Saturday, February 1, 2014

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam - Public Health:

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam

Servicemen in a boat on an inland waterway of Vietnam
VA maintains a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships associated with military service in Vietnam and possible exposure to Agent Orange based on military records.
This evolving list helps Veterans who served aboard ships, including "Blue Water Veterans," find out if they may qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure.
Veterans must meet VA's criteria for service in Vietnam, which includes aboard boats on the inland waterways or brief visits ashore, to be presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.
Veterans who qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure are not required to show they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides when seeking VA compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.

Find your ship

Ships or boats that were part of the Mobile Riverine ForceInshore Fire Support (ISF) Division 93 or had one of the following designations operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam. Veterans whose military records confirm they were aboard these ships qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure.
During your Vietnam tour, did your ship or boat have one of the following designations?
- See more at: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/index.asp#sthash.cvN9mlU6.dpuf

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Target Sochi: The threat from the Caucasus Emirate

In less than two weeks, Russia’s southern resort city of Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. When the city was selected as an Olympic site, little attention was paid to Sochi's location on Russia’s western shore of the Black Sea, only a few hundred miles from the North Caucasus, a region teeming with anti-Russian jihadists seeking to create a global caliphate. Consisting of six vilayetsor provinces, organized under one umbrella, the Caucasus Emirate (CE) is arguably the most innovative, capable, and deadly terrorist organization active anywhere on the globe. The CE’s geographic proximity to Sochi lends credence to the group’s public declarations that bold attacks would occur during the forthcoming winter games.
While the Russian government has expressed confidence that the games will be devoid of disruption, several indicators highlight how seriously the Putin regime views the Caucasus Emirate threat, and what an embarrassment a successful attack would be. When compared to other Olympics, security for the Sochi games is unprecedented.
In the largest joint US- British security operation since World War II, the 2012 London Olympics was guarded by 12,000 police, with another 18,000 security personnel deployed or on standby. But this effort pales in comparison to the Russian security operation in Sochi, which will involve more than double the personnel attendant to the London Olympics. Backed by a series of sweeping laws and decrees allowing for unfettered surveillance, detainment, and control of public movement, 25,000 police, 8,000 elite security forces, and up to 30,000 regular soldiers will be deployed or on immediate standby. (The United States will even have two warships off the coast of Sochi "in case any Americans needed to be evacuated after a terrorist attack or other emergency,” a Pentagon official has said. Meanwhile, top US and Russian defense officials have discussed the sharing of technology to counter improvised explosive devices.) Such levels of security are likely to bring the cost of the Sochi Olympics in excess of $50 billion—by far the largest budget ever for an Olympics.
On the surface, it is difficult to imagine how an attack could even be attempted in an environment with such omnipresent security. But a number of factors suggest that the CE or another jihadist group in the area will attempt attacks during the Sochi Olympics. These attacks, if successful, could precipitate mass casualties and seriously damage the games, perhaps even halting them. The seriousness of the threat posed by the Caucasus Emirate is based on analysis of its history, its structure, its previous involvement in foreign attacks, and an extraordinary motive for striking at this time: The Sochi games coincide with two grim anniversaries of Russian atrocities against people in the North Caucasus.
Violence in the Caucasus. The history of violence that has defined the North Caucasus’ relationship with Moscow traces back to the 1770s, when Imperial Russia first expanded south into the region. Modern conceptions of unrest in the North Caucasus remain bound to Chechnya—one of the nine North Caucasus republics—and the two wars Chechen separatists fought after claiming independence following the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. Rejecting the secession of the newly declared Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya, Russian forces began a brutal yet unsuccessful effort to reestablish control in 1994. By 1996, when Russian troops withdrew (temporarily giving Chechnya de facto independence), the ideology of the Chechen Republic had transformed from a nationalist struggle for independence to a religious struggle waged by local violent Islamists and foreign Salafi-jihadists. This profound ideological shift precipitated the establishment of jihadist camps that provided extensive training in guerrilla warfare and indoctrination into Salafi-jihadist ideology to scores of local and foreign fighters in the Chechen area.
Sensing an opportunity to create a new front for global jihad into Russia, Osama bin Laden began backing Chechen jihadists and other North Caucasus extremists in 1997. Emboldened by this logistical and motivational support, up to 2,000 rebels from Chechnya invaded the Russian Republic of Dagestan in 1999, with the goal of creating an independent Islamic state. This incursion precipitated the Second Chechen War, which ended when Russia defeated Chechen militants on the battlefield in May of 2000. Surviving leaders were unable to regroup until 2002, when the partially revived group expanded its operations in the Caucasus region and throughout Russia.
