National Security

FP’s Situation Report: The hunt for missing Flight 370 goes underwater

KKK links in Kansas shootings; U.S. diplomatic ‘brain drain’ in Afghanistan; Career anxiety at West Point; and a bit more.

By Dan Lamothe with Nathaniel Sobel

The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is going underwater. The decision was made Monday, after six days without detecting any further underwater "pings" that could have been coming from the plane's flight recorders in the Indian Ocean. Investigators will now use an unmanned submarine deployed by the U.S. Navy. From the New York Times' Kirk Semple, Chris Buckley and Michelle Innis: "The absence of any more pings, taken together with the belief that the batteries on the flight recorders were at the end of their life span, has led the authorities to conclude that they are unlikely to detect any further signals and that they need to shift search tactics. ‘It is time to go underwater,' the lead coordinator, Angus Houston, said at a news conference in Perth, Australia. But striking a note of caution that has become a motif of his public appearances, Mr. Houston said there was no guarantee that searchers would find the wreck. ‘Don't be overoptimistic,' he said. ‘Be realistic.'

So what are they using? It's a Bluefin-21, a sophisticated underwater vehicle. More from the Times: "For their underwater hunt, search officials had been depending on the so-called towed pinger locator, essentially an elaborate microphone that a crew has dropped about a mile below the surface and dragged behind the Ocean Shield, an Australian naval vessel. The locator detected two sets of signals on April 5 and two more on April 8 in an area about 1,000 miles northwest of Perth. With the move to the ocean floor, the searchers' most valuable tool will become a Bluefin-21, a remote-controlled submersible operated by an American team that has also been in charge of the pinger locator. The submarine will initially take sonar scans of the seabed. But moving around walking speed, it has the ability to cover only about 12 square miles a day. Some experts say the four signal detections have left searchers with a total search zone of possibly hundreds of square miles." More here.

Flashback alert. Read my take on Foreign Policy about the Bluefin-21 and other unmanned underwater vehicles the U.S. Navy has at its disposal here

A former Ku Klux Klan leader is apparently at the center of a gruesome series of fatal shootings in Kansas. From ABC News: "The 73-year-old man charged with murder in the shooting at a Jewish community center and retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas, that left three people dead is reportedly the former Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Fraiser Glenn Cross Jr., of Aurora, Mo., was taken into custody in the parking lot of an elementary school near the scene of the shootings, and was booked on a charge of first degree murder, according to the Johnson County, Kansas, Sheriff's Office. Cross is an alias for Frasier Glenn Miller, the former KKK leader, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a statement released Sunday night, the SPLC said it was able to identify Cross as Miller after a phone conversation with Miller's wife, Marge, in which she told them police had come to her home and told her that her husband had been arrested in the shootings." More here.

"Heil Hitler," he yelled out. That from the Kansas City Star, among others. More from the newspaper's Laura Bauer, Dave Helling and Brian Burnes:  "After officers arrested Frazier Glenn Cross - an Aurora, Mo., man better known as F. Glenn Miller - Sunday afternoon, authorities said he went on a rant inside the patrol car. Though Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass wouldn't say what Cross hollered, a television crew captured him on video while he was handcuffed in the back of the car. ‘Heil Hitler,' Miller yelled out, and then he bobbed his head up and down. Four hours after the shooting rampage was first reported, Douglass said in a news conference that it was too early to know definitively what the shooter's motives were, but added: ‘We are investigating this as a hate crime.' In all, the gunman fired at five people Sunday afternoon, police said, but he missed two of his targets, who were not injured. Police said the man had not only a shotgun but also a handgun and possibly an assault weapon." More here

Welcome to this Monday edition of Situation Report. I'm Dan Lamothe, and I'll be at the wheel all week here along with an assist from Nathaniel Sobel. Gordon Lubold is enjoying some much-deserved time off. If you have anything you'd like to share with our newsletter, please email me at dan.lamothe@foreignpolicy.com. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send Gordon a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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 consider following us at @DanLamothe, @glubold, and @njsobe4.

