Saturday, November 13, 2004

Understanding the evolving U.S. Constitution
Yale law professor Jack Balkin has a brilliant new article titled "What Brown Teaches Us About Constitutional Theory" in the new issue of the Virginia Law Review that I highly recommend. It offers seven significant lessons to be learned about the relationship between the Constitution, major Supreme Court decisions and societal change. Prof. Balkin makes some extremely profound arguments regarding the relationship between litigation, direct action, legislation and social change, and offers some interesting commentary on the ways various social movements have exploited these methods to their advantage (or disadvantage). The article is also a very good read (especially for a law review article) -- it's accessible to anyone who's familiar with Constitutional law and American history. Check it out.
Ashcroft v. Judges, Part XXXVIII
Outgoing Attorney General reveals the true depth of his contempt for civil liberties and the federal judiciary in a parting speech

The Washington Times provides an in-depth report in Saturday's paper about some parting potshots by outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft directed in the general direction of federal judges, and the specific direction of U.S. District Judge James Roberton, who held this week that the Bush administration's military commissions at Guantanamo Bay were unlawful. Here's a taste of what the AG had to say to a gathering of the Federalist Society:
Mr. Ashcroft warned against "excessive judicial encroachment on functions assigned to the president" in his first major address since his resignation was announced Tuesday.

Mr. Ashcroft told the conservative Federalist Society during a Washington meeting that a "profoundly disturbing trend" among some federal court judges interfered with the president's obligations under international treaties and agreements.

* * *
The unity of the executive power in the person of one individual, the president, is the great keystone of political accountability in our government. After all, the president and his chosen vice president are the only officers of the United States who are elected by all the people of the United States," Mr. Ashcroft said.

"The essential constitutional understanding is that courts are not equipped to execute the law," he said. "They are not accountable to the people. ... And they lack the knowledge, they lack the expertise essential for the effective administration of various parts of government."

But Mr. Ashcroft said the country is confronted by a "growing tendency" of the courts to inject themselves into the president's constitutional authority, including his conduct of the war on terrorism.

"Ideologically driven courts have disregarded and dismissed the president's evaluations of foreign-policy concerns in favor of theories generated by academic elites, foreign bodies and judicial imagination," he said.

"They throw out the collective wisdom and humility of judges of past generations, and they threaten the president's constitutional responsibility to defend American lives and liberties."

* * *
Mr. Ashcroft, who will remain in office until his designated successor, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, is confirmed, said that "intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations" put the nation's national security at risk at a time of war, adding that "risks of invasive oversight and micromanagement" had become "all too familiar."

"Our nation and our liberty will be all the more in jeopardy as the tendency for judicial encroachment and ideological micromanagement are applied to the sensitive domain of national defense," he said. "Dangerous and constitutionally questionable judicial action raises the stakes for our nation."
Wow — that's a mouthful. I don't think we've seen such a stinging and far-reaching indictment of the federal judiciary by any official in the Bush administration — not even in the torture memos and Geneva Convention memos made public earlier this year. General Ashcroft is all but calling Judge Robertson a traitor for giving aid and comfort to the enemy here. He's taking the Bush administration's rhetoric (you're with us or against us) to its most extreme form, saying that other branches are "against us" in the war on terrorism by virtue of their exercise of their Constitutionally mandated duties. Presumably, the AG would extend this line of logic to any exercise of meaningful Congressional oversight as well, particularly that which looked at sensitive areas like the use of FISA warrants by the Justice Department.

Without a doubt, this speech is designed to draw fire away from Alberto Gonzales, who I wrote about earlier this week, and who faces significant confirmation questions of his own. And as a political tactic, this speech may well work.

But we should not confuse the smokescreen of politics for the true import of this speech. This speech gives us a view straight into the head of John Ashcroft -- and it reveals his true feelings when it comes to balancing liberty and security. Ultimately, much of the AG's rhetoric in this speech will fall on deaf ears. Many in the Federalist Society are likely to buy his load of manure already, particularly the theoretical arguments about a "unitary executive" and the epistemological arguments about judicial deference to the executive on national security issues. Those on the left are likely to ignore this speech too, as simply one more reason to hate the Bush administration. I think that's unfortunate. This is the most explicit statement to date of the Bush administration's intentions, and this speech should find a place in every legal scholar's file as a clear expression of the administration's real values when it comes to balancing liberty with security.

When scholars sit down in 10 or 20 years to write the legal history of America's war on terrorism, I imagine this speech will find a very prominent place in their work. The AG makes it very clear: In this fight, you're either with us or against us. There's no room for dissent, and no room for the loyal opposition. Whether you're a federal judge, a civil rights lawyer, or an enemy combatant, you all have the same moral status in John Ashcroft's book. And if you're against us, be afraid — be very afraid.
A few good corporate citizens
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on Thursday (Veterans Day) on the list of the 25 most military-friendly employers in America compiled by G.I. Jobs magazine.
Home Depot ranked as the nation's most military-friendly employer, followed by Sprint and General Electric, in G.I. Jobs' December issue, which is on newsstands in time for Veterans Day.

Three other local giants ranked in the top 20: Georgia-Pacific at No. 11, Coca-Cola Enterprises at No. 14 and BellSouth at No. 19.

