Showing posts with label war on terror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war on terror. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2017

Increase in deployment & combat injuries for white and Hispanic soldiers relative to black ones & for soldiers from high-income neighborhoods relative to those from low-income ones

Who Will Fight? The All-Volunteer Army after 9/11. By Susan Payne Carter, Alexander Smith & Carl Wojtaszek
American Economic Review, May 2017, Pages 415-419

Abstract: Who fought the War on Terror? We find that as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed, there was an increase in the fraction of active-duty Army enlistees who were white or from high-income neighborhoods and that these two groups selected combat occupations more often. Among men, we find an increase in deployment and combat injuries for white and Hispanic soldiers relative to black soldiers and for soldiers from high-income neighborhoods relative to those from low-income neighborhoods. This finding suggests that an all-volunteer force does not compel a disproportionate number of non-white and low socio-economic men to fight America's wars.

IV.  Discussion
Today's all-volunteer force represents a diverse group of individuals serving for both patriotic and economic reasons. For those with fewer economic opportunities, a steady job may be the deciding factor in their enlistment decision; while for those with more outside options, wartime service may shape their deci- sion. Concerns over equity could arise under the  all-volunteer system if these enlistment motivations are differentially distributed across demographic groups. While we cannot uncover the distribution of these motivations, we can observe which groups bear the burden of war. Were the first sustained conflicts of the AVF.Iraq and Afghanistan..poor man.s fights.? To the contrary, during this time period it does not appear that there was an undue burden placed on blacks or individuals from low-income neighborhoods. The percentages of black and low-income enlistees decreased as fighting intensified, with these trends stopping when outside labor market opportunities diminished during the Great Recession and combat risk decreased. These trends were the same for men and women, although black women continued to be over-represented in the Army relative to the general population. Furthermore, black and low-income enlisted men were less likely than their white and high-income peers to be deployed or injured in combat. These differences are driven primarily by the military occupation an individual enters: black and low-income men were less likely to choose combat-intensive occupations than their white and high-income peers with the same eligibility.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Kissinger: A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse

A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse. By Henry Kissinger

With Russia in Syria, a geopolitical structure that lasted four decades is in shambles. The U.S. needs a new strategy and priorities.

Wall Street Journal, Oct 16, 2015

The debate about whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran regarding its nuclear program stabilized the Middle East’s strategic framework had barely begun when the region’s geopolitical framework collapsed. Russia’s unilateral military action in Syria is the latest symptom of the disintegration of the American role in stabilizing the Middle East order that emerged from the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.

In the aftermath of that conflict, Egypt abandoned its military ties with the Soviet Union and joined an American-backed negotiating process that produced peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan, a United Nations-supervised disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, which has been observed for over four decades (even by the parties of the Syrian civil war), and international support of Lebanon’s sovereign territorial integrity. Later, Saddam Hussein’s war to incorporate Kuwait into Iraq was defeated by an international coalition under U.S. leadership. American forces led the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States were our allies in all these efforts. The Russian military presence disappeared from the region.

That geopolitical pattern is now in shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become targets for nonstate movements seeking to impose their rule. Over large swaths in Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army has declared itself the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) as an unrelenting foe of established world order. It seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.

ISIS’ claim has given the millennium-old split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam an apocalyptic dimension. The remaining Sunni states feel threatened by both the religious fervor of ISIS as well as by Shiite Iran, potentially the most powerful state in the region. Iran compounds its menace by presenting itself in a dual capacity. On one level, Iran acts as a legitimate Westphalian state conducting traditional diplomacy, even invoking the safeguards of the international system. At the same time, it organizes and guides nonstate actors seeking regional hegemony based on jihadist principles: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; Hamas in Gaza; the Houthis in Yemen.

Thus the Sunni Middle East risks engulfment by four concurrent sources: Shiite-governed Iran and its legacy of Persian imperialism; ideologically and religiously radical movements striving to overthrow prevalent political structures; conflicts within each state between ethnic and religious groups arbitrarily assembled after World War I into (now collapsing) states; and domestic pressures stemming from detrimental political, social and economic domestic policies.

The fate of Syria provides a vivid illustration: What started as a Sunni revolt against the Alawite (a Shiite offshoot) autocrat Bashar Assad fractured the state into its component religious and ethnic groups, with nonstate militias supporting each warring party, and outside powers pursuing their own strategic interests. Iran supports the Assad regime as the linchpin of an Iranian historic dominance stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean. The Gulf States insist on the overthrow of Mr. Assad to thwart Shiite Iranian designs, which they fear more than Islamic State. They seek the defeat of ISIS while avoiding an Iranian victory. This ambivalence has been deepened by the nuclear deal, which in the Sunni Middle East is widely interpreted as tacit American acquiescence in Iranian hegemony.

These conflicting trends, compounded by America’s retreat from the region, have enabled Russia to engage in military operations deep in the Middle East, a deployment unprecedented in Russian history. Russia’s principal concern is that the Assad regime’s collapse could reproduce the chaos of Libya, bring ISIS into power in Damascus, and turn all of Syria into a haven for terrorist operations, reaching into Muslim regions inside Russia’s southern border in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

On the surface, Russia’s intervention serves Iran’s policy of sustaining the Shiite element in Syria. In a deeper sense, Russia’s purposes do not require the indefinite continuation of Mr. Assad’s rule. It is a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region. It is a geopolitical, not an ideological, challenge and should be dealt with on that level. Whatever the motivation, Russian forces in the region—and their participation in combat operations—produce a challenge that American Middle East policy has not encountered in at least four decades.

American policy has sought to straddle the motivations of all parties and is therefore on the verge of losing the ability to shape events. The U.S. is now opposed to, or at odds in some way or another with, all parties in the region: with Egypt on human rights; with Saudi Arabia over Yemen; with each of the Syrian parties over different objectives. The U.S. proclaims the determination to remove Mr. Assad but has been unwilling to generate effective leverage—political or military—to achieve that aim. Nor has the U.S. put forward an alternative political structure to replace Mr. Assad should his departure somehow be realized.

Russia, Iran, ISIS and various terrorist organizations have moved into this vacuum: Russia and Iran to sustain Mr. Assad; Tehran to foster imperial and jihadist designs. The Sunni states of the Persian Gulf, Jordan and Egypt, faced with the absence of an alternative political structure, favor the American objective but fear the consequence of turning Syria into another Libya.

American policy on Iran has moved to the center of its Middle East policy. The administration has insisted that it will take a stand against jihadist and imperialist designs by Iran and that it will deal sternly with violations of the nuclear agreement. But it seems also passionately committed to the quest for bringing about a reversal of the hostile, aggressive dimension of Iranian policy through historic evolution bolstered by negotiation.

The prevailing U.S. policy toward Iran is often compared by its advocates to the Nixon administration’s opening to China, which contributed, despite some domestic opposition, to the ultimate transformation of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The comparison is not apt. The opening to China in 1971 was based on the mutual recognition by both parties that the prevention of Russian hegemony in Eurasia was in their common interest. And 42 Soviet divisions lining the Sino-Soviet border reinforced that conviction. No comparable strategic agreement exists between Washington and Tehran. On the contrary, in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accord, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and rejected negotiations with America about nonnuclear matters. Completing his geopolitical diagnosis, Mr. Khamenei also predicted that Israel would no longer exist in 25 years.

Forty-five years ago, the expectations of China and the U.S. were symmetrical. The expectations underlying the nuclear agreement with Iran are not. Tehran will gain its principal objectives at the beginning of the implementation of the accord. America’s benefits reside in a promise of Iranian conduct over a period of time. The opening to China was based on an immediate and observable adjustment in Chinese policy, not on an expectation of a fundamental change in China’s domestic system. The optimistic hypothesis on Iran postulates that Tehran’s revolutionary fervor will dissipate as its economic and cultural interactions with the outside world increase.

American policy runs the risk of feeding suspicion rather than abating it. Its challenge is that two rigid and apocalyptic blocs are confronting each other: a Sunni bloc consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; and the Shiite bloc comprising Iran, the Shiite sector of Iraq with Baghdad as its capital, the Shiite south of Lebanon under Hezbollah control facing Israel, and the Houthi portion of Yemen, completing the encirclement of the Sunni world. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be treated as your friend no longer applies. For in the contemporary Middle East, it is likely that the enemy of your enemy remains your enemy.

A great deal depends on how the parties interpret recent events. Can the disillusionment of some of our Sunni allies be mitigated? How will Iran’s leaders interpret the nuclear accord once implemented—as a near-escape from potential disaster counseling a more moderate course, returning Iran to an international order? Or as a victory in which they have achieved their essential aims against the opposition of the U.N. Security Council, having ignored American threats and, hence, as an incentive to continue Tehran’s dual approach as both a legitimate state and a nonstate movement challenging the international order?

Two-power systems are prone to confrontation, as was demonstrated in Europe in the run-up to World War I. Even with traditional weapons technology, to sustain a balance of power between two rigid blocs requires an extraordinary ability to assess the real and potential balance of forces, to understand the accumulation of nuances that might affect this balance, and to act decisively to restore it whenever it deviates from equilibrium—qualities not heretofore demanded of an America sheltered behind two great oceans.

