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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send Gordon a note at email@example.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
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.