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Monday, May 21, 2007

LTC Shaffer removed from command

Unfortunately, the retaliation by officials within the DIA against Tony Shaffer for speaking out about their negligence in the events leading up to 9/11 continues. Leading the charge, on behalf of senior officials at the DIA, is MG Galen B. Jackman:

From Wikipedia:

Major General Galen B. Jackman of the United States Army currently serves in the Pentagon as the Army's Chief of Legislative Liaison[1]. The Office, Chief of Legislative Liaison (OCLL) operates directly under the Office of the Secretary of the Army. Its mission is to coordinate efforts between the US Army and Congress. Prior to his assuming this newest Washington assignment, he was the first commanding general of the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR), a dual-hatted role combined with commanding the Military District of Washington (MDW)....

It was under then-Colonel Jackman's command at the Ranger Training Brigade that four Ranger Candidates were killed in training on February 15, 1995 in the Florida swamps of Eglin Air Force Base[1]. Killed were Captain Milton Palmer, Second Lieutenant Curt G. Sansoucie, Second Lieutenant Spencer D. Dodge, and Sergeant Norman Tillman. It was reported to be the worst incident in the Ranger School's 44-year history[2]. Multiple accounts held the leadership climate, both at the command level and at the trainer level, responsible for the multiple errors that led to the training accident and deaths. Among the reasons named for the deaths include the command's lack of a proper risk assessment of the weather conditions surrounding the exercise before it took place and the Ranger trainers' decision to continue with the exercise despite poor training conditions and high water dangers. As a result of the accident, the Ranger School's command changed swamp training to include more food and sleep for trainees and requiring trainers to go into potentially high water before their trainees do.[3] No evidence exists to suggest that Jackman suffered any career-related consequences due to the incident.

Following his command at the Ranger Training Brigade, Jackman served as the Director of Combined Arms and Tactics at the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, as well as the Deputy J3 for Training and Readiness, United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), Hawaii. He was then assigned as Chief of Staff, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York, during which he participated as part of NATO's "Follow-on Force" in Operation Joint Forge, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Shortly thereafter he was made Assistant Division Commander for Support for the 10th Mountain Division.

Jackman served as Director of Operations, United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) from 2001-2003, concentrating mostly on anti-drug and anti-terrorism endeavours.

As you might recall, the DIA went to great efforts to get LTC Shaffer's security clearance revoked over what amounted to $200 in travel expenses and cell phone bills. Nonetheless, Representative Chris Shays pulled through for Tony and got his security clearance restored on a temporary basis. As a result Tony was assigned to command the Special Troops Battalion, 9th Theater Support Command at Fort Belvior, Virginia on November 5, 2006.

Of course, when Major General Jackman heard about this, he immediately took action to attempt to have LTC Shaffer removed from his command. Exactly how that meshes with Jackman's role as the "Congressional Liaison for the U.S. Army" is not clear unless you suppose that undue Congressional oversight for a military operation like Able Danger that could have prevented 9/11 might still be keeping him awake at night.

Regardless, on May 3, 2007, LTC Shaffer was removed from command and reassigned. This despite the fact that all investigations into the charges against him that resulted in the revocation of his security clearance were resolved in his favor.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Senators want CIA to release 9/11 report

From the AP:

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of senators is pushing legislation that would force the CIA to release an inspector general's report on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The CIA has spent more than 20 months weighing requests under the Freedom of Information Act for its internal investigation of the attacks but has yet to release any portion of it.

The agency is the only federal office involved in counterterrorism operations that has not made at least a version of its internal 9/11 investigation public.

Sen. Ron Wyden (news, bio, voting record), D-Ore., and two other intelligence committee leaders — chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and senior Republican Kit Bond of Missouri — are pushing legislation that would require the agency to declassify the executive summary of the review within one month and submit a report to Congress explaining why any material was withheld.

The provision has been approved by the Senate twice, but never made into law.

In an interview, Wyden said he is also considering whether to link the report's release to his acceptance of President Bush's nominations for national security positions.

"It's amazing the efforts the administration is going to stonewall this," Wyden said. "The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11.... I am going to bulldog this until the public gets it."

Completed in June 2005, the inspector general's report examined the personal responsibility of individuals at the CIA before and after the attacks. Other agencies' reviews examined structural problems within their organizations.

Wyden, who has read the classified report several times, wouldn't offer any details on its findings or the conversations he has had with CIA Director Michael Hayden, former CIA Director Porter Goss and former National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

But he did say that protecting individuals from embarrassment is not a legitimate reason for protecting the report's contents from public review. He also said the decision to classify the report has nothing to do with national security, but rather political security.