But the current crisis is taking place in a world of nontraditional nuclear and cyber technology. As competing regional powers strive for comparable threshold capacity, the nonproliferation regime in the Middle East may crumble. If nuclear weapons become established, a catastrophic outcome is nearly inevitable. A strategy of pre-emption is inherent in the nuclear technology. The U.S. must be determined to prevent such an outcome and apply the principle of nonproliferation to all nuclear aspirants in the region.
Too much of our public debate deals with tactical expedients. What we need is a strategic concept and to establish priorities on the following principles:

• So long as ISIS survives and remains in control of a geographically defined territory, it will compound all Middle East tensions. Threatening all sides and projecting its goals beyond the region, it freezes existing positions or tempts outside efforts to achieve imperial jihadist designs. The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who has already lost over half of the area he once controlled. Making sure that this territory does not become a permanent terrorist haven must have precedence. The current inconclusive U.S. military effort risks serving as a recruitment vehicle for ISIS as having stood up to American might.

• The U.S. has already acquiesced in a Russian military role. Painful as this is to the architects of the 1973 system, attention in the Middle East must remain focused on essentials. And there exist compatible objectives. In a choice among strategies, it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadist or imperial forces. For Russia, limiting its military role to the anti-ISIS campaign may avoid a return to Cold War conditions with the U.S.

• The reconquered territories should be restored to the local Sunni rule that existed there before the disintegration of both Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty. The sovereign states of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt and Jordan, should play a principal role in that evolution. After the resolution of its constitutional crisis, Turkey could contribute creatively to such a process.

• As the terrorist region is being dismantled and brought under nonradical political control, the future of the Syrian state should be dealt with concurrently. A federal structure could then be built between the Alawite and Sunni portions. If the Alawite regions become part of a Syrian federal system, a context will exist for the role of Mr. Assad, which reduces the risks of genocide or chaos leading to terrorist triumph.

• The U.S. role in such a Middle East would be to implement the military assurances in the traditional Sunni states that the administration promised during the debate on the Iranian nuclear agreement, and which its critics have demanded.

• In this context, Iran’s role can be critical. The U.S. should be prepared for a dialogue with an Iran returning to its role as a Westphalian state within its established borders.

The U.S. must decide for itself the role it will play in the 21st century; the Middle East will be our most immediate—and perhaps most severe—test. At question is not the strength of American arms but rather American resolve in understanding and mastering a new world.

Mr. Kissinger served as national-security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Two Muslim Brothers Who Took the Assimilation Path. By Kenan Trebincevic

Two Muslim Brothers Who Took the Assimilation Path. By Kenan Trebincevic
The Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2013, on page A11

'I hope they're not Muslim," I told my brother, Eldin, when we first saw the pictures of the Boston bombers. We soon found out that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev shared our religion, as we'd dreaded, when my Jewish college roommate jokingly texted: "Hey, would you please tell your people to stop blowing things up?"

I laughed, in sadness, but soon felt completely unnerved by how much the Tsarnaevs' story mirrored our own. My brother and I were born six years apart, and we're two foreign-born-and-named, athletic, Islamic brothers from difficult backgrounds in Eastern Europe, where we had experienced persecution and then been generously taken in by Americans. The 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed in the police shootout, was the eldest, strong-minded child, like Eldin. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now in a federal medical detention center in Massachusetts, looked up to his sibling, as I always looked up to my strong-minded brother.

Boxing is big in Chechnya and nearby regions where the Tsarnaev family has its roots, and the brothers excelled in the sport, like their father. Martial arts are big in the Balkans, where we're from. Our dad owned a gym in our hometown of Brčko, Bosnia, where he trained athletes and where Eldin and I won brown belts and awards for karate.

The Tsarneavs were caught in the confusing war between Chechnya and Russia that erupted in 1999, and they wound up emigrating in 2003 to Cambridge, Mass. Caught in the bloody war between Bosnia and Serbia, factions of the former Yugoslavia, my family moved to Westport, Conn., in 1993.

Like the Tsarnaevs' father, our father suffered setbacks to his career in America, and to his health. While Anzor Tsarnaev reportedly toiled as a mechanic for $10 an hour, our dad, Senahid, slung poultry at a fast-food chicken place and took other low-paying jobs. While the Tsarnaevs' mother, Zubeidat, did facials at a Boston spa and later at their home to make ends meet, my mother, Adisa, baby-sat and found work at a data-processing firm. We too had little money, and it was hard to get jobs without connections or language skills.

Yet the Tsarnaev boys became angry, alienated young men who never quite assimilated into their new country (Tamerlan said on Twitter: "I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them"), while my brother and I made many friends in the U.S. and wound up on the more successful side of the American dream.

There is a well-documented connection between unhappy, disenfranchised immigrants who can't connect and crime and terrorism. When I first moved here at age 13 I felt as lost, estranged and resentful as Tamerlan Tsarnaev appeared to be. In the days since the Boston bombing, I kept comparing Eldin's and my circumstances with the Tsarnaevs' to see where our paths diverged and what saved us from becoming embittered.

I was struck by news accounts that the Tsarnaev parents moved back to Russia, where they separated two years ago. One of their daughters lived in New Jersey, and she admitted that she hadn't spoken to her brothers in years. I was fortunate that my immediate family of four stayed together, first in Connecticut until my mother died of cancer in 2007, then in Queens, N.Y., where my father, brother and I now live blocks away from each other.

Even when I moved into my college dorm room at the University of Hartford and Eldin moved to the Stony Brook campus in Long Island, we spoke to our mother, father and each other daily—either by cellphone or email. I'm convinced that remaining a close-knit family kept my brother and me saner and safer. The Tsarnaev family, by contrast, seemed constantly roiled—by war, immigration, work and financial difficulties, serious illness and a marriage breakup. Throw in radical religion and, in retrospect, it seems a recipe for disaster.

Perhaps because my family survived the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans to wipe out Muslims, my family members—unlike Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother—did not seek solace with any specific religious figure or house of worship. While we remained proud of our heritage, we were sponsored by the Interfaith Council in Connecticut, a group of liberal churches and synagogues.

When we arrived in 1993 at JFK airport, we were met by the Rev. Don Hodges, a Methodist minister. He drove us to his Westport home, where we stayed for four months. It's not surprising or wrong for immigrants to deepen their focus on religion in a strange land. But I would speculate that in our case we felt such gratitude to the people of differing faiths who helped us that our chances of assimilating, and succeeding, in America were enhanced.

When my mother found a lump in her breast, the late surgeon Dr. Malcolm Beinfeld at Norwalk Hospital operated on her. Dr. Beinfeld, who was Jewish, told us that the Bosnian genocide against Muslims reminded him of the Holocaust. We never received a bill for the surgery or for my mother's subsequent radiation and chemotherapy.

A Protestant dentist, Richard Sands, asked my mother: "What does your son need?" At 13, I was taken to an orthodontist who gave me braces and took care of me for two years. I was embarrassed but deeply grateful that he never asked for a dime.

On my first day of school in Westport, Dr. Glenn Hightower, the principal, and a member of Mr. Hodges's church, introduced me to the seventh-grade English class with his arm draped around my shoulders. He explained that my family had been exiled in the Bosnian war, and he asked the other students to help me out. I had a foreign name, strange accent and could barely speak the language. I felt scared and pathetic, like a mutt waiting to be adopted. I was immediately befriended by Miguel Peman, a Catholic Spanish-American student, who offered me a seat.

When the school-bus driver who drove me home noticed that I had a long walk to Mr. Hodges's house, he introduced himself as Offir, from Israel, and dropped me off right at the driveway, making me promise not to tell anyone. Later, my Greek Orthodox soccer coach, Ted Popadoupolis, gave me rides to practices and games when my parents couldn't.

My brother and I didn't pursue sports with the dreams of Olympic glory that Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently did. At schools in Westport, Norwalk and Hartford, a series of teachers and mentors helped us formulate a realistic career plan. They geared us toward a more feasible field than sports stardom: physical therapy.

We didn't experience the sort of disappointment and resentment that Tamerlan seems to have endured when his boxing dream went sour. Instead, sports teams gave us a sense of belonging.

Since my athletic father was a health nut, under his strong influence, my brother and I steered clear of the alcohol and drugs that seem to have plagued the Tsarnaevs—and might have fueled depression and hopelessness that, I would guess, twisted their judgment.

It is impossible to know what went on in someone else's childhood or what is happening in another's mind or heart. The Tsarnaevs took one path. My brother and I, despite our family's war displacement, persecution and years of poverty, thrived—but only with stable parents by our side, good jobs and help from many and diverse guardian angels. During a dark week, it was easy to forget that countless immigrants to America have similar stories to tell.

Mr. Trebincevic, a physical therapist who lives in Queens, is the coauthor, with Susan Shapiro, of "The Bosnia List," to be published by Viking next year.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some Root Causes of the Arab Revolution: Rising Literacy and a Shrinking Birth Rate (due to the first)

A Look at the Root Causes of the Arab Revolution. Spiegel interview with Emannuel Todd,1518,763537,00.html
May 20, 2011

Rising Literacy and a Shrinking Birth Rate


SPIEGEL: Aren't poverty or affluence also crucial? Tunisia, Syria, Egypt and Yemen don't have bubbling oil revenues.

Todd: Of course, one can placate the people with bread and money, but only for a while. Revolutions usually erupt during phases of cultural growth and economic downturn. For me, as a demographer, the key variable is not the per capita gross domestic product but the literacy rate. The British historian Lawrence Stone pointed out this relationship in his study of the English revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries. He saw the critical threshold at 40 to 60 percent.

SPIEGEL: Well, most young Arabs can now read and write, but how is the birth rate actually developing? The population in Arab countries is extremely young, with half of its citizens younger than 25.

