Monday, January 27, 2003

Breaking News -- President Bush plays his trump card on Iraq

Bob Woodward reports in tomorrow's Washington Post that the Bush Administration has decided to declassify enough intelligence to paint an accurate picture of Iraq's treachery. A senior State Department official said the information the administration plans to release will show what the Iraqis are "doing, what they're not doing, how they're deceiving."

Analysis: This is the Administration's "ace in the hole" -- this is what the world has been waiting for. A lot of smart folks have predicted this would happen as public opinion began to ebb. Given last week's statements by France and Germany, this week's statements in Davos, and mounting protests around the country, the timing seems right. There's simply no way the Administration would lay so much on the line, ship so many troops over to CENTCOM, make so many statements in the UN, and press the world so hard unless it had such information in its possession. We won't know for certain how bad this stuff is until it's revealed, and then until UN inspectors verify this on the ground. But it will definitely put Saddam between a rock and a hard place. And ultimately, this intelligence may provide the tool to pry open his vaults.

U.S. to Make Iraq Intelligence Public
Evidence of Weapons Concealment to Be Shared in Effort to Boost Support for War

By Bob Woodward - Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 28, 2003; Page A01

The Bush administration has assembled what it believes to be significant intelligence showing that Iraq has been actively moving and concealing banned weapons systems and related equipment from United Nations inspectors, according to informed sources.

After a lengthy debate over what and how much of the intelligence to disclose, President Bush and his national security advisers have decided to declassify some of the information and make it public, perhaps as early as next week, in an effort to garner more domestic and international support for confronting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with military force, officials said.

"The United States possesses several pieces of information which come from the work of our intelligence that show Iraq maintains prohibited weapons," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in an interview published yesterday in an Italian newspaper. "Once we have made sure it can be done safely, I think that in the next week or soon after we can make public a good part of this material."

The information was gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies from what officials characterized as an array of sources and methods. The administration believes it shows that senior Iraqi officials and military officers who report to members of Hussein's inner circle have personally directed the movement and camouflage of the weapons or have knowledge of the operations, the sources said.

The concealment efforts have often taken place days or hours ahead of visits by U.N. inspection teams, which have been operating in Iraq during the past two months, according to these accounts. In many cases, the United States has what one source called "compelling" intelligence that is "unambiguous" in proving that Iraq is hiding banned weapons.
* * *
Powell Defends U.S. Foreign Policy in Davos

Secretary of State Colin Powell has arguably had more to do with crafting American foreign policy than anyone else in the last two decades. Serving first as National Security Adviser, then as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (for two terms), and now as Secretary of State, Mr. Powell's vision of the world has shaped America's actions towards the world since the Reagan presidency. Now, Mr. Powell has gone on the offensive, speaking to a hostile forum of powerful Europeans and Americans at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Taking great umbrage at claims of American "imperialism," Mr. Powell eloquently corrected those in Davos who painted the U.S. as a latter-day colonialist empire:

Excerpt from Secretary Powell's Speech:
"I believe--no, I know, with all of my heart, that the United States can. I believe no less strongly that the United States has earned the trust of men, women and children around the world. Let's just go to Afghanistan. 10,000 American soldiers are in that country helping to create conditions of security. A new government, a new representative government, is in place. We see new roads, new hospitals, new schools, where girls can attend and gain the skills they will need to lead productive, meaningful lives.

"Afghanistan is one example of what we have accomplished in the global war against terrorism. The United States, together with the countries represented by many of you in this room, is making it more difficult for terrorists to move about, for them to find sanctuary, for them to communicate, for them to transfer money, for them to acquire weapons to carry out attacks against innocent people.

"We should be very proud of what has been accomplished in Afghanistan since we met in New York last year.

"I want to say one more thing about Afghanistan, which is reflective about the manner in which America carries out its responsibilities in the world. The American troops who are there went there in peace, working alongside now thousands of troops from more than a dozen countries, and they're all working together to help train Afghan police and military forces that will take their place, and as soon as our troops are needed no longer, they will depart.

"Afghanistan's leaders and Afghanistan's people know that they can trust America to do just this, to do the right thing. The people of Bosnia, the people of Kosovo, of Macedonia, they too know that they can trust us to do our jobs and then leave. We seek nothing for ourselves other than to help bring about security for people that have already suffered too much.

"The same holds true for the people of Kuwait. 12 years ago, we helped liberate their country, and then we left. We did not seek any special benefits for ourselves. That is not the American way. "
* * *
Excerpt from Q&A; Session
"I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of, or apologize for, with respect to what America has done for the world," he said in response to a question asking why the United States always falls back on the use of "hard power" instead of the "soft power" of diplomacy. Mr. Powell noted that the United States had sent its soldiers into foreign wars over the last century, most recently in Afghanistan, without having imperial designs on the territories it secured.

