Friday, December 6, 2002

I guess this doesn't qualify for justifiable homicide, even in Texas.

Reuters (from
Texan Killed Friend Who Drank Last Cold Beer
Fri Dec 6,10:15 AM ET

BANDERA, Texas (Reuters) - A jury on Thursday handed a life prison sentence to a Texas man who shot and killed a longtime friend he accused of drinking the last beer in his refrigerator.

Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before passing the sentence on Steven Brasher, 42, for the murder of Willie Lawson, 39, on Nov. 5 last year.

"There was only two beers left, so I took one, and I told Willie not to take my last beer," Brasher said in a taped statement that was played during the trial.

Testimony showed Brasher shot Lawson in the head with a pistol after the two began arguing over the missing beer. Brasher maintained the shooting was an accident.
More on reservists and the requirements driving their callup...

This story from GovExec.Com is related to the Wall St Journal/NY Times stories on reservist callups. One major reason for calling up so many reservists after Sept. 11 was the greatly increased requirement for "force protection" at U.S. military bases. With the Pentagon now authorized to hire civilian guards for this purpose, the number of reservists required for long-term security needs may drop significantly.

Generally, this is a good thing. We don't invest thousands of dollars (and man hours) in training soldiers how to be infantrymen and military police to be gate guards. The assignment of troops to these jobs has a enormously destructive effect on unit morale -- and long-term unit readiness. Serving in these capacities saps a unit's ability to train on its warfighting tasks, especially those complex collective tasks that require weeks of focused training. 'Gate guard' duty also destroys the morale of reserve unit. It's hard to tell a soldier who is pulled away from his job and family for 6-12 months that his service is relevant when he's pulling guard duty outside a base in Central Texas.
December 5, 2002
Law Allows Contractors To Help Guard Military Bases
By Jason Peckenpaugh

The Defense Department can use contractors to guard military bases in limited cases under the 2003 Defense Authorization Act signed Monday by President Bush.
Section 332 of the law allows military installations to hire contract security guards to meet new base security requirements prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The provision amends an existing statute (Section 2465 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code), which prohibits Defense from using contractors as security guards or firefighters.
Contractors may not be hired for security jobs that existed before Sept. 11, and cannot be used to replace civilian Defense employees under the new measure.
But Defense can use contract guards to relieve military personnel who have logged increased guard duty since Sept. 11. Defense officials pushed for this flexibility, which they argued would aid readiness and improve security at some bases.
Contractors were pleased by the measure, although it is unclear how much work could go to the private sector as a result of the law. "Everybody has had new security requirements, and it will be interesting what kind of opportunities might be out there," said Mark Wagner, vice president of government relations for Johnson Controls, Inc., a Florida-based contractor.
Authority to use contract guards would expire after three years under Section 332, so Defense could not award long-term security contracts. The new law does not affect the existing ban on hiring contract firefighters.
These curbs made the new provision more acceptable to federal unions, according to Joe Lopes, a legislative representative with the American Federation of Government Employees. "We like having the sunset clause, and we like having it limited to meeting specific needs created since Sept. 11," he said. "So with those limitations we stomach it better than we would have otherwise."

On the subject of military reservist callups, Greg Jaffe and Christopher Cooper have an informative (and accurate) piece in today's Wall St. Journal that's worth a quick read. (see below) Unlike Eric Schmitt of The New York Times, Mr. Jaffe and Mr. Cooper took the time to write a piece that was accurate and which omitted much of the speculation in Mr. Schmitt's piece that these reservists were being called up for Iraq. Kudos to the Wall St Journal for its journalistic patience, and for having its reporters follow up on a big story to get the facts. This is an area where newspapers should be more cautious, and try harder to get the story right, rather than first.

Wall Street Journal
December 6, 2002
Pentagon May Call Up Reservists To Help Shore Up Base Security

