A Fla. helo crash and 11 missing; Carter visits Ukrainian war hero – in Bethesda; Why the investigation into Hoss Cartwright is stalled; Boeing and Saab, besties over a bomb; Another AF Tweeter oopsy; And a bit more.
Overnight: A National Guard Blackhawk carrying 7 Marine special operators from Camp LeJeune, along with its four Louisiana NG crew members, very possibly crashed near a remote beach under a fog advisory last night in the Florida panhandle. All 11 on board are currently still unaccounted for more than four hours after aircraft debris was reportedly spotted at 2 a.m., officials from nearby Eglin Air Force Base said this morning. AP’s Melissa Nelson-Gabriel from Pensacola, here.
Meantime, an investigation of a different kind – into Hoss Cartwright and the leak investigation over Stuxnet – has stalled amid negotiations with Iran. The leak investigation against Jim “Hoss” Cartwright, the retired vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in limbo stemming from fears that prosecution could force the government to confirm a covert operation between the U.S. and Israel that targeting Iran amid the negotiations with that country. But the case could go on long past when the national security issues are at stake.
The WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima and Adam Goldman on Page One, helping to answer the question about just where the Cartwright investigation stands: “…Federal investigators suspect that [Cartwright] leaked to a New York Times reporter details about a highly classified operation to hobble Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage — an effort not acknowledged by Israel or the United States.
“Prosecutors will have to overcome significant national security and diplomatic concerns if they want to move forward, including pitting the Obama administration against Israel if that ally were opposed to any information about the cyber-operation being revealed in court.
“The United States could move forward with the case against Israel’s wishes, but such a move might further harm relations between two countries, which are already frayed because of a disagreement over how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The FBI’s questioning at one point sickened Cartwright: “FBI investigators focused on Cartwright in the fall of 2012, officials said. They interviewed him at least twice, according to people who are familiar with the case and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. During the first interview, Cartwright had to go to the hospital.” Read the rest here.
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Did you know a Ukrainian war hero was at Bethesda? We didn’t. But Defense Secretary Ash Carter just visited Col. Ihor Hordiychuk, who is receiving treatment at the Navy’s hospital at Bethesda. See that on Facebook here. If Col. Steve Warren is briefing at the Pentagon today – he’ll take questions then, we’re guessing.
It’s now been almost a year that the White House has been “reviewing” the option of lethal aid to Ukraine, officials told an increasingly impatient Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Defense One politics editor Molly O’Toole: “The senators repeatedly grilled [Brian] McKeon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and other officials on the delayed decision, but the witnesses gave no new information on the reasons for the delay or when a decision may be made... While the U.S. has provided some millions in assistance—with $513.5 million for Ukraine in the White House’s fiscal 2016 budget request—it has thus far been limited to non-lethal aid, some as simple as radios, body armor, sleeping mats and night vision goggles... Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., tied the delays to a broader ‘fecklessness’ in Obama’s national security strategy…” Read the rest, here.
Aside from logistics, here’s another reason for the delay: Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. says President Obama agreed last month with Chancellor Angela Merkel not to send lethal defensive arms to Ukraine. That, here.
Once rivals, Boeing and Saab are now collaborating on a ground-launched version of Boeing’s small diameter bomb, Defense One’s global business reporter Marcus Weisgerber reports: “The companies announced Tuesday that they are working to transform Boeing’s Small Diameter Bomb – a guided weapon typically launched from fighter and bomber plans thousands of feet in the air – into a ground-launched rocket artillery piece… [that] could travel further and strike targets in front or behind the launcher, including targets on the backside of a hill or mountain… The companies…are hoping to sell the weapon to 10 countries, including the U.S. Army and other nations, that use the Multiple Launch Rocket System… The two firms are also quietly developing a new jet trainer aircraft in hopes of landing a multibillion-dollar deal with the U.S. Air Force.” More here.
Oopsy, again: More “Twitter wardrobe malfunctions” for the Air Force, and a hat tip to an early morning friend of The D Brief. First it was the head of Air Force public affairs who a few months ago tweeted something inappropriate about Commander-in-Chief Obama – folks later said someone from the Air Force public affairs staff mistakenly signed on to Brig. Gen. Kathleen Cook’s official Twitter account. And now this last night from Air Force Space Command:
@AFSpace: “The Rams just made the @Eagles their bitch! (courtesy @gabestarosta).
@AFSpace last night: “Sincere apologies for our errant tweet. A team member thought he was posting to his personal account, not @AFSpace.”