"Home Depot distanced itself from the competition this year," said Chris Hale, general manager of the Pittsburgh-based magazine. "They have gone crazy with military recruiting. They even have a program that assists military spouses with Home Depot employment."

Home Depot hired nearly 10,000 veterans in 2003 and should exceed that figure this year, according to the magazine. The chain has two full-time recruiters dedicated to hiring military veterans.
And here's the full list, which is available from G.I. Jobs magazine:
1. Home Depot
2. Sprint
3. General Electric
4. Brink's
5. Johnson Controls
6. Union Pacific
7. Lockheed Martin
8. American Electric Power
10. Electronic Data Systems
11. Georgia-Pacific
12. Manpower
13. Merrill Lynch
14. Coca Cola
15. Honeywell International
16. Grainger
17. ExxonMobil
18. SBC Communications
19. BellSouth
20. FirstData
21. HSBC North America
22. MGM Mirage
23. ArvinMeritor
24. MBNA
25. Becton Dickinson and Co.
Keep up the good work: — America's reservists and veterans deserve this kind of support.
A global, wireless information superhighway
Tim Weiner reports on the front page of Saturday's New York Times on a new Pentagon program to procure a "global information grid" which would be capable of providing high-speed, wide-bandwidth, secure, wireless connectivity to any soldier, anywhere, anytime, under any conditions. Sounds cool, right? Sure does to me, based on my experience as the former PL for the first digitized MP platoon in the Army. Check out some of this program's features:
This "Internet in the sky," Peter Teets, under secretary of the Air Force, told Congress, would allow "marines in a Humvee, in a faraway land, in the middle of a rainstorm, to open up their laptops, request imagery" from a spy satellite, and "get it downloaded within seconds."

The Pentagon calls the secure network the Global Information Grid, or GIG. Conceived six years ago, its first connections were laid six weeks ago. It may take two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build the new war net and its components.

* * *
Providing the connections to run the war net will cost at least $24 billion over the next five years - more than the cost, in today's dollars, of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Beyond that, encrypting data will be a $5 billion project.

Hundreds of thousands of new radios are likely to cost $25 billion. Satellite systems for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications will be tens of billions more. The Army's program for a war net alone has a $120 billion price tag.

Over all, Pentagon documents suggest, $200 billion or more may go for the war net's hardware and software in the next decade or so. "The question is one of cost and technology," said John Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense, now president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

* * *
To realize this vision, the military must solve a persistent problem. It all boils down to bandwidth.

Bandwidth measures how much data can flow between electronic devices. Too little for civilians means a Web page takes forever to load. Too little for soldiers means the war net will not work.

* * *
According to Art Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, "What we are really talking about is a new theory of war."
Analysis: Sure, there are going to be obstacles. There are going to be cost overruns. There are going to be glitches and technical obstacles. But guess what? That's true of any technological leap forward like this one. And you know what -- this program is still worth it. Remember that little thing called the Internet? It was a speculative Pentagon program too, run by the predescessor to DARPA. And for more than two decades, it remained a relatively obscure tool for communication, used mostly by academics and defense folks. But slowly, the ARPAnet of yesterday grew into the Internet today -- and it staggers the mind to consider the amount of economic growth that has resulted from the harnessing of this technology. The same story could likely replay itself for the global information grid. This program is not intended for commercial use at this point in time, and indeed, it would take a great deal more investment to build in the kind of bandwidth and breadth necessary to allow commercial use of the GIG. But, I think that day will come, and once it does, you're going to have an unbelievable engine of economic growth for the United States and the world.

I'm an optimist when it comes to much of what the Pentagon pours its R&D; money into. The track record for some of this stuff is abysmal, to be sure. Yet even failed (or questionable) investments like Star Wars yield a great deal of basic research and scientific progress. And the chance that a program will be a grand slam, like the Internet, is always there. Few programs have the promise and the potential that GIG has, so I think we should strongly consider it notwithstanding all of the technical and fiscal obstacles that lie ahead.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Saluting America's Veterans
With a few notable exceptions, America has always enjoyed a close relationship with its warriors. Our nation, after all, was born through a fight with the British crown, and American soldiers fought scores of wars from that time forward to preserve the republic, secure or expand U.S. territory, or defeat foreign foes. Today, we honor those Americans who have served their nation in uniform. Unlike Memorial Day, today is a day to celebrate the service of those who have served and lived, not to commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. However, we should always be cognizant of the fact that military service is a dangerous affair, and that many of our finest sons and daughters have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy the freedoms we do today.

President Bush, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have all published eloquent messages for this Veterans Day. But with events in Iraq and Afghanistan dominating the news, we need not look far for news of the valor and sacrifice of our military personnel. Whether you support this war or not, these men and women are fighting it in our name. And today, we should all take a moment to reflect on that fact, and the selfless service rendered by these fine individuals. Ours is a volunteer military; we do not force our citizens into military service, like so many nations still do. Even as a veteran, I am constantly amazed that millions of young Americans would knowingly and willfully choose a life of such hardship, generation after generation. There are inherent equity issues in an all-volunteer force like ours; the recruiting net pulls disproportionately from some parts of society. However, I still think it's incredible that so many young Americans volunteer for military service, even in the face of certain combat deployment today.

