Saturday, May 2, 2009

OIF Update, May 2, 2009: 2 US Soldiers Killed, 3 Wounded South of Mosul by Uniformed Iraqi

Dispatches from the Front
News from Multi-National Force Iraq.

Dispatches from the Front:

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq, May 2, 2009 -- Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers were killed and three wounded during a small arms fire attack at a combat outpost south of Mosul early this evening.

According to initial reports, an individual dressed in an Iraqi Army uniform fired on the Coalition forces and was killed in the incident.

The incident is currently under investigation.

The names of the deceased and wounded are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.

The French news agency AFP reported that a Mosul police officer identified the assailant as Hassan al-Dulaimi, a soldier who also served as the imam of a mosque at an Iraqi army training centre south of the city, the capital of Nineveh province.

The latest deaths bring to 4,284 the number of American losses since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, according to a count based on the independent Web site icasualties.org.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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OEF Summary, May 2, 2009: Forces Kill 5 Militants in Helmand

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 2, 2009 -- Afghan national army and coalition forces killed five militants in Nahr Surkh District, Helmand province, Friday.

The Afghan-led force was conducting a routine combat reconnaissance patrol when armed militants attacked from several compounds with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

Afghan and coalition forces pursued the militants. Ensuring there were no non-combatants in the area, they returned fire with small-arms and heavy weapons, killing five militants.

An element of the ANA dismounted, secured the area and conducted a search of the compound. Multiple weapons were recovered from the site and destroyed.

"The ANA removed the militant threat from the area while keeping the civilians out of the fight," said a coalition forces spokesperson. "We will continue to support the ANA as they fight to bring stability to the region."

No Afghan, coalition forces or civilian casualties were reported.

(Report compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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Wire: Obama Admin Says Gitmo Trials Likely to Restart

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2009 -- Newswires reported this evening that President Barack Obama's administration may revamp and restart the Bush-era military commission system for prosecuting suspected terrorists as it struggles to determine the fate of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in an attempt to fulfill a pledge to close the facility by January.

The move to revamp the system would further delay terrorism trials and, coupled with recent comments by U.S. military and legal officials, amounts to a public admission by President Barack Obama's team that delivering on that promise is easier said than done, the Associated Press said.

The delay means that legal action on the detainees' cases would continue to be on hold.

AP reported the story noting that the sourced U.S. officials were not authorized to discuss the delay publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

One official said the Obama administration planned to ask Congress to revamp the existing military tribunals system created for the detainees.

AP noted that critics of former President George W. Bush have said the system violates U.S. law because it limits the detainees' legal rights.

Attorney General Eric Holder said at a recent House hearing that military commissions still could be used but "would be different from those that were previously in place."

Holder also announced earlier this week that about 30 detainees have been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay but said that the U.S. has not decided exactly what to do with them.

The story comes as Holder has been visiting European leaders earlier this week asking for help relocating detainees.

The Obama administration has maintained that a number of the remaining Guantanamo detainees can be set free safely.

There are 241 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Sources:
Officials: Gitmo court system likely to stay open
Holder: US needs Europe's help to close Gitmo

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Wire: April Deadliest Month for US in Iraq in 7 Months

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

U.S. troops may have to stay in Mosul past deadline.

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2009 -- Newswires reported yesterday that the U.S. death toll for April rose to 18, making it the deadliest in seven months for U.S. forces in Iraq. The sharp increase from the previous month came as a series of bombings also pushed Iraqi deaths to their highest level this year.

In the latest violence, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a restaurant on the reservoir of Iraq's largest dam near Mosul. At least five people were killed and 10 wounded, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The Associated Press reported that the spike in attacks has raised concerns that insurgents are stepping up their efforts to re-ignite sectarian bloodshed as well as questions about the readiness of the Iraqis to take over responsibility for their own security as U.S. troops begin to withdraw.

U.S. Maj. Gen. David Perkins blamed the recent bombings on al-Qaida in Iraq, saying the terror network is making a push to regain influence, particularly in Baghdad.

Reuters noted that U.S. troops may have to stay in Mosul beyond a June 30 deadline, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq said on Friday.