Hayden declined to be interviewed about the report. In a statement Thursday, his spokesman Mark Mansfield said the CIA director wants the agency to learn from any past mistakes, but doesn't want to dwell on them.

"Given the formidable national security challenges our nation faces, now and down the road, General Hayden believes it is essential for the Agency to move forward," Mansfield said. "That's where our emphasis needs to be."

The agency's actions prior to Sept. 11 have gotten renewed attention with the release of a memoir by former CIA director George Tenet. He has been criticized for not doing more to warn Bush about the al-Qaida threat.

In interviews about his memoir, he has said instead he worked the bureaucracy beneath the president by asking then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others for action.

Bond said some intelligence officials have dismissed the inspector general's report as "ancient history," which he doesn't accept. He said the report has additional information which would be useful to the public.

"We have no desire to embarrass or throw cold water on the enthusiasm of the great men and women of the CIA, but let's just take a clear and open look at what the IG found and see if we have all of those problems corrected," Bond said.

In an October 2005 statement Goss said the officers involved in counterterrorism were "stars who had excelled in their areas" singled out by the CIA to take on difficult assignments. "Unfortunately, time and resources were not on their side, despite their best efforts to meet unprecedented challenges," he said.

Goss rejected a recommendation from CIA Inspector General John Helgerson that the agency form accountability review boards to examine any personal culpability. Bond said that move was regrettable.

In his statement, Goss also noted that the agency had received a Freedom of Information Act request for the report, and that a review process was ongoing. But the CIA has not released any documents to The Associated Press or other organizations that began requesting the information at least 20 months ago.

The law requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 days, but officials rarely meet those deadlines and often blame lengthy backlogs.

Groups including the National Security Archive have clashed with the agency over its FOIA policies. Last year, the archive gave the CIA its prize for the agency with the worst FOIA record. Called the "Rosemary Award," it's named after President Nixon's secretary, Rosemary Woods, who erased 18 minutes of a key Watergate conversation on the White House tapes.

The citation noted that CIA's oldest FOIA requests could apply for drivers' licenses in most states. "CIA has for three decades been one of the worst FOIA agencies," archive Director Thomas Blanton said this week.

Many of the individuals highlighted in the inspector general's report are likely to have retired. But some are believed still to be in senior government positions, making the report's findings even more sensitive at the CIA and perhaps elsewhere within the intelligence community.

The AP has reported that the two-year review of what went wrong before the suicide hijackings harshly criticized a number of the agency's most senior officials.

That includes Tenet, former clandestine service chief Jim Pavitt and former counterterrorism center head Cofer Black, according to individuals familiar with the report, who spoke in 2005 on condition they not be identified.

Yet the report also offered some praise for actions of Tenet and others.

Pavitt is now a principal with The Scowcroft Group, an international business advisory firm, and Black is vice chairman of Blackwater USA, an international security firm whose clients include the CIA and other U.S. agencies.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Resurgent Menace

From USA Today:

U.S. spy agencies say al Qaeda's top leaders, once on the run, have regrouped
By Kevin Whitelaw
Posted 5/6/07

When President Bush talks about Osama bin Laden these days, it's usually to rally support for the U.S. effort in Iraq. Last month, he told an audience that bin Laden and his al Qaeda network "have made it clear they want to drive us from Iraq to establish safe haven in order to launch further attacks." But over the past year, U.S. intelligence agencies have completely revised their assessment of al Qaeda and reached an alarming conclusion: Bin Laden already has a safe haven-in Pakistan-and may be stronger than ever.

The shift is dramatic. Two years ago, when the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, went to Capitol Hill to deliver his annual threat assessment, he described al Qaeda leaders as battered and isolated. "Osama bin Laden and his senior leadership no longer exercise centralized control and direction," he told Congress. The more serious threat, he added, was a burgeoning network of individual extremists and entrepreneurial cells inspired by bin Laden. That judgment remained essentially unchanged through early 2006.

When the current head of DIA, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, visited Capitol Hill this year, he warned that the group's leaders are resilient and are actively plotting from their new base in Pakistan. "Al Qaeda retains the ability to organize complex, mass-casualty attacks and inspire others," Maples said. "Al Qaeda has consistently recovered from losses of senior leadership."