Significantly, after a prolonged internecine struggle, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya fully embraced jihadi ideology and Sharia-based order. With all vestiges of nationalist independence removed, the creation of an emirate—a political territory ruled by an emir—gained ascendency by 2006. Due to the deaths of its top three leaders and other setbacks, the group's operational capability declined. Consequently, as the Russian scholar and North Caucus jihadi expert Gordon M. Hahn explained during a series of interviews, “the situation was ripe for a re-branding under the increasingly popular banner of jihad.”
On October 29, 2007, the Caucasus Emirate officially supplanted the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya. Dokku Umarov—often referred to as “Russia’s bin Laden”—became the CE’s self-appointed emir. The then-42-year-old Umarov was a veteran of many of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya's most notable attacks and regional battles. Beyond his operational experience, Umarov had also spent the previous year and a half as president of the secessionist, underground Chechen government. (Russia had restored federal control of the republic in 2000). Immediately declaring jihad against those states at war with “Muslims and Islam” (i.e., the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel), Umarov expanded the Caucasus Emirate's operational capability through an effective combination of recruitment practices, the use of suicide bombers, and the execution of other, innovative types of attacks. Hahn observes in his forthcoming book, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin, that “the CE plugged itself into the core of the global jihadi revolutionary alliance, which lent it a resonant ideology, leadership cadres, weapons, [and] financial and propaganda resources.”
Thus, the Caucasus Emirate’s strategic goals, shaped by their jihadi ideology, far exceed those of the original Chechen insurgency; they play a seminal role in the jihadi revolutionary movement’s objective of a global caliphate. In 2010, a leading CE ideologue, Abu-t-Tanvir Kavkazkii, described the process of expanding the caliphate. After the liberation of the Caucasus, he explained, other regions, such as the Russian Ural Mountains, Western Siberia, and Central Asia (including Afghanistan and Pakistan) will be liberated. Moving westward, the Crimea region, “also a land occupied by non-believers,” will be released from the “infidel’s yoke.”
Following the liberation of Turkey, the emirate will ultimately link up with Salafi-jihadists in Syria.
Not your average terror group. All terrorist groups are not created equal; some have been able to outlast others, to innovate and adapt their tactics to changing ideological and political shifts better than others, and to accomplish their objectives more consistently than others. Clearly, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya and its successor, the Caucasus Emirate, are among the world's most effective terror organizations.
Fewer than three percent of terrorist groups have operated as long as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya, even fewer end by generating an even stronger organization. Since 1970, fewer than five percent of all terrorist attacks have generated more than 11 fatalities; Chechen insurgents perpetrated dozens of attacks exceeding that number of deaths—often greatly. Simultaneous attacks and successful assassinations are hallmarks of terror groups with high capabilities; the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya has been among the elite in both categories.
No other terrorist organization is known to have more experience with radiological or “dirty bomb” materials. The Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya also explored chemical weapons and is widely believed to have reconnoitered Russian nuclear weapon storage facilities and transportation nodes, allegedly attempted to steal intact nuclear devices twice, and may have stolen “significant” amounts of plutonium.
The Caucasus Emirate inherited vast amounts of knowledge about generating high casualty counts, possesses innovative and highly complex operational capabilities, and has uncommon experience with unconventional weapons and their storage facilities. This inheritance has been used to devastating effect. According to Hahn, since the group's formation in October 2007, it has engaged in some 2,500 jihadi attacks and violent incidents, including 54 suicide bombings. In 2009, the CE killed a variety of high-ranking military and government officials in the North Caucasus. It also was involved in the unconventional and complicated task of detonating bombs buried beneath the Moscow-St. Petersburg Nevsky Express train attacks in the 2007 and 2009. The former attack injured 30; the latter attack generated 136 casualties.
In 2010, two Dagestani Caucasus Emirate “black widows” (the wives of Dagestani emirs fighting under the CE banner) detonated improvised explosive devices in the Moscow subway system, causing 135 casualties. In 2011, a Caucasus Emirate suicide bomber detonated himself inside Moscow's Domodedoyo Airport; the attack resulted in some 195 casualties. These explosive trends continued last year with the October and December Volgograd bus and train station bombings, which cumulatively resulted in more than 170 casualties. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the 2013 attacks, operatives in the bombings have Dagestani connections, heavily implying Caucasus Emirate involvement.
The histories of Chechnya, the Caucasus Emirate, and Sochi itself link the Winter Olympics eerily with two seminal and grim anniversaries. The date of the closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, February 23, will also mark the 70-year anniversary of a vast deportation that remains vivid in Chechen culture. Feb. 23, 1944 is the day when the Soviet soldiers began carrying out Soviet leader Josef Stalin's order to deport nearly half a million Chechens and neighboring Ingushians from their homelands to Central Asia. Stalin feared the groups would collaborate with Nazi invaders. The death and dislocation associated with this event are seared into Chechen consciousness.
Eventually, the Chechens were at least allowed to return to their native land. This was not the case for Sochi’s ethnic Circassians, whom the Russian authorities simply killed in vast numbers—by some accounts, 600,000 lost their lives—in hundreds of raids over many decades of the 19th century. Some consider the operation to constitute the first genocide in modern Europe. Unrepentant, the Russian government still does not acknowledge the near total elimination of the Circassian population by the winter of 1864. This winter’s 150th anniversary of the mass killing is made all the more salient by a grisly fact: Many of the victims are buried beneath facilities and terrain in use for the Sochi Olympics.
