National Security

Spying blind: NSA’s mistakes; Bright Star, CANX; Hagel’s plan to stamp out sexual assault; U-2, Area 51, revealed today!; About face at the Warrior Café; Greenert’s navigation; Even small wars are hell; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold 

Supersized surveillance. It turns out that an internal National Security Agency audit identified some 2,776 "incidents" in which the rules of court orders for surveillance of Americans or foreign targets in the U.S. were violated, according to a big story in the WaPo today. That means that the NSA has broken privacy rules "or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year," according to the audit and other top-secret documents cited by the Post. "Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls. The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

In the meantime, according to intelligence historian Matthew Aid, writing on FP, the NSA collects so much information that its mistakes are enormous. "Every day, it actively analyzes the rough equivalent of what's inside the Library of Congress and ‘touches' - to use an agency term - another 2,990 Libraries' worth of data. That kind of volume of data means that if it makes mistakes, that produces terabytes and terabytes of improperly-harvested data, and that means that thousands of people are wrongly caught in the surveillance driftnet."

"Spying Blind." FP's Shane Harris: "The Obama administration's claim that the NSA is not spying on Americans rests on a fundamental assertion: That the intelligence agency is so good at distinguishing between innocent people and evildoers, and is so tightly overseen by Congress and the courts, that it doesn't routinely collect the communications of Americans en masse. We now know that's not true. And we shouldn't be surprised. The question is, why won't the NSA admit it?  ... One of the reasons that the NSA has been able to gather so much power is that the agency has built a reputation over the years for super-smarts and hyper-competence. The NSA's analysts weren't just the brainiest guys in the room, the myth went; they were the brightest bulbs in the building. The NSA's hackers could penetrate any network. Their mathematicians could unravel any equation. Their cryptologists could crack any cipher. That reputation has survived blown assignments and billion-dollar boondoggles. Whether it can outlast these latest revelations is an open question." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us and we'll stick you on. If you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. Follow us @glubold!

Hopes for Bright Star were dimming, then Obama cancelled it. The big military exercise the U.S. holds with Egypt known as Bright Star, held every other year and scheduled for next month, was considered low-hanging fruit when it comes to suspending assistance and engagement with Egypt. Bright Star won't happen now, though the administration isn't making any substantial changes yet to the $1.3 billion aid package it maintains with Egypt, where the crackdown against dissidents and the turmoil overall is getting worse.

Obama, from Martha's Vineyard, yesterday: Let me say that the Egyptian people deserve better than what we've seen over the last several days.  And to the Egyptian people, let me say the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop... America cannot determine the future of Egypt.  That's a task for the Egyptian people.  We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure.  I know it's tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what's gone wrong.  We've been blamed by supporters of Morsi.  We've been blamed by the other side, as if we are supporters of Morsi.  That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve."

Battleland's Mark Thompson: "‘This exercise is an important part of U. S. Central Command's theater engagement strategy,' the Pentagon routinely says when discussing Bright Star's importance. It "is designed to improve readiness and interoperability and strengthen the military and professional relationships among U.S., Egyptian and participating forces.' But the U.S. currently has no clout among Cairo's power brokers - the generals it has sought to woo for years - and pretending that it does by going ahead with Bright Star would only highlight American impotence. The notion that such military cooperation can give the U.S. influence over a foreign military is dubious. The emperor, you might say, has no uniform - despite the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. gives to Egypt annually, a bounty for signing the Camp David accords with Israel in 1978. Bright Star, also stemming from the peace pact, began in 1981, and generally has been held every two years. Thousands of U.S. and Egyptian troops, along with soldiers from several other nations, participate in war games and training exercises in locations around Egypt." His post here.

The Cable's John Hudson on Rand Paul and funding for Egypt's generals: "how does your conscience feel now?" Hudson: Sen. Rand Paul is hammering his fellow senators for keeping billions in financial aid flowing to Egypt's military -- even as Cairo's security forces massacre anti-government activists. ‘This is something that those who voted in Congress are going to have to live with,' Paul told The Cable on Thursday. ‘The question is: How does their conscience feel now as they see photographs of tanks rolling over Egyptian civilians?'" Read the rest here.