"We've put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives," he said, his voice growing hoarse. "We've asked for nothing but enough land to bury them in."

Sunday, January 26, 2003

You can uncross your fingers now...

I don't know about you, but I breathed another sigh of relief when the Super Bowl ended without any major security incidents. To most watching on TV, the security was transparent. For those in attendance, they felt it. But from a distance, I can tell you the security for this event rivaled that at the Olympics for depth and breadth. Various federal agencies were out in full force, including the FBI and Secret Service. The National Guard provided assets from its Civil Support Team, who were equipped to detect and respond to any release of chemical or biological agents. And a phalanx of National Guard, Calif. Highway Patrol, San Diego police, and others stood vigil around the stadium for the entire event. With few exceptions, the game went off without a hitch. Thank God for small miracles.
Total Information Awareness
-- The Bio/Medical Component

In case you thought TIA just meant a merger of criminal, credit and diplomatic databases, think again. TIA may also mean the integration of medical data, something which may go further into the human psyche/body than any of the other areas which TIA is supposed to cover. Monday's New York Times reports that the CDC -- in collaboration with the Pentagon -- has developed a computerized public-health surveillance system for the United States. This system would monitor all sorts of indicators in the health arena, from symptoms in emergency rooms to prescriptions for particular kinds of antibioitics. It has enormous potential for public health, as well as anti-terrorism. But like TIA, it may require some careful calibration to avoid civil liberties problems.

"The emerging health monitoring network, officials and experts say, will provide information that could save lives if terrorists strike with deadly germs like smallpox or anthrax. In detecting attacks, a head start of even a day or two can greatly lower death rates by letting doctors treat rapidly and prevent an isolated outbreak from becoming an epidemic."
* * *
For decades, disease surveillance has valued accuracy over speed. Nurses, doctors and public health officers gather raw data, often using paper forms sent by mail. In the background, federal, state and private laboratories use advanced technologies to determine the causes of disease and confirm diagnoses. But the process tends to take days or even weeks.
Moreover, the system is narrow, revealing little about the nation's overall health. While the federal disease control center has more than 100 surveillance systems, most are designed to track a single organism or condition, like heart disease or flu virus. In addition, most are independent of one another.
The system has serious gaps. While laboratories usually comply with federal rules to report certain illnesses to health authorities, physicians often do not.
The military and the national weapons laboratories, increasingly worried about germ attacks, tried a new approach in the late 1990's. To learn of impending trouble quickly, they decided to scrutinize populations for clues of diseases before they were officially diagnosed. Experts zeroed in on how clusters of such symptoms as fever, cough, headache, vomiting, rash and diarrhea could suggest — but not prove — the presence of particular diseases, some of them lethal. The method was called syndromic surveillance.
* * *
An early military system was the Electronic Surveillance System for Early Notification of Community-Based Epidemics, or Essence. It drew medical data from some 400,000 members of the military and their dependents who lived in the Washington area — a major potential terrorist target, but hard for civilians to scan medically because of "the numerous city, county and state jurisdictions," according to a Defense Department statement.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency put $12 million into an experimental program, Essence 2, which tracked millions of civilians in the Washington area for signs of bioterrorism. The program now reports to Admiral Poindexter, whose Total Information Awareness program was dealt a setback by the Senate late last week, its future now in doubt. Joe Lombardo, a civilian who runs Essence 2, which is based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, said that although Admiral Poindexter's office finances the system, Essence 2 shares no data with his computer surveillance project. Essence 2, he said, gathers electronic records from drugstore chains, hospitals and physician groups. Mr. Lombardo said about a dozen people were developing the technology and collecting and analyzing the data.

Analysis: If TIA develops a new way for gathering, analyzing and making sense of public-health data, it could be the greatest leap forward in public health since the use of soap and antisepsis. Right now, the CDC's methods for gathering/disseminating this data are antiquated at best. A coherent, automated, universal system would go a long way towards solving problems like acute lethal pediatric disorders and food poisoning, not to mention bioterrorism. I truly hope that a balance can be struck here between civil liberties concerns and the good that Total Information Awareness can bring. This type of database won't just tell us about aberrational outbreaks of food poisoning; it can be used by medical researchers and epidemiologists to deduce all sorts of important conclusions from its data. We all stand to benefit a great deal from this kind of project.
Total Information Awareness
-- Threat to Civil Liberties or Method of Ensuring Accurate Law Enforcement?

Last week, the Senate amended an authorization bill to include a reporting requirement for the Pentagon. The Defense Department may only proceed with its "Total Information Awareness" project if it submits a report to Congress on the details of the project, and the measures it's taking to protect civil liberties in the project. TIA is the massive database project sponsored by the Pentagon which would bring together information from all sources (private, public, intelligence, criminal, etc) to support national-security and criminal-investigative authorities. On Friday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert echoed the Senate's sentiments, saying he would endorse a similar amendment in the House.