Ukrainian forces clashed with pro-Russian militants on Sunday. From the NYT's Andrew Kramer and Andrew Higgins: "The Ukrainian government on Sunday for the first time sent its security services to confront armed pro-Russian militants in the country's east, defying warnings from Russia. Commandos engaged in gunfights with men who had set up roadblocks and stormed a Ukrainian police station in Slovyansk, and at least one officer was killed, Ukrainian officials said. Several officers were injured in the operation, as were four locals, the officials said. Russian news media and residents here disputed that account, saying the Ukrainian forces had only briefly engaged one checkpoint. In either case, the central government in Kiev has turned to force to try to restore its authority in the east, a course of action that the Russian government has repeatedly warned against. With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed along Ukraine's eastern border near Donetsk, Western leaders have worried that Moscow might use unrest in Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking areas as a pretext for an invasion." More here.

The United States is on the precipice of suffering diplomatic "brain drain" in Afghanistan. That from FP's Gordon Lubold, who is clearly keeping busy while on vacation. From his story: "With President Hamid Karzai leaving office after a stormy relationship with Washington for more than 12 years, many current and former U.S. officials see a unique opportunity to redefine the relationship with Kabul. But that may be difficult. By summer, after a possible runoff election chooses Karzai's successor, most of the mid-level and senior U.S. civilians with deep Afghanistan experience who would have the knowledge to help foster strong relations with the new government will be long gone. And, officials familiar with the matter said, they will be replaced by diplomats expected to have far less experience. That means the U.S. embassy will be in a weaker position to help the new government fight corruption, prevent an economic slump, or influence the new Kabul government on matters pertaining to any U.S. military force that may remain after this year, say current and former U.S. officials." More here

The first snapshot of Afghan elections puts pair of ex-ministers in lead but two minority candidates could decide final result. From the Guardian's Emma Graham-Harrison: "The first results from Afghanistan's presidential election show the country is headed for a runoff next month between former ministers, with two other candidates securing enough of the vote to potentially act as kingmakers. After a week of waiting, the election commission finally unveiled on Sunday a snapshot of the overall vote: 10 percent of the results from about three-quarters of Afghanistan's provinces. Following a spate of rumours, wild claims and fierce accusations, the first solid evidence came with a strict warning that fluctuations were not only possible but likely as more results are tallied. ‘I must tell you, there will be changes in the days ahead as we announce further results,' said Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, chairman of the Independent Election Commission. ‘We are checking the partial results to ensure the final result is clear, and we will share it with the nation.'

More from the Guardian: "The tally gave Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and mujahideen fighter, a slim lead at about 42 percent, followed by the former finance minister and World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani on 38 percent. If no candidate gets more than half the vote, there is a runoff between the top two. Lagging far behind in third place with less than 10 percent was Zalmai Rassoul, a moderate former minister widely believed to be the incumbent Hamid Karzai's preferred successor. Winning barely 5 percent - but still enough to potentially influence a runoff - was a hardline Islamist, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the man who first invited Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan." More here.

The end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, meanwhile, is causing career anxiety for new U.S. military officers. From The NYT's Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker from West Point: "Col. Jeff Lieb, the deputy commandant of the United States Military Academy and a veteran of the war in Iraq, paced before a group of cadets standing in formation and shouted at them about their lives after graduation. ‘I took a thousand kids to war, and I brought a thousand back,' Colonel Lieb told the eager, soon-to-be second lieutenants on a recent day. "Every time I deployed, I got out there and talked to my soldiers about safety. You're going to have to do the same thing.' Except these cadets probably will not - or at least not anytime soon. For the first time in 13 years, the best and the brightest of West Point's graduating class will leave this peaceful Hudson River campus bound for what are likely to be equally peaceful tours of duty in the United States Army." More here.

China's neighbors gear up for a fight. From Defense News' Wendell Minnick: "The Asia-Pacific naval market is heating up, with massive quantities of new ships to boost regional navies in coming years. According to AMI International, a US-based naval analysis firm, Asia-Pacific has already surpassed Europe as the world's second largest naval market. AMI projects the region will spend $200 billion on new ships and submarines by 2032, making up roughly 25 percent of the global projected new ship market. At least 100 new submarines will join regional navies during that time, making up 40 percent of global new-build vessels. About 1,000 new warships, at least 30 meters long, also will be constructed. One motivating factor is certainly China, whose maritime claims and military modernization efforts are driving regional neighbors to buy new weapons, upgrade old ones, improve training and huddle closer to US Pacific Command. But not all of the market growth can be laid at Beijing's feet. For example, Singapore appears more worried about pirates in the Malacca Strait and potential conflict with Malaysia and Indonesia. And China is hardly the only Asian country making conflicting claims in the resource-rich South China Sea." More here.

