Thursday, March 6, 2003

Report: Convicted 'American Talib' assaulted in federal prison

The Associated Press reports that a white supremacist attacked convicted terrorist John Walker Lindh at a federal prison in Victorville, beating him up and leaving bruises but doing no permanent damage. Lindh was convicted in July 2002 after a plea bargain with the government, in which he pled guilty to was two counts of the indictment against him. In January, the federal Bureau of Prisons took custody of Lindh, presumably after extensive interrogation exhausted his usefulness. He was put into the general population at the federal prison in Victorville, California, about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert. Since the attack, Lindh has been moved to solitary confinement for his protection.

The incident happened Monday night at the medium-security federal prison in Victorville as Lindh was preparing to pray, said his lawyer Tony West.

"Our understanding is that the inmate tackled John and began hitting him while screaming obscenities before running off," West said in a statement. Lindh suffered a bruise on his forehead, the lawyer said.
* * *
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It was a minor incident, a prison fight. He got a little scraped up, but he's fine. One guy was picking on him."

The official had no information on Lindh's attacker. The FBI said Thursday it was investigating.

Analysis: If I were warden, I'd be really careful about putting Lindh anywhere near the general prison population. First, he's a convicted terrorist, and that has to rank pretty low among prisoner status (somewhere near child molesters and rapists). Second, he's not a physically powerful or strong man. When I saw him in July 2002, he was a wiry young man who didn't look tough at all. Third, he's famous (or infamous), and a prisoner might accrue significant status by attacking such a famous person in prison. Fourth, he's not exactly a popular celebrity. More than a few Americans have expressed a desire to physically punish him. In the Hobbesian world of federal prison, I'm not surprised that someone acted on that urge.

Bottom Line: John Walker Lindh may have a long -- and lonely -- prison sentence to look forward to for his own safety. Unless some prison group -- e.g. guards or other Muslim prisoners -- steps up to his defense, he may be in grave danger. Thus, the most prudent course of action may be to keep him in solitary confinement, possibly for the rest of his sentence.

Update: I just read the original article in the San Bernardino County Sun on the Lindh attack. It has some more details that the AP story did not have, such as:

The source, who asked not to be identified, said Muslim inmates had been protecting Walker Lindh because they viewed him as a hero. But they pulled back their support because they decided he was not a radical dissident, the source said.

New Bottom Line: Lindh needs to be protected by the prison guards and/or kept in solitary confinement. Other than fellow Islamic prisoners, Lindh is likely to find few friends inside the walls of federal prisons.
Balkin: Congress has important, Constitutional role in war effort

Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin has some really articulate thoughts on his blog today about the proper role of Congress in commanding our war on Iraq. He states up front that the President is Commander-in-Chief and responsible for all operational matters. But, as the more democratic branch, he argues that Congress has an important Constitutoinal role in the funding and oversight of the war effort -- a responsibility they should not take lightly.

Congress has the power to appropriate funding for all government expenditures, including military expenditures for wars. If Congress thinks that the President is misbehaving, or is engaged in an unwise military adventure, it can rein him in through its power of the purse. It's important to recognize that to exercise this check and balance, Congress doesn't actually have to refuse to appropriate funds for American troops; it is politically risky to do this when our men and women are fighting overseas. But it can use the appropriations process as a method of oversight- it can ask the tough questions that the Executive might rather not answer, and it can hold the Executive accountable if the President screws up or is trying to pull a fast one.

I agree with Prof. Balkin, largely based on my experience working on "reporting requirements," which are one oversight mechanism that Congress uses to monitor the activities of the Pentagon. Though onerous, time-consuming and expensive, these reporting requirements (see, e.g. 10 U.S.C. 113(c), regarding the annual report of the SecDef to Congress.) make the Defense Department more accountable to Congress. That, in turn, makes them more accountable to the American people. This is important. It's easy for large bureacracies to stray from their initial guidance, even when that guidance comes from an elected official like the President. Reporting requirements, budgetary processes, and oversight hearings all help to "boresight" large organizations like the Pentagon back onto their target. With America's sons and daughters now in harm's way, we should all favor increased accountability for those who decide their fate.
WSJ: Military command posts get mobile

Story fails to tell the real story behind the previously-cancelled C2V program

Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has an article by Helene Cooper about the new "C2V" being used by Lt. Gen. William Wallace in the Gulf. Imagine a giant, tracked Winnebago and you'll have the basic concept of his vehicle. Contractors took a Multiple-Launch Rocket Launcher, removed the giant backpack of rockets, and put an armored camper shell on the back that could hold commanders, computers, and communications.

Now, Lt. General William Wallace, who is preparing to lead U.S. Army troops into Iraq, thinks he has the answer: a custom-made "Command and Control Vehicle," or C2V, in Army parlance. Working with contractors from Lockheed Martin Corp., and other defense contractors, Gen. Wallace and his men and women built the C2V from scratch. They used the leftover chassis of old missile-rocket launch vehicles and added computers and software systems. The C2V has almost all of the essential systems of the general's real command post, which is in a tent and mobile enough to follow behind advancing troops, albeit slowly.