Hastert, R-Ill., is concerned about the privacy implications of the research program, called Total Information Awareness, Hastert spokesman Pete Jeffries said. He said it remains unclear who will fight for the project when House and Senate lawmakers meet next month to decide its future. "Its fate is questionable," Jeffries said.

This makes it all but certain that such a reporting requirement will be added. In general, I agree with reporting requirements and the goals of Congressional oversight -- particularly for the Defense Department. (Some reporting requirements are quite odious though. A cursory read of Title 10, United States Code, will reveal hundreds of extraneous reporting requirements for the Pentagon that devour thousands of manhours to complete -- and are probably never read by Congress.)

However, TIA may be a good thing when it's eventually developed. I think the debate over TIA has been skewed, first by the William Safire NY Times column which broke the story, and subsequently by civil libertarians who have cast the issue as one of "Big Brother" instead of as a means to more accurately focus law enforcement. Here are the reasons why I think TIA is a good thing, and why the critics are wrong.

1. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) does "deep" research, not near-term or short-term research. They develop ideas & concepts that may come to fruition in 30 years. Many of these ideas, in their infancy, are susceptible to misinterpretation because they are so powerful, and because the science they propose is so revolutionary. But we ought not discourage the basic research sponsored by DARPA because of its possible effects a generation in the future. We ought to instead develop control measures for that risk, and ensure the research does not lead to such harm.

Example: Among other things, DARPA created the Internet in the 1960s as a way for four universities (Berkeley, MIT, Stanford and UCLA) to communicate about sensitive defense-related research and technology. The interconnected network was designed to withstand a nuclear attack, because it would reroute itself around any destroyed links. Thirty years ago, no one could have predicted the evolution of DARPA-Net to the Internet of today. But imagine what would have happened if civil libertarians then had criticized it because of its potential for surveillance, or if movie studios had criticized it because they foresaw some Intellectual Property problems. The Internet might never have been built. TIA may have the same potential for the future, or it may have problems we don't know about. Scuttling it or any other DARPA project now, before it's designed or built, may chill research and innovation with the long-term potential to improve our lives.

2. American law enforcement agencies have a real problem with racial profiling; TIA may solve part of that problem. They often use race as a proxy for sweeping up terrorists because they lack any meaningful information about who is or is not a terrorist. Part of the problem stems from "indicators", as the Intelligence Community calls them. Indicators are pieces of information which mean things, and when analyzed, can indicate the presence or absence of something. Terrorists leave pieces of information which can indicate terrorist activity. But often, these indicators are relatively inocuous by themselves -- taking out large sums of cash, buying airplane tickets, taking self-defense lessons -- these things mean nothing by themselves, and indeed are activities that lots of innocent people do as well. Without knowing which indicators are important, and a system for tying together indicators from all sources, there is simply no way to put together the dots. A better system of gathering information and analyzing information will produce more accurate law enforcement. It will tell law enforcement what things to look for. Instead of looking for things like race, they will look for precise details of behavior that are the most probable indicators of terrorism. In theory, this will lead to greatly reduced need for racial profiling.

3. A related problem is the gathering/collation/cross-referencing of information. There currently exists no single system in America for gathering criminal-investigative information from local, state and federal agencies -- let alone combining such information with data from the Intelligence Community, State Department, or foreign agencies. This was cited, among other things, as a key failure in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the failures of the Intelligence Community to prevent 9/11. TIA may represent the answer to this problem, by providing a relational database with sufficient breadth, depth and sophistication to bring together data from all these sources. As a footnote, Oracle already makes such databases for the private sector, and they are used quite well by credit bureaus and other private actors. This system would build on that technology, but attempt to make the system even more reliable (we all know that credit reports can have flaws sometimes). Gathering this information is absolutely critical. Terrorists fly below our radar because they show up as ordinary members of society. The clues they leave are usually innocuous, and tend to fall within the jurisdictions of separate agencies. (This is intentional -- al Qaeda doctrine teaches terrorists to exploit seams like federal/state, foreign/domestic, military/civilian, and to cross these lines when expedient.) America must have a system for gathering this information from all sources and putting it together. The amount of data is too large for a human analyst to deal with -- only a sophisticated computer database can put all this information together to find the right indicators of terrorist activity.

4. The system still has checks. TIA will not produce some Minority Report-like world where three pre-cogs sit in a vat and make decisions that lead automatically (without trial or evidence) to lifetime incarceration. TIA doesn't even provide enough information for "probable cause", as I understand the technology. Instead, TIA enables law enforcement to focus their scarce resources on where it really counts. Instead of surveilling the entire Arab-American population (a uniformly dumb idea), TIA would enable the FBI to surveil only those persons with certain indicators of terrorist activity (like repeated trips to certain countries or ties to certain individuals on the State Department's watchlist.) Ultimately, the government must still prove its case in court to incarcerate someone, and it must still try them before a jury or judge in most cases. The Article III courts stand as a bulwark against any slippery-slope problem here.

