Calling George Orwell: Here's
why yesterday's court ruling is scary for the NSA. FP's Shane Harris: "On
Monday, a Federal District Court judge ruled that the National Security
Agency's collection and storage of all Americans' phone records probably
violates the Constitution and is an ‘almost Orwellian' system that
"surely...infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders
enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.' It's the first successful legal challenge
to NSA surveillance since June, when Edward Snowden began a cascade of NSA
disclosures. It might just set up the most important legal debate about
surveillance and personal privacy in decades. And it threatens to undermine one
of the major legal foundations of the NSA's vast surveillance network.
Judge Richard Leon of the District of
Columbia, a George W. Bush appointee, ordered the government to stop collecting
the phone records of two plaintiffs who brought suit against the NSA's
so-called metadata program and to destroy the information it has on them now.
He stayed his injunction, pending an almost certain appeal by the Obama
administration. But if the case is eventually heard by an appeals court -- and
there are reasons to think it will be -- it would be the highest-stakes and
highest-profile battle to date over the NSA's program, and a proxy argument for
the broader ethical dimensions about massive government surveillance. Think of
it as the NSA's answer to the Scopes Monkey Trial -- a public, and undoubtedly
passionate debate about whether massive, technologically-enabled surveillance
that would have been impossible a few decades ago is still compatible with core
constitutional principles of privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches." More here.
Page One: WaPo's big piece on the debate over the role the National
Guard will have in the future. WaPo's Rajiv
Chandrasekaran: The four diminutive cargo planes parked on the
National Guard air base in this Rust Belt town last year never would have been
selected for a recruiting poster. Lacking the grace of a fighter or the girth
of a freighter, the newly built twin-prop aircraft were the minivans of combat
aviation - unsexy, utilitarian haulers of people and gear. But that didn't
matter to pilots and ground crews here. They loved the planes, as did troops in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Not so the Air Force. After spending almost
$600 million to buy a tiny fleet of the planes over the past six years,
stationing them in Mansfield and at two other National Guard bases, the Air
Force flew all of them to a junkyard earlier this year. Five more planes, which
the Pentagon already has paid for, will be mothballed as soon as they are
built." The rest here.
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McCain is considering sanctions for Ukraine. The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin: "If the
Ukrainian government attempts further violence against peaceful protesters, the
U.S. Congress could begin a process to impose sanctions on the country, said
Sen. John McCain, who just returned from a visit to the Ukrainian capital of
Kiev. ‘Sanctions are something we said the Congress would consider,' McCain
said in a Monday interview with The Daily Beast following his two-day trip to
Ukraine, where he was joined by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). ‘We didn't
threaten the sanctions, but we both said that sanctions would be a
consideration if there was any brutality against the protesters.'"More here.
The President of Yemen is in a
corner over drones. WSJ's Maria Abi-Habib and Hakim Almasmari: "Yemen's parliament has stepped up pressure on the
government to immediately end American drone strikes amid furor over an attack
that officials said mistakenly killed 15 people in a wedding convoy. However, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has the
final say, isn't likely to tell the U.S. to shut down the drone program because
his impoverished government needs the American funding attached to it. The U.S.
administration said counterterrorism cooperation would continue. Parliament
voted on Sunday in support of ending the drone strikes, a reflection of growing
anger among Yemenis and the unpopularity of the government's relationship with
the U.S." More here.
Is Thornberry the anointed one? Real Clear Defense's Dustin
Walker: "No one knows if there will be a race for the chairmanship of the House
Armed Services Committee (HASC) in the 114th Congress. But based on
the chatter in defense circles on Capitol Hill and around Washington, the race
is on. And the likely favorite says he's ready to step up. In a wide-ranging
interview with RealClearDefense, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said if there's a
vacancy for the HASC chairmanship, he will be ready to make his case. "Whenever
the time comes, I'll be ready," said the Texas Republican.... Regardless of
McKeon's endorsement of Thornberry, committee chairmanships are rarely
uncontested. Besides Thornberry, two HASC Republicans have been consistently
mentioned as potential candidates by congressional and industry sources: Rep.
Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). Forbes is the chairman of the
HASC Seapower subcommittee, known as a fierce advocate for American naval power
with a strong background in Asia-Pacific security issues. He's the (rare) kind
of Member of Congress that can explain at length why AirSea Battle is an
operational concept, not a strategy. His policy depth and mind for strategy
have made him popular in think tanks and defense policy circles, with a number
of defense experts telling RealClearDefense they would welcome Forbes'
leadership of the committee. But his views on social issues have been the cause
of recent controversy, and he's bucked House leadership on key votes in the
past. Turner chairs the HASC Tactical Air & Land Forces subcommittee. He is
comfortable both as a bipartisan problem solver and a fiery partisan debater." Read
the rest here.
The U.S. is seriously considering closer ties to hardliners in Syria.
