National Security

Fears of more violence Egypt; Greenwald: wiretapping is expansive; Behind closed doors: what $1.1 billion paid for at the Mark Center; The $24 million “propaganda plane” for Cuba; and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The situation in Egypt is getting worse - again. NYT's Robert Worth: "Among the muddy, crowded tents where tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members have been living for weeks in a vast sit-in protest, men in Islamic dress can still be seen carrying incongruous signs above the teeming crowd: ‘Liberals for Morsi,' ‘Christians for Morsi,' ‘Actors for Morsi.' It is the vestige of a plea for diverse allies in the Brotherhood's quest to reinstate President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the military on July 3. But in the wake of the bloody street clashes that took place just outside the sit-in early on Saturday, leaving at least 72 Brotherhood supporters dead and hundreds wounded, another, more embattled language can be heard among the masses gathered around a large outdoor stage. Many Brotherhood members are enraged by the reaction of Christian leaders and the secular elite, who - the Islamists say - seemed to ignore or even endorse the killings while giving full-throated support to calls by Egypt's defense minister, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, for a continued crackdown." Read the rest, here.

Chuck Hagel, warning Al-Sisi that his clampdown on the Brotherhood might not end well. The White House is increasingly worried that Egypt's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood could go it underground and to take up arms. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has emerged as the administration's point man on Egypt, has been on the phone with Egyptian military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi repeatedly over recent weeks, warning him that he could take it too far with the Islamist group. The WSJ's Adam Entous: "Despite those exhortations, Gen. Sisi called for massive demonstrations on Friday, which precipitated the deadliest single incident in the more than two years since Egypt's revolution. The U.S. also had sent messages urging calm to Brotherhood leaders, but officials said the group, like the military, showed little sign of backing down. Read the rest here.

Why the situation in Egypt is its own Perfect Storm. Sophia Jones, writing on FP: As the sun rose over Rabaa al-Adaweya Mosque early Friday morning, the thousands of residents of the pro-Morsi tent city there prepared for their most direct confrontation yet with Egypt's military rulers. As mothers combed the hair of their young daughters and men read the morning newspaper, teenage boys lined up in military-like formation, chanting in unison that they would defy army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the new political order. In Sisi's televised address on Wednesday, July 24, following another deadly bombing that targeted police, the general who orchestrated the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi urged the Egyptian masses to "prove their will" and give security forces a "mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism." His remarks -- and the subsequent popular mobilization by both pro- and anti-Morsi groups -- have led to fears that Egypt is on the cusp of further bloodshed." Read the rest of her piece, here.

FP Slideshow: "Carnage in Cairo," here.

Welcome to Monday'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.

$1.1 billion and the doors don't even open right. There's another reason not to love the sparklingly new but never-popular Mark Center complex south of the Pentagon, where more than 6,000 military and defense civilians work behind closed doors. Or, in fact, not so much. Each of the building's interior doors is having to be replaced, refit or repaired because few of them latch correctly. The Pentagon blames the contractor for shoddy or "non-compliant" work on a building that cost a whopping $1.1 billion to complete, just last year, and is forcing the contractor, Duke Realty, in conjunction with Clark Construction, to replace more than 650 interior doors throughout the complex.

"An issue has been recently identified regarding contractual compliance with some door and lock assemblies and hardware," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson told Situation Report, speaking for Washington Headquarters Services, which took more than a week to respond to basic questions about the project and then would not disclose the cost of the remediation work - saying that since the contractor is paying for it, WHS is unaware of the cost. Read more on this, below, including what Rep. Jim Moran thinks about it

It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a $24 million propaganda program for Cuba. The Cable's John Hudson writes: "It's difficult to find a more wasteful government program. For the last six years, the U.S. government has spent more than $24 million to fly a plane around Cuba and beam American-sponsored TV programming to the island's inhabitants. But every day the plane flies, the government in Havana blocks its signal. Few, if any, Cubans can see the broadcasts. The program is run by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, and for the last two years, it has asked Congress to scrap the program, citing its exorbitant expense and dubious cost-effectiveness. ‘The signal is heavily jammed by the Cuban government, significantly limiting this platform's reach and impact on the island,' reads the administration's fiscal year 2014 budget request.

But each year, hard-line anti-Castro members of Congress have rejected the recommendation and renewed funding for the program, called AeroMarti. Now, under the restrictions of government-wide belt-tightening, AeroMarti may finally die, but its fate has yet to be sealed. Sen. Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, to Hudson: "It's hard to believe we are still wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on beaming a jammed TV signal - that fewer than 1 percent of Cubans can see - from an airplane to the island." Read the rest of Hudson's report here.

