National Security

Hagel: always pleased, never satisfied; Brennan to CIA; Street cred: Hagel’s injuries in Vietnam; Doug Wilson on Sec-Def nom; McChrystal on trust, on ‘Today,’ and more.

Brennan to CIA. Obama is reported to have passed over a well-regarded No. 2 at CIA in tapping John Brennan, the White House's counterterrorism adviser and a 25-year veteran of the agency, to become the head of CIA, report a number of news outlets. Obama is expected to nom him today. Many thought and hoped that Obama would pick Mike Morell, now the deputy at CIA, to help refocus the agency on its more conventional mission of intelligence collection and analysis, as opposed to drone strikes and other paramilitary operations that Brennan has advocated, at least in the past.

Read FP's Micah Zenko on "The Seven Deadly Sins of John Brennan" and "The Lethal Bureaucrat," also by Zenko.

Who is John Brennan?

Deadly Sins:

But the bigger nomination from Obama today will be Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense, a choice Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said yesterday on CNN was an "in-your-face" pick, but one that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on ABC will "receive a fair hearing." Despite the promise of a big fight over the Hagel nomination, in the end, he may well be confirmed by the Senate. His stance on the Iraq war may have angered many Republicans, but it's hard to see Republicans calling him out on that point now. And his perhaps more moderate stance on Israel, which seems to square with Obama's own, may create fireworks but not doom him. Either way, it will be more theater on the Hill. For now, though, we're interested in what kind of a manager he is thought to be.

"Always pleased, never satisfied." When Chuck Hagel ran the USO, he was an amiable but demanding leader, we're told. Charlyne Berens, who wrote a book about Hagel, told Situation Report over the weekend that she had many interviews with Hagel and people he interacted with. She spoke with one woman at the USO: "She said he was always pleased, but never satisfied," Berens recalled. "He's positive, encourages people, and he always thinks that more can be done." Berens' impression from her research for her 2006 book, "Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward," written as he considered a presidential run, was that he was respectful of people and reasonably mild-mannered when it came to managing them. "I think it would be unusual for him to lose his temper, and be demanding and difficult," said Berens, a professor and associate dean at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "But I think he expects a lot and wants people to give him everything they've got." 

On being a Nebraskan: "There is a directness and a sense of sincerity as opposed to strategic answers," Berens said. 

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we know from Berens that Hagel used to get teased for subscribing to Time magazine in junior high so he could learn about world affairs. He's also a huge Teddy Roosevelt fan, we're told. 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.

When all is said and done, it was likely Hagel's experience in Vietnam that really helped to persuade Obama to pick him to lead the Pentagon, giving him the credibility to look at his generals in the eye and whose views on war are tempered with real battlefield experiences. In her book, Berens describes the two times Hagel was injured, alongside his brother Tom, who served in the same unit: "...danger came in many forms in Vietnam. In March of 1968, the Hagel brothers were on an ambush patrol northeast of Saigon. They had been walking at the front of the column until their commander rotated them to the back. Only moments later, the soldiers who had taken their place at the front tripped a booby trap. Mines full of shrapnel, planted in the trees, exploded all around them. The men walking in front were killed. Tom thought at first that he had simply been knocked down by the force of the explosion, and when he saw Chuck lying on his back, he thought that's all that had happened to him, too. But then he noticed the blood stains on Chuck's shirt. He had been hit by shrapnel. Tom said, "I could see blood on the front of his shirt, and I tore his shirt open and that's when geysers of blood went up."


He wrapped bandages around Chuck's chest to stop the bleeding. Tom had been hit by shrapnel himself, in his back and arms, and the brothers spent some time recovering together in a field hospital. Chuck Hagel still has some of the shrapnel from one of the mines in his chest, but he still insists ‘our wounds were no big deal.' A month later, after a long firefight, the brothers' unit was pulling out when a land mine exploded under their armored personnel carrier at the rear of the column. Chuck thought his brother Tom, the turret gunner, had been killed by the initial impact. He grabbed Tom and found he was ‘dead weight, blood pouring out of his ears.' He started pulling Tom and others from the carrier, trying to get everyone out before the ammunition in the carrier blew up. But he was still too close when the inevitable explosion came and set him on fire, burning his face severely." [His brother survived.]

One of Hagel's first jobs in Vietnam: burning crap from the latrines. 

Berens' book:

Read Salon's "The Private War of Chuck and Tom Hagel," in 2007: "After saving each other's lives in combat, Chuck Hagel, the future Republican senator of Nebraska, and his brother Tom fought about Vietnam and Iraq -- until they finally saw eye to eye." 

Log Cabin Republicans still don't like Hagel. Today's WaPo, page A-7, carries a full-page ad from the gay and lesbian advocacy group, the Log Cabin Republicans: "Chuck Hagel's record on gay rights" describes the history of his views on the issue, from 1996, in which "Hagel says he would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act; to 1998, when he "argues that an ‘openly, aggressively gay' man should not be selected as a U.S. ambassador"; to 1999, when Hagel is said to have opposed repealing DADT; to 2005, when "in reaction to a federal judge's ruling that Nebraska's voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage violated the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men, Hagel calls on the court to reverse its decision, complaining the court had overridden Nebraska voters who opposed gay marriage"; to 2012, when, "in an effort to secure the nomination for Secretary of Defense, Hagel finally apologizes."

