National Security

FP’s Situation Report: New Coke: Will the Gates Brand suffer now?

By Gordon Lubold

The Gates stellar brand may suffer from Duty. Robert Gates had a nearly five-year run at the Pentagon in which he cultivated an image of himself as the consummate professional, the reluctant, bureaucratic hero with the steel trap for a brain, the discreet adviser who was as humbled by the office he held as he was by his meetings with the young troops fighting the wars he was brought in to fix.

It were those characteristics that helped define him, prompting the incoming Obama administration to make history by asking Gates, President Bush's last secretary of defense, to remain in his job. It led White House officials and members to Congress to brand him as one of the best defense secretaries the Pentagon had ever seen. And that reputation helped lift his stature above that of so many of the other Washington officials who were so often seen as small-minded, ego-driven and politically petty. Gates seemed to stand out in Washington because he seemed so unlike the rest of the city's politicians and administration officials. Until now.

Gates, 70, has unmasked himself as just another former Washington official writing just another kiss-and-tell in the soon-to-be-released Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, in which he takes shots at a sitting commander-in-chief, his top aides and Congress, an institution with which he often expressed frustration - but also respect. Gates was known for being discreet and sharp-minded, loyal to the office he occupied and careful about what he said in public. So deliberate were his public pronouncements about wars or national security policy or budgets that he became the E.F. Hutton of the Pentagon -- everyone leaned in every time he had something to say.

But now his brand seems diminished by the scrappy, petty nature of many of his criticisms -- even though some are substantive and legitimate -- and a legacy he seemed quietly determined to protect may be permanently reduced to something less than what it once was.

Norm Ornstein, an expert on Congress and politics at the American Enterprise Institute, said he was struck by Gates' ability to keep up a facade of calm despite his clearly strong, and often negative, feelings about his administration colleagues. Ornstein said Gates did the administration a significant favor by waiting until after the 2012 elections before releasing the book, but said the work would still "alter the perception of a man" who'd always been praised for his discretion and ability to work with politicians of both parties.

"It will tarnish, to a degree, his entire reputation," Ornstein said. "It takes someone who left with a sterling reputation across the board and it leaves a little bit of bad taste." Read the rest of our story in which we teamed up with Yochi Dreazen and got assists from John Hudson and Dan Lamothe, here.

The White House and its proxies attempted to contain the damage from the Gates memoir. WH pressec Jay Carney said the President had intentionally brought together a ‘team of rivals' with differing views. Carney: "When you pick a team of rivals, you do so because you expect competing points of view."

The White House is wishing Gates took his own advice: "Never miss a good chance to shut up," as Gates was fond of saying. But can he say this? Time's Mark Thompson says yes on Time's Battleland blog: "...National security types are in a tizzy over the story line, orbiting around a detached Obama, a cabal of power-hungry White House aides, and a Vice President who kept warning the commander-in-chief that those in uniform couldn't be trusted. Jane Average, along with GI Joe, may be scratching their heads and wondering: isn't writing a book like this illegal for such a high link in the chain of command? Especially when the nation is at war? Perhaps a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Bad manners? By all accounts, legal and otherwise, Gates is free to publish such a tell-all, assuming it has been scrubbed of any classified information. In other words, it passes the tell test, if not the smell test. ‘It's a question of political good taste,' says Eugene Fidell, a lecturer on military law at Yale University and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Gates, as a civilian, isn't subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice's ban on a soldier's ‘contemptuous words' toward the President, he says. ‘But I think he might have well waited a little longer.' The volume also sends up a red flag about the wisdom of a new President reaching across the political aisle for help." More here.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is touring U.S. nuclear facilities, was asked about the propriety of Gates writing the book about a sitting commander-in-chief. His answer: "I've never second-guessed motivations on why people do things...I think it's up to each individual to make that judgment on his or her own."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where Bob Gates' eyes are boring into us because the copy of the 594-page "Duty" with his solemn mug on the cover just arrived by FedEx this morning. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  And 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, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Random piece of history about when Obama asked Gates to stay on as SecDef on page 269: It's been reported for some time that when President Obama asked Gates to stay on, they had a clandestine meeting in the fire house of National Airport just outside Washington, D.C. Gates told reporters about the meeting after he agreed to stay on. But the anecdote has always had an Only-in-Washington feel to us. Gates, who liked such details, describes in the book how the fire trucks were cleared out to allow both motorcades, his and the President's, to pull in. He says how the meeting was set up initially by Mark Lippert, now Hagel's chief of staff, who at the time was one of Obama's closest aides. Gates describes the meeting that day, in which he was led across the spotless firehouse to a small conference room that had been set up for the special meeting. "There was an American flag in one corner. On the table were bottled water, almonds, two bananas, two apples and a bottle of green dragon tea."