NSA concerns reaching critical mass. The NYT this morning has a Behind the Music on the move to crack down on government surveillance under the headline, "Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance."  Jonathan Weisman: "[It] started with an odd couple from Michigan, Representatives Justin Amash, a young libertarian Republican known even to his friends as ‘chief wing nut,' and John Conyers Jr., an elder of the liberal left in his 25th House term. But what began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House. The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency's telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.'s collection of Americans' phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions.  

"Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, have begun work on legislation in the House Judiciary Committee to significantly rein in N.S.A. telephone surveillance. Mr. Sensenbrenner said on Friday that he would have a bill ready when Congress returned from its August recess that would restrict phone surveillance to only those named as targets of a federal terrorism investigation, make significant changes to the secret court that oversees such programs and give businesses like Microsoft and Google permission to reveal their dealings before that court." Read the rest here.

Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, on the need to rein in NSA telephone surveillance: "There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here."

Could Snowden become Big Brother's BFF? FP's Shane Harris writes  that when former NSA contractor Snowden exposed the NSA's secrets, he did so saying he wanted to roll back a spying apparatus that put the U.S. on a path to "turnkey tyranny." But, Harris writes: "...his revelations could end up having the opposite effect. Instead of declawing a single surveillance state, Snowden's leaks could ironically wind up enhancing government spying around the globe. According to experts who are advising U.S. email, cloud data storage, and social media companies, executives are concerned that foreign governments -- particularly ones with fewer protections for personal privacy and free speech -- are already beginning to demand that U.S. tech companies relocate their servers and databases within their borders. Under normal circumstances, companies would rarely comply with those migration demands, especially if those countries have reputations for heavy-handed internal policing. But now that the United States is being seen as a global spying power, they may have little choice."

Meanwhile, on ABC's "This Week", Glenn Greenwald said Snowden isn't overstating one of his original claims: that relatively low-level workers like him have jaw-dropping access to wiretap just about anybody. Greenwald: "One of the most amazing parts of this entire episode has been that top-level national security officials like James Clapper really did get caught red-handed lying to the American Congress, which everyone now acknowledges, about what the NSA is doing...?The way that I know exactly what analysts have the capability to do when they're spying on Americans is that the story I've been working on for the last month that we're publishing this week very clearly sets forth what these programs are that NSA analysts -- low level ones, not just ones who work for the NSA, but private contractors like Mr. Snowden -- are able to do. The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they've collected over the last several years. And what these programs are, are very simple screens like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address and it does two things: it searches a database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you've entered. And it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address of that IP address do in the future. ??And it's all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst... And NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday. And I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I just said."

It's not Snowden, stupid. The Guardian's John Naughton writes that the press is missing the story on Snowden. He's not the story, Naughton writes, but the fate of the Internets is: The fact is "that the net is finished as a global network and that US firms' cloud services cannot be trusted."

The Doors at the Mark Center, continued:

Because the Mark Center contains agencies that work regularly with sensitive information, the broken doors pose a potential security risk, this for a complex that was built to consolidate a number of DOD agencies in one facility "that could meet DoD's high anti-terrorism security standards," according to the complex's Wikipedia entry.

Over the last several months, employees there began to notice that the heavy doors, typical for that kind of government building, were beginning to sag and as a result weren't latching properly. The door replacement project is about 75 percent complete and will be done by the end of September.

Tenants at the Mark Center: In addition to Washington Headquarters Services, which serves as the chief administrator for the Mark Center complex as well as the Pentagon itself, there are a number of policy offices located there, including representatives from DOD's Acquisition and Technology and Programs and Resources directorates and the Defense Education Activity department. The Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which oversaw Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's controversial strategic review process, is also located at the Mark Center, which is about five miles south of the Pentagon on Interstate-395.

Not everyone's favorite place: The Mark Center complex was never at the top of anyone's list, due to its cost and the fact that it added thousands of employees with no access to a subway system and so poured traffic onto already congested area roads. The building was the result of a move by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005, which forced a number of DOD agencies, as well as the WHS itself, to move into a centralized location for the more than 6,400 employees. Critics have railed over the Mark Center over the years, from local politicians to regional leaders. Two years, ago, a Department of Defense Inspector General report that found the Defense Department's transportation management plan for the complex was based on faulty data. Employees started moving into the building last year.

Rep. Jim Moran, the Democrat from Virginia, to Situation Report via e-mail: "This is yet another example of the poor planning and high cost associated with the Mark Center... "We are continuing to monitor the situation closely, this latest development is just another disappointment related to the project."

Also: In addition to the door replacement project, there is a completely separate door installation contract in which doors are being added in some offices to help add an extra layer of security and keep information technology contractors, for example, who might be servicing a computer tower, for example, out of sensitive areas. "This is a standard practice in projects that require access to sensitive or otherwise controlled workspaces," Crosson said. "The afterhours work by the contractor is necessary to minimize disruptions to the workforce in the building during normal duty hours."

