National Security

Pentagon: not so fast on the Vickers story

The Army’s plan to create platoons of Jason Bournes; Panetta talks strategy and sequester today; NBC’s Engel released; Mini red velvet cupcakes at State’s party, and more.

The Vickers story: not so fast, defense officials say. Last night, McClatchy reported that Pentagon investigators fingered Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers as having leaked "restricted information" to the makers of the film on bin Laden, "Zero Dark Thirty," and referred the case to the Justice Department. It was an eyebrow-raising moment for a man widely well-regarded and thought to be going places -- maybe to head CIA. The Pentagon's inspector general's office, according to the story, by Marisa Taylor and Jonathan Landay, said Vickers had provided the filmmakers the name of a U.S. Special Operations Command officer who had helped plan the May 2, 2011, raid on bin Laden's home in Pakistan. The identities of certain personnel can be classified, the article said.

Pentagon press secretary George Little was quick to push back. George Little confirmed that there is a DOD inspector general investigation "on the question of whether Mr. Vickers provided classified information in an interview with the filmmakers," But in an e-mail Little said the Pentagon has no knowledge of a pending investigation by the Justice Department.

"The McClatchy story published this evening concerning Mike Vickers, the Undersecretary for Intelligence, is misleading and unfair," he told Situation Report in the e-mail. The case surrounds an interview between Vickers and the filmmakers, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, set up by the Pentagon, to provide "strategic context" on the raid that killed bin Laden. A transcript of the interview, obtained by the group Judicial Watch, shows that Vickers revealed the name of a special operations officer involved in the raid.

But the transcript was released to Judicial Watch only after a "thorough and rigorous classification review" in response to the group's Freedom of Information Act request. The Pentagon's Office of Security Review -- which reviewed Stan McChrystal's book and many others -- consulted with the Joint Staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, the National Security Agency, and other "relevant components" within the department. "The review concluded that the transcript was unclassified in its totality, including with respect to the names of individuals mentioned in the course of the interview," Little said. Some names were redacted for privacy reasons, not because they are considered classified information.
"The story unfortunately leaves the impression that Mr. Vickers engaged in the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, something the Department simply did not find," Little said.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we note that a year ago American troops crossed the border out of Iraq, thus formally concluding that long conflict. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

NBC's Richard Engel and crew are freed safely after five days of being held in captivity in Syria and now safe in Turkey.

The Army has a plan to make super soldiers. Killer Apps' John Reed tells us that Army futurists are considering ways to recruit troops that can be turned into "super-empowered" or "enhanced" troops who could be better thinkers and fighters. Reed: "The Army is thinking about turning you into Jason Bourne to convince you to enlist -- and then to enable you to fight better." Reed's report is based on an interview of an 0-6 from the Future Warfare Division at the Army's TRADOC. Explaining this new breed of soldier, Col. Kevin Felix told Reed: "He's super empowered, either chemically or through his training. You can create cognitive enhancements for individuals and that may be a way to recruit them because they can come into the military and get that kind of enhancement."

Help FP make its list of the top 50 National Security folks something you'd be proud to put under the tree. We are soliciting your ideas for people in the national security community who are bright, innovative, or influential -- people who make a difference, had a big impact in the past year, or will have a big impact in the year ahead. Bonus points for people who are less well known, behind-the-scenes types who nonetheless make their mark strategically, academically, or operationally. We can't give you a T-shirt, but we will offer complete confidentiality if you send us your ideas, and soon, to, or, or

Special people. OK, so we weren't the only ones who thought of it. Defense News released their top 100 most influential people over the weekend, and Tom Donilon, No. 1, beats out Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, and Mike Vickers (Nos. 2,3,4 and 5). Number 100? David Petraeus.

Daniel Inouye passed away. The highly decorated World War II vet and second-longest serving senator in history died at Walter Reed in Bethesda yesterday after respiratory complications, a spokesman said.

From the WaPo: "A methodical behind-the-scenes operator who rarely sought the media spotlight, he was little known outside Hawaii and the halls of the Capitol. But his wartime record, for which he received the nation's highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor - coupled with his reputation for a bipartisan approach to politics - helped him gain respect from and influence with colleagues of both parties." WaPo:

One soldier remembers another: Dempsey on Inouye - "Senator Inouye exemplified the role of servant-leader, both in and out of uniform, and served as a true role model for so many Americans," Dempsey said in a statement. "While serving in the U.S. Senate for the State of Hawaii since 1962, Senator Inouye has been not only a friend to the military, but more importantly a strong advocate for our Veterans and our families.  His tireless efforts on support for our Veterans, particularly in healthcare and education, will greatly benefit thousands of military servicemembers and our families for years to come. Deanie and I pass our deepest sympathies to his family and to the great state of Hawaii in the passing of this great Soldier.  He is missed."

