National Security

Fall from grace: Hoss Cartwright, a target; The Validation of Evelyn Farkas; Biden calls a meeting on Syria; Marcel Lettre to advise policy, temporarily; Sonenshine to GW; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Not a surprise: Hoss Cartwright is at the center of an inquiry over Iran leak. Ever since David Sanger's "Confront and Conceal" was published last year, disclosing the super covert Stuxnet program, the the Obama administration had mounted an aggressive campaign to find those who leaked information to Sanger. All the while, there was a whispering campaign in Washington that Hoss Cartwright, the former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had clearly been one of the ones who gabbed. Rightly or wrongly, Washington insiders quickly pointed at him as someone who had likely provided critical information about Stuxnet, designed to cyber attack Iran's nuclear program, to Sanger. Last night, NBC News' Michael Isikoff reported that indeed, Cartwright is under investigation for leaking information about the program, putting the administration in an awkward position and potentially dealing a fatal, reputational blow to Cartwright, who at one time was considered Obama's "favorite general."

NBC: "According to legal sources, [Cartwright] has received a target letter informing him that he's under investigation for allegedly leaking information about a massive attack using a computer virus named Stuxnet on Iran's nuclear facilities. Gen. Cartwright, 63, becomes the latest individual targeted over alleged leaks by the Obama administration, which has already prosecuted or charged eight individuals under the Espionage Act."

It wasn't a surprise that Cartwright would be targeted, not only because people suspected him as being one of the people knowledgeable enough to provide information about the program, but also because he is one of the few people now out of government who could be more easily targeted. Sanger's book, what amounts to a national security playbook for the White House, had been essentially authorized by the administration - top administration officials had talked to him for it. But what remained a mystery is just who provided details of programs such as Stuxnet, and had those individuals leaked information with the knowledge of higher-ups. NBC said that there is not yet a final decision on whether or not Cartwright would be charged.

Cartwright, widely regarded as smart and capable, had gained access to Obama's inner circle years ago as vice-chairman, in some cases advising the president in ways that made others at the rest of the Pentagon uneasy, including the senior military officer over him, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. Cartwright angered his brass brethren with his position against more troops for Afghanistan and, inside the Marine Corps, on pointed indifference to the Corps' high-profile Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. He called that program "exquisite" and in so doing helped to ensure its demise. Cartwright was also under investigation for an improper relationship with a female aide. Although he was ultimately cleared, his reputation within the building and the investigation all contributed to Cartwright being passed over to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has since associated himself with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but he has maintained a low profile, likely stemming from the likelihood that he was under scrutiny over the leaks.

NBC said that Cartwright, who retired from the military in August 2011, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. His attorney, former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, said Thursday, ‘I have no comment.'

But at Craig's urging, others called NBC News to defend Cartwright's reputation, while acknowledging they had no direct knowledge of the investigation. ‘He's a great American,' said former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D.-Calif., who served as undersecretary of state for arms control in the Obama administration. ‘All I know is he's always been one who acted in a way to defend the country and do so in a way that is beyond reproach.' The White House declined to comment, as did Justice Department officials."

Jane Harman, a member of the administration's Defense Policy Board, said the leak had been "very damaging." Harman, to NBC: "Clearly what was going on here was a method and it should have been protected...I think it's had devastating consequences.'"

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report, where we'll note that we're taking a week off with the fam and leaving Situation Report in the capable hands of our friend and colleague, Mister John Reed. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report.

Marcel Lettre, hanging his hat at Policy for now. Lettre, who had helped oversee Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's transition at the Pentagon as his acting chief of staff, is expected an assignment to another senior position in the building. For now, we're told that he's been asked on a temporary basis to act as a senior advisory role inside the Pentagon's Policy shop as he awaits word on the new job.

Tara Sonenshine, moving to GW. Tara Sonenshine, the State Department's Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, is heading to George Washington's School for Communications and Public Affairs. That's where she'll be a senior fellow, GW's Frank Sesno and Sonenshine both confirm to Situation Report, and will start in the fall. She's expected to lecture, write and mentor students in addition to developing projects on public diplomacy and youth, women and girls and the role of technology in public diplomacy. "I am excited to work with old colleagues like Frank Sesno, and to be around young people who aspire to work in international affairs," Sonenshine told Situation Report in an e-mail. "My commitment to public diplomacy, peacemaking, and people-to-people engagement will continue and there is much great work to be done."

