Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Fmr. Sen. Cleland to the White House:
"Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance."
TAPPED drew my attention today to a column by former-Senator Max Cleland which ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Iraq. At first glance, some might call this a facile comparison of Iraq to Vietnam. They would be wrong. A deeper look first reveals that Cleland has the credibility to say everything in this piece. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was grievously wounded in combat, and who rose to serve as administrator of the Veterans Administration. Cleland knows what war is all about, and he knows the human cost of war all too well. He also knows the strategic side of war, from his service in the U.S. Senate and current service on the independent 9/11 Commission. Suffice to say, Cleland has the c.v. to back up what he writes. And this essay doesn't read like your typical critique of the White House. Cleland takes on the White House, point by point, and explains why our policy in Iraq has run aground:
Unfortunately, the people who drove the engine to get into the war in Iraq never served in Vietnam. Not the president. Not the vice president. Not the secretary of defense. Not the deputy secretary of defense. Too bad. They could have learned some lessons:Strong words from a strong-minded American who's been there, done that, and gotten the scars to prove it. I don't think that military service should be a prerequisite to political leadership. (For the record, the President served in the Texas Air National Guard and the SecDef served as a naval aviator on active duty and in the reserves.) But I do see a paucity of such experience in the White House and its command team -- as well as a lack of appreciation for the kinds of lessons that such experience brings. Sure, you can read about war and learn its impact from textbooks at the Kennedy School or Hoover Institute. But as one military historian wrote, the study of war by the uninitiated through books is like the study of sex by virgins with only pornography as their guide.
Much has been made in recent months about national service, and the extent to which our elites avoid national service -- particularly uniformed service. While I do not support conscription, I do think we need to do better as a society at voluntarily spreading the burden of military service. Our working class and middle class already do their part. The elite class does not. While doing some reading the other day, I came across this letter written by a general to a congressman during WWII about a conscript having adjustment problems. (Thanks to Andrew Olmsted) I think it expresses my point quite well.
27th Infantry DivisionSen. Cleland certainly understands what it means to be a private in a rifle squad. So do Wes Clark, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, and Anthony Principi. American foreign policy might look a little wiser if we had more men like these in high office.
Second military servicemember detained for Gitmo security violations
The AP reports (via the NY Times) that military officials have taken an Air Force serviceperson into custody for allegedly misusing classified information in connection with Guantanamo Bay. Details are very sketchy at this point, as they are in CPT Yee's case.
The man is being held in California on security-related matters, one Pentagon official said. Neither of two officials who spoke about the matter on condition of anonymity would say whether the Air Force investigation was linked to the arrest earlier this month of the Muslim military chaplain at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.More to follow . . .
Update I: The AP adds some more details to its story (via the New York Times) about this second individual, who was actually arrested before CPT Yee. It's unclear whether the two men were working together, although it seems awfully coincidental if they weren't.
Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi is being held at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, facing 32 criminal charges, spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said.Notes on the charges: Once again, espionage and aiding the enemy are capital offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The penalties for disobeying a lawful order and making a false official statement are comparitively light, but these sentences are cumulative in nature. I can only make a SWAG as to how these charges were chosen. The espionage and aiding the enemy counts go towards the overall plan. Each of the disobeying-an-order counts probably relates to a specific instance where the defendant did something wrong with a classified document. And if the defendant was required to sign some sort of log or register saying he had logged in documents, every signature would constitute a false official statement. A fact pattern like that could easily add up to the charges listed.
CPT Yee's last interview
This morning's Miami Herald carries excerpts from a 30 Jul 03 interview with CPT Youssef Yee conducted at the Guantanamo Bay base where more than 600 detainees are currently being held by the American military. These statements don't seem as defensive as those made in CPT Yee's article in "The Wire", but they are nonetheless odd for an American military officer.
''As the chaplain, what I do is focus on what the person is doing here and now in the present, rather than what a person was fighting for in order to get here,'' Capt. Youseff Yee said in a July 30 interview at the base where the Army is holding about 660 terrorism suspects from 42 countries. "What I try to do is improve a person's situation or help them with their quality of life -- what can I do to help them deal with the situation that they're dealing with?''Legal note: As a matter of law, nearly all this evidence may be excluded from the trial as irrelevant, or as inadmissable character evidence. (See Rules 403 and 404 respectively in the Military Rules of Evidence, found in part III of the Manual for Courts Martial.) All this character evidence may not be relevant at all to the issues before the military jury in CPT Yee's case. And even if it is relevant, the risk of prejudice or confusion may be too great, thus warranting its exclusion. Unless CPT Yee puts his character at issue, it will be a tough fight to get this stuff in evidence. The military prosecutors will need to show, just as they would in federal court, that this evidence is somehow relevant to CPT Yee's intent or state of mind, and that its probative value outweighs its prejudice. That will be a very tough case to make.
Ex-spinster joins CNN to provide spin analysis
Victoria Clarke, widely regarded as one of the better Pentagon press secretaries in recent years, has accepted a position with CNN that may put her across the airwaves from her former colleagues. (See NYT report here) In addition to managing the press after Sept. 11, Clarke is credited with helping to craft and stage-manage the public persona of Don Rumsfeld, as well as developing the "embedding" program for journalists in the second Gulf War.
Analysis of CPT Yee and the potential for a treason charge
Matt at Stop the Bleating has done substantial research into the history of America's treason law (uniquely codified in our Constitution), and has some thoughts today on how that law might apply to CPT Yee's case. As of yet, treason has not been listed in any story as a charge that CPT Yee may face. Nonetheless, I think the issues Matt identifies may be applicable to the other charges (e.g. espionage, aiding the enemy) that CPT Yee has been held over on.