"Occasionally on the battlefield, there comes a time when you have to go out and look someone in the eye and know they understand what you said," General Wallace says.
* * *
The general's C2V was conceived just six months ago. Pentagon planners worked on a similar idea several years ago, but they aborted the project because it was too expensive. When he found out he would be commanding the Army's forces into Iraq, Gen. Wallace decided to resurrect the idea. Along with a few others, Mr. Kobsar located the skeletons of four missile-rocket launch vehicles in an army warehouse in York, Pa., and then set to work figuring out what Gen. Wallace would want in his car.

"I'm the kind of guy who doesn't know a damn thing about technology," the general says. "I have trouble talking on the telephone, but I had an idea of a battle commander on the move."

So, he ordered up an airtight, pressurized vehicle that would be safe in chemical or biological attacks while allowing him to receive command-and-control data. He wanted big computerized screens, like those at his base, in the vehicle. He asked for electronic maps that could show him the location of the Patriot missiles intended to protect American troops from Scud attacks, and he needed access to secure e-mail systems.

There was no way the group could do all this quickly through normal procurement channels, which can take years. So they bypassed the process, persuading the Pentagon to approve $1.74 million for four vehicles from money earmarked for the command-and-control-vehicle project abandoned years earlier. Mr. Kobsar and his colleagues then rifled through computer catalogs and went to stores to equip the vehicle. Classified equipment came from military contractors.

Unfortunately, the WSJ gets the story wrong.

When he was a Major General, William Wallace commanded the Army's 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. I served under him then, and it was a pretty good unit. At that time, 4ID was the Army's "experimental force", testing all sorts of digitization and equipment for the Army. One of those things in testing was the M4 Command and Control Vehicle, aka the "C2V." This vehicle was fielded to brigade-level command posts and to the division-level Tactical Command Post (DTAC).

Unfortunately, the vehicle didn't work that well. The digitization inside the vehicles worked okay, but the vehicles themselves were junk. They broke down all the time, and could not keep pace with a lot of other vehicles on the battlefield. Putting camoflauge nets over them was next to impossible, and the vehicles were too big to go a lot of places where command posts needed to go. Parking these things inside a building for cover in an urban area was not an option. Ultimately, the Army scrapped the program, cutting it in the same pre-Sept. 11 flurry of cuts that took out the Crusader and other programs in order to fund "Army Transformation."

Fast-forward three years: now-Lieutenant General (3-star) William Wallace commands the V Corps in Germany, and is deployed as one of the major ground commanders for Gulf War II. He wants his old C2Vs back, because he thinks it's a better vehicle than what he has. As an operational commander, he wants one so he can drive around the battlefield and meet his commanders while staying connected. So he resurrects a few old C2Vs, has them refitted, and shipped over to the Gulf.

So what's the problem? Well, for one, the same problems exist. As the WSJ reports, the vehicles still break all the time. Second, a Corps Commander is rarely close enough to the front lines to need a C2V. The Corps command posts stay behind the range of enemy artillery as a matter of Army doctrine, and the threat of tactical ballistic missiles is pretty remote for a pinpoint/mobile target like a CP. Third, the C2V itself doesn't do the job that LTG Wallace wants. He wants to use it to drive up and see his commanders. That's dumb. Time is of the essence for a commander, and the V Corps commander has a lot of helicopters at his disposal. It'd be far wiser - not to mention safer - for him to fly around the battlefield with an Apache helicopter escort as Gen. Schwartzkopf did in the first Gulf War. And with the latest in battlefield technology, you could easily outfit a UH-60 with FBCB2 to make it command-and-control capable.

Bottom Line: LTG Wallace has spent untold millions of dollars to resurrect a dead procurement program that didn't work very well in the first place, and for which he has no ostensible need as a corps commander. We should not force our military to pinch pennies, but we must hold them to a high standard of fiscal stewardship. There is a finite defense budget and we don't have the money to spend on armored Winnebagos for field commanders.
WSJ: Restaurants and grocers say "non" to French fare

Deep inside today's Wall Street Journal (Page D2), the paper carries a tiny vignette about how America's food industry is turning its back on French cuisine, wine, and culinary products. This is a big deal -- French stuff accounts for a major portion of the fine-food industry's repertoire, especially for East Coast restaurants that don't easy access to California wines or produce. Nonetheless, these restauranteurs and grocers say they've had enough of French recalcitrance in international affairs. Thus, they have decided to pull all things French from their menus and shelves.

The Voyageur, St. Clair, Michigan -- Pulled French wines off the menu. "We have a lot of staff that has family in the service, and a lot of patrons from the service, so we felt that this is a way we can support them," says owner Mike LaPorte.

Garden Fresh Markets, Chicago-area supermarket chain -- Pulled Evian water, Bon Maman jams, Marquis de Dijon mustard, Life in Provence breads, and Perrier water. "We want to show full support to our government. The French seem to be hindering any effort to solve the problem," says general manager Dan O'Neill.

Lentini Restaurant, New York City -- All French wines and champagnes are off the menu. "The European community is supposed to be together, and the French always want to do their own thing," says owner Giuseppe Lentini.
Students 'walk out' at UCLA to protest war

What does a student 'walk out' really say?