Over at the WaPo’s Checkpoint, Dan Lamothe follows up on Lubold’s bit yesterday about Sam Locklear being a frontrunner to be the next chairman. Click here for his follow – which includes a shot of Gen. Ray Odierno sharing a very light moment. Who knew Odierno could be so animated?
And more critically, in case you missed Lubold’s original story on Locklear on Defense One, go ahead and click right here.
Who’s doing what today? It’s so long we put it near the bottom – please scroll down.
Also below? A whole bit about Tom Cotton (Salon last month called him Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree – repeated in Kathleen Parker’s column today - and that letter to Tehran.
Is Williams Sims the most underrated military strategist – in the history of the U.S. Navy? For War on the Rocks, Michael Horowitz reviews Ben Armstrong’s book about Sims, “21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education and Leadership for the Modern Era,” here.
Help keep War on the Rocks to continue pouring great stuff – by participating in this crowdfunding campaign, “taking it to the next level,” here.
Fighting Islamaphobia – one punchline at a time. Robin Wright writes for The Atlantic, here.
The Islamic State released a video yesterday showing a child soldier executing an alleged Mossad spy from Palestine. SITE Intelligence with more, here.
ISIS fighters have reportedly launched a “huge” offensive for the Turkish-Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, Reuters reports this morning, here.
Also this morning, ISIS is believed to be behind seven near-simultaneous car bombs in the western city of Ramadi, with initial reports indicating 10 died and 30 were wounded from the attacks. AFP with that one here.
“P4” hits the road to talk the future of Iraq: David Petraeus is in Kurdistan this week for a regional security forum entitled “Fertile Crescent in Turmoil: Challenges and Opportunities” that begins today. Also attending: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones and State’s Brett McGurk. Kurdish Rudaw News with more, here.
Duncan Hunter and other members of Congress want the U.S. to lend older, excess MQ-1 Predator drones to Jordan to fight the Islamic State. The WSJ’s Julian Barnes: “…In a Republican-led letter to the White House, 23 House members said Monday that Jordan should be allowed to borrow U.S. Air Force-owned MQ-1 Predator drones.
… The Air Force is currently replacing its MQ-1 fleet with the more advanced MQ-9 Reapers, which are more heavily armed. As a result, a portion of the fleet of older Predators is currently not in use, and those drones aren’t considered critical to U.S. missions, according to a Congressional official.
“Predators typically carry two Hellfire missiles. A congressional official said that under the plan, the U.S. would loan three or four Predators to Jordan. That would be enough drones to keep at least one aloft around the clock.
California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, in a statement, said the proposal would enable Jordan to get drones more quickly since the wait time normally can be months long: “Jordan can start hitting ISIS tomorrow with greater intensity and effectiveness simply by providing them use of non-mission-critical assets in the region or elsewhere.” Read this story here.
Meantime, Moscow yesterday announced it is pulling out of the “1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty [that] limits the number of tanks, aircraft and other heavy non-nuclear weapons deployed on the continent,” AP reports here.
Also in Moscow yesterday, a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council told the AFP one of the suspects who admitted to killing opposition leader Boris Nemtsov likely confessed under torture. That one, here.
And NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg said this morning Russia is still arming and training rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, adding the alliance’s new military goal is to ensure monitors from the OSCE have the access they need to confirm compliance with the Feb. 12 ceasefire agreement in Minsk. Reuters, here.
And there’s this, in the Daily Beast: Hunter is accusing the FBI and the Pentagon of retaliating against a soldier “who [Hunter] says was attempting to improve efforts to help rescue Americans held hostage overseas.” Hunter wrote a letter to the FBI’s James Comey, here.
The Daily Beast on Hunter’s bit: “…Hunter, a leading critic of what he considers the Obama administration's anemic efforts to rescue Americans held by terrorists, called the investigation "strictly retaliatory" and said the soldier's immediate command had declined to take any action against him. At that point, Hunter told Comey, the FBI ‘approached’ a senior military official, Army Gen. Mary Legere, whose potential nomination as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Hunter had opposed. (She didn't get the job.) It's not clear from the letter what assistance Legere provided to the investigation.” More here.
#FOUO: Afghanistan can’t manage billions in aid, the Pentagon Inspector General found. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: “Billions of dollars in U.S. and international aid for Afghanistan’s security forces are at risk because the ministries that manage the money aren’t preventing waste and corruption, the Pentagon inspector general found… according to an audit labeled ‘For Official Use Only.’” Read the rest of this bit here.