The normalization of Serbia and Kosovo and the Validation of Evelyn Farkas. There are people in the Pentagon who remember like it was yesterday the ethnic strife and instability of the Balkans in the 1990s. And for Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine and Eurasia, what a difference a couple of decades makes. Earlier this month, Evelyn Farkas, who served as a human rights officer in Bosnia in 1996, visited Serbia as that country takes steps toward normalization. Yesterday, the European Union gave Serbia a green light to begin accession into the EU. Serbia, once at the center of instability, is now a country that maintains the largest armed forces - 34,000 - of any in that region, deploys peacekeepers (about 13) to Mali as part of the EU mission and is "actively engaged" in Lebanon. It's a turnabout that can make any of the hundreds of people who worked in the region proud. And for Farkas, it's a remarkable turnaround. "They're showing left, right and center that they want to be contributing to security, not just in the region, but internationally," she told Situation Report in a recent interview.

But for her personally, it's validation. "For myself and others, who have worked on the Balkans since the 1990s, this is pretty phenomenal... the United States made a deliberate decision to get involved in the Balkans to try to help manage these ethnic conflicts, so now, 20 years later, it has paid off."

Late last year, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had his own moment as he hosted at the Pentagon Serbia's Defense Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, a former information minister under Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Panetta, who as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton advised him on bombing raids over Serbia in 1999, marveled at the notion that the two were now friends in a budding alliance. "I wouldn't have thought as chief of staff to Bill Clinton that I would be sitting across from you saying Serbia could be a force for peace in the region," Panetta is quoted as saying in December.

Farkas says there is still much work to be done as Serbia tackles more reforms. But for her, seeing leaders like Vucic on a "totally different side of the chess board" than they were in the 1990s is a "big deal," she said. "For me, I can't help but get excited about it."

On Syria, it was just supposed to be an intimate briefing. But a meeting between CIA Director John Brennan and two top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee "exploded into an impromptu and classified briefing on Syria," in the words of our colleague, John Hudson, who reports that the briefing, billed as one about a new report defe3nding enhanced interrogation practices, unexpectedly became one about Syria. Hudson: "Attendees spotted by The Cable included Vice President Joe Biden, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, Saxby Chambliss, Ron Wyden, Susan Collins, and others. As they exited the briefing, attendees remained tight-lipped. ‘I have nothing to say,' Feinstein said. When asked if the briefing involved the CIA's interrogation practices, she said ‘no.' Congressional aides confirmed that the briefing focused on Syria, but could not elaborate."

The meeting, of course, took place against the backdrop of a dispute last week between lawmakers and the White House over its proposal to provide arms to Syrian rebels. "Yes." - The answer a Senate aide told Hudson when asked if yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee was also about getting senators on board with funding arms to the rebels. Read the rest, here.

NYT's quote of the day: "I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker." - President Barack Obama, on efforts to get Edward Snowden extradited back to the U.S.

Don't be talking with the Taliban. So argues Husain Haqqani, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, in the Times this morning, saying it would be a "grievous mistake." Haqqani: "Unlike most states or political groups, the Taliban aren't amenable to a pragmatic deal. They are a movement with an extreme ideology and will not compromise easily on their deeply held beliefs. Before committing the blunder of negotiating with them again, American diplomats should read up on the history of Washington's engagement with the Taliban during Bill Clinton's presidency...There is no reason to believe - and no evidence - that the Taliban are now ready for political accommodation. Pakistan's rationale for the talks differs little from the last two times it tried to save the Taliban from America's wrath, after the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and immediately after 9/11. Pakistan's goal has always been to arrange American talks with the Taliban without being responsible for the outcome." Read the rest, here.

 

National Security

Sheehan, leaving the Pentagon; U.S. to send assistance to Lebanon?; Did Snowden want to shoot leakers in their [private parts]?; Duckworth, fired up; SecDef is wheels up; Hagel has Rice for dinner; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The Pentagon's top shadow warrior is leaving. At a town hall-style meeting recently, Pentagon Policy Chief Jim Miller announced that Mike Sheehan, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low Intensity Conflict, is leaving the job at the end of next month. Sheehan, who began in that high-profile role in December 2011, replaced Michael Lumpkin, who replaced national security policy celebrity Mike Vickers. No solid word on Sheehan's replacement yet, and it's not clear why he's leaving. SOLIC, which provides policy oversight over U.S. Special Operations Command has become a major player inside the military and on Capitol Hill as Special Operations becomes the force du-jour for an administration reluctant to send boots-on-the-ground to anywhere. This is the office that helps guide America's clandestine conflicts around the globe. But the office has its enemies, on the Hill and inside the building, and some new initiatives have not been sold to the Hill well, Situation Report is told this morning.