On this Veterans Day, unfortunately, there is more that we can do to support our nation's warriors. The Veterans Administration, always the victim of chronic underfunding, faces significant shortfalls today. It must ration health care in order to deliver even the most basic services, and it may not be ready for the bow wave of combat veterans who will leave active duty over the next several years. We owe our veterans more than this. Similarly, while the overwhelming majority of mobilized reservists have been supported well by their civilian employers, thousands of reservists have come home from combat duty to find their jobs gone, or to find themselves the victims of some adverse employment action, in contravention of federal law. According to the Washington Post, roughly 40 percent of the reservists now mobilized face a "pay gap", where they make (in many cases, significantly) less money on active duty than in their civilian jobs. These troops have a tough time supporting their families while they serve.

We can do better, and we should take this Veterans Day to recommit ourselves to serving those who have done so much to serve us.

(Photo Credits: SPC Harold Fields, SPC Sean Kimmons, SFC Johancharles Van Boers)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

229 years, and still going strong
The United States Marine Corps celebrates its 229th birthday today. In recent years, they've been quite busy, serving both as America's 9-1-1 force and its lethal vanguard in the war on terrorism — from the mountains of Afghanistan to the streets of Iraq. Today, the U.S. Marines are engaged in a bloody fight for the city of Fallujah, on whose outcome the fate of the entire Iraq war may rest. As Ralph Peters wrote in yesterday's New York Post:
Expect 'round-the-clock ground and air operations that give the terrorists no rest and deprive them of the initiative. Our troops know how important this battle is. They'll fight ferociously. The Marines, especially, are itching for revenge after being deprived of victory for political reasons last April. They only need to be allowed to do the job right this time.

It's up to President Bush not to let them down. No matter what happens, no matter who complains or balks, no matter the false accusations from Al-Jazeera and the BBC, our president needs to stand firm until the job is done. By quitting in April, we created the terrorist city-state of Fallujah. Now we need to shut it down for good.

* * *
The truth is that war is cruel. And difficult. And complex. It's never as smooth as it is in a film or a video game. In real life, heroes get killed, too — sometimes by friendly fire. Mistakes are made, despite rigorous planning. The enemy shoots back. And sometimes the enemy gets lucky. Tragedy is war's inseparable companion.

We cannot foresee all the details of the combat ahead. The fight for Fallujah may prove easier than we feared, or tougher than we hoped. Time will tell. Meanwhile, don't let your view be swayed by the crisis of the hour. Have faith in our troops and their leaders.

In return, I can promise you one thing: If we don't fail our troops, they won't fail us.
Right on. I find a certain symmetry in the fact that the Marines are celebrating their birthday at a time when their warrior brethren are decisively engaged in Fallujah. Warfighting, after all, is what the Marines exist for. They are capable of low-intensity combat, of peacekeeping, and of humanitarian assistance. But the reason we have a Marine Corps today, just as in 1775, is to fight and win America's wars. On the base of the Iwo Jima memorial, you will find the names of all the places where Marines have fought and died in our name. The list is longer than you'd think, because Marines have often fought in brush-fire wars too small or too remote to make the headlines or the history books. Today, we should remember those endeavors, and say a prayer of thanks for the U.S. Marine Corps. For more than two centuries, our democracy's survival has depended on the willingness of young men (and increasingly, young women) to put themselves in harm's way. It still does today.

(Photo Credits: Sgt. Kevin R. Reed, U.S. Marines; Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Klein, U.S. Marines)

Post Script: Bing West, a former Marine and former Assistant Secretary of Defense, is downrange now with the Marines assaulting Fallujah. He has a series of dispatches beginning today in Slate. Check it out.
DefenseTech on the move
Congratulations to Noah Shachtman, editor of DefenseTech, whose weblog was recently purchased by Military.Com and re-established as part of their excellent military resources website. For some time now, Noah has consistently provided some of the best military-oriented blogging on the web, something I attribute to his experience as a journalist and deep knowledge of military affairs. Now you can see his work in a slightly slicker format, and hopefully, also find feeds from Military.Com's other features on his site. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

An 'Economy of Force' operation to help Sudan
Abraham McLaughlin and Duncan Woodside report in the Christian Science Monitor on the support being provided right now by the U.S. Air Force's 322nd Air Expeditionary Group — which has roughly 125 personnel conducting airlift operations in support of the African security initiative in the Sudan. The Monitor reports that the support is entirely logistical in nature — and that the U.S. is deferring to its African allies on all things operational. So far, the arrangement appears to be working.
The three gray pot-bellied aircraft, and the 125 US Air Force personnel who run them, have been ferrying Rwandan and Nigerian soldiers into Darfur as part of a plan by the African Union - a kind of United Nations of Africa - to help halt the killings in western Sudan, killings the US calls genocide. Experts say the cooperative effort represents the world's best, and perhaps last, hope of helping Darfur's masses, who've recently seen rising levels of violence.

It's also the biggest test yet of an emerging architecture aimed at halting Africa's conflicts: African "boots on the ground" backed by US or European money and logistical prowess. Success could mean it becomes the battle-tested formula for addressing Africa's wars. Failure could mean continued travails for people in Darfur and elsewhere.

