National Security

FP's Situation Report: FP's exclusive story of a Pave Hawk crash in Japan

Dunford, on the perils of leaving Afghanistan; How the Sinclair case fell apart; The irony of the missile launch officer community; and a bit more.

Joe Dunford explained the perils of completely leaving Afghanistan. The NYT's Helene Cooper: "The top American commander in Afghanistan said on Wednesday that Al Qaeda would regroup and stage another attack on the West from Afghanistan if international troops completely withdrew from the country at the end of 2014.  Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the commander, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., said that as long as a new president of Afghanistan was in place by August, he was confident that a new security agreement would be signed to allow American and international troops to leave a residual force in the country, as military commanders would like, and as President Obama has said is his preferred option. "But General Dunford warned that if Afghanistan's coming elections did not produce a new president by August, the residual force and the long-term stability of Afghanistan would be threatened." More here.

The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman: "...With Afghan presidential elections slated to begin April 5, the US and Nato have not have much time to orchestrate a troop deal with the victor - a window that grows smaller if there is a runoff election. Dunford told lawmakers that by July and August 'manageable risk' will accrue to US military planning for either a total withdrawal or a significant drawdown. Dunford: "The risk of an orderly withdrawal begins to be high in September."

Ackerman: "But Dunford later told the Senate that if the Afghan presidential election goes into a runoff, as happened in 2009 despite widespread fraud from Karzai, he assesses that a successor president would not enter office until August, presenting the US with a small diplomatic margin of error for finalizing a deal for a residual Afghanistan force." More here.

Meanwhile, why a fight over Pentagon funds is slowing down an aid package for Ukraine. FP's John Hudson: "An effort by the Obama administration to attach additional funds for the International Monetary Fund to a Ukraine aid package is now slowing down the approval of the entire rescue package for Kiev's badly cash-strapped government. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-3 to support a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine, $50 million for democratic governance in the country, and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation. The bill also includes reforms to the IMF that would reconfigure the amount of money the United States gives to the organization -- a provision not included in the House's Ukraine bill passed last week. Linking the Ukraine rescue bill to a broader package of IMF reforms had already angered some Republican lawmakers. Funding the IMF provisions with money previously earmarked for the Pentagon sent them over the moon." More here.

CAP releases a report on how to fix Ukraine. Read the Center for American Progress' bit here.

The Rabbit seems to be in his element. The NYT's David Herszenhorn: "For three months, throughout the uprising and upheaval in Kiev, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk was one of three political leaders who appeared regularly on stage in Independence Square, but he often seemed out of his element. A former foreign minister, economics minister, speaker of Parliament and acting central bank chief, he is more at home in boardrooms and in the corridors of power than on the barricades.

Now, two weeks after his colleagues in Parliament named him acting prime minister - a job he called "political suicide" even before Russia invaded Crimea - Mr. Yatsenyuk, 39, is in a role that suits him better than that of street revolutionary, but that has thrust him to the center of the crisis." More here.

The weirdest thing: The White House and State Department hosted Yatsenyuk to Washington yesterday amid the crisis in Ukraine. But officials around D.C. couldn't help shake the feeling that they had met the prime minister before. That's because he has an uncanny resemblance to former Obama speechwriter Andrew Krupin - now a scribe for Secretary of State John Kerry. See for yourself by clicking here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. 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 do follow us @glubold.

When an Air Force helicopter rescue crew plummeted into a Japanese forest, it killed an airman and sparked an inferno - it also stirred up a diplomatic hornet's nest for the U.S. FP's Dan Lamothe tells the story in this exclusive from FP: "Two U.S. Air Force helicopters looped over a simulated car crash scene in Japan last summer, pulling figure 8's less than 150 feet above a heavily wooded forest. The air crews had just dropped off a team of four elite pararescue jumpers to the scene for a training exercise, and were roaring overhead in tandem at more than 90 mph. The maneuver was common for such missions, where the 'PJs' and the air crews that transport them practice how to evacuate wounded troops from a battlefield while under fire.

"While both MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters circled over the car wreck, one of the helicopters suddenly swerved out of position. When the second helicopter shifted course in response, the pilot of the first Pave Hawk tried to veer away to avoid a possible collision. It was a fatal overreaction: the aircraft, carrying three other personnel, had descended enough to collide with the 50-foot high trees below. The $38 million Pave Hawk - call sign 'Jolly 12' - careened downward, smashed into the forest's floor, and rolled onto its right side before coming to rest. The downed aircraft burst into flames, cooking off rounds of .50-caliber machine gun ammunition.