What's Sheehan's next move? Well, he's an aggressive, well-regarded, media-friendly, high-profile former head of counterterrorism for the NYPD, where he was credited with creating innovative programs and partnerships. That makes him a possible contender to replace Ray Kelly as the commissioner of America's largest metropolitan police force.

Syria shockwaves: The Pentagon is considering more weapons, trainers for Lebanon and Iraq due to contain civil war spillover. Gen. Marty Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he recommended in recent weeks that the U.S. help "build additional capability" among the Lebanese armed forces and the Iraqi security forces. In response to a question about the possibility of helping Lebanese forces at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Dempsey replied: "When you say would we send the United States Army or the United States military into Lebanon, I'm talking about teams of trainers, and I'm talking about accelerating foreign military sales for equipment for them.  This is -- this is about building their capability, not ours." AP's Lita Baldor reported that Dempsey's new spokesman, Col. Ed Thomas, said that his boss made the recommendation to U.S. Central Command in recent weeks. Dempsey: "Militarily, what we're doing is assisting our partners in the region, the neighbors of Syria, to ensure that they're prepared to account for the potential spillover effects," Dempsey said during a Pentagon briefing Wednesday. "As you know, we've just taken a decision to leave some Patriot missile batteries and some F-16s in Jordan as part of the defense of Jordan. We're working with our Iraqi counterparts, the Lebanese Armed Forces and Turkey through NATO."

Gates, weighing in on Syria. In an interview with CNN International's Christiane Amanpour, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. often overestimates its ability to shape events, but he said he thinks the White House's approach on Syria is probably about right.

Gates: "But under the circumstances, I believe that if we are going to assist segments of the Syrian opposition that the way the president has decided to do it is the way to do it... Which is through Turkey and Jordan; basic military equipment, I would be willing to give them more anti-armor, I would not give them surface to air missiles." Gates also said, though, that he does not think it will be enough to tip the balance of power on the ground and force the Assad regime into a negotiated settlement. Watch the Gates interview, in which he also talks about DOMA and Snowden, here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report.

Five years ago, Edward Snowden may have berated leakers, saying they should be shot. Ars Technica, a news site for nerds, broke the story about how a man who appeared to be Edward Snowden wrote in a chat room about how leakers should be "shot in the balls." Then, of course, he became one. Ars Technica's Joe Mullin: "Snowden may have leaned libertarian on some issues, but he also exhibited strong support for America's security state apparatus. He didn't just work for it as a quiet dissident. Four years before he would leak the country's secrets, Snowden was cheering its actions and insisting that it needed healthy funding. To anyone who questioned US actions in his favored online hangout, he could be derisive. Livid about the across-the-board defense cuts that were planned under Obama, Snowden acidly joked that ‘[m]aybe we could just outsource our defense needs to india.' Worse yet, during a remarkable January 2009 chat, Snowden wrote that Obama had "appointed a fucking politician to run the CIA." In that same conversation, he vented his rage over reading a New York Times article about US actions in Iran, which was based on confidential leaks." Going by the name TheTrueHOOHA, apparently Snowden commented in the chat room about the story in the NYT. TheTrueHooha: "Moreover, who the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this?... those people should be shot in the balls." Read the full exchange on page 3 of the Ars Technica piece, here. Main page of the article, here. 

The sexual assault crisis has created a "white hot" atmosphere and thus Jeffrey can't get a fair trial. So argues the defense attorney for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, accused of forcing an Army captain, with whom he's already admitted to having an adulterous affair, to twice perform oral sex on him, as well other charges. He also faces accusations of misconduct with other women. But Sinclair's attorney is going for it. He is arguing that President Barack Obama, Congress and military leaders - who have spoken out about the sexual assault crisis - have exhibited command influence on the jury and now his client won't get a fair trial. Fayettville Observer: "The ongoing ‘white-hot' political climate surrounding sexual misconduct in the military will put intense pressure on Sinclair's jury to find him guilty, defense lawyer Richard Scheff said during a pre-trial hearing at Fort Bragg. The jury will consist entirely of generals whose jobs and career advancement are in the hands of the president and others who have been vocal on the subject, Scheff said." Sinclair's court-martial is scheduled for July 16.

His Left Foot: Tammy Duckworth becomes incredulous. At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) freaked out on an IRS contractor yesterday The contractor, Braulio Castillo, made a disability claim last year for an ankle injury he suffered at a military prep school in 1984, thus entitling him to a lucrative contract with the IRS worth as much as a half-billion dollars. Duckworth, who lost both legs in 2004 in Iraq, to Castillo, snarkily: "I'm sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way, if also opportune for you to gain this status for your business as you were trying to compete for contracts...Your foot hurt - your left foot?"