The partnership between African and Western nations may not be perfect, but "it's better than anything that went before," says Alex de Waal, a longtime Africa observer and fellow at Harvard University's Global Equity Initiative.

* * *
Into this fray comes the 322nd Air Expeditionary Group of the US Air Force, based in Ramstein, Germany. They set up camp at Rwanda's main airport, surrounded by rolling hills and turquoise mountain lakes. From there they've ferried troops, supplies, and equipment - including armored personnel carriers - 1,000 miles north into Darfur. Besides planes, the US has pledged $300 million to the Darfur effort. The European Union has also pledged $125 million. The money and airplanes are crucial because African countries notoriously have little of either. But they do have troops - something America has been reluctant to put in Africa since 18 US rangers were killed in Somalia in 1993.

Rwanda became one of the first African countries to provide troops for the Darfur effort, in part because of still-fresh memories of its own genocide in 1994. Other African nations have promised to send troops - a total of more than 700 from Chad, Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania, according to news reports.

"The US Air Force's contribution to ending this crisis is just one part of a larger US and international effort," says the US mission commander, Col. Robert Baine. "Our focus is on providing airlift for African Union forces so they can save African lives."
Analysis: Given our current military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, we don't have a lot of surplus military capacity with which to conduct missions like this. Nonetheless, we do have some, and I'm heartened that the U.S. has decided to commit what it can to the Sudan operation — even if it's not enough in my opinion. Moreover, this model demonstrates that you don't always have to go in heavy to make a difference. Economy of force operations, like this one and those being conducted elsewhere like in the Philippines, can make a big difference when done properly. Assuming you can mitigate the security risk of deploying a small force, and create the right chain-of-command relationships, even a few dozen personnel can influence events in a big way. And so, we ought not reject every future endeavor abroad because of our experience in Iraq, where we have had to commit hundreds of thousands of troops to do the job. For some problems, in some parts of the world, even 100 U.S. military personnel can get the job done — and are worth sending.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Federal judge rules Gitmo tribunals unlawful
First military tribunal cannot go forward, judge says, because of fatal flaws in its procedural rules

The AP reports that the military commission for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, scheduled to begin shortly in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been halted because of this decision handed down by U.S. District Judge James Robertson. Among other things, Judge Roberston held that:

- Judicial abstention is neither required nor appropriate (apparently defeating the government's argument for deference by the courts to the executive branch). Op. at 6.

- No proper determination has been made that Hamdan is an offender triable by military tribunal under the law of war.
"There is nothing in this record to suggest that a competent tribunal has determined that Hamdan is not a prisoner-of-war under the Geneva Conventions. Hamdan has appeared before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, but the CSRT was not established to address detainees' status under the Geneva Conventions. It was established to comply with the Supreme Court's mandate in Hamdi, supra, to decide 'whether the detainee is properly detained as an enemy combatant' for purposes of continued detention." Op. at 17-18.

* * *
"The government's legal position is that the CSRT determination that Hamdan was a member of or affiliated with al Qaeda is also determinative of Hamdan's prisoner-of-war status, since the President has already determined that detained al Qaeda members are not prisoners-of-war under the Geneva Conventions, see 10/25/04 Tr. at 37.
The President is not a 'tribunal,' however. The government must convene a competent tribunal (or address a competent tribunal already convened) and seek a specific determination as to Hamdan's status under the Geneva Conventions. Until or unless such a tribunal decides otherwise, Hamdan has, and must be accorded, the full protections of a
prisoner-of-war." Op. at 18 [emphasis added]
- The tribunals cannot go forward for Hamdan — and presumably, for the other Gitmo detainees — until the Pentagon hews to the letter of the 3rd Geneva Convention with respect to detainees.
"I further conclude that it is at least a matter of some doubt as to whether or not Hamdan is entitled to the protections of the Third Geneva Convention as a prisoner of war and that accordingly he must be given those protections unless and until the 'competent tribunal' referred to in Article 5 concludes otherwise. It follows from those conclusions that Hamdan may not be tried for the war crimes he is charged with except by a court-martial duly convened under the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Op. at 26.
- In at least one critical respect, the procedures of the Military Commission are fatally contrary to or inconsistent with those of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Judge Robertson:
"The Military Commission is remarkably different from a court-martial, however, in two important respects. The first has to do with the structure of the reviewing authority after trial; the second, with the power of the appointing authority or the presiding officer to exclude the accused from hearings and deny him access to evidence presented against him." Op. at 28.

* * *
"If Hamdan is triable by any military tribunal, the fact that final review of a finding of guilt would reside in the President or his designee is not 'contrary to or inconsistent with' the UCMJ." Op. at 30.

* * *
"The second difference between the procedures adopted for the Miliary Commission and those applicable in a courtmartial convened under the Uniform Code of Military Justice is far more troubling. That difference lies in the treatment of information that is classified; information that is otherwise 'protected'; or information that might implicate the physical safety of participants, including witnesses, or the integrity of intelligence and law enforcement sources and methods, or 'other national security interests.'" Op. at 31.
"It is obvious beyond the need for citation that such a dramatic deviation from the confrontation clause could not be countenanced in any American court, particularly after Justice Scalia's extensive opinion in his decision this year in Crawford v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 1354 (2004)." Op. at 32.