Thanks to Fox News, the Pentagon reversed itself on reducing hours for the "Warrior Café" at Walter Reed. Fox News' Justin Fishel and Jennifer Griffin reported yesterday that the military in August had decided to invalidate meal tickets and reduce hours for the sole dining facility in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda in an apparent cost-cutting move. But after Fox reported it, the Pentagon reversed itself and the dining facility will remain open. Fox: "Initially, the military moved to close the cafe on weekends, shorten its hours and invalidate meal tickets. The decision would mean wounded warriors who would normally have a government-funded meal just down the hall would have to walk, wheel or limp nearly a half-mile across the Walter Reed campus to the temporary "food trailer" for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Sgt. Josh Wetzel, who lost both legs when he stepped on a pressure plate IED outside Kandahar, Afghanistan in May, on the café he visits daily: "I mean it's called the Warrior Cafe, you would think it is for us." Then, from his wife, Paige, later that day: "Josh just received the news from his squad leader that the Warrior (Cafe) will now be open again on the weekends and meal cards have been reinstated!" She added that Fox's reporting "influenced positive change here and our soldiers are getting what they deserve again." Whole story here.

The CNO has a plan to navigate the Navy forward. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert is out with a "Navigation Plan" for the next five years. The plan, based on a "sailing directions" metaphor, describes the Navy's budget submission for fiscal years 2014-2018 and how it "pursues the vision of the CNO's Sailing Directions. It highlights our investments that support the missions outlined in our defense strategic guidance... This Navigation Plan defines the course and speed we will follow to organize, train and equip our Navy over the next several years." Interested? Click here.

The Pentagon takes steps to stamp out sexual assault. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is directing "immediate implementation" of a series of moves that the Pentagon says will provide victims additional rights, protections and legal support, as well as "help to ensure that sexual-assault related investigations and judicial proceedings are conducted thoroughly and professionally." They include: Each military service will now have a legal advocacy program (Situation Report first wrote about a successful Air Force program here.); Judge advocates general will now conduct all pretrial investigative hearings of sexual assault-related charges; Commanders will have options to reassign or transfer a member accused of committing a sexual assault or related offense; "timely" follow-up reports on sexual assault incidents are now required for the first general or flag officer within the chain of command; DOD's Inspector General will now regularly evaluate closed sexual assault investigations; Prohibitions on inappropriate behavior between recruiters and trainers and their recruits and trainees will now be standardized; and proposed changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial will be made to allow victims to provide input for the sentencing phase of courts-martial involving sexual assault. DOD has also established an independent panel that is currently looking at the legal and programmatic systems used to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate sexual assault crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Hagel, on eliminating sexual assault from the armed forces being one of the Department's top priorities: "Sexual assault is a stain on the honor of our men and women who honorably serve our country, as well as a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force.  It must be stamped out.  I will continue to meet weekly with DoD's senior leadership team to personally review our efforts and ensure that directives and programs are being implemented effectively.  We are all accountable to fix this problem, and we will fix it together."

An investigation showed that the Chief had an inappropriate relationship. Navy Times: "The chief of the boat aboard a Bangor, Wash. based submarine was relieved Thursday because of an inappropriate relationship." More here.

A new report today from the CIA pulls the covers off America's most famous spy plane - the U-2 - and Area 51. Writing on FP, Jeffrey Richelson: On February 21, 1955, Richard M. Bissell, a senior CIA official, wrote a check on an agency account for $1.25 million and mailed it to the home of Kelly Johnson, chief engineer at the Lockheed Company's Burbank, California, plant. According to a newly declassified CIA history of the U-2 program, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, the agency was about to sign a contract with Lockheed for $22.5 million to build 20 U-2 aircraft, but the company needed a cash infusion right away to keep the work going. Through the use of "unvouchered" funds -- virtually free from any external oversight or accounting -- the CIA could finance secret programs, such as the U-2. As it turned out, Lockheed produced the 20 aircraft at a total of $18,977,597 (including $1.9 million in profit), or less than $1 million per plane. In other words, the project came in under budget, a miracle in today's defense contracting world. Fifteen years later, the CIA has become considerably less reticent about revealing details of the program, as demonstrated by the newly declassified The Central Intelligence Agency and Overahead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Program, 1954-1974, from which the 1998 volume was drawn. This report, which the National Security Archive is posting today, openly credits Chinese Nationalist pilots with numerous missions over the People's Republic of China to gather intelligence on both military facilities and industrial areas, although details of a flight over a nuclear facility are deleted. British participation in the program is also now spared from redaction -- participation that included flights over the Soviet Union. The history also notes President Dwight Eisenhower's belief that the British role would confuse the Soviets as to who was behind the program." Click here for more.