But Gates remembered what he was thinking that day, one day after Obama was elected: "I had e-mailed my family the day after the election and foreshadowed what was to come: ‘regardless of one's political leanings, yesterday was a great day for America - at home and around the world. The land where dreams come true. Where an African-American can become president. And where a kid from Kansas, whose grandfather as a child went west in a covered wagon... became the secretary of defense of the most powerful nation in history.'"

Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio posted a little treatment of how Gates liked to drop the f-bombs: "...With McChrystal, Gates asked ‘what the f*** were you thinking' in giving a Rolling Stone reporter access to write an article that led to his 2010 resignation.

‘Deeply fearful of its impact, for once I couldn't contain my anger,' he said. explaining the outburst," Capaccio writes of Gates' description of the meeting. There's more, like how Gates liked the White House's homemade tortilla chips, and how the "Green Lantern" figure played into why the WH didn't release photos after the bin Laden raid. Read it all here.

It's time to fight: Maliki can take back Anbar. Doug Ollivant, writing on FP: "...The fundamental problem is that significant numbers of Anbaris have not yet reconciled themselves to the loss of power -- and the privileges that came with it -- after the fall of Saddam Hussein. This has spawned two results: demonstrations to express demands that are politically impossible outside an authoritarian system and a return to the violence that al Qaeda has been trying for years to precipitate.

These next weeks will give the people of Anbar an opportunity. They can demonstrate that -- whatever they may think of the central government -- they reject violence, terrorism, and the nihilistic Islamism of al Qaeda and its affiliates. (Anbar's governor, Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi, has taken this route, calling for the return of the Iraqi Army to push out ISIS.) Or they can reinforce the narrative that some of their fellow nationalists are pushing: That whenever the Sunnis don't get their way politically, they will resort to the kind of violence and terrorism that killed over 8,000 Iraqis in 2013, most of them Arab Shiites. Anbar's much-discussed tribes are currently on both sides of this equation, with some clearly aligned with Baghdad, others fighting alongside al Qaeda and ISIS, and still others trying to maintain distance from both or to al Qaeda on their own." More here.

The Iraq war has a grim sequel: American limits come as the killing in Anbar province rages. The NYT's Peter Baker's lede: "For two years, President Obama has boasted that he accomplished what his predecessor had not. "I ended the war in Iraq," he has told audience after audience. But a resurgence by Islamic militants in western Iraq has reminded the world that the war is anything but over. What Mr. Obama ended was the United States military presence in Iraq, but the fighting did not stop when the last troops left in 2011; it simply stopped being a daily concern for most Americans. While attention shifted elsewhere, the war raged on and has now escalated to its most violent phase since the depths of the occupation.

"The turn of events in a country that once dominated the American agenda underscores the approach of a president determined to keep the United States out of what he sees as the quagmires of the last decade. In places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Syria, Mr. Obama has opted for selective engagement and accepted that sometimes there will be bad results, but in his view not as bad as if the United States immersed itself more assertively in other people's problems." More here (and you'll see the NYT's freaky new italicized headlines).  

Craig Franklin, the Air Force three-star under pressure for the way in which he handled sexual assault cases, is out. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, acknowledged that he had become a "distraction" for the Air Force because of controversial cases in which he overturned a sexual-assault conviction of a star fighter pilot and decided that there was not enough evidence to court-martial an accused rapist... Franklin's decision to grant clemency in February to a convicted fighter pilot at Aviano Air Base in Italy helped spark a national debate over sexual assault in the armed forces and about whether military leaders took the problem seriously enough.

"The pilot, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, had been found guilty in November 2012 by an all-male jury in what was seen as a test of the Air Force's willingness to tackle such crimes. Franklin's decision to grant clemency infuriated many female lawmakers and activists, who said the outcome would discourage victims from reporting abuse."

Franklin, in a statement: "Public scrutiny will likely occur on every subsequent case I deal with... The last thing I want in this command is for people to feel they cannot bring a sexual assault case forward or feel like it won't be dealt with fairly." The rest of the WaPo story here.

