Peru on Edge
|Martin Barillas||May 21st 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
One of the oldest indigenous communities of Peru, which predates the Conquest, now finds itself between the hammer of the Peruvian government and the anvil of remnants of Sendero Luminoso – the ‘Shining Path’ Maoist communists who plagued the Andean republic for decades. The Machiguenga people of the mid-altitude forested slopes of the Andes and the Amazon Basin now appear to be suffering a reprise of a conflict that was initiated by Sendero in 1980. Sendero was well-known for its brutal tactics, which included the murder of uncooperative peasants.
The Peruvian government, under President Alberto Fujimori, was largely successful in combating the Maoist group but at the cost of numerous human rights violations and disappearances of persons associated with Sendero. The group’s leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured in 1992, even while armed encounters with government forces continue sporadically. Between 1980 and 2000, some 70,000 Peruvians perished or disappeared as a result of the conflict.
The damage caused by the armed conflict near Cusco, in the province of La Convención, has been varied. These included casualties on the part of the army and police, as well as innocent civilians. The decades-long conflict, which continues sporadically, has meant that Peru has had a revolving door of ministers with portfolios for Defense and Internal Affairs. Home-made bombs and mines continue to claim lives. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Terrence Sterling||May 20th 2012|
VOA and Agencies
A Syrian rights group says security forces have attacked a rebellious town in the country's central province of Hama, killing 16 people including children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government artillery and gunfire hit the town of Souran on Sunday. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb exploded near a team of U.N. officials and journalists who were touring the Douma suburb of Damascus. No one was hurt by the blast, which happened about 150 meters away from the group that included visiting U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous and the head of U.N. observers in Syria, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood. A Syrian security official said gunmen had been active in Douma prior to the explosion, attacking and wounding about 30 security personnel. Recent fighting between government and rebel forces in the district has left its streets largely deserted. Douma has been been a major center of the 14-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year rule. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
An alleged intelligence leak regarding a covert operation that thwarted an "underwear bomb" plot last week is now creating distrust and ill feelings within the U.S. intelligence community and has led to increased talk about intelligence leaks at the highest levels of government, according to terrorism experts on Friday.
Former Central Intelligence Agency officers are openly blaming President Barack Obama, his administration, and possibly his campaign committee for undermining national security and compromising the British domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6, for political reasons, according to a U.S. counterterrorism source who requested anonymity.
"When presidents are in trouble because of their failing domestic agenda, they attempt to look presidential by getting involved in military or intelligence operations. And Obama has taken that to a whole new level," said the source. During an appearance on Fox New Channel, FNC's regular intelligence analyst Mike Scheur, a former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit under George W. Bush, said the leaking of British involvement was "despicable and would make a repeat of the operation [that thwarted an attack] difficult." Read more ..
The Edge of Defense
|Pete Kasperowicz and Jeremy Herb||May 19th 2012|
On May 18th the House approved a sweeping defense authorization bill for 2013 that calls for the construction of an East Coast missile defense system in the United States by the end of 2015. The bill obligates $100 million next year to plan for the site, but the project would cost billions of dollars in later years that has yet to be funded. The language was derided by a House Democrat as an "East Coast Star Wars fantasy base" but nonetheless escaped further scrutiny during floor debate Wednesday and Thursday on amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
By afternoon, members approved the bill in a 299-120 vote after approving dozens of amendments, some after fierce debate that revealed disagreements on issues such as detainee policy, nuclear cooperation with Russia and the speed of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Seventy-seven Democrats support the bill, while 16 Republicans opposed it. The NDAA authorizes $643 billion in spending for the Department of Defense and overseas contingency operations, $8 billion above the spending caps in last year's Budget Control Act (BCA) and $3.7 billion higher than President Obama's request. The House authorization level will lead to a showdown with the Senate, which is marking up the authorization bill in committee next week, because the Democratic-led Senate is expected authorize funding roughly at the President's level. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
Syrian government troops pounded the rebel stronghold, Rastan, and parts of the flashpoint city, Homs, Friday, amid widespread anti-government protests across the country. Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations observer forces urged both the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue to end the violence. Witnesses say Syrian security forces fired tear-gas and live rounds to break up a student protest in Aleppo Friday. The demonstration was billed as the largest of its kind in Syria's northern commercial hub since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The protests come after Syrian security forces disrupted a student demonstration in Aleppo on Thursday. Video taken from a U.N. vehicle in Aleppo Thursday showed security forces beating student protesters. On Friday, Syrian state television showed an empty boulevard in front of Aleppo University's medical college, saying there were “no significant demonstrations.” But video posted by opposition groups on the Internet showed large crowds gathering in the streets. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Martin Barillas||May 18th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been playing coy with the world’s oil markets, having been routinely switching off satellite tracking systems on oil tankers for more than a month. Iran began using the tactic in April 2012, which affects about one quarter of its fleet, according to the International Energy Agency. Currently, only 1 tanker out of 38 is now complying with satellite tracking. While it violates international maritime law, the practice serves to cloak the positions of the huge ships as they seek ports and buyers willing to violate sanctions on Iran. Without the tracking, the efficacy of oil sanctions on Iran is difficult to determine. Currently, Iran is also hobbled by sanctions on its bank transactions.