By Greg Jaffe and Christopher Cooper, Staff Reporters Of The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is considering calling up about 9,000 soldiers to relieve Air Force reservists about to start their second year on active duty, a senior Pentagon official said.
The official said the potential call-up isn't related to a possible war with Iraq and is "a short-term solution" to the need for additional security at military bases, mostly in the continental U.S., since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Those most likely to be called up are Army National Guard soldiers. The Pentagon official said it isn't clear whether the call-ups would come before Christmas or during early January.
If President Bush decides to invade Iraq, the total call-up of reservists could exceed 200,000 troops, many of whom would be deployed to guard against terror attacks on U.S. military facilities at home and abroad. While one plan circulated in the Pentagon suggests the total Army call-up could run as high as 125,000 reservists, the final number would depend on factors including the length of a conflict and the extent to which U.S. allies supply troops. The Pentagon has requested troops from several North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations with the hope they could be assigned to provide security at bases in Europe should troops at those bases be deployed to fight Iraq, a senior defense official said.
Typically, when the Pentagon calls up reservists, it first issues a so-called alert order, notifying reservists of a potential call-up. That is followed by a mobilization order, giving reservists a date to report for active duty. "We absolutely haven't seen an increase in alert orders in recent days or weeks. We are not in anything close to a peak period," an Army official familiar with personnel matters said.
After meeting with officials from NATO countries in Brussels, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said he received strong support for the U.S. policy on Iraq. Several countries pledged to support U.S. forces by providing troops if needed. The more support the U.S. gets from NATO nations, the smaller the reserve call-up in the U.S. is likely to be.
is no subject to be taken lightly. The New York Times has a tremendously well-researched article today on the recent outbreaks of Norwalk virus aboard cruise ships. This article (excerpted below) highlights some major issues for American anti-terrorism planners in preventing/responding bioterrorist attacks on Americans at home and abroad.

Imagine for a second that these viruses were intentionally passed to the tourists aboard these ships. A terrorist group could have waited for these tourists to arrive in a vacation spot like Jamaica (not known for its anti-terrorism law enforcement efforts), procured a beat-up taxicab, and met the tourists as they disembarked for a port call. All the terrorist would have to do is spread some of the virus in the backseat and on the doors -- not hard to do with a fecal-oral virus like this. Biology would do the rest. The use of a non-lethal, relatively harmless bug this time was intentional. This is reconnaissance. In this hypothetical scenario, the terrorists are conducting reconnaissance to determine American respones times, quarantine procedures, scrubbing procedures, etc. However, the reconnaissance itself has somewhat of a disruptive effect, so it's not entirely harmless.

Now imagine for a second all of the potential means that bioterrorism vectors (aka humans) could enter this country. They could come in over land borders, e.g. through the U.S./Mexican port of entry at Tijuana. They could fly in on international flights. They could come in by sea. They could ferry in from Canada. The list goes on. Currently, the front line of defense for detecting sick people entering the U.S. is relatively weak. Unless you're hacking up phlegm on an airliner in quantities that a flight attendant would notice, you're not going to set off any alarms. It's entirely possible that you could enter the country through completely legal means carrying a virus or bacterial infection without anyone ever knowing.

Next, think of the viruses/bugs that could be used. One option is the sexy, deadly type of bug like Ebola or smallpox. But those may be too lethal, too hard to get through -- and too easily detectable. A more sophisticated terrorist might choose instead to use a strain of tuberculosis which is "multiple drug resistant", or MDR. Such strains of TB could then mutate in the U.S. and create tremendous secondary and tertiary difficulties for American medicine. And ultimately, these bugs could release a TB epidemic which American doctors are incapable of treating. The same can be done with strep, staph, and other bugs. The goal might not be to kill people outright, but to make a tremendous number of Americans sick. Terrorists don't always aim to kill -- sometimes they aim to disrupt.

Again, there's no current cause for alarm. This is all my speculation, based on my background and reading of several important books on the subject (including 'Germs' by the NY Times reporters Judith Miller and William Broad; and 'The Coming Plague' by Laurie Garrett). But if this is a new terrorist threat, we must act fast. The defenses in this area are thin, and we cannot afford to keep wasting money on airport/airliner/border security while leaving ourselves vulnerable to other, more clandestine threats.

The New York Times
December 6, 2002
Virus Rattles Cruise Industry and Health Officials

The reports from the Caribbean cruise ship Oceana began arriving at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late on Tuesday. By Wednesday night, the picture was disturbingly familiar: 117 on board were violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea, the same symptoms that had laid low passengers on three other ships in the last two months.

A common and highly contagious infection, caused by a germ known as a Norwalk-like virus, has been confirmed on two of the ships and is suspected on the other two. Since October, the virus has sickened at least 900 passengers and crew members on cruise ships.

The outbreaks are creating a mystery for federal health officials and are rattling passengers and cruise company executives. Norwalk-like viruses have hit ships before, but health officials said they did not know why the recent outbreaks were occurring, and they said the recent burst of cases appeared to be an increase over previous years.