Todd: Yes, but that's because the previous generation had so many children. In the meantime, however, the birth rate is falling dramatically in some cases. It has fallen by half in the Arab world in just one generation, from 7.5 children per woman in 1975 to 3.5 in 2005. The birth rate among female university graduates is just below 2.1, the level needed to maintain a population. Tunisia now has a birth rate similar to that of France. In Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt, it has dropped below the magic threshold of three children per woman. This means that young adults constitute the majority of the population and, unlike their fathers and mothers, they can read and write, and they also practice contraception. But they suffer from unemployment and social frustration. It isn't surprising that unrest was inevitable in this part of world.


SPIEGEL: Why has it taken so long for the values of the modern age to reach the Islamic world? After all, the golden age of Arab civilization ended in the 13th century.

Todd: There is a simple explanation, which has the benefit of also being applicable to northern India and China, that is, to three completely differently religious communities: Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism. It has to do with the structure of the traditional family in these regions, with its debasement and with the disenfranchisement of women. And in Mesopotamia, for example, it extends well into the pre-Islamic world. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, granted women far more rights than they have had in most Arab societies to this day.

SPIEGEL: Does that mean that the Arabs conformed to older local circumstances and spread them across the entire Middle East?

Todd: Yes. The patrilinear, patrilocal system, in which only male succession is considered valid and newlyweds, preferably cousins in the ideal Arab marriage, live under the roof and authority of the father, inhibits all social progress. The disenfranchisement of women deprives them of the ability to raise their children in a progressive, dynamic fashion. Society calcifies and, in a sense, falls asleep. The powers of the individual cannot develop. The bourgeois achievement of marriage for love, and the free choice of one's partner, replaced the hierarchies of honor in Europe in the 19th century and reinforced the desire for freedom.

SPIEGEL: Is female emancipation the prerequisite for modernization in the Arab world?

Todd: It's in full swing. The headscarf debate is missing the point. The number of marriages between cousins is dropping just as spectacularly as the birth rate, thereby blasting away a barrier. The free individual or active citizen can enter the public arena. When more than 90 percent of young people can read and write and have a modicum of education, no traditional authoritarian regime will last for long. Have you noticed how many women are marching along in the protests? Even in Yemen, the most backward country in the Arab world, thousands of women were among the protesters.

SPIEGEL: The family is the private sphere par excellence. Why do changes in its structure necessarily spread to the political sphere?

Todd: The relationship between those at the top and those at the bottom is changing. When the authority of fathers begins to falter, political power generally collapses, as well. This is because the system of the patrilinear, endogamous extended family has been reproduced within the leadership of nations. The family patriarch as head of state places his sons and other male relatives in positions of power. Political dynasties develop, as in the case of the senior and junior Assad in Syria. Corruption flourishes because the clan runs things for its own benefit. The state is of course privatized as a family business. The power of obedience is based on a combination of loyalty, repression and political economics.

h/t ‘A Convergence of Civilizations’,

Francis Fukuyama said very much this same thing in 1999, The Great Disruption. I don't know if he did it independently.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Physics of Terror

The Physics of Terror. By Miller Haederle

After studying four decades of terrorism, Aaron Clauset thinks he’s found mathematical patterns that can help governments prevent and prepare for major terror attacks. The U.S. government seems to agree.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Gift to the Obama Presidency - Bush lawyers were protecting the executive's power to fight a vigorous war on terror

My Gift to the Obama Presidency. By JOHN YOO
Though the White House won't want to admit it, Bush lawyers were protecting the executive's power to fight a vigorous war on terror.
WSJ, Feb 24, 2010

Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.

He sure didn't make it easy. When Mr. Obama took office a year ago, receiving help from one of the lawyers involved in the development of George W. Bush's counterterrorism policies was the furthest thing from his mind. Having won a great electoral victory, the new president promised a quick about-face. He rejected "as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" and moved to restore the law-enforcement system as the first line of defense against a hardened enemy devoted to killing Americans.

In office only one day, Mr. Obama ordered the shuttering of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, followed later by the announcement that he would bring terrorists to an Illinois prison. He terminated the Central Intelligence Agency's ability to use "enhanced interrogations techniques" to question al Qaeda operatives. He stayed the military trial, approved by Congress, of al Qaeda leaders. He ultimately decided to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of the 9/11 attacks, to a civilian court in New York City, and automatically treated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, as a criminal suspect (not an illegal enemy combatant). Nothing better could have symbolized the new president's determination to take us back to a Sept. 10, 2001, approach to terrorism.

Part of Mr. Obama's plan included hounding those who developed, approved or carried out Bush policies, despite the enormous pressures of time and circumstance in the months immediately after the September 11 attacks. Although career prosecutors had previously reviewed the evidence and determined that no charges are warranted, last year Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a new prosecutor to re-investigate the CIA's detention and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders.

In my case, he let loose the ethics investigators of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) to smear my reputation and that of Jay Bybee, who now sits as a federal judge on the court of appeals in San Francisco. Our crime? While serving in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the weeks and months after 9/11, we answered in the form of memoranda extremely difficult questions from the leaders of the CIA, the National Security Council and the White House on when interrogation methods crossed the line into prohibited acts of torture.

Rank bias and sheer incompetence infused OPR's investigation. OPR attorneys, for example, omitted a number of precedents that squarely supported the approach in the memoranda and undermined OPR's preferred outcome. They declared that no Americans have a right of self-defense against a criminal prosecution, not even when they or their government agents attempt to stop terrorist attacks on the United States. OPR claimed that Congress enjoyed full authority over wartime strategy and tactics, despite decades of Justice Department opinions and practice defending the president's commander-in-chief power. They accused us of violating ethical standards without ever defining them. They concocted bizarre conspiracy theories about which they never asked us, and for which they had no evidence, even though we both patiently—and with no legal obligation to do so—sat through days of questioning.

OPR's investigation was so biased, so flawed, and so beneath the Justice Department's own standards that last week the department's ranking civil servant and senior ethicist, David Margolis, completely rejected its recommendations.

Attorney General Holder could have stopped this sorry mess earlier, just as his predecessor had tried to do. OPR slow-rolled Attorney General Michael Mukasey by refusing to deliver a draft of its report until the 2008 Christmas and New Year holidays. OPR informed Mr. Mukasey of its intention to release the report on Jan. 12, 2009, without giving me or Judge Bybee the chance to see it—as was our right and as we'd been promised.

Mr. Mukasey and Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip found so many errors in the report that they told OPR that the entire enterprise should be abandoned. OPR decided to run out the clock and push the investigation into the lap of the Obama administration. It would have been easy for Mr. Holder to concur with his predecessors—in fact, it was critical that he do so to preserve the Justice Department's impartiality. Instead the new attorney general let OPR's investigators run wild. Only Mr. Margolis's rejection of the OPR report last week forced the Obama administration to drop its ethics charges against Bush legal advisers.

Why bother fighting off an administration hell-bent on finding scapegoats for its policy disagreements with the last president? I could have easily decided to hide out, as others have. Instead, I wrote numerous articles (several published in this newspaper) and three books explaining and defending presidential control of national security policy. I gave dozens of speeches and media appearances, where I confronted critics of the administration's terrorism policies. And, most importantly, I was lucky to receive the outstanding legal counsel of Miguel Estrada, one of the nation's finest defense attorneys, to attack head-on and without reservation, each and every one of OPR's mistakes, misdeeds and acts of malfeasance.

I did not do this to win any popularity contests, least of all those held in the faculty lounge. I did it to help our president—President Obama, not Bush. Mr. Obama is fighting three wars simultaneously in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against al Qaeda. He will call upon the men and women serving under his command to make choices as hard as the ones we faced. They cannot meet those challenges with clear minds if they believe that a bevy of prosecutors, congressional committees and media critics await them when they return from the battlefield.

This is no idle worry. In 2005, a Navy Seal team dropped into Afghanistan encountered goat herders who clearly intended to inform the Taliban of their whereabouts. The team leader ordered them released, against his better military judgment, because of his worries about the media and political attacks that would follow.

In less than an hour, more than 80 Taliban fighters attacked and killed all but one member of the Seal team and 16 Americans on a helicopter rescue mission. If a president cannot, or will not, protect the men and women who fight our nation's wars, they will follow the same risk-averse attitudes that invited the 9/11 attacks in the first place.

Without a vigorous commander-in-chief power at his disposal, Mr. Obama will struggle to win any of these victories. But that is where OPR, playing a junior varsity CIA, wanted to lead us. Ending the Justice Department's ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president's constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.

Mr. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was a Justice Department official from 2001-03. He is the author, among other books, of "Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush" (Kaplan, 2010).

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tackling Insurgency

Tackling Insurgency. By K C Dixit
IDSA, Dec 29, 2009

Military operations must aim at creating a sense of security by preventing insurgent depredations on the people, and forcing misguided elements to seek an honourable negotiated settlement. Our conventional training philosophy, which is based on dehumanizing a man, motivating him with an ardent regimental spirit and building in him a very specific image bordering on arrogance and flamboyance, is not ideally suited to carry out counter-insurgency operations. Thus, changes in attitudes are mandatory to achieve the primary objective of winning over the hearts and minds of the people. But sudden transitions are always difficult to manage, since it will often mean discarding conventional military wisdom. In fact, military hawks usually term it as appeasement or a live and let live approach adopted by weak-kneed commanders. Hence, reorientation training for counter insurgency environment is mandatory both for political masters and the army.