A bilateral deal reached last year calls for all U.S. combat troops to pull out of Iraq's towns and cities by June 30 and for all U.S. soldiers to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Reuters said some analysts have doubted the feasibility of a withdrawal so soon from Mosul, which is still plagued by an active insurgency pitting U.S. and Iraqi forces against al Qaida and other militants.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Sources:
April deadliest month for US in Iraq in 7 months
U.S. says troops may have to stay in Iraq's Mosul

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Combat Camera Video: Operation Eastern Resolve, Now Zad, Afghanistan; Part 1 of 7

video

News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. Marines of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines (Reinforced) conducting Operation Eastern Resolve from Forward Operating Base Now Zad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Scenes include footage of buildings in a valley where the operation will take place. Part 1 of 7. (Video by Lance Cpl. Paul Miller; Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Afghanistan. Length: 5:43.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Wire: Al-Qaida Used Hotmail, Simple Codes in Planning

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- Newswires reported this evening that in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, alleged al-Qaida operations mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed intended to use his free Hotmail account to direct a U.S.-based operative to carry out an attack, according to a guilty plea agreement filed by Al Saleh Kahlah al-Marri in federal court.

The document shows how al-Qaida, at least in 2001, embraced prosaic technologies like pre-paid calling cards, public phones, computer search engines and simplistic codes to communicate, plan and carry out its operations, according to an Associated Press report.

Al-Marri also surfed the Web to research cyanide gas, using anonymizer software to cover his tracks, according to the document filed Thursday in federal court in Peoria, Ill. He marked the locations of dams, waterways and tunnels in the U.S. in an almanac. The government claims this reflects intelligence that al-Qaida was planning to use cyanide gas to attack those sites.

AP noted that as a result of his guilty plea, al-Marri could be sentenced up to a maximum 15-year term in federal prison.

As part of a plea agreement, al-Marri admitted that he trained in al-Qaida camps and stayed in terrorist safe houses in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001. There, he learned how to handle weapons and how to communicate using clandestine methods.

AP also reported the following details:
After arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001 — a day before al-Qaida's long-plotted terror strikes in New York and Washington — Al-Marri stored phone numbers of al-Qaida associates in a personal electronic device.

He used a "10-code" to protect the numbers — subtracting the actual digits in the phone numbers from 10 to arrive at a coded number, according to a person close to the investigation.

In a 10-code, eight becomes a two, for example. Other al-Qaida members used the same code, according to the plea agreement.

Al-Marri sent e-mails to Khalid Sheik Mohammed's hotmail account — HOR70@hotmail.com — addressed to "Muk" and signed "Abdo." The details of that code were included in an address book found in an al-Qaida safehouse in Pakistan.
Attempts to reach the the Hotmail address went unanswered.

AP also reported that Al-Marri initially tried to use a Yahoo e-mail account to contact Mohammed, but it failed to go through. So he switched to Hotmail as well. When al-Marri arrived in the United States, he created five new e-mail accounts to communicate with Mohammed, using the 10-code to send him his cell phone number in Peoria.

Al-Marri has admitted that before entering the U.S., he met and had regular contact with Khalid Sheik Mohammed and with Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped the Sept. 11 hijackers with money and Western-style clothing.

(Report from a commercial news source.)

Source: Al-Qaida used Hotmail, simple codes in planning

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Combat Camera: More Images from UNITAS Gold