The nature of the viruses — they are common, hardy, highly contagious and hard to track — raises the possibility that periodic outbreaks on ships may be inevitable, one more risk that the traveling public must factor into the calculation of whether to book tickets or stay home. The tight quarters of a ship provide ideal conditions for contagious germs like Norwalk viruses to multiply.

Thursday, December 5, 2002

On Saturday, football players representing America's finest sons and daughters at the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy will meet on the field of battle -- Giants Stadium outside New York City. Both the New York Times and USA Today have thoughtful pieces reflecting on this game and its importance for a nation at war.

There has always been a close connection between athletics and warriors -- from the time that Athenian and Spartan warriors trained for war through sport until now. Several of America's most prominent military leaders and political leaders of the 20th Century have commented on this, and I have collected some of their quotes below.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur: "Upon the fields of friendly strife, are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory."

Gen. George C. Marshall (during World War II): "I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "I consider it deeply significant, that in all my many commands during three major war conflicts, I have never had to relieve an officer from duty under combat fire who had competed in varsity football during his collegiate days."

President John F. Kennedy: "Physical fitness is the basis of all the activities of our society. Only if our citizens are fit - mentally and physically - will they be capable of the effort and determination needed to meet the great and vital challenges that surely will confront our nation."

President John F. Kennedy: "Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. Much is not yet understood. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound gods."

I want to plug another 'blog for those interested in timely and intelligent analysis of important issues related to law, security, military affairs, and society at large. It's hosted by my friend Chris Baker, a fellow UCLA law student who served 7 years as a U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer before law school. Chris' perspective is one not easily found on the op-ed pages of America, and it's one I think is very valuable. The address is

If you've seen the movie or read the book Black Hawk Down, you'll understand why the New York Times story below equates to a nightmare scenario for American infantry who might have to fight in Iraqi cities.

When Delta Force soldiers and Army Rangers went into Mogadishu on 3 Oct 93, they did not fight regular Somali soldiers -- or even militiamen. They principally faced citizens who had been armed to the teeth by various factions as part of the ongoing security problems in that nation. Men, women and children all carried weapons. The entire city became an armed enclave of death, and every hootch potentially contained an amateur sniper.

The arming of Iraq's citizenry could create the same situation in cities like Baghdad or Basra. Currently, the major threat to U.S. forces is the Iraqi Army, not the citizens. In fact, Saddam has purposefully not allowed his citizens to own weapons because of the threat that an armed citizenry usually poses to a dictator. But this could reflect a new strategy on Saddam's part, to increase his survivability by turning Iraq's population centers into death grounds for American infantry. It may also be an economy-of-force tactic -- Saddam may not have the tanks or infantry to strongpoint his own cities, so he will use his citizens instead.

This move also raises issues relating to international law and the law of war. If Saddam purposefully arms his citizenry and turns his population centers into fortified complexes, then he will have made these areas legitimate targets for the U.S. This creates a problem though. Though the U.S. may be justified in striking these population centers, it would probably not want to, because doing so would kill large numbers of civilians. (CNN would undoubtedly broadcast this to the world) Thus, the U.S. would face a dilemma. Bomb the cities, kill the armed citizens, and face world condemnation. Leave the cities alone, bypass them, and then remain a thorn in your side. Invade the cities with infantry, and you have a bloodbath. There may be no easy answer to this one.

New York Times
December 5, 2002

Iraq Official Says Nation Is Armed For War

By The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 — Iraq is preparing for war and has distributed "hundreds of thousands, if not millions" of guns to its people to fend off an American-led attack, the country's deputy prime minister said today.
Tariq Aziz, who is one of Saddam Hussein's closest advisers, said that while Baghdad hopes to avoid a war, "we are taking all necessary precautions to defend our country."
In an interview with Ted Koppel broadcast on the ABC News program "Nightline," Mr. Aziz asserted that virtually every Iraqi household had weapons to use against an invading force. The government's decision to arm ordinary citizens, he said, demonstrated its popular support.
"We are the only country in the world, the only government in the world, who gives weapons to its people," Mr. Aziz said. "And that's because we are sure of the attitude of our people. You can find a gun in every house in Iraq."
Mr. Aziz, who served as his country's chief diplomat during the Persian Gulf war in 1991, asserted that American officials were mistaken if they thought Iraqis would welcome an invasion.
"All these guns will be used against any invasion of Iraq — not against the leadership and the government of Iraq," he said.
Asked whether war was inevitable, Mr. Aziz said it would take a "miracle" to avert an attack.