Monday, September 22, 2003
Hackworth gives green light to Wes Clark's campaign
Col. David Hackworth once called Gen. Wesley Clark a "perfumed prince", a derogatory term for a senior officer more concerned with appearances and politics than with muddy boots soldiering. In a column today, Col. Hackworth reverses course abruptly, giving Clark a pretty strong endorsement as the kind of general you'd want to have as Commander-in-Chief.
No doubt he’s made his share of enemies. He doesn’t suffer fools easily and wouldn’t have allowed the dilettantes who convinced Dubya to do Iraq to even cut the White House lawn. So he should prepare for a fair amount of dart-throwing from detractors he’s ripped into during the past three decades.Analysis: Hack's an "opinion leader" in the military community, to use a phrase I learned in college. His weekly column gets circulated widely by e-mail, and often gets picked up by major newspapers. Hack is a bona fide war hero from Korea and Vietnam -- and his three books have earned him a great deal of prestige among soldiers and veterans. A lot of folks may see this as a signal to embrace Clark as the best pro-military candidate for 2004 -- to include the incumbent. This endorsement is very, very important for a man who hopes to sell himself as a veteran to the American public.
On the other than, this endorsement may provoke even more hostility towards Clark among military establishment types. Clark already has the reputation as an iconclastic intellectual who left others in his dust on the way to the top. Hack provokes a pretty violent reaction from many in the defense community, and his endorsement of Clark may make Clark seem like a more threatening candidate; someone who might really shake things up in the Pentagon. If that's the case, we can expect to see a barrage of character attacks on Gen. Clark in the near future. More to follow.
Panel releases report on US Air Force Academy scandal
The New York Times reports that an independent panel has issued its report on the sexual assault scandal which has rocked the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. The verdict isn't good for the youngest service academy, which comes as no surprise to those who have watched this case. (The full text of the report is available here from the Pentagon.) The most serious allegations concern the leadership of the Air Force Academy and the Air Force, who may have disregarded reports of sexual abuse at the academy for quite some time.
The commission also said that in an attempt "to shield Air Force Headquarters from public criticism," the Air Force's general counsel had largely ignored this history of official neglect when he reported on rape at the academy earlier this year.Quick prediction: This report will torpedo the pending nomination of James Roche to be the Secretary of the Army. He was tapped to take over the Army after Secretary Rumsfeld fired former-Army Sec. Tom White. But now, it looks like his nomination will get wrapped around the axle of this issue. Why? For starters, a fair number of Congressmen have a bone to pick with the Pentagon on other issues, and this nomination will provide a convenient battleground. But more importantly, the buck has to stop somewhere for this Air Force Academy scandal, and the Secretary of the Air Force seems like the appropriate civilian official to hold accountable.
Wes Clark meets the press
Can this soldier crawl through the mud that's about to be thrown his way?
After declaring his candidacy last week for President, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark has begun the long, hard, punishing campaign which may ultimately take him to the White House. Scores of profiles have surfaced of Wes Clark in the last few days, including stories in the NY Times, Washington Post (including this one and this one), LA Times, Newsweek, Slate, and the Atlantic Monthly. Most of these stories say essentially the same thing: Wes Clark was a brilliant "water walker" who shot to the top of the military (with some resentment from peers and superiors), and who ably led the war in Kosovo despite disagreements with just about everyone involved at the senior levels of NATO and the U.S. government. Consider this excerpt from Vernon Loeb's story in The Post.
Supporters and detractors agree on this much: The retired general is immensely talented, possessed of a keen strategic sensibility and the kind of gold-plated military credentials that could make him a formidable candidate in the Democratic race for president.Pundits on the left and right, such as Paul Glastris and William Safire, have also jumped into the fray. The pundits see this candidacy in strategic terms, opining on what this move means for the Democratic party and larger body politic. The consensus seems to be that this will only help the Democratic party, especially if it sparks some serious debate over national security issues in that party's primary.
My prediction: Before Wes Clark reaches the White House, he'll have to low crawl through about 3,000 miles of mud. The military establishment will leak every negative detail of Clark's military performance to the press that's there to leak -- and some that aren't. These will include: his tendency towards personal tirades, his micromanagement of subordinates and abusive behavior towards subordinates, his precise job performance at key positions where he was under scrutiny, and anything else that can be spun by Clark's opponents. At some point, Clark will have to deal with that Ratko Mladic incident from the mid-1990s. (For the record, Clark met with him before his indictment for war crimes, just as he met with Slobodan Milosevic before his indictment. In both cases, these meetings produced tangible results for American foreign policy.) Democrats will fire HEAT rounds at Gen. Clark for his moderate views that may not sell well to key Democrat constituencies. Clark will respond with his wonkish side, and he will quickly formulate policies on all the important issues, but it may be too late by that point. And the press will soon stop swooning over Clark like a first date.
At that point, which I will call the "decisive point" of the campaign, Clark will have to retain the ability to raise money and raise issues. If he can, he has a chance; if he doesn't, he's toast. It's still too early to tell whether Clark will make it through this mud run, and I'll reserve judgment for now. But this will be the toughest fight of Clark's long and impressive career.
More facts emerge about CPT Yee's case
Rowan Scarborough reports in this morning's Washington Times about the specific documents held by CPT Yee at the time of his arrest, and why the government was so concerned. At first glance, this looks like more than a technical violation of classified-documents rules.