Even at the tactical level, there is scope for refinement. It must be remembered that during the conduct of operations, tactical successes are necessary to retain initiative, to maintain morale and motivational levels of own troops and to force the insurgents to remain always on the run. But if tactical operations are executed in an uncontrolled manner, they directly contribute to the achievement of insurgent strategy of creating a sea of hostility. Thus, there exists a contradiction. We must accept that fighting back is a fundamental human instinct, and even soldiers will retaliate in self defence if their own survival is threatened by insurgents and their supporters, notwithstanding clear directives to field commanders to attempt apprehension of hostiles first, and open fire when hostiles resist or attempt escape. Anyone will retaliate, if their own survival is at stake. Therefore, it must be emphasized during training that security forces are carrying out extremely delicate tasks under serious tactical constraints. Patience and perseverance are the prime requirements in such scenarios. Also security forces must develop consummate, calculative and deft, tactical, psychological and political sophistication to come up with correct answers to numerous unforeseen situations that can crop up in an insurgency environment; be it during ambushes, or search operations, or interrogation of hostiles or their supporters, or innocent civilians. Unfortunately, it is unrealistic and impractical to produce templates for application.

We need to re-confirm if employment of army using conventional concepts and infantry tactics but with restrictions on the use of fire power is the only answer? Obviously, the answer to the problem, particularly in the initial stages of insurgency, is the first step and must start with the identification of the problem and accurate visualization of pattern of insurgent operations to include their initial, intermediate and final objectives. Furthermore, their capabilities must be accurately reviewed and tasks likely to be executed correctly identified. Of course, the overall aim of all clandestine and subversive activities would be to expand their influence over people by attraction or coercion with a view to assert their credibility in the minds of masses and to gain initiative in the military field. Expressed in terms of tasks, all insurgent activities include: guerilla operations to acquire military capability and ascendancy, recruitment to expand politico-military base, tax and ration collection to sustain expanding capability, selective killings to coerce non-partisans to extend support and political initiatives to gain and widen external and internal support. Perforce, security forces’ tactical operations must be designed to combat such insurgent activities with least inconvenience to the people and contain insurgency. Therefore, counter insurgency operations automatically include: population control and denial, psychological operations, civic action programmes and search, ambush and raid missions to isolate and capture insurgents and destroy their camps. In such a complex situation, conduct of uncontrolled operations usually results in real and contrived excesses and loss of credibility. Thus, ironically excessive use of military force by uninitiated commanders and troops will always be counter-productive and must never be attempted.

To amplify further, general cordon and search operations are usually counter-productive and need to be replaced by selective cordon and search operations conducted on the basis of real time actionable intelligence, to prevent causing avoidable harassment and humiliation to people. Furthermore, excessive employment of road opening parties, convoy escorts and other security measures, particularly curfew restrictions, though defensive by nature, are not only counter-productive but also offer lucrative targets to the insurgents to inflict casualties and achieve their overall strategy. Therefore tactical operational activity should only be directed at insurgents and their active collaborators/ sympathizers with least disturbance caused to neutral and friendly people. Of course, intelligence capability will be the most vital Key Result Area to conduct such operations. Logic automatically dictates employment of special forces, operating from designated firm bases, to launch surprise strikes aimed at capturing maximum number of insurgents and arms or destroying their camps, vis-à-vis conduct of large scale and un-controlled operations during the initial stage. However, during later stages of insurgency, if guerrilla activity gets widespread, there is a need to move into open conventional warfare. In both situations, the army will be forced to counter insurgent activity adopting conventional tactics with restricted fire power, but once again supported by a psychological warfare effort. The overall object will continue to remain winning over the hearts and mind of the people.

Commanders and troops must understand that they are operating in a ‘No Win’ situation and their overall aim will always remain achievement of a more perfect peace. It simply implies that there is no such thing as a quick military victory. Conduct of counter-insurgency campaigns will invariably extend over a number of years. None should attempt to achieve ‘quick-end’ results, particularly by excessive use of force. Excessive use of force is counter-productive and must be avoided. Patience, perseverance, warmth and genuineness must be displayed by totally committed, dedicated and motivated leadership at all levels. Undeniably, counter-insurgency environment demands a very high order intellectual acumen unimagined ever before in conventional setting. Since it is a ‘No Win’ situation, performance evaluation may not be based on head count of number of insurgents captured/ destroyed and weapons captured or on number of hearts and minds won over. At the same time there is no room for ‘Zero Error’ or ‘live and let live’ approach to the problem. Such is the nerve racking complexity of the problem that the need for ensuring correct type of mental conditioning at all levels assumes vital significance. Fighting insurgency in this backdrop tends to create tremendous pressure on the minds of security forces’ personnel due to contradictory requirements and as such needs to be addressed appropriately at various levels.

Inside Our 'Secret' Afghan Prisons - A Navy SEAL and a Harvard-trained lawyer take charge of U.S. detention policy

Inside Our 'Secret' Afghan Prisons, by Willy Stern
A Navy SEAL and a Harvard-trained lawyer take charge of U.S. detention policy.
The Weekly Standard, Jan 04, 2010

Kabul, Afghanistan

Amanula is a cold-blooded killer. But the 26-year-old unemployed tractor driver doesn't look the part. Rail thin with spindly arms, Amanula wears his black hair long, and his unkempt bangs often hang over his eyes. When you can see them, his coal-black eyes reveal a sad and contemplative man, resigned to his fate.

Like most villagers in craggy, dirt-poor Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan, Amanula is illiterate. The local mullah in Waza Khawa encouraged this young Pashtun to join in the fight against the infidels. On a crisp day in November, Amanula and three companions rode their Honda motorbikes high into the mountains to attack an American convoy. He was already a veteran of such lethal missions and had been on three in the previous month alone. His small unit carried a lot of weaponry to the fight: dynamite, a pressure plate IED trigger, a heavy machine gun, AK-47 assault rifles, a Chinese grenade, and even a rocket launcher.

Their target was a convoy of American military vehicles snaking their way through the treacherous mountain passes not far from the Pakistan border. Amanula's team quietly set up its deadly ambush. The morning was crystal clear--and eerily quiet.

Then a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter escorting the convoy spotted Amanula's crouching team and let loose with a hail of 30-caliber machine gun fire. Within seconds, two of Amanula's accomplices were dead, sliced to bits. A bullet entered Amanula's forearm and lodged in his bicep. Dazed with pain, he clutched his AK-47 for comfort. Within minutes, he heard an American soldier--an Army sergeant actually--screaming at him in a language he didn't understand. He put his hands over his head, the universal sign of surrender. His last surviving colleague made a different choice and aimed the rocket launcher at the young American soldier. The insurgent was rapidly dispatched by the sergeant's M249 machine gun.

The sergeant faced a decision as old as war itself. He had captured an enemy combatant and had to do something with him. The options haven't changed much since Alexander the Great rampaged through Afghanistan in 329 B.C.: Let the enemy go and give him the chance to kill you tomorrow; execute him on the spot; or give him quarter and take him prisoner. In keeping with U.S. policy, the recognized laws of armed conflict, and all sense of civilized society, the sergeant took option three. In short order, he disarmed Amanula, put flex cuffs on his wrists, and gave him emergency medical care, actually stemming the bleeding by using Amanula's torn white shirt to bandage his arm. The soldier called for a Medevac helicopter and, within 35 minutes, Amanula found himself under a doctor's care at an American forward operating base, some 25 miles northward. Amanula had become a "detainee," held legally as an enduring security threat in a war zone. After his medical treatment, he was moved to a small detention facility at another forward operating base.

The facility where Amanula was held is known in military parlance as a Field Detention Site (FDS). Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have run breathless stories in recent weeks alleging that there exist secret facilities in Afghanistan operating outside the rule of law--although the correspondents were far from certain just what facilities they were writing about. No matter. "Afghans Detail Detention in 'Black Jail' at U.S. Base" read the Times's headline. The Post featured two Afghan teenagers who said they had been "beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban." Rashid, 15, claimed "his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother."

I have been in two Field Detention Sites, and there was absolutely nothing "black" about them. They are spartan, to be sure, with the detainees housed in small, private cells built out of simple plywood inside a nondescript and unlabeled container. (Many American soldiers sleep in similar containers.) The interrogation rooms are similar--a small table with three chairs, also fashioned out of plywood, much like what your local Cub Scout troop would bang out during a carpentry project.

There are five or six such cells in each facility. One site that I visited was empty; the other had a single detainee. This is typical. Detainees are given a mat, blanket, and three meals, at least one of which is hot. On one cell wall is a single piece of white paper with handwritten directions and a simple picture indicating the direction to face to pray towards Mecca. On another wall is part of the Geneva Conventions translated into Dari and Pashto. A prayer mat and bottled water are provided. Detainees are given medical treatment. Lights stay on 24/7--there is no individual lighting for each cell--but that practice is common in any U.S. prison where there is need for frequent safety and security checks. (The one detainee I saw was sleeping soundly on a cushioned mat, under a thick brown blanket, despite the lights being on. A half-drunk bottle of water and his white Kandahari hat were on the floor, next to his shoes.)

Amanula's testimony contrasts with the stories in the Times and Post. Amanula was given a private room at the FDS--while his American captors slept in bunk beds, 20-to-a-canvas tent--and interviewed thoroughly by a trained Army interrogator, working through an Afghan translator. The interrogator hardly looked like a U.S. soldier; he wore jeans, longish hair, and a thick beard. Under questioning in accord with Army Field Manual rules, Amanula provided his captors with a wealth of intelligence about other terrorist cells operating in the area. He gave up the names of specific Taliban members in the region, details of the techniques used by the insurgents, even mullahs and mosques who were working with the Taliban.

