National Security

Kerry mending fences in Egypt; Killing a kitchen in a bomber; Playing it safe on compensation reform; Attorneys: Fat Leonard got Navy secrets in return for Gaga tickets; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

John Kerry is working to mend fences in Egypt. The Guardian: "The US secretary of state, John Kerry, met his Egyptian counterpart, Nabil Fahmy, on Sunday in an attempt to mend the frayed relationship between America and Egypt two weeks after Fahmy said the two countries' alliance was in turmoil. US-Egyptian relations have been strained since the July overthrow of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Though the US has consistently stopped short of terming Morsi's removal a coup, in October it suspended parts of its annual aid package to Egypt in reaction to the new administration's violent treatment of Morsi's supporters. The move led some Egyptian officials to disclose that they were looking elsewhere for donors of aid money and military equipment." More here.

The trial of deposed leader Mohammed Morsi began in Egypt, Al Jazeera, here.

The Arab League backs peace talks, urges the opposition to go. Reuters this hour: Arab states formally endorsed proposed peace talks to end the Syrian civil war that have been delayed by disputes between world powers and divisions among the opposition. A final communiqué after an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday called on the opposition swiftly to form a delegation under the leadership of the mainstream Syrian National Coalition, to attend the ‘Geneva 2' talks. The Arab League's position indicated Gulf rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia -  who have backed different rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad - had put their differences aside to urge opposition chief Ahmad Jarba to head to Geneva. But even with regional diplomatic weight thrown behind the talks, it is unclear when they will go ahead and what they can achieve. The mainly exiled political opposition has limited clout over rebel fighters on the ground, who include al Qaeda-linked brigades." More here.

Seven ways Saudi could mess with the U.S., by Simon Henderson on FP, here.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report where we note today in 1979 in Tehran was the beginning of the 444-day hostage crisis. And a special welcome to the scores of folks who asked us to sign them up for Situation Report in the last few days since we first reported that the Pentagon's Early Bird was dead. We're very happy to have you. If anyone else out there misses the Bird, we'll be glad to sign you up to our morning report. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll stick you on. 51,000 people can't be wrong! Thanks for joining us. If you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here.

Meantime, if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

A kitchenette was killed on the design of the Air Force's new top secret plane of the future as the Pentagon "toils to build a bomber on a budget." WSJ's Julian Barnes: "When a military contractor showed Col. Chad Stevenson a design for the Air Force's top secret plane of the future, he began to worry.They were showing this really nice fold out bed, this nice refrigerator and microwave, a kind of lounge-provision area," Col. Stevenson recalled of the recent design. The contractor, Lockheed Martin, didn't offer an estimate for such flying comforts. But Col. Stevenson imagined a publicity nightmare in the making: a $300,000 kitchenette as the latter-day symbol of Pentagon excess-the $600 toilet seat for the 21st century. The kitchenette was killed.

"Such financial considerations are vital to the Air Force's most important project today: building a new long-range bomber to replace the iconic and aging B-52s and B-1s that have come to represent America's domination of the sky. It is the job of Col. Stevenson and a small group of Air Force colleagues to guard against improvidence and any untested technologies that could lead the grand project-expected to cost upwards of $55 billion-down the path the Pentagon often travels of cost-overruns and blown deadlines. Read the rest here.

What is it with kitchens? Didn't a kitchenette kill the new Marine One helicopter? Yup. Then Defense Secretary Bob Gates killed the Marine One replacement largely due to cost - and the existence of a kitchen in the galley. That led President Barack Obama at one point to muse that he didn't need to cook a meal while under nuclear attack. More here.  

Defense News' Chris Cavas, the Captain of Navy ship knowledge, interviews Huntington Ingalls Industries' Mike Petters, here.

Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson, on why multi-year procurements have made acquisition more efficient, here.

When it comes to compensation reform, there don't seem to be any new ideas. Quietly on Friday, DOD made its official recommendation to the congressional commission charged with tackling military retirement and compensation reform. But as the Military Times' Andrew Tilghman points out this morning, the recommendation offered no new ideas or detailed suggestions. "They punted," Mike Hayden, director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, told Tilghman.