More than 1,000 students walked out of class yesterday at UCLA and scores of campuses across America yesterday to protest America's impending war on Iraq. The protest was a pretty good political tactic, as I see it. First, students represent part of the available manpower pool for the military. If students are protesting, then this means the segment of the population who might fight in the future doesn't support the war. (We don't have a draft in place, but if we did, this would be a more poignant message.) Second, it's a great tactic because it's relatively easy to get students to walk out of class. In fact, it's probably easier to get students to walk out of class than to vote. All you need to do is get a few vocal students into a classroom, throw out the option of leaving class early, and they'll go. Some will go out of curiousity, some will go to skip class, some will go out of political activism. But the peer and group dynamics of high school and college make it so that many will go. This swells the protest numbers, and allows organizers to claim victory in numbers.

Once again, yesterday's event was coordinated by the Not In Our Name and International ANSWER organizations. A lot has been written about these organizations' dubious roots. Not In Our Name is a hodge-podge conglomerate of liberal groups. International ANSWER is more focused, largely staffed and funded by the International Socialist movement and other less-than-reputable movements. Why, you might ask, are these two groups sponsoring student protests these days? And why are the students turning to them? Well, the anti-war protest is the only game in town. And frankly speaking, these groups are good at organizing protests -- they have an excellent cadre with a lot of experience.

Fortunately, International ANSWER's role in the protest turned more than a few people's stomachs. As the protest wore on, the protest leaders changed the agenda to include other pet protest subjects, like the need to Free Mumia or Fight John Ashcroft -- or even to support labor unions. Then the inevitable anti-Israel speakers took the microphone, at which point one of my friends decided to leave. By the time I saw the protest, on my walk over to the Afghani ambassador lecture, the numbers had dwindled to less than 300. It says a whole lot about the depth of this anti-war effort when a campus of 34,000 students can muster only 300 students to stay for the duration of a class "walk out" protest.

Sequel: If you've ever wanted an example of how protesting and military activity can live with each other, yesterday provided a great case in point. The Daily Bruin had this vignette at the bottom of its story:

A group of three Marines who showed up on Bruin Walk to man their traditional recruitment station said they were undeterred by the rally.

"You have a God-given right to speak your mind and you have an America-given right to get away with it," said Marine Captain A. Hollimon, who added the UCLA community had always been supportive of the Marines in the three years he had been a recruiter.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Afghanistan's ambassador to U.S. speaks at UCLA

Ishaq Shahryar describes nation-buidling progress; makes predictions for U.S. troop redeployment

UCLA hosted Ishaq Shahryar, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, for a lecture and discussion session this afternoon. I attended as an interested student and came away with a good impression of the man and his pitch on behalf of Afghanistan. The ambassador came to the U.S. as a young man for college, studied at UC Santa Barbara, and made a lot of money developing photovoltaic cells here in California. President Karzai tapped him last year be the Afghan ambassador, and he's shuttled between Kabul and Washington ever since.

Ambassador Shahryar made a very compelling argument for continued U.S. involvement in his country. He was clearly grateful to the U.S. for its nation-building work of the last year. But he emphasized that U.S. investments in Afghanistan would return tremendous dividends to the United States in terms of stability and security - both for the region, and the world. "Support for Afghanistan should not be seen as pure altruism," he said. "It will be returned to the U.S. in stability commensurate with the investment." I think this is right. Beyond our short-term humanitarian interests in Afghanistan, we have long-term interests in maintaining a stable Central Asian region.

He went on to describe the work done by U.S. military and diplomatic units in Afghanistan, singling out the work of U.S. Army civil-affairs units and US AID officers. Both, he said, had made an immeasurable difference in the lives of Afghani citizens.

The gathering was fairly small (less than 100 audience members), so I raised my hand and asked him the first question. I asked what he saw as the end state for the U.S. deployment to Afghanistan. That is to say, what are the conditions in Afghanistan that might trigger the Afghani government to ask the U.S. to withdraw its soldiers, with the mission accomplished. Ambassador Shahryar answered this question with very measured prose, I think, because he has taken it from other people in Washington already and understands the implications.

"America is a liberator, not a conqueror," the ambassador started. "America liberated us first from the Soviet Union, and then from the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I believe that America will only stay as long as necessary, and no longer. We will not ask America to leave before then."

I interpret this response as a cryptic way of saying three things. First, the ambassador has tremendous gratitude for what America did for his country, and that was apparent elsewhere in his speech. Second, Ambassador Shahryar wants more U.S. involvement (military and diplomatic), not less, and he's unwilling to commit to any end state because he thinks that may lead to a decline in U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Given the current U.S. focus on Iraq, I think he's probably right. Third, I think Ambassador Shahryar and President Hamid Karzai believe that U.S. troops may be needed for a very, very long time in Afghanistan. By focusing on the mission, and not the end state, they can avoid painful discussion of a 30-50 year American troop commitment.

In any case, I enjoyed the lecture and discussion session. It was quite moving to hear the ambassador report on the progress within his country, knowing that American sweat and blood had gone towards making that vision a reality.