Dagestan takes the lead. Since the Caucasus Emirate’s official formation in 2007, there has been a shift in the organization’s center of power. At the time of this writing, the Dagestan vilayet has earned the position as the most active, successful, and deadly of all six provincial CE organizations. According Hahn, the Dagestan group carried out 364 attacks resulting in an estimated 286 “infidel” deaths in 2012 alone. This level of death-dealing greatly outpaces the 53 attacks in Chechnya and 93 incidents in Ingushetia.
The ambition of the Dagestan vilayet can be seen in the complex and audacious attack it planned against the Eurovision 2012 music festival in Baku, Azerbaijan. Such an attack would have involved multiple car bombings around Baku, the assassination of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and numerous additional attacks throughout the country. Even though Azeri security forces foiled the plot and arrested 40 suspects, an attempt of this scale demonstrates the DV’s ability to develop detailed and complex operation plans for targets outside Dagestan.
Other CE vilayets also present formidable threats to the Olympics.
Although the United vilayet of Kabardiya, Balkaria, and Karachai, which encompasses the regions of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, has been relatively inactive with only 61 recorded attacks in 2012, one incident in particular stands out. In 2011, jihadists from this organization conducted a coordinated attack against tourists and facilities at the ski resort around Mount Elbrus in Kabardino-Balkaria, killing three and heavily damaging the resort’s cable car system. This attack is widely perceived as a potential trial run for an attack against the Sochi Olympic games and highlights how even relatively quiet vilayets can possess the operational capabilities and willingness to carry out ambitious and intricate attacks. 
Beginning in 2010, Caucasus Emirate operations expanded into Europe and, possibly, the United States. In December 2010, Austrian officials intercepted a CE plot to attack a Belgian NATO facility. In April 2011, Czech counterterrorism officials uncovered a well-armed cell with links to the Dagestan vilayet in Bohemia. Spanish and French authorities arrested two Chechen extremists in August 2012 who, along with a Turk, were reportedly poised to begin an attack on a joint US-Spanish naval base in Rota, Spain or against targets in Gibraltar. According to Hahn the latter plan may have targeted “a Gibraltar shopping mall in an attack that was to be timed to occur during the London Olympic games.” 
The three plotters reportedly were found with explosives, and, Hahn said, they "had been training on paragliders, and were preparing to bomb targets using paragliders or large toy planes or ‘drones.’”
Most recently, the Caucasus Emirate was linked to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of two brothers responsible for the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing that resulted in more than 260 casualties. Hahn contends that the CE’s involvement with Tamrlan Tsarnaev involved direct inspiration through operatives who met with him several times during his 2012 visit to Dagestan.
Many of the Caucasus Emirate’s fighters have gained experience or are currently fighting in Syria’s civil war. Indeed, there are now three major CE emirs working with two al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria: Jabhat al-Nusrah, or the Support Front for the People of the Levant, and ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham). Before they publically split in April 2013, both groups originally entered the Syrian conflict under the banner of Al-Qaeda in Iraq—financed, in part, by Umarov, the so-called Russian bin Laden.
Two Caucasus Emirate emirs are active with Jabhat al-Nusra. Another CE emir is the military leader of ISIS’ entire northern front. “The CE fighters that are going from Russia to Syria go through Turkey,” Hahn explains, “and when they go back to Russia it is through Turkey.” The link between the CE and al-Qaeda affiliate groups in Syria has special meaning, given reports of Turkish police seizing significant quantities of sarin nerve gas from al-Qaeda-linked individuals. 
The frightening possibilities. With the opening of the Sochi Olympics just days away, the ways in which Caucasus Emirate-related terrorism might impinge upon them seem to cluster around three general possibilities. The least likely would be a mass casualty attack in Sochi itself. Security is so high that an attack seems improbable. Still, it is a possibility. Insiders could have been planted in Sochi years ago. Moreover, two recent suicide attacks by the CE were conducted by female ethnic Russians working with handlers, also ethnic Russians, who might have an easier time getting into Sochi than terrorists of North Caucasus descent. Late in January of this year, Russian authorities were searching Sochi for a female revenge bomber, or "black widow."    
But given the extraordinary security in Sochi, the most likely outcome would seem to be an attack elsewhere in Russia. The recent bombings in Volgograd—a major transportation hub for those traveling to Sochi—could portend another attack there. A successful attack anywhere in Russia would likely cast a pall over the games; the distance of an attack from Sochi and its perceived "success" in terms of casualties generated would seem to be the main factors that will determine how badly the games are damaged.
The CE could of course forego any attacks, using the Olympics as a way of gaining knowledge of Russian security practices ahead of other events that might be targeted, including the 2018 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, to be held in 11 stadiums throughout Russia, including one in Sochi. But a Caucasus Emirate waiting game seems less likely than the possibility that terror attacks have been planned, and that the plans are ambitious. As William Faulkner famously wrote in 1951, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." The past that lives on in the minds of many in the Caucasus is a violent one, and for them, historic scores are just waiting to be settled.
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JAN 24 John Paul Jones Comes Home Friday