* * *
"I must accordingly find on the basis of the [UCMJ] that, so long as it operates under such a rule, the Military Commission cannot try
Hamdan." Op. at 42.
The implication of this is clear — the military tribunals themselves are unlawful. Judge Roberston, citing the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi, says that Hamdan's detention at Gitmo does not violate the law. However, he's quite clear that the administration's procedures for handling and adjudicating detainees do violate the law. There is no injunction this decision that forbids the Pentagon from moving forward with its other tribunals. So in theory, they could go forward in the other three cases, and hope that another federal judge might see things differently in a separate challenge. But I don't think that's very likely.

More analysis to follow...

Update I: For a good overview of how this ruling fits into the larger narrative of Guantanamo Bay, see this article by Jess Bravin (filed from Gitmo) in today's Wall Street Journal (available to non-subscribers). Also see Neil Lewis' report in the New York Times on the ruling (also filed from Gitmo). And for in-depth legal analysis of the kind I wish I had time to provide today, check out Lyle Denniston's post at SCOTUSblog.
Bush administration looking at terrorism "from a law enforcement perspective"
Do the administration's current measures for success set us up for failure in the global war on terrorism?

Today's New York Times reports on critical comments leveled at the CIA by Michael Scheuer, the author of "Imperial Hubris" and the former chief of the CIA's Al Qaeda unit. For anyone who's read the book, or some other recent writings on Al Qaeda like those by Peter Bergen and the good folks at RAND, this will come as no surprise. But I think Mr. Scheuer puts a fine point on what had previously been a murky criticism of the administration:
Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the C.I.A.'s Osama bin Laden unit and the author of a best-selling book critical of the administration's handling of the fight against terrorism, said in an interview with The New York Times this weekend that the government "doesn't respect the threat" because most officials still regard Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization that can be defeated by arresting or killing its operatives one at a time.

He noted that President Bush and other officials had repeatedly said two-thirds of the leadership of Al Qaeda has been killed or captured, but he said the figure was misleading because it is referring to the leaders who were in place as of Sept. 11, 2001.

Al Qaeda has replaced many of those dead or captured operatives and continues to thrive as a guiding force for Islamic extremists around the world.

"I think Al Qaeda has suffered substantially since 9/11, and it may have slowed down its operations, but to take the two-thirds number as a yardstick is a fantasy," Mr. Scheuer said. "To say that they have only one-third of their leadership left is a misunderstanding. That is looking at it from a law enforcement perspective. They pay a lot of attention to leadership succession, and so one of the main tenets of Al Qaeda is to train people to succeed leaders who are captured or killed."

The C.I.A. disputed the idea that it did not understand the evolving nature of Al Qaeda and said the agency had never characterized the two-thirds figure for those killed and captured as anything other than the Qaeda leaders who where in place before Sept. 11.
Oh, the irony. I can't even count the times have we heard this administration said it was fighting a war against terrorism — not an intelligence and law enforcement endeavor. I think this critique hits the nail on the head. The Bush administration is waging a war on Al Qaeda. But it continues to use metrics better suited for law enforcement in measuring its success in that war. To date, the administration has not devised a grand strategy for measuring political, moral, economic or strategic progress against Al Qaeda, much less what victory might look like. And thus, we measure our success using crude metrics like the body count — something which is ananthema to most military planners today, but still used in the prosecutorial context by officials who measure their success by convictions and imprisonments.

This metric doesn't work well in the terrorism context for the reasons Mr. Scheuer states. For the most part, our enemies have well-defined plans for succession (certainly much better than the Palestinian Authority, as this week's events show). In addition, many of our enemies actually crave death or capture as a means of furthering their cause as martyrs, thus an undue focus on killing/capturing our enemies may have unintended consequences. We need a better set of metrics, which are linked to our overall grand strategy in this global war on terrorism. This presupposes that we have a grand strategy — if we don't, we ought to create one. There's no more need to pander for votes, or conserve political capital with an eye on Florida. If this President truly wants to make America safer, and truly wants to win the war on terrorism, he ought to start exercising some real strategic vision and leadership where it counts.

Update I: The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post report that Mr. Scheuer has a few more choice words for his immediate bosses at the CIA and his political bosses in Washington on the matter of the war on terrorism. According to Dana Priest in the Post:
Michael Scheuer, the author of a best-selling book critical of the agency's fight against terrorism, said that even though the number of officers assigned to the task has increased substantially, "the level of experienced officers is a little less since September 11."

More than 50 percent of those working on terrorism and against bin Laden are assigned to the job temporarily, for 30 to 90 days at a time, he said. "Sometimes more is just more," said Scheuer, whose superiors have forbidden him to speak to the media.

Some of the most experienced officers have been assigned to Iraq, or sent to the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security's new terrorist threat information center, the 22-year career officer said. As a result, he said, the CIA "has diluted the pool that supports our people overseas," and because of that, "in the long term, we're less safe than we should be."