Dependent on petroleum for the bulk of its export income and government spending, Iran is in an increasingly perilous situation as it faces tightening restrictions imposed by the West. With its revenues sagging, Iran now faces a glut of oil that is being stored in land-based depots, and on its vessels at sea.
Sanctions have cut off Iranian shippers’ access to maritime insurance, mostly underwritten in Europe, and making Iran ever more dependent on its own fleet of 39 tankers, including 25 super-tankers, according to the IEA. After being pressured by the United States, Lloyd’s Register said last month that it is closing its office in Iran and stop certifying the safety of Iranian ships. Their certification is needed by ships seeking entry at most of the world’s ports. This steps up the pressure on Iran, which was already facing the end of its relationship with Norway’s Det Norske Veritas, another ship classification organization. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Aaron Y. Zelin and Andrew J. Tabler||May 18th 2012|
The Washington Institute
On May 12 a video posted to YouTube purporting to be from the Palestinian branch of the Syrian jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra (The Victory Front; JN) claimed responsibility for the May 9 twin car bombings near a security complex in Damascus that killed more than fifty-five individuals and wounded hundreds. And, while JN appears to be a genuine extremist group, it is not clear whether it was responsible for either the attack or the video. The video raises disturbing questions about the Assad regime's possible manipulation of jihadists based on its past relationships with these groups.
The terror outfit Jabhat al-Nusra first trumpeted its existence on January 24, 2012, when it released a video through its media outlet al-Manarah al-Bayda (the White Minaret). The release directly to online global jihadi forums suggested that they were a legitimate group, which was later confirmed when a few top jihadi ideologues backed JN activities. Since January, JN has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks. Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
|Yaakov Lappin ||May 18th 2012|
Since the shock announcement last week of the formation of a national unity government in Israel, there has been much speculation over what caused Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz to join forces with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's governing Likud Party. The coalition government was formed just a few days after new elections were announced for September. Now, in light of the new coalition, elections have been put off to 2013.
Before joining the Netanyahu's government, Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff and Defense Minister, has used his time in the opposition to attack Netanyahu's policies in the harshest of terms, going as far as to brand him a "liar" recently (during their joint press conference to announce the new coalition, Mofaz said the two had put the issue "behind them").
By joining the unity government so soon after repeatedly vowing not to do so, Mofaz, who replaced Tzippi Livni as head of Kadima, has damaged his credibility for the present time at least, leading many to ask what gains Mofaz saw in the move. Some political analysts say Mofaz's poor elections prospects - Kadima under his leadership dropped to just eight projected Knesset seats in recent polls - pushed him into Netanyahu's arms. According to this argument, elections in September would have resulted in the collapse of Mofaz and the Kadima Party as relevant political forces. Read more ..
Korea on Edge
VOA and Agencies
New satellite images show North Korea has resumed construction on a new nuclear reactor, despite international criticism. The U.S.-Korea Institute, operated by Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), says images taken by a commercial satellite on April 30 show Pyongyang has made progress on a light water reactor at its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon.
North Korea says the reactor is intended to generate electricity, but in a blog post on its website, the institute says the reactor clearly indicates Pyongyang's intention "to move forward" on expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile.
Pyongyang first disclosed construction of the new reactor to a group of visiting U.S. scientists in 2010. It had made significant progress by late 2010, when work was halted. SAIS says the work may have stopped in part because of the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il. The research institute's findings could increase concerns that the North will conduct a third nuclear test. Read more ..
The Edge of Narco-Terrorism
Cutting Edge Commentator
|Narco-sub display at Naval Air Station, Key West FL.|
After a two-year manhunt, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency last week arrested Colombian drug kingpin Javier Antonio Calle Serna, a senior leader of Los Rastrojos, one of the country's most formidable drug-trafficking organizations. After being indicted last summer by the Eastern District of New York, Serna reportedly felt so squeezed by the agency and rival drug dealers that he began negotiating for his surrender.