John Paul Jones, the Continental Navy's first ...
John Paul Jones, the Continental Navy's first seaman to be appointed the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Oil painting by George Bagby Matthews, c. 1890. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Friday, January 24, 2014 1:00 PMIt is possible that the axiom “all good things come to those who wait” could not be more applicable to any historic Navy figure than John Paul Jones, a Scotland-born Sailor who rose to fame as a captain in the Continental Navy of the United States, widely considered one of the founders of the U.S. Navy.

After languishing for 113 years in a virtually unmarked grave paved over by a Paris laundry, this legendary naval leader was found, reclaimed by the U.S., and now lays in an ornate sarcophagus styled after French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
C’est la vie!
Jones’ crypt is not as large as the famed French emperor, but they share the same center-placed sarcophagus surrounded on the perimeter by marble columns.
Designed by Beaux Arts architect Whitney Warren, the French sculptor Sylvain Salieres crafted the sarcophagus and columns out of black and white Great Pyrenees marble. The top is garnished with garlands of bronze sea plants, while the sarcophagus itself is held aloft on the backs of four bronze dolphins.
Surrounding the sarcophagus, etched in the marble floor and then inset in brass, are the names of the Continental Navy ships commanded by Jones during the American Revolution: ProvidenceAlfredRangerBonhomme RichardSerapisAlliance andAriel.
In between the eight columns that form the perimeter of the crypt are American national ensigns (flags) and Union Jacks.
In the periphery of the circular space surrounding the sarcophagus are niches displaying historic objects related to Jones’ life and naval career, which include an original marble copy of the Houdon portrait bust, a gold medal awarded to Jones by Congress in 1787, the gold-hilted presentation sword given to Jones by Louis XVI of France, and Jones’ commission as captain, Continental (U.S.) Navy, signed by John Hancock.
And also inlaid in brass is this inscription:

JOHN PAUL JONES, 1747-1792; U.S. NAVY, 1775-1783.
HE GAVE OUR NAVY ITS EARLIEST TRADITIONS OF HEROISM AND VICTORY.
ERECTED BY THE CONGRESS, A.D. 1912.
 John Paul Jones Tomb Courtesy United States Naval Academy flickr
Perhaps Congress giving itself credit for the sarcophagus might have been a bit overreaching. But there is a plaque that does give nod to the man who brought John Paul Jones home: Brevet Gen. Horace Porter, a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate and close friend of Ulysses Grant. When work on Grant’s Tomb stopped due to lack of money, it was Porter who kept the project rolling with his fundraising efforts. A large audience was in attendance when the monument on Riverside Drive in New York was dedicated April 27, 1897.
And so with work finished on Grant’s Tomb, Porter jumped into a similar mission when he was appointed as ambassador to France in 1897: Find and bring back the body of naval hero John Paul Jones.
Porter spent the next six years researching and funding the investigation to determine where Jones had been buried. Records revealed Jones was likely buried in the Saint Louis Cemetery for Foreign Protestants, but it had been paved over.
Congress agreed to pay $35,000 for the excavation, but rather than waiting for the funds to be released, Porter paid for the work himself. The body was found almost perfectly preserved in an alcohol-filled lead coffin within a wooden coffin. That was done because when he died in 1792 Jones’ friends believed the U.S. would eventually bring the body back to America.
By the time Porter was convinced through autopsy and other records that he had found John Paul Jones, it was 1905. Naval enthusiast President Theodore Roosevelt used repatriating Jones’ remains as an opportunity to show off his growing naval power.
On July 6, 1905, to commemorate the 158th year of Jones’ birth, his remains were led by military escort through the streets of Paris and taken by torpedo boat to USS Brooklyn which, along with a squadron of warships, brought Jones’ body back to America, 113 years after his death.
Roosevelt deemed Jones’ final resting place to be the U.S. Naval Academy’s chapel which was being built on its Annapolis, Md., campus. Jones’ body was placed in a temporary vault until his final crypt was finished.
April 24, 1906 was chosen for the formal commemorative exercises of John Paul Jones’ re-internment because it was the anniversary of Jones’ famous 1778 capture of the British warship Drake.
Held at the Naval Academy, Roosevelt presided over the ceremony, using it as an opportunity to not only recognize the “memory of the dead hero” whose “indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death” should be emulated by future naval officers, but also to push his agenda on the need to build ships in time of peace to prepare for future need.
He evoked the image of the British burning Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812 as he thundered: “The sin of the invaders in burning the buildings is trivial compared with the sin of our own people in failing to make ready an adequate force to defeat the attempt.”
In case that message didn’t get through, he added “Let us remember our own shortcomings and see to it that the men in public life today are not permitted to bring about a state of things by which we should in effect invite a repetition of such a humiliation.”
After this ceremony, Jones was placed back into the vault to await the designing and sculpting of his final resting place. During this period of time, Roosevelt completed building his Great White Fleet, launched it on its 2-year circumnavigation of the world, and oversaw the building and completion of the Panama Canal and left office.
Finally, on Jan. 26, 1913, John Paul Jones was entombed within the 21-ton ornate marble and bronze sarcophagus. Considered a pirate by the British, a rogue by the Russians, and nearly forgotten by America, John Paul Jones had risen yet again from obscurity to lay in splendor for eternity as the Sailor who gave the modern U.S. Navy many of its traditions.
John Paul Jones Courtesy United States Naval Academy

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FRINFORMSUM 1/30/2014: Russian “Foreign Agents,” New Data DisclosureRules, More Americans Value Privacy over Anti-Terrorism Protections,and Much More. JANUARY 30, 2014 tags: Able Archer, FISC, guantanamo,nsa, Snowden, stasi by Lauren Harper