Libya remains in the grip of rival rebel factions. From Los Angeles Times' Laura King: "Dragging deeply on a cigarette and swirling his espresso dregs, the curly-haired young militiaman offered up a vivid account of the battles he and fellow rebels waged to bring down dictator Moammar Kadafi - days of blazing bombardment, thirsty desert nights. Then he voiced his dismay at the chokehold those same armed groups now maintain on Libya. ‘We fought so hard to make a new country,' said the 28-year-old of Libyan extraction who left Britain to join the revolution that swept this North African nation in 2011. ‘Now it's all about money. Money and guns.' The rebel groups that worked together to oust Kadafi have fragmented into rivalrous factions whose outsized collective power has sapped Libya's oil wealth, turned a nascent government structure to tatters and ushered in a grim cycle of assassinations, abductions and firefights in the streets. International attention tends to focus on the most audacious acts of militias, such as the abduction in October of the prime minister, the storming of various government ministries and last month's bid to illicitly sell $36 million worth of oil. The tanker used by the militia was intercepted by U.S. Navy SEALs and handed over to the Libyan government." More here.

Bill Burns will retire in October. From FP's John Hudson: "On Friday, the White House announced the retirement of Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, a giant in the diplomatic world and a key architect of the nuclear negotiations with Iran and six world powers. Burns, who had already twice delayed his retirement, has agreed to stay on until October, which will afford the administration more time to eek out a potential deal with Tehran with one of its most trusted diplomats at the helm. Still, the outcome of the talks is far from certain as significant gaps remain between the two sides on the dismantling of Iran's nuclear facilities, especially over how long a final deal will remain in effect. In announcing Burns' retirement, President Barack Obama lauded his legacy at Foggy Bottom. ‘Since I met Bill in Moscow in 2005, I have admired his skill and precision,' he said. ‘I have relied on him for candid advice and sensitive diplomatic missions.'" More here.

A former spook tells why ‘The Americans' is filled with more intrigue than real espionage. Third Way's Aki Peritz for FP: "The big bad bear from Moscow is back, and not just in Crimea. FX's The Americans, about deep-cover KGB ‘illegals' living in Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s, is now midway through its second season. There's much to like about the show, from top-notch performances by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, to their reliance on clunky, retro-spy technology, to the clever manipulation of a common fear felt, no doubt, by most children at one point or another that their parents have secret identities (it ain't paranoia if it's true). But I was in the intelligence business too, and a fundamental part of the series irks me. Even though the CIA hired me after the 9/11 attacks to fight a new menace -- terrorism and Islamic extremism -- the corridors at Langley still echo with the footsteps of old timers who recall the protean fight against the Soviets. And regardless of how that conflict is portrayed in Joe Weisberg's captivating series, it was not a sequence of increasingly lethal encounters between U.S. and Russian intelligence services." More here.

The contest for the next House intel committee chairman heats up. From Defense One's Stacy Kaper: "Rep. Pete King is already auditioning to be the GOP mouthpiece on the need to protect the embattled National Security Agency and remain vigilant against Islamic extremism-stances that are central to his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Rogers as House Intelligence Committee Chairman. The New York Republican, who formerly led the Homeland Security Committee, says fighting terrorism has been his ‘obsession' since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack killed 150 of his friends, neighbors, and constituents. He says he knows how to lead the committee, from his five years of serving on it and his previous experience as a chairman dealing with closely related terrorism matters... King and the other contenders won't have to make their cases before their peers on the Steering Committee and try to accumulate a majority of their colleagues' votes to win the coveted leadership post. Instead, because Intelligence is a special ‘select' committee, the decision is up to one person only: the speaker of the House, who may or may not be John Boehner come January." More here.