A law-enforcement source said yesterday those papers included a list of detainees and the names of U.S. prison personnel at Guantanamo.Analysis: There's another issue lurking in this story that I haven't seen any of the intelligence sources say in any of the major newspaper stories on CPT Yee. If this man sympathized with the enemy, and he counseled these detainees while they were going through the interrogation process, it's very likely that he hindered the interrogations in a substantial way. Interrogations depend on control, and a sense of total isolation on the part of the detainee. Any outside contact, particularly from someone with authority (as a military officer) and moral authority (as a Muslim cleric) would threaten the methods used by most military interrogators.
Consider this excerpt from the Declaration of U.S. Navy Commander Donald D. Woolfolk, given in the case of Yaser Hamdi to substantiate the government's case for holding him as an enemy combatant.
(FOUO) . . . When done effectively, interrogation provides information that likely could not be gleaned from any other source. Loss of this tool, in any respect, would undermine our nation’s intelligence gathering efforts, thus crippling the national security of the United States. The United States does not employ any corporal means of coercion to gain information from persons being interrogated. Rather, the United States has adopted a humane approach to interrogation that relies upon creating an atmosphere of dependency and trust between detainees and the intelligence gathering staff assigned to that detainee. Over time, information is learned. The United States is now engaged in a robust program of interrogating individuals who have been identified as enemy combatants in the global War on Terrorism. This is because it is recognized that they unquestionably hold critical information that is crucial to our national security. A prime example of the effectiveness of this method of interrogation through dependency and trust can be found in the announcement this week of the U.S. Government’s disruption and detention of a U.S. citizen working in coordination with al Qaida to detonate a “dirty bomb” in the United States. Knowledge and disruption of this plot may not have occurred absent effective intelligence gathered through interrogation. [emphasis added]This statement was made to justify the seclusion of a detainee at the same brig that now holds CPT Yee, and to specifically prevent Hamdi from having access to legal counsel. The reasoning is the same. Allowing access to legal counsel would disturb the isolation and dependency necessary for successful interrogation -- interrogation which can yield details of plans to kill Americans. (Let's not forget what's at stake here) A sympathetic chaplain can also frustrate such interrogation efforts, and impede the collection of human intelligence from the detainees. That's not a good thing. We have allowed the detainees access to a Muslim chaplain out of humanity, and compliance with the Third Geneva Convention. But we cannot allow our chaplain -- an American military officer -- to impede the collection of intelligence because of his uncertain loyalties.
CPT Yee was in a critical position; he had unsupervised, unblocked, personal access to the detainees at a time when their isolation and dependency was critical. Knowingly or unknowingly, he may have given these detainees the will to fight our interrogators, to hold onto information a little longer that might be used to save American lives. If the facts are as alleged, then CPT Yee had about as large of an effect on the war on terrorism as can be imagined. While not as spectacular or bloody as the betrayal allegedly committed by SGT Hasan Akbar against his officers in the 101st, this betrayal is probably more deadly for all of us.
Economic slump helps military recruiting
The New York Times reports this morning that the Army is poised to meet or exceed its recruiting goals for this fiscal, largely thanks to a depressed economy and other factors that help sell the military opportunity to young Americans.
All the armed services say they will meet or exceed their recruiting goals for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30.This is good news. First, the all-volunteer military (and by extension, American society) depends on a steady stream of young Americans who are willing to step into the breach. Without such volunteers, the current force structure will fail, and America will have to resort to more coercive means (read: draft) to populate its military. As recent operations from Baghdad to Belgrade show, our professional military is worth keeping around.
One note on the economic opportunity aspect. I think that Mr. Schmitt overreported that story here, in a way that almost panders to people like Rep. Charlie Rangel who argue that the military disproportionately "targets" low-income youth and presses them into service as a form of indentured servitude. I think that argument gets it absolutely wrong. Giving economic opportunities to low-income communities should be a good thing for government to do. It seems ironic that some would criticize the military for providing that opportunity when they chastise other departments for failing to. Young Americans are joining the military to take advantage of the professional, personal, patriotic -- and economic -- opportunity. This is a good news story.
Unfortunately, the news is not all good. Later in his story, Mr. Schmitt reports that the Army Reserve and Army National Guard are having less success with their recruiting efforts.
Recruiting part-time Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops, who are typically older and have civilian jobs, presents mounting challenges. Military experts warn that recruiting and retaining these citizen soldiers will get more difficult as they are repeatedly called up to serve extended tours in Iraq or Afghanistan as military police, civil affairs specialists, water-purification experts and other jobs.There are lots of reasons why the reserves are struggling. For starters, the benefits packages aren't as good, so they don't have the same buying power in the market for young men and women. Second, the new enlistment options (2 years) are much more attractive to someone who's not fully sold on the military, but wants the benefits that active service brings. Third, joining the reserves today is an incredibly risky and uncertain proposition. In the old days, soldiers in the reserves wondered if they would be called up. Today, soldiers in the reserves wonder when they'll be called up -- and how many times, and if their employers will take them back (notwithstanding the USERRA), and whether their families will be there when they return.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Captain Yee -- the author?
Timothy Goddard at The Flag of the World passes on a link to something that CPT Yee wrote for "The Wire" an in-house newsletter published for the Joint Task Force servicemembers and civilians at Guantanamo Bay. I think that Mr. Goddard's summary is on target: "For the most part, is no different from most of the "There's nothing to fear from true Islam, just that nutty stuff" articles that have come out so often in the past two years. This one, however, seems a good deal more defensive than most--not to the point that you'd notice anything weird about it unless you knew that he'd just been arrested for espionage, though." Here's an excerpt from what CPT Yee wrote:
September 11th, the pending war on Iraq, and our own day to day experiences of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission have all contributed to the picture many of us as Americans have painted about Islam and Muslims. And now, this universal religion of more than one billion followers worldwide is scrutinized by a population that has little knowledge of its basic tenets and practices. It is with a fearful eye that Islam and its worshippers are now being examined with the notion that they have become our nation's greatest enemy. However, a truly objective look makes it quite clear that Islam is really nothing to be afraid of at all. [emphasis added]Analysis: Putting theological and political debates aside for a second, this is really interesting language to be coming from a U.S. Army chaplain -- regardless of faith. He may have legitimate points to make about Americans' attitudes towards Muslims, and the effect of our ignorance on our tactics and strategy. However, it appears odd to me that an Army chaplain would be the guy to make those arguments. He's part of the team, and not supposed to play the devil's advocate (in any sense).