This from an Army buddy of mine...

> SECRETARY of State Colin Powell put a snrky Iraqi reporter in his
> place the other day. The scribe tried to sandbag the statesman by
> asking, "Isn't it true that only 13 percent of young Americans can
> locate Iraq on a map?" "That may be true," Powell snapped. "You're
> probably right. But unfortunately for you, all 13 percent are
> U.S. Marines."
Slate: How war will be fought in Iraq

Brookings fellow and journalist Gregg Easterbrook has a great piece in Slate today on the way war will be fought in Iraq. Unlike the daily journalists who have succumbed to Pentagon disinformation campaigns by printing alleged "war plans stories", Easterbrook has taken the time to examine significant changes in warfare since 1991. This enables him to write an informed story about how Gulf War II might differ from Gulf War I.

The air campaign is likely to be dramatically different from the Gulf War, because air weapons and tactics have evolved significantly since 1991. A land campaign, by contrast, may not differ materially from 1991. Army and Marine weapons have not changed much, although advances have been made, including new technology for what the Pentagon internally calls "network-centric warfare," a catchphrase you may hear often this spring.

And while the very latest in warfare may be employed against Iraq, millennia-old military techniques might also be used. Coalition ground forces may surround Baghdad and then pitch camp to await Saddam's surrender: a high-tech update of the ancient tradition of Fertile Crescent war, in which one king positioned his infantry outside the gates of another king's city and simply waited.
* * *
Which suggests that if U.S. attackers do end up racing to Baghdad, they should encircle the city and stop, waiting for those within to yield. There is a historical precedent for this in Iraq. It worked for Nabopolassar at the gates of Nineveh in 612 B.C. It might work again this spring.

Sequel: I love it when journalists reach back into the annals of military history. I'm waiting for the writer who cites to the Battle of Thermopylae (fictionalized in Gates of Fire) or the Battles of Crecy and Agincourt. All three battles hold important lessons for our looming war against Iraq.
U.S. Supreme Court upholds California's "3 strikes" law

In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court upheld California's 1994 law that mandated 25-year-to-life sentences for defendants who were convicted of a third crime. Proposition 184 created the state's law in 1994, and as a popular initiative, received some amount of deference from the court. The law passed with an overwhelming majority, despite (accurate) predictions that the law would have tremendously costly consequences for the state prison system. Much of the public support grew out of sympathy for Polly Klaas, a young girl who was kidnapped and murdered in California by a recidivist criminal. Polly's parents played a key role in supporting the initiative, arguing that Prop. 184 might have saved their daughter if it had been on the books before her abduction.

The court majority noted the popularity of such laws and the public fears behind them. State legislatures should have leeway to keep career criminals away from the public, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority.

"When the California legislature enacted the three-strikes law, it made a judgment that protecting the public safety requires incapacitating criminals who have already been convicted of at least one serious or violent crime," O'Connor wrote.

The Constitution's Eighth Amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment does not prohibit California from making that choice, she wrote.

LAT: Iraqi agents to open a second front on U.S. in case of war

This morning's Los Angeles Times reports that America has credible information about Iraqi agents dispatched to attack the United States and other Western interests in the event of an American attack on Iraq. The agents are poised to strike targets in the Middle East and Europe, raising concerns among Western officials that the U.S. will be unable to confine a war with Iraq to the battlefield of its choice, according to the diplomat, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his country be identified.

In Washington, officials confirmed Tuesday that U.S. intelligence agencies have picked up "a lot of chatter" on the Iraqi intelligence circuit in the last month that has led to warnings at several major U.S. embassies. Among those have been the missions in Egypt, Thailand and South Africa, the officials said.

The intelligence community believes that the chatter is either "willing disinformation to wind us up" or refers to assets in place that the United States does not know about, said a well-placed U.S. official who requested anonymity.

"Either way," the official said, "we have to prepare for it."

Washington has no solid estimate of either the numbers involved or their capabilities, the source said. One source said that the U.S. is sufficiently in the dark that it is unsure whether the threat is from "five guys working out of a single apartment" or something much bigger.

Analysis: This report matches the terrorist and unconventional warfare doctrine I've read -- this is classic asymmetric, 4th Generation Warfare. Iraq can't afford to fight us head-on like they did in 1991; they're going to get slaughtered. Moreover, doing so will have little impact on publc opinion or political support for the war. Iraq has identified public opinion and political support for the war as two key "centers of gravity" which it can affect with terrorist strikes on civilian and other "soft" targets in the U.S. In doing so, Iraq will use its strength (small cells of terrorists) against an area of U.S. relative weakness (unprotected civilian targets), and exploit that asymmetry to destroy our center of gravity (public support for the war) and win a strategic victory.

Why is this wrong? As dictators like Hideki Tojo and Hitler learned, America responds very angrily to civilian casualties -- particularly when carried out with any amount of treachery. Remember how America felt after Sept. 11? Remember how many people wanted to hang Osama Bin Laden from the highest tree they could find while they each took a swing at him with a baseball bat? That's exactly how everyone would feel towards Saddam Hussein if he were to strike at the U.S. population -- or one of our close allies like the UK. If Iraq is dumb enough to pursue this strategy, it will almost certainly bolster public support for the war and be reduced to the dustpile of history.