In a bit of shameless self promotion, I'd like to refer you to my latest article, which was published in the December issue of the Washington Monthly.

Here's an excerpt from the piece, titled "War Dames -- If America invades Iraq, thousands of female U.S. soldiers will fight on the front lines."

Last February, as the sun rose over a parched California desert, tanks from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade reached a large enemy minefield. Their orders were to secure a hilltop in the enemy's rear area. But until combat engineers could clear a path, the tanks would be sitting ducks for nearby tank and artillery fire. And without cover, the engineers would likewise be pinned down.

At the prearranged moment, a column of armored smoke vehicles commanded by Capt. Streigel of the 46th Chemical Company threaded its way cautiously forward, laying down a thick haze to mask the engineer teams. In less than an hour, the engineers had opened a gap and 1st Brigade moved through to its objective, thanks to the precision teamwork under fire of Streigel's soldiers and the other ground units.

Like most battles at the National Training Center, this one was hard--the closest approximation to combat that the Army can create in peacetime and a rigorous test for the military's newest tactics and equipment. As war looms with Iraq, these training exercises, along with others taking place in the Louisiana swamps and on the German plains, assess combat skills before the real bullets start to fly. The California exercise in particular was a good indicator of how American soldiers will fight a war against Iraq--and also how much has changed since the Gulf War. Over the last decade, the Army has digitized its equipment, upgraded its tanks, and added capabilities like peacekeeping to its mission, all part of a sustained, high-profile effort to adapt to war in the 21st century.

But one quieter transformation was also on display in the desert: Capt. Streigel--first name: Jennifer --is a woman. Ten years ago, Streigel could never have commanded a front-line chemical company in the U.S. Army. But the next time the United States goes into battle, women will be as close to the front lines as any infantryman. During its minefield operation, Streigel's company fought shoulder to shoulder with the combat engineers and deployed more armored vehicles than a tank company--and four of its five officers were women. In fact, Streigel is just one of thousands of women who, since the Gulf War, have been steadily migrating to assignments that place them at or near the line of battle.

Since the Gulf victory in 1991, a series of largely unnoticed policy changes have opened new opportunities for women to fight alongside, and even to lead, front-line troops. The Navy and Air Force, with some fanfare, allowed women into the cockpits of fighters and bombers. But less well known is how vastly the Army has expanded the role of women in ground-combat operations. Today, women command combat military police companies, fly Apache helicopters, work as tactical intelligence analysts, and even serve in certain artillery units--jobs that would have been unthinkable for them a decade ago. In any war in Iraq, these changes could put thousands of women in the midst of battle, far more than at any time in American history.

Click here for the full article.

The New York Times front page contained an article by Eric Schmitt detailing Pentagon plans to mobilize at least 10,000 reservists immediately, and up to 200,000 in the near future, to support the ongoing war on terrorism and any future action against Iraq.

First, this isn't news. In fact, it may be an unqualified misreading of tea leaves by Mr. Schmitt, who has demonstrated this problem. (On several occasions, he has imputed significance to regularly-scheduled exercises and other normal DoD activities that simply didn't exist) Second, this may be another Pentagon deception effort aimed to spook Saddam (and the UN) into thinking that we're serious about Iraq. Calling up the reserves takes a tremendous amount of money and political capital -- this move affects voters in every county in America. The NY Times has served as a vehicle for Pentagon deception efforts before, such as the repeated publishing of "official" U.S. war plans for Iraq.

Moreover, the aggregate callup of reservists doesn't necessarily mean anything. I'd be interested to see a breakdown of which units, and where they are deployed to. I'm guessing such information is classified now, but after the mobilization, it would be useful for some reporter to dig it up. That's the kind of information that would indicate we are heading to war in Iraq; not the generic news that reservists are being called up.

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Another point emerges from today's Padilla decision is that procedure matters. There are two U.S. citizens currently being held by the Defense Department as 'enemy combatants' -- Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. A closer look at both these cases reveals a number of key procedural differences, some of which may account for the differences in the way the 4th Circuit and U.S. District Court have looked at each case.

