VaxGen’s demise. Between 2004 and 2006, Lilly writes in a new study, the company that produced the old anthrax vaccine, which is now called Emergent BioSolutions, employed an army of lobbyists to undermine the VaxGen contract. “Each time VaxGen’s test results were less than had been hoped for,” the report says, “Emergent pounded VaxGen with a highly orchestrated campaign to overstate the problems and discourage government support of the effort.” 


General Russell, who led the early countermeasure program, told me: “It was Emergent lobbying that killed VaxGen. Period. Emergent bought the Congress. Congress killed VaxGen.” Several current officials share Russell’s view. When I asked one senior biodefense official about the lack of a new anthrax vaccine, the official nearly exploded: “Why don’t we have a second-generation anthrax vaccine? The reason is Emergent lobbying!” Even the director of Barda, Robin Robinson, acknowledged that politics played a role in the decision. “Should we have kept it? I think there’s a long debate,” he said. “They had brought in some really top-flight people in there, and Lance Gordon was really good at judging talent. Unfortunately, there was a lot of political pressure.”

Soon after the VaxGen contract failed, the company folded into another, and Emergent bought the rights to develop the new anthrax vaccine it had spent three years lobbying against. Abdun-Nabi told me his company was still trying to develop that vaccine, but critics question whether Emergent, which signed another contract this month to deliver $1.25 billion more of the old vaccine to the stockpile, is pursuing the replacement vaccine as enthusiastically as possible. “They bought the technology and buried it,” Russell says. “We are five or six years behind where we should be. We should be working on a third-generation vaccine.”

There are disagreements over how far afield we should be looking past the two main bioterror threats: smallpox and anthrax:

In fact, other than the vaccines for anthrax and smallpox, there are no vaccines in the stockpile for any other agents on the material-threat list, nor are any of those vaccines in the advanced development program, nor will any of them enter the program any time soon.


Many agents on the list, Fauci said, were a product of the cold war, when the U.S. military kept a list of “Category A” pathogens being developed by the Soviet bioweapons program. “So when the decision was made to make an investment into developing countermeasures,” he told me, “that was essentially their matrix from the beginning: these are what we know the Soviets had. We know they have stockpiles. This is what we’re going to protect against.” He mentioned the bacterium glanders, which was reportedly used by Germany in World War I and by Japan in World War II but seemed to Fauci a comparatively minor threat today. “I think the unknown threat of a mutant microbe is infinitely greater than someone coming and dropping a glanders on us!” he said. “I mean, seriously! Get real about that!”

When I mentioned Fauci’s comments to O’Toole, who oversees the biological-threat list at the Department of Homeland Security, she said he was “completely wrong” to suggest that the list is rooted in cold-war thinking. “We use current intelligence as an integral part of every material-threat determination,” O’Toole said. “I’m surprised anyone in N.I.H. would think otherwise, particularly since the details of the material-threat determination process are briefed at the White House. It does raise a troubling question about how seriously N.I.H. is engaged in the biodefense mission.”

Whether or not Fauci is right about the origins of the material-threat list, his observation that a natural outbreak is more likely than a biological attack is difficult to dispute. Each year, seasonal flu leads to about 200,000 hospitalizations and several thousand deaths in the United States. Although a biological attack could be much larger, there is no certainty that such an attack will ever happen. How to balance the unlikely but catastrophic potential of bioterror with the steady advance of natural disease is one of the most puzzling challenges for biodefense policy going forward.

To some extent, this is also a question of framework. Fundamentally, the countermeasure program is a public-health project, yet with its reliance on classified intelligence and secret-threat assessments, it is more closely aligned in many respects with the methodology of other national-security projects. Where biodefense fits into government bureaucracy will have a profound impact on its financing. In public health, the $12 billion necessary to develop new vaccines for a dozen material-threat agents can seem a towering, even absurd, figure. Within the realm of national security, the same amount represents less than a quarter of the cost of the military’s experiment with the V-22 Osprey heli-plane, or about what the U.S. will spend in Afghanistan between now and Christmas.

“We spent trillions of dollars in the cold war preparing for a potential nuclear exchange that never occurred,” says Kenneth Bernard, who was the senior biodefense official in the Clinton White House from 1998 to 2001 and then again in the Bush White House from 2002 to 2005. “We’re not spending that kind of money to prevent a bio attack because the people who work on biology are not trained to think like that. They are much more interested in dealing with the three particular strains of influenza that are in the dish this year than they are in thinking about a plague attack in 2018.”

Oct 21, 2011

SMC 101

SMC 101: 1) US Knew. 2) MIL Advisors Went. 3) ISR Yes.

and on the bigger story,

New tactical PSYOP tool operational day before yesterday (was supposed to be rolled out Nov 1). This much good to go, will ID when we get green light.

New tool fits seamlessly into existing PSYOP toolkit. SMC twit followers may have to twist in the wind an hour or two to get exact details

Approved for operational use (incl. detainee operations with permission of battalion commander).  Lulu.

Oct 16, 2011

Another Whistle Stop for the Caldwellville Express — Registan.net

Fine piece at Registan by Dan Smock. He is right about Caldwell's dog and pony show. And about the manipulation of the numbers.

And on the manip, today's NYT brings us the newest installment of "lets show progress in Afghanistan" (by dropping whole categories of attacks from the publicly released assessments.)

The real numbers are worse. We have this on the best of authority.