The co-pilot of the second Pave Hawk told investigators: "Once they were in the turn I saw that ... basically they lost trim, their tail sunk down in a very low position, they were at a high angle of bank with their nose pointing up in the air... The next I heard was my flight lead saying ‘What the f---? What the f---?' ... at which point I could see the smoke and the crash site just on the other side of the ridge."

"FP obtained not only the investigation summary, but more than 300 pages of witness statements, inspection reports, and photographs related to the crash. Combined, they provide a rare, unvarnished glimpse into the pressure-cooker world of pararescue. The "PJ" forces involved are the most elite emergency medical responders in the military, trained to parachute, dive, or rappel into chaotic situations to save lives, both during the day and at night. They have been credited with saving hundreds of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan." More here.

Falling off the radar: The Malaysia Airlines jet may have flown for hours after its last confirmed location, but investigators remain Lost. The WSJ's Andy Pasztor: "U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky. Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours, based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. 777's engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program. That raises a host of new questions and possibilities about what happened aboard the widebody jet carrying 239 people, which vanished from civilian air-traffic control radar over the weekend, about one hour into a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur." More here.

The Marine Corps plans an experimental force with women. USA Today's Jim Michaels: "The Marine Corps plans to establish an experimental force consisting of at least 25% women in the most far-reaching effort yet to determine how females will perform in ground combat jobs that remain closed to them. It is the first effort to place women directly into such jobs, though the unit will not deployed overseas and will be used exclusively to gather data. The unit will, however, undergo extensive training that mirrors what a typical Marine task force would undergo before being deployed overseas." More here.

Irony alert: For missile launch officers, the pressure for perfection leads to a culture of cheating. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel: "Edward Warren was shocked when he learned that the airmen in charge of the nation's nuclear-tipped missiles regularly cheated on tests. In 2009, Warren was fresh out of the Air Force's Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He had just finished training to become a missile launch officer when he was pulled aside... But while serving at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming from 2009-2013, Warren saw lots of cheating. The cause, according to Warren and other former missile launch officers reached by NPR, was a culture driven by constant demand for perfection."

Warren: "One of my instructors said, 'Hey, just so you know, there is cheating that goes on at the missile bases,' ... I was repulsed. I thought, 'This can't be, this is terrible.'" More here.

Obama calls for releasing the controversial Senate torture report. FP's Shane Harris: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he supports publicly releasing a Senate report on the CIA's controversial interrogation program that has been at the center of a feud between the spy agency and its congressional overseers and that has brought relations between the two sides to a historic low.

"I would urge them to go ahead and complete the report and send it to us, and we will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past. And that can help guide us as we move forward," Obama told reporters, referring to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who have completed but not released a 6,300-page report on the CIA program. The report is said to find that the CIA's brutal interrogations of suspected terrorists amounted to torture and didn't yield useful intelligence about potential future terrorist attacks.

"White House officials have said publicly on several occasions that the administration supports releasing the report so that Americans can read it and make up their own minds about one of the darkest, and most controversial, chapters in the CIA's history. But the president's remarks, coming in the midst of dueling accusations between powerful lawmakers and the CIA about the conduct of the Senate investigation, is likely to add new momentum to the effort to declassify the report. Obama's remarks came amid continued uncertainty about what role the White House played in a May 2010 CIA decision to prevent Senate committee staffers from accessing certain classified documents. The documents had earlier been provided to the staff as part of their inquiry, but then disappeared from the computers they were using in a classified CIA facility, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said on Tuesday."

New FBI report details interactions between Osama bin Laden and his son-in-law. The NYT's Benjamin Weiser: "Osama bin Laden was nothing if not strategic. He recruited a Kuwaiti cleric to become a close associate and to speak to his trainees because he wanted more recruits from the Gulf region. And for that cleric's fiery speeches after Sept. 11, the Qaeda leader provided the 'bullet points.'" More here.

The case against Jeffrey Sinclair, which had seemed so solid and so damning, so central to the Pentagon's overall prosecution of sexual assault crisis, is now in pieces. How did that happen? The NYT's Alan Blinder and Richard Oppel on Page One: "... The breakdown of the prosecution's case was unquestionably a black eye for the Army at a time when it has been trying to fend off criticism on Capitol Hill that it is unable to clamp down on sexual assault, which statistics show has risen steadily in recent years. General Sinclair's court-martial took on special significance because he is possibly the first general to face sexual assault charges, and because his accuser was herself a promising junior officer.