Yasser Hamdi (U.S. citizen by birth)
- Thought to be a Taliban or Al Qaeda partisan; initially detained in Afghanistan
- Initially detained by foreign miltiary officers; transferred to U.S. military custody; never subject to the U.S. criminal system
- Immediately labeled a 'combatant' by virtue of the circumstances of his battlefield capture
- Alleged to have committed acts more akin to basic soldiering, including fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance
- First detained in Afghanistan; then transferred to Guantanamo; then transferred to U.S. military confinement facility
- Did not have an attorney with a pre-existing attorney/client relationship

Jose Padilla (U.S. citizen by birth)
- Thought to be Al Qaeda operative; initially detained in the U.S.
- Initially arrested by federal law enforcement officials on a material-witness charge; later transferred to military custody
- Subsequently labeled an 'enemy combatant'
- Alleged to have conspired to commit acts of terrorism, specifically, the employment of a radiologic dispersal device ('dirty bomb') targeted at civilians within the United States
- First detained in a U.S. criminal-detention facility; subsequently transferred to a military confinement facility
- Had an attorney as part of previous criminal-court appearance who could appear as 'next friend' in court

The key procedural distinction is that Jose Padilla was initially detained by federal law-enforcement officials -- not the U.S. military. The facts add up to one ultimate conclusion: Yasser Hamdi looks more like the classic case of a battlefield prisoner, something long recognized as legitimate in international and domestic law. Jose Padilla looks more like a criminal or terrorist, a category also recognized in international and domestic law, but something for which we allow legal process in the civilian court system. The U.S. District Court has yet to rule on the merits of Mr. Padilla's claim; only that he has a right to make it. However, I think these procedural differences will matter when the courts ultimately take up his substantive claims.

A federal judge in New York today ruled that alleged terrorist Jose Padilla had the right to consult an attorney, and challenge his determination as an 'enemy combatant.' This is a major case, and its implications will matter a great deal for the way the U.S. government prosecutes the war on terrorism. The U.S. District Court judge took great pains to write a thoughtful and lengthy opinion, which is available on

I have not read the entire opinion yet, and will update my analysis later in the day. Here are some initial thoughts:
1) The decision recognizes two very important things: the right to Mr. Padilla to consult an attorney, and to petition an Art. III court for review of his determination as a combatant. The President (through the Justice Department and Defense Department) had contended that its determination deserved such extreme deference from the courts that he should not even have these rights. This decision disagrees with that position, and carves out a role for the judiciary in reviewing the quasi-wartime determinations of combatant status by the President and the executive branch.
2) The decision explicitly reserves judgment on the merits of Mr. Padilla's determination. It may well be that he is an enemy combatant, and the President was right to designate him as such. However, the court does not reach such a conclusion yet. It merely says that Mr. Padilla has the right to raise this issue in court, and that the courts have the right to hear and adjudicate it.

More to follow...

The Los Angeles Times contains a story today on the Pentagon's decision to "embed" large numbers of reporters with its air and ground forces in any future war with Iraq. I stand by my earlier analysis, based on the story this weekend by David Shaw. This decision is generally a good thing -- it will increase the transparency of the American war effort and increase the accuracy of the story the American public gets. But it will also skew the story. But embedding reporters, and ensuring that a large chunk of the story comes from the squad, platoon, and company level, the Pentagon will ensure that the majority of this coverage reflects the day-to-day heroism of American's finest sons and daughters at those level. This will take occur to the detriment of "big picture" coverage, since there's only a certain amount of news space on a given day and the glamorous stories from the trenches will almost certainly squeeze out the policy stories.

Reporter Johanna Neuman writes: "It isn't unprecedented for the Pentagon to plant journalists among combat troops. And these reporters wouldn't be the only source of news -- media outlets still plan to send journalists to cover an Iraq war independent of the military, and to cover the briefings expected out of Qatar. But the new policy may put more reporters with troops in battle than in any war since World War II, when reporters wore the uniforms of the units they covered and wrote stories, a la Ernie Pyle, glorifying the heroism of individual soldiers."

This is exactly the nostalgic view of the media that the Pentagon wants to resurrect. By embedding reporters, the Pentagon hopes to bring back the days of Ernie Pyle, Walter Cronkite, Ernest Hemingway, and other great American reporters who covered the American foot soldier. But this will also shape the nature of coverage on a macro-level, and affect the picture of the war received by the American public.