What happens when you remove U.S. eyes from Afghanistan’s customs collection points? Revenue declines to its lowest level in four years. That’s part of what the watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction addressed in three letters to the Defense and State Departments as well as USAID about Kabul’s nascent problems with corruption—since nearly half the funds from customs duties for the year are believed to have been stolen. Read those letters from SIGAR, released today, here.
It’s okay for troops to seek counseling for PTSD, especially since America’s top special operator has done precisely that for himself. Kim Dozier for The Daily Beast, here.
Who’s doing what today? Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Gen. Marty Dempsey and State Secretary John Kerry head before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to talk new war powers against ISIS at 9:30 a.m. … while at the same time the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee hears from the Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Dee and Marine Corps Deputy Commandant Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck Jr. on the Corps’ ground modernization efforts… the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee will hear from Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno on the Army’s FY16 budget at 10:30 a.m. … SecDef Carter welcomes his U.K counterpart Michael Fallon to the Pentagon at 1:30 p.m., with a joint presser at the building an hour later… SASC’s Readiness and Management Subcommittee talks base closures with John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment—as well as with assistant secretaries for the Army, Navy and Air Force at 2:30 p.m.
Also today: The Atlantic Council hosts Nigeria’s intelligence officials Ambassador Ayodele Oke and Rear Adm. Gabriel Okoi in a discussion on the latest developments in the fight against Boko Haram (more here) at 10 a.m. … the Center for Strategic and International Studies sits down with Naval Special Warfare’s Undersea Special Operations Commander, Capt. Travis Schweizer at 2 p.m. to talk his perspective on future operations (stream live here)… and Odierno heads up to Baltimore’s Hyatt Regency for a talk on the Army’s future at 6 p.m.
The letter to Iran by Tom Cotton and the other senators appears to backfire – plus, it’s probably illegal. But they’ll probably get away with it. U.S. News’ Steve Nelson: “…The law they probably broke, the Logan Act of 1799, allows for fines and up to three years in prison. The act bans U.S. citizens from engaging “without authority of the United States” in ‘correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government ... with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government ... in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.’ Fortunately for Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and the 46 Senate co-signers of his open letter to Iran, the law is not enforced and is likely unconstitutional.” More here.
Talking Point Tom: To a reasonable line of questioning from CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Cotton used talking point (singular) to explain, repeatedly, why he did what he did. And Cuomo asks Cotton as a junior senator, if he wasn’t just set up for a fall. Watch that here.
Experts say that the U.S. standing is taking a hit because of the letter; The WaPo’s Greg Jaffe and Juliet Eilperin, quoting Richard Haas from the Council on Foreign Relations: “If you are a country in the Middle East or Asia relying on Washington, this raises questions about America’s predictability… I hear this all the time. I just know it makes others around the world more uncomfortable and contributes to a more dangerous and disorderly world.” Read it here.
“Center right” columnist Kathleen Parker on the letter, written in a “sneeringly adoloscent tone”“Instead, I’m reduced to noting that ol’ Tom Cotton, who is actually the youngest senator, is wasting no time establishing himself as a party leader. Rounding up other Republican signatories, Cotton launched a bunker-buster smack in the middle of the negotiations. But to what avail?” Read the rest here.
Tom Cotton is “Sarah Palin with a Harvard Degree,” Salon’s Heather Digby Parton wrote last month: “Newly elected Tom Cotton of Arkansas is one of the youngest members of the Senate, only 37 years old, a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law and a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Widely considered to be a leading light on the right in foreign policy and national security, Cotton was naturally given a plum assignment on the Senate Armed Services Committee.” Worth the click, here.
Former Pentagon policy chief Doug Feith writes about the “fatal flaw” in Obama’s Iran dealings in the WSJ, here. His BLUF: “The White House rejects the coercive approach as not viable. But if Iran violates its deal with us, won’t our response have to be coercive? President Obama insists that his policy is the only realistic one. In doing so, he is showing either that he is naïve and uninformed about the relevant history or that he no longer considers an Iranian nuclear weapon ‘unacceptable.’”
Cotton gets a laugh line with Joe Dunford yesterday at a posture hearing. Cotton: “I was an Army guy myself. General Dunford, I've had many of your Marines tell me that the Army stands for "Ain't Ready for Marines Yet." That's not true is it?” (laughter!)
Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford: “It just may be, Senator.” (laughter!)
Cotton: “A shocking revelation.” (laughter!)