This is a tough issue, but one I think we need to resolve in favor of Total Information Awareness. The technology promises benefits that can barely be imagined right now, with costs that can be controlled and mitigated. In any case, I welcome your thoughts & feedback on these ideas.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Q&A; with Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (Houston)

Howard Bashman of Appellateblog poses 20 questions to Judge Smith and gets surprisingly candid answers. A sampling of questions includes:
1. What are your most favorite and least favorite aspects of being a federal appellate judge?
4. If you had to abandon your seat on the Fifth Circuit but in exchange could serve as a judge on any other U.S. Court of Appeals, which one would you choose and why?
9. Why have you decided not to adhere to the "Law Clerk Hiring Plan" that supposedly has the overwhelming support of federal appellate judges, and has your decision made it easier or more difficult to attract the sort of law clerks that you are seeking?
13. A lawyer with five years' experience is going to deliver his or her first appellate oral argument in any court before a three-judge panel that includes you. What advice do you have for this lawyer?

Appellateblog plans to host several more of these Q&A; sessions with federal judges in the near future. Stay tuned.

I did a similar Q&A; with Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 1996. A copy is available here if you're interested in reading his thoughts on everything from ideology to writing style.
FBI Teams Up With College Police
-- Agencies join to investigate students who may be terrorists

Dan Eggen reports in today's Washington Post that the FBI has enlisted college police departments in its efforts to fight terrorism in the United States. Student visas were used by several of the 9/11 hijackers to enter the United States, and federal authorities have long looked to radical student organizations as an incubator for domestic/foreign terrorism. However, this move resurrects decades-old memories of FBI agents snooping on political groups on campus as part of J. Edgar Hoover's anti-dissidence strategies.

On at least a dozen campuses, the FBI has included collegiate police officers as members of local Joint Terrorism Task Forces, the regional entities that oversee counterterrorism investigations nationwide.
* * *
The FBI and many campus police officers view the arrangements as a logical, effective way to help monitor potential terrorist threats and keep better tabs on the more than 200,000 foreign nationals studying in the United States. Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers were enrolled as students at American flight schools, and one entered the country on a student visa but never showed up at the school.
* * *
...the effort has touched a nerve among some faculty and student groups, as well as Muslim activists, who fear that the government is inching toward the kind of controversial spying tactics it used in the 1950s and 1960s. With few restrictions, the FBI at the time aggressively monitored, and often harassed, political groups, student activists and dissidents.
* * *
Distrust of the FBI runs high among some faculty who remember the counterculture demonstrations of the 1960s. Under J. Edgar Hoover's 15-year COINTELPRO program, the bureau engaged in broad and questionable tactics aimed at monitoring and disrupting student activist groups.
* * *
The FBI has long had liaison relationships with police and security departments at some universities, particularly larger institutions with higher crime rates or heavy involvement in sensitive research areas, officials said. But the Sept. 11 attacks prompted the bureau to strengthen its links to local and state police departments, including those on college campuses.

I'm not wired into the Los Angeles-area Joint-Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), nor do I know exactly what the UCPD is doing in this area. But I know this issue carries a tremendous amount of baggage here in the UC system, because of extensive surveillance and police activity carried out against students in the 1960s and 1970s. I also know there's a cogent need for such surveillance today, given the number of immigrant students here and the sensitivity of some of the research done at UC. I'm pretty confident the FBI is striking a proper balance here, but this is something to keep an eye on.

Blogs of Note
-- Just added these to the links area

Is That Legal? -- Thoughts and commentary from Eric Muller, a law professor at the University of Wyoming.
Rule 11 - A 'blog from a recent grad of the University of Michigan's law school; good ConLaw analysis.
Sheep Free Zone - Provocative commentary about legal and military stuff from Matt Bower, a former-Marine officer and law student.
Defense Tech - "The future of the military, law enforcement, and national security" by Noah Shachtman, who has written for a number of magazines and newspapers on these subjects.
Craig's Blog - Commentary on a wide variety of topics.

I recommend visits to these and the other 'blogs I have linked.

Why America needs to call up so many reservists to fight

Sunday's NY Times contains a good article by Thom Shanker on the push within the Pentagon to realign the mix of forces in the active and reserve parts of the U.S. military. Neither President Bush nor Secretary Rumsfeld enjoys the political and social consequences of calling up large numbers of reservists for extended tours of duty. However, the all-volunteer force was set up in such a way after Vietnam to require these callups, because a cabal of bitter generals decided then to hamstring future political leaders by placing certain key types of units in the reserves. The idea was that any future war would need a reserve callup, thus involving men/women from every part of America, thus requiring the President to have more political support than LBJ had in Vietnam.