I will put forth a theory now about why CPT Yee may have felt persecuted down at Gitmo, and why he may have written this article. This is a "SWAG" (military jargon for "super wild a**ed guess"), and not based on any independent reporting, but rather on my experience as an Military Police platoon leader and staff officer.
Guantanamo Bay is a prison. The soldiers there think of themselves as "us", and the detainees as "them". Nearly all of the detainees are Muslim. There is a natural tendency in situations like this to dehumanize the "them" population. That tendency is probably exacerbated by the nature of our war on terrorism, and the religious overtones of this conflict. It's even possible that commanders are encouraging such attitudes towards the detainees, and that such aggression has spilled over into open displays of animus, hatred, and anti-Muslim behavior. To the extent that CPT Yee represents the Muslim community in the military, he may be duty bound to speak up against such hostility, within the bounds of the command. He also may be obliged under DoD equal opportunity policy to take a leadership role in stopping such behavior. If that's the case, this article appears to be one effort towards that end.
That's just a guess. It certainly doesn't excuse the criminal acts he's accused of. But it might explain some of the things CPT Yee has been accused of, from speaking up on behalf of detainees to publishing this article. More to follow.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Army chaplain arrested for espionage -- update & analysis
Giving credit where credit is due, The Washington Times is the paper that came through with the scoop on Captain Yee; I picked up on the AP version of the story that originally ran on their pages. I pulled up the Washington Times story, written by veteran Pentagon reporter Rowan Scarborough, to find the details as originally reported. Mr. Scarborough didn't disappoint -- he has a report tonight on the precise charges that Captain Yee is facing.
The Army has charged Capt. Yee with five offenses: sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage and failure to obey a general order. The Army may also charge him later with the more serious charge of treason, which under the Uniform Code of Military Justice could be punished by a maximum sentence of life.Analysis: Now I have some more facts on which to base my analysis. First, if you're interested in this case, I recommend reading a primer on the military justice system. The National Institute of Military Justice has a few good primers on its site, and I would also recommend this piece I wrote on the system from last year. Also, the Manual for Courts Martial that Captain Yee will be tried under is a good reference to have for this case. Finally, the actual articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are codified in Title 10, and are good to have as references too.
Here are some general notes and points of analysis, in no particular order:
(1) The penalty for the crimes charged is death, according to the text of the articles under which Captain Yee is charged according to the Washington Times story. The Times reports that the maximum penalty as life, but they're wrong according to what the UCMJ says. These articles include: sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage and failure to obey a general order. No military court has imposed the death penalty for these charges since Private Slovik's case at the end of WWII. But I would not say that is an impossibility in this case, if the facts are as alleged.
(2) One legal question to be asked is whether these offenses were committed in wartime or not. If they were committed in wartime, the available penalties increase dramatically. It's fairly certain that we are currently in a state of armed conflict, if not a state of declared war, but this is a legal question that will certainly be asked in this case. The government will certainly argue that we are at war, and thus the higher penalties are available. Indeed, it's hard to see how you could have "aiding the enemy" if one were not at war. But again, this is a question of law for the military judge to resolve, and one that will probably be appealed to the intermediate appellate court and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
(3) Captain Yee will undoubtedly be pressured to plead guilty, in a quid pro quo where he gives information to the government in exchange for a life sentence. I imagine that he has already refused to plead guilty at this juncture, given the way the government is proceeding in this case.
(4) Military commissions v. military courts martial. I do not think we will see Captain Yee's case transferred to a military commission. For one, he is statutorily entitled to a general court martial on these charges as an American serviceman, and it would be very hard to overcome that in court. Second, the military system already has all the safeguards the Pentagon wants in a court -- protection of classified evidence, a jury of military officers, a secure setting, and defense attorneys with security clearances. I don't see any added value in a military commission here. Moreover, a high-profile trial (as this will be) will showcase the military justice system, which is generally regarded by experts as a fairer system than the federal criminal system.
(5) Unlawful command influence will be an issue in this case. Note this quote from the Washington Times story: "The source said the "highest levels" of government made the decision to arrest Capt. Yee, who had been kept under surveillance for some time." That means the decision to arrest Captain Yee came from 1600 Penn. Ave and the E-Ring of the Pentagon, and that prosecutorial decisions will likely have to be vetted in both places as well. Unfortunately, the UCMJ expressly prohibits command influence on the actual trial, and the actual decision to bring charges. The Commander of SouthCom will have to do his best to resist pressure from the President and SecDef here if he wants his verdict to stand. I guarantee that Captain Yee's defense counsel will raise this issue on appeal.
I plan to follow this story as it develops. More to follow...
See also the sites hosted by Donald Sensing and Winds of Change for some interesting commentary and links regarding Captain Yee. As I find more good links on the subject, I'll post them. I imagine we'll see a lot more reporting on this case than those of enemy combatants Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, because the depth of the betrayal is so great in Captain Yee's case (assuming the facts are as alleged).