His arrest is by all accounts good news, especially due to Los Rastrojos alleged connections to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most wanted man and perhaps the world's most notorious drug lord. Yet Serna's capture is also a reminder of one of the growing challenges in the seemingly never-ending war on drugs: combating narco subs. Serna headed an organization well known for its ability to rapidly build and use roughly 50-foot-long fiberglass vessels, which float just above the waterline, to surreptitiously smuggle drugs across the globe. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|Scott Stewart||May 17th 2012|
There has been a lot of chatter in intelligence and academic circles about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri and his value to AQAP. The disclosure last week of a thwarted AQAP plot to attack U.S. airliners using an improved version of an "underwear bomb" used in the December 2009 attempted attack aboard a commercial airplane and the disclosure of the U.S. government's easing of the rules of engagement for unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in Yemen played into these discussions. People are debating how al-Asiri's death would affect the organization. A similar debate undoubtedly will erupt if AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi is captured or killed.
AQAP has claimed that al-Asiri trained others in bombmaking, and the claim makes sense. Furthermore, other AQAP members have received training in constructing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while training and fighting in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. This means that al-Asiri is not the only person within the group who can construct an IED. However, he has demonstrated creativity and imagination. His devices consistently have been able to circumvent existing security measures, even if they have not always functioned as intended. We believe this ingenuity and imagination make al-Asiri not merely a bombmaker, but an exceptional bombmaker. Read more ..
The Weapons Edge
|credit: MEADS International|
The talk of the defense world is the budget—specifically, how to shrink it and what will be cut, due to Congressional wrangling or the looming “sequestration.” Given the new austerity pressures, it’s noteworthy that a costly program targeted for cancellation by both the administration and the Congress has gotten a new government check for a quarter of a billion dollars—and, if the Pentagon gets its wish, will get another $400 million soon.
But that’s what happened with the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a putative replacement for the Patriot missile defense system. It has been plagued with so many cost overruns and delays that DoD and Congress both agreed last year to pull the plug—although conflict remains over the timetable.
The Pentagon decided to keep funding the program until “proof of concept,” a status that falls well short of production and deployment but would in theory allow the U.S. or its foreign partners to restart the project later if they chose. DoD requested a total of $804 million over 2012 and 2013. But Congress disagreed, and agreed to fund only the first year. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
The chairmen and ranking members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee are awaiting an Obama administration response to their request last week to name the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network a terrorist organization as quickly as possible, according to a U.S. counterterrorism source in Washington, D.C.
The lawmakers stated, "It [is] clear that the Haqqani Network [based in Pakistan] continues to launch sensational and indiscriminate attacks against U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the group poses a continuing threat to innocent men, women, and children in the region," in a letter to the President and Secretary Clinton.
"We understand there may have been reluctance within the Administration to designate the Haqqani Network while Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman attempted to negotiate a reconciliation agreement with the Taliban -- a deal that may have included or affected the Haqqani Network. However, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said last week that there have been no such talks since late last year (2011), and that President Karzai has opposed their continuation," the unclassified letter noted. Read more ..
Department of Homeland Security officials are shocked to discover that an illegal alien held the position of security supervisor at an airport from which United Flight 93 departed on September 11, 2001 and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania when passengers rose up and attacked their terrorist captors. In a shocking revelation, a Post Authority of New York and New Jersey police source have confirmed that a veteran security supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey -- one of three major airports in the New York City metropolitan area -- has been using the identity of a murder victim for about 20 years.
The police source stated that the illegal alien -- whose real name is believed to be Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole -- was arrested on May 14 in his home in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The 54-year old Nigerian had assumed the identity of American citizen Jerry Thomas, who was a murder victim in 1992 in an unsolved homicide in New York City. "Investigators have reopened the case in order to rule out Oyewole as a suspect in the 20-year old cold case," the police stated.
Homeland Security and Port Authority Police are investigating how Thomas' personal information was allegedly stolen by the Nigerian illegal alien. A Nigerian crime syndicate has been involved for a number of years in identity theft and creating fake identification documents including driver licenses, social security cards and other ID instruments. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Margaret Besheer||May 15th 2012|
The United Nations says a roadside blast hit a convoy carrying a group of its unarmed observers near the Syrian city of Hama on Tuesday, damaging their vehicles but not injuring the monitors. Meanwhile, Syrian activists have accused the government of killing at least 20 mourners at a funeral in the same area.
The U.N. mission in Syria says a convoy of four of its vehicles was struck by a blast from an improvised explosive device as it drove through the town of Khan Sheikhoun, near the flashpoint city of Hama on Tuesday afternoon. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said, “Three U.N. vehicles were damaged, but no U.N. personnel were hurt in this explosion. The mission has sent a patrol team to the area to help to extract those U.N. military observers.”