While American military victories in conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan helped exorcise other ghosts of Vietnam, the heavy reliance on the National Guard and Reserve remains a legacy of the armed service's frustration with that war.

Angered that President Lyndon B. Johnson, and then President Richard M. Nixon, declined to call up the reserves during the Vietnam War for fear of generating greater opposition to it, Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, the Army chief of staff, shaped the post-Vietnam mix of active and reserve forces to make sure that when America next went to war with its new all-volunteer force, hometown America would have to go along too.

This dependence on reserve components only grew after the end of the cold war and the decision to cut the military. The Pentagon and Congress wanted to keep as much tooth in the active force as it could afford, and pushed missions in the logistics tail to the reserves.

But mass mobilizations in the past year and a half raised concerns at the Pentagon and, just as important, on Capitol Hill. Many look to streamline the system to more nimbly counter the unpredictable terrorist threat. Others are going further, asking whether the number of active-duty personnel is too small — which translates directly into budgets — if the American military cannot fulfill global commitments without relying so heavily on the Guard and Reserve.

The biggest problem with using the reserves is time. The military's mobilization system was designed around a number of assumptions, including the assumption that we'd have weeks/months to mobilize troops and ship them to Central Europe or Korea for an all-out war. Recent experience has shown us these assumptions are unreliable; that our wily adversaries (like Al Qaeda) can slip away in the time it would take to mobilize the reserves. Another huge problem is training/resourcing. The reserves aren't resourced to train or maintain their equipment to the same level as the active force. But when they're called up, they're expected to be able to fight alongside the active force. This works well for certain support units -- Military Police, medical, supply, transportation -- because those units' soldiers often work in the same field as their military job, and the skills are less perishable. But it's virtually impossible to maintain proficiency on complex, collective tasks in large combat units like infantry battalions and brigades in the reserves.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Military Justice
- Prediction for US/Canadian fratricide case

Fellow UCLA law student and former-USMC infantry officer Chris Baker has a good analysis of what should happen in the case of the two U.S. Air Force pilots charged with accidentally bombing Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

"...even though we owe our armed forces a tremendous amount of deference in the case of soldiers and airmen engaging in "self defense", there are several issues to suggest that these pilots were overly aggressive in disobeying an early-warning aircraft's order to "hold fire", and dropping a laser guided bomb from an altitude where they were virtually immune from the type of fire they claimed to be receiving. Accordingly, a court martial to determine the guilt or innocence of the pilots is in order."
Democracy at work:
Congress uses reporting requirements to constraint Pentagon action

The Senate today added a rider to its appropriations bill which has the effect of stopping the Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness" project dead in the water. Reporting requirements exist throughout Title 10 and various defense authorization acts; they generally require the Pentagon to submit a written or testimonial report to Congress on some activity. In some cases, these requirements are written so that the Defense Department may not act in a certain way without first reporting to Congress. This is how the new Senate amendment works -- it requires the Pentagon to submit a report before it takes any further action to develop the TIA project. This report must include certain things, such as the way the DoD plans to minimize TIA's impact on civil liberties.

"The Senate measure requires the Pentagon to report to Congress on the goals of the program within 60 days of the bill's final passage, including recommendations from the Attorney General on minimizing the impact on civil liberties.
"The measure also would keep the Pentagon from deploying the program or transferring it to another department, such as the FBI (news - web sites) or the new Homeland Security department, without congressional authorization."

This has three main effects: 1) It stops the Pentagon program until the report is done; 2) It requires the Pentagon to consider certain things that Congress cares about (civil liberties) and revise its program to meet these concerns, and 3) Gives Congress an opportunity to review this program and make oversight decisions about it and its funding. This is the essence of how democracy works in practice in Washington. The will of the people is being expressed by Congress and used to constrain the actions of a government agency. It's rare that you see this work so well.
Denver Post: Pentagon plans for mass burial of U.S. soldiers killed by chem/bio agents

An unpleasant, but necessary, control measure to prevent further loss of life

In a special piece for today's Denver Post, Greg Seigle reports that the Pentagon has developed plans to cremate or bury en masse the bodies of American soldiers killed in combat by biological or chemical agents in Iraq. Such a plan existed in the 1st Gulf War, but was thankfully never implemented. It breaks with a half-century-old tradition of returning American soldiers after they've fallen in action for burial at home. American military officials acknowledge a powerful desire to bring every fallen soldier home, but also say the need to protect against future casualties outweighs any risk of further contamination. This is an extremely difficult issue, because it raises strong emotions on both sides. But ultimately, I think this decision is the right one. Accounting for every fallen man or woman is important, and giving closure to families is important. But we have to look after the welfare of all soldiers -- especially those still living. If burying casualties in the field means preventing future loss of life, then we must make that painful choice.

