The D Brief: Why didn’t security cameras help in Paris?; Yemen burns; Iraqi veteran wants to rein in bennies; Lockheed to extend range of it’s THAAD; The Pentagon’s Warren to reporters: watch us; And a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
A barbarous attack and a fear that homegrown extremism inside France is to blame. The attack yesterday that left 12 dead at a Paris satirical magazine raised fears that the attackers, while not necessarily part of a larger organization, were well-trained and well-known to intel agencies as French officials scrambled to apprehend the other attackers and looked for more answers.
The NYT: “When [alleged attacker] Chérif Kouachi first came to the attention of the French authorities as a possible terrorist a decade ago, he was in his early 20s and, according to testimony during a 2008 Paris trial, had dreamed of attacking Jewish targets in France. Under the influence of a radical Paris preacher, however, he decided that fighting American troops in Iraq presented a better outlet for his commitment to jihad.
“On Wednesday, Mr. Kouachi, according to investigators, returned to his original plan of waging holy war in France. Along with his older brother Said and a third French Muslim of North African descent, he was named as one of three who were involved in an assault on a satirical newspaper in Paris that left at least 12 people dead.
The assault looked more sophisticated than others. The WSJ’s Damian Paletta, Adam Entous and Jon Kamp: “…U.S. counterterrorism officials who briefed lawmakers Wednesday indicated that the shooters appeared well-trained and organized. Preliminary French intelligence shared with U.S. officials suggested that the attackers weren’t operating as an arm of a larger organization, though officials haven’t ruled out the possibility that the attack was directed by a terrorist group, such as the Islamic State militant group, al Qaeda or an offshoot.” More here.
Why were security cameras no help in the hunt for the Paris gunmen? Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has more on the Parisian tension between civil liberties and national security: “Paris is indeed a city with many cameras, but not as many as you might think, and not nearly as many as you might encounter in a city like London. In Paris, the presence of cameras is more controversial…
“A broad plurality of French supported the idea of more cameras in public spaces, but the plan met with resistance from Delanoë’s allies on the political left. Green party councilperson Sylvain Garel told French news outlet FRANCE 24 ‘We’re heading toward a “Big Brother” world…I don’t want a camera to film me when I’m out in the street buying the newspaper.’ “The most important piece of video imagery to emerge from the siege, at least in the hours after the event occurred, was taken on a phone belonging to a person near the scene…”
Why this is a “dangerous moment” in Europe, in the NYT, here.
AP: One man sought in the deadly shooting at a French satirical paper has turned himself in, and police hunted Thursday for two heavily armed men with possible links to al-Qaida in the military-style, methodical killing of 12 people at the office of a satirical newspaper that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.” More here.
The Paris attackers’ eerily calm movements suggest links to a top French al Qaida operative, David Drugeon, McClatchy’s Mitchell Prothero writes from Irbil, Iraq, here.
The New Yorker’s George Packer on just who’s to blame: “…the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.
A counter view from opinion writer Arthur Goldhammer for Al-Jazeera America on how media outlets are reproducing the work of Charlie Hebdo in a piece “Let’s not Sacralize Charlie Hebdo:” “…Reproducing the imagery created by the murdered artists tends to sacralize them as embodiments of some abstract ideal of free speech. But many of the publications that today honor the dead as martyrs would yesterday have rejected their work as tasteless and obscene, as indeed it often was.”
The French, Goldhammer writes, call an old Parisian tradition of “cheeky humor that respects nothing and no one, “gouaille.”
“Think of obscene images of Marie-Antoinette and other royals, of priests in flagrante delicto with nuns, of devils farting in the pope's face and Daumier’s caricatures of King Louis-Philippe, whom he portrayed in the shape of a pear…
The satire that Charlie Hebdo exemplified was more blasphemous than political, and its roots lie deep in European history, dating from a time when in order to challenge authority, one had to confront divinity itself. In that one respect, the fanatics are not wrong: Charlie Hebdo was out to undermine the sacred as such.” Read the rest here.
DC’s Newseum holds a vigil for Charlie Hebdo, here.
“Je suis Charlie:” Twenty-three sad cartoons of cartoonists in solidarity, here at Buzzfeed.
Muslim religious leader and Islamic studies scholar @IngridMattson: “ISIS is the most offensive satire of the Prophet Muhammad that exists in the world today.”
