National Security

Friends of Chuck: the case for Hagel begins; Why the QDR may be significant; How Hollywood perpetuated the “myth” of torture; Gifts for wonks, and more.

The defense of Hagel for Defense begins. The attacks against Chuck Hagel for his views on Israel may be giving the White House pause -- or perhaps it is just the shooting in Connecticut and the fiscal cliff negotiations that have delayed an announcement on new Cabinet appointments, including for Pentagon chief. But the delay has given time for the criticisms against Hagel to take form. And now a number of Hagel's friends are pushing back. Several former high-level diplomats have written an open letter defending the former senator against what some have called a smear campaign on his views on Israel. Hagel would be an "impeccable choice" for SecDef, they say. "Senator Hagel's political courage has impressed us all. He has stood and argued publicly for what he believes is best for the United States. When he was attacked for opposing the war in Iraq as ‘unpatriotic,' he replied, ‘to question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic.' Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency."

And this: "Each of us has had the opportunity to work with Senator Hagel at one time or another on the issues of the Middle East. He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two-state solution and has been opposed to those who would undermine or threaten Israel's security."
Who signed the letter: Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO and Greece;
Ryan Crocker, former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan;
Edward Djerejian, former Ambassador to Israel and Syria;
William Harrop, former Ambassador to Israel;
Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt;
Sam Lewis, former Ambassador to Israel;
William H. Luers, former Ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia; Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel and Russia;
Frank G. Wisner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Ambassador to Egypt and India.

Another friend of Hagel's writes that the anti-Semitic charges against him are "old and over-used." Clyde Prestowitz, writing on FP, says critics who point to things he said about Israel and the two-state notion are wrongheaded, but what would be more wrongheaded would be forcing Obama to ditch Hagel. "Hagel was a U.S. senator, not a member of the Israeli parliament. His job has been to think about what's good for America. Interestingly, there are many who feel that in doing so he's also been a good friend of Israel in the sense that friends don't let friends drive drunk," he writes. Disagree with Hagel on policy grounds, but, he writes, "it would be an injustice, not only to Chuck Hagel, but also to the country if his nomination was blocked," he writes. "Hagel is an honorable person who has bled for his country and served it above and beyond the call of duty. We'd be lucky to have him as secretary of defense."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. 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.

The QDR kicks off next month -- and this one could be big. The next Quadrennial Defense Review isn't due until 2014, but the services are going to get serious about it in January. The QDR, the every-four year study of strategy, resources, and programs, oftentimes only amounts to a bureaucratic exercise, albeit an expensive and all-consuming one. But the 2014 edition could actually have some significance. The drastic changes to the budget (the extent of which is still unclear), the pivot to Asia, and a new defense secretary will all contribute to making the review a big focus of the new year.

"I think this year has the potential to be an important QDR because of the confluence of things going on," Todd Harrison of CSBA tells Situation Report. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said the current defense strategy, unveiled a year ago, would likely be thrown out if the Pentagon must confront additional cuts, which conventional wisdom dictates are likely. Enter the QDR. This one could actually be forged by men and women steeped in realism rather than military strategy dreamers, which is to say that this QDR will be perhaps more based on actual resources than any other.

"The timing is right, the stars are aligned, [this QDR] could be very consequential; this could be a very important and pivotal QDR," Harrison says. "That said, I'm not optimistic that that will actually happen." Read the Marines' take on the QDR in a Situation Report soon.

The Benghazi report was a whitewash, according to Kori Schake. Writing on FP, Schake argues that the report on Benghazi, the result of an independent investigation by retired Amb. Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, nonetheless repeats many of the "well-known State Department refrains" -- that the world is "newly complicated," that diplomacy is underfunded, and that Congress must change its approach. But beyond those "greatest hits" of State rhetoric, fundamental issues were ignored by State, and the report, Schake says: "What the State Department does not acknowledge -- but what is at the core of its institutional failures -- is that it sets priorities, and that those priorities have not adequately changed with the changing needs of American diplomacy or the changing demands of security for our diplomats."

Toys for wonks: great stocking stuffer ideas from FP! From a drone of your own to a copy of Paula Broadwell's "All In," FP's Elias Groll and Uri Friedman suggest some last minute gift ideas for that policy nerd in your life.

Killer Apps' John Reed posted a pic of Northrop Grumman's X-47B aboard the Truman at sunset.