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) A Mexican BO-105 Bolkow helicopter maneuvers into position to fire at the ex-USS Connolly (DD-979) during the UNITAS Gold sinking exercise (SINKEX). Participating ships and aircraft fired a variety of weapons at the ex-USS Connolly (DD-979) during the SINKEX portion of UNITAS Gold. Maritime forces from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay are participating in UNITAS Gold, the 50th iteration of the annual multi-national maritime exercise, which provides the opportunity to conduct and integrate joint and combined land, maritime, coast guard and air operations in a realistic training environment. The exercise is taking place April 20-May 5 in Jacksonville and off the coast of Florida. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) The Colombian Navy frigate Almirante Padilla (FL 51) prepares to launch an AS-555 Fennec helicopter as part of a sinking exercise during UNITAS Gold. This year marks the 50th iteration of UNITAS, a multinational exercise that provides opportunities for participating nations to increase their collective ability counter illicit maritime activities that threaten regional stability. Participating countries are Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, U.S. and Uruguay. (U.S. Navy photo by LT Chris Brown.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) A Mexican BO-105 Bolkow helicopter fires two rockets at the ex-USS Connolly (DD-979) in a sinking exercise (SINKEX) that took place during UNITAS Gold, the 50th iteration of the multinational training exercise. The mission of UNITAS is to promote interoperability between participating navies and is taking place April 20 to May 5, 2009, off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. UNITAS Gold participants and observers this year include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer Seth Johnson.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) The ex-USS Connolly (DD-979) is struck by cannon fire in a sinking exercise (SINKEX) during UNITAS Gold, the 50th iteration of the multinational training exercise. The mission of UNITAS is to promote interoperability between participating navies and is taking place April 20 to May 5, 2009, off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. (U.S. Navy photo.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) A Mexican BO-105 Bolkow helicopter fires two rockets at the ex-USS Connolly (DD-979) during UNITAS Gold, the 50th iteration of the multinational training exercise, UNITAS. The mission of UNITAS is to promote interoperability between participating navies and is taking place April 20 to May 5, 2009, off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. UNITAS Gold participants and observers this year include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. (U.S. Navy photo.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) A Harpoon missile is launched by the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) during a sinking exercise off the coast of Florida. Donald Cook is participating in UNITAS Gold, the 50th iteration of the multi-national UNITAS exercise involving the nations of Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Mexico, and the United States. The two-week exercise includes realistic scenario-driven training opportunities such as live-fire exercises, shipboard operations, maritime interdiction operations and special warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Grieco.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 30, 2009) -Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 MH-60S Knighthawks conduct anti-submarine operations near amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) during UNITAS Gold. This year marks the 50th iteration of UNITAS, a multinational exercise that provides opportunities for participating nations to increase their collective ability to counter illicit maritime activities that threaten regional stability. Participating countries are Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, U.S. and Uruguay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Shelander.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 29, 2009) A NATO Sea Sparrow missile launches from the bow of the German Bremen class frigate Frigatte Lubeck (F 214) for the sinking exercise portion of UNITAS Gold. Lubeck is participating in the 50th iteration of the multinational UNITAS exercise involving the nations of Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Mexico, and the United States. The two-week exercise includes realistic scenario-driven training opportunities such as live-fire exercises, shipboard operations, maritime interdiction operations and special warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Grieco.)

Focus on Defense:

ATLANTIC OCEAN, May 1, 2009 -- The Mexican patrol vessel ARM Oaxaca (PO-161) participated along with ships from 11 nations in the sinking exercise (SINKEX) of the former ex-USS Connelly (DD 975) April 29 during UNITAS Gold.

"Fuego!" says a mechanic voice over a radio as a loud boom echoes across the Atlantic Ocean, followed by another and another in a rapid series. Distant, soundless splashes rise into the air where the shells from a 76/62mm naval cannon mark their entry into the rough blue water during the SINKEX.

Practice firing the main cannon on board the Armada de Mexico (ARM) Oaxaca (PO-161) is nothing new for Oaxaca's Commanding Officer Efren Gomez Luis. What is new for him and his crew is the chance to train and work with 11 navies at once during UNITAS Gold, an annual maritime exercise that provides a rigorous training environment in which participating nations conduct joint and combined operations in a realistic scenario.

"Personally, UNITAS is a great learning opportunity for me and my crew, something I've wanted to do for a long time," said Luis, on the bridge of Oaxaca while watching the horizon with large binoculars.
An English speaking voice comes through the radio, someone from USS Donald Cook (DDG-75). They relay course information and Oaxaca's radioman, a young officer fresh from Mexico's naval academy, replies in English. Oaxaca's finished its practice firing and will reset course to a position with the other ships. In front of Oaxaca, four ships make an orderly line, and behind, five more, all sailing in formation for UNITAS Gold.

UNITAS Gold is a two-week exercise with realistic scenario-driven training opportunities featuring live-fire exercises, undersea warfare, shipboard operations, maritime interdiction operations, anti-air and anti-surface warfare, amphibious operations, electronic warfare, and special warfare. In total, over 25 ships, four submarines and more than 50 aircraft have participated.