Castillo: "Yes ma'am."

Duckworth: "Yeah, my feet hurt too. In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously and I feel like there is a nail being hammered into my right heel right now." Read the rest, here. Federal Times' story this week on the claim, here.

Is the demise of the fighter jock premature? Killer Apps' John Reed reports that the Air Force, once "shoveling its fighter jocks out of their

ejection seats and into leather-chaired drone cockpits in the Nevada desert," are now offering fighter pilots up to $225,000 in cash money to stay in the service for nine years. "Maybe the much-hyped end of the American fighter pilot isn't quite here," Reed writes. "This news comes as the military puts an increasing premium on fighter high-end wars, with a particular focus on the Pacific, against adversaries equipped with weapons designed to keep American forces far from their borders. Such conflicts would involve high-tech aircraft, ships, missiles and cyber weapons instead of huge masses of tanks and infantry."

Dinner for two: Hagel and Rice. Hagel had soon-to-be National Security Adviser Susan Rice over for dinner at the Pentagon last night. After learning that President Barack Obama would install her as National Security Adviser, Hagel, on a big trip around the world, called her from the Doomsday plane and asked her for last night's dinner.

Hagel is wheels up this morning. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel flies to Colorado Springs tomorrow, where he'll spend the next two days meeting with members of the NORAD and NORTHCOM staffs talking homeland and missile defense, we're told. Hagel will also visit with firefighters who have played a big role in putting out wildfires in the region. Then on Friday, he gets to get all Cold War and play War Games, when he visits NORAD's  Cheyenne Mountain combat operations center. Later Friday, he'll visit the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson to meet with soldiers and then hold an open press town hall meeting.

Staffers on a plane: Senior Military Assistant Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, Pentagon Press Secretary (and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs) George Little, and Acting ASD for Homeland Defense Todd Rosenblum.

Dempsey, Winnefeld, get their re-ups. Hagel announced yesterday that Dempsey and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld would be re-nominated by President Barack Obama to their jobs. The two-year re-nomination for the nation's two military officers is typically a formality, but not always - just ask Pete Pace and "Adm. G." For those who are really in the weeds, the re-noms for Dempsey and Winnefeld did come slightly late. As we noted last week, the previous duo, Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Hoss Cartwright were re-nom'ed for a second stint sooner, some three months sooner, during their half-way point.

Couple of top officials leaving State, too. Our own John Hudson of The Cable reports on a few personnel changes in Foggy Bottom. Robert Hormats, the Under Secretary of Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert Hormats's last day is July 31, he reports. And "Assistant Secretary of Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez is also leaving in the near future, according to two sources, which follows The Cable's report that Chief Economist Heidi Crebo-Rediker will be leaving her position by the end of July." Read more of Hudson's report, here.

From the Department of Normalcy, Afghanistan, comes this report: With the help of some irrepressible rowers comes the miraculous birth of a rowing program in Afghanistan. Matt Trevithick, a sometimes FP contributor, helped to get a rowing program together in Afghanistan and Iraq.  BU magazine piece starts by explaining the June 2012 attack at Lake Qargha, in which the Taliban, apparently incenses by rumors of drinking, dancing and prostitution at the resort, shot diners at their tables and created bedlam, leaving 25 people dead. "Not the best place to introduce a sport favored by America's privileged class, but it's on these waters, not far from the bullet-scarred Spozhmai Hotel, that a strapping blond American named Matt Trevithick wants to launch a national rowing program. In a mountainous, war-torn country with no history of open-water sports and a simmering hostility with the West, the 6-foot-4 oarsman would seem to have his work cut out for him. But Trevithick doesn't worry about things the way most people do." Read the rest, here.

Worth the click: 1960s Afghanistan, in pictures, by photographer Bill Podlich, here.

Meanwhile, Bob Gilka, the guy who oversaw photography at Nat-Geo for two decades, and helped make Steve McCurry's photo of "Afghan Girl" an iconic image, for the magazine and the world, has died at age 96. WaPo, here.

 

Noting

  • USAT: Words of a general (John Kelly) who lost a son in combat resonate.
  • U.S. News: Sequestration will force Naval Academy to cancel some classes.
  • Jacksonville Daily News: Two Marines become first Osprey pilots to get Distinguished Flying Cross.

You're Kidding

  • Youtube: Indian TV reporter keeps his pants dry. 

Thinking