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with U.S. Special Operations troops

By Dan Lamothe with Nathaniel Sobel

The FBI's secret relationship with the military's special operators, unveiled. The Washington Post dropped the scoop yesterday, outlining how the investigative agency has worked with the Pentagon's most elite troops for years. From the WaPo's Adam Goldman and Julie Tate: "When U.S. Special Operations forces raided several houses in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in March 2006, two Army Rangers were killed when gunfire erupted on the ground floor of one home. A third member of the team was knocked unconscious and shredded by ball bearings when a teenage insurgent detonated a suicide vest. In a review of the nighttime strike for a relative of one of the dead Rangers, military officials sketched out the sequence of events using small dots to chart the soldiers' movements. Who, the relative asked, was this man - the one represented by a blue dot and nearly killed by the suicide bomber? After some hesitation, the military briefers answered with three letters: FBI."

More from the WaPo: "The FBI's transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau's role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world. With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The relationship benefited
both sides. JSOC used the FBI's expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots, including any against the United States. The bureau's agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the United States for trial. The FBI's presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced, according to current and former officials familiar with the bureau's role. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields." More here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. I'm Dan Lamothe, and I'll be guiding the ship here along with Nathaniel Sobel for the next week while Gordon Lubold unplugs for a bit. The cherry blossoms in Washington just hit their peak, so enjoy them while you can amid the throngs of tourists if you're in town. I'd like to thank FP's brass for allowing my colleagues and me to cut loose for a couple hours yesterday afternoon to watch the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins at the ballpark downtown. With the nice weather, you couldn't beat it. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send Gordon a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. As always, 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 at @DanLamothe, @glubold and @njsobe4.

FP exclusive: The United Nations is hinting strongly that Russia rigged the secession vote in Crimea. That isn't a shocker, but Foreign Policy's Colum Lynch has the smoking-gun documents. From his story: "Ten days before the March 16 referendum, Ukrainian television broadcasts were "shut off" in Crimea, replaced by Russian TV channels supporting secession, according to the report. (Ukrainian authorities retaliated by blocking Russian broadcasts in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.) Bloggers, activists and other critics of secession were threatened, detained, and tortured. A delegation of human rights monitors, meanwhile, "received many reports of vote rigging," according to the report. "The delegation met with sources who claimed that there had been alleged cases of non-Ukrainian citizens participating in the referendum as well as individuals voting numerous times in different locations," according to the 38-page draft report, written by Ivan Simonovic, the U.N. assistant secretary general for human rights. "Preliminary findings, based on publicly available information as well as reports from civil society representatives in Crimea, suggest that the referendum on March 16 raised a number of concerns in terms of respect for human rights." More here.

NATO images show that Russia hasn't withdrawn from the border with Ukraine. FP's Elias Groll: "Apparently fed up with Russian claims that the country's military forces have scaled back their presence along Ukraine's border, NATO officers decided to carry out some information warfare of their own on Thursday. In a briefing with reporters at the organization's headquarters in Belgium, NATO unveiled satellite imagery of what it said were Russian troop deployments on the Ukrainian frontier. The images make for sobering viewing. ‘This is a force that is very capable, at high readiness, and, as we have illustrated through the imagery, is close to routes and lines of communication,' British Brigadier Gary Deakin told reporters. ‘It has the resources to be able to move quickly into Ukraine if it was ordered to do so,' he added, saying that Russian forces could be on the move within 12 hours of a decision in Moscow to invade its neighbor. Though Deakin probably didn't mean to come across as slightly intimidated by Russian military might, his remarks appeared to contain at least a small measure of anxiety.  ‘They have all the capabilities: air, special forces, artillery. They have everything.'" More here.

Will US spy agencies risk cooperating with their Ukrainian counterparts? FP's Shane Harris: "To hear Ukraine tell it, you'd think their fledgling new government is full of crack spy hunters rooting out every Russian mole and agitator from Kiev to Kharkiv. Ukraine's main security agency, the SBU, has been keeping a running tally of all the Russian provocateurs who've been discovered or captured in the past month. The list includes an alleged ‘espionage ring of the military intelligence of the Russian Federation,' a Russian and three Ukrainians who were preparing to hand over computer hard drives to Russia's security service, and a Russian woman attempting to ‘destabilize the situation in the southern regions of Ukraine.' An SBU Web site shows what appears to be the woman's social media page, where she poses in combat fatigues while sporting an assault rifle. Such a public display of Ukraine's intelligence successes could be chalked up to patriotic chest thumping. But it may also be a way of encouraging American spies to share more of their secrets with the SBU. American spy agencies are closely tracking Russian troop movements and have warned lawmakers and administration officials that a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine could happen at any moment. But U.S. spy agencies have been reluctant to share much of what they know with their Ukrainian counterparts, for fear that it would be intercepted by Russia and used to discern the sources and methods that the Americans are using to spy on their longtime foe." More here.