WASHINGTON - The bodies of U.S. soldiers killed by chemical or biological weapons in Iraq or future wars may be bulldozed into mass graves and burned to save the lives of surviving troops, under an option being considered by the Pentagon.
Since the Korean War, the U.S. military has taken great pride in bringing home its war dead, returning bodies to next of kin for flag-draped, taps-sounding funerals complete with 21-gun salutes.
But the 53-year-old tradition could come to an abrupt halt if large numbers of soldiers are killed by chemical or biological agents, according to a proposal quietly circulating through Pentagon corridors.
Army spokesmen said the option to bury or even burn bodies contaminated by chemical or biological weapons is being considered, along with the possibility of placing contaminated corpses in airtight body bags and sending them home for closed-casket funerals.

* * *
The U.S. had a plan for mass burials during the Gulf War in 1991, said Lt. Gen. William "Gus" Pagonis, the chief logistician for that conflict and the man who conceived the plan.
"The bulldozers were all lined up and ready to go," to deposit contaminated bodies in "mass graves," Pagonis said.
"You'll use whatever equipment is necessary to avoid contaminating more people," Pagonis said in a recent interview. "You don't want anybody else to die."

* * *
Army spokesman Capt. Ben Kuykendall said the Pagonis plan is similar to the option currently under consideration - except that bodies infected by biological agents might be both cremated and buried.
If soldiers are killed by "something like smallpox in which bodies cannot be decontaminated, we would have to cremate them right there," Kuykendall said. He said he recently discussed the option in detail with Brig. Gen. Steve Reeves, program executive officer for the Army's chemical and biological defense office. Reeves declined to comment.
"You would have to protect the living, so you'd have to get rid of the (contaminated) bodies as quickly as possible," Kuykendall said. "You don't want to contaminate any survivors who are not already contaminated."
* * *
Military veterans said they hope those commanders will never have to make such a choice.
Mass burial is "a sensitive issue, and we don't want to think about it because our hopes and prayers are that it won't happen," said Tom Corey, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America who was wounded in Vietnam and now uses a wheelchair.

AP Report: Schools buying terrorism insurance
-- A questionable use of scarce school resources to combat terrorism

The Associated Press national desk ran a story this morning that local school districts around the country are buying terrorism insurance. Personally, I think this is a less-than-bright idea. When it comes to our nation's schools, I want my resources directed at prevention and consequence-management -- not at insuring the buildings and real property which can always be rebuilt with public money after the event. Of all the ways to allocate scarce resources in the fight against terrorism insurance, this is one of the dumbest. It transfers scarce millions of dollars from cash-strapped school districst to private insurance companies, and takes away from resources which might otherwise be directed at preventing terrorism or stockpiling supplies in case an event happens. The insurance doesn't pay for those supplies, nor does it buy trained personnel who can respond to an event. It just compensates the victims after the fact, and repurchases lost goods. After an attack, the government will do that anyway, or at least loan the district money through FEMA at a below-market rate.

Many school districts are pricing policies and debating whether they need coverage, even though terrorism experts say there has never been an attack on a U.S. school by foreign terrorists.
New York City, the nation's largest district, and Chicago, the nation's third largest, have rejected the coverage because they're self-insured and say it would be too costly.
Two other large districts — the Miami area's Dade County, and Clark County, in and around Las Vegas — figured they needed the insurance and bought it before the law was passed.
* * *
Besides cost considerations, school districts are making decisions based on factors such as proximity to urban areas, how tall and close buildings are and how well they can secure their schools, according to Jim Sandner, president of Chicago-based Brokers' Risk Placement Service, which provides insurance to more than 1,000 districts nationwide.
Terrorism experts say it's unclear what foreign threats — if any — the nation's schools face.
* * *
With states facing budget crunches, price may be the deciding factor in determining whether to get the insurance. School districts contacted by The Associated Press said they've faced hikes from 5 to 20 percent of their current insurance premiums to add terrorism coverage.

In general, public finances at the local schools level is a zero-sum game. School districts have a finite amount of resources -- resources which are especially limited in fiscally austere times like our current recession. (California's schools can't afford a lot of things these days, including salary increases already promised to teachers and capital improvements on decaying schools) Terrorism may pose a threat to schools or it may not. But if it does pose a threat to schools, then schools have to allocate money to this threat in the most efficient way possible.

Priority #1 ought to be PREVENTION, not insurance. It might be wise for schools to invest in more school police to look for suspicious things, or to react to increased threat warnings with extra patrols. (School districts could also develop agreements with local police departments to contract for security services in high-threat times) After prevention, priority #2 ought to be CONSEQUENCE MANAGEMENT. This includes all the activities which can save lives after an attack. When schools are concerned, saving lives through prevention and consequence-management are more important than anything. Terrorism insurance may sound good to policy makers and parents, but it won't do a thing to save their children if a terrorist attacks. Buying preventive law enforcement and consequence-management supplies will save lives. That's where the money ought to go.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Name Change:

After receiving some constructive criticism, I've decided to name my 'blog "Intel Dump".