Tilghman: "The three-page letter from Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recycles a few budget-cutting proposals that were floated earlier this year - limiting troops' annual pay raises, increasing Tricare fees, etc - but makes virtually no mention of the hot-button issue of military retirement. The letter frankly acknowledges that fact. ‘This letter has focused on military pay and benefits other than retirement,' it states. ‘Our staff also has expertise on military retirement. Although we have not made any specific retirement proposals, we would be glad to discuss our thoughts on the military retirement system informally with the Commission.' Read the rest here.

Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers air fresh concerns about the NSA on CBS, the WaPo's Holly Yeager, here. Rogers, quoted by Yeager on Face the Nation: "I think there's going to be some best-actor awards coming out of the White House this year and best-supporting-actor awards coming out of the European Union."

"How very insulting." A letter to the editor of the WSJ about the allies the U.S. didn't spy on.

Read FP's The NSA and State go to War with Each Other, by FP's Yochi Dreazen, here.

The U.S. spent billions on poppy reduction in Afghanistan but has little to show for it. The WaPo's Ernest Londono: "...Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country's opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, according to law enforcement officials and counternarcotics experts. As the war economy contracts, opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, are poised to play an ever larger role in the country's economy and politics, undercutting two key U.S. goals: fighting corruption and weakening the link between the insurgency and the drug trade." More here.

Karzai criticizes the U.S. for the drone strike that killed Mehsud last week. CNN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the timing of the U.S. drone strike that killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban last week, his office said in a statement. Karzai made the comments when he met with a U.S. congressional delegation in Kabul on Sunday evening, the statement said. The Afghan President expressed hope that the death of the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, would not undermine cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at achieving a successful peace process. Mehsud, who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head for his alleged involvement in a 2009 attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan, was killed Friday in a drone strike in northwestern Pakistan, senior U.S. and Pakistani officials said last week." More here.

So attorneys say a gregarious Malaysian businessman got a Navy commander to pass classified secrets in return for Gaga tickets. You remember the story of Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, suspected of passing confidential information on ship routes? There's new information. AP's Julie Watson: "Nicknamed "Fat Leonard," the gregarious Malaysian businessman is well known by U.S. Navy commanders in the Pacific, where his company has serviced warships for 25 years. But prosecutors in court papers say Leonard Francis worked his connections to obtain military secrets by lining up hookers, Lady Gaga tickets and other bribes for a U.S. commander, in a scandal reverberating across the Navy. The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date. Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Francis' Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, according to the court documents." More here.

Did you wonder which Gitmo detainee was heard yelling in the "60 Minutes" piece last night? The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg has the answer: "Guantánamo detainee Shaker Aamer shouts, ‘Tell the world the truth,' in a rare clip that survived censorship to emerge from the detention center in southeast Cuba, posted on the CBS website Friday. Attorney Clive Stafford Smith identified the former British resident as the prisoner under lockdown who can be heard shouting at a 60 Minutes crew in a story on Guantánamo that's scheduled to air Sunday. Aamer, born in Saudi Arabia, is 44, has a wife and four children in London, and is among 84 captives cleared for release from the detention center since 2009. CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl described the episode, and aired the clip, in an interview on Friday's CBS This Morning - but did not identify the prisoner. Aamer is among Guantánamo's best-known captives because of a campaign to have him reunited with his family in Britain rather than having him returned to Saudi Arabia. Stahl said she experienced "horrible emotions" hearing "that man yelling" at the CBS crew while it filmed inside Guantánamo's maximum-security Camp 5 lockup in September.

Shaker Aamer shouts during the 60 Minutes segment: "Please, we are tired...Either you leave us to die in peace - or either tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what's happening."

As of Friday, Rosenberg writes, the Pentagon held 164 captives at the prison in Cuba, just three of them convicted of war crimes - and 14 of them classified by U.S. Navy prison doctors as hunger strikers. Rosenberg's story here. The 60 Minutes segment, here. 

By the way, the new DASD for Western Hemisphere Affairs, to include South and Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada, Rebecca Bill Chavez, starts this week at the Pentagon. The U.S. Naval Academy professor did a year as a strategic adviser at the Office of Secretary of Defense between 2009-2010 and drafted what was ultimately known as the "Western Hemisphere Defense Policy Statement." The job had been vacant since Frank Mora left almost a year ago for Florida International University.