Within a few days, Amanula was relocated to a larger detention facility, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF). Located on Bagram Airfield, the large military base north of Kabul at the base of the Hindu Kush, the BTIF sits inside a large yellow hangar built by the Soviets in the early 1980s. Last week the BTIF was closed, and all detainees transferred to the new $60 million Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP)--also located at Bagram.

So why are the mainstream media, human rights groups, and civil libertarians all bent out of shape about the Field Detention Sites? Attribute it to the secrecy. The locations of the FDSs are secret. This is just plain common sense in a war zone. How else can you maintain operational security? Why tell the bad guys--who, after all, are trying to kill our soldiers--where their friends are being held? Some of these facilities are out in the hinterlands where our forces are stretched thin. Public knowledge of the FDS locations would put both our soldiers and the detainees at risk. But for reporters from the Times and the Post, secrecy means there must be something illegal going on.

But the Defense Department takes the secrecy a little too far, generally not allowing any media access to the facilities or even letting them be discussed on-the-record. This policy breeds conspiracy theories, gives rise to outlandish conjecture, and presents an alluring news hook for every muckraking scribe who is all too willing to publish detainees' uncorroborated tales of abuse.

There's a good chance that this less-than-necessary secretiveness will pass away in 2010. So far in Afghanistan the Field Detention Sites have been under the command of whichever military unit controlled that battle space. But in early January, Joint Task Force 435, a unit stood up last September and focused entirely on detentions and interrogations, will assume control over almost all of the American-run detention facilities in Afghanistan. And General Stanley McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy puts a premium on winning Afghan hearts and minds as much as defeating the Taliban on the battlefield.

An enlightened and tough, if frazzled and sleep-deprived group, Task Force 435 is heavy on scholarly attorneys and counterinsurgency gurus. Its mantras are transparency and accountability. During two weeks embedded with 435, I was taken to two "secret" Field Detention Sites, two Afghan prisons--including the infamous Pol-i-Charkhi--and a counternarcotics detention facility. I saw hundreds of detainees--not just in their cells but wandering the halls of the cell blocks and out in the recreation yards. I saw conjugal visit huts (made of hardened mud, but certainly private enough) and visited with a detainee being treated for diabetes in the medical unit.

I met dozens of detainees, was often invited back into their group cells for tea (I always declined), and made chitchat with those who had some English. Did any complain of abuse? No. Is this proof that here is no abuse? Of course not, but it's a pretty decent indicator. I was briefed on classified detainee files--on the condition that actual names not be used in print--and was allowed to interview a wide array of prison employees, including interrogators, guards, wardens, and even a psychologist. Most of these interviews were unmonitored, including on-the-record and unofficial talks with two translators who work in the interrogation rooms. I asked for details on a juvenile detainee, and they were immediately provided. Planned trips to visit prisons in Herat and Kandahar were cancelled because of bad weather and the limitations military aircraft face with low cloud cover hanging over the Afghan mountain ranges.

The brain trust of this new openness is Vice Admiral Bob Harward, who heads up Task Force 435, and his deputy, Brigadier General Mark Martins. Harward, a hard-charging Navy SEAL, is a legend in the Special Forces community. (He has a long scar down his left cheek--"from a knife fight" he says without elaborating.) An engaging commander, Harward, 53, cusses like the sailor he is when hanging with the troops but can produce an admiral's spit-and-polish when needed--an engaging combination in a commander. He seems not to have an ounce of body fat and combines decent Farsi with a strategic mind.

Martins, 49, is another hard-charger. He was valedictorian of his West Point class, a Rhodes Scholar who earned a First at Oxford, and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. The Seal and the Solicitor are less of an odd couple than one might think. For one, they are both gifted athletes (Martins has run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2:44) and exude an easy command presence. And they urgently want to upgrade the detentions and interrogations situation in Afghanistan. As Harward notes: "Perception is reality."

They both talk a lot about transparency--you hear that word about 50 times a day--but aren't able fully to practice what they preach. Official DoD policy mostly prohibits taking media into the large detention facility at Bagram, and does not allow public discussion of the even more secretive detention facility at Bagram: the Temporary Screening Facility (TSF). The Joint Special Operations Command apparently controls the TSF today; there's been no public indication to date when or how it will come under Task Force 435's oversight. Asked how he can preach transparency and yet not oversee the TSF, Harward declines to even acknowledge the facility's existence. Instead, he says, "I've been made responsible for all detention operations in Afghanistan, and I fully intend to fulfill that mission." There's little doubt that Harward and Martins are lobbying tactfully behind the scenes to gain oversight of the facility.

And make no mistake: Task Force 435's mission is essential. General Stanley McChrystal laid out the issue fairly starkly in his August assessment of the Afghan war:

There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Unchecked, Taliban/Al Qaeda leaders patiently coordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military.

Detainees have cell phones, money, and influence. They control wide swaths of the Afghan prisons today, and they are radicalizing the other inmates.


Despite the regular flow of stories about torture and black sites, few members of the press have been inside any of the Afghan prisons or attempted to understand the country's detainee structure. There are four separate parts to it, which in theory can take an insurgent from the battlefield through rehabilitation back into society: the Field Detention Sites; the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, which has just been replaced by the DFIP; the Temporary Screening Facility; and the Afghan-run correctional system.

There are nine FDSs in Afghanistan, mostly located in the southern and eastern parts of the country, where the insurgency is strongest. They are on forward operating bases, residing in unmarked containers. Scores of soldiers walk by them every day and have no idea what's on the other side of the metal wall. They all have a small entrance area where IDs are checked. In addition to five or six cells--divided by no more than a thick piece of plywood--most have a medical room, an open area, a small recreation yard, and an interview room. Adjacent to the interview room is another small room with a one-way mirror for observation purposes.

The interrogators, who all work in plainclothes, have done intensive 18-week interrogation courses and stick to the 19 approved methods of interrogation in the Army Field Manual (the law since the Detainee Treatment Act was passed in 2005). None of these methods includes torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. This gets hammered home hard throughout the American-run prisons.

The Red Cross can visit these facilities but does not have access to the detainees. Many of the detainees are released after initial interrogations and screenings to determine their status. The U.S. military has no obligation at this point to report their whereabouts to the Red Cross, but if they are held longer, the Red Cross is informed.

Nobody displays names or ranks on their uniforms inside an FDS. Special Forces operators, whose work is often clouded in secrecy and who use fake names, even with a visiting general, staff many of the tiny facilities. But "we have absolutely nothing to hide from anybody," says Colonel John Garrity, the straight-talking military police officer in charge of the large Bagram detention facility, as well as the man responsible for investigating any charges of abuse at the FDSs.

I'm not supposed to talk policy but if I had my way, we'd open up every damn facility to the media and anybody else who wanted to have a look. These are quality facilities run by trained professionals. You'll find worse problems at prisons in the U.S., but the secrecy here creates crazy myths. We have nothing--absolutely nothing--to hide from anybody. I am proud of our facilities and so would anybody else who has spent time inside them.

The policy of secrecy is clearly eating away at Colonel Garrity--and with good reason.

The average stay of a detainee at an FDS is six days. Some are released almost immediately, others are transferred to the Afghan police, and the rest begin moving within 10 days to the larger facilities at Bagram. Amanula was transferred to Bagram seven days after surrendering.


Until last week, when the DFIP came on line, detainees sent to Bagram went to the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF). This facility held about 720 detainees. By comparison, at the height of the 2007 surge, we had some 27,000 detainees locked up in Iraq, and during the British campaign in Malaya from 1948 to 1960--the counterinsurgency oft cited as the most successful--nearly half-a-million people from a much smaller population pool were detained.

The BTIF was actually two facilities enclosed in one space behind walls and concertina wire. The larger of the two facilities, inside the former Soviet hangar, held two matching sets of 16 group cells (detainees sleep about 20 to a cell), as well as interrogation booths, and medical facilities. Prisoners lived in open cages with wire mesh tops for easy inspection by guards. Guards walked on a long wooden platform that runs above the cages, and a bright yellow sign on the raised platform reads "No Female Guards Beyond This Point."

In both the shuttered BTIF and the new DFIP there is at least one open latrine per cell and a group shower area with individual stalls. Detainees wear bright orange jumpsuits--making it awfully hard for them to escape unnoticed--as a sign of shame, and white caps. When it's cold (and it was cold in Afghanistan in December), they are issued blue knit caps. They have access to bottled water. When they have drunk a bottle, they may exchange it for a full one. This is a necessary security protocol as detainees have been known to cut the bottles in half and use them as weapons, or even to scoop up and throw feces at the guards. If their behavior warrants, they are rewarded with juice boxes, the same ones (apple, orange, pineapple) that are served in the dining facilities on the military base.

Prisoners have access to 40-inch HDTVs. Recently a soccer game was being shown, and when the camera panned to a crowd shot, a woman with much exposed skin came into view, jumping up and down. The shot offended many of the Muslim detainees, yet seemed to give furtive pleasure to others.

There were no windows and therefore no natural light for the detainees inside the massive BTIF hangar, a legitimate source of concern to Red Cross inspectors and a problem corrected at the new DFIP. In back of the hanger was what the troops call the "K-Span"--a hundred-foot-long Quonset hut where the hardcases were housed in segregation cells.