The AP reports (see below) that America may kill its own citizens in the context of the war on terrorism. This revelation comes in the wake of the CIA attack on 6 Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, which included 1 American citizen. This isn't really 'news' though, and the legal context of this issue is somewhat muddled. There are several distinct issues here:

1. The Executive Order prohibiting assassinations would not apply to the Yemen situation, because the men killed were foot soldiers -- not political leaders. Killing soldiers in wartime is the basic act of states engaged in warfare. International law has always recognized the right of states to kill soldiers in war. If, as the facts indicate, these persons were Al Qaeda operatives responsible for the USS Cole attack (and perhaps were planning a future attack), this would only add to the justification. Regardless, this was not an assassination. Killing Saddam Hussein -- or maybe even Osama Bin Ladin -- might qualify as assassination. But the killing of foot soldiers does not.

2. American citizenship, by itself, does not confer an automatic protection against U.S. action in the context of war. When American citizens take up arms against this nation, they are traitors, and subject to the consequences of their action. The mere fact that these were citizens does not enjoin the U.S. from prosecuting the war effort against them. The Supreme Court has held in Ex Parte Quirin that citizenship alone does not protect Americans from the consequences of their wartime acts.

3. Some critics have argued that the use of a CIA-piloted unmanned aerial vehicle and Hellfire missile was a cheap shot -- that we should have waited to be provoked, or waited until some belligerent context to kill these 6 men. Such criticism belies a misunderstanding of warfare. This was both a proportional and necessary act of war; it was precisely targeted; there was no collateral damage. Killing enemy soldiers 'fairly' is a legal and social fiction that has little merit. Smart soldiers don't wait for a fair fight -- they kill their enemies as efficiently, steathily, and rapidly as possible. Only an idiot waits for an open battle to challenge his opponent, and risk friendly casualties. Smart soldiers seize the initiative in warfare.

Dallas Morning News
December 4, 2002

Americans May Be CIA Targets

Agency has authority to kill citizens working for al-Qaeda

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON - American citizens working for al-Qaeda overseas can legally be targeted and killed by the CIA under President Bush's rules for the war on terrorism, U.S. officials say.
The authority to kill U.S. citizens is granted under a secret finding that the president signed after the Sept. 11 attacks. It directs the CIA to covertly attack al-Qaeda anywhere in the world. The authority makes no exception for Americans, officials said.
The officials said the authority will be used only when other options, such as arrests by officials in other countries, fail.
Capturing and questioning al-Qaeda operatives is preferable, even more so if an operative is a U.S. citizen, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Any decision to strike an American would be made at the highest levels, perhaps by the president.
U.S. officials say few Americans are working with al-Qaeda, but they have no specific estimates.
The CIA already has killed one American under this authority, although U.S. officials maintain he wasn't the target.
On Nov. 3, a CIA-operated Predator drone fired a missile that destroyed a carload of suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. The target of the attack, a Yemeni named Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, was the top al-Qaeda operative in that country. Efforts by Yemeni authorities to detain him had previously failed.
But the CIA didn't know a U.S. citizen, Yemeni-American Kamal Derwish, was in the car. He died, along with Mr. al-Harethi and four other Yemenis.

Monday, December 2, 2002

President Bush signed the provision below into law today as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. This is the national-service act that John McCain and others were so big on about a year ago; it's the closest that America will probably get to bringing back the draft. Basically, what it does is shorten the average enlistment term and allow new recruits to choose to serve part of their time in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or another national-service program. It also authorizes some serious incentives, above and beyond what the GI Bill pays.

Anyway, this may develop into a really interesting story if this becomes the `killer app' of military recruiting. There's little newsworthy about it now, because it has yet to be implemented. But this new authorization could dramatically transform the way the U.S. military recruits young people, and the way that future generations serve their nation in and out of uniform.