"But a review of the past three months suggests that the prosecution had doubts about whether a jury would believe the witness, an intelligence officer and Arab linguist who had worked with General Sinclair in both Iraq and Afghanistan, even before the January pretrial hearing. Though she told a compelling story of being bullied into sex, threatened and even physically abused by General Sinclair, the details of her story had shifted on some points, and, the defense said, she had claimed sexual assault only after it appeared she faced legal problems herself." Read the rest here.

No Bounds: The Office of Net Assessment has wide interest - and reach. Politico's Phil Ewing: "From Vladimir Putin's body language to the histories of religious warfare, from the development of new technologies to accounts of ancient empires, there isn't much the Pentagon's internal think tank won't pursue. The Office of Net Assessment, which is headed by a seldom-seen, 92-year-old Nixon-era defense analyst named Andrew Marshall, is just a tiny compartment in the labyrinthine Defense Department, but its interests are vast. In a recent solicitation, the ONA said it's seeking research about nuclear proliferation, future naval warfare and the use of space, among other topics.

"Usually this kind of work, which costs around $10 million per year, flies well under the radar in a defense budget of roughly half a trillion dollars. Every once in a while, however, the public catches a glimpse of something Marshall and his office are pursuing - most recently, when the Pentagon confirmed it has been spending $300,000 per year to study the body language of Putin and other world leaders." More here.

Randy Forbes criticizes the "paper Navy." From a statement from the Virginia Republican's office - "America began the month of March with 283 ships in her fleet. Overnight, this administration declared we had a 293-ship fleet - yet no ship was built, no ship was commissioned, not one additional need of a combatant commander was met. This administration is creating a paper ship Navy. This dangerous deception continues in regards to the most powerful and versatile instrument of American power: the aircraft carrier. By refusing to execute planning funds or to procure supplies critical to protecting our carrier fleet, this administration has undeniably made a decision that they will advocate to reduce our carrier fleet; they just lack the courage to admit it."

Forbes, along with Heritage Foundation's Steven Bucci, CSBA's Todd Harrison and AEI's Mackenzie Eaglen appear for a Foreign Policy Initiative-hosted discussion about the Quadrennial Defense Review Thursday on Capitol Hill. Deets here.


National Security

FP's Situation Report: A team player accuses the CIA of eavesdropping on Congress

What a murder in Kabul says about Western security there; For real: a picture of hunger in Syria; Dunford to testify; A defense contractor trades secrets with Chinese girlfriend; and a bit more.


A team player turns on the agency. The WaPo's Greg Miller, Ed O'Keefe and Adam Goldman on Page One: "A behind-the-scenes battle between the CIA and Congress erupted in public Tuesday as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee accused the agency of breaking laws and breaching constitutional principles in an alleged effort to undermine the panel's multi-year investigation of a controversial interrogation program. Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused the CIA of ­secretly removing documents, searching computers used by the committee and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators by requesting an FBI inquiry of their conduct - charges that CIA Director John Brennan disputed within hours of her appearance on the Senate floor." Read the rest here.

Dianne Feinstein, on the floor, yesterday: "I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution... It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities. ... I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate." Read the transcript of her remarks here.

CIA Director John Brennan, yesterday at CFR, who denied the charge: "I am confident that the authorities will review this appropriately, and I will deal with the facts as uncovered in the appropriate manner. I would just encourage members of the -- of the Senate to take their time, to make sure that they don't overstate what they claim and what they probably believe to be the truth. These are some complicated matters. We have worked with the committee over the course of many years. This review that was done by the committee was done at a facility where CIA had the responsibility to make sure that they had the computer wherewithal to -- in order to carry out their responsibilities... And if I did something wrong, I will go to the president and I will explain to him exactly what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go."

FP's Shane Harris and John Hudson: "...If she chooses to play hardball, Feinstein can make the tenure of CIA Director John Brennan a living nightmare. From her perch on the intelligence committee, she could drag top spies before the panel for months on end. She could place holds on White House nominees to key agency positions. She could launch a broader investigation into the CIA's relations with Congress and she could hit the agency where it really hurts: its pocketbook. One of the senator's other committee assignments is the Senate Appropriations Committee, which allocates funds to Langley. Following last year's disclosure by Edward Snowden that the CIA's black budget request of $14.7 billion for 2013 surged past every other spy agency, it may be in for a haircut. But whether Feinstein will use any of the tools in her toolbox is far from certain." More of FP's piece here.