And also check out Jeff Quinton's notes at Backcountry Conservative, which includes some really good research into CPT Yee and various other issues in this case. Among other things, Quinton has a State Department story on CPT Yee, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer profile of CPT Yee, and a DoD press release discussing the Muslim clerics currently serving as American military chaplains.
U.S. Army Muslim chaplain in custody in connection with Gitmo
The AP reports that the American military has taken one of its own chaplains -- a Muslim -- into custody in connection with an investigation involving the men detained at Guantanamo Bay. Very few details are available at this time. No charges appear to have been filed, nor has there been an Art. 32 hearing, analogous to a grand jury hearing. It's not clear whether the military plans to press charges, or if federal prosecutors will do so, or even if Captain Yee is suspected of things he could be charged with.
Captain Crosson said Captain Yee was taken into custody at a naval station in Jacksonville. But he said he did not know where the chaplain was being held.Wow... this has the potential to be a really big story. My first reaction is that "first reports are always wrong." I really need to see more information -- from official sources -- to understand what's going on here. If I had to guess, it would be that Captain Yee committed some infraction such as failing to properly secure classified documents, and that investigators picked him up for that fact alone. I'm very skeptical that this man -- a West Point grad and experienced Army officer -- would actually do what's implied here: give documents to a member of Al Qaeda interned at Gitmo. But anything's possible.
Update: Unfortunately, it looks like my earlier skepticism may have been misplaced. According to CNN, Captain Yee is alleged to have done a lot more than misplacing classified documents. If these allegations are true, he may indeed me guilty of treason or espionage -- depending on how you construe the elements of those crimes in the context of our undeclared war on terrorism.
. . . the documents included "diagrams of the cells and the facilities at Guantanamo [Bay, Cuba]" where about 600 al Qaeda and other "enemy combatants" are being held by the military.
Lawsuit filed to challenge military recruiting at law schools
On the day the Supreme Court decided Lawrence v. Texas, I predicted that we would see a wave of challenges to the law precluding gays from openly serving in the military. The first of these appeared in U.S. District Court a few months ago, and was a direct challenge to one soldier's discharge. The second appeared yesterday, in a federal court in Newark, where a coalition of law professors has sued the Defense Department over its practice of recruiting on law school campuses. Specifically, the group argues that their First Amendment rights are being unduly burdened by the law which threatens schools with a withdrawal of federal funding if they refuse access to the military.
The suit says that every accredited American law school has adopted policies that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that the schools have sought to apply these policies without making any exception for what the suit describes as "the military and its discriminatory policy regarding sexual orientation."Analysis: I'm writing a longer piece on this, so I will reserve the bulk of my analysis for that piece. However, I think this lawsuit will fail because the Solomon Amendment itself and the law against gays in the military are two separate legal things. In theory, the Solomon Amendment would still exist without the policy on gays in the ranks, to combat general animus against the military on campuses. If some university kicked the military off because it just didn't like the service, or because it was opposed to the war in Iraq, the Solomon Amendment would still be triggered. Moreover, as a general rule, Congress can condition the funding it gives out for various purposes, even if those conditions place a burden on speech.
Ultimately, I think this case will lose. I started reporting on a story about this shortly after the Lawrence decision, and I talked with three universities' general counsel about the issue. Their feeling was that a challenge to the Solomon Amendment would fail because it would be impossible to argue that Lawrence somehow changed the constitutionality of the law -- they're separate issues. Also, the universities have mostly achieved an uneasy peace with respect to military recruiting on campus, and they're unwilling to disturb that. Finally, almost everyone recognizes the value of military recruiting for students -- particularly those with financial need (like me) who can use an ROTC scholarship or GI Bill funding to further their educational aspirations. If this lawsuit is successful, it will hurt students like me who took advantage of one of the greatest opportunities in American society: military service.
JetBlue criticized for giving passenger information to defense contractor
The New York Times reports this morning that JetBlue, one of America's newest and most successful airlines, is in hot water for giving information about its passengers to a defense contractor working on a security system. The system itself is probably classified, and details are short in the story. But it appears to be a base-defense system, not an aviation security system, made by Torch Concepts. My best guess is that this information was used to run a program that looked for non-obvious relationships between passengers based on their names, addresses and social security numbers, among other data. Understandably, a number of passengers and civil liberties groups are upset by the disclosure.
JetBlue, a three-year-old discount airline, sent an e-mail message to passengers this week, conceding that it had made a mistake in providing the records last year to Torch Concepts, an Army contractor in Huntsville, Ala., for a research project on "airline passenger risk assessment."Analysis: It would be all too easy to lump this in with the other actions of the Bush Administration in the war on terrorism, and to say that this is just one more example of our civil liberties being abused. Unfortunately, I don't think that's what's going on here. I think this is something far more subtle, and conversely, something far less threatening to our civil liberties. Moreover, it's happening every day. If you don't think that your credit card company, your bank, your lenders, and others are using data about you to make risk decisions, you're wrong. They're sharing information all the time, often without your explicit knowledge. That itself may be a bad thing. But I think it's unfair to single JetBlue out for something that's common industry practice.
I think it's a little odd that this information would be used for a base defense system instead of an aviation security experiment. But the value of the research appears to be quite high, if you take the findings of Torch Concepts at face value. And in the larger context of the war on terrorism, I think studies like this need to be conducted, if we are to learn how to look for non-obvious relationships in large patterns of data. Programs like Total Information Awareness and CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) do require us to give information to private and public officials who will then use that information. But, these programs may make us physically more secure if they can find the relevant pieces of information to help intelligence analysts put together the dots to find terrorists. I, for one, am willing to make the trade of information security for physical security, particularly when I've already given this data to my credit card companies and the government.