Upwards of 200 U.N. monitors are on the ground in Syria, mandated with monitoring the cessation of hostilities that went into effect on April 12, but which has all but collapsed with continued violence in a number of cities across the country. Among that violence, Syrian activists say that while the U.N. observers were in Khan Sheikhoun, Syrian army forces shot and killed at least 20 people during a funeral procession. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties. Read more ..
|Sean Maroney||May 14th 2012|
The U.N. nuclear agency has again urged Iran to give it access to sites, people and documents it seeks as part of its probe into whether Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency delegation in Vienna, Hermann Nackaerts, told reporters Monday that they are continuing the dialogue with Iran on its controversial nuclear program in "a positive spirit."
"The aim of us today is to reach agreement on an approach to resolve all outstanding issues with Iran - in particular clarification of the possible military dimensions remains our priority," he said. Western powers have long suspected Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian energy program. Tehran denies the allegations. One major issue on the agenda for the two days of talks is the IAEA's lack of access to Iran's Parchin military site near Tehran. Officials suspect Iran has built a container that could house nuclear explosives tests there, and Western diplomats accuse Tehran of trying to remove incriminating evidence before allowing U.N. inspectors inside the facility. Iran has dismissed the allegations as being "childish" and "ridiculous." Read more ..
The Iranian Threat
A new Republican plan to set up a missile defense site on the East Coast has attracted election-year fireworks, with Democrats accusing the GOP of pushing the idea to undercut President Obama’s national-security credentials. Democrats say Republicans are playing politics, but GOP members hit back saying the site is necessary to get ahead of the rising threat of Iran’s missile development and to plug a gap in U.S. missile defenses. The issue is shaping up to be one of the most contentious at Wednesday’s House Armed Services Committee markup, where Democrats are planning multiple amendments to try to strip out $100 million that was included to jump-start the East Coast site.
The Republican proposal calls for the East Coast site, which would be the third in the country, to be operational by the beginning of 2016. Democrats contend the total cost would be $4 billion. Republicans counter that the price tag would be half of that amount. “This is a political move,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who intends to introduce an amendment Wednesday to strip the provision from the defense authorization bill. “Every time the election comes around, the Republicans run out a national security agenda.”
It is unclear where the Obama administration stands on the matter. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress slammed Obama on missile defense after his “hot mic” moment in March, in which Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he needed “flexibility” until after the Nov. 6 election. Republican legislators have also criticized the Obama administration for considering reductions in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. But GOP lawmakers say the site is not about politics, and is necessary due to increased threats from Iran, as tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated in recent months over Iran’s nuclear program. Read more ..
|Mehdi Khalaji||May 11th 2012|
The new talks have put Khamenei in a perilous position: compromising is as dangerous for him as digging in his heels.
The recent nuclear talks in Istanbul between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, and Iran have shifted the world’s focus to the possible terms of a deal when the sides meet again, probably in Baghdad on May 23. So, what accounts for the new seeming willingness of Iran’s leaders to reach an agreement?
Economic sanctions and political isolation have, of course, deeply hurt the regime, especially the Revolutionary Guards, whose leaders and industries have been directly targeted by the international community. But these are not the only factors. The regime’s propaganda machine is already portraying the Istanbul talks as a triumph for the Islamic Republic and a setback for the West. Indeed, it is setting the stage for a significant compromise by preparing both the Iranian public and the global community. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
During an FBI-led dragnet in Florida on Tuesday, 10 members of an alleged neo-Nazi group were arrested while training near Orlando and Disney World for what they termed a "race war," a federal law enforcement officer stated last night. The apprehensions resulted from information and evidence gathered by a confidential informant who had infiltrated the neo-Nazi organization known as American Front 17 several months ago, according to the arrest affidavit.
The federal affidavit stated: "The American Front (AF) is a military-styled, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, skinhead organization and is known as a domestic terrorist organization." The arrest affidavit revealed that the AF's alleged "commander," Marcus Faella, was "planning and preparing the AF for what [he believed would be] an inevitable race war" and he had boasted that he personally intended to kill blacks, Jews, immigrants and other minorities living in the United States. Read more ..
The Drug Wars
|Manuel Corrales||May 10th 2012|
Distracted by the admittedly discussion-worthy Cuba issue at the Sixth Summit of the Americas last month in Cartagena, the nations of the Western Hemisphere paid little mind to the prospect of reforming hemispheric drug policy. Latin American nations displayed unalloyed unity, indicating a deeply felt disdain for Washington’s normal agenda in the region. Several Latin American countries have demonstrated a desire to approach drug policy in a sharply different manner from the heavy-handed direction traditionally favored by U.S. policymakers. This prevailing tilt toward decriminalization became apparent as several Latin American countries proposed alternatives to the current strategy being used in the drug war. Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico have all proposed alternatives, each having recognized that militarized efforts against drug trafficking have proven ineffective.
