The D Brief: Your brain, on torture; Carl Levin, disappointed; Watch a midair refueling; Strongman Rangel to head Lockheed in DC; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

The CIA first planned jails that abided by U.S. standards before it “pivoted” and went for harsh interrogations. As the fallout of the Senate report on torture continues – and as reporters read the massive document released yesterday – we learn more about the torture program at the hands of the CIA and the impact it has had. The NYT’s Matt Apuzzo and James Risen: “Just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush signed a secret order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to capture and imprison terrorists with Al Qaeda. But the order said nothing about where they should be held or how the agency should go about the business of questioning them.

For the next few weeks, as the rubble at ground zero smoldered and the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, C.I.A. officials scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the president’s order. Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s harsh interrogation program. More here.

This is your brain on torture. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker looks at some of the report’s other findings:  “…the document also confirms in striking detail what others had reported previously. 

“…The CIA, with the help of two Air Force psychologists, named in the report with the pseudonyms “Grayson Swigert” and “Hammond Dunbar,” sought to create a state of “learned helplessness” in prisoners, a state of complete psychological compliance, rendering the subject devoid of any sense of agency or will.” Read the here.

The CIA is looking to discredit the Senate’s infamous torture report, AP’s Bradley Klapper reports: “Its 136-page rebuttal suggests Senate Democrats searched through millions of documents to pull out only the evidence backing up predetermined conclusions. ‘That’s like doing a crossword puzzle on Tuesday with Wednesday’s answer’s key,’ the CIA said in an emailed statement.” More here.

One of the agency’s psychologists says the Senate’s report is “a bunch of hooey” that “took things out of context.” Reuters this morning, here.

The torture report has put politicians in “quiet mode,” the NYT reports, here.

Meantime, in Afghanistan this hour: Six Afghan soldiers killed in a bus by a suicide bomber. Reuters, here.

Endemic corruption is still the most “potent threat” to Afghanistan’s future, SIGAR said in a report released yesterday. Whether the ANSF can afford to sustain the progress made in massing their army and police is another high-priority concern for Kabul, too. Read the rest from our own Ben Watson, here.

And more from Sopko: “I was shocked when a U.S. official said what you are doing is really irrelevant.” When asked for more info on the official, SIGAR said only that it was a “defense official.”

While there is quiet hope for Afghanistan and the Ghani government, the WaPo today urges Obama to slow down his drawdown plans. In Post Opinion, here. 

Welcome to Thursday’s back-at-home edition of The D Brief, Defense One’s new, first-read national security newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to The D Brief, reply to this email and let us know, subscribe here or send us a holler at Please send us your tips, your tidbits, your scoops and stories, your think tank reports and best of all your candy, but send it to us early for maximum tease. And whatever you do, we hope you’ll follow us @glubold and @natsecwatson.

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Robert Rangel, the former strongman chief of staff under Bob Gates at the Pentagon, is taking over Lockheed Martin’s Washington office. He will succeed Gregory Dahlberg. The Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson on the move, here.

Carl Levin’s parting mood—disappointment? The new defense authorization bill falls far short of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin’s intent to alter policies of indefinite detention at Guantanamo and badly needed reforms to military compensation, Defense One politics editor Molly O’Toole says: “Levin, the longtime Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, is leaving Congress after 36 years disappointed that the bill bearing his name does not do more… Leaders in both parties are urging a speedy yes vote on the NDAA, meaning these crucial questions on defense policy will get put off again until the next Congress…

In the end, the NDAA provides a 1 percent pay raise below the rate of inflation; a slowed growth in the BAH; and a $3 increase in co-pays for most prescriptions—but all only for FY2015 The bill preserves language from the prior NDAA that says Guantanamo detainees cannot be transferred to the U.S. under any circumstance and funds cannot be used for any detention facility on U.S. soil. Levin wanted to include language allowing Guantanamo detainees to be tried and held in the U.S.” 

Hagel is back in DC. After a whirlwind trip to Kabul, Kuwait City, Baghdad and then back to Kuwait City, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel returned from what is likely his last trip, at least overseas. The D Brief, which went along with Hagel and other reporters this trip, is back, too. We now await the confirmation of Ash Carter, the man expected to replace Hagel. Carter’s confirmation hearings are expected for sometime in January.

One of the most basic but amazing things is the refueling of an airplane midair. Watch the LA Times’ W.J. Hennigan’s post on Vine showing Hagel’s E-4B military jet (the Doomsday plane) get refueled mid-air on its way back from Kuwait City – a giant mating of two birds at 35,000 feet - here.

In the realm of bad ideas: USAID tried to co-opt the underground hip-hop scene in Cuba to galvanize dissent. But, AP reports “the operation was amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful. More here.

The Pentagon is pressing Russia on an arms pact violation. The NYT’s Michael Gordon: The Pentagon has developed a range of military options to pressure Russia to correct its violation of a landmark arms control agreement, a senior Defense Department official told Congress on Wednesday.” Read the rest here.

If you want to see what the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Syria looks like, click here for one against a group of IS vehicles,  here for one against an IS truck,  here for one against an IS tank and here for one against an IS electronic warfare garrison. They are all from Nov. 29 and at targets near Ar Raqqah, Syria.

Conflicting accounts emerge in Yemen after the failed raid. The NYT’s Saeed Al Batati and Kareem Fahim: “…The rescue operation early Saturday in Yemen’s southern Shabwah Province ended in tragedy. The hostages, Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, and Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher, were shot by their captors, according to United States officials, who said that the commandos also killed six people, all of them militants.

“But residents of the village, as well as a local security official, said that only two militants — Sheikh and one other — had been killed. The rest of the victims, eight in total, were civilians, including Abdullah al-Daghari, a 70-year-old man. Mr. Harad said he lost five sons, including Sheikh.” More here.