Feinstein, Levin, and McCain sign a letter to the head of Sony Pictures about their "deep disappointment" in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty." The senators are taking pointed issue with the way the movie characterizes the role that torture played in the successful hunt for bin Laden, thus "perpetuating the myth that torture is effective," according to the letter, sent yesterday to Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton. "We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden." The key information about bin Laden's courier was not gleaned through torture. "Regardless of what message the filmmakers intended to convey, the movie clearly implies that the CIA's coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier for Usama Bin Laden. We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect." The letter:

"Zero Farce 30," or what a former FBI interrogator says about what's wrong with the movie. FP's Ty McCormick interviewed Ali Soufan, the lead FBI investigator into the USS Cole bombing, and the man who first discovered the identities of the 9/11 hijackers, about the way "Zero Dark Thirty" portrays the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and their effectiveness, drone warfare, and Gitmo. Ty asked Soufan if the way the EITs were portrayed in the movie was wrong or misleading. His answer in full: "It's fiction. Based on all the information that I know, based on the 6,000-page report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and based on what many of the experts that follow these things have said -- at least one of whom actually served as an advisor on the film -- this is not fact. This is Hollywood. The information that was used to get bin Laden did not come as a result of waterboarding or torture. And the Senate report that has been voted on in the committee -- which included at least one Republican -- made it very clear that enhanced interrogation techniques and waterboarding did not work. And that just confirms what the CIA inspector general said about that program, and what the Department of Justice said about it. The facts are there. I came to my opinion based on experience. I opposed enhanced interrogation techniques not really because of the moral issues. I opposed it from the efficacy perspective." Read more of the interview:

The Stan 


Syria Burning

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National Security

Panetta orders investigation into all DoD childcare centers

Is Hagel getting swiftboated on Israel?; State takes a hit on Benghazi from independent panel; The Kagans under fire; Jim Amos asks Syrian rebels to move their fight to the Pacific, and more.

Panetta has ordered an immediate investigation into all Defense Department childcare centers. After the Army found problems with the security background checks of some 30 employees of childcare facilities at a major base in Virginia, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the investigation of all centers to ensure that the caregivers at each location have been properly vetted.

"The extraordinary move comes more than two months after two childcare employees at Fort Myer were arrested by military police for allegedly assaulting two children on September 26, a defense official told the E-Ring," Kevin Baron writes. "But court documents revealed in October by a local television station showed the caregivers are accused of far worse than slapping. Local television station WJLA first reported in October that federal court documents allege that Rebecca Smallwood-Briscoe, 57, ‘pulled a 2-year-old boy across the floor by one leg several times' and that she ‘hit the face/chin area of a 2-year-old boy with her fist.' Sharon Blakeney allegedly hit ‘another 2-year-old boy in the head' while Tonya Fagan-Clarke allegedly knocked a boy to the floor by grabbing his arm violently and ‘picked up an 18-month-old girl by the arm and proceeded to drop her on her stomach.'" The E-Ring:

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. 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.

Jeff Sinclair is headed to court-martial for adultery, forcible sodomy, and fraud. The case of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is headed to general court martial and he'll be arraigned Jan. 22. The list of charges against Sinclair are long, but they include having sexual intercourse with a captain and then threatening her if she told anyone about the relationship, wrongfully engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a major, and forcible sodomy of a captain in Afghanistan. He faces prison time and or expulsion from the Army. The charges span five years in incidents at Fort Bragg, N.C. and Army posts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, and Kuwait, as well as on military flights, writes the Fayetteville Observer:

Sinclair's wife, Rebecca Sinclair, wrote an op-ed in the Post last month on how the strains of war lead to infidelity that was seen as some as self-serving:

State takes a hit on Benghazi. An independent panel knocked State pretty hard for "grossly inadequate" security arrangements in Benghazi in an unclassified version of a report released last night. The Cable's Josh Rogin: "Poor coordination in Washington and an overwhelming neglect of security risks at the U.S. mission in Benghazi exacerbated the damage caused by a ‘series of terrorist attacks' there on Sept. 11," according to the independent panel, which included former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and was chaired by retired ambassador Tom Pickering.

From the report: "Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place." Rogin points out that the "two bureaus" are the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, headed by Eric Boswell and Beth Jones respectively -- though neither is mentioned by name in the report.

Security at the diplomatic installation was not a "shared responsibility" between agencies in Washington charged with supporting the installation, "resulting in stove-piped discussions and decisions on policy and security."

On the autonomy Washington gave Amb. Chris Stevens: "The ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. mission in the overall negative trend line of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments."

On Washington's view of the Benghazi mission: "Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing," the report said. "In the weeks and months leading up to the attacks, the response from post, Embassy Tripoli and Washington to a deteriorating security situation was inadequate."