The primary goal of the training is to promote maritime security and stability as well as interoperability between partner nations. This year is the first time Mexico has participated. Its assets in the exercise include the offshore patrol vessel, ARM Oaxaca (PO-161) and frigate, ARM Mina (F-214).

"I feel very happy to be in this very important event. Our training has become stronger, as well as our capacity in stopping narco-trafficking and in defense of our national territories," Luis said.

The crew of the ARM Oaxaca echoed the sentiments of their commanding officer.

"I'm very proud to be in UNITAS," said Teniente de Corbeta (Lt.) Arturo Morales Desachy one of the officers in charge of translating incoming radio communications during the exercise. "I hope we keep participating and attend next year's UNITAS. We've brought some of the best officers from our country to take part in this," said Desachy.

"Three officers who've come in 1st place at the naval academy are on this crew. The Comandante Luis also asked the academy to send us their best midshipmen. We all want to learn as much as possible. I would like to learn about maneuvers, fire exercises, aerial and surface exercises and all things needed to be prepared in case we help with a natural disaster or are part of a task force," Desachy explained.

Officers aren't the only ones who see UNITAS Gold as a rich training experience and a chance to mingle with navies from other countries. The enlisted sailors aboard Oaxaca have a favorable outlook as well.

"It's good to be here training with the U.S.," said Maester 3rd Class Juan Carlos Morales Areualo, Oaxaca's barber. "It feels good for my country to be here with my shipmates for all its beautiful experience."

Areualo works in the bowels of the ship, in a small but tidy room used to cut hair. His primary tools are a buzz clipper with no attachments, and a straight razor.

"I never before have been here with these others navies training this way," he says while trimming the sides of an Oaxaca sailor's hair with a straight razor.

"It's good training," he continues once his current customer is happy and on his way, "we get more experience in things we don't usually do. I'd like to come back to keep training and get better and better. Go forward. I like it when they said that about UNITAS. 'To go forward together.'"

The sound of an alarm echoes through Oaxaca as they prepare for a fire drill. Later in the day, Areualo is on the flight deck, in a fireman's suit. He's put down the clippers for a fire hose. The training is constant during the two weeks of UNITAS Gold, but it's met by the crew of Oaxaca, who all share the same sentiment, and the same commitment to making this UNITAS the first of many for the Armada de Mexico.

UNITAS is being held from Apr. 20 to May 5, and will bring together participants and observers from the Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, the United States and Uruguay.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Shelander, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command - U.S 4th Fleet Public Affairs.)

Related:
North Florida Beach Stormed by Multinational Forces
Combat Camera: Images from UNITAS Gold
Combat Camera: More Images from UNITAS Gold

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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OIF Summary, May 1, 2009: Troops in Iraq Kill Terror Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- Acting on a warrant, coalition advisors operating with Iraq’s 4th Emergency Response Battalion in Tikrit, Iraq, killed two suspected terrorists while attempting to arrest them today.

Both of the men were associated with developing and placing homemade bombs targeting Iraqi and coalition forces in the area, officials said.

After entering the residence of the person listed on the warrant, the Tikrit battalion and coalition advisors moved to arrest the suspect. After repeated calls in Arabic to drop their weapons, the suspect and an associate aimed their weapons at the forces, who shot and killed them.

In other news from Iraq, two men attacked Iraqi soldiers serving alongside Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers with RKG-3 anti-tank grenades April 29 in Baghdad’s Khadra neighborhood. One of the grenades detonated on the ground, and the other failed to detonate.

Iraqi soldiers immediately responded to the attack and detained the men, one of whom had fled to a nearby mosque. They are being held for further questioning.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Summary, May 1, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Kill 15 Militants, Detain 7

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces killed 15 militants, wounded 12 others and detained one in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s Zabol province after their convoy came under attack today.

The patrol was en route to a local village to talk with elders about security issues when it was attacked from a compound by several armed militants with small-arms fire. The combined force returned fire, killing one militant. Afghan forces secured and searched the compound.

During searches of other compounds in the area, the combined forces came under small-arms fire from militants on a nearby hillside. The Afghan-led force returned fire with mortars and called for close-air support to suppress the threat.