This shift in ideology regarding the drug war is seismic, and may be a significant factor that influences coming elections throughout the hemisphere. For instance, with Mexico’s presidential elections approaching in July, it will be up to that nation’s voters to decide between three major candidates: Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN), and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Each of these candidates proposes somewhat different solutions to the drug battle, and it falls to voters to evaluate these candidates on this crucial issue. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
U.S. police and military trainers and advisors have returned to Yemen and are training that nation's security forces, Defense Department officials announced on May 6. President Barack Obama's administration had ordered the training mission in Yemen to be suspended due to the political turmoil in that nation. The United States recently began reintroducing a small number of trainers into the country, Navy Captain John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said.
Kirby, speaking to reporters during a press briefing, noted that U.S. advisors had been working for years with the Yemeni government, police agencies, and military forces to combat increasingly powerful al-Qaeda threat throughout the Muslim nation."That threat doesn’t just threaten the Yemeni people but also Americans," Captain Kirby said.
“There was a suspension of some of that activity in Yemen for a while due to the political instability in that country,” the spokesman said. “We are now beginning to resume more of that routine military-to-military cooperation.” Just this week, the American people were told about how CIA agents thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a statement released on Monday. What surprised many counterterrorism experts was the sophistication of the upgrade of the so-called underwear bomb. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Robert D. Kaplan||May 9th 2012|
Whatever one thought of the Libya intervention, the details make for a bad advertisement about NATO. As one U.S. Air Force planner told me, "It was like Snow White and the 27 dwarfs, all standing up to her knees" -- the United States being Snow White and the other NATO member states being the dwarfs. The statistics regarding just how much the United States had to go it alone in Libya -- pushed by the British and French -- despite the diplomatic fig leaf of "leading from behind," are devastating for the alliance.
More than 80 percent of the gasoline used in the intervention came from the U.S. military. Almost all the individual operation orders had an American address. Of dozens of countries taking part, only eight air forces were allowed by their defense ministries to drop any bombs. Many flew sorties apparently only for the symbolism of it. While most airstrikes were carried out by non-U.S. aircraft, the United States ran the logistical end of the war. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
On May 4, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement voicing concerns over the threat posed by terrorists one year after the killing of radical Islamic icon, Osama bin Laden, and the risk that groups such as al-Qaeda could pose to nations such as the United States and members of the European Union with weapons of mass destruction.
As part of its mandate to create stable and secure environments UN Police are working with international policing and law enforcement experts to find ways to prevent, disrupt and dismantle organized crime in post-conflict situations, according to Security Council officials. The UN Police assist domestic law enforcement authorities to establish mechanisms to deal with organized criminal activities, including drug production and trafficking, human trafficking, exploitation of natural resources and weapons trafficking.
"The Security Council remains gravely concerned about the threat of terrorism and the risk that non-state actors may acquire, develop, traffic in or use weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery," said the UN statement. The UN also mentioned it provides training for police officers in dealing with crimes related to terrorism and transnational organized crime. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
The White House has confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recently thwarted a plot by Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to blow up a U.S.-bound airplane. U.S. officials say the bomb that was seized in the interrupted plot was similar to the one worn by the so-called underwear bomber, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in his failed December 25, 2009 attempt to bring down a passenger jet over Detroit.
In a written statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was in possession of the device, which it seized abroad. The statement said the FBI is running technical and forensic analysis on it. "Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations," the statement said.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama was told about the plot in April. She said he “was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public.” A statement by the National Security Council said that Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, had since been briefed several times on the matter. At a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was asked about the plot, and said, "What this incident makes clear is that this country has to remain vigilant against those who attempt to attack this country." Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
The five Guantanamo Bay detainees -- including the notorious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, wreaked havoc on Saturday when the suspects stubbornly refused to respond to the U.S. military judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, when he questioned the defendants, who then disrupted the proceedings, according to a federal law enforcement source. At the same time, their defense attorneys attempted to put the court, the CIA and the United States on trial instead of the self-proclaimed jihadists.
During the chaotic hearing, the suspected al-Qaeda members' defense attorneys began their strategy of questioning the legitimacy of the war crimes tribunal, telling Col. Pohl that the proceedings were not fair to their clients. The attorneys were intent on discussing how the defendants were all held for more than three years in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006, and all of them claimed they were tortured by interrogators.
The CIA had conceded that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the only prisoner of the five on trial to be subjected to harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. However, according to Fox News Channel's National Security Correspondent Catherine Herridge, when the defense attorneys tried to discuss the way the defendants had been treated and used the word "torture" the CCTV (closed-circuit television) feed of the hearings for journalists and family members of victims was interrupted. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|R. Jeffrey Smith and Aaron Mehta||May 6th 2012|
Read more ..
The Defense Department has inadequately protected from reprisals whistleblowers who have reported wrongdoing, according to an internal Pentagon report, and critics are calling for action to be taken against those who have been negligent.