FP's John Hudson: As the moderate faction of the Syrian rebellion implodes
under the strain of vicious infighting and diminished resources, the United
States is increasingly looking to hardline Islamists in its efforts to gain
leverage in Syria's civil war. The development has alarmed U.S. observers
concerned that the radical Salafists do not share U.S. values and has dismayed
supporters of the Free Syrian Army who believe the moderates were set up to
fail." More here.
Self serve: Loren Thompson
explains how Washington works after our piece on Hagel. After our profile ran
yesterday of Chuck Hagel, The high-profile defense industry consultant Loren
Thompson explained a thing or two about how Washington and journalism works. Thompson:
"Past experience suggests that the appearance of
Lubold's piece in a highly prestigious outlet will lead to follow-on treatments
that are far less even-handed. If you are new to River City and don't understand
how these things work, then here's a couple of tip-offs from the piece as to
what lies ahead for Secretary Hagel. When Lubold writes, ‘a number of
Washington's most prominent public defense analysts took a pass when asked to
comment about Hagel's agenda,' what he is really saying is that he couldn't
find any pundits with a kind word to offer about the defense secretary's
performance. And when Lubold writes that, ‘In the Pentagon, the mood about
Hagel is a mixture of circumspection and wait and see,' what he really means is
that Hagel's subordinates are not happy... Author Lubold suggests that people are
unhappy with Hagel because he hasn't fired a general or killed a weapon system
to demonstrate he can be decisive. That's not much of a metric for judging
excellence in office. Maybe Hagel's just too thoughtful to make the kind of
sweeping changes that get noticed by the chattering classes. Nuance and
subtlety generally don't play well in the blogosphere. However, as the coming
season of discontent unfolds for Secretary Hagel, no one should doubt that this
is a man of unusual character, a patriot who risked his life for America and
has always tried to follow his conscience. That should count for something." The
rest of his post from his "Early Warning" blog here.
In North Korea, the fallout from the execution. North Korean expert John Park,
writing on Power and Policy, the Kennedy School of Government's blog, has a good Q&A here.
Vet employers listen up: Veterans typically leave their first job
after the military. But why? That's what a group called VetAdvisor and
Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families set out to
find out. They launched a survey this week, the "Veterans Job Retention
Survey," to help determine why veterans leave their initial job after the
military. "Because this data has not been previously captured, the survey will
provide insight into how organizations can best structure their veteran-centric
employee programs. All interested veterans and service members are encouraged
to participate in the survey," according to the group's release. Says
James Schmeling, IVMF Managing Director and Co-Founder: "Our goal is
to develop employment-focused programs in collaboration with industry,
government, NGOs and the veteran community, to address the primary economic and
public policy concerns of our nation's servicemen and women such as employee
retention and career development." Take the survey, which aims to have 5,000
A story we missed but wanted to
include yesterday: The Daily Beast ran a piece marking Osama bin Laden's infamous escape
from the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, twelve years ago this week, by Yaniv
Barzilai, who now works at State. Barzilai: "Exactly twelve years ago, during the cold Winter days between December
10-16, in the jagged mountains of Tora Bora that separate Afghanistan from
Pakistan, Osama bin Laden walked unencumbered into Pakistan and disappeared for
nine and a half years. Just before, however, bin Laden
had made an egregious error. After spending a couple seconds too long on his
radio, the CIA pinpointed bin Laden's location to within ten meters. One hour
later, forty of America's most elite special operations forces raced to kill
the most infamous man alive. It was the
only day for nearly a decade in which the United States knew exactly where
Osama bin Laden was. And, it was the last time that the majority of al Qaeda's
leadership would ever be in the same place." Read the rest of this piece by
Barzilai, whose book, 102 Days of War - How Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda &
the Taliban Survived 2001, due out next
Reagan Young is telling the story of the kids he met in Afghanistan. The WaPo's Richard Leiby: "...The former staff sergeant wrote a script set in Afghanistan that focuses
on a character he calls a "lost and faithless" combat Marine whose life changes
after meeting 6-year-old Marza, who peddles trinkets in Kabul's international
enclave. Young basically wrote about himself; he often walked through the
military and diplomatic zone while on his final deployment in Afghanistan in
2011-12. There, a 6-year-old named Mursal Hawa, who spoke English well, gamely
offered to accompany him as his ‘bodyguard,' he says."
Young, Leiby writes, is two months
behind in his rent, can't afford to fix his laptop and is living in Los
Angeles. But he hopes to screen the 20-minute film, "Marza," in Arlington
(outside D.C.) soon. There's more to this story, so read it here.
John Kirby starts as Pentagon
press secretary today. Rear Adm. John Kirby begins a
new chapter in his career, moving into an office on the E-Ring within the
Pentagon's massive public affairs apparatus to become the new voice and face of
Hagel, as we first reported last week.