The combined forces pursued the militants into a nearby cave complex, killing 14 and wounding 12 others.

One militant was detained and remains in Afghan custody.

During an overnight patrol in Paktia province’s Dzadran district to capture Haqqani terrorist group militants, Afghan and coalition forces detained one suspect.

Forces then located a campsite a short distance from the initial search location and detained five more suspected militants. Two of the suspects were concealing AK-47 assault rifles, but surrendered to forces without incident and were unharmed.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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Commentary: Saying No to Justice

Commentary

Commentary:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- As part of the blog's ongoing coverage of national security issues, I'd like to bring attention to a letter written by Andrew C. McCarthy, of the National Review Institute, to Attorney General Eric Holder, explaining McCarthy's decision not to participate in a roundtable discussion of the president's detention policy for terrorism suspects.

It is a scathing critique of the decision to shut down Guantanamo.

Let me start by telling you about McCarthy.

Andrew C. McCarthy is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

He was most notable for leading the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others. The defendants were convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and planning a series of attacks against New York City landmarks.

McCarthy also contributed to the prosecutions of terrorists who bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, resigning from the Justice Department in 2003.

McCarthy is currently a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, serving as the director of the FDD's Center for Law and Counterterrorism. He has served as an attorney for Rudy Giuliani, and is also a conservative opinion columnist who writes for National Review and Commentary.

In an article published on the National Review Web site today, McCarthy explains why he declined to meet with the President’s Detention Policy Task Force.

The letter to Attorney General Holder is in the public record so I have included it below.

However, it is most enlightening to read McCarthy's National Review article, as he has an empirical view of how President Barack Obama and Attorney General Holder have created an untenable situation for lawyers asked to advise the government on policy matters, and what it means for America's war on terror.

Read McCarthy's National Review article by clicking here.

Read McCarthy's letter to Holder below:

Andrew C. McCarthy

May 1, 2009

By email (to the Counterterrorism Division) and by regular mail:

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

This letter is respectfully submitted to inform you that I must decline the invitation to participate in the May 4 roundtable meeting the President's Task Force on Detention Policy is convening with current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases. An invitation was extended to me by trial lawyers from the Counterterrorism Section, who are members of the Task Force, which you are leading.

The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants--or what the Department now calls "individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations." I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear--most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany--that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States). Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president's first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

Moreover, in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Beyond that, as elucidated in my writing (including my proposal for a new national security court, which I understand the Task Force has perused), I believe alien enemy combatants should be detained at Guantanamo Bay (or a facility like it) until the conclusion of hostilities. This national defense measure is deeply rooted in the venerable laws of war and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2004 Hamdi case. Yet, as recently as Wednesday, you asserted that, in your considered judgment, such notions violate America's "commitment to the rule of law." Indeed, you elaborated, "Nothing symbolizes our [adminstration's] new course more than our decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.... President Obama believes, and I strongly agree, that Guantanamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us: a disregard for our centuries-long respect for the rule of law[.]" (Emphasis added.)

Given your policy of conducting ruinous criminal and ethics investigations of lawyers over the advice they offer the government, and your specific position that the wartime detention I would endorse is tantamount to a violation of law, it makes little sense for me to attend the Task Force meeting. After all, my choice would be to remain silent or risk jeopardizing myself.

For what it may be worth, I will say this much. For eight years, we have had a robust debate in the United States about how to handle alien terrorists captured during a defensive war authorized by Congress after nearly 3000 of our fellow Americans were annihilated. Essentially, there have been two camps. One calls for prosecution in the civilian criminal justice system, the strategy used throughout the 1990s. The other calls for a military justice approach of combatant detention and war-crimes prosecutions by military commission. Because each theory has its downsides, many commentators, myself included, have proposed a third way: a hybrid system, designed for the realities of modern international terrorism--a new system that would address the needs to protect our classified defense secrets and to assure Americans, as well as our allies, that we are detaining the right people.

There are differences in these various proposals. But their proponents, and adherents to both the military and civilian justice approaches, have all agreed on at least one thing: Foreign terrorists trained to execute mass-murder attacks cannot simply be released while the war ensues and Americans are still being targeted. We have already released too many jihadists who, as night follows day, have resumed plotting to kill Americans. Indeed, according to recent reports, a released Guantanamo detainee is now leading Taliban combat operations in Afghanistan, where President Obama has just sent additional American forces.