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

You Don't Say -- "Top General Sees Plan to Shock Iraq Into Surrendering"

NYT headline states the obvious for readers; story fails to add much more

I've gotten tired over the last several months of reading "war plans" stories in America's leading newspapers. The Washington Post, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Times, USA Today, and others have all run these at various points. I suspect that most have been leaked by mid-level officers who were frustrated that their course of action didn't get picked by the general, but I can't be sure. In any case, these stories probably did more to confuse our own citizenry about American war plans than the Iraqis for whom this disinformation was intended.

Wednesday's New York Times leads with a story by Elizabeth Bumiller (White House reporter) and Eric Schmitt (Pentagon reporter) about the latest war plan. This one's different though -- the news comes from a breakfast meeting between General Richard B. Myers (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) and reporters. He says, in a blinding flash of the obvious, that "If asked to go into conflict in Iraq, what you'd like to do is have it be a short conflict." I'm glad to hear it... I thought for a second that America's highest ranking military officer might want a long, protracted, casualty-heavy conflict. (sarcasm is dripping from this sentence, in case you can't tell) The story adds that General Myers said that throughout the campaign, the American military would go to "extraordinary lengths" to avoid civilian casualties. "But we can't forget that war is inherently violent," he said. "People are going to die. As hard as we try to limit civilian casualties, it will occur. We need to condition people that that is war. People get the idea this is going to be antiseptic. Well, it's not going to be."

You don't say...
Troop counts: most major media fail to add numbers correctly

The Associated Press ran a story today with the headline "U.S. Forces Arrayed in Gulf Near 300,000". The lead paragraph of the story, by veteran military reporter Bob Burns, indicates this headline is false. The reality, as he writes, is that the total of forces "arrayed against Iraq or preparing to go" was close to 300,000. (Not to focus too harshly on the AP; the NY Times and CNN have made this mistake too.)

The truth is that the actual number on the ground is considerably lower, and that the 300,000 number represents all those troops who have been given alert or deployment orders for the Gulf. This includes units like the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, whose equipment is currently parked off the coast of Turkey on cargo ships. It also includes units like the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, The Cav will not deploy until the 4th Infantry has left the post -- an event at least a week or two away. Units like 1st Armored Division and 2d Armored Cav Reg't have yet to put their stuff on the ships as well. Moreover, there are numerous reserve units who have gotten the call but still have yet to report for duty.

Bottom Line: Including their headcounts in the aggregate count of U.S. troops in the Gulf tells a flawed story. The result is that this flawed reporting raises the stakes of this already high-stakes poker game too quickly. The media should take pains to report the story more accurately.
Slate - Is torture legal?

With the capture this weekend of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, FBI sources are salivating over the information they'll glean from the detritus in his apartment. A Wall Street Journal op-ed argued that the Bush administration is right to treat him as an "unlawful combatant," which means he won't enjoy the protections accorded POWs and can be interrogated "vigorously" and with "all appropriate pressure." So, does that mean the United States can torture him? In 2001, Dahlia Lithwick explained: "The question of whether or not torture is 'legal' is one issue. The answer is: It isn't. The more relevant question is whether U.S. courts would admit evidence procured via torture (it might) or prosecute an American for torture (it might)."
Update from WSJ: How Do Interrogators Make A Captured Terrorist Talk?

Legal correspondent Jess Bravin has another great article in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on the means the U.S. will use to extract information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The U.S. argues (correctly, I believe) that these stop short of torture -- they aim to break Mr. Mohammed's mind, not his body. Human rights organizations tend to differ with this interpretation. Of course, these are the same groups that clamored for better treatment of our prisoners at Guantanamo even after the Red Cross said we were treating those men well.

High-profile prisoners such as Mr. Mohammed generally are held by the Central Intelligence Agency and interrogated in a third country, possibly Jordan in this case. It's unclear exactly what rules the CIA follows in conducting interrogations, because the agency is closemouthed about such matters, other than denying that it uses truth serum or torture. But judging from methods military interrogators say they are allowed to employ under international humanitarian law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the CIA has plenty of options.

Military interrogators say their prisoners can be lied to, screamed at and shown falsified documents in the hopes they might unwittingly confirm certain pieces of information. Interrogators can also play on their prisoners' phobias, such as fear of rats or dogs, or disguise themselves as interrogators from a country known to use torture or threaten to send the prisoner to such a place. Prisoners can be stripped, forcibly shaved and deprived of religious items and toiletries.
* * *
Initially, interrogators will aim to disorient Mr. Mohammed. "You deprive him of what he's used to and comfortable with," this official says. "You deprive him of his surroundings. You move him. In this instance, you do that geographically, physically and emotionally. You put him someplace he's unfamiliar with. You deprive him of food, water and sleep. You make morning night, and you make hot cold."

Authorities are hoping they'll get lucky. "He's a fanatic but he could be a big baby," the official says.