Doug Wilson, the highest-ranking openly gay former Pentagon official, who headed DOD public affairs, to Situation Report: "Senator Hagel made clear he regretted his comment about Ambassador Hormel, and major organizations like the Human Rights Campaign essentially accepted the apology. I think Senator Hagel, if he is nominated, would not only be an outstanding Secretary of Defense but he would be a strong advocate for the president's support for gay and lesbian service members, including the implementation of the full repeal of [Don't Ask, Don't Tell]. Senator Hagel made clear that he would be fully supportive of open service and made clear he was committed to [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] military families, and if he is nominated, I would fully expect that he would live up to those commitments." 

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron found these Hagelisms:

"There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq."

"The worst thing we can do, the most dangerous thing we can do is continue to isolate nations, is to continue to not engage nations. Great powers engage."

"I told Obama he should pick Biden as his running mate."

"There is no glory in war, only suffering."

"We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that comes with great power."

Stan McChrystal was asked to weigh in on Hagel, this morning on "Today:" "If President Obama trusts him, I think Senator Hagel has the experience, he certainly has got the qualities as a person, the real matter is if that president has that level of trust." Asked by Matt Lauer if Hagel's statements over the years on Iraq and Israel and other matters would disqualify him: "I don't think so. I think what you're going to find is you have to predict the future, and they're going to face very complex problems, many of which we can't predict, and I think that level of trust and relationship between those people and with other members of the Cabinet are the most important."

In a somewhat tense interview on McChrystal's book, "My Share of the Task," out this morning, Lauer kept on McChrystal about the "deficit of trust" between the White House and the Department of Defense.

Lauer: "Was that mistrust a two-way street? Did you distrust the people at the White House, did you distrust key members of the Obama administration, when it came to their policy in dealing with Afghanistan?"

McChrystal: "I think what's most important is we spent a lot of time sharing information to try to build trust. Trust comes with time, trust comes with cooperation, trust comes with compromise, and I think that's what we worked through in that really detailed way."

Lauer: "With all due respect, you didn't answer my question. Did you distrust the president and key members of the administration in terms of their handling of the war in Afghanistan?"

McChrystal: "Yeah, I still believe that the most important thing we can do is build that trust."



BBC: World media downplay Assad's peace plan.

New Reuters: Pope says stop war in Syria before it becomes a "field of ruins."

Press TV: Analyst says Saudis assist CIA strikes in Yemen.

Danger Room: Iran targets dissidents with 30,000 strong spy army.


National Security

Situation Report chats with McChrystal; Podesta Group lobbying for Hagel; Journalist Bill McMichael scores a win against the Pentagon; John Nagl has a staring role in Kaplan’s new book, and more.

Stan McChrystal is in the house. Breaking a long silence since his hurried resignation in June 2010, and just three days before his much-anticipated book is released to the public, former ISAF commander and head of Joint Special Operations Command Stan McChrystal is briefing military and civilian officials at the Federation Forum in the Pentagon this morning. He'll talk about the mission in Afghanistan and how to confront the war's challenges as the number of troops and resources decline. But it's the imminent release of his book that is garnering him all the attention. The memoir, "My Share of the Task," due out Monday, is about his career in the Army, leadership, and his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan before a Rolling Stone article led to his resignation. Readers hungry for a kiss-and-tell may be left wanting, McChrystal said in a brief, impromptu chat with Situation Report in his Old Town Alexandria office Thursday.

McChrystal: "For people looking for scandals or criticism, they will be disappointed. That's not who I am." 

Instead, he said, it is a "pretty well-researched account of what we did." Out of respect for a press embargo, McChrystal said he could not discuss details of the book. But he said he was proudest of the parts that pertain to the changes he made to JSOC. "The core of the book is the transformation of JSOC during combat," he told Situation Report. "We changed completely how we operated." His book was due out just after the November election but was delayed by Pentagon vetters doing a routine review for classified information.

McChrystal told Situation Report that his Pentagon briefing this morning will be about how you get different entities to play nicely. "I'm really just going to talk to them about what it takes to make multiple organizations work together -- or at least I'll talk about the challenges," McChrystal said. Leadership is key to mounting those challenges, he said. "It's easy to understand the requirement, fairly easy to argue for, but really hard to do."

Starting Sunday, McChrystal will be everywhere. The media frenzy will begin with a pre-taped interview with CBS's David Martin on "Sunday Morning." That will be followed by a piece in USA Today and appearances on "Today," "Morning Joe," "The Sean Hannity Show," "The View," and "The Daily Show," as well as interviews with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Mike Huckabee on Fox and others over the next 10 days. 