The Obama campaign smeared Guantanamo Bay as a human rights blight. Consistent with that hyperbolic rhetoric, the President began his administration by promising to close the detention camp within a year. The President did this even though he and you (a) agree Gitmo is a top-flight prison facility, (b) acknowledge that our nation is still at war, and (c) concede that many Gitmo detainees are extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried under civilian court rules. Patently, the commitment to close Guantanamo Bay within a year was made without a plan for what to do with these detainees who cannot be tried. Consequently, the Detention Policy Task Force is not an effort to arrive at the best policy. It is an effort to justify a bad policy that has already been adopted: to wit, the Obama administration policy to release trained terrorists outright if that's what it takes to close Gitmo by January.

Obviously, I am powerless to stop the administration from releasing top al Qaeda operatives who planned mass-murder attacks against American cities--like Binyam Mohammed (the accomplice of "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla) whom the administration recently transferred to Britain, where he is now at liberty and living on public assistance. I am similarly powerless to stop the administration from admitting into the United States such alien jihadists as the 17 remaining Uighur detainees. According to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, the Uighurs will apparently live freely, on American taxpayer assistance, despite the facts that they are affiliated with a terrorist organization and have received terrorist paramilitary training. Under federal immigration law (the 2005 REAL ID Act), those facts render them excludable from the United States. The Uighurs' impending release is thus a remarkable development given the Obama administration's propensity to deride its predecessor's purported insensitivity to the rule of law.

I am, in addition, powerless to stop the President, as he takes these reckless steps, from touting his Detention Policy Task Force as a demonstration of his national security seriousness. But I can decline to participate in the charade.

Finally, let me repeat that I respect and admire the dedication of Justice Department lawyers, whom I have tirelessly defended since I retired in 2003 as a chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. It was a unique honor to serve for nearly twenty years as a federal prosecutor, under administrations of both parties. It was as proud a day as I have ever had when the trial team I led was awarded the Attorney General's Exceptional Service Award in 1996, after we secured the convictions of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his underlings for waging a terrorist war against the United States. I particularly appreciated receiving the award from Attorney General Reno--as I recounted in Willful Blindness, my book about the case, without her steadfastness against opposition from short-sighted government officials who wanted to release him, the "blind sheikh" would never have been indicted, much less convicted and so deservedly sentenced to life-imprisonment. In any event, I've always believed defending our nation is a duty of citizenship, not ideology. Thus, my conservative political views aside, I've made myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, who've thought tapping my experience would be beneficial. It pains me to decline your invitation, but the attendant circumstances leave no other option.

Very truly yours,

/S/

Andrew C. McCarthy

cc: Sylvia T. Kaser and John DePue
National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section
Source: Saying No to Justice

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Video: F-35 Lightning II Update

video

News readers click here to watch the video.

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- Embedded above is a video package about the F-35 Lightning II rolling off the production line as the first international, fifth generation fighter jet. (Produced by Tech Sgt. Steve German; Air Force News. Length: 1:00)

COMBAT CAMERA More Military Imagery on THE TENSION

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OIF Update, May 1, 2009: Violence Up in Iraq, 3 US Servicemembers Killed in Anbar

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 -- Two Marines and one sailor were killed while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Ambar province April 30.

Anbar is a former insurgent stronghold that has been relatively calm since Sunni tribal leaders turned against al-Qaida in Iraq.

The names of the service members are being withheld pending next-of-kin notification and release by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Newswire sources report that at least 18 U.S. soldiers died in April, a sharp increase from March's total of nine -- the lowest since the war began in March 2003.

The deaths come as a series of deadly bombings in recent weeks has raised concerns that insurgents are stepping up their efforts to re-ignite sectarian bloodshed and derail security gains that have brought overall violence to its lowest levels in recent years, the Associated Press noted.

In all, at least 4,281 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

(Report from a Multinational Corps Iraq news release and newswire sources.)