Damage control. The spy agencies' shift was driven by al Qaeda's resurgence as well as new information they had obtained about its deep involvement in recent terrorist plots. Privately, U.S. officials concede that they had overestimated the damage they had inflicted on al Qaeda's network. The captures of successive operational commanders, including 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, amounted only to temporary setbacks; they were replaced with disturbing ease. "We understand better how al Qaeda is withstanding the offensive that was launched against it in 2001 and later," says a senior U.S. government official.

Iraq has, of course, been an undeniable boon for al Qaeda, both as a battleground and a rallying cause. But when it comes to exporting terrorism, U.S. intelligence is more worried today about the badlands of western Pakistan. That's where bin Laden has succeeded in reconstituting a safe haven after several years on the run. The rugged tribal provinces have long been ungoverned, and a controversial truce that the government of Pakistan signed last September with the tribes to go after al Qaeda has backfired. "There are indications that, due in large part to the truce, al Qaeda operatives can operate with a higher degree of impunity," says a U.S. counterterrorism official. "They have a greater sense of security and freedom of movement and can communicate more easily with fellow militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere." Indeed, despite being one of the world's most wanted men, Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy, managed to issue at least 15 propaganda missives last year.

The tribal areas are now riddled with a burgeoning network of al Qaeda training camps. "We're seeing less brick and mortar operations in terms of training and more transient facilities that al Qaeda uses for its training and for operations planning purposes," says a U.S. intelligence official. "Much of their training is opportunistic-whatever they can do, whenever they can do it, wherever they can do it." There is apparently no shortage of trainers, or occasions for students to practice their lessons in neighboring Afghanistan, where al Qaeda has been forging closer ties with the revitalized Taliban.

Pakistan has been an American ally against al Qaeda, but U.S. officials are increasingly frustrated by its inability-or unwillingness-to crack down in the tribal regions. "The Pakistanis do just enough to avoid jeopardizing U.S. support," says Daniel Byman, a former CIA analyst who teaches at Georgetown University. U.S. options for operating there are very limited: "You would put [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf at risk, and you would face a heavily armed not only adversary but population," says a senior U.S. intelligence official.

There was one event in particular last year that prompted the intelligence community to rethink al Qaeda. Authorities in Britain last summer disrupted a plot to down airliners bound for the United States using liquid explosives. At the time, experts said that the sophisticated plan to simultaneously hit multiple targets bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda. Now, a senior U.S. government official tells U.S. News that the liquid explosives plot has been traced back conclusively to "midlevel operational elements of al Qaeda" in Pakistan. Another concern: The explosives could have worked, suggesting that al Qaeda has managed to replace the bomb makers it has lost. "What the British plot showed us was that they had people to backfill and people who were pretty smart," the official adds. "This was pretty damn clever."

British investigators also found that despite initial conclusions to the contrary, earlier plots like the July 2005 London subway bombings were also planned with the active participation of al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. "In case after case, the hand of core al Qaeda can be clearly seen," Peter Clarke, Scotland Yard's counterterrorism chief, said in a recent speech. Two of the subway bombers-along with the leader of a group of five British citizens convicted last week of plotting to blow up a nightclub and power plants in London with fertilizer bombs-allegedly attended training camps together in Pakistan and met Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a senior al Qaeda figure now in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay.

"Conveyor belt." At the same time, the broader movement inspired by al Qaeda has only grown bigger, largely because of the group's powerful propaganda machine. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have been able to fill in the gaps between their megaplots with a rising stream of smaller-scale, homegrown attacks. "You could have hoped that we would have a serial war-that as al Qaeda declined, you could focus on its affiliates and the homegrowns," says the senior U.S. intelligence official. "I think now what we see is a parallel war, which is harder to fight, obviously."

The State Department issued a report last week warning about the emergence of a terrorist "conveyor belt" that seeks to radicalize alienated minorities and drive them toward violence. Overall, the report found that terrorist attacks worldwide jumped by more than 25 percent last year over 2005, with fatalities from those attacks rising by 40 percent.

The news is not entirely bad. In several countries with well-functioning governments and powerful security forces, al Qaeda has run into trouble. Two weeks ago, for example, authorities in Saudi Arabia announced that more than 170 suspected terrorists have been arrested in recent months as part of a plot to target oil fields and other targets. "The franchise in Saudi Arabia has been defeated," says Bruce Riedel, a veteran CIA analyst now with the Brookings Institution. "In Egypt, it never got off the ground. In Indonesia, there was a big threat in 2002 and 2003, but it seems to have lost momentum."

Even in these places, the success could be temporary. "It's not like they've defeated the thought," warns the senior U.S. intelligence official. "It's just that the capabilities of these cells to execute has been really damaged."