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report, where we regret slicing our finger with a newly sharpened knife -- forgive typos. 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 Podesta Group is helping to promote Hagel. The Podesta Group is channeling as much as $35,000 to sponsor Mike Allen's Playbook this week as it lobbies influencers on the merits of appointing former senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. Podesta is providing public affairs services on behalf of an organization calling itself the Bipartisan Group, a loose association of retired national security types who have taken up Hagel's cause after some pro-Israel groups and others raised concerns about Hagel's past statements about Israel. The ads have appeared since Monday in the e-mailed newsletter published by Politico.

Representatives from Podesta would not comment on a matter concerning a client. But a source familiar with the effort told Situation Report that the Bipartisan Group -- comprised of David Boren, Frank Carlucci, William "Fox" Fallon, Gary Hart, Brent Scowcroft, Thomas Pickering, and others -- approached Podesta to help get the word out about Hagel. Critics continue to cite things Hagel did and said in the late 1980s and 1990s as evidence of less-than-strong support for Israel.

"The Bipartisan Group has a different view of Senator Hagel's record and his views, and they want to make sure that he is not swift-boated," said the individual. "It is a record they are comfortable promoting. If he is a nominee, he should be afforded a fair hearing and that he should be afforded a fair process."

Individuals from two publications who are familiar with ad rates for Allen's popular e-mail put the buy at approximately $35,000 for a week's worth of sponsorship.

Critics of Hagel, like the Israel Project's Josh Block, continue to target him. And the conservative Free Beacon published a story yesterday about how, as head of the World USO, he tried to shut down a USO port in Haifa, Israel. The lobbying effort, which includes efforts beyond sponsorship of the e-mailed newsletter, is a sign of how much some of Washington's heavyweights are willing to fight for Hagel -- unlike the ghostly push for Susan Rice as secretary of state. Many individuals on either side have criticized the White House for not moving quicker either to nominate Hagel and fight for him or to move on. 

Signer Zbigniew Brzezinski, to Situation Report on why the lobbying for Hagel: "I think a lot of people are reacting to the completely one-sided and unfair and almost odd attacks on Hagel, which is not a contribution to a serious public discussion about who would make a good defense secretary."

From the letter, addressed to President Barack Obama: "We write to you, Mr. President, in support of Senator Hagel because we believe our polarized political life is much in need of leaders with the kind of bipartisanship and independence of conscience and mind that Chuck Hagel's service to our country has exemplified."

Bipartisan Group letter:

Free Beacon story:

From Josh Block's Twitter account last night: @TNR: The reasons why liberals should oppose #Hagel are numerous. 

Meet the Pentagon's new top lawyer. For now. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that the man to replace Jeh Johnson is his former deputy, Robert Taylor.

Score one for journalism. Journalist Bill McMichael won an important legal fight in a FOIA case against the Pentagon regarding the allegedly abusive work environment at U.S. Strategic Command. McMichael, formerly a long-time reporter for Navy Times who is now with the News Journal of New Castle, Del., had requested the records of a DOD Inspector General investigation into the work environment at the command, created by Capt. William Powers while he was serving as a top official there between October 2008 to March 2010. But his request was denied through a "Glomar" response, which is a legalistic dodge named after a vessel built by the CIA to salvage a sunken Soviet submarine. Under Glomar, the government neither confirms nor denies the existence of the records. McMichael made a subsequent appeal to DOD, which was also denied, leading him to file a suit in federal court. Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with McMichael, saying release of the records was in the public interest. McMichael was represented by Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic and other attorneys. 

McMichael, a former colleague, to Situation Report, on the win: "This case involved nothing more than an investigation into an allegedly abusive military leader of substantial stature -- a public figure, as the judge determined. Hiding the existence of that investigation behind Glomar was a travesty, in my opinion. It'll be interesting to see what DOD does next." Yale Law School story:

"Morning Joe" runs an excerpt of Fred Kaplan's new book, "The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War," that leads with: "A few days shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, John Nagl saw his future disappear." Kaplan describes how at that time, in February 1991, in the deserts of southern Iraq, Nagl, a platoon leader, embodied a U.S. Army struggling to adapt after the Cold War. Nagl, now the counterinsurgency expert, had become fluent in German because he thought that that's where he'd be spending the bulk of his career. But the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and the realities of confronting a crumbling military in Iraq showed just how ill-prepared the Army was for the future.

"The Insurgents," Kaplan argues, is the "inside story" of how Petraeus and people like Nagl and H.R. McMaster forged a "mafia" to force the Army to change its culture and institutions -- a shift with which the Army continues to struggle to this day. 

Kaplan, on Nagl and the first Gulf War in the first chapter: "It was a moment of unaccustomed triumph for the US military, still haunted by the defeat in Vietnam. But to Nagl, it also signaled the end of the era that made the triumph possible. Tank-on-tank combat had been the defining mode of warfare for a modern superpower; now it teetered on the verge of obsolescence. The Soviet Union and Iraq had been the last two foes that possessed giant tank armies. With the former gone up in smoke and the latter crushed so easily on the battlefield, it seemed implausible that any foreign power would again dare challenge the United States in a head-on contest of strength. The premise of all Nagl's plans -- to say nothing of the rationale for his beloved Army's doctrines, budgets, and weapons programs -- seemed suddenly, alarmingly irrelevant."