At least half the guards at the BTIF have had feces thrown at them, a standard way for detainees to act out, according to Chief Matthew Lacy, a Navy Guard Force commander. Corporal Kevin Johnson, 18, told me, "Yesterday, I had a guy throw urine on me, but he then apologized to me and said it was meant for another guard." (Johnson in less than five months at the BTIF has taught himself Pashto, the language of most of the detainees he looks after.) Some detainees regularly call the black MPs "niggers." The MPs, who work 12-hour shifts, complain frequently about their long hours but not about the abuse they take. They are trained not to respond to such taunting, and any claim of guard abuse is documented and investigated.

The average detainee stay at the facility is 24 months. The average weight gain is 36 pounds. For most, it is the first time in their lives they have had adequate food and access to health care. Most arrive illiterate, and many depart with elementary reading skills after taking classes in the facility. This is an effective counterinsurgency tactic; giving an insurgent the ability to read allows him access to a wider world than the narrow radical Islamic society in which most were raised. The ability to pursue independent thought should not be underestimated in this tribal society.

The clampdown on the media at Bagram hasn't just encouraged negative stories but has kept positive coverage under wraps. An internal U.S. Army document--self-serving, to be sure--reveals much decent treatment at the BTIF. There is the detainee diagnosed by an American doctor with pancreatic cancer and given compassionate release so he could spend his last days with his family. Before he left, the dying man of his own accord went from cell to cell in the facility telling his fellow detainees how decent his captors had been. Or take the young Army specialist from Missouri who oversees the segregation cells in the K-Span. He and the eight men under his care sing to each other in Pashto at bedtime, the melodies carrying through the metal cell doors. He continues his serenade each night until every detainee is asleep.

There were abuses at the BTIF in the early years of the Afghan conflict. At least two Afghans died in U.S. custody. Task Force 435 absolutely won't talk about it, but multiple interviews with other military officials, translators, private contractors, consultants, and prison experts paint a grim picture. The CIA conducted these early interrogations. Some interrogators were cowboys, and many of the military police units in the facilities in the early years were reservists--with limited training--who followed the lead of the confident CIA guys. Apparently, when CIA operators left for the day, some would tell the reservists "to soften 'em up for us before tomorrow." There is no evidence that such abuse continues today with a trained guard force.


Colonel Garrity was granted permission to show the unopened facility to the media in mid-November, and scores of articles and photos--some glowing, some skeptical--appeared. It's a modern wonder, replete with huge cells, basketball hoops in the recreation yard, expensive optometrist equipment, a state-of-the-art X-ray machine, and a large vocational-technical training area to help with the detainee's reintegration to society. In a bizarre twist, after the detainees are transferred in early 2010, they will have far nicer digs than the soldiers who guard them. The soldiers will continue to live in cramped canvas tents and walk long distances outside through mud to get to the latrine or shower.

The new facility has great public relations value and will aid the 435's quest for transparency. But the DFIP is also so overdone as to be borderline ridiculous. The ultimate plan is to hand over management of the facility to the Afghans, and it's a safe bet that the power tools and medical equipment will quickly be stolen and sold. What are the chances that the modern surveillance cameras and integrated computer system will still work in 10 years in this third-world country where many farmers still use oxen and Iron Age tools? A clear sign that the facility is not sustainable: The power outlets at the 40-acre facility run on the American 110-volt system, not the Afghan grid.

The detainees at the DFIP are carefully screened. A small fraction--the hard cases--are being designated for fledgling deradicalization programs. Experts are studying similar programs in places like Saudi Arabia and Singapore to adapt them for the Afghan culture. Reintegration programs--vocational training, literacy programs, etc.--will be broadly administered to almost the entire population according to individual plans drawn up for each detainee.

"But reintegration plans are still very much in the early stages," reports Marisa Porges, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations with an expertise in the rehabilitation of terrorists. She's just back from visiting the facilities in Afghanistan. Efforts are underway, says Porges, "to both design and implement programs simultaneously, which is a good sign and shows they're being aggressive." For example, moderate mullahs are working with the detainees.


This is the site that doesn't officially exist. Nobody on Task Force 435 will acknowledge it. No matter. It does exist, and it is at Bagram Airfield. It's the controversial facility over which Admiral Harward is apparently seeking jurisdiction.

The TSF, though, is hardly as sinister as it sounds. Military operations in Afghanistan legitimately require what is essentially a way station for detainees who are being screened before they are released or transferred (either to the large Bagram detention facility or directly to the Afghan prison system). It is here that Special Operations Forces interrogate detainees, just as they do at the Field Detention Sites. The Joint Special Forces Command, which reportedly runs the secret facility, is less interested in transparency than in maintaining operational and tactical secrecy in wartime. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue, a fact not lost on Harward or Martins. While transparency is needed to win Afghan hearts and minds and is a key component of McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy, it can also aid the insurgents by revealing surveillance techniques. (I've learned of many such techniques--clever but not illegal--in my time here.) If you were a Special Forces interrogator doing your job just fine would you really want another layer of bureaucrats--including a bunch of uptight lawyers--looking over your shoulder?

But many Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan cite disappearances into the "occupier's black jail" as a good reason to pick up an AK-47 and fight the Karzai government, or try to blow up our troops on patrol. That's the reason transparency makes good sense today. It's the smart way to stop alienating the population. The facility may be top secret but any scribe could easily confirm its existence by taking a quick look Maqaleh v. Gates, a case in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia; the government's brief appealing the decision refers quite openly to a "temporary screening and processing" facility.


After capture and screening, many detainees are transferred into the Afghan criminal justice system for prosecution. I visited three Afghan-run prisons--Pol-i-Charkhi in eastern Kabul just beyond the Kabul River; the Jalalabad Prison in eastern Afghanistan on the corridor leading to the Khyber Pass; and Kabul's new Counter-Narcotics Justice Center.

Compare Pol-i-Charkhi or Jalalabad with a prison in Kentucky and the Afghan facilities look downright awful. Prisoners are cramped up to 18 to a small cell. The sewage system is often no more than a hole in the floor to an open trench, reliant on gravity to move the mess downhill and away from the cells. Hundreds of people were lined up outside Pol-i-Charkhi on visiting day, many with wheelbarrows piled high with food since food service inside is largely nil. At the Jalalabad Prison, the inmates sleep inside but the guards are forced to sleep outside, even in the snow, due to lack of funds to build even a single guard shack.

But compare these facilities with prisons in Africa or elsewhere in central Asia, and they look okay. There are lots of Americans floating around the facilities--corrections consultants hired by the State Department and even U.S. marshals with crew cuts and blue windbreakers. They work hard to assure proper standards. And there isn't any evidence of the torture, beatings, whippings, and rape that are standard fare in third-world prisons.

Pol-i-Charkhi has a past. It's estimated that the Afghan Communists executed 27,000 people in this hellhole--mostly political enemies--after the Soviet invasion in 1979. The main facility is built on a pin-wheel design, with the cell units forming the spokes of the wheel. I walked through one such block where the general population was housed, as well as through an open recreation yard. Dozens of prisoners could have easily walked up and attacked me. Instead, they wanted to shake hands and share tea.

To be sure, there is a separate facility at Pol-i-Charkhi, called the U-10, where the most dangerous prisoners are held. It is here that you'll find the Taliban leaders who led a riot and took over two cell blocks in 2008. Still even these violent prisoners wander freely around their cell block, meandering among the bright red garbage cans that dot the long second-floor hallway. The day I visited, several wanted to practice their English; they were polite, to be sure--and no doubt knew the consequences of creating trouble. The U-10 facility is on par with any maximum-security prison in the United States, in large part because Western contractors built it, and U.S. taxpayers fund it. It's worth noting the United States has already spent $16 million to refurbish and update Pol-i-Charkhi, one cell block at a time. Construction of a vocational tech-training center--part of Task Force 435's reintegration strategy--was underway when I visited.

There are bright spots in the Afghan system. The women's prison at Jalalabad is spacious, with doe-eyed children frolicking in the courtyard on a blue swing set, slide, and seesaw. There's also a small classroom and a huge pile of American toys--think Spiderman dolls--donated by aid groups in the United States.

Then there's the recently built Counter-Narcotics Justice Center. Inmates sleep two-to-a-room on bunk beds, and every cell has its own semi-private bathroom area. The cells I saw were clean--with toothbrushes and toothpaste left out on a shelf. A modern kitchen and industrial-sized laundry round out the facility. The recreation yard, though, isn't much to see. It's outdoors, to be sure, but is nothing more than a long narrow cage where detainees squatted on their haunches, huddled under wool blankets to ward off the winter air. Still, the facility is so nice that many accused criminals with political connections pull strings to win admission.

Corruption is a constant aspect of the Afghan prison system. Sarah Chayes, author of a brilliant book on the guileful nature of Afghan politics post-Taliban, Punishment of Virtue, believes that corruption takes at least three forms in the prison system. (Chayes, who has lived in Kandahar for the last seven years working to rebuild homes and establish an agricultural collective, serves as a special adviser to the NATO military command.) First of all, she says, top Afghan officials strive to have their rivals or enemies sent to prison and the best way of achieving this is by deliberately providing inaccurate information to international military or intelligence officers. Second, imprisonment in Afghanistan is often simply a kidnapping racket, with releases obtained for a "bribe." Finally, Chayes notes that corrupt officials and other criminals with ties to those at the summit of the Afghan government use their pull to get out of jail.