ICYMI (we did): War is hell - in miniature. Photographer Dave Levinthal likes to play with toy soldiers. But his playing is serious. And FP has this cool slide show of toy soldiers in battle in Afghanistan. According to art critic Dave Hickey, in his foreword to War Games, a soon-to-be-published book featuring Levinthal's full body of "toy-soldier work," Levinthal's art is "a kid's solution to an adult dilemma." Levinthal, Hickey writes, has "combined the aggression of battle, the visual aggression of photography, and the built-in cultural aggression of 'serious' art to create a lethal cocktail -- a body of objects that are admirable, affecting, beautiful, and not comfortable at all."  Click bait to see what he's done to show war in Afghanistan. Click here.


National Security

The crackdown in Egypt: more than 500 dead; American influence there waning; Say no more: Poppa Panda Sexy Pants; Saying “drones” will get you in trouble; Why the F-35 sucks; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

There is a mosque in Cairo where they are collecting bodies from the violence. Reuters: "The bodies of close to 250 people killed in Egypt's political violence are being held at a mosque in northeast Cairo, witnesses said, indicating the death toll may be higher than the official countrywide total of [525]. A Reuters reporter counted 228 bodies, though an exact count was difficult because some were being moved and loaded into coffins for removal from the Imam mosque. Medics at the scene said the bodies had been moved straight from a nearby protest camp broken up by the police on Wednesday to the mosque, said Heba Morayef, Egypt director at Human Rights Watch, adding that she had counted 235 bodies."

Human Rights Watch's Heba Morayef: "This indicates the toll will be higher." For more, click here.

Hagel and other administration officials continue to press Egypt's Gen. Abel Fattah Al-Sisi to better manage the situation. Hagel is said to have had a special channel to Egypt through al-Sisi, speaking with him as many as 15 times in recent weeks - in conversations that run as long as an hour or so and are described to Situation Report as being direct. "[Hagel] has been very candid with Gen. Al-Sisi what the U.S. position is on Egypt," a senior defense official told us this morning, saying Hagel is "disappointed" by the recent outbreak of violence. The two are expected to speak again as soon as today. They last spoke late last week. "From the U.S. perspective, what we're seeing is deeply troubling in Egypt right now," the official said. "It is important to maintain contact... we're going to continue to strongly voice our views through these various channels to the Egyptians to tell them what we think."

WSJ: U.S. influence in Egypt is waning. Jay Solomon and Carol Lee: "The relationship between the U.S. and Egypt's military government is breaking down, diminishing Washington's influence as the country's leadership violently routs its opposition and narrowing the Obama administration's options." More here.

Under the headline "Enough is Enough," Marc Lynch, writing on FP: "With blood in Egypt's streets and a return to a state of emergency, it's time for Washington to stop pretending. Its efforts to maintain its lines of communication with the Egyptian military, quietly mediate the crisis, and help lay the groundwork for some new, democratic political process have utterly failed. Egypt's new military regime, and a sizable and vocal portion of the Egyptian population, have made it very clear that they just want the United States to leave it alone. For once, Washington should give them their wish." Read the rest here.