Intel dump is a perjorative military term that refers to an impromptu or scheduled situation briefing. In the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, our intelligence officer used to stand up and give an "Intel Dump" of the day's battlefield activities at regular intervals. Her brief covered the enemy situation, the friendly situation, and other major events that affected our mission. These intel dumps gave me the information I needed to go out and do my mission (or gave me the questions I needed to ask.) The term entered my vocabulary, and I now use it to refer to any sort of comprehensive briefing or rundown of events. It seemed appropriate for my weblog, where I try to provide thoughtful analysis of various legal, military and security issues. (And more importantly, it wasn't taken yet!)
History Lesson:
America has never truly favored military conscription; it's only chosen it out of necessity

Slate has a great essay today by historian David Greenberg on America's love/hate relationship with the draft. The story caught my eye because it contradicts a popular American myth: that we universally embraced mandatory military service until Vietnam and the advent of the all-volunteer force. Greenberg writes that this is far from the case. Indeed, conscription has been the exception in US history, not the rule, only implemented in times of national emergency (Civil War, WWI, WWII), and continued for the mid-20th Century more out of inertia than anything else. Ultimately, Greenberg argues that this history makes Congressman Rangel's draft proposal all the more unviable.
Despite these fine words, though, conscription has always been—and probably will always be—a tough sell. The reason isn't that Americans crave an unjust system, although they haven't shown too much regret over the draft's inequities. Rather, the draft's perennial unpopularity stems from an abiding national regard for freedom from state coercion. For all Rangel's rhetorical bows to the "citizen soldier" and "shared sacrifice," his proposal addresses America's historic concern for equality but skirts its even more primary veneration for liberty.

Indeed, the notion of the citizen soldier of the Revolutionary War to which Rangel hearkens—the common man trading plowshare for sword to fight an imminent threat—actually points up the flaws in the argument for conscription. The Revolution's vaunted Minute Men were, after all, volunteers who needed no official prodding to take up arms against a threat to their liberty. The Continental Army certainly had its manpower problems—in the winter of 1776, Tom Paine decried the "summer soldier and the sunshine patriot"—but even in those trying times, states rejected George Washington's plea for national conscription. When individual states did hold drafts, they allowed wealthy conscripts to hire substitutes, who were predominantly poor and unemployed. Service was hardly a shared experience."

Whatever problems hobbled the Continental Army, the new nation's founders remained convinced that state encroachment on personal freedom was the greater danger. The Constitution's drafters conferred on Congress the power to "raise and support armies" but not to conscript citizens—an omission notably at odds with the practice in Europe. Virginia's Edmund Randolph, one of the few founders to raise the issue during the constitutional debates, argued that a draft would "stretch the strings of government too violently to be adopted." Such sentiments carried the day even when British troops invaded American soil two decades later. During the War of 1812, President James Madison sought a draft. But even though Secretary of War James Monroe promised it would be just a temporary, emergency measure, Congress opposed it, in Sen. Daniel Webster's words, as "Napoleonic despotism." It never got off the ground.

See the full article for more about the history of American military conscription. It's one of the better pieces I've read on the subject.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Farewell to a great American citizen

Bill Mauldin, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Cartoonist, Dies at 81
By Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Bill Mauldin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist whose characters--two downtrodden GIs, Willie and Joe--spoke to a generation of soldiers who fought in World War II, died early today. He was 81.
Mauldin died at a nursing home in Newport Beach where he had lived since mid-2001 while battling Alzheimer's disease. More recently, he had contracted pneumonia. The cause of death was respiratory failure.
A self-described "hillbilly from New Mexico," Mauldin rose from small-town obscurity to cult hero as a baby-faced Army sergeant working for the armed forces newspaper Stars & Stripes in Europe.
His darkly funny and irreverent cartoons captured the mood of a changing military made up of citizen soldiers who questioned the leadership skills of their own officers even as they battled the enemy. Mauldin went on to become one of the best-known and best-loved newspaper columnists in America.
Mauldin's Willie and Joe, infantrymen who survived on a diet of ironic humor, were dirty and unshaven, slogging through mud and snow and sleeping in foxholes filled with water. They dodged the enemy's bullets as well as the poor morale brought on by incompetent officers.
* * *
Mauldin's characters offered a counterpoint to the clean-cut, gung-ho fighting man put forth by the Army publicity machine. There was no gauzy sentimentality in Willie and Joe, no chest-thumping heroics. They were just doing their job and wanted nothing more than to finish it and go home. It was an apt description of America's new military-a civilian force of millions, many of whom bucked the system while marching on Germany and Japan.
* * *
To millions of veterans, Mauldin was simply one of them--a soldier who fought World War II with a pen instead of a rifle.
"Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz would often have Snoopy announce on Veterans Day that he was going to Mauldin's house for root beers. Schulz always sent Mauldin the originals, although Mauldin was puzzled why. Finally, the two met. "I was a machine-gunner in France during World War II," Schulz explained. It was all he had to say.
NYT: U.S. Is Deploying a Monitor System for Germ Attacks