First there was the Air Force helicopter crash in the U.K. this week that killed four. Then this, yesterday: a Navy helicopter flying off the Virginia coast went down, killing two, injuring two more - and one crewmember is still missing. Navy Times' Meghann Myers: "Two crew members are dead and a third remains missing after the Wednesday-morning crash of a Norfolk, Va.-base MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia Beach, the Navy said. The service announced the death of the second crewmember via Twitter on Wednesday night. Two other crewmembers remain hospitalized, according to a report from WVEC-TV - one in serious condition, one in fair condition. The search continues into the night for the fifth, with Navy surface assets, helicopters and dive boats working alongside the Coast Guard and Virginia Beach Fire Department... Flannery said he did not know whether safety issues that contributed to a fatal 2012 MH-53E crash in the Middle East were a factor. The Navy is investigating Wednesday's crash; Flannery said he did not know whether remaining MH-53s will be grounded to determine their safety." The rest here.

High wash rate: Techies are boycotting the big security conference because of NSA conference. Our own Shane Harris: "The annual RSA conference in San Francisco, founded by the computer security company of the same name, is a marquee event for the security industry and has long been a forum for some of the most vocal opponents of government surveillance to discuss ways to keep personal data safe from prying eyes. But this year, talk of betrayal is in the air. At least eight prominent attendees are pulling out of the conference, which begins next month, and are canceling planned talks and presentations to protest RSA's alleged covert collaboration with the National Security Agency. At issue is a $10 million deal that RSA reportedly struck with the spy agency to include a deliberately flawed algorithm in one of its security products, which effectively gave the agency a backdoor to spy on RSA's customers.

The alleged deal, which was reported last year by Reuters, shocked many security experts and technologists, who have long seen RSA as a pioneering defender of privacy-enhancing technologies like encryption and a historic adversary of the NSA. The company's products are used by people, companies, and governments around the world to shield their communications and data." More here.

A life worth living: Rory Stewart, who walked 6,000 miles across Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, talks to The Guardian about his life now as a British MP and says foreign interventions don't work. The Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead: "...Stewart came home when he realized that even the least-educated Afghan housewife in a mountain village knew more about the country than he did. Fluent in Dari, along with nine other languages, he'd thrown himself into the coalition mission with great conviction, but had to conclude that: ‘In the end, the basic problem is very, very simple. Why don't these interventions work? Because we are foreigners. If things are going wrong in a country, it's not usually that we don't have enough foreigners. It's usually that we have too many.'" More of this story here.

His bad: Rodman apologizes for TV interview outburst. AlJazeera: "Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has apologized for his televised outburst about a US missionary detained in North Korea, explaining that he had been stressed and drinking at the time. Rodman was roundly criticized for his angry tirade in an interview with CNN, in which he appeared to suggest that the missionary, Kenneth Bae, had merited the prison sentence of 15 years handed down last year. ‘I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family,' Rodman said in a statement released on Thursday by his publicist and cited by CNN. ‘I embarrassed a lot of people," said Rodman, who was in the North Korean capital for an exhibition basketball match he had organized to mark the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un." More here.

The House Armed Services Committee's John Chapla dies. Rick Maze, who covered Capitol Hill for Military Times since 1980, making a special return to Military Times from Army magazine just to write the story: "The Jan. 5 death of Vietnam combat veteran and longtime House Armed Services Committee staff member John D. Chapla has left the influential panel without its longtime expert on military personnel and benefits policy. Chapla, a rifle platoon leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Vietnam War who later wrote a book about sacrifices and heroism of his company, was an example of someone dedicated to public life. He spent almost 22 years in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel, and worked for the House Armed Services Committee almost uninterrupted from 1994 until his death from cancer at age 66. His long tenure on the staff - from the finishing stages of the post-Cold War drawdown through the buildup in forces for what was called the Global War on Terrorism, and now the post-Iraq and Afghanistan drawdowns - provided lawmakers with a steady hand and quiet adviser on key issues. ‘He was the compass and guidepost for the military personnel subcommittee,' said Jeanette James, a fellow staffer on the personnel panel." Read the rest here.