The Business of Defense

  • Defense One: Sequester and the supply chain: "Life or death" for the F-35's supply companies.
  • Defense News: Turkey's sat-launcher plans raises concerns.
  • Breaking Defense: Wall Street Journal scrambles to keep up with Breaking D.

The Stans

  • AFP: Taliban bomb kills nine in Afghanistan.
  • AP: UK troops return briefly to Helmand; questions raised on ANSF capabilities.
  • NYT: An Afghan media mogul, pushing boundaries.
  • Al Jazeera: Karzai to visit Pakistan, first time in more than a year.

Syria, Year Three


  • Reuters: Syria says army retakes Homs from rebels.
  • NYT: A link to Syria's ancient past endures as war creeps closer.

 

 

National Security

How Pelosi saved the NSA program; McKeon: don’t cut off aid to Egypt; Help troops by cutting entitlements; What’s up with security during the Manning C-M?; Lietzau, moving on; What’s a Brony, Bro? and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Meet the NSA's new savior: Nancy Pelosi. "The obituary of Rep. Justin Amash's amendment to claw back the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency has largely been written as a victory for the White House and NSA chief Keith Alexander, who lobbied the Hill aggressively in the days and hours ahead of Wednesday's shockingly close vote. But Hill sources say most of the credit for the amendment's defeat goes to someone else: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi," our own John Hudson writes.  "It's an odd turn, considering that Pelosi has been, on many occasions, a vocal surveillance critic. Ahead of the razor-thin 205-217 vote, which would have severely limited the NSA's ability to collect data on Americans' telephone records if passed, Pelosi privately and aggressively lobbied wayward Democrats to torpedo the amendment, a Democratic committee aid with knowledge of the deliberations says." The source, to Hudson: "Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say... Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it's unlikely there would've been more Democrats for the amendment." Read the rest of Hudson's exclusive, here.

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Bill Lietzau, calling it quits at Detainee Affairs. Situation Report is told that Lietzau, a retired Marine colonel who is now the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rule of Law and Detainee Policy, is headed out of the Pentagon, snagging a job in the private sector after more than three years. No word on his replacement.

McKeon: don't cut off military aid to Egypt. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon says Egypt's armed forces are "doing the right thing" to support Democracy in Egypt, and that it has been a "stabilizing influence," Al-Monitor reports after a sit-down with McKeon on Capitol Hill. That's in contrast to folks like John McCain who have called for stopping military assistance. Al-Monitor: "Those who support cutting off military aid to Egypt argue that US foreign assistance provisions require ending assistance in the event of a military coup. McKeon, however, considers the military intervention as welcome and worthy of US support, not punishment. While Morsi benefited from the Muslim Brotherhood's superior organization to win election in June 2012, McKeon said that Morsi's policies soon took an anti-democratic turn, provoking the massive popular protests."

McKeon, to Parasiliti: "I appreciate what the military did and I think they also understand that they need to keep their rule very short.. They need to get back to democratic elections and I think that's what they will do. They are not looking to run the country, they want to run the military, but they want the country to be democratic and that means in the full sense of the word... I think we have to be very careful to not do anything to disrupt their movement toward getting back to democracy." Read all about it here.

Mike O'Hanlon and Mackenzie Eaglen explain why military entitlements will kill readiness. It's a theme the national security community will hear more and more about, as we noted just yesterday. A commission is looking at the issue, and Congress, politically fearful of looking as if it is undercutting troops after more than a decade of war - is resistant to touch what they perceive as a third rail. In the WSJ today, influential think-tankers O'Hanlon and Eaglenargue that if you really want to help the troops, stop throwing money at them.

"The reality is that the U.S. doesn't have one sacred contract with our troops: It has two. In addition to generous care and compensation, we owe them the best possible preparation for combat-weapons and other technologies that outmatch the enemy, excellent intelligence, training and logistics support. When they fight, our troops should prevail quickly and decisively.

These two noble promises are now in direct conflict. Defense entitlements are well on their way to crowding out military readiness and capacity, a fact even the Pentagon has acknowledged. But lawmakers refuse to address this challenge. Unless Congress reverses budget sequestration and restores three years' worth of additional cuts, the Pentagon is in for more belt tightening." Read the rest here.