FP in reruns: ICYMI, FP's Shane Harris and John Hudson's story yesterday, Rock Bottom, about the new low between the Senate and the CIA. Read that here.

Maureen Dowd this morning on the "J'accuse moment" in her column, "The Spies Who Didn't Love Her": "Langley needs a come-to-Jesus moment - pronto. That was clear Tuesday morning when Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, suddenly materialized on the Senate floor to "reluctantly" out the C.I.A. It was an astonishing "J'accuse" moment because Feinstein has been the bulwark protecting the intelligence community against critics worried that we've become a surveillance state, "the privacy people," as she has called them." More here.

Dana Milbank: "...Feinstein is owed much more than an apology. The White House needs to cough up documents it is withholding from the public, and it should remove the CIA officials involved and subject them to an independent prosecutor's investigation." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. 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 do follow us @glubold.

How a secret court evolved and extended spies' reach. The NYT's Charlie Savage and Laura Poitras on Page One: "Ten months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the nation's surveillance court delivered a ruling that intelligence officials consider a milestone in the secret history of American spying and privacy law. Called the "Raw Take" order - classified docket No. 02-431 - it weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans, according to documents and interviews. The administration of President George W. Bush, intent on not overlooking clues about Al Qaeda, had sought the July 22, 2002, order. It is one of several still-classified rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court described in documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor. Previously, with narrow exceptions, an intelligence agency was permitted to disseminate information gathered from court-approved wiretaps only after deleting irrelevant private details and masking the names of innocent Americans who came into contact with a terrorism suspect. The Raw Take order significantly changed that system, documents show, allowing counterterrorism analysts at the N.S.A., the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. to share unfiltered personal information." More here.

For real: The image of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Damascus has been retweeted eight million times and a U.N. official says it's not a fake. The NYT's Rick Gladstone: " A United Nations photograph showing a sea of hungry Palestinians awaiting emergency food amid the detritus of their bomb-ravaged neighborhood near Damascus has been retweeted more than eight million times in the past few weeks, becoming such an arresting image of the Syrian civil war that some blogosphere skeptics have suggested that it was digitally faked. The suggestion provoked a passionate denial on Tuesday by the official responsible for distributing the photo." The image, and the story, here.

The wrong kind of pillow talk: Civilian defense contractor enters guilty plea after being accused of giving military secrets to his Chinese girlfriend. AP: "... Benjamin Bishop was expected to plead guilty to one count of transmitting national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans. Bishop was arrested last March at the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command, where he worked. An FBI affidavit last year alleged the then-59-year-old gave his 27-year-old girlfriend classified information about war plans, nuclear weapons, missile defenses and other topics." More here.

Yanukovych as Baghdad Bob: Ukrainian leader seems to deny reality. The WSJ's Lukas Alpert and Olga Razumovskaya: "The ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday said elections scheduled for late May are illegal because he is the country's only legitimate president. He also blamed Ukraine's new government for tensions in the breakaway region of Crimea. In a brief statement delivered to reporters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Mr. Yanukovych didn't directly address a regionwide referendum to be held Sunday on whether the territory will secede from Ukraine, which he said 'is going through a difficult time.' Addressing the government that replaced him, he said: 'Your actions have led to the splitting off of Crimea, and even at gunpoint, the population in the southeast requires respect for themselves and their rights. We will survive this turmoil.'" More here.

Expect delays: Pro-Russian forces tighten security as Crimea heads for a vote. "Traveling to Crimea? Don't try landing in Simferopol unless your plane originated in Moscow. Flights from Kiev and Istanbul, and several other cities, have been suspended for the rest of the week. If you come by train, expect to be searched by pro-Russian militia. If you want to rally in favor of Ukraine's West-leaning interim government, expect to be surrounded by pushy pro-Russians. Breakneck preparations are under way for a Sunday referendum -- to be held largely in secret -- and the grip of security measures is tightening around Simferopol, the regional capital. When Crimeans go to vote, they will have choose between two alternatives: Remain an autonomous state within Ukraine, or join the Russian Federation." Read the rest here.

The debate over how to punish Russia: economists as peaceniks. The NYT's Peter Baker: "...others in the administration, particularly economic officials, are wary of especially ruinous options that they argue could alienate allies as well as provoke a dangerous cycle of retaliation. The White House is under intense pressure from major American companies that do not want to lose business to competitors because of unilateral sanctions or to risk retribution from the Kremlin." Read that here.