Welcome to Thursday’s 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Who’s up to what – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon today at 11 a.m. to welcome the Minister of Defense for Slovakia, Martin Glvac… Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet and John Conger, performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment will brief the press on the results of the European Infrastructure Consolidation at 9 a.m… Army Secretary John McHugh will swear in the new Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management & Comptroller, Robert Speer…
Fifteen U.S. military installations across Europe will close as part of the Pentagon’s consolidation plans in the region. John Vandiver for Stars and Stripes, here.
It’s less than 10 degrees across much of the capitol region this morning. But that’s nothing like what South Korea's Army Special Warfare Command endured during a winter exercise in Pyeongchang. AP’s Ahn Young-Joon has a superb photo spread, here.
Apologies. Yesterday we ran an item by NPR about the passing of Dick Winters, who was the inspiration for “Band of Brothers.” We picked it up from a feed the night before and didn’t realize the item was four years old! Thank you for all your cards and letters pointing out same. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen here a lot but sometimes it does happen and we are sorry in the extreme for the confusion it caused.
How do soldiers use Google maps on the battlefield? Classification limitations prevented U.S. special operators from sharing battlefield maps and imagery with their Afghan counterparts—so where did they go for a solution? Google maps, of course. Our tech editor Patrick Tucker has this: “In 2008, Arlington-based Thermopylae Science and Technology launched a Google Maps-based and geo-intelligence product called iSpatial for the State Department... The Special Forces members’ insight and operational needs are reflected in the product as it exists today.
“Essentially iSpatial is a software kit that allows users to draw and share Google Maps, Google Earth (or OpenLayers, an open source alternative) with anyone that the user chooses… It can run in 56 languages and is International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliant so users can share their maps with virtually anyone outside of, say, Iran or North Korea…”
Lockheed Martin has been quietly working on ways to extend the range of its THAAD missile interceptors—a system the Army has been using to defend Guam against possible North Korea medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Our own Marcus Weisgerber has more: “Lockheed has invested more than $30 million over the past six years on engineering design and demonstration work for the extended range THAAD… Unlike the current THAAD interceptor, which uses a single-stage rocket, the longer-range version would have two stages, similar to rockets that launch satellites into orbit. The first rocket would launch the interceptor to a high altitude in or above the Earth’s atmosphere while a second ‘kick stage’ would propel the rocket toward the enemy missile…”
The FBI’s Comey said there’s little doubt but that the North hacked Sony. The NYT’s Michael Schmidt, Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Goldstein: “…Comey… said on Wednesday that the United States had concluded that North Korea was behind the destructive attacks on Sony Pictures partly because the hackers failed to mask their location when they broke into the company’s servers.
Mr. Comey said that instead of routing some of the attacks and messages through decoy servers, the hackers had sent them directly from known North Korean Internet addresses.” More here.
Violence in Yemen grows as “a rudderless nation, rocked by carnage” struggles to contain it. The NYT’s Kareem Fahim in Rada City, Yemen: “…After Houthi fighters seized control of the Yemeni capital of Sana in September, promising radical political reforms, their supporters were hopeful that they could restore a stability that has eluded Yemen since the uprising against the country’s longtime ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in 2011. Houthi fighters fanned out across the country to assert their control.
“Instead, Yemen is reeling from some of the worst carnage in years as militants, especially Sunni extremists with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have retaliated with growing ferocity.” More here.
Case in point: A car bomb rips through a crowd near a police academy in Sanaa, the capital, killing 38, Al Jazeera, here.
Yemeni authorities once again fail to deliver an American detainee for a court date. The WaPo’s Carol Morello, here.
The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer hosted a dinner for the outgoing Israeli defense chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, last night. Michele Flournoy gave a speech with “all the usual plaudits for America’s most important ally in the region,” Defense One’s Kevin Baron tells us.
DC Seen, at the dinner at the embassy: Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Steny Hoyer, Mark Kirk, Gen. Frank Grass, David Ignatius, Colin Powell, Tom Donilon, Nita Lowey, Derek Chollet, Matt Spence, Elissa Slotkin, Marcel Lettre, Adm. Michelle Howard, and reporters included Baron, Gopal Ratnam, Tony Capaccio, Karen DeYoung and Jennifer Griffin.
Man bites dog: A veteran of the Iraq war seeks to rein in disability pay for veterans. Lt. Col. Daniel Gade, a professor at West Point has mounted a campaign to encourage the VA to think differently about paying veterans for their wounds and instead “create incentive for them to find work or create businesses,” as Dave Philipps in the NYT writes on Page One this morning. Gade: “People who stay home because they are getting paid enough to get by on disability are worse off… They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to live alone. You’ve seen these guys. And the system is driving you to become one of them, if you are not careful.” More here.