The US government has relaxed some data disclosure rules for technology companies this week, prompting Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to drop their lawsuits before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The suits were initially filed because the technology companies wanted to disclose “the volume and types of national security requests” they received in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance practices. The new rules will allow technology companies to disclose the existence of the FISC orders they receive (though not the exact numbers), publish that information every six months (with a six-month delay), and release the number of “selectors” (user names, email addresses or Internet addresses) the government requested information about.
Harley Geiger, a deputy director for the Center for Democracy and Technologysaid the data disclosure rule change “is a positive step forward but still falls short of proposals before Congress
Mark Pincus of Zynga and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo attend a meeting with President Obama at the White House in December. (Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
Mark Pincus of Zynga and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo attend a meeting with President Obama at the White House in December. (Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
right now.” Andrea Peterson of The Washington Post argued the new reporting metrics are primarily for PR purposes, and that “transparency reports are better than nothing, but they don’t represent a meaningful way to measure the true scope of governments’ access to private data.” Of further concern for some advocates is that a provision of the rule change “bars services less than two years old from disclosing such information for a period of two years. That caveat effectively means that no one will know whether the government is eavesdropping on a new email platform or chat service for two years.”
An Associated Press poll conducted after President Obama’s speech on NSA reforms reported that 61% of Americans now value their privacy over anti-terrorism protections, up from 58% last year. The poll showed the speech “was not enough to allay most Americans’ concerns. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they disapprove of the way Obama is handling intelligence surveillance policies. And 61 percent said they prioritize protecting Americans’ rights and freedoms over making sure Americans are safe from terrorists.”
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told a German news program the NSA “is involved in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its value to national security.” Snowden’s assertions come a month after the New York Times reported the NSA put software into nearly 100,000 international computers, providing a potential “digital highway for launching cyberattacks.”
House of Representative Intelligence Committee Chair, Mike Rogers, suggested earlier this month in a televised interview that Russia gained influence over Snowden, saying “I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow.” Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Sen. Diane Feinstein, dismissed Rogers’ remarks this week, saying “she has seen no evidence that Russian spies helped former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden steal U.S. eavesdropping secrets.”
AG Holder has announced the DOJ will not offer Snowden clemency, is seeking billions in penalties and damages from the contractor that performed his background check. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP
AG Holder has announced the DOJ will not offer Snowden clemency and is seeking billions in penalties and damages from the contractor that performed his background check. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP
Attorney General Eric Holder said he would be willing “to discuss how the criminal case against Edward J. Snowden would be handled, but only if Mr. Snowden pleaded guilty first.” Holder reiterated the DOJ would not be offering Snowden clemency if he returns to the US, only saying that if he were to return and enter a plea, the government would engage with his lawyers.
Meanwhile, the DOJ is seeking billions in damages from US Investigations Services Inc. (USIS), the company that performed Edward Snowden’s background check and is the largest government contractor that investigates current and prospective federal employees. USIS fraudulently signed off on over 650,000 clearances between 2008 and 2012, including checks for Snowden and the Navy Yard Shooter, Aaron Alexis.
President Obama has nominated Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers to be the next head of the NSA and Cyber Command. The Washington Post reports that “[i]n an unusual move, Obama himself interviewed Rogers last week, in a reflection of the job’s high profile at a time when the NSA has drawn fire for the scope of its surveillance practices.” General Keith Alexander, the current and longest-serving head of the beleaguered agency, will step down on March 14.
Guantanamo detainee Abd Malak Abd Wahab Rahbi appeared before a review board for the first partially public hearing for a detainee to determine whether his status as an enemy combatant should be changed, thus making him eligible for release. The Pentagon held its first periodic review board in secret last fall, which sparked transparency concerns, “[s]o beginning with Rahbi, reporters and representatives from nongovernmental watchdog organizations will be permitted to watch some unclassified portions of the daylong hearings through a closed-circuit television feed in a Pentagon annex.”
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report released in September 2013 redacted information recommending Border Patrol stop using force when it encounters rock throwers. One of Border Patrol’s most controversial practices is “shooting at migrants and suspected drug runners who throw rocks and other objects at agents,” which law enforcement experts have recommended the agency stop doing because it is less effective than simply taking cover elsewhere.
The Freedom of Information Foundation (St. Petersburg), a Russian NGO advocating transparency and a longtime institutional ally of the National Security Archive, was recently declared a “foreign agent” by the Russian government.  The Central Prosecutor’s Office of St. Petersburg charged the Foundation under Russia’s “foreign agents” law, an “unprecedented, nationwide campaign of inspections of thousands of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify advocacy groups” that forces them to register with authorities. According to a translation by the Georgian Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, the “foreign agent” label was applied to the Freedom of Information Foundation because “the organization is utilizing internet resources for political reasons” and concern that the Foundation’s chairman had alerted President Obama “about the socio-political situation in Russia.” A complaint challenging the law has been filed with the European Court of Human Rights.  This heavy-handed state attack on a Russian NGO striving to improve Russian citizens’ access to government information reveals the current Potemkin state of Russian democracy –not just of Sochi.
"The Man Without a Face," Marcus Wolf, Head of Stasi foreign intelligence
“The Man Without a Face,” Marcus Wolf, Head of Stasi foreign intelligence
Finally this week, newly available Stasi documents of meetings between Soviet and East German security heads between 1981 and 1984 provide operational details on Operation RYaN, the Soviet plan to predict and preempt a Western nuclear first strike that contributed to the risk of nuclear war through miscalculation during the 1983 Able Archer nuclear war scare. The documents reveal that the KGB received funding to create 300 new positions so that it could monitor and report on a Western nuclear first strike (that the West had never contemplated), and hint at Stasi –and KGB– concerns over lack of “clear-headedness about the entire RYaN complex,” inferring that Operation RYaN increased, rather than decreased, the danger of nuclear war.  Thanks to the Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic (BStU), and Cold War International History Project for this fascinating release.
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