FP Slideshow of Chaos in Cairo, 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 times fast: "Poppa Panda Sexy Pants." That's what the Army captain liked to call Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, with whom she had an affair before it got ugly. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock, reporting from Fort Bragg, N.C.: "All the raw and sordid details are spilling out in an austere military courthouse here, where the Army is girding - for only the third time in half a century - to court-martial one of its generals. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, an Army Ranger and paratrooper, stands accused of forcible sodomy, adultery and other charges that could land him in prison. Prosecutors say he abused his command authority by sleeping with a subordinate officer, a taboo in the armed forces and a violation of military law. They charge that the relationship turned violent on two occasions, when he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex. In addition, Sinclair faces charges that he had inappropriate communications with three other female officers. Sinclair has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Sexting: At Fort Bragg, some of the texts between the captain and Sinclair were read aloud. Here's one, from the captain to Sinclair in September 2011: "You are my heart and world you beautiful magnificent man... I need you and I mean really deeply profusely need you." But then, early last year, she wrote to him: "You are going to make me do something really stupid... How about I just [expletive] call [Sinclair's commander] and have him resolve this, Im sure he will take the time to keep me from being suicidal. I well not let [you] continue to screw me over." Read the rest of Whitlock's piece here.

Unlawful Command (er-in-chief) Influence: Hagel attempts to blunt Obama's alleged "command influence."  NYT's Jennifer Steinhauer: "In an effort to stop military lawyers from using comments by President Obama to prevent sexual assault prosecutions, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has sent out a directive ordering the military to exercise independent judgment in the cases and effectively ignore the president's remarks. ‘There are no expected or required dispositions, outcomes or sentences in any military justice case, other than what result from the individual facts and merits of a case and the application to the case of the fundamentals of due process of law,' Mr. Hagel wrote in a memorandum dated Aug. 6 that is to be disseminated throughout the military. Since May, when Mr. Obama said at the White House that sexual offenders in the military ought to be ‘prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged,' lawyers in dozens of assault cases have argued that Mr. Obama's words as commander in chief amounted to ‘unlawful command influence," tainting trials and creating unfair circumstances for clients as a result.

Their motions have had some success. At Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina in June, a judge dismissed charges of sexual assault against an Army officer, noting the command influence issue. In Hawaii, a Navy judge ruled last month that two defendants in sexual assault cases, if found guilty, could not be punitively discharged because of Mr. Obama's remarks." Read the rest here.

Dempsey is headed back to D.C. After his stop in Israel and then Jordan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey is headed back to Washington today. Yesterday he visited with American and allied troops in Amman, met with Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard of the 1st Armored Division, who is leading the "planning element" in Jordan that consists of about 200 troops who are working with the Jordanians on refugee support and what we're told are "other planning issues."

The NYT's Thom Shanker, traveling with Dempsey, on Jordan's call for help: "With no end in sight to the violence in Syria, which has already sent a half-million refugees into Jordan, authorities here appealed to the United States on Wednesday for surveillance airplanes and intelligence help to secure a border that is favored by arms smugglers. In daylong meetings, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Gen. Mashal al-Zaben, the country's top military officer, also discussed the need to increase humanitarian assistance to help Jordan cope with a refugee population that is straining water and food supplies, as well as schools and hospitals. About 550,000 Syrians are officially registered as refugees in Jordan, with about 130,000 congregating in the Zaatari camp, making it the fourth-largest city in Jordan. Most of the refugees are women and children." The rest here.

First you couldn't call it an unmanned aerial vehicle. Now, drone makers don't want you to call it a drone. The people who fly and make and kill with, er, drones, are very sensitive. They used to hate it when folks would call them "unmanned aerial vehicles" - ‘cuz of course they're manned, silly! (they just don't have people flying on them, but plenty of people on the ground supporting them). Instead, Pentagon types liked to call them "remotely piloted aircraft," or RPAs.  Well the big show this week in D.C., the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems conference, is trying to get serious about getting reporters to stop calling them drones. From FP's John Reed, reporting from the show: "The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. has been invaded by drones this week. Only, don't call them drones, warns the United States' main robot-mongering group and convention host, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). These machines are smarter, more agile -- and in some cases, deadlier -- than the relatively tame machines that now crowd battlefields around the planet. There were plenty of humans at the AUVSI show, too. In addition to a plethora of defense contractors, there were representatives from states urging drone makers to invest there, even companies marketing their drones for benign jobs like filmmaking and agricultural work. Still, the convention had the unmistakable feel of defense expo. (And it wasn't just the rockets, machine guns, infrared cameras, camouflage, and uniformed military officials from around the globe eyeing the latest in robo-weaponry.) There were also the usual coterie of overweight Pentagon contractors in boxy suits; show booths adorned with slogans like ‘Always Fight For Freedom'; and of course, plenty of drones designed to hunt and kill." More here.