Help wanted: OSD's policy shop has seven vacancies, including Kath Hicks' old job, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Policy; and the top policy job now held by Jim Miller, will soon be vacant as he is expected to be leaving soon. Check the Policy Classifieds here.

ICYMI: A Michigan man claims he was the one who tipped off investigators on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts - and now he wants his money. AP's Jeff Karoub: A Michigan man claims he tipped federal investigators to the location of Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan eight years before his killing and has hired attorneys to help him collect the $25 million reward. The al-Qaida leader was killed in May 2011 during a Navy SEAL raid on the three-story compound. U.S. officials have said the house wasn't built until 2005, and Pakistani officials have said they believe he moved there in the summer of that year. A letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press from a Chicago-based law firm representing Grand Rapids resident Tom Lee says the 63-year-old gem merchant reported the location of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in 2003. The letter sent by the Loevy & Loevy law firm to FBI Director James Comey in August says a Pakistani intelligence agent told Lee that he escorted bin Laden and his family from Peshawar to Abbottabad." More here.

 

National Security

The Early Bird is dead; Israeli warplanes strike Syria; Assad will push to keep his CW factories open; How 60 Minutes is keeping Benghazi alive; Captain Kirk is the c/o of the Zumwalt, seriously; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The Early Bird is dead and Steve Warren is the one who shot it down. The Early Bird, the compendium of news stories distributed each day to DOD officials, other government officials and journalists since 1948, is gone, Situation Report has learned. The Bird, which had ceased publication due to the shutdown, never made a comeback after the government opened and Col. Steve Warren, who heads the Pentagon's press operations, had said it was under review. Insiders knew it was on life support, but it was Warren who wanted the plug pulled. The Bird, which had an audience of 1.5 million each month, had grown too big, was too dated - simply providing a daily snapshot at 5:40 a.m. each day when it arrived by e-mail, and the publication, which was also appeared online to authorized users, had amounted to a copyright infringement against media outlets who never saw the "clicks."

The Bird had also become a major headache to Pentagon officials who would in effect chase their tails each day after a story ran in it. Still, it was also a valuable and begrudgingly loved publication that in its current form had turned 50 years old. Longtime staffers Taft Phoebus and Linda Lee, who were behind the Bird for years, will remain on Warren's staff.

"This is the end of an era," Col. Steve Warren told Situation Report. "And I will probably be the first inductee into the Public Affairs Hall of Infamy. There is a lot of anger out there."

What killed the Bird more specifically? Three things: Concerns over copyright infringement, the advent of the Internet and thirdly, the fact that it had become, as Warren termed it, "The Early Beast." As the Bird's audience grew over the years, and as "clicks" reflecting interest in any one story have become of extreme importance to media outlets, Pentagon officials knew they were increasingly pilfering content. The Early Bird did not contain Internet links to news site's home pages but was an internal document containing whole stories. Media outlets had begun asking questions of the Pentagon. Also, it was also created at a time long before the Internet provided global information in real time. When Warren was a lieutenant in Korea in the 1990s, it was the only way for commanders to know what was in The New York Times that day, for example, was through the Early Bird. Not so anymore. But the Bird, once termed by The Times as the most influential government publication, had become too influential, Warren said, "driving the entire train at the Pentagon and across the force" every day. A story in the Bird was given sometimes disproportional weight simply because it appeared there. Warren: "The Early Bird would very often dictate the day's events for countless numbers of staffers and commanders. People would organize their day around what was in the Early Bird."

And while it was supposed to provide "situational awareness" to commanders and other DOD officials, Warren said, it was often seen as doing public relations  - containing only the stories top officials wanted people to see - instead of true SA. Our own story, "Two's a Crowd at the Pentagon," about Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, for example, never appeared in the Bird.

Was it tough to kill the Bird? Yes, Warren said -it will be a controversial move and he's already gotten some grief. "I may have shot it out of the sky, but it shot a few rounds back at me."

More on the Bird, including what will replace it, below.