The report, dated May 2011, accuses the officials, who work in the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General, of persistent sloppiness and a systematic disregard for Pentagon rules meant to protect those who report fraud, abuses, and the waste of taxpayer funds, according to a previously-undisclosed copy. The report was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group. A three-person team of veteran investigators at the Pentagon, assigned to review the performance of the “Directorate of Military Reprisal Investigations,” concluded in the report that in 2010 the directorate repeatedly turned aside evidence of serious punishments inflicted on those who had complained.
The U.S. and Russia
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed hope that an agreement can still be reached with Russia on a NATO missile-defense system in Europe -- in spite of a new, harder line from Russia against the plan. Rasmussen was speaking in reaction to Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's statement on May 3 that negotiations with the United States over the proposed antimissile shield are near a "dead end."
After a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron In London, Rasmussen said he was "hopeful" that NATO could reach agreement with the Russians, although not before a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21. "I'm hopeful that we can [reach an agreement with Russia on missile defense] -- obviously not before the Chicago summit, but there is still room for dialogue with the Russians," he said. Speaking earlier on May 3 at a conference in Moscow, Serdyukov said the two sides had so far failed to find a "mutually acceptable solution" to disagreements over the U.S.-led NATO shield. "The situation is practically at an impasse," he said.
In Moscow, Serdyukov also said Russia was "ready for open dialogue."
Missiles in Kaliningrad
Meanwhile, Russia's Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov on May 3 struck a more aggressive note, warning again that Russia might opt to station short-range Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave near Poland. Russian media quoted Makarov as saying, "the placement of new strike weapons south and northwest of Russia against [NATO] missile-defense components, including the deployment of Iskander missile systems in the Kaliningrad region is one possible way of incapacitating the European missile-defense infrastructure." Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
Climate change has had a direct effect on national security, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week. Panetta told an audience at the Environmental Defense Fund that climate change has raised the need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, hitting national security in the process. “The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security,” Panetta said. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
Panetta spoke to the Environmental Defense Fund on Tuesday at an event honoring the Defense Department for advancing clean-energy initiatives. In recent years, the Defense Department and the services have spearheaded a number of alternative-energy initiatives and seemingly embraced environmentally friendly practices on the battlefield.
President Obama effectively put the Pentagon at the forefront of an ambitious alternative energy strategy during the State of the Union speech in January. The Navy and Air Force have already spent billions to integrate biofuels into their fleets of fighter jets and warships. Marine Corps combat units in Afghanistan are using mobile solar panels to recharge batteries for their night vision and communications in the field. Solar power is also helping to run a number of Marine Corps combat outposts in the country.
But the Pentagon's adoption of environmentally sensitive practices was driven more by the department's dire fiscal situation than politics, Panetta said on Tuesday. DOD spent roughly $15 billion to fuel its fighters, tanks and ships in 2012, the Defense chief said. The Pentagon spends $50 million on fuel each month to keep combat operations in Afghanistan going, Panetta added. As oil prices continue to skyrocket, the department "now [faces] a shortfall exceeding $3 billion of higher-than-expected fuel costs this year," according to Panetta. Read more ..
The Defense Edge
On February 13, 2012, the Obama Administration released its proposed missile defense budget and program for FY 2013 and beyond. It requests $9.7 billion for the overall program in FY 2013, including $7.75 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
The proposed FY 2013 missile defense budget is inadequate, as Chairman Turner made clear in his opening statement at the March 6 hearing on the missile defense program before the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Representative Turner stated: The President’s FY13 submission is, in fact, lower than the President’s own FY10 budget request by over $100 million. Remember, slide 1 shows that the FY10 request from the Obama Administration was $1.6 billion less than the previous President recommended and slide two shows it was less even than President Obama’s own budget request for FY10. Chairman Turner also pointed out: “What’s more, the MDA FY13 [future years defense plan] projection for FY13-16 is $3.6 billion less than even President Obama’s FY12 projection for FY13-16 [from] just last year and $2 billion less than the previous administration projected for FY13.” Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
While President Barack Obama participated in last month's Summit of the Americas in Colombia, none of the nations' leaders even hinted about the influx of officials from Iran and their proxy warriors in the terrorist group Hezbollah. However, this week Israeli intelligence analysts are warning the United States government that Western Hemisphere countries are hosting members of the radical Islamist movement. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the main political leader of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran in August 2005, Iran has extended and solidified its relations with several Latin American countries, especially Venezuela and Bolivia, both run by far-left leaders, according to an anonymous Israeli police source. Read more ..
The Cyber Edge
Economic cyber spies may have a more difficult task of stealing U.S. business plans, as well as research and development data, since the U.S. House of Representatives at least took the first step by passing a cybersecurity bill last Friday that will help private sector businesses more effectively protect themselves from dangerous cyber predators.