Congratulations to Mickey Kaus for this flattering profile in today's Los Angeles Times. The writer liked KausFiles so much, he even imitated Mickey's style for the article, writing in short punchy paragraphs with bolded headlines.
Query: What is it about the Westside of Los Angeles that spawns so many high-profile bloggers? Mickey, Virginia Postrel, Mark Kleiman, ArmedLiberal (Winds of Change), Eugene Volokh, this author, and others all live or work in this part of L.A. My knee-jerk answer is that it's the heart of liberal intelligentsia on the West Coast, but that can't be the answer because we're not all liberals.
Which came first -- the expert or the blog?
Congratulations to bloggers Eugene Volokh and Howard Bashman for their appearances in today's lead New York Times article titled "Experts Say Court Panel Is Less Likely to Delay California Vote". Of course, both are brilliant legal thinkers in their own right, and their expertise came long before their weblogs. Eugene is one of America's leading First Amendment law scholars, and he's uniquely qualified to comment on the recall as a Constitutional Law professor and someone who's clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski (on the 11-judge panel) and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (who may ultimately decide the case). Howard is also uniquely qualified, as an experienced appellate lawyer who's also clerked for the 3rd Circuit. So at least in these two bloggers' case, the expert came before the weblog.
Friday, September 19, 2003
A few good books
Over the next several months, we will start to see a stunning array of books arrive on the shelves from journalists who were embedded with units in the second Gulf War. This was a foreseeable result of putting so many ambitious reporters in the thick of the action with an exclusive view of their part of the war. One of the first books already looks like something I'm going to read: The March Up: Taking Baghdad With The 1st Marine Division, by F.J. "Bing" West and Ray L. Smith. The Washington Post's review of the book was enough to pique my interest:
Sixteen years after an infamous televised exchange between Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace over whether or not it would be acceptable for a journalist to warn soldiers from his own country about an imminent ambush, Smith and West were simply and flatly covering their own guys: They were Marines, reporting on Marines. The result doesn't look the way journalism tends to look. Having extensive combat experience, Smith and West -- but especially Smith -- didn't hesitate to shout orders and give tactical advice to the Marines they were covering. At one point, Smith intervened in an argument between officers who were planning a defensive position, offering a calming gesture so they could focus and continue. Smith also offered to stand watch in a combat zone so the Marines could get some sleep, an exchange that opens the book. After the pair spotted a heavy weapon in a village during a flyover in a military helicopter, Smith carried back the coordinates to a Marine commander so the weapon could be destroyed. And so on: There apparently is, in fact, no such thing as a former Marine.In addition to this book, look for one from Army Times reporter Sean Naylor on Operation Anaconda, which should come out later this year. Sean won a major journalism award for his reporting from Afghanistan, and I imagine his book will be even better. Also look for something from Evan Wright, who traveled with a Marine Corps reconnaissance platoon and wrote an outstanding 3-part series on the ordeal for Rolling Stone.
Signs of a thaw between Washington and the world
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has an op-ed in today's New York Times which effectively reverses his country's opposition to American operations in Iraq -- and pledges German support for the nation-building mission there. The move comes in anticipation of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York, where Schroder is expected to meet with President Bush. One official described the warmer statements from Washington and Berlin towards each other as a "mating dance" in anticipation of that meeting. Still, the promise of German troops and support for the Iraq mission is incredible.
It is true that Germany and the United States disagreed on how best to deal with Saddam Hussein's regime. There is no point in continuing this debate. We should now look toward the future. We must work together to win the peace. The United Nations must play a central role. The international community has a key interest in ensuring that stability and democracy are established as quickly as possible in Iraq. The international mission needs greater legitimacy in order to accelerate the process leading to a government acting on its own authority in Iraq.Analysis: Clearly, Chancellor Schroder is pulling President Bush's schnitzel out of the fire. He's also making a major power play on the world stage, and I think he's going to be successful in establishing himself as a pragmatist who's willing to put differences aside to do the right thing. On the tactical and operational level, this contribution will make a huge difference. America's own Army (as well as the Congressional Budget Office and General Accounting Office) admits that it cannot sustain the mission in Iraq beyond 2004 without external support. Generals from Barry McCaffrey to Wes Clark have all said that doing so would break the force, and create another hollow Army like that of the post-Vietnam 1970s. In essence, German troops are coming to save the American army too. But that's what allies are for, and we should be grateful.
(One footnote: European armies tend to be very good at this kind of thing, and we should welcome NATO forces whenever we have a peacekeeping/nation-building mission)
Across town on another op-ed page, Secretary of State Colin Powell writes in the Wall Street Journal that we still stay in Iraq as long as it takes to get the job done. Secretary Powell's essay comes on the heels of a visit he made to Iraq, and of all the President's men, I think he has the most credibility to make the arguments he does. This is exactly the argument the White House needs to make on Iraq, and I think that Secretary Powell is the right man to make this case to the American people and the world.
Iraq has come very far, but serious problems remain, starting with security. American commanders and troops told me of the many threats they face--from leftover loyalists who want to return Iraq to the dark days of Saddam, from criminals who were set loose on Iraqi society when Saddam emptied the jails and, increasingly, from outside terrorists who have come to Iraq to open a new front in their campaign against the civilized world. But our commanders also briefed me on their plan for meeting these security threats, and it is a good one.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Can you hear me now?