Scheuer said he agreed to be interviewed because the Atlantic Monthly had posted on its Web site a letter he wrote to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that offers a detailed critique of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts. Scheuer, who has worked on counterterrorism since 1992, said he sent his superiors an e-mail Saturday morning explaining that he intended to answer media queries about the letter but received no response.

"I'm not disgruntled," he said. "It's been a great place to work. [But] . . . I don't think we're doing the right thing" to defeat terrorists. . . . We have to put some of our best people on it, and have them stay for a long time."
And Josh Meyer has some more information to add in his Los Angeles Times report:
Scheuer has made some of the charges before, both in the book and in interviews. But his Sept. 8 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees goes into much greater detail about alleged shortcomings within the agency and the government at large.

In a version of the letter obtained by The Times, Scheuer identified himself as a "senior, serving CIA officer" and told the committee members that his memo discussed issues "which ought to be factored into your decisions" when passing intelligence reform legislation. Scheuer said that he had written the letter in May but that the CIA had refused to approve its publication.

In the letter, Scheuer alleged that the CIA's Bin Laden unit had acquired detailed information in 1996 about "the careful, professional manner in which Al Qaeda was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." Those findings were suppressed within the CIA, and only disseminated after protest forced an internal review.

Scheuer also told panel members that the unit repeatedly was rebuffed in seeking special operations troops to plan moves against Bin Laden, was denied requests for verbatim transcripts of National Security Agency intelligence and was briefly disbanded in spring 1998.

He also told them that CIA officers gave the government "about 10" opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden and that the main U.S.-based Bin Laden unit had fewer experienced Al Qaeda experts today than it had on Sept. 11, 2001.

In the interview, Scheuer said CIA officials "seem to take a special pride in not finding anybody culpable and not pointing fingers, and I just think it's a mistake. I think there is some responsibility and it lies at senior levels. And I think that's why they are having a hard time doing it."

"I think if they could find a [lower-level CIA employee] to hang, they would do that in a minute," Scheuer said of the agency.

Scheuer also criticized the Sept. 11 commission for "not naming names" when issuing its 567-page report last summer and calling for an overhaul of U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism operations.

Portions of his September letter surfaced over the weekend on the Atlantic Monthly website. The New York Times also published an article Monday based on his comments.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

It takes a network to fight one
Sunday's Los Angeles Times carries a feature on the L.A. County Terrorism Early Warning Group, an interagency task force of sorts that has existed here since 1996 when counter-terrorism planning was a backwater that no one cared about. Its founder, L.A. County Sheriff Sgt. John P. Sullivan, deserves recognition for the creation of this entity — which has since become a model for the rest of the country. It brings together intelligence fusion, analysis, planning, and operational command for consequences management — all in the same agency. And its loose, virtual, networked structure makes it in many ways the U.S. governmental equivalent of a terror network, able to respond in myriad ways to an ever-changing and ever-evolving threat like Al Qaeda. Here's what I'm talking about:
Sullivan's mantra: Combating an agile terrorist network requires an equally agile network of government agencies.

"We are here," Sullivan said last week, "to examine what the future may hold."

* * *
Inside the center, Sullivan and others who specialize in counterterrorism have created a library of information about possible targets here, how to protect them and playbooks for responding if there is an attack. Although the FBI would lead the immediate response if terrorists attacked LAX, for example, Sullivan's center would focus on what authorities would need to do in the hours and days afterward.

The center also catalogs countless details about specific sites, down to the locations of sprinklers within a building or the potential downwind effect of an attack on a sports venue.

In a county of 88 cities, 10 million people and scores of police, fire and other public service agencies, the center also has a pivotal role in coordinating how authorities prepare for and prevent terrorism. It helps bring together public safety workers from throughout the county to teach them such things as combating cyber-terrorism and recognizing potential suicide bombers.

* * *

As early as 1998, the center began looking at the threat of biological terrorism. In December 1998, only days after issuing guidelines to local agencies on how to respond to such attacks, the focus paid off. After county agencies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars responding to a string of anthrax hoaxes with hundreds of police and fire personnel, Sullivan's center taught officials how to assess a threat and respond appropriately. Able to tell when a threat was a hoax, they no longer had to evacuate buildings in such cases.

The most dramatic advance since the early days is the center's ability to obtain, process and disseminate intelligence. Although much of the information needed to develop operational responses is available from public sources, Sullivan says, he and key members of his staff have been granted among the federal government's highest security clearances, allowing them to receive sensitive national intelligence about terrorists, including CIA reports funneled through the Department of Homeland Security.

As part of their training, Sullivan has all new members of the center view the 1965 film classic "The Battle of Algiers," to better understand the harrowing dynamics of insurgent warfare.

"John has an exceptional mind," said Randy Parsons, who directs the Los Angeles FBI's counterterrorism efforts. "He is perfect for intelligence collection and analysis ... He gets you to look at things in a new way."
Commentary: Unfortunately, this model has been copied mostly by local governments seeking to bring together their first responders and health care or administrative agencies. It has not, by and large, been adopted where it would make the most difference — at the national level. Imagine if the FBI and CIA were able to work together as well as the L.A. Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles Police Department in this task force — or if the CIA and CDC could share information and analytic capability the way the LASD and L.A. County Public Health do under Sgt. Sullivan's guidance. Moreover, this model actually works. Los Angeles has had its share of natural disasters, wildfires, major events and terror incidents with which to test these systems — and the TEWG has passed with flying colors.