The foreign intelligence threat within the United States is far more complex than it has ever been historically. The threat is increasingly asymmetrical insofar as it comes not only from traditional foreign intelligence services but also from nontraditional, non-state actors who operate from decentralized organizations, experts say. Intelligence collection is no longer limited to classified national defense information but now includes targeting of the elements of national power, including our national economic interests. Moreover, foreign intelligence tradecraft is increasingly sophisticated and takes full advantage of advances in communications security and the general openness of US society, according to security management experts. Read more ..
The Weapon's Edge
When officials told reporters recently that they had deployed F-22 fighter jets in the Middle East for the first time, it was downplayed as “a very normal deployment.” But when it comes to the F-22, there’s very little “normal” about it.
Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va, told reporters that some pilots have asked to be reassigned rather than be forced to fly the jet. And while he described the concerned group as “very small,” Hostage made a point of telling reporters he would be flying the plane himself in the future to “check out” his pilots' concerns and try to bolster their in-flight courage. “I'm asking these guys to assume some risks over and above what everybody else is assuming, and I don't feel like it's right that I ask them to do it and I'm not willing to do it myself," said Hostage. (A spokesman confirmed the General would begin his training at the end of the month.) Based on the jet’s history, the pilots’ reaction isn’t surprising. The F-22’s record is one of breakdowns and planning bad enough to require another decade of repairs, according to the government’s watchdog. Meanwhile, the price tag for one of the most expensive Air Force projects in history will keep going up. The plane officially rolled off the assembly line in 2003 and was supposed to be the premiere jet for the U.S. military, a stealth-enabled, hyper-maneuverable air craft capable of dominating the skies at supersonic speeds. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
In a case that was overshadowed by Tuesday's conviction of al-Qaeda member Adis Medunjanin who plotted with others to bomb the New York City subway system and other targets, five men allegedly connected to the Occupy Movement were arrested and accused of conspiring to use explosives to destroy a bridge near Cleveland, according to a federal law enforcement official. Anthony Hayne, 35, Douglas L. Wright, 26; and Brandon L. Baxter, 20, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on Monday evening (April 30, 2012), on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to adversely effect interstate commerce.
In addition on Monday, JTTF members arrested Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and criminal charges are pending against them. According to the a federal source, residents and those traveling on the targeted bridge were never in any danger from the explosive devices. The explosives that the suspects purchased and attempted to use were inoperable. Read more ..
Argentina and Great Britain
|W. Alex Sanchez||May 1st 2012|
Thirty years after a bloody war between the United Kingdom and Argentina, the longstanding territorial conflict over the Falklands/Malvinas islands continues to simmer.
In recent months Buenos Aires has attempted to attract international support for its claim to the islands, particularly from fellow South American countries. Several regional states have stated their perfunctory support for Argentina, in some cases going so far as to accept a blockade on the Falklands, refusing vessels flying the islands’ flag to dock in their ports. One state that is in a particularly troubling position regarding which side to back is the Andean nation of Peru, as exemplified in a recent incident regarding the British frigate HMS Montrose. Peru and the UK: a Troubled Historical Relationship; Though geographically distant, Peru and the United Kingdom often have had a troubled relationship, due to the Falklands sovereignty dispute, which is part of even greater geopolitical issues troubling South America. Read more ..
The Drug Wars
South of the border, war is raging with guns mostly supplied by merchants in the United States.
The Government of Mexico has estimated that almost 50,000 people have been killed since 2006, a toll that has made its top officials irate about the persistent flow of weapons south. Some law enforcement officials in the U.S. government share the Mexicans’ concern, but their attempts to stanch the flow by obtaining better intelliegence about it have badly singed their fingers.
The notorious “Fast and Furious” operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms—one in a string of attempts over a nearly decade-long period to tag and closely monitor the movement of individual arms—blew up when two of the weapons being tracked were used to kill a U.S. border patrol agent in 2010.
Republicans in Congress seized on the issue, holding multiple hearings last year. Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson was reassigned. The Phoenix U.S. attorney who oversaw the operation also resigned, and Republicans called for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder. Read more ..
Terror and Crime
|William F. Wechsler||May 1st 2012|
The U.S. government has, for decades, dedicated significant resources to stemming the flow of illicit drugs into the United States, and my office leads the Department of Defense’s contributions to that side of the effort. But what our government is in the process of learning is that our traditional focus on countering "drug trafficking organizations" must be expanded to a wider perspective that recognizes that narcotics trafficking is one component of the broader challenge of transnational organized crime. As we undergo this change in perspective, we are in the process of adjusting our policies toward disrupting and degrading global criminal networks that do far more than traffic drugs.