Some may think this is merely this generation's version of the "five-o-clock follies", and that the deception of the American citizens is being done for our own good. That would be to put a too charitable interpretation on the situation.

Everyone snickers and shrugs their shoulders at the fact that USG/MIL cannot learn shit (and that they have no institutional memory for lessons learned from past fuckups). Always they are assumed to be covered by the best of intentions. Saw the same thing in Iraq.

Nope, an established pattern like this is malfeasance (and misfeasance too, for any lawyers in the house). Clearly being influenced (even ordered) from the political level.

Not to mention that the people in that part of the world aren't buying it.

PS: In case the above sounds excessively cunty, I just meant to emphasize that there is no legitimate reason for them to pull this kind of shit. They could claim that morale operations - both of allied troops and the home front - are legitimate. Or that they are trying to influence the enemy.

But our troops mostly know the truth, and same with the enemy. This leaves the true audience for the message - the American people. Domestic morale operations today ain't like in WWII. Now they are only for CYA and to keep the $pigot flowing as long as possible.

Oct 15, 2011

The Plot is Kosher

Last week, a contact gave us a quick sitrep on the Quds Force/Saudi Amb allegation.

"The plot is kosher."

For a few seconds we were thinking we were off base in our impression that it was sheer bullshittery.

Until the source elaborated.

Curveball...AluminumTubes ... TheBritishGovernmentHasLearned ... ", and about 5 or 6 other plums.  Laughing, we were tempted to ask him to repeat the tirade, but didn't want to be thought of as twats.

We took it as confirmation of our original thesis.

Ray McGovern has reached the same conclusion:

There used to be real pros in the CIA’s operations directorate. One — Ray Close, a longtime CIA Arab specialist and former Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia — told me on Wednesday that we ought to ask ourselves a very simple question:

"If you were an Iranian undercover operative who was under instructions to hire a killer to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., why in HELL would you consider it necessary to explain to a presumed Mexican [expletive deleted] that this murder was planned and would be paid for by a secret organization in Iran?

"Whoever concocted this tale wanted the ‘plot’ exposed … to precipitate a major crisis in relations between Iran and the United States. Which other government in the Middle East would like nothing better than to see those relations take a big step toward military confrontation?"


Another point on the implausibility meter is: What are the odds that Iran’s Quds force would plan an unprecedented attack in the United States, that this crack intelligence agency would trust the operation to a used-car salesman with little or no training in spycraft, that he would turn to his one contact in a Mexican drug cartel who happens to be a DEA informant, and that upon capture the car salesman would immediately confess and implicate senior Iranian officials?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to suspect that Arbabsiar might be a double-agent, recruited by some third-party intelligence agency to arrange some shady business deal regarding black-market automobiles, get some ambiguous comments over the phone from an Iranian operative, and then hand the plot to the U.S. government on a silver platter – as a way to heighten tensions between Washington and Teheran?


Oct 12, 2011

The Quds Force Plot Bullshittery Falling Apart - Already

Intel types are skeptical about the Quds Force plot story. Lets just put it this way, Justice has had more solid cases than this one.

Meanwhile, someone wishes Americans to think there is some debate as to the geopolitical outcome of our Iraq endeavor. Vacuum Is Feared as U.S. Quits Iraq, but Iran’s Deep Influence May Not Fill It .

To all of the people who believe that - by our efforts since 2003 - the U.S. has empowered a regime in Iraq that is in bed with Iran, we are served a corrective by the governor of Najaf:

"Before 2003, 90 percent of Najaf people liked Iranians,” said the governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, who has lived in Chicago and Michigan and holds American citizenship. “Now, 90 percent hate them."
A slight qualification is proffered:
But winning over the clerics will not be easy. Certainly, some officials, including Mr. Zurufi — who was appointed governor of Najaf in 2004 by L. Paul Bremer III, then the top American administrator in Iraq, and later elected to the post in 2009 — are pro-American, but the clerical establishment, which is less receptive to American influence, wields more power over the people.

Not only did the Americans refuse a request by Mr. Zurufi and other officials to open a consulate in Najaf, the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Najaf actually shut down earlier than scheduled this summer after local clerical pressure, particularly from officials loyal to Mr. Sadr, who spends most of his time in Iran

The above NYT piece will have served its purpose if it supplies a useful talking point in support of the "we won in Iraq" crowd - that the Iraqis hate Iran. Fair enough.

But wait, maybe everything is not peachy after all. Iraq, siding with Iran, sends essential aid to Syria’s Assad.
More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.
The timing for a pressure op against Iran couldn't be better.

If Iran was gonna play kinetic amateur hour in Washington D.C., why would they have gone to the trouble of releasing our "hikers"? A "power struggle" in Tehran? (Not to mention that there are softer places closer to the Middle East for them to pull this kind of shit.)

And do they no longer have their proxies? Or their tradecraft?

Nope, bullshittery is bullshittery any way you cut it.

Can't wait for the first mention of "chatter."

Oct 5, 2011

Overclassification Clusterf*ck

A piece on the overclassification clusterfuck readied for today's NYT.

No wonder nobody - some exceptions notwithstanding ;-)  - can predict shit when it comes to international and national security matters.

Everything has devolved into overclassification, bullshittery and related shortcomings. The proof is in the pudding.

Maybe our technology will come to our rescue and make policy decisions for us.  Cant do much worse.