We're sorry to see the Bird go, kinda. If you miss the Bird, we'll be glad to sign you up to our morning report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll stick you on. Tell a friend.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. Meantime, if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

Pakistan's Imran Khan tells the U.S. that NATO supply routes could be threatened over drone ops. The WaPo's Tim Craig and Haq Nawaz Khan: "The chief political leader in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province threatened Thursday to choke off key NATO supply routes if U.S. drone strikes on Pakistan continue, setting up a potential clash within the country's national government. Imran Khan, whose Movement for Justice party controls the northwestern province, said he feared that continued drone strikes would undermine efforts by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to hold peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. Sharif said Thursday that dialogue has begun, though Taliban officials stress that the process will quickly unravel if the U.S. drone program is not halted. The latest suspected strike occurred Wednesday night." More here.

Israeli warplanes struck an Assad base. CNN's Barbara Starr first reported it. Starr last night: "Israeli warplanes struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia this week, an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday. An explosion at a missile storage site in the area was reported in the Middle Eastern press, but an attack has not been confirmed by the Israeli government. The target, according to the Obama administration official, was missiles and related equipment the Israelis felt might be transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. There was some confusion about the timing of the attack, with some reports saying it happened Wednesday, and others saying Thursday. When asked for comment, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman told CNN: ‘We don't refer to foreign reports.'" More here.

Syria met its deadline on chemical weapons. Reuters: "Syria has destroyed or rendered inoperable all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a major deadline in an ambitious disarmament program, the international chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace prize this month, said its teams had inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites across the country. The remaining two were too dangerous to reach for inspection but the chemical equipment had already been moved to other sites that experts had visited, it said." More here.

But while Syria may have met its deadline, it's pushing to keep its CW factories. An Exclusive from FP's trio of Colum Lynch, John Hudson and Yochi Dreazen: "Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has asked international inspectors to spare a dozen of its chemical weapons factories from the wrecking ball, The Cable has learned. The Syrians say they want to convert the plants into civilian chemical facilities. But the move is fueling concern among some non-proliferation experts that Damascus may be seeking to maintain the industrial capacity to reconstitute its chemical weapons program at some later date. The Syrian request -- which was contained in a confidential letter from Muallem to Ahmet Üzümcü, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -- has also raised concern among some Western governments that Syria may seek to entangle the inspection agency in lengthy negotiations that could drag out the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons." More here.

Big exclusive for Aviation Week: The answer to the question, "what will be the successor to the SR-71 Blackbird?" Answer, here. AvWeek's Guy Norris: "Ever since Lockheed's unsurpassed SR-71 Blackbird was retired from U.S. Air Force service almost two decades ago, the perennial question has been: Will it ever be succeeded by a new-generation, higher-speed aircraft and, if so, when? That is, until now. After years of silence on the subject, Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has revealed exclusively to AW&ST details of long-running plans for what it describes as an affordable hypersonic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike platform that could enter development in demonstrator form as soon as 2018. Dubbed the SR-72, the twin-engine aircraft is designed for a Mach 6 cruise, around twice the speed of its forebear, and will have the optional capability to strike targets." More here.

Don't worry, flyboys - drones will never replace you. Writing on FP, Greg Malandrino and Jeff McLean: "...Human pilots physically located in an aircraft still represent an infinitely more adaptable platform and are irreplaceable when considering the high-threat environments of future wars. Among many futurists, the misguided conception that unmanned or remotely piloted air vehicles will inevitably replace manned aircraft has become commonplace. In truth, however, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will not replace manned fighter aircraft. They will empower them." More here.

The 60 Minutes broadcast on Benghazi is once again fueling the push to re-examine the attack from Sept. 11, 2012. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "In an explosive report on CBS's ‘60 Minutes' on Sunday, the British supervisor of local security guards protecting the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, provided a harrowing account of the extremist attack that killed four Americans. The man whom CBS called Morgan Jones, a pseudonym, described racing to the Benghazi compound while the attack was underway, scaling a 12-foot wall and downing an extremist with the butt end of a rifle as he tried in vain to rescue the besieged Americans." More here.

No joke: Captain James Kirk is now in command of the USS Zumwalt. Breaking Defense story on that, here.

Oversight of security clearances criticized, Dion Nissenbaum in the WSJ, here.

