The federal government has given the job of compiling statistics used by the State Department to analyze trends in global terrorism to an academic group, a move that may complicate accurate unclassified assessments of patterns of terrorist activity for years to come….
But because of the switch, the statistics are likely to be dramatically different this year compared with previous years. Several officials said that when the next edition of the State Department survey is released, they expect the number of terrorist incidents for 2012, including figures on the number of people kidnapped, wounded or killed by terrorists, to be significantly lower than what was reported in previous years. But that decrease may not reflect an actual downward trend in attacks on the ground. (Washington Post, Posted 22 May 13)
The union representing the State Department’s security officers has endorsed House Republicans’ call for a special panel to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi…. “The production of 1,000 documents by the State Department and the administration, as well as the testimony of former Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, has proven insufficient in addressing numerous unanswered questions,” Adler wrote. “When the questions involve the fatalities of two heroic SEALS, as well as the injuries of brave DSS Special Agents, every government resource should be committed towards answering them.
“We don’t kick heroes under the carpet because we find an investigative inquiry administratively inconvenient.” (The Hill, Posted 21 May 13)
A good deal of media attention has quite appropriately been lavished on e-mail traffic between mid-level administration officials in the days leading up to Sunday, September 16. That is the day when Ms. Rice, a close Obama confidant, made her appalling appearances on the Sunday-morning political shows. Those performances were transparently designed to mislead the American people, during the presidential campaign stretch run, into believing that an anti-Islamic Internet video — rather than a coordinated terrorist attack orchestrated by al-Qaeda affiliates, coupled with the Obama administration’s gross failure to secure and defend American personnel in Benghazi — was responsible for the killings.
Fraud flows from the top down, not the mid-level up. Mid-level officials in the White House and the State Department do not call the shots — they carry out orders. They also were not running for reelection in 2012 or positioning themselves for a campaign in 2016. The people doing that were, respectively, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. (National Review, Posted 21 May 13)
Following the attack in Benghazi, Libya, senior State Department officials close to Hillary Clinton ordered the removal of a midlevel official who had no role in security decisions and has never been told the charges against him. He is now accusing Clinton’s team of scapegoating him for the failures that led to the death of four Americans last year.
Maxwell just wants his day in court. He wrote a poem on his personal blog in April which referred to the State Department’s treatment of the four officials removed from their jobs after Benghazi as a “lynching.” Last week, he posted another poem about the growing Benghazi scandal. “The web of lies they weave gets tighter and tighter in its deceit until it bottoms out -at a very low frequency – and implodes,” he wrote. “Yet all the while, the more they talk, the more they lie, and the deeper down the hole they go.” (Daily Beast, Posted 20 May 13)
Putin is determined to prevent Assad’s fall from power, fearing that a like-minded leader’s demise would reverberate throughout his own country. Russia’s missile transfer and deployment of ships off the Syrian coast underscore Putin’s desire to eliminate the possibility of a U.S.-led effort to intervene and to preserve the Russian base in Tartus. The actions also reflect Putin’s utter disdain for the United States, which he views as weak and needing him more than he needs it.
Beyond Russia’s policy toward Syria, examples of that disdain are plentiful, even in the past two weeks. The day Kerry arrived, a former senior official at the U.S. Embassy now in the private sector was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for 17 hours without food or water, interrogated and then deported. Putin then kept Kerry waiting for three hours before their meeting. (Washington Post op-ed, Posted 20 May 13)
The Chinese navy’s surface forces are on the march. Destroyers, frigates, corvettes, fast-attack craft, and, most recently, the newly commissioned aircraft carrier comprise the surface fleet. Over the past two decades, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) has put to sea four Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers procured from Russia, along with ten new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates. Some of the latter ship types have entered serial production, adding mass to the fleet. This is an impressive feat by any standard.