The Pentagon cut contracts by 11 percent last month. Bloomberg's Jonathan Salant: "Pentagon contracts fell 11 percent in March as the military cut program spending and prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan. The Defense Department announced 245 contracts with a maximum value of $35.1 billion last month, down from $39.4 billion a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The pool of defense contracts has been shrinking since 2009, when the U.S. was fighting two wars. There are no signs it will rebound this year as the military removes combat forces from Afghanistan by December and absorbs automatic federal budget cuts under a process known as sequestration. ‘It's not just that the defense budget is flat,' said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and an analyst with the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Virginia-based research organization. ‘It's also that the composition of military spending is migrating away from hardware and into things like paying benefits.'" More here.

What does it mean when North Korea announces it has a ‘new form' of nuclear testing coming soon? CNS' Jeffrey Lewis for FP: "In late March, when the U.N. Security Council condemned North Korea for test firing two medium-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, Pyongyang shot back, warning of ‘next-stage steps, which the enemy can hardly imagine' -- including ‘a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up its nuclear deterrence.' Golly, that sounds awfully hostile. A ‘new form' of nuclear test? My thoughts immediately turned to Pyongyang's next step in its nuclear weapons development. North Korea might test a device using highly-enriched uranium (if it hasn't done that already), or start down the path toward tactical nuclear weapons or perhaps burning thermonuclear fuel. I suspect that these are their ultimate objectives, although it is hard to know Pyongyang's near- and long-term technical goals for its nuclear arsenal." Full story here.

SECDEF may have seen a man about a horse in Mongolia, but he is heading home without it. From the New York Times' Helene Cooper: "Chuck Hagel knew even before he landed here that there was no way he could keep the horse. In the vastness of landlocked Mongolia's steppes, horses have always been a big deal, and when Mr. Hagel's predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, made the first visit to the country by an American secretary of defense in 2005, his hosts honored him with the traditional gift of a horse."Mr. Rumsfeld named the black-maned gelding Montana, because the landscape reminded him of the state where his wife, Joyce, was born. But along with Montana came some delicate issues of diplomacy, logistics and politics, not least whether American taxpayers would have to bear the cost of upkeep. After a great deal of head scratching, Mr. Rumsfeld ultimately had to leave Montana behind, to be watched over by the horse's herder, the Defense Department said, ‘until his next visit.'

More from the Times: "Mr. Hagel arrived here for his official visit on Wednesday, and received some milk curd, which he nibbled at the airport. But once again the question of a gift horse loomed. "As his motorcade entered the imposing grounds of the Mongolian Ministry of Defense, the animal stood off to the side of a ceremonial yurt, its tawny tail swishing idly in the breeze. A Mongolian herder stood beside it, holding the reins and peeking around the yurt at the dignitaries. There was excitement in Mr. Hagel's motorcade. More here. 

Up this morning: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon to welcome United Nation's Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to the Pentagon.

Could Big Data Have Prevented the Fort Hood Shooting? Defense One's Patrick Tucker dives in: "The federal government stopped funding a medical data screening program last year that researchers say might have prevented the Fort Hood shooting. Had Army Spec. Ivan Lopez been enrolled in the Durkheim Program, which uses an algorithm that mines social media posts for indicators of suicidal behavior, it might have picked up clues that a clinician could have missed in time for an intervention. ‘Given the highly agitated state of the shooter, we may have been able to get him help before acted, had he been in our system,' said Chris Poulin, one of the founders of the Durkheim Project, which received $1.8 million from the Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, in 2011 until funding was halted in 2013." More here.