The true genius behind the TEWG is its organizational strength. The TEWG brings in every conceivable agency, breaks down barriers, eliminates rice bowls, and allows everyone to work together on the basis of what each agency brings to the table. Egos and bureaucratic turf mentalities get checked at the door. And you know what? It works. Congress is spending an awful lot of time and money right now trying to unscrew the federal intelligence community. Maybe it should take some time to look at what the smart folks in L.A. County have created, and the ways this model might work for the country as a whole.
Uh oh... we lost some more weapons in Iraq
As many as 4,000 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles may be on the world market now thanks to the collapse of the Hussein regime

Last month, much ado was made about the missing 380 tons of explosives from Al Qaqaa. And I still believe it should have been, given the extent to which the insurgent makes use of high explosives. Still, it's clear that those missing truckloads were a mere drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of thousands of explosives on the streets of Iraq — including thousands of missing artillery shells that have been quite readily converted into improvised explosive devices.

Enter this alarming story by Dana Priest and Bradley Graham of the Washington Post, which is inexplicably buried on A24 of the Sunday edition for some reason. (The NYT first reported this on Saturday; The Post editors probably don't want to overhype another Al Qaqaa-style story.) Apparently, the thousands of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles formerly owned by the Hussein regime's military have gone missing — and no one really knows where they are, whether they've been destroyed, whether they're on the global black market, or in use today by Iraqi insurgents looking to bag an American Blackhawk helicopter.
Several thousand shoulder-fired missiles — the kind that could be used to shoot down aircraft — are missing in Iraq, and their disappearance has prompted U.S. military and intelligence analysts to increase sharply their estimate of the number of such weapons that may be at large, administration officials said yesterday.

Some U.S. analysts figure that as many as 4,000 surface-to-air missiles once under the control of Saddam Hussein's government remain unaccounted for. That would raise the number of such missiles outside government hands worldwide to about 6,000.

But a senior defense official said yesterday that military intelligence analysts are having difficulty estimating just how many of the portable missiles may have vanished and how many of those may be in working order and therefore a threat to U.S. and other aircraft.

"We don't have a good estimate," the official said. "Some have put forward some figures, but there is none that the Defense Intelligence Agency has confidence in."

Another official said government analysts could not say with any certainty whether the missing weapons remain in Iraq or have been smuggled outside the country. "There is no evidence that they have left the country," he said.

* * *
The U.S.-led invasion forces did not secure all weapons depots in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions were looted. U.S. officials fear that the shoulder-launched missiles were among the items carried off by groups willing to sell them on the black market to terrorist organizations.

Western intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of al Qaeda's desire to acquire the missiles for use against American and other airliners. The weapons are easy to hide and cost relatively little — from less than $1,000 to $100,000 each.
On Saturday, Douglas Jehl and David Sanger provided a little more background in the NYT on the extent of the problem, and why the numbers have just come to light:
The new estimate by American intelligence agencies was described by government officials who had access to the classified intelligence report. They said the tripling of the number represented the first formal effort to determine how unaccounted Iraqi stockpiles may have compounded the surface-to-air missile threat. Only several hundred shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles from the Iraqi arsenals have been turned in to American forces in a buyout program, the government officials said.

A Defense Department official said Friday that more than one million shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles had been produced since the weapons were first manufactured in the 1950's, with 20 countries producing more than 35 different types of weapons. According to the accountability office study, 500,000 to 750,000 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles are still believed to be in the worldwide inventory. Many of the older missiles are militarily obsolete and have been destroyed.

Until the invasion of Iraq, many of the shoulder-fired weapons believed to be outside government controls were those provided by the United States and its allies to mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan to assist in their resistance against Soviet forces during the 1980's. Those weapons included American-made Stinger and British-made Blowpipe missiles, but by December 2002, American-led forces in Afghanistan had captured more than 5,000 of the missiles from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, according to news reports at the time.
Analysis: Let's be clear here. The Al Qaqaa story was bad. This story is worse. High explosives are not a good thing to have on the streets of Baghdad, let alone the streets of Paris or New York. But they're relatively uncontrolled items, and it'd be very hard to eliminate the supplies of high explosives around the world. Surface-to-air missiles, on the other hand, are quite different. They are highly controlled items, and a few thousand more SAMs on the black market can be a huge deal.

Al Qaeda has used SAMs in the past, and made significant efforts to acquire SAMs for future operations. Al Qaeda retains significant SAM training and experience from the U.S.-backed operations in Afghanistan during the 1980s, when we supplied them with shoulder-fired Stinger SAMs. The use of these missiles to shoot down military and civilian aircraft remains one of the favorite tactics in the "Afghan Arab" arsenal. And now, there are apparently three times as many SAMs on the global market as before, thanks in large part to the collapse of the Hussein regime.