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wire: STRATFOR Sees US Intel Move to Pre-9/11 Mindset

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

Report says Obama's decisions have a "chilling effect" on the intel community: experienced operatives curtail or quit.

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009 -- Writing at STRATFOR, a private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues, Fred Burton and Scott Stewart said yesterday that the U.S. intelligence community may be moving to a pre-9/11 mindset.

They citied the Obama administration’s decision to release four classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration that authorized "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the president's shifting position on the prosecution of those involved in approving the techniques as the main causes.

Burton and Stewart said their contacts in the intelligence community report that the release of the memos has had a discernible “chilling effect” on those in the clandestine service who work on counterterrorism issues.
Politics and moral arguments aside, the end effect of the memos’ release is that people who have put their lives on the line in U.S. counterterrorism efforts are now uncertain of whether they should be making that sacrifice. Many of these people are now questioning whether the administration that happens to be in power at any given time will recognize the fact that they were carrying out lawful orders under a previous administration. It is hard to retain officers and attract quality recruits in this kind of environment. It has become safer to work in programs other than counterterrorism.

The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context, and combined with a few other dynamics, it appears that the U.S. counterterrorism community is quietly slipping back into an atmosphere of risk-aversion and malaise -- an atmosphere not dissimilar to that described by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) as a contributing factor to the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Burton and Stewart conclude that it was a lack of intelligence that helped fuel the fear that led the Bush administration to authorize enhanced interrogation techniques.

Ironically, the current investigation into those techniques and other practices (such as renditions) may very well lead to significant gaps in terrorism-related intelligence from both internal and liaison sources -- again, not primarily because of the prohibition of torture, but because of larger implications.

When these implications are combined with the long-standing institutional aversion of U.S. government agencies toward counterterrorism, and with the difficulty of finding and retaining good people willing to serve in counterterrorism roles, the U.S. counterterrorism community may soon be facing challenges even more daunting than those posed by its already difficult mission.
Source: A Chilling Effect on U.S. Counterterrorism

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Pentagon: Officials Discourage Troops Aspirin Use in Combat Zone

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009 -- The Defense Department is directing servicemembers and government civilians deployed in overseas war zones to refrain from taking aspirin unless under a doctor’s orders, a senior military physician said here today.

“Aspirin use for reasons other than medical indications is discouraged,” said Army Col. (Dr.) Tony Carter, director for operational medicine and medical force readiness under the deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection, a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Military medical authorities also advise that troops slated for deployment to combat zones should cease taking aspirin at least 10 days before departure, Carter told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters.

Aspirin is “a platelet-inhibitor,” Carter explained. Platelets are small cells floating in the blood that induce hemostasis -- the process that causes bleeding to stop through the forming of blood clots. Low amounts of blood platelets can lead to excessive bleeding.

“Those platelets serve an important role in stopping bleeding once it occurs,” Carter said.

Then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. S. Ward Casscells III signed a March 12 memorandum that noted aspirin use by troops deployed in contingency areas could contribute to excessive bleeding in the event of wounding or injury.

Blood loss is the most common cause of preventable death associated with combat injuries, the memorandum said.

Carter recalled Casscells asking his staff if the military was discouraging aspirin use by people deploying to combat zones where they stood risk of injury. The answer at the time was no, Carter said.

The subsequent memorandum, Carter said, also directed the cessation of “over-the-counter access” to aspirin through Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets or morale, welfare and recreation activities in war zones. AAFES has jurisdiction over Army post exchanges and Air Force base exchanges.

AAFES is complying with the Health Affairs-issued memorandum, noting in a news release that its “operations in contingency locations are removing all products containing aspirin from their shelves.”

The intent of the new policy, Carter said, is to “discourage the inadvertent use of aspirin” in combat zones. People who routinely take small doses of aspirin per doctor’s orders to maintain vascular health should be all right, he said, but they should consult their physician.

Servicemembers and civilians could substitute over-the-counter, non-aspirin-based medications -- such as Tylenol or Motrin -- for treatment of colds, fever, muscle aches and other maladies, Carter said.

“I think we should take every measure possible to make sure that we minimize blood loss,” Carter said. “And, not taking aspirin, unless you need to take it, is one of those mechanisms that we want to use.”

(Report by Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service.)

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