The nomination for Jo Ann Rooney for a top Navy job is on hold from Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand for her remarks on sexual assault. UPI, here.

From a Republican Congressional staffer to Situation Report on that nom: "The Gillibrand-Rooney angle is clearly what is driving headlines, but Rooney's Navy-knowledge (I cannot find any, anywhere) is really the grounds she should be opposed on. If the Under job is reserved for a Navy ‘big-thinker' who can manage the day-to-day of the organization (i.e. Bob Work), then Bob Martinage should have the job. Rooney is in no way qualified to chart the Sea Services' course into an Asia-Pacific decade."

Maybe the NSA isn't screwed after all. FP's John Hudson and Shane Harris: "It turns out Dianne Feinstein's bark is worse than her bite. On Thursday, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee ushered in a new bill for reforming the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency that retains the structure of its controversial bulk telephone metadata program while adding modest reporting and oversight requirements. The bill... comes just days after Feinstein sent shockwaves through the intelligence community with a public scolding of the NSA's surveillance of foreign leaders." The quote heard round the NSA world earlier this week from FP: "We're really screwed now," one NSA official had told the Cable after Feinstein came out swinging in the NSA crisis. "You know things are bad when the few friends you've got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address." Their piece yesterday about Feinstein's proposed legislation, here.

Edward Snowden, back to work, for a Russian Website. Reuters, here.

Casualty of the NSA world leader spying scandal: a warm rapport between Obama and Merkel. The NYT's Mark Landler, here.  

What a difference eight months makes: Hagel spoke to the ADL last night in New York. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: Less than a year after some pro-Israel groups tried to torpedo his nomination to lead the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave a keynote address Thursday evening in New York to the Anti-Defamation League, an influential Jewish civil rights group. Pentagon officials said Hagel was invited to speak by Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the league. Foxman was among Hagel's toughest critics during his acrimonious confirmation process, calling his record on Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship "at best disturbing and at worst, very troubling.'"

Foxman today, to Whitlock: "I guess I changed my mind about what I think of him," Foxman said with a chuckle. "The issues that separated us are a part of history." More here.

Read our story from this summer about what Foxman said about Hagel in "The Mensch," here.

Hagel's ADL speech from last night, here.

Hagel was on Maddow last night on MSNBC, here.

This morning, Hagel sits down in a roundtable discussion with business leaders and vets. The event is being hosted this morning in New York by JPMorgan Chase to talk about the progress the private sector is making in supporting vets transition issues in terms of employment, education and housing. JPMC and 10 other companies founded the 100,000 Jobs initiative, and as Situation Report reported last week, the number of jobs vets have obtained has inched north of 92,000. More here.

Are the Marines fudging the reliability record of the Osprey? FP's Dan Lamothe: When Marines landed an MV-22B Osprey in an open field at the Dare County Bombing Range in North Carolina in June, it looked like a routine mission. But a gaffe was made: The Osprey sparked a grassfire and was left parked on it. Initially, Marine Corps officials said the damage was minor. Not quite: the fire burnt the fuselage, leaving it a $79.3 million total loss, according to data released by the Naval Safety Center. Parts were later recovered for use on other aircraft, but that Osprey never flew again, Foreign Policy has learned." More here.

The Bird, con't. What will replace the Early Bird? Something with an awful name which will probably get a nickname down the road: the "news analysis product," which has been quietly distributed to a couple hundred top officials each morning since the shutdown. It doesn't contain Internet links, either, but the audience is much smaller compared to the Bird and it's meant, as Warren says, to be a true report from the Pentagon's Public Affairs Department to top DOD officials about what's in the news. It also contains a "this day in history" bit each day.

From our bit about the Early Bird last fall: "Caspar Weinberger and the fax machine had the biggest impact on the growth of the Early Bird. "Weinberger, whose driver brought an Early Bird for his commute from northwest D.C. shortly after 0600 each morning, became known for calling DoD officials as he neared the Pentagon, in search of details about what he was reading. Demand for earlier delivery quickly spread among DoD managers, their staffs, and the Joint Chiefs," according to a history of the Early Bird Warren requested as he considers changes."

Want to know more? Read "Early Bird 101," an internal Pentagon memo we obtained last year, here.