The report:

A special relationship: the Kagans are under fire. The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran, in a lengthy Page Oner today, looks at the cozy relationship between David Petraeus and Kim and Fred Kagan, two well-known Washington think tankers who were given special access by Petraeus in Afghanistan. Fred, who is with the American Enterprise Institute, and Kim, who leads the Institute for the Study of War, put their jobs on hold for nearly a year to work for Petraeus in Afghanistan, living in Kabul, visiting the battlefield, reading classified intelligence reports, and advising Petraeus on strategy, creating confusion among his staff. "Their compensation from the U.S. government for their efforts, which often involved 18-hour workdays, seven days a week and dangerous battlefield visits? Zero dollars." Chandrasekaran reports that the Kagans wanted to remain "completely independent," as Fred told him, but "the extraordinary arrangement raises new questions about the access and influence Petraeus accorded to civilian friends while he was running the Afghan war."

Choice Q&A from Panetta's remarks at the Press Club yesterday: Q:  "As the former head of the CIA, please explain why General Petraeus was forced to resign, rather than a lesser punishment." Panetta: [laughing]:  You've got to be kidding me. You've got to be kidding me.  You know, in this town, with that kind of e-mail, do you think he could have survived as director of the CIA?  I don't think so."  

Ben Affleck testifies this morning on the Congo. The actor, most recently of "Argo" fame, will sit before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the "evolving security situation" in the Congo and "implications for U.S. national security." He'll appear on a second panel, alongside Heritage's Jim Carafano and Jendayi Frazer, from Carnegie Mellon. The Pentagon's Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, will appear on the first panel. Info plus "watch it live" link:

Jim Amos wants the Syrian rebels to take the fight to the Pacific. JK! The Duffel Blog, the military's Onion, reports that the Corps' top general held a presser "to address the increasing violence in Syria and to request that the Syrians somehow move their conflict to the Pacific Ocean." The blog reports: "Speaking from the Marine Barracks, General James F. Amos said that the Marine Corps would be more than willing to intervene in Syria provided it was in an amphibious capacity and off the coast of China." Amos, according to the blog: "For the past two years we've been saying that the Marine Corps is not a second land army, but they obviously didn't get the message. After a decade in which the Marine Corps conducted combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, we're eager to get back to our roots as an amphibious force in the Pacific -- not another land campaign in the Middle East."

Is Hagel getting swift-boated on Israel? The White House may nominate Chuck Hagel for defense secretary any day now, but we're told there may be second thoughts -- and even a new round of vetting - at the White House because of the concerns that Hagel's stance on Israel is shakier than some conservatives would like. Dana Milbank's piece this morning in the WaPo looks at the right wing's concerns, including those of Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard. In a post last week, a Republican senate aide was quoted, anonymously, as saying: "Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is." Some of the criticism of Hagel stems from a voting record that suggests he is soft on groups like Hezbollah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, voting against designating the Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, for example, according to the NYT, attributing that to analysts, as well as comments he made in a book on the Middle East process, "The Much Too Promised Land," in which he seemed to refer to groups like AIPAC as the "Jewish lobby." Other pro-Israel groups have raised concerns. But even some pro-Israel groups, albeit liberal in their views, think the attacks against Hagel are unfair:

Jeremy Ben-Ami exec director of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group that defends Hagel, as quoted in the NYT this morning: "It is simply beyond disturbing to think that somebody of chuck Hagel's stature and significant record of national service is being slandered in this way."

Milbank, this morning, on Hagel's record: "He voted for the Iran Nonproliferation Act, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act and the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act. He co-sponsored resolutions opposing any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and praising Israel's efforts ‘in the face of terrorism, hostility and belligerence by many of her neighbors.' He also co-sponsored legislation urging the international community ‘to avoid contact with and refrain from supporting the terrorist organization Hamas until it agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm and accept prior agreements.' Such gestures won't satisfy the neocon hard-liners, and Hagel's occasional criticism of the Israeli military's excesses doesn't help. But this isn't indicative of anti-Semitism, or even of anti-Israel sentiments." Weekly Standard blog:  Milbank:

If Bravo could talk. Panetta, at the Press Club, on his dog and the secrets he's kept: "Sylvia and I with Bravo, when I was at our institute, we used to bring Bravo to work with us.  And so, you know, when I came back to these jobs, you know, Sylvia continued to bring Bravo there, and I used to bring Bravo back with me.  And he used to come to the office when I was CIA director.  And Bravo sat in on almost all of the meetings involving the operation against bin Laden.  And, you know, to this day, he hasn't told a damn soul what happened."