"Deaf, blind, and mute": A U.S. official tells the E-Ring's Kevin Baron that the satellite from the North Korean launch is already failing and falling from orbit. "We haven't completed our final assessment, but it's a good chance whatever they put up there is deaf, blind, and mute."

The DOD IG released its newsletter detailing newly completed investigations. They include one on "logistics support" for the Army's Stryker vehicles; another about how Navy officials retaliated against a reserve lieutenant who made "protected communications" but who endured "multiple unfavorable personnel actions"; and another about the Defense Contract Management Agency and Defense Contract Audit Agency on what exactly triggers an audit. There are also bits about a former Army major sentenced in a contract bribery scheme and an Iranian national charged with attempting to export military aircraft parts to Iran: "According to the indictment, [Moazami Goudarzi] attempted to purchase aircraft parts from an undercover agent and offered to pay more than market value because of the embargo on sending these parts to Iran."

CSBA releases a report later today by Todd Harrison and John Speed Meyers on "lessons learned in wartime contracting and expeditionary economics."  From the report: "If the United States embarks on another attempt at nation building, it may again be found ill prepared without a more concerted research effort into the economic reconstruction aspects of warfare, often referred to as expeditionary economics."

Today marks the day the last troops left Iraq. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta goes to the Press Club to speak at 12:30 to talk troops, readiness, strategy and sequester. The speech builds on discussions Panetta has had with his leadership team, including combatant commanders, the Joint Chiefs, and others, "on the progress that's been made implementing the strategy and the challenges that lie ahead," a defense official told Situation Report. He'll highlight two major issues: the strain of deployments and the need to ensure readiness, as well as the lack of budgetary stability and the shadow of sequester.

As the U.N. Security Council mulls a resolution to approve a multinational African force to help stabilize Mali, there continues to be much concern about the impact that al Qaeda in the Maghreb is having on the country and on the region. Mali, some fear, could become the next Afghanistan -- a hotbed for terrorist organizations whose influence could spread. The Pentagon is poised to provide much support through training, equipping, and logistical support. The U.N. resolution may be passed in the next week or so. This morning, Susanna Wing, Michael Shurkin, Stephanie Pezard, and Andrew Lebovich will all appear on a panel on Mali at the United States Institute of Peace to talk "causes and options." The panel will be moderated by USIP's Jon Temin.

Viola Gienger, formerly Pentagon reporter for Bloomberg, has joined USIP as a senior writer.

The press corps partied on without Hillary Rodham Clinton. While the secretary of state recovers from a mild sickness and a related concussion after she took a fall, State's press corps enjoyed Maryland crabcakes, BBQ sliders, gourmet cheese and charcuterie, and jams and red velvet mini cupcakes, we're told. "A chamber trio played strings in an anteroom while the press mingled with public servants on a terrace overlooking the mist-shrouded Washington Monument," Kevin Baron told us.

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National Security

Cabinet announcements: a big week for the Pentagon?

Who is Hagel?; Benghazi review to Congress; Still deadly: landmines in Afghanistan; “Hell no!” Why Panetta will never stop cursing, and more.

An announcement on Defense Secretary, and perhaps it's Chuck Hagel, could come this week - or not. The NYT's David Sanger reports this morning that although the White House is expected to announce new Cabinet appointments this week, the Connecticut shooting may delay it until later this week, or even after that. And, Sanger reports, with Susan Rice out, there is some discomfort over the Cabinet slate - which, with Kerry and Hagel, lacks diversity. Yet it still seems likely that the White House will give the nod to John Kerry for State, and it's looking more and more like Chuck Hagel, the Republican contrarian who doesn't like using the military for nation-building, will get the nod.

Obama may like him because the two established a relationship from when they were both in the Senate together, AP wrote this morning. "Wounded during the Vietnam War, Hagel backed the Iraq war, but later became a fierce and credible critic of the Bush administration's war policies, making routine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed President George W. Bush's plan to send an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq - a move that has been credited with stabilizing the chaotic country - as ‘the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out.'" Hagel supported the resolution for the Afghanistan war but "over time he has become more critical of the decade-plus conflict, with its complex nation-building effort."