Noting: The body of American journalist Luke Somers was returned to Dover Air Force Base a little after noon on Wednesday, the D Brief reported from Hagel’s plane late yesterday.

Who knew? The Defense Department’s Armed Forces Medical Examiner System ran their own autopsy on Ferguson’s Michael Brown at DOJ’s request, finding 8 gunshot wounds. Mother Jones’ AJ Vicens and Jaeah Lee posted the findings, here.

The Navy’s 59¢ per shot, drone-killing laser just made the Army and Air Force hungry for their own versions. The Office of Naval Research’s Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said the Navy’s Laser Weapon System aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf “surpassed their expectations in how quickly and effectively it tracked and destroyed ever more difficult targets,” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports: “Drone hunting is the raison d’etre for the Navy’s laser system. As the price of unmanned aerial vehicles continues to drop, many military scholars are anticipating a near future where hundreds if not thousands of cheaply-armed drones are able to effectively swarm a target…”

On military suicide and Congress, Defense One’s Molly O’Toole sends us this: “In a somewhat surprising move, given that very little but the absolutely-must-do legislation is going to get done this Congress and lawmakers are grumbling about possibly having to stay into the weekend — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to slip in ”The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act” or SAV Act. The bill would mandate annual evaluation of mental health care and suicide prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense Department; review of discharges or separations for mental health issues; and a loan repayment program for VA psychiatrists. The legislation passed the House Tuesday, and the House confirmed Wednesday night it had been sent to the Senate, where Reid is quietly trying to get unanimous consent to fast-track passage.”

Meantime, a veteran of the Afghanistan war writes candidly about why he almost committed suicide in 2009. Stephen Carlson writes for Task & Purpose: “…After killing most of the bourbon, I sat down at a table in the garage and stuck the .45 in my mouth. I remember how the Rem-Oil tasted, and thinking about how quick it would be. The hollow-point bullet in the chamber would explosively blow out my brain stem and that would be that…

It is easy to believe that with enough funding, counseling, and hotlines, the problem of veterans’ suicide could be abolished. Nothing could be further from the truth… The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act passed unanimously in the House this week, and I hope the Senate passes it as well. It has common sense reforms with a minimal price tag, and maybe it will help some veterans fight their way out of whatever black hole is driving them to the brink…” Read the rest, here.

“This is probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” That’s the warning for Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams’ cartoon for StoryCorps that tells the tragic, graphic story of a rescue mission in Iraq where everyone in his squad but Williams was killed in a roadside bomb 9 years ago. Williams: “The guys from our platoon had to go out there with blankets and cover up these body parts so dogs don’t come and grab my friend’s arm and have a meal.” Truly incredible stuff clocking in at just under 4 minutes, here.

The Pentagon’s $225 million “reprogramming” request shifting Army, Air Force funds to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS was approved yesterday by Congress. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio says the maintenance funds switch covers the first two classes of 300 rebels each at two sites early next year, and covers money to build “firing ranges for weapons practice, transportation, pay and protection and down payments for training of up to 5,400 trainees.” More on that, over here.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em: Your smokes/dip/snuff/chew/chaw/what-have-you-tobacco-wise are all about to get more expensive when you buy on a military base. Military Times’ Leo Shane: “Language in both the sweeping budget resolution and annual defense authorization bill pending before lawmakers this week would drop the 5 percent discount offered to customers on tobacco products at military exchanges.” Way back in May, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) had a great quote on this: “If your goal is to make the military healthy, let’s outlaw war. That’s as unhealthy as you can get.” More, here.

Happening today: The Truman National Security Project & Center for National Policy is holding a big afternoon event on asymmetric cyber war with former DHS DepSec Jane Holl Lute, now President & CEO of the Council on Cybersecurity. Also at the 1:30 p.m. cyber pow-wow at the Center for National Policy: DefCon and Black Hat’s Jeff Moss; Truman Project Fellow Jacob Olcott, also of Good Harbor Security Risk Management, LLC; the Council on Cybersecurity’s Tony Sager; Hitesh Sheth of Vectra Networks—all moderated by Politico’s Tal Kopan. RSVP here.

Naval Academy graduates are worried about the alumni association and foundation over concerns of unethical practices. The WaPo’s Annys Shinn, here.

A group called the Warrior-Scholar Project just opened up applications for academic boot camps in 2015. WSP started at Yale University in 2012 with just nine students. In 2015, WSP will send more than 150 veterans to academic boot camps at top universities across the country including Georgetown, Vassar, Cornell and many others. Deets and other information about the boot camps, on Stripes, here and also here.

The U.S. Mission to NATO shared this video from Dutch fighters intercepting more Russian planes over the Baltic on Monday. You may want to run the link through Google Chrome’s browser—if you’re not fluent in Estonian. The one-minute hi-res clip can be seen here.

Somehow, these never get old: Sgt. Montgomery surprises his son at school upon returning from Afghanistan after nine months. Watch CNN, here.

Also on CNN, watch Pen Farthing is CNN’s Hero of the Year for his work with reuniting soldiers with stray dogs, Ned Norton for Warriors on Wheels, and Arthur Bloom for his MusicCorps, which pairs professional musicians with veterans. During the show, he Bloom sings “Wide Rivers to Cross” with Sheryl Crow. The show repeats on CNN this Saturday evening.  More here.

Congress wants to make sure military commanders aren’t still messing up troops’ hair, Military Times’ Leo Shane reports: “…Tucked into the massive federal budget extension this week is language mandating a new report by this spring on how military commanders have responded to concerns about grooming standards. The work is designed to alleviate concerns after past standards were deemed “offensive and discriminatory to minority women” by critics. Lawmakers said they want assurances that military officials have learned from those past problems, and are including those critiques in future standards development.” More here.

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