Judith Miller (author of the book Germs) reports on the front page of today's NY Times that the federal government plans to adapt thousands of EPA monitoring stations across the United States to detect the presence of biological agents. This is very encouraging news. It represents an effort to predict the enemy's future threat and deny that avenue of approach through pro-active initiatives. By fielding a system of biological detectors, we have lowered the catastrophic calculus of a biological attack using airborne pathogens. This, in turn, lowers the probability of a terrorist using this terrible means of attack.

Some caution is in order, however. This system is not perfect -- far from it. It has four main flaws:
1) It is not geographically comprehensive; 3,000 detectors is not enough to cover the United States entirely.
2) The system only detects airborne pathogens in its immediate area, or in other words, what's circulating in the air. It cannot detect latent amounts of biotoxins in places like mail envelopes, offices, or other enclosed spaces. The system would pick up something like a crop-dusting plane spraying anthrax on Manhattan, but it might miss the recent anthrax attacks altogether.
3) As reported, the system will not detect releases of chemical agents into the air -- only biological agents. This means an attack with Sarin (non-persistent nerve agent), like in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, would go undetected. Similarly, the system is limited to airborne pathogens, which excludes the range of chemical and biological agents which can be released through other mediums like liquid or gelatin.
4) The system has a 12-24 hour lag time between pathogen sample and confirmation by the CDC that the samples are indeed contaminated. The system does not detect and analyze samples in real-time, such that it could pinpoint an anthrax attack on New York or L.A. within minutes. In that sense, this system must be understood as less of a counter-terrorism tool than a consequences-management tool. This will not enable authorities to quickly ID and respond to an attack. But it will help dramatically with cordoning areas after an attack, directing medical resources, and taking care of the wounded.
* * *
Officials said that although the system would not by itself protect Americans against a germ attack, early detection of such a strike would give the government more time to mobilize medical resources that could save thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of lives. The faster those exposed to most deadly pathogens are vaccinated against a disease, or treated with antibiotics to combat it, the lower the death rate.
Under the system, the E.P.A. monitoring stations will send samples of a tissue-like paper from newly upgraded machines that filter air to the closest of some 120 laboratories across the country associated with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results will be available within 24 hours, and possibly within 12 hours.
Although officials declined to say which or how many E.P.A. monitoring stations would ultimately be used, experts on the government's program said the first environmental monitoring stations in the new system, called Bio-Watch, were in New York. The city has more than seven such stations. The stations, which are all outdoors, now mainly monitor for air pollution.
* * *
Officials said today the introduction of the system by the newly created Department of Homeland Security was not linked to a specific terrorist threat. The intelligence community, one senior official noted, has "no credible evidence that Al Qaeda has acquired biological weapons, or any weapon of mass destruction at this time."
* * *
While environmental monitoring does not provide instant detection of the release of a dangerous germ, the new system is aimed at giving health officials more time to send doctors, vaccines, antibiotics and medical equipment to the scene of a bioterror attack. Doctors and terrorism experts have long said that the lack of such a system is one of the most glaring deficiencies in the nation's biodefenses.

Bottom Line: This is a major step forward for the United States in the fight against terrorism. Adopting a system like this has an enormous deterrent effect on future acts of terrorism, because it makes it less likely for those attacks to achieve spectacular success. We must look for more systems like this which will deny avenues-of-approach to our enemies, including perhaps a system which can detect chemical, biological and nuclear material as it moves into our ports or on our rails.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Soldier's Place in Society

America's finest sons and daughters are deploying for war as anti-war protesters lead rallies in various U.S. cities for their cause. Can the two be reconciled? Yes, they can. America's military is the only military organization in the world which swears its oaths to a legal idea -- the Constitution. Most nations swear their allegiance to the sovereign or to the nation. But every American soldier raises his/her right hand and swears to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. That makes the American military unique. Its soldiers fight for the rights of protesters who would not themselves go into harm's way. It's a very powerful idea, and one we ought to remind ourselves of often.

Two generations ago, an eloquent military chaplain penned the following prayer.

"It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag,
whose coffin is draped by the flag, and
who allows the protester to burn the flag."

--Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC
[A Guadalcanal Veteran of WWII, 11th Marines, and the Chaplain for the 1st Marine Division Association]