U.S. authorities have an additional inducement to make Mr. Mohammed talk, even if he shares the suicidal commitment of the Sept. 11 hijackers: The Americans have access to two of his elementary-school-age children, the top law-enforcement official says. The children were captured in a September raid that netted one of Mr. Mohammed's top comrades, Ramzi Binalshibh.

When interrogators finish with Mr. Mohammed, he is likely to face a U.S. military tribunal, but that will probably be years from now.

Analysis: Once again, it's important to start from the assumption that Mr. Mohammed is a prisoner of war in America's fight against terrorism. He is not a criminal defendant; he does not deserve any of the Constitutional protections we give to such defendants. The U.S. may ultimately try Mr. Mohammed by court martial or military tribunal. But even when it does, the U.S. will treat him as an enemy (albeit unlawful) combatant -- not a criminal defendant. The legal context for his capture, detention, interrogation and eventual trial is wholly different from the Constitutional criminal paradigm, and it must be. The exigencies of war are far different from the realities of law enforcement, and the stakes are much higher. If we fail to properly interrogate a criminal defendant, we may fail to solve 1 crime or fail to stop a few criminal transactions. But if we fail to extract information from men like Mr. Mohammed, thousands more may die as they did on Sept. 11.
LAT: Pentagon to build its own intelligence team for covert action

In this morning's LA Times, Greg Miller reports that the Pentagon has pushed forward a plan to build its own intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities. No problem -- military intelligence has always existed and will always exist. But Miller also tells us that the Pentagon intends to build a network of "human intelligence" collection capabilities and covert action capabilities similar to what exists in the CIA's Directorate of Operations. This is significant, because the Defense Intelligence Agency and other entities have historically reserved that role for the CIA (or its ancestor, the OSS). Secretary Rumsfeld and others want this capability because of problems that emerged in Afghanistan when the military tried to work together with CIA operatives.

Officials said the aim is to form a deep roster of intelligence operators capable of handling a range of assignments — from reconnaissance for military operations to long-term clandestine work in which Pentagon spies would function like CIA case officers, working undercover to steal secrets and recruit informants.

The number of spies is expected to be in the hundreds, although officials cautioned it could be years before a force that size is in position.

The program would be managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a little-known Pentagon spy shop that mostly conducts intelligence analysis. Recruits would be drawn from all four branches of the military, with an emphasis on attracting those with special forces backgrounds. All would undergo the same training as CIA case officers at the agency's southern Virginia training facility for clandestine service, known in intelligence circles as the Farm.

The effort stems in large part from frustration within the Pentagon over the extent to which the military was forced to rely on the CIA in the opening stages of the war in Afghanistan. It also reflects concern that there are too few CIA officers deployed around the world, and that they are not adequately focused on collecting intelligence that is useful to the military, several officials said.

Analysis: I wasn't aware the system was broke -- Afghanistan seemed to work pretty well. CIA operatives got there ahead of the Special Forces and established immediate liaison with entities like the Northern Alliance. They seemed to do a pretty good job, from what I read in the newspapers. However, I'm obviously not privy to the classified after-action reviews which have been done for this operation. It's possible this relationship did not work as well as reported, and that severe issues rose by having two distinct bureaucracies trying to manage combat operations in Afghanistan. "Unity of command" is a sacred principle of warfare, and the disunity in Afghanistan may have caused problems. Moreover, the Pentagon may be the best agency for this kind of covert-action capability, because of its vast resources and already-existing Special Operations Command. More to follow...

Monday, March 3, 2003

Can the U.S. torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to get information?

After the dust settled from the joint American/Pakistani raid to capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, many began to speculate that he was being tortured in captivity at a secure, undisclosed location outside the United States. Can the United States torture suspected terrorists if we think they have information that could save lives?

Like most legal questions, the answer depends on a definition - in this case, "torture". The 3rd Geneva Convention and other bodies of international law proscribe the physical means of torture - the kinds of things you'd see in a bad Cold War movie. U.S. agents can't use electrodes on Mr. Mohammed's skin or inject him with sodium pentothal (so-called "truth serum"). U.S. intelligence officials cannot beat Mr. Mohammed or deprive him of food. They also can't stand outside the door while Pakistani or Israeli intelligence officials do the dirty work.

However, U.S. officials can (and probably will) use other methods of interrogation that attack Mr. Mohammed's mind instead of his body. Jess Bravin wrote an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal in April 2002 that discussed the training of these methods at the U.S. Army's Intelligence School in Arizona. This article provides a rare glimpse inside the world that Mr. Mohammed -- and probably the men at Guantanamo -- are facing right now.

Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2002
Interrogation School Tells Army Recruits How Grilling Works
By Jess Bravin

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- "Has anybody talked to you about lying?" instructor John Giersdorf asks his freshman class. "We expect you to lie a lot. Your job is to convince someone to do something that could get him executed for treason."

This is the U.S. Army's interrogation school, and Staff Sgt. Giersdorf, a veteran intelligence-operative who speaks Arabic, Czech and Russian, is teaching new recruits to extract information from al Qaeda and other captive foes. The job, he tells his students, "is just a hair's-breadth away from being an illegal specialty under the Geneva Convention."