For decades, drug trafficking was the dominant lens through which the United States viewed transnational organized crime. In the 1970s and 1980s, the flow of illicit narcotics into the United States was deemed a major risk to the health and safety of Americans, and the government expended massive resources to curtail both the supply of and demand for illegal drugs. Supply side reduction strategies emphasized degrading the capabilities of Western Hemisphere drug trafficking organizations—highly capable, violent, centralized, and hierarchical organizations often led by a charismatic kingpin. Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel, for example, were emblematic of the type of threat facing the United States. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
The United States is a safer place since Navy SEALs located and killed al-Qaeda's infamous Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan on May 1, 2011 [May 2 in Pakistan], according to Pentagon and Justice Department officials on Saturday. Today, nearly a year after bin Laden’s demise, the United States and its allies continue to hunt down al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups wherever they are located. Within the United States police departments and law enforcement agencies are conducting counterterrorist operations against both foreign fighters who have illegally entered the U.S., and against homegrown terrorists who are radicalized American Muslims. Overseas, the nation's intelligence and military organizations pursue terrorist groups throughout the Middle East and North Africa and provide assistance to countries still fighting al-Qaeda and its allies.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- who served as Director of Central Intelligence on May 1, 2011 when the al-Qaeda leader's reign of terror met its end -- recalled the high-risk mission the Defense Department called Operation Neptune Spear, according to American Forces Press Service's Cheryl Pellerin. Read more ..
North Korea on Edge
|Steve Herman||April 30th 2012|
North Korea is giving no official indication it is preparing a third attempted nuclear test—but reports abroad say such an underground detonation could come at any time. Some regional media outlets are reporting a North Korea nuclear test is expected between early and mid-May. One report, in the Joong-Ang Ilbo in South Korea, quotes a diplomatic source in Washington as saying the United States has told South Korea such a detonation could occur as soon as this week. Asked about that, a U.S. diplomat in Seoul replied the Embassy does not comment on “security matters.”
Diplomatic and intelligence sources, who do not want to be quoted, say they have seen no indication from satellite imagery that the equipment and associated cabling necessary to conduct such an underground detonation are in place. Images taken by surveillance satellites in the past few weeks did reveal that digging of a new tunnel was underway at the Pyunnge-ri test site.
There is growing speculation that North Korea will attempt to detonate a uranium-fueled weapon. Its previously announced tests, in 2006 and 2009, are widely believed to have used plutonium, although no traces of radioactive isotopes were detected following the second attempt.
At an April 30 briefing, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-suk told reporters preparations are underway to activate an emergency task force concerning a North Korean nuclear test, but it is not yet operational. Kim says it is impossible to get precise information in real time about what is happening at the test site. But the South Korean military is utilizing various methods—in cooperation with U.S. forces—to collected pertinent information. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
This report is based on an unclassified version of a classified report the GAO issued in February 2012. The unclassified version was released on April 17 and it was immediately obtained for analysis by the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the Law Enforcement Examiner.
In the wake of the shocking September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made counterterrorism its top investigative priority. Since that fateful day, the FBI has hired thousands of additional staff, increasing its total onboard workforce by 38 percent, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. In particular, the FBI has increased both the size and the role of its Counterterrorism Division (CTD) that is located in Washington, D.C., according to FBI officials.
In 2005, the FBI reported that nearly 40 percent of staff positions in certain parts of CTD were vacant, raising concerns about the FBI’s ability to fulfill its most important mission, and as a result the U.S. Congress requested that the GAO review FBI CTD vacancies. The latest GAO report describes "the extent to which counterterrorism vacancies existed at FBI HQ since 2005 and the reasons for the vacancies as well as the impact of the strategies implemented by the FBI to address these vacancies." Read more ..
The Defense Edge
|Jeremy Herb||April 29th 2012|
The partisan battles that nearly derailed two Defense authorization bills appear to have subsided as lawmakers get down to work on this year’s version. In 2010 and 2011, passage of the Defense bill came down to the wire amid bitter fights over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the DREAM Act and terror detainees. This time around, the biggest defense fight of the year in Congress is looming after the Defense authorization bill is complete: the sequestered spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon in 2013. There will undoubtedly be skirmishes as the House Armed Services Committee marks up the Defense authorization bill, but Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told The Hill he’s optimistic the bill can get passed before Congress recesses for the November election.
“This should be done before the election, before we leave town,” McKeon said Friday, adding he’s discussed that goal with Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). That’s not to say that there won’t be robust debate and disagreement over the bill, or that the legislation isn’t at risk of getting stuck in a political floor fight. But the authorization bill, which has a streak of passing for 50 straight years, looks to be returning to its more normal course in Congress following the beginning of markups on Thursday. Read more ..
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