In El Paso, the victim, a 63-year-old psychologist, had filed a complaint against the man who shot and killed him, a clerk at the VA clinic there. The WaPo: “…VA psychologist Timothy Fjordbak, 63, was allegedly shot and killed by Jerry Serrato, 48, on the fourth floor of the El Paso Veteran Affairs Clinic, FBI special agent Doug Lindquist said. Then Serrato ‘actually went to the third floor, and that’s where he took his own life,’ Lindquist said.” More here.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act was reintroduced in the House yesterday after outgoing Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn blocked its passage in the Senate late last month. Bryant Jordan for Military.com, here.
A VA official proves himself to be really good at being a scumbag. Stripes: “A county’s Veterans Affairs director in Michigan resigned Monday after emails were published in which he is shown to be demanding payment or other favors of veterans whom he had been helping with their health benefits.” Read more of this story here.
How soon can we agree on what a cyber attack is? Former NATO commander Jim Stavridis has put forward his own definition in the hopes of getting some badly-needed consensus on the subject. But is it enough? Inside CyberSecurity’s Chris Castelli: “‘A cyber attack is the deliberate projection of cyberforce resulting in kinetic or nonkinetic consequences that threaten or otherwise destabilize national security; harm economic interests; create political or cultural instability; or hurt individuals, devices or systems,’ said [Jim Stavridis]… [Michael Schmitt, Naval War College professor and editor of the 2013 Tallinn Manual, which explored how the law of armed conflict would apply to cyberspace] argued Stavridis' definition is ‘over broad, inconsistent with the current law, and not horribly useful to decision makers who have to deal with the nuances of individual cyber operations.’
“‘I think just as a century ago we were trying to understand how aviation would impact the laws of war, today we are in great need of sorting through these issues in the cyber world today,’ Stavridis said.” More (behind paywall), here.
There’s a new sheriff in town on the Senate Armed Services Committee and his name is John McCain. McCain issued this statement after the Arizona Republican was officially made Chairman of the SASC: “…Ever mindful of our service members in harm's way throughout the world, the Committee’s first priority is to ensure they have the authorities, leadership, training, equipment, and resources needed to successfully achieve their missions on our nation's behalf and return home safely to their families…”
Also, it’s official: Carter’s confirmation hearing will be the first week in February after Carter asked McCain for more time. From the SASC: “…Senator McCain was prepared to hold a confirmation hearing immediately. However, he gladly accommodated a request by Dr. Carter for additional time to complete his recovery from a recent medical procedure. Senator McCain is looking forward to a robust and candid discussion with Dr. Carter on the pressing challenges confronting the Department of Defense…”
Ash is basically in. The GOP hints that Obama’s top two picks – Loretta Lynch for Attorney General and Ash Carter for Defense – will probably be confirmed. The WSJ, here.
And it’s getting real: McCain just scheduled his first hearing as Chairman of the SASC – with Henry Kissinger on Jan. 13 – “the first of a series of hearings with prominent former government officials and military leaders on global challenges to U.S. national security strategy.”
After more than $57 million in U.S. investment, the Afghan National Army’s Camp Commando near Kabul has a litany of problems inspectors for SIGAR found. The camp is underpowered by 75 percent, million dollar fuel points are not being used, and its dining facility is more than five times over capacity. Read more in SIGAR’s report released just this morning, here.
The Pentagon reopened “Correspondents’ Corridor” yesterday as The D Brief reported yesterday. Col. Steve Warren, the head of the press office who spearheaded the effort to rename the corridor in the Pentagon where reporters work, laid it on pretty thick yesterday. But he spoke truthfully and from the heart as he told reporters before cutting the ribbon that they are the Pentagon’s watchdogs: “…You are our watchdogs, and we need that. We need to be watched. We are expending American blood and treasure and we need you to watch us and we value that. You are relentless in your pursuit of the truth and we appreciate that… I know we fight with you guys a lot but I want to make sure you understand that although we fight with you, it’s also because we’re also fighting for you… I wear this uniform because of what you guys do… everyone of you is a patriot… I’m proud to serve with you and when I say serve with you I mean that… we’re all serving American national security…”
Wanna watch the vid of the opening yesterday at the Pentagon? Watch this Vine shot by the LA Times’ Bill Hennigan, here.
Wanna know how much the lettering over the door cost? It was $785. But perhaps worth every dollar for the message it sends to those inside the Pentagon who still didn’t get the memo about engaging with the press.