Interrogators -- the Pentagon renamed them "human intelligence collectors" last year -- are authorized not just to lie, but to prey on a prisoner's ethnic stereotypes, sexual urges and religious prejudices, his fear for his family's safety, or his resentment of his fellows. They'll do just about everything short of torture, which officials say is not taught here, to make their prisoners spill information that could save American lives.
* * *
Soldiers then study 30 techniques to make prisoners crack. One is the simple "incentive approach." Around the world, "everyone smokes," Sgt. Giersdorf tells students. "If you've ever talked to a captured Arab who hasn't smoked for two hours, a pack of smokes can get you a long way."

Some incentives, however, can be pure deceptions. Sgt. Giersdorf says prisoners may be told they could be repatriated if they cooperate, or that their wounded friends might get the best medical care, even though interrogators know that neither would happen. Other techniques involve considerably more pressure.

"Fear-up" employs "heavy-handed, table-banging violence," an Army field manual says. "The interrogator behaves in a heavy, overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice" and may "throw objects across the room to heighten the source's implanted feelings of fear."

Interrogators can suggest plenty of things to frighten prisoners. One Federal Bureau of Investigation official says likely scenarios include being sent to a U.S. prison, where inmates might view terrorists as "lower than a child molester." Equally threatening: repatriation to Afghanistan, to face justice under the new regime in Kabul.

"Fear-down," in contrast, targets terrified prisoners. Interrogators try to calm them, asking about personal or family life, eventually interjecting the questions they really want answered. The technique "may backfire if allowed to go too far," the manual cautions, raising a prisoner's self-confidence to the point where he won't feel he has to answer.

Bottom Line: This type of stuff treads the line between interrogation and torture, but it does not cross that line. Some may argue that these practices violate the Constitutional rights of terrorists, that we ought to give these men lawyers and due process. I say that's wrong, because it's based on a series of flawed assumptions about these men and their status. If you assume these men are combatants (lawful or otherwise) and that they are captives in a new kind of war, then it follows that America ought to be able to treat them as prisoners of war. By international law and custom, the U.S. can interrogate prisoners of war. In fact, commanders have a duty to do so when those prisoners have information that could save American lives.

I will not go so far as Alan Dershowitz, who has argued that civilian judges should able to authorize "torture warrants" for certain individuals in the criminal courts when we think they have life-saving information. But I do think the U.S. ought to retain its authority to detain combatants and interrogate them to learn about the enemy. Nation-states have exercised this power since prisoners were taken in the Peloponnesian Wars (and perhaps before), and American practices today are different only in that they are more humane. We do not torture prisoners, but we will get the information out of him by whatever legal means we can.
U.S. designates Chechen groups as foreign terrorist organizations

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the State Department had added three Chechen groups to its list of terrorist organizations. The State Dept. indicated these groups had links to Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, and were connected to the hostage-taking operation in Moscow last year where 800 Russians were seized and more than 100 killed. Some questioned whether this designation was a quid pro quo for Russian support of operations against Iraq, but the State Dept. denied any such connection.

The U.S. government added to its list only three of the most radical groups, saying the leaders of those groups have ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network or have claimed responsibility for acts that U.S. officials consider to be terrorism.

The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs has about 200 fighters and, according to the State Department, is led by Shamil Basayev.

He has said that he ordered a band of about 50 rebels to take over a Moscow theater in October. In the resulting siege, 129 hostages died, most of them from gas that Russian forces pumped into the theater. All the rebels died.

The other two groups are the International Islamic Brigade -- Basayev also served as a leader of that group until a few months ago -- and the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment, which was headed by Movsar Barayev, who led the theater hostage-takers and died when Russian troops stormed the building.

In a five-page analysis of its decision, the State Department said Basayev and another rebel commander known as Khattab asked bin Laden for help at the start of the second Chechen war with Russia in October 1999. Bin Laden promised the rebel commanders' envoys that he would send money and several hundred fighters, the analysis said, quoting published reports.

It also said that Khattab, sometimes called a protege of bin Laden, sent fighters to Afghanistan in October 2001 to help the Taliban movement that then controlled most of the country. It said many of the Chechens in a select al Qaeda brigade in Afghanistan were likely followers of Khattab, Basayev or Barayev.

Under Title 8, United States Code, Section 1189, the Secretary of State has the power to designate groups as "foreign terrorist organizations if they meet certain criteria. This designation subsequently triggers a number of other laws, including bars to immigration for group members and criminal laws prohibiting the provision of material support to such organizations. A number of people have been indicted or convicted recently of providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations connected to Al Qaeda, including Sami Al-Arian (the Florida professor).

Analysis: The goal of this action may be to promote our relationship with Russia and gather more Russian support for America's war on terrorism. But at home, this designation will also have a major effect. Adding these groups to our list of FTOs means that we can investigate and prosecute anyone who gives them material support. Hypothetically, that means we can go after a whole new class of individuals who has provided charitable and other support to the Chechnya separatist movement. I suspect we would not have done this if we did not already have our eyes on individuals in the United States who have been providing such support. Consequently, I predict we'll see more investigations and prosecutions like in the Al-Arian case, of individuals who provide material support to these organizations in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339B.
Human shields leave Iraq

The London Guardian and others are reporting that a sizable number of 'human shields' have decided to leave Iraq for home after more than a week in Baghdad. Pressing matters at home, coupled with worries about the lethality of U.S. airstrikes, induced this change of heart. Perhaps it was also the blog talk about prosecuting them for giving aid to the enemy.