There is insufficient evidence at this point to say these missiles were lost due to U.S. neglience or deliberate indifference. I could rehash all the arguments for not having enough boots on the ground, but that's not really the issue here. My bet is that control of these items was lost as a result of the Hussein regime's collapse — not the U.S. efforts to secure the peace. Once the Hussein regime lost its grip on Iraq, field commanders saw these missiles as a way to make some cold hard cash. And so they absconded with them. To date, there have been some efforts to find them, or buy them back, but if you're a former Iraqi military guy, and you have the choice between making a few hundred bucks from a legal turn-in versus thousands of dollars on the black market, what're you going to choose?

Ultimately, what this signifies is another example of the Iraq war contributing in negative terms to the global war on terrorism, and the global counter-proliferation efforts for conventional weapons. These missiles went missing because of our war in Iraq; the destruction of Iraqi accountability over these weapons was collateral damage of a sort. And in the future, we will likely see these missiles used against us, either in Iraq or abroad if we're unfortunate enough that these missiles make their way into the global black market.

Fortunately, there's no evidence of that yet — no one in the U.S. government is saying that these missiles have left Iraq. But as Don Rumsfeld is fond of saying, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We should probably redouble our counter-proliferation efforts as a result of the Iraq war generally, because so many weapons have been put on the street as a result of combat there. Small arms, high explosives, shoulder-fired missiles, tank rounds, et cetera — it's all on the street, available to the highest bidder. It would certainly be in our interest to make this a priority effort, and to work with our allies on bolstering the international conventional weapons counter-proliferation system.

Update I: Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly, has some thoughts on this subject over at that magazine's weblog. Also see this April 2003 Washington Monthly article by Soyoung Ho on the SAM threat.
Studying to the sound of incoming fire
Sunday's Washington Post magazine has a great story on the experience of soldiers who are trying to earn a few college credits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It should be said up front that most soldiers don't get this opportunity while serving downrange because they're too busy fighting the enemy or doing their jobs. But, for those who do get the chance to take classes, it's still far from an optimal experience.
Letesha Dixon's fingers flew across the keyboard of an Army laptop as she tried to finish a final exam in her online time-management course before anything could force her from her desk. Then came the booming of mortar rounds exploding 300 feet away. The tent shook.

"I am under attack," Sgt. Dixon e-mailed her teacher. "I have to go!"

Hours later, she recounts in an e-mail to The Washington Post Magazine, the "all clear" signal sounded. Dixon emerged from a bunker, returned to her unfinished exam and resumed typing. Faster this time, she says, to avoid another interruption.

"The teacher was very cool about it all," Dixon writes. "I still got an A, even though I was late. Some teachers probably would've taken a letter grade, you know."

Stationed with the Army's 67th Combat Support Hospital in Tikrit, Dixon is a long way from the college experience she signed up for a year ago. Back then, the 30-year-old mental health specialist thought she had saved up enough leave so that she could separate from the Army and spend the spring semester at Howard University. She wants to go to medical school someday, she says. But the orders for her release didn't arrive in time to prevent her from being deployed to Iraq in January.

Though she is geographically and emotionally a world away from Howard's campus, Dixon considers an Army laptop in a tent in Iraq the next best thing. She was able to finish the time-management course she began taking in Germany, where she was stationed before her deployment. By this fall, she'd finished three more online classes -- library skills, film and ancient philosophy -- all through the University of Maryland University College.

"The thing about studying here is that you have to be able to drop everything in a second," she explains. "Sometimes study is interrupted by senior ranking people who are ordering you to do other things with your time; other times it's patients coming in on helicopters. When I sit down to write a paper here . . . I plan on being interrupted!"
The Post goes on to report that SPC Dixon is the latest in a long line of soldiers who have benefitted from the provision of educational services overseas. Through a contract with the Army, the University of Maryland provides most of the classes, either via classrooms in foreign locations like Korea and Afghanistan, or via distance learning systems. Other colleges and universities cater to the military market too, thanks to generous tuition assistance for active-duty and reserve personnel, good IT support that facilitates distance learning, and commanders who are willing to give soldiers the time to improve themselves.
More than one-quarter of today's active-duty military personnel are in college, according to the Pentagon. Theysigned up for 680,000 classes in 2002, up from 630,000 in 1996.

UMUC is the largest and longest-running adult education provider to the military, with a $35 million Army contract to offer courses and programs at 87 sites in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

"I've got teachers calling, asking to be sent to Iraq," says UMUC President Gerald Heeger, who is overseeing the creation of an academic outpost in Baghdad. "The logistics may be more extreme, but they're the same logistics of holding class in Shady Grove. The only thing that changes is the geography, not the philosophy."

And the geography is always shifting. Last spring, for instance, when the Pentagon announced it would be moving 20,000 troops from just north of Seoul farther south, UMUC began mobilizing its professors to move with them.

"As in bygone years when there were 'camp followers,' we will follow camp," explains Joe Arden, head of UMUC's Asian division, which employs 400 instructors to teach 22,000 students.

UMUC isn't the only player on the educational battlefield; a number of other institutions also provide educational opportunities to military personnel. They include the University of Phoenix, which has 7,000 active-duty students in its online degree program, and the newly launched Army University Access Online, or eArmy U, the largest education-assistance initiative since the GI Bill. Launched four years ago at a cost of $600 million, eArmy U plans to eventually enroll more than 80,000 soldiers in its classes -- part of an effort to persuade more active-duty soldiers and reservists to remain in the military.