Jim Stavridis on FP with a
piece titled "Cool War Rising" about the rising conflict between Washington and
Moscow. Stavridis: Rising tensions in the relationship
between the United States and Russia are beginning to cause a "Cool
War" -- a sort of Cold War-lite -- that threatens both Washington and the
entire global geopolitical system. Without a functioning relationship between
Washington and Moscow, the chances of solving major challenges -- from Iran to
Syria, the Arctic to Afghanistan -- decreases dramatically. Rather than accept
the arc of a deteriorating relationship, the United States should actively seek
every possible zone of cooperation we can find with Russia, despite the
frustrations and setbacks." Stavridis concludes by quoting the Russian writer
Ivan Turgenev: "Circumstances define us; they force us onto one road or
another, and then they punish us for it." Stavridis: "We are not
forced to walk either the path of endless tension or total cooperation. The
trick for both the United States and Russia is to overcome the circumstances of
our disagreements to find the path to better overall relations through specific
zones of cooperation -- recognizing there will always be areas where we will
not see things in the same way." Read everything in between, here.
Speaking of which: Hagel and Russia's Shoygu in their first ever video
teleconference yesterday. Yesterday, Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel and Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu conducted their first
teleconference after agreeing in August to do so in order to maintain a
dialogue. The two talked about missile defense, Syria, cyber security and
countering improvised explosive devices.
Assistant Presssec Carl Woog: "Secretary
Hagel noted that the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action does not eliminate the need for
U.S. and European allies to continue implementing missile defense plans in
Europe... [and] stressed that U.S. and NATO missile defense efforts pose no
threat to Russia and urged that both sides continue consultations on future
missile plans in Europe." The two also talked about the removal of chemical
weapons from Syria and Hagel gave Shoygu an update on neutralizing the chems
once they're out of the country. "Secretary Hagel encouraged Russia to stay engaged with the process
and continue providing critical assistance to ensure that chemical weapons are
removed on schedule." The photo of the conference, with Hagel, Pentagon Policy Chief Jim
Miller and ASD Derek Chollet, here.
Will the Air Force cancel its bid to get a new high-speed search and
rescue helicopter? FP's Dan Lamothe: "Last month, the U.S. Air Force made a curious announcement
about its contract competition for a new high-speed, search-and-rescue
helicopter. A bidder, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, provided ‘an acceptable
technical solution' for the program to build a helo for finding and recovering
pilots and other personnel from the battlefield. But no contract would be
awarded. Doing so still depended on a review of the U.S. budget, the Air Force
said. The announcement occurred because the Air Force is giving
serious consideration to the complete cancellation of the project, which calls
for the purchase of up to 112 new helicopters to replace the aging HH-60 Pave
Hawk. Top Air Force officials consider the purchase of the stealthy F-35A Joint
Strike Fighter, the KC-46A tanker and the long-range strike bomber to be bigger
priorities, and appear willing to dump the search-and-rescue helicopter if
necessary to protect them. That, despite Air Force leaders saying the service
still considers the combat search-and-rescue mission a priority." Read
the rest here.
Jeh Johnson is in at DHS - The Senate
confirmed him 78-16.
Assaulting sexual assault:
Gary Patton out, Jeff Snow in. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel picked Maj. Gen.
Jeffrey Snow to become the new director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention
and Response Office - SAPRO in Penty parlance - starting next month. Maj. Gen.
Gary Patton plans to retire next spring after 35 years in the mil. Pentagon
officials say Patton's retirement has nothing to do with an unrelated Army
investigation connected to his time in Afghanistan.
Darren Samuelsohn: "Patton
had been the subject of an internal Army review into patient abuse and
corruption at a U.S.-funded Afghan hospital and questions over whether he tried
to keep staffers from talking with investigators. Earlier this year, Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel agreed to let another Army commander in Afghanistan, Lt.
Gen. William Caldwell, quietly retire over the same whistleblower incident. Hagel:
"He has a history of tackling tough
assignments and I want to thank him for the transparency, energy, persistence
and strong leadership he has brought to the department's sexual assault
prevention and response program over these past 18 months. I met with him
every week and always have counted on his expertise. Maj. Gen. Patton has
made a lasting positive impact on our program and on the men and women of our
military. I look forward to working with Maj. Gen. Snow and I know he is
the right choice to continue this vitally important work." More here.
Duffel Blog: A soldier responds to a first grader's letter. Juice Box: "Dear Mackenzie, Thanks for your kind words. The support of young
Americans like you makes everything we do feel at least marginally worthwhile.
But let's get a few things straight... your black-and-white characterization of
this conflict grossly misunderstands the complexity of modern warfare and,
indeed, the folly of declared war against any group as broadly unspecific as
‘the terrorists.' This isn't World War II, and the extent to which I am ‘good'
and the enemy is ‘bad' is subject to debate - just ask anyone who's ever woken
up to a Hellfire landing in the backyard. It's inaccurate, in any case, to
suggest that we're here fighting any sort of unified adversary. On a given day,
I couldn't tell you if I'm being shot at by Taliban, Haqqani, Hezb-e Isalmi,
Taj Mir Jawad, or the Afghan National Army. At a certain point, when you're
surrounded by people who hate you, there comes a time for looking inward." Read
the rest here.