The PLA Navy’s metamorphosis from a coastal defense force into a modern naval service has riveted the attention of the U.S. defense community. In 2009 the Office of Naval Intelligence — a body not known for hyperbole — described the advances of China’s surface fleet as “remarkable.” Similarly, the Pentagon’s most recent annual report on Chinese military power notes the “robust” buildup of PLA Navy major combatants since 2008. (The Diplomat, Posted 19 May 13)
The Washington Post editorial board is quite upset with “Republicans and conservative media obsessed” with the “phony” issue of the administration’s misleading public explanation of the nature of the attacks in Benghazi. In a lengthy editorial, the Post makes a haughtier and more condescending version of a complaint we’ve heard from others. So it’s worth a response.
The piece begins with a complaint that critics charged that “Susan E. Rice ‘willfully or incompetently misled the American public’ when she appeared on news programs Sept. 16 and described the attackers as having emerged from a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.” That argument is wrong, the Post avers, because “it was established that Ms. Rice was simply repeating talking points prepared by the intelligence community.” That’s incorrect, and for an editorial devoted to much harrumphing that “actual facts don’t seem to matter much to the scandal mongers,” it’s an inauspicious start. (Weekly Standard, Posted 18 May 13)
Secretary Kerry’s announcement of a peace conference on Syria only ten days ago has been met with a series of remarkable provocations from the Russians: First, they refused to halt the sale of a sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons system to Assad, one which would make the imposition of a no-fly zone more difficult. Second, they expelled an alleged CIA spy from the country, a move most notable for the amount of bluster and indignation that accompanied it.
And as the WSJ reports today, the Russian navy, which began a sustained buildup around Syria three months ago, shows no signs of backing down. (The American Interest, Posted 18 May 13)
Let the facts speak for themselves. They are damning enough. Let Gregory Hicks, the honorable, apolitical second-in-command that night in Libya, movingly and grippingly demolish the president’s Benghazi mantra that “what I have always tried to do is just get all the facts” and “every piece of information that we got, as we got it, we laid it out for the American people.” On the contrary. Far from assiduously gathering and releasing information, the administration was assiduously trying to control and suppress it.
Just hours into the Benghazi assault, Hicks reports, by phone to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, on the attack with absolutely no mention of any demonstration or video, later to become the essence of the Susan Rice talking points that left him “stunned” and “embarrassed.” “My jaw dropped,” he testified last week to Congress. (Washington Post op-ed, Posted 17 May 13)
President Obama has reportedly proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that their two governments work toward a formal accord on sharing antimissile data, ITAR-Tass reported on Wednesday. In a personal letter delivered to Putin in mid-April by U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon, Obama suggested “developing a legally binding agreement on transparency, which would include exchange of information to confirm that our programs do not pose a threat to each other’s deterrence forces,” the Russian Kommersant newspaper reported.
An unidentified State Department source told the newspaper that Obama could conclude the agreement using his executive authority, which would not need approval from Congress. The accord, though, could be undone by a subsequent presidential administration. (Global Security Newswire, Posted 17 May 12)
Nonetheless, the emails themselves raise more questions than they answer. For example, there is extensive discussion on the evening of September 14 about whether the talking points should mention Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist militia the original CIA draft stated was a likely participant in the attacks. Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman at the time, asked whether or not mentioning the group would prejudice the investigation, and the FBI in later emails did not object. Still, the final version excised the reference to Ansar al-Sharia as well as a reference to Facebook posts the group had created suggesting a link to the attacks.
Nor do the emails provide a record of the secure video teleconference from September 15 in which the decisions were ultimately made on what the final version of the talking points would look like. Senior government officials such as the State Department’s director for policy planning, Jake Sullivan, participated in the teleconference. (The Daily Beast, Posted 17 May 13)
The U.S. government believes a Chinese missile launch this week was the first test of a new interceptor that could be used to destroy a satellite in orbit…. Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, declined to comment specifically on the rocket launch, but said China was clearly taking a more aggressive posture in space.
“Any time you have a nation-state looking to have a more aggressive posture in space, it’s very concerning,” Rogers said at a Reuters Cybersecurity Summit. The United States remains concerned about China’s development of anti-satellite capabilities after Beijing shot a missile at one of its own defunct satellites in orbit in 2007, creating an enormous amount of debris in space. (Reuters, Posted 16 May 13)