Former Pentagon spokesman J.D. Gordon: On Gitmo, come up with a Plan B. Writing in The Hill newspaper this morning, J.D. Gordon, who used to flack for the Pentagon on Gitmo issues, writes: "As Congress tackles the annual battle over Guantanamo with a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing this week, a proposal by two House members to transfer detainees into the United States and a delegation visit to the Caribbean lockdown, those in favor of closure should produce a better Plan B before arguing to shut the prison down. Though President Obama has made Gitmo closure a cornerstone of his presidency since day one, he and his allies in Congress have yet to put forth a reasonable alternative for holding and interrogating some of the world's top al Qaeda and Taliban terror suspects while adequately protecting Americans. While Gitmo critics frequently cite the low numbers of detainees still held at the prison, they often shy away from discussing who they are." Read the rest here.

Closing arguments in the court-martial for Bradley Manning. The L.A, Times' Richard Serrano: "Bradley Manning purposely joined the Army and deployed to Iraq to parlay his extensive computer skills into disclosing a treasure trove of protected U.S. secrets that he knew would assist terrorist organizations in their efforts to attack the United States, the chief prosecutor in Manning's military court-martial said Thursday. ‘WikiLeaks was merely the platform that Pfc. Manning used to make sure all the information was available to the world, including the enemies of the United States,' Army Maj. Ashden Fein said in his closing argument near the end of Manning's trial here. ‘Pfc. Manning deliberately disclosed compromised information to the world.'

Standing at the lectern in his dress blue uniform, flipping through page after page of his final summation, Fein recounted in sharp detail the heart of the government's case - that Manning personally sought out WikiLeaks as his vehicle for exposing more than 700,000 combat videos, terrorism detainee assessments, State Department cables and other highly secret materials. Fein: "He was not a naive soldier." More here.

It's getting a little silly for those covering the Manning trial. We hear that as the court-martial for Bradley Manning over at Fort Meade, Md. security is getting a little tight. Military security guys (a.k.a. "the Tweet Police"), packing pistols, walk around the courtroom to make sure no on is surfing the ‘net or transmitting anything while proceedings are underway - reporters covering the court-martial can only log on and file during breaks. And, we're told: there's a search every time reporters go in and out of the media center, including searches of everyone's bags. Reporters have to leave their phone and air cards in their car. This for a court-martial that has already been criticized for being overly secretive. You remember the lawsuit by news organizations demanding that the court post documents and motions and be more transparent? Now, apparently they are attempting to do that, posting more documents, and such. But enforcement of the security rules have begun to feel a little police state-ish. "It's a total hassle, really over the top," says one, who says it makes it that much harder to document the proceedings. "Perhaps the U.S. government has an obsession with secrecy, yes?"

Speaking of secrecy: here's some click bait for drone aficionados, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," by pitchinteractive. Click it here.

We got something over the transom yesterday on our teaser about DOD Public Affairs after our item on George Little's speech. From an Air Force spokesman working in a joint billet: "Hey, your PAO note is preaching to the choir... venting... It isn't that we just need better, more strategic minded PAOs (which are certainly lacking in the AF)... but that commanders and principals need to give us the freedom of maneuver to not only craft salient communication strategies but actually execute them in a timely manner. Most PAOs are hamstrung because there is some dumb agenda from above that in no way, shape, or form interests the media. And what interests the media is messaged to death until it is no longer relevant. It's wonderful to finally work at a place where one, media is interested in our business and two, I'm offered the opportunity to shape mission outcome by proactively engaging with you. That would never happen in the Air Force today under current leadership." Ouch.

Pentagon story on Little's speech, here. Got more ideas for public affairs? Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, er, send ‘em if you got ‘em, and we'll run as approp.

Slashing funds for State: Make sense? John Hudson of The Cable again, writes that advocates of the U.N. and U.S. soft power "are reeling" after a vote Thursday by House Approps to cut funding for State and U.N. programs. Hudson: "In a Wednesday vote on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the committee voted to cut billions out of the U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance programs. That included a 20 percent reduction in international peacekeeping and 42 percent reduction in development assistance. The Republican majority also zeroed out voluntary funding to a range of U.N. organizations including the UN Development Program, UN Women, UN Population Fund and the UN's Children Fund. This, as you might imagine, is not going over well with advocates of foreign aid and international institutions." Read the rest, here.

My Little Brony. Air Force Times' Jeff Schogol, on AFT's blog, Flightlines: "Last year, Flightlines wrote about military ‘Bronies' -  guys who are really into ‘My Little Pony' - some of whom like to wear ‘Pony' patches on their military uniforms. To be clear, Bronies do not advocate wearing ‘My Little Pony' regalia on military uniforms, but one class of airmen learning how to fly incorporated the Brony ethos into its temporary class patch. The website ‘Equestria Nightly' first reported about the patch, which includes the words ‘My Little Pilot.' Like all class patches, the Brony patch for Class 14-05, which is training at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., is unofficial and only worn during pilot training, said 1st Lt. Thomas Barger, a spokesman for the 71st Flying Training Wing." Read the rest of Jeff's piece here.