American Jihadist Who Fought in Syria Dies of an Overdose in Arizona. Anna Therese Day for the Daily Beast: "I first met Eric Harroun, better known as ‘The American Jihadist,' over cocktails at a rooftop martini bar in one of Cairo's Nile-side 5-star hotels. It was July of 2011, and Harroun was recovering from a recent arrest by Egyptian security forces following his involvement in the summer's anti-military protests. The conversation was one of fervent indignation and outrage, but also one of paralyzing powerlessness in the face of impunity and injustice. Yesterday, the same combustible combination of emotions - characterized by a tangible sense of conflict, passion, and despair - resurfaced poignantly when his sister announced on Facebook and then confirmed by phone that 31-year-old Harroun died of an overdose in his father's home in Phoenix, Arizona. The family says the death was an accident. There will be an autopsy." More here.

Advocates for the A-10 Thunderbolt won't go down without a fight. The WaPo's Christian Davenport: "It's often called the military's ugliest aircraft, a snub-nosed tank of an airplane that's nicknamed ‘Warthog' for its appearance and ferocity. The A-10 Thunderbolt has been the Air Force's equivalent of an in-the-trenches grunt for almost 40 years: heavily armed and armored, designed to fly low and take out the enemy at close range. But now, after a career that has spanned the Cold War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has proposed shuttering the fleet as part of across the board cuts in defense spending. Getting rid of the remaining about 300 aircrafts would save $3.7 billion over five years, Defense Department officials say, and allow the Air Force to bring in more sophisticated aircraft, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to provide what is called ‘close air support.'"

Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff for the Air Force, touched on it again Thursday.
More from the WaPo: "While no one, especially me, is happy about recommending divestiture of this great old friend, it's the right military decision,' Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. "And it's representative of the extremely difficult choices that we're being forced to make." More here.

The Pentagon's inspector general cites a DoD counter-bomb unit for improper intelligence collection practices. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "A U.S. military organization charged with countering improvised bombs engaged in improper intelligence collection on the side, the Pentagon's inspector general found. The watchdog office's investigation substantiated a hotline complaint that the unit ‘illegally or inappropriately collected info about U.S. persons,' David Small, a spokesman for the Pentagon's counter-bomb agency, said in an e-mailed statement after the inspector general's office disclosed online that it had issued a classified report. The Counter-IED Operations/Intelligence Integration Center committed the violations in 2011 and 2012. The unit was created in 2006 to help commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan collect and analyze information about insurgents' use of improvised explosive devices, the main killer of U.S. troops in both countries." More here.

An American ship waits in Spain for Syria's weapons. The Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid lays out the story: "In a quiet port in southern Spain sits a retrofitted American ship that resembles an elaborate laboratory with a pair of large metal tanks attached to winding pipes and housed in large white and yellow tents. ‘The MV Cape Ray is primed and ready to take on the unprecedented job of destroying at sea more than more than 500 metric tons of the most dangerous materials from Syria's chemicals weapons program. All that remains is something frustratingly outside the mission's control. The operation waits only for President Bashar al-Assad to finish the job of shipping the chemicals out of his country. After several missed deadlines, the Syrians sped up their delivery, and have now removed about 55 percent of the chemicals, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the destruction of the arsenal. But recently Mr. Assad slowed down again."

"OPCW officials are reacting cautiously, saying that Damascus has shown it can move quickly when it wants to and could still meet its April 27 goal for shipping out the chemicals. So the team aboard the Cape Ray could still destroy them by a key June 30 deadline set by the U.S. and Russia." More here.

And check out my take for FP on the ship, published back in January as the Pentagon unveiled it to reporters at a shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. It's up here.

The Pentagon is just weeks away from a new counter-WMD strategy. National Journal's Diane Barnes: "The U.S. Defense Department may be ‘weeks' from updating an 8-year-old strategy for countering weapons of mass destruction, a senior official says. The new armed forces plan for fighting unconventional threats is in its "final stages of the approval and signature process," Rebecca Hersman, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, said on Tuesday. The plan would replace a 2006 version as soon as it receives the final clearances, Hersman said at a hearing of the House Armed Services Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee." More here.

David Petraeus is pumped about Stephen Colbert's pending move to take over for David Letterman on CBS. Military Times' Jeff Schogol got the retired four-star's take yesterday, as the TV network announced the big news. Petraeus, in Schogol's story: "It is great to see a figure who has been such a tremendous supporter of our men and women in uniform - and who visited them in combat - selected to host the ‘Late Show!'" More here.