National Security

FP's Situation Report: Pentagon's Pete Lavoy: post-2014 Afg shouldn't last long

By Gordon Lubold

Angry man unmasks himself: Bob Gates loathed Congress, despised Joe Biden and was dismayed at how candid Obama and Hillary Clinton were about the politics they played on the Iraq surge.  Gates' new book, "Duty," leaked out in advance of next week's release, shows just how angry he was in the job, working for a president he didn't think trusted him or the military. Gates, a Republican, is soft on George Bush in many ways. But he's highly critical of President Obama's White House if not Obama himself -- and harshes on Joe Biden as politically calculating whose instincts are completely off on almost all foreign policy and national security issues.

The WaPo's Bob Woodward: "It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president. Gates's severe criticism is even more surprising -- some might say contradictory -- because toward the end of "Duty," he says of Obama's chief Afghanistan policies, "I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions." That particular view is not a universal one; like much of the debate about the best path to take in Afghanistan, there is disagreement on how well the surge strategy worked, including among military officials." More here.

The LA Times' David Cloud: "By early 2010, Gates writes, a 'chasm' had opened between the White House and Pentagon leadership. He recalled moments of deep 'anger,' 'frustration' and even 'disgust' at the way advisors around Obama dealt with him and uniformed military officers. He recounts sitting in a White House meeting in March 2011 in which Obama sharply criticized Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander he had chosen to turn around the Afghan war, and voiced deep skepticism about working with Karzai." More on LAT story here.

The NYT's Thom Shanker: "Mr. Gates does not spare himself from criticism. He describes how he came to feel 'an overwhelming sense of personal responsibility' for the troops he ordered into combat, which left him misty-eyed when discussing their sacrifices -- and perhaps clouded his judgment when coldhearted national security interests were at stake. Mr. Gates acknowledges that he initially opposed sending Special Operations forces to attack a housing compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding. Mr. Gates writes that Mr. Obama's approval for the Navy SEAL mission, despite strong doubts that Bin Laden was even there, was 'one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.'"

Quotable Gates on Joe Biden: "I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

Gates on what Biden did to poison the military well: "I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture, every day saying, 'the military can't be trusted.'"

On Obama's approach to Afghanistan: "I never doubted Obama's support for the troops, only his support for their mission."

On Obama's approach to Afghanistan: "I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions."

On Obama and Bush: "It is difficult to imagine two more different men."

On what he tried to do in "Duty:" "I have tried to be fair in describing actions and motivations of others."

On his opaque style: "I have a pretty good poker face."

On being SecDef: "The most gratifying experience of my life."

On being SecDef: "People have no idea how much I detest this job."

On Obama and Bush: "During my tenure as secretary, Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers on the wars, including the important divergence between the chiefs' concern to reduce stress on the force and the presidents' higher priority of success in Iraq. However, Bush never (at least to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation."

On Obama as an ice man: "I worked for Obama longer than Bush and I never saw his eyes well up. The only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military that Obama successfully pushed to repeal."

On an oval office meeting that deeply pissed him off: "...Donilon was especially aggressive in questioning our commitment to speed and complaining about how long we were taking. Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a room full of people whether Gen. Fraser was competent to lead this effort. I've rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment; nor was I ever closer to walking out of that historic room in the middle of a meeting. My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn't need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self discipline to stay seated on the sofa."

Gates in his own words in the WSJ, here.

Gates in a neckbrace: From Politico's Mike Allen's Playbook: "Despite yesterday's caustic leaks from his forthcoming memoir, Duty, former Secretary Gates will take a more reflective, contextual take about the President and Secretary Clinton on Monday, when he goes on ‘Today' to begin a week of live interviews. Gates will say he believes Obama made the right strategic decisions on Afghanistan. Despite wearing a neck brace after a fall last week, Gates is keeping up a punishing book tour that includes ‘Morning Joe,' ‘Charlie Rose,' Jon Stewart, ‘Hannity,' CNN and other stops." More here.

Welcome Wednesday's it's-still-cold-out-there edition of Situation Report. Here's hoping this snap ends so our paperboy can begin to deliver our papers on time again- and soon (tells us his car doesn't start).  If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  And 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, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Post-2014 Afghanistan: Send in the green eyeshades, the public affairs people -- and don't send 'em in for long, the Pentagon's Pete Lavoy says. As anxiety mounts over whether the Karzai government will sign a security agreement with the U.S., the Pentagon's senior policy official on Asia says any American servicemembers who stay in Afghanistan after the end of this year should be minimal, they shouldn't stay for long -- and they should include accountants and publicists, not very many infantrymen.