At least 30 of the so-called human shields, including several Britons, were on their way home last night. Their departure brought a dispiriting end to their heady arrival in Baghdad two weeks ago.

The activists accused the Iraqi authorities of trying to use them as pawns in the war with America. More defections are expected in the coming days.

The bitter flight from Iraq follows a showdown with the Iraqi authorities who demanded that they decamp from their hotels in central Baghdad and take up their self-assigned roles as civilian protectors.

"Basically, they said we are not going to feed you any longer," said John Ross, an American who has been active in radical causes since he tore up his draft card in 1964. He said that the Iraqi authorities ordered the activists to deploy at some 60 sites across the country: electricity plants, water treatment centres, communications facilities. None of the potential targets deemed worthy of protection were hospitals or schools - a decision activists said compromised their mission.

This from the London Daily Telegraph, reporting on the reason for the departure:

Abdul Hashimi, the head of the Friendship, Peace and Solidarity organisation that is hosting the protesters, told the shields to choose between nine so-called "strategic sites" by today or quit the country.

The Iraqi warning follows frustration among Saddam Hussein's officials that only about 65 of the shields had so far agreed to take up positions at the oil refineries, power plants and water-purification sites selected by their hosts.

It heightened fears among some peace activists that they could be stationed at non-civilian sites. Mr Meynell and fellow protesters who moved into the power station in south Baghdad last weekend were dismayed to find it stood immediately next to an army base and the strategically crucial main road south to Basra. Iraqi officials said there was little point in guarding what they considered to be low-risk targets.

Analysis: This is a significant development, both for political and legal reasons. Politically, it means that Iraq thinks a strike is imminent and they're starting to act like that. It may also mean they're resigned to an attack, and thus any future diplomacy may be moot. Legally, it's significant because it adds an element of choice to the human shields behavior. Prior to this development, you could argue that these civilians went to Iraq with somewhat honorable intentions of guarding civilian targets and preventing excessive collateral damage. Now, however, they are being asked to voluntarily "guard" positions of military significance. If the shields take those positions, they will be actively giving aid to Iraq. That may make them much more liable under federal law for treason, or for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (as Iraq has been designated by the State Department).

Sunday, March 2, 2003

: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has been transferred to U.S. custody at an undisclosed location outside of the United States. This puts him in the same category as bin-al-Shibh and Abu Zubaydah, another Al Qaeda operative in U.S. hands. According to the AP and the New York Times, interrogation of Mohammed began almost immediately upon his capture. If this guy really is Al Qaeda's chief of plans, he has a treasure trove of valuable information locked inside his head. It is imperative that we do everything possible -- short of outright torture or murder -- to get that information so that others may live.

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Another big fish in America's net

Various news outlets are reporting that Pakistani officials arrested Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a key operational planner for Al Qaeda who was central to the Sept. 11 plot, in Pakistan. U.S. officials provided "intelligence and forensic" support, but no overt assistance with Special Forces or CIA personnel. I'm not surprised by this, given what I know about Pakistan's internal security service (the ISI). In any case, this individual is being held by the Pakistanis now, and according to various sources, the U.S. have access to him while he's in Pakistani custody. In some ways, this resembles the way that Al Qaeda member Ramzi bin-al-Shibh was caught -- and how he is presently detained. Our allies have physical custody of these men, but they allow us access to them for interrogation purposes. My guess is that the U.S. is actually directing the custody and interrogation itself, but using Pakistani surrogates in order to avoid any legal issues.

Query: Who will be the first terrorist to face trial by military tribunal?

The Pentagon released its "crimes and elements" for military tribunal on Friday. It now has most of the procedural rules in place for any military tribunals. The Pentagon has been interviewing attorneys to serve as judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys according to the Wall Street Journal. And now, we have several big fish in constructive or actual custody who meet the criteria in President Bush's 13 Nov 01 order:
1. Ramzi bin-al-Shibh
2. Zacarias Moussaoui
3. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
4. 650+ foot soldiers at Guantanamo who may be plausible test candidates for tribunals
* Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi are not eligible for trial by military tribunal under the 13 Nov 01 order because they are U.S. citizens
** Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld alluded to the possibility of trying captured Iraqi officials, including Saddam Hussein, by military tribunal for war crimes after the conclusion of military operations against Iraq.

Prediction: We will see military tribunals held within 6 months, with Ramzi bin-al-Shibh or Zacarias Moussaoui as the first defendants. Both men have been in U.S. custody for some time, and their intelligence value is less now than it was at the time of their capture. Mohammed is a great candidate for a tribunal, but he is about to go through an exhaustive interrogation process (an Intel Dump of sorts). It's unlikely that U.S. officials would want to jeopardize the intelligence-gathering process by putting him in a military court anytime soon.