It's not just a bad cell phone commercial anymore -- it's the mantra of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq under L. Paul Bremer III, according to Fred Kaplan at Slate. The inability to communicate, caused by problems with rebuilding the phone infrastructure and building the cell phone infrastructure, has American officials in Baghdad at their wits' end. On top of the normal problems you'd expect with this effort, add in some serious disconnects with the way the contracts were awarded, including separate contracts for a Coalition Provisional Authority system and an Army system -- that don't talk to each other. In the end, you have a recipe for pure chaos, as Mr. Kaplan aptly points out.
According to a Defense Department official, if someone working for the U.S. occupation authority needed to talk with a battalion commander, there was no way to make direct contact. He or she had to call a desk officer back in the Pentagon, who would jot down the message and call the commander himself. If the commander wanted to reply to the message, the same desk officer would jot down the response and call back the occupation authority.Analysis: There are so many ways to frame this story; I'll just pick two. Wouldn't you think that communications would be a part of the plan for post-war Iraq? It's certainly a part of any war plan. Communications gets its own annex in an operations plan by Army doctrine, and every major staff from battalion to CENTCOM has a special section devoted to communications. When I deployed, our signal officers always had a plan for acquiring commercial cell phones, because they provided a convenient and useful non-secure mode of commo on the ground. I'm shocked we didn't have a good plan to do this for Iraq. So as Mr. Kaplan says, we clearly had a planning breakdown here -- just as we had a number of other planning breakdowns in Iraq.
There's another story here though. America's military has run on a peacetime budget since the end of the Cold War, with some minor hiccups for the Gulf War and supplemental funding that went to specific operations like Bosnia and Kosovo. Procurement budgets have been cut; R&D budgets have been cut; institutional bases have been cut -- nearly everything up to and including the fighting force has been trimmed. In peacetime, that's okay. You can manage a peacetime Army by the eaches, budgeting money and spare parts for each company-sized unit in order to keep the entire Army in the black. I clearly remember trying to buy spare tires for my HMMWVs as a young MP platoon leader and being told the money wasn't in the budget -- we'd just have to requisition them as we blew them.
War is different. You need excess parts at the lower levels of command to absorb the unexpected things that happen to equipment. Moreover, you can't allocate usage to vehicles and equipment the way you can in peacetime. In peacetime, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle is allocated 800 miles of driving per year -- to include all ranges, training exercises, and motor pool driving. That figure is chosen because of the cost associated with each mile driven, which translates into spare parts the Army must buy for every mile driven. The Army has Y number of Bradleys, and it can only afford to pay for the parts that 800 miles x Y Bradleys equals. Our Bradleys in Iraq have driven thousands of miles, literally ripping the Army's cost projections to shreds along with their tracks which now need replacement in record numbers. And that costs money. A lot of money.
Unfortunately, our defense industry has consolidated and reorganized during the last decade since the end of the Cold War. It can't efficiently rise to the occasion to produce large quantities of Bradley tracks in a hurry -- or HMMWV tires, or BA-5590 batteries, or anything else that the military needs quickly for Iraq. The defense industry can produce these things with time, and it can create new production lines, but it will cost a lot to do so. (The Economist had a great survey on the defence industry a few months ago, but I can't remember the exact cite) A major portion of the President's $87 billion funding request is set aside to pay for current operations needs like these. The Army Materiel Command is flat broke -- it can't come up with any more parts, or any more spares, to keep the Army in Iraq going. Any surplus capacity that remained in the force has been used up in Iraq.
So what does this have to do with cell phones? Not much. But there is a myth out there that America's military has everything it needs; that it operates with state-of-the-art equipment in every way; that it is overfunded in some way. Certainly, some elements (e.g. Special Forces) have the latest and coolest gadgets -- and they should. But the average unit in the active Army does more with less every day, and they don't get what they need when they need it until it's often too late. The reserves and National Guard do their jobs with even less. (My National Guard unit had FM communications systems that were older than me, and could not talk to their active duty counterparts.)
When the FY2005 National Defense Authorization Act comes to Congress, I think it's high time we asked tough questions about where the Pentagon is putting its money. Do we really need to spend all this money on future transformation right now, with so much of our force stuck in Iraq? Shouldn't we put more money into current operations, considering that we already have a 1-generation technology edge on our allies (e.g. Britain), let alone our enemies? $400 billion is a lot of money for defense, but it goes quickly when you spend $10 billion here and there for big programs like missile defense. I think we ought to spend more on our soldiers, sergeants and lieutenants, where the rubber meets the road.
DOJ reveals number of times it's used Sec. 215 of the Patriot Act: 0
In what must be a stunning blow to the ACLU's publicity campaign against the USA Patriot Act, the Washington Post reported today that Sec. 215 of the Act has been used 0 times to obtain an order to search through "quote". This section of the act, which was signed into law on Oct. 26, 2001, has become the focal point of criticism from civil liberties advocates who say the Bush Administration has gone too far in pursuing security at the expense of liberty. The section has even provoked a strong response from America's librarians, who have gone so far as to destroy library records lest they fall into the Justice Department's hands.
"The number of times [the provision] has been used to date is zero," Ashcroft said in the memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post.Analysis: First, let me state my skepticism up front. This may be a "leaked memo" in the great tradition of leaked Washington memoranda. The Justice Department is waging a campaign now to bolster the credibility of the Patriot Act, complete with a roadshow by AG John Ashcroft. It's possible -- even probable -- that this memo was leaked by DOJ in order to shape the debate on the issue. I don't think that DOJ would actually fabricate such a memo, but without reading it to evaluate its precise terms, I can't make a good evaluation of its authenticity, veracity, or credibility.
Second, the AG acknowledges that "other tools" have been used in the fight against terrorism, and that there has been no real need for the use of Sec. 215. Some of those other tools, such as the use of "enemy combatant" status in plea bargain negotiations, are indeed heavy-handed. I think there remains some legitimate room for criticism of the Justice Department on these issues.