(a) AUTHORITY- (1) Chapter 31 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 509 the following new section:
`Sec. 510. Enlistment incentives for pursuit of skills to facilitate national service
`(a) ENLISTMENT INCENTIVE PROGRAM- The Secretary of Defense shall carry out an enlistment incentive program in accordance with this section under which a person who is a National Call to Service participant shall be entitled to one of the incentives specified in subsection (e). The program shall be carried out during the period ending on December 31, 2007, and may be carried out after that date.
`(b) NATIONAL CALL TO SERVICE PARTICIPANT- In this section, the term `National Call to Service participant' means a person who has not previously served in the armed forces who enters into an original enlistment pursuant to a written agreement with the Secretary of a military department (in such form and manner as may be prescribed by that Secretary) under which the person agrees to perform a period of national service as specified in subsection (c).
`(c) NATIONAL SERVICE- The total period of national service to which a National Call to Service participant is obligated under the agreement under this section shall be specified in the agreement. Under the agreement, the participant shall--
`(1) upon completion of initial entry training (as prescribed by the Secretary of Defense), serve on active duty in a military occupational specialty designated by the Secretary of Defense under subsection (d) for a period of 15 months;
`(2) upon completion of the period of active duty specified in paragraph (1) and without a break in service, serve either (A) an additional period of active duty as determined by the Secretary of Defense, or (B) a period of 24 months in an active status in the Selected Reserve; and
`(3) upon completion of the period of service specified in paragraph (2), and without a break in service, serve the remaining period of obligated service specified in the agreement--
`(A) on active duty in the armed forces;
`(B) in the Selected Reserve;
`(C) in the Individual Ready Reserve;
`(D) in the Peace Corps, Americorps, or another national service program jointly designated by the Secretary of Defense and the head of such program for purposes of this section; or
`(E) in any combination of service referred to in subparagraphs (A) through (D) that is approved by the Secretary of the military department concerned pursuant to regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense and specified in the agreement.
* * *
`(e) INCENTIVES- The incentives specified in this subsection are as follows:
`(1) Payment of a bonus in the amount of $5,000.
`(2) Payment in an amount not to exceed $18,000 of outstanding principal and interest on qualifying student loans of the National Call to Service participant.
`(3) Entitlement to an allowance for educational assistance at the monthly rate equal to the monthly rate payable for basic educational assistance allowances under section 3015(a)(1) of title 38 for a total of 12 months.
`(4) Entitlement to an allowance for educational assistance at the monthly rate equal to 50 percent of the monthly rate payable for basic educational assistance allowances under section 3015(b)(1) of title 38 for a total of 36 months.
* * *
(The rest of the section is available at, by searching for the enrolled version of H.R. 4546, the 2003 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed by the 107th Congress and signed by the President on 2 Dec 02)

Pulitzer-prize winning media critic David Shaw has a great piece in the 1 Dec 02 edition of the Los Angeles Times on the recent "boot camp" put on by the Pentagon for news reporters. His analysis is the best I've seen so far of this boot camp, which in my opinion, is a thinly-veiled attempt to spin the coverage of a future war.

When it comes to military-media relations, I'm somewhat cynical because of my backgrounds in both institutions. On its surface, I think this boot camp was a good thing. But I remain wary of the Pentagon's true intentions for putting it on:

Shaw writes: "Thus, late last month the Navy, Army and Marines treated 58 journalists from 30 news organizations to an eight-day media boot camp. The question now is, was this a new sign of media-military cooperation and cohabitation or a clever exercise in public relations and realpolitik?"

I would argue the latter, but for a reason that Mr. Shaw did not include. What kinds of stories get written by reporters who are not embedded, but left to stew in Kandahar or Riyadh during the fighting? They tend to write big-picture policy-oriented stories that ask lots of tough questions. What kinds of stories do reporters write when they are embedded into troop units? They tend to write grunt-level stories, about heroisim and perseverance. Even great reporters like Tom Ricks tend to write these kinds of stories. Even when he wrote more analytic stories from the embedded perspective, they were usually about grunt-level things that supported the military establishment, like the procurement of better boots or bullets.

So, seen in this light, embedding represents another means of spinning the war story. It's just a more subtle way. By placing the reporters at a certain place on the battlefield, the Pentagon is shaping the very nature of the coverage by shaping what the reporters are exposed to. It's well planned tactic, and I think it will work the way the Pentagon envisions it. The real question will be how well reporters and editors who are not embedded fill the rest of the news hole, and how well they offset the skewed embedded perspective from above the fray.

Sunday, December 1, 2002

The front page of the Washington Post includes a story today describing the creation of a new "alternative" criminal justice system for those caught in the American war on terrorism. I'm not sure this is an accurate story, or that it's even a responsible way to tell the story. Like many others, the Washington Post has lumped together a number of semi-independent legal developments and raised alarm that a large government conspiracy is upon us. That's neither accurate nor fair.

1. The government's detention of Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla stands on relatively firm ground. These men do not fit the traditional definition of combatants because our enemies choose not to fight us that way anymore. Our enemies (Al Qaeda and others) do not wear uniforms, carry arms openly, report to a chain of command or fight in platoons and companies. They fight instead as terrorists. Yaser Hamdi fought as a partisan against us and the Northern Alliance, and he is as close to the traditional definition of combatant as anyone in this conflict. U.S. courts have upheld this label as Constitutional, even allowing the execution of similarly situated defendants. (See, e.g., Ex Parte Quirin, United States v. Territo) Jose Padilla does not fit this traditional definition. However, he was caught while conducting an reconnaissance mission inside the United States in advance of a future attack using a radiologic dispersal device (aka "dirty bomb"). He is quite similar to commandos employed in previous wars for reconnaissance, who also did not wear uniforms or carry arms openly.