At the heart of the matter: how the Russian fleet is central to Putin's ambitions. Marinelink's Andrew Osborn: "...The fleet, its base, and the sprawling military infrastructure that go with it, are vital to Russian President Vladimir Putin's military and geopolitical ambitions and one of the main reasons the Kremlin is now eyeing complete control of Crimea.??Nor will the fleet be outdated for much longer. It is soon to be restocked with billions of dollars worth of hardware. Lee Willett, editor of Jane's Navy International, said six new submarines and six new frigates were scheduled for delivery in the next few years.??It is also expected to take delivery of other vessels such as the giant Mistral helicopter carrier, currently being built in France, as well as new attack aircraft." More here.

How U.S. Navy and Marines offer "the perfect blend." For War on the Rocks, Rob Holzer: "... Fiscal pressures though have sparked discussions about future Navy force structure, including composition and numbers. Yet the decision to retire the carrier USS George Washington decades early, if sequestration is not rescinded by 2016, rather than fund its multi-billion dollar nuclear refueling, is energizing defense pundits to question once again the future of the nuclear-powered carrier force. This is extremely short-sighted." More here. Outrage over changes to ship-counting rules. Breaking Defense's Sydney Freedberg: "Quantity has a quality all its own. The Navy announced this afternoon that it has changed the arcane rules by which it counts ships, adding 10 coastal patrol craft, two hospital ships, and a high-speed transport to what it calls the "battle force." The new rules would also keep 11 cruisers the Navy plans to not-quite-mothball on the rolls. Those debatable additions drew an immediate denunciation from the chairman of the House seapower subcommittee, Rep. Randy Forbes. Forbes, like many Republicans, is ever watchful for what they think is administration gimmickry to hide the full impact of the budget cuts known as sequestration. Another Hill source told me the new system was just too confusing because some ships might drop in and out of the count from year to year, making congressional oversight even more difficult." More here.

Thayer Scott gets a new gig. Thayer Scott, who served on Don Rumsfeld's speechwriting team and then became one of Bob Gates' "six pack" of top advisers as chief speechwriter under him, is headed to Boeing. He'll be based in Boeing's DC-based office in Rosslyn and will be doing speechwriting for senior execs in Chicago and "providing communications support" to the company's government affairs and defense efforts in DC. Since he left the Pentagon, Scott has been an independent consultant focused on aerospace and national security, and worked occasionally with the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation as part of its public roll-out of budget submissions and strategy reviews.

Joe Dunford testifies on Afghanistan today. Military Times' Jeff Schogol: "... Senators are likely to ask Dunford how much longer the U.S. military can wait for a decision on whether troops can stay in Afghanistan beyond December. The general also may be questioned about how reliable Karzai is as a partner and whether the country would fall apart if all U.S. troops left... President Obama has not yet decided how many troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond this year if the security agreement is approved, according to the National Security Council. Dunford has proposed keeping 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until 2017. But another option being considered calls for leaving 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, stationed in Kabul and Bagram Airfield." More here.

AP: "... The new security agreement is likely to be addressed by U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, a top commander in Afghanistan, when he testifies Wednesday on Capitol Hill. U.S. officials privately acknowledge that there is no legal reason that would force Obama to withdraw all troops if the new security agreement is not signed by Dec. 31, when the international combat mission ends. Yet even though a full troop exodus is not the administration's preferred option, blunt rhetoric coming from U.S. officials has continued to put the onus on Afghanistan: Sign the new bilateral security agreement or every U.S. service member will be forced to leave." More here.

The assassination-style attack on a Swedish journalist in Kabul points up the changing security vibe in Kabul for westerners. The NYT's Matthew Rosenberg: "... Even before the funeral and the attack on Mr. Horner, growing anti-Western sentiment among Afghans had become increasingly apparent on the streets of Kabul. The hard stares directed at Westerners have grown more common, and the questioning by the police at checkpoints more aggressive. At least some of the resentment has grown from years of seeing Westerners behave in ways deeply out of sync with Afghan life. Kabul once had a thriving, albeit limited, expatriate social scene. There were a handful of restaurants and bars that catered almost exclusively to foreigners - Afghans are legally barred from drinking - and regular parties at the lightly guarded homes in which many Westerners here live. Then in January, Taliban fighters struck at a Lebanese restaurant, Taverna du Liban, that had been a mainstay of Kabul's expatriate social scene. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, and said for the first time that they had specifically sought to kill Western civilians." More here.