Task Force 435 has no real power within the Afghan prison system, and so the corruption will remain. Another weak link in the chain is the corruption of the greater Afghan judicial system, notes General Martins--judges, policemen, guards, etc. But the task force must play the hand it's been dealt. They don't complain--at least not much.

One of Task Force 435's most serious challenges is in its efforts to deradicalize detainees and reintegrate them into Afghan society.

Take the case of 16-year-old Abul-Aziz--the lone juvenile in detention at BTIF today. Educated in a radical madrassa in Pakistan and effectively an orphan, he's a quick study. (When he was picked up in September, Abul-Aziz was already proficient in four languages.) It quickly became apparent that the babyfaced Abul-Aziz had regular contact with senior members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)--a terrorist group operating in Afghanistan, knew the exact location of IMU safe houses, and had received advanced combat training. Although it's legal to hold him under the laws of armed conflict, he's still just a kid. On the day he was picked up, he was trying to get his cell phone fixed and went into a village to have his photo taken before a Muslim holiday. Can he be deradicalized? This is the sort of question that Admiral Harward and General Martins are trying to tackle.

With others, there is virtually no hope of getting them to lay down their arms. Agha-Gul is a senior Taliban commander with a shaved head and thick black beard. He was nabbed in late 2005 in a Kabul taxicab with $13,000 in Euros and British pounds. A courier who traveled among Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Europe, Agha-Gul has ties to multiple attacks on coalition forces. He was entirely uncooperative during interrogations and will likely be held indefinitely as "an enduring security threat."

Since 2002, about 4,000 individuals have been detained; more than 2,500 have been released. Task Force 435 would like to release many more. General Martins can often be found in his windowless office after midnight scouring detainee files for clues that could lead to eventual reintegration. "Information that reveals apparent motives for violence," he says, "is often helpful in developing a reintegration plan or path for an individual detainee." Martins is thorough. He also looks at the circumstances of the capture, the strength of evidence, local community and tribal history, sectarian and political dimensions, the detainee's cooperation, his behavior in detention and even the willingness of his home village to have a detainee back.

But before any detainees are released, they appear before a controversial body known as a Detainee Review Board (DRB). This panel of three field-grade military officers conducts administrative hearings for each detainee. The detainee does not have access to a civilian lawyer, but is instead guided both before and during his hearing by a military officer who advocates on his behalf. Human rights groups contend this is wrong.

But as one task force officer notes:

I would hate to have on my conscience the deaths of well-intentioned but naïve civil liberties lawyers who've been beheaded by Taliban while scouring Kunar province for evidence of their clients' innocence. So we may be in for some criticism on this score in the end. There are some things that require common sense, and armed conflict is one of them.

At least a third of the nation's 34 provinces are in armed conflict. A lot of folks are getting killed. In any event, as required by law and policy, every detainee receives an in-person hearing before the DRB within 60 days of arrival at Bagram and gets a further review every six months.

The DRB is required to consider all "reasonably available" evidence, a qualifier easy to understand in a war zone where collecting evidence often exposes soldiers and Marines to getting killed. The military is also required to chase down all exculpatory leads offered by a detainee who claims he was unjustly nabbed. It's not a perfect system, but it is not a terrible one either.

How can we tell if we are winning this war? One litmus test is the complex case of a detainee named Jalaludin. Relatively well educated--he completed the 11th grade--the 35-year-old had a well-paying job as the number two officer on a security detail. His job was to protect the construction workers who were building a much-needed road through Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. This area is a stronghold of Hezb-e-Islami insurgents. (The U.S. taxpayer is funding the road, one of thousands of such reconstruction projects here that get little coverage.)

Although Jalaludin was not directly involved in attacks on coalition forces in his area, he allowed the Taliban to sneak its fighters and weapons through his security checkpoints and, worse, he had advance knowledge of terrorist attacks on coalition forces that he failed to report--hardly acceptable behavior for a top-level security officer. He was arrested based on strong evidence and quickly admitted his guilt. He now is held at the DFIP and says he desperately misses his family.

We know of Jalaludin and his uncertain future only because the new task force on detentions believes the U.S. military has nothing to hide and saw the value in opening up its doors to a visiting scribe. It's a gamble, to be sure, but a good one. In a country where virtually every issue is shrouded in uncertainty, bedeviled by deadly complexity and riddled with corruption, this much is certain: The good faith, soundness, and humanity of Joint Task Force 435's mission are unassailable. The men and women of 435 are committed to a humane and open detentions system, one that is rooted in the rule of law and grounded in basic American values.

Will these become Jalaludin's values? After all, says Martin, he wasn't

a trigger puller or actually part of the insurgent force. I've looked carefully at the evidence and spoken directly with Jalaludin. I think he's an accidental guerrilla, someone drawn into the larger conflict by influences that have little to do with the larger political struggle.

Martins thinks Jalaludin is "an important case study" since "he appears to represent a class of current detainees who, if swayed not to oppose the government, could be decisive in isolating insurgent groups and ending the armed conflict."

Ultimately, this broader conflict will be won not only on the battlefield, but also in the hearts and minds of men like Jalaludin. If he comes over to our side we'll know we're winning the war.

Willy Stern, an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University's Law School, embedded with Task Force 435 in Afghanistan in December 2009.

Questions for Abdulmutallab - The would-be airplane bomber needs to be interrogated

Questions for Abdulmutallab. By VICTORIA TOENSING
The would-be airplane bomber needs to be interrogated.
WSJ, Dec 31, 2009

On the third day after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, President Barack Obama finally interrupted his Hawaiian vacation to announce that our government "will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable." But how are we going to do that now that the terrorist is lawyered up and is even challenging what should be a legal gimme: giving the government a DNA sample?

It was not wise to try enemy combatants such as Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks, in our regular criminal courts. And it is unwise that Mr. Obama has decided to try some Guantanamo detainees in New York City. Never in our country's history prior to 2001 have we done so, for good reason.

The constitutional protections designed to ensure a person is not wrongfully convicted have no relevance to wartime military needs. The argument that our system is strong enough to try a terrorist is a non sequitur. It equates to the argument that if a person is in excellent health, she can withstand being set ablaze.

Moussaoui tied the Virginia federal court in knots for over three years, principally by insisting on the Brady rule, which requires that the defendant be given access to any evidence that could be exculpatory. (Moussaoui was convicted because he pleaded guilty, not because there was a trial and jury decision.)

The Brady rule is a needed constitutional protection for the accused bank robber, where the government wants to produce only the one witness who identifies the defendant as the perpetrator but not the other six witnesses who cannot identify him. It does not work where a terrorist demands access to all the servicemen and women who witnessed his capture on the battlefield.

Yet even the legal issues of a trial are of little importance compared to the threat to our security putting this terrorist into the regular criminal justice system presents. Abdulmutallab is in effect in possession of a ticking bomb, but we cannot interrogate him. His right to remain silent, as required by the Miranda rule, thwarts Mr. Obama's hollow attempt on Tuesday to "assure" us he is "doing everything in [his] power" to keep us safe.

Questions need to be answered. Where was Abdulmutallab trained? Who trained him? Where is the training facility located? Where is the stash of PETN, the explosive used in the bomb? What are the techniques he was told to use for getting through airport security? Was there a well-dressed man who helped him board the plane without a passport as claimed by another passenger? And, most important, are future attacks planned?

Yes, we could try him first and then interrogate him. But by then the information is stale, especially if he utilizes the same legal challenges Moussaoui did to drag out the process for years.

As the president told us, there were indeed "human and systemic failures" that "contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security." By placing this terrorist into the regular criminal process, he continues and magnifies those failures, which could leave to an actual catastrophe.

Abdulmutallab is not a United States citizen. By detonating a bomb on an airplane filled with 269 civilians, he committed an illegal act of war. A military commission, which has been used for such conduct since Gen. George Washington, will give him due process. But first, he must be interrogated.

Ms. Toensing was deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, where she supervised all terrorist cases.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Revenge of the ‘Shoe Bomber’ - The terrorist sues to resume his jihad from prison, the Fed Gov't caves in

Revenge of the ‘Shoe Bomber’. By DEBRA BURLINGAME
The terrorist sues to resume his jihad from prison. The Obama administration caves in.
WSJ, Jul 30, 2009

Last May at the National Archives, President Barack Obama warned that “more mistakes would occur” if Congress continued to politicize terrorist detention policy and the closure of Guantanamo Bay. “[I]f we refuse to deal with those issues today,” he predicted, “then I guarantee you, they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.”

On June 17, at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) penitentiary in Florence, Colo., one of those albatrosses, inmate number 24079-038, began his day with a whole new range of possibilities. Eight days earlier, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver filed notice in federal court that the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) which applied to that prisoner—Richard C. Reid, a.k.a. the “Shoe Bomber”—were being allowed to expire. SAMs are security directives, renewable yearly, issued by the attorney general when “there is a substantial risk that a prisoner’s communications, correspondence or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury” to others.

Reid was arrested in 2001 for attempting to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami with 197 passengers and crew on board. Why had Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to renew his security measures, kept in place since 2002?

According to court documents filed in a 2007 civil lawsuit against the government, Reid claimed that SAMs violated his First Amendment right of free speech and free exercise of religion. In a hand-written complaint, he asserted that he was being illegally prevented from performing daily “group prayers in a manner prescribed by my religion.” Yet the list of Reid’s potential fellow congregants at ADX Florence reads like a Who’s Who of al Qaeda’s most dangerous members: Ramzi Yousef and his three co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; “Millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam; “Dirty bomber” Jose Padilla; Wadih el-Hage, Osama Bin Laden’s personal secretary, convicted in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing that killed 247 people.