NYT piece by Sanger: AP:

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we know more about "preppers" than we did just a few days ago. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Stephen Walt's five reasons Obama should pick Hagel: 1. He's a Republican realist; 2. He thinks for himself; 3. He knows the subject; 4. He's got good judgment; 5. He's got the right enemies: "Hagel does have one political liability: unlike most of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, he hasn't been a complete doormat for the Israel lobby," Walt writes on FP. "For what it's worth, I hope Obama nominates Hagel and that AIPAC and its allies go all-out to oppose him. If they lose, it might convince Obama to be less fearful of the lobby and encourage him to do what he thinks is best for the country (and incidentally, better for Israel) instead of toeing AIPAC's line. But if the lobby takes Hagel down, it will provide even more evidence of its power, and the extent to which supine support for Israel has become a litmus test for high office in America."

Why Republicans hate Chuck Hagel: Jacob Heilbrunn on Hagel's reputation as a bête noire within the Republican Party -- which he would carry with him into the Pentagon.

Why the next Sec-Def should be more like Robert McNamara. Writing on FP, Larry Korb and Alex Rothman explain that the business and management acumen of the next defense secretary is critical to his success. McNamara, for example, came from Ford. "Not surprisingly, during the tenures of Wilson, McNamara, Laird, and Cheney, the Pentagon did not experience what Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisitions to Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, called ‘acquisition malpractice,'" they write. "For the most part, weapon systems came in on time and within budget targets. Compare the F-4, which was developed by McNamara, and the F-16, which was started under Laird and Packard, with the grossly over-budget F-35."

But Panetta is still defense secretary. And in a new piece out by Esquire, "What I've Learned: Leon Panetta," the defense secretary answers questions on everything from having his golden retriever Bravo in the room during the debate on the bin Laden raid, to his frequent cursing, to why he takes comfort from President Obama and why it's not necessarily about surrounding himself with A-students: "I got my share of A's. But I like people who work for me to have a certain compassion for their fellow human beings that doesn't necessarily come with an A, that comes based on your life and how you were raised."

And this: "Could I imagine a world without cursing? Hell, no! Every place I've ever gone, people have had to hold their ears. When I use those words, it helps make the point."

And this: "The one thing I make pretty good is gnocchi. People have commented on it. I do it for the holidays. So if I were inviting Kim Jong Un over for dinner, I'd make him a plate of gnocchi. We'd have a glass of wine. And basically I'd try to understand: What's his thinking?"

What is a prepper? It's emerged that Nancy Lanza, the mother of Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza, and apparently his first victim, was a survivalist known as a "doomsday prepper," or just "prepper," someone who believes economic collapse or other manner of doomsday scenarios mean they must adopt a more extreme form of survivalism.

Writing on FP, J.M. Berger explains what it is and why it could inform what Adam Lanza did. "Preppers go beyond the average household's disaster preparedness regime of having a couple flashlights with batteries in them. Their precautions can include everything from keeping a supply of canned goods to stocking generators and building elaborate bunkers. Many preppers also keep guns and a supply of ammunition in anticipation of the breakdown of law and order, as well as for hunting after the local Whole Foods has been abandoned to looters."

This morning, State will deliver its report on Benghazi to Congress, and later this week, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering, who are on State's Accountability Review Board, are expected to testify in a closed session. This is the report requested by the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees that should have some weight and help to focus the Hill on how the government could have responded better to the Benghazi attack -- absent some of the partisan rancor the incident caused. The findings of the independent panel, or at least some aspects of those findings, will likely be released publicly in some form later this week, by the time State reps testify in place of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion she suffered over the weekend.

Memo to Tom Ricks: why one Marine officer is leaving the Corps. (Worth the read even if it was posted Friday.) One Marine officer wrote to Ricks, anonymously, to explain why he's leaving the Corps: he thinks it's not big on ideas. "As the wars draw to a close, the Marine Corps is preaching a return to its roots. This is all well and good. But it seems as if everyone is holding up the 1990s as an idyllic time in the Marine Corps's history, as if the past decade with all of its lessons and changes was an aberration. My fear is we will learn very little from it."

Allen mourns the loss of the 10 little girls killed in an explosion in Nangarhar when an old landmine exploded. Gen. John Allen, this morning: "Over three decades of conflict, Afghanistan became one of the most heavily mined countries on earth. The tragic and cruel fact about landmines is that they don't discriminate. These precious children were innocent victims and I express my sincere sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those affected."

Afghanistan has 10 million land mines, according to the U.N. and Kabul is "the most heavily mined capital city in the world," according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. And RAWA News said last year that more than 50 civilians died each month in 2010.

Video of weird tool that could be used to counter landmines on

About 500 Air Force volunteers are visiting more than 2,000 children living in about 20 orphanages in South Korea as part of "Operation Christmas Hope." From the Air Force: "The Operation Christmas Hope committee also hopes to raise enough money to buy general gifts for the orphanages in need.... Quality of life items including washing machines and tents for children to play outside are items the chapel is interested in giving but the chapel has yet to reach their goal."