That said, this is a major blow for the ACLU's campaign if it's true. Sec. 215 was written with broad language, and it does give the Justice Department a lot of power. The ACLU and others have played on Americans' fear that this power might be abused by prosecutors with ulterior motives. If it's true that this power has not been used, let alone abused, then this may reassure the American public. Some Americans may even change their opinion of the Bush Administration on the issue of civil liberties, and once again trust the Justice Department on these issues.
One last note: If nothing else, this shows the value of open discussion of these issues for both sides. The Justice Department gains from full disclosure here because the disclosure of Sec. 215 order statistics shows that it has not abused this power. The public gains by having this knowledge of precisely what its government is doing with respect to its Constitutional rights. Even the ACLU gains, by winning a larger battle over public access to information.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Senior military officers push for withdrawal from Balkans
Does it make sense to take soldiers from Bosnia and Kosovo for Iraq?
The Financial Times of London reports today that a group of American military officers has made a concerted effort within the Pentagon to recommend an American exit from Bosnia and Kosovo. The move would free up some American combat power -- as well as "nation building" units like MPs and Civil Affairs -- for deployment to Iraq. But, FT reports that the move has run into tough opposition from those who see the Balkans as an American success story.
"The DoD [Department of Defense] wants out," said one former top Pentagon official. "It's driven by the joint staff and the army."Analysis: There are a lot of interwoven issues here, and I'll address just a few. First, the number of American troops is a finite number, and the deployment game is a zero-sum game where deployments to one place take away from the troops available to deploy somewhere else. That said, the Balkans missions do not require as much force structure as they once did, and the withdrawal from this mission will have a neglible impact on the forces available for Iraq -- even including MPs and Civil Affairs units. The Army could get a lot more out of streamlining its training and doctrine command.
Whatever gains that may be gotten from this proposal will be vastly outweighed by the political consequences of an American withdrawal from the Balkans. Europe -- and the world -- sees our intervention there as a success story; a case of American might being used for right. If we think we have diplomatic issues now with Europe, just wait 'til we pull a stunt like this. It would be short-sighted in the extreme.
Finally, let's not forget that one major sponsor of partisan guerilla warfare in the Balkans was Al Qaeda. Let's not forget that fundamentalist Muslim guerillas used Bosnia and Kosovo as another battlefield for their jihad in the 1990s, along with Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan. To this day, the financial webs of Al Qaeda continue to include parts of the Balkans, and the channels for the movement of men, materiel and money continue to run through the Balkans. If we withdraw from the Balkans, we do so at our own peril.
DARPA faces the Congressional budget axe
After suffering the slings and arrows of Congressional oversight, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) appears to be headed for fiscal purgatory, according to Noah Shachtman at DefenseTech, and also in Wired News. Noah reports that the Senate's version of the Defense Authorization Act has serious cuts in store for DARPA, beyond even what was expected.
Some of the cuts to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency were expected: Lawmakers have been trying for the better part of a year to excise the notoriously far-reaching Terrorism Information Awareness database program.Noah quotes from a source with the Federation of American Scientists that DARPA may be paying the price for its advocacy of programs like Total Information Awareness. I'm sure that's the case. But we all may pay the price if DARPA's budget is slashed. The overwhelming majority of DARPA projects go nowhere -- but they do stimulate research in basic science and applied science areas that would otherwise not be funded. To some extent, we all benefit from this kind of scientific research, just as we benefit from basic science research done on the MIT or Berkeley campuses. For decades, DARPA has been one of the most vibrant federal agencies in existence with respect to innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. It has also spurred development in universities and the private sector through its creative ideas and funding grants. We will all suffer if this agency takes a big hit.
Monday, September 15, 2003
The Citizen Soldier's Burden
Today's New York Times has an important story about the sacrifice being made by today's Army reservists in the war on terrorism. For some, that sacrifice has gotten to be too much, and they are contemplating the decision to leave the military altogether after their current mobilization ends.
. . . since the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Gorski, a staff sergeant with the 870th Military Police Company of the California National Guard, has spent 16 months away from home, first at an Army base in Tacoma, Wash., and most recently in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala. He is likely to spend eight more months in Iraq, and he has decided to leave the National Guard as soon as he can.Analysis: Having recently served in the California Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve, I can testify to this problem from first-hand experience. Mobilizations are not just decimating (reducing by 10%) the personnel strength of these units -- these mobilizations are rendering units absolutely combat ineffective. One battalion I'm familiar with mobilized in October 2001 for a one-year homeland security mission. It returned in October 2002, only to lose more than half its personnel who refused to reenlist or even attend drills anymore. The only soldiers who remain in the reserves tend to fall into three categories:
(1) Soldiers who are so close to retirement that they have too much vested to get out. This tends to include senior sergeants and officers in the rank of Major and above;
(2) Soldiers who work in the civilian world for the government, and are relatively immune from the civilian-job consequences of back-to-back mobilizations;
(3) Soldiers who just joined and have yet to receive the educational benefits or other benefits they joined the military for, or cannot leave because they are still serving their initial enlistment.
Those three groups include roughly 30-40% of the reserve force. The rest will probably decide to get out after their current mobilization ends, or when their current enlistment ends. This portends a crisis of readiness for America's reserves, particularly if the war on terrorism will require their services in the near future for another conflict or another tour in Iraq. The overwhelming majority of "nation building" force structure (Civil Affairs, Military Police, Medical, Logistics, etc) resides in the reserve component. Bottom Line: If we see an exodus of reservists in the next several months, we will also see a corresponding decline in our readiness to conduct nation-building missions around the world.