John Nagl argues that the existence of drones probably prevented the U.S. from invading Pakistan. The COINista, now the head of a private school outside Philadelphia, spoke this week in Canberra. Click here to read more.

Hate the F-35? Then read this piece to confirm everything you think. War is Boring's David Axe, writing under the headline: "F'd: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World's Worst New Warplane: "From all the recent sounds of celebrating coming out of Washington, D.C., you might think the Pentagon's biggest, priciest and most controversial warplane development had accelerated right past all its problems. The price tag -currently an estimated $1 trillion to design, build and operate 2,400 copies-is steadily going down. Production of dozens of the planes a year for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps is getting easier. Daily flight tests increasingly are hitting all the right marks. Or so proponents would have you believe...But the chorus of praise is wrong. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?-?a do-it-all strike jet being designed by Lockheed Martin to evade enemy radars, bomb ground targets and shoot down rival fighters?-?is as troubled as ever. Any recent tidbits of apparent good news can't alter a fundamental flaw in the plane's design with roots going back decades." More here.

I am sorry: Bradley Manning apologizes. NBC's Courtney Kube, Matthew DeLuca and Erin McClam: "Private Bradley Manning, convicted of handing state secrets to WikiLeaks, on Wednesday told the sentencing part of his court martial that he was sorry for his actions and for hurting the United States.I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I 'm sorry that they hurt the United States,' he said. ‘I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people. The last few years have been a learning experience.' Manning says he understood what he was doing and the decisions he made. However, he says he did not believe at the time that leaking the information would cause harm. The 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst faces up to 90 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy site. He was convicted in July of espionage, releasing classified information, disobeying orders and leaking intelligence knowing that it would be accessible to the enemy." More here.

Want to know how the massacre at Fort Hood went down? Click here for the simulated video CNN's Ed Lavandera did for CNN's OutFront with Erin Burnett.

If you want to understand what the NSA really looks like, go to plumbing school. Defense One's Marc Ambinder:  "Want to understand how an organism really works?  Take a look at its plumbing. Figure out where the pipes fit together. That's the approach I take to national security and that's the spirit behind this look at the structure of one of the most important institutions in U.S. intelligence: the National Security Agency. Some intelligence organizations, such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, have declassified most of their organizational charts. The NRO develops, launches and controls spy satellites; the NGA analyzes and distribute imagery. For these agencies, the plumbing matters less than what flows through the pipes, which is highly classified... It has five operational directorates, several administrative directorates and three large operational centers.  Each is headed by an associate director, and each associate director has a technical director. They report to the executive director, who reports to the deputy director, who reports to the DIRNSA, which is NSA-speak for Director of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander. He's also the commander of the Defense Department's U.S. Cyber Command and the Central Security Service, the military signals and cyber intelligence units that contribute personnel to the NSA.  The CSS is essentially the NSA." Read the rest here.

A former Marine from Chicago got the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Chicago CBS affiliate's Jim Williams: "One by one, Marines shook the hand of the young man who once wore their uniform. Five months ago, Sergeant Luis Garcia of Lake Forest left the service a hero. He returned today to have his actions stamped with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Last year, Garcia displayed his bravery in the middle of a terrible mistake in Afghanistan. An American sniper team thought Garcia and other Marines were the enemy. Two Marines were hit. "Bodies just started dropping, you're going to get a little scared," said Garcia. Still, Garcia ran to their aid." More here.

All you need is a valid marriage certificate: The Pentagon extends benefits to same-sex couples stating Sept. 3. DOD yesterday announced its plan to extend bennies to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees after the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that found a section of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was unconstitutional. From the Pentagon:  "The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs. Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court's decision.  Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted.  For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage." Read the implementation memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, here. Further guidance,here.