2. The USA PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Act do authorize a great expansion in the surveillance powers of the federal government. They do this largely by eliminating some of the artificial distinctions in the law between foreign-intelligence, terrorism, and criminal-related investigations. These distinctions emerged in the mid-to-late 1970s in the wake of Watergate, the COINTELPRO abuses, and other abuses of American civil liberties by the FBI and CIA. Unfortunately, terrorists live and fight on the seam between law and war -- they are part criminal, part warrior, part undefined. These artificial barriers between law enforcement and intelligence work created tremendous obstacles to the sharing and joint analysis of information, some of which may have led to the failure to prevent Sept. 11. The Washington Post article fails to describe the important motivations for the passage of these two acts, and the granting of such intelligence powers to the federal government.

I'll have more notes later in the day.

James Fallows has a great piece in Slate on the effects of the Kenya missile attack on air travel. His analysis was right on. The threat of surface-to-air missiles is a much more real threat than that of hijacking -- and much easier for a terrorist to carry out.

That said, there also exist an extensive amount of counter-measures available to airports and security types. Some are costly; some aren't. But the general idea of anti-terrorism is that you have to adjust your counter-measures to the threat. As the threat appears in one area, you have to shift resources to that area. If I were a decisionmaker, I'd be shifting TSA employees from screening baggage to conducting sweeps of airport tarmacs in response to this threat. If this new threat (SAM attacks) is real, then it makes little sense to continue to fight the old threat (hijacking).

(There's a big tangential issue here, and it goes to the heart of the debate over the Homeland Security Act. Changing government-employees' job descriptions requires an act of God. It would be enormously difficult to change the mission profile of the TSA employees from baggage screening to area reconnaissance and airfield security. But one of the first commands of anti-terrorism is that intelligence drives operations -- the threat has to drive the way that anti-terrorism resources are allocated, and such allocations must be dynamic. The TSA's main asset is its employees, and it has to have the flexibility to move employees as necessary. Thus, it ought not be encumbered by traditional civil-service rules when it comes to the reclassification and realignment of these employees' jobs.)

There are also other counter-measures available to airports and anti-terrorism officials. The first group of these are technical, and flow from the limitations of the missiles themselves . Most shoulder-fired SAMs have limited range and limited target-acquisition capability. The SA-7 is an infrared-guided missile that tracks an aircraft's heat, usually from the engines, and homes on it. The missile has a maximum range of 5,500 meters, which translates into a 4km effective range when you include the slant necessary to hit a target. The effect of this range is to limit the terrain available to a prospective missileer. He can only fire from an area where he will be within the missile's range, meaning a narrow corridor within the plane's flight path. This means that anti-terrorism forces have a relatively small area they have to patrol. If the threat raises and planes adjust their flight paths to come in slightly harder, this reduces this area even more.

Second, early generations of SAMs were very prone to spoofing. That is, a plane could drop a few flares and spoof the missile into following those heat sources instead. Most SAMs in terrorist hands belong to these early generation. The installation of flare dispensers on passenger aircraft would be expensive, but it may be a useful counter-measure. First, it would give the aircraft a means to defeat the missile. Second, the presence of these counter-measures would likely make a terrorist think that his missiles were useless, and force him towards another tactic.

There is another spoofing problem, and Mr. Fallows hit it on the head. The very threat of a missile launch can cause a plane to maneuver violently to evade the missile. In Afghanistan, the mujahaddin would often use model rockets and smoke rockets to spook Russian pilots into evasive action -- and then they would ambush them with a real SAM once they saw the way the pilot reacted. Similarly, a terrorist could use model rockets to simply spook a passenger-airline pilot, and possibly induce a crash into a populated area.

Ultimately, this is a threat which needs to be addressed. The U.S. has successfully responded (albeit too late) to the threat of hijacking and we have hardened our airports to the point where no terrorist can effectively hit them. Given our national experience on Sept. 11, it is unlikely that a terrorist could ever hijack a plane again. But this does not mean that our aircraft are safe -- it only means that certain avenues of attack have been denied to our enemies. We must continue to refine our intelligence about our enemy and dynamically employ new counter-measures as we see our enemy developing new means of attack.