In December 2008, the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss Reid’s lawsuit. It cited the example of ADX inmate Ahmed Ajaj as an illustration of “the dangers inherent in permitting a group of inmates, of like mind in their opposition to the United States, to congregate for a prayer service conducted in a language not understood by most correctional officers.”

While imprisoned for passport fraud in 1992, Ajaj assisted in the plans to destroy the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993, making phone calls to Ramzi Yousef and speaking in code to elude law enforcement monitoring. Ajaj tried to get his “training kit” to Yousef, which included videotapes and notes he had taken on bomb-making while attending a terrorist camp on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Reid’s own SAMs on correspondence had been tightened in 2006 after the shocking discovery that three of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers at ADX, not subject to security directives, had sent 90 letters to overseas terrorist networks, including those associated with the Madrid train bombing. The letters, exhorting jihad and praising Osama bin Laden as “my hero of this generation,” were printed in Arabic newspapers and brandished like trophies to recruit new members.

When setting restrictions on inmate religious practice, the Bureau of Prisons need only meet a reasonableness standard, a very low bar in the case of Muslim terrorists. Justice would easily have prevailed against Reid’s lawsuit; nevertheless it dropped the security measures on Reid after he missed 58 meals in a hunger strike that required medical intervention and forced feeding in April.

On July 6, Justice Department lawyers informed the court that Reid will be given a “new placement” in a “post-SAMs setting.” Whether that entails stepped down security in a different unit or transfer to a less secure facility, the Bureau of Prisons won’t say, and Justice refuses to comment.

Mr. Obama likes to observe that “no one has escaped from supermax,” but if Reid is moved from ADX Florence, he will be the first convicted terrorist to use the First Amendment to sue his way out.

What drove the Obama administration’s decision to cave in to Reid’s demands? The president after all has repeatedly pitched supermax and the federal prison system as a secure alternative to Guantanamo, citing the fact that it handles “all manner of violent and dangerous criminals.” Yet the last thing he needs, as his administration engages in its hasty effort to shut Gitmo down by a fast-approaching deadline, is for lawyers and human-rights activists to use a hunger-striking, near-death prisoner to launch a propaganda campaign fashioned right out of the Gitmo detainees’ playbook. Lawyers who shamelessly compared Gitmo to Nazi concentration camps would think nothing of casting supermax as the next “symbol of America’s shame” and a “rallying cry for our enemies.”

From the outset of his administration, Mr. Obama has been trying to thread the needle between national security policy and his ideological affinity with civil liberties lawyers and human-rights activists, meeting with and consulting them prior to making detainee-related decisions. Though his executive order shutting Guantanamo closely followed the blueprint provided by Human Rights First, leaders of key organizations were stunned when he revealed in an awkward, off-the-record meeting the day before his public announcement at the National Archives that he planned to continue President George W. Bush’s policy of preventive detention.

Michael Ratner, whose human rights organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed the first successful detainee lawsuit in 2002, called Mr. Obama’s proposed U.S. detention scheme a “road to perdition” and nothing more than a plan to “repackage Guantanamo.” Leaders of the so-called Gitmo bar appear poised to launch a flurry of legal challenges the moment the last departing detainee’s feet touch U.S. soil.

In January, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado issued a statement saying that conditions at supermax are “simply another form of torture” worse than Gitmo which “make a mockery of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’” Last month, the ACLU filed a civil lawsuit mirroring Reid’s religious rights claim on behalf of two terrorism inmates held at the Communications Management Unit inside a medium security prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

One of those inmates is Enaam Arnaout, a Syrian-born U.S. citizen serving a 10-year sentence for diverting Muslim charity money to militant Islamic groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. The other, Randall Royer, is serving 20 years for his role recruiting young Muslims in the “Virginia Jihad Network,” a group that used paintball games in 2000-2001 to train for holy war.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly suggested that the security challenge of bringing more than 100 trained and dangerous terrorists onto U.S. soil can be solved by simply installing them in an impenetrable fortress. This view is either disingenuous or naïve. The militant Islamists at Guantanamo too dangerous to release believe that their resistance behind the wire is a continuation of holy war. There is every reason to believe they will continue their jihad once they have been transported to U.S. soil where certain federal judges have signaled a willingness to confer upon them even more rights.

The position of civil rights activists with regard to these prisoners is plain. “If they cannot be convicted,” says ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer, “then you release them.”

Meanwhile, in order to appease political constituencies both here and abroad, the Obama administration is moving full steam ahead, operating on the false premise that giving more civil liberties to religious fanatics bent on destroying Western civilization will make a difference in the Muslim world. In a letter sent to his father as he began his hunger strike, Reid provided a preview of how he will exercise his newly enlarged free speech rights, calling Mr. Obama a “hypocrite” who is “no better than George Bush.” His lawsuit remains active while the Department of Justice works out a settlement that satisfies the man who declared, “I am at war with America.”

Ms. Burlingame, a former attorney and a director of the National September 11 Memorial Foundation, is the sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Germany's Spies Refuted the 2007 NIE Report

Germany's Spies Refuted the 2007 NIE Report. By BRUNO SCHIRRA
'Work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003'
WSJ, Jul 20, 2009

President Obama has committed to trying diplomacy to stop the Iranian bomb. Time, though, is on the mullahs' side, not least because so much of it was wasted after the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate made the improbable case that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. This assessment not only contradicted previous U.S. intelligence consensus but -- as recent court documents show -- also the conclusions of a key U.S. ally with excellent sources in Iran -- Germany.

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, has amassed evidence of a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons program that continued beyond 2003. This usually classified information comes courtesy of Germany's highest state-security court. In a 30-page legal opinion on March 26 and a May 27 press release in a case about possible illegal trading with Iran, a special national security panel of the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe cites from a May 2008 BND report, saying the agency "showed comprehensively" that "development work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003."

According to the judges, the BND supplemented its findings on August 28, 2008, showing "the development of a new missile launcher and the similarities between Iran's acquisition efforts and those of countries with already known nuclear weapons programs, such as Pakistan and North Korea."

It's important to point out that this was no ordinary agency report, the kind that often consists just of open source material, hearsay and speculation. Rather, the BND submitted an "office testimony," which consists of factual statements about the Iranian program that can be proved in a court of law. This is why, in their March 26 opinion, the judges wrote that "a preliminary assessment of the available evidence suggests that at the time of the crime [April to November 2007] nuclear weapons were being developed in Iran." In their May press release, the judges come out even more clear, stating unequivocally that "Iran in 2007 worked on the development of nuclear weapons."

The judges had been asked to consider an appeal in the case of a German-Iranian businessman accused of brokering supplies for Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Federal Prosecutor had charged the defendant, identified by the authorities only as "Mohsen V.," with violating Germany's War Weapons Control Law and the Foreign Trade Act. A lower court in Frankfurt refused to try the case on the grounds that it was unlikely that Iran had a nuclear program at the time of the defendant's activities in 2007, citing the NIE report as evidence.

That's why the Supreme Court judges had to rule first on the question of whether that program exists at all. Having answered that question in the affirmative, the court had to rule next on the likelihood of the defendant to be found guilty in a trial. The supreme court's conclusions are unusually strong.

"The results of the investigation do in fact provide sufficient indications that the accused aided the development of nuclear weapons in Iran through business dealings."

The supreme court thus annulled the lower court's decision to throw out the case, demanding that the Frankfurt-based judges try the defendant on the original charges.

The case itself sheds light on how these networks function. According to the supreme court judges, the businessman has brokered "industrial machines, equipment and raw materials primarily to Iranian customers," for Iran's nuclear weapons program.

According to the same decision, the defendant's business partners in Tehran "dealt with acquiring military and nuclear-related goods for Iran and used various front companies, headquartered for example in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, to circumvent existing trade restrictions." According to the judges, Mohsen V. also tried to supply to Tehran via front companies in Dubai "Geiger counters for radiation-resistant detectors constructed especially for protection against the effects of nuclear detonations."

Defendant Mohsen V.'s various business contacts in Iran, Russia, Germany, and the Near and Middle East are listed in the prosecutor's files and in the judges' decision. So is information related to the secret supply of "two high-speed cameras needed to develop nuclear warheads. The delivery of the cameras to the final customers in Iran occurred on November 1, 2007 at the latest." The Karlsruhe judges wrote that, by his own admission, Mohsen V. was "aware of the cameras' possible use in the military arena."

The court's decision and the BND's reports raise the question of how, or why, U.S. intelligence officials could have come to the conclusion that Iran suspended its program in 2003. German intelligence officials wonder themselves. BND sources have told me that they have shared their findings and documentation with their U.S. colleagues ahead of the 2007 NIE report -- as is customary between these two allies. It appears the Americans have simply ignored this evidence despite repeated warnings from the BND. This suggests not so much a failure of U.S. intelligence but its sabotage.

The politicized 2007 NIE report undermined the Bush Administration's efforts to rally international support for tough action against Iran. The world's best hope is that the Obama Administration is not being fed the same false sense of security.

Mr. Schirra is an investigative reporter in Berlin and author of "Iran -- Sprengstoff für Europe," Iran -- Explosives for Europe (Econ, 2006). Belinda Coopers translated this article from the German.