Peter Lavoy, the acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told Foreign Policy in an interview that he expects Kabul to sign a security agreement with the U.S. But there's been a shift in thinking within the administration over just how long American forces should stay in Afghanistan. No one should expect anything along the lines of Germany or Japan, countries in which the U.S. has had and will likely maintain a large, enduring force decades after the wars there.

"If we have a security presence post-2014 that does train, advise and assist, I don't think we should be there much beyond the immediate post-2014 period," said Lavoy, who leaves the Pentagon this week. "I think we're talking a couple of years, and no more."

Although Lavoy envisions a brief train-and-assist mission for U.S. combat forces, he believes the focus should be on helping Afghanistan make the political and economic transitions it must.

The nature of the kinds of forces he says that he envisions for Afghanistan are "the least threatening kinds of forces" one could imagine --accountants and public affairs personnel, he says -- to assist Afghanistan as it makes political and economic transitions after this year. Read the rest of our story on Pete Lavoy's views on Af-Pak here.

Fahreal? Brass to keep their pensions. USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook: "Top military brass will keep their specially boosted pensions despite the December budget deal that trimmed pension rates for other military retirees, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. In 2007, Congress passed a Pentagon-sponsored proposal that boosted retirement benefits for three- and four-star admirals and generals, allowing them to make more in retirement than they did on active duty. The Pentagon had requested the change in 2003 to help retain senior officers as the military was fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and wanted to entice officers to remain on active duty." More here.

Carl Levin won't back Ayotte bill to repeal military pension cuts. The Hill's Jeremy Herb: "Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Tuesday that he cannot support Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R-N.H.) bill to repeal $6 billion in cuts to military pensions because of the way it offsets the costs. Levin initially told reporters Tuesday that he would back Ayotte's bill, providing a big boost to the effort to reverse the military retiree cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) reduction included in the last month's budget deal. But a Levin aide said that the Armed Services chairman endorsed Ayotte's bill before realizing that it restored the cuts by preventing illegal immigrants from claiming a child tax credit." The rest here.

Obama administration, blasting senators for keeping arms out of Iraq. FP's Yochi Dreazen and John Hudson: "The Obama administration slammed a powerful Senate panel for blocking the sale of advanced weaponry to Iraq, accusing the lawmakers of denying Baghdad the armaments it needs to defeat the al Qaeda militants who have conquered the key city of Fallujah.

The intensifying fighting in Fallujah, the scene of some of the bloodiest combat of the Iraq War, has highlighted a bitter disagreement between the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what types of weaponry to provide to the Iraqi government. The panel, along with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, needs to approve all arms sales to foreign countries." More here.

Chuck Hagel on the road in Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming. From the Pentagon: "On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will travel to San Antonio, Texas followed by Albuquerque, N.M. In San Antonio, Secretary Hagel will visit Brooke Army Medical Center to visit with wounded warriors, hospital workers, and staff.  At noon CST, he will give remarks at the Center for the Intrepid to thank service members for their care and support to our troops... In Albuquerque, Secretary Hagel will tour the Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base to receive briefings on the modernization, safety and security of the United States nuclear arsenal... On Thursday, Jan. 9, Secretary Hagel will travel to F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., to visit ICBM missile training and operation facilities. At 1:30 p.m. MST, he will give remarks to service members on the base." The trip is said to be an opportunity for Hagel to take a "deep look" inside the nuclear enterprise, both in terms of innovation and to look at how the Department is maintaining the arsenal as a deterrence, we're told.

Staffers on a plane: Senior military assistant Lt. Gen. Abrams, Acquisition, Technology & Logistics' Frank Kendall, Madeleine Creedon, assistant secretary for global affairs, Andrew Weber, assistant to the Secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, Press Secretary John Kirby (first trip with the boss!) and Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog.

Reporters on a plane: AP's Bob Burns, Reuters' David Alexander, Military Times' Andrew Tilghman and Stripes' John Harper.

Fail: Navy accidentally sends an e-mail about how to avoid providing a timely response to a FOIA request for documents - to the reporter requesting them. Politico's Hadas Gold on the e-mail NBC News 4 in Washington's Scott MacFarlane received: "According to copies of the FOIA request mentioned in the memo, MacFarlane was looking for information relating to the Navy Yard shooting in September. In mid-December MacFarlane filed the FOIAs seeking memos authored by various Naval Sea Systems Command officials in September, October and November 2013, e-mails sent by those same officials between 8:00 and 9:30 a.m. on the day of the shooting, and photos of Building 197, where the shooting occurred, that were not part of the investigation." More here.

The commander-in-chief will like Odierno's answer: Army CoS says he opposes sending troops back to Iraq.  AP: "A U.S. Army general who led U.S. forces through some of the most deadly years of the Iraq war says he opposes sending U.S. combat troops in response to the recent gains in that country by Islamic militants. Gen. Ray Odierno said Tuesday he is disappointed by the Iraqi government's loss of control in key cities in the restive western province of Anbar. He said the proper U.S. approach now is to remain engaged diplomatically to help Iraqi government leaders get their political system back on track." More here.

Four Americans are feared dead after a Pavehawk helicopter went down int the U.K. The Air Force Times' Brian Everstine: "An HH-60G Pave Hawk based at RAF Lakenheath, England, crashed Tuesday evening, with its four-member crew feared dead. The Air Force confirmed that a Pave Hawk assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath crashed earlier this evening. Norfolk County police said all four airmen are believed to have died when the helicopter crashed near Cley Next The Sea. 'The helicopter has been confirmed as a USAF Pave Hawk HH-60 helicopter from RAF Lakenheath and four occupants are thought to have died in the crash,' the police said in a statement. 'Next of kin will be informed before further details on the victims are released.'" More here.

Did the Air Force lie to you? War is Boring's David Axe, writing on FP: "On Feb. 26, 2010, a U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber forward-deployed to America's giant Pacific air base in Guam was getting ready for a training flight when one of its four jet engines burst into flames. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and the crew escaped unharmed. A Guam newspaper phoned Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, who reassured the paper that the fire was 'minor.' But that was a lie -- the depth of which is still becoming apparent, four years later. The cover-up is one of a long chain of obfuscations by the U.S. military in the wake of serious and even fatal accidents involving its most high-tech and expensive warplanes." More here.

Hagel is reviewing the Peralta MOH case. The LA Times' Tony Perry: "The U.S. Secretary of Defense is 'familiarizing himself' with the history of one of the most controversial actions from the war in Iraq: the decision not to award the Medal of Honor to a Marine from San Diego killed in Fallujah in 2004. While not a full review of the case of Sgt. Rafael Peralta, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is looking at information given to him recently by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), a Defense official said Tuesday.

"Hunter, who served in Iraq as a Marine officer, has long campaigned to have Peralta awarded the Medal of Honor. Marines who were with Peralta during the bloody house-to-house fighting in Fallujah in November 2004 insist that, although down and mortally wounded, Peralta reached out to smother an enemy grenade with his body, saving their lives. But medical analysis concluded that Peralta was already clinically dead from friendly fire and that his bodily actions were involuntary movements." Read the rest here.

Marine Lt. Gen. John Toolan will present the Silver Star to Staff Sgt. Timothy Williams today. From a Marine Corps press release: "Williams, a native of Detroit, will be receiving the award for actions while serving in Afghanistan... 'While a member of a 15 man joint Afghan National Army and Marine force, the patrol came under intense and accurate fire from a numerically superior force.  Throughout the following 10 hour engagement Staff Sergeant Williams took direct action to counter the ambush and repeatedly displayed superior leadership while directing his team under heavy small arms fire from fixed Taliban positions,' reads his Silver Star citation."

The controversial case of a teenage stringer in Syria. FP's David Kenner: "On Dec. 20, 2013, Molhem Barakat took his last picture of the Syrian war. He had been photographing a battle for control of Aleppo's al-Kindi Hospital when he was killed along with his older brother Mustafa, a fighter in a local rebel brigade. Barakat's cameras, apparently provided to him by the news agency Reuters, were photographed covered in blood in the aftermath of the attack. Barakat was just 18 when he died, but his images -- transmitted through the Reuters photo service -- gave people across the globe a glimpse into his world, and his country's war. But while his precocious work appeared everywhere from the New York Times to Foreign Policy, his online presence served as a reminder that he was still a teenager. His last tweet brags about unlocking a new level in a computer racing game; his Facebook account is full of smiling selfies." More here.