Rebels take US hostages in Yemen; ISIS comes to Saudi Arabia; NSA powers in limbo; SecDef joins social media; And just a bit more.
We “can still catch terrorists using the Constitution,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said last night in a bout of temporary triumph after again delaying a renewal of the NSA’s bulk phone data collection, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Ellen Nakashima reported. This time the delay lasts until at least Tuesday, when the Senate is set to take up the House’s version of the USA Freedom Act, which would shift the data collection from the government to the phone companies.
But don’t think that there aren’t plenty of workarounds to the lapsed spying powers, as The New York Times’ Charlie Savage writes: three of the expired laws “contained a so-called grandfather clause that permits their authority to continue indefinitely for any investigation that had begun before June 1.”
Washington’s role in the Saudi-led war in Yemen just got more complicated. Houthi rebels have taken at least four Americans hostage, WaPo’s Greg Miller and Adam Goldman reported this weekend: “U.S. officials said three of the prisoners worked in private-sector jobs and that a fourth, whose occupation is unknown, has dual U.S.-Yemeni citizenship.” They join a previously reported fifth American, Sharif Mobley, who is being held by the Houthis “in connection with terrorism-related charges brought against him by the previous government more than five years ago,” they wrote.
Coalition jets continued their bombing campaign across the country this morning, hitting rebel positions in at least three locations after pounding the capital of Sana’a and the port city of Aden on Sunday, Reuters reports.
Iraq’s Sunni tribes are having a particularly tough time defending turf just south of the increasingly tense Anbar city of Fallujah, as CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh reports. The fighters want better weapons than the cheap Kalashnikovs they brought to the fight, echoing a refrain heard in Washington for weeks now as the White House struggles to find the best way to hold off the Islamic State, or ISIS, without putting U.S. troops on the ground.
The Shiite militia group Kitaeb Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, has won back ISIS-held hamlets and villages southeast of the Anbar capital of Ramadi, WaPo’s Loveday Morris reported this weekend. Their success adds to the worry in Washington that Iran’s influence continues to grow inside Iraq.
This moot point hurts more when you put a number on it: Baghdad’s security forces lost some 2,300 Humvees in the fall of Mosul alone, Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, said yesterday. That from AFP.
Expect an attack on the Obama administration’s ISIS strategy from South Carolina GOP hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham today, who wants an additional 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Graham will formally launch his 2016 bid from his home state, as AP’s Bill Barrow reports.
And Florida GOP 2016 hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio took the customary jabs at the White House before pitching his ideas for defeating ISIS in a Friday WaPo op-ed. What would Rubio do? Embed U.S. troops with Iraqis, expand the coalition of 60-plus nations, and ramp up the air campaign.
From Defense One
Two suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, ostensibly by ISIS, should make Washington question everything it thinks it knows about the stability of its chief bulwark against Iran, writes National Journal’s Kristin Roberts.
Meet Joe Heck, the small-business owner, physician, Army Reserve brigadier general and Nevada Republican who chairs two House subcommittees on defense, has won three times in a swing-state swing district—and is leaning toward running for longtime Democratic leader Harry Reid's Senate seat when he retires. Defense One’s Molly O’Toole has the exclusive interview ahead of one of the most talked about potential matchups of 2016:
DoD: “Did we say we sent anthrax to nine states and South Korea? We meant 11 states, South Korea and Australia.” On Friday, Defense One published Patrick Tucker’s explanation of why the Army was mailing bioweapons around. Moments later, in what appeared to be a classic Friday-night news dump, the Pentagon said more facilities had been put at risk and that a comprehensive review is underway.
Now only three women remain in the first gender-integrated Army Ranger course after five more were dropped on Friday, O’Toole reports. But those three did well enough in most aspects to earn...the right to start the whole grueling thing over. Whatever the ultimate outcome, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Thursday that more women are likely to get a shot in Ranger courses to come.
With the per-plane purchase cost of the F-35 apparently settling around $165 million, the Pentagon is now trying to reduce the far larger cost of flying and upgrading the jets over decades. The chief instrument will be performance-based contracts, which DoD thinks might shave 10 to 15 percent from a total cost estimated at up to $1 trillion, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.
If at first you don’t succeed in describing what you want from cyber contractors, issue your $475 million solicitation again. Last week, DoD withdrew a posting for cyberattack and network defense experts, itself a retooled version of a 2014 draft, and said a new version that takes into account private-sector questions will be out by Oct. 1. NextGov’s Aliya Sternstein reports.
Inaccurate media portrayals of the Navy’s flights over Chinese islands are needlessly turning up the heat in a disputed region, argues Hofstra University’s Julian Ku. So far, the U.S. is merely simply asserting its rights to freedom of navigation under international law, not challenging Beijing’s sovereignty claims.
In 2001, the CIA’s first attempted assassination-by-drone missed its target, launching a still-burning fight over who controls the U.S. drone program. The Atlantic’s Chris Woods has the story.
And finally, some friendly advice for Ash Carter, who last week became the first defense secretary on Facebook. Marcus Weisgerber captions a few photos from the selfie-taking SecDef’s Singapore swing.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson with Brad Peniston. Why not pass this puppy on to a friend? He or she can subscribe here. (Want to read it in your browser? Click here.) And feel free to send us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at email@example.com.
The China-Pentagon action-reaction on South China Sea tensions continues. After a weekend in Singapore talking Asia-Pacific security, Defense Secretary Ash Carter is touring America’s Asian allies, including a visit to Vietnam this morning that failed to yield a halt to their own island-building in the region—though he did secure an $18 million pledge to help Vietnam acquire U.S. patrol boats, as Reuters’ David Alexander reports traveling with the secretary.
And at Singapore, the deputy chief of staff for China’s army floated the possibility of declaring an air defense zone over their fake islands in the event of a “large enough threat,” NYT’s Edward Wong reports.
On the Asian-Pacific cyber front, the U.S. apparently failed to bring North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to its knees five years ago with a Stuxnet-like virus, Reuters Joseph Menn reported on Friday.
And the U.S. now has Japan’s cyber back, according to a joint statement from the two nations on Saturday. More on that here.
Qatar extends its travel ban on the “Taliban 5” at the last minute. Guantanamo detainees transferred to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were poised to find their travel ban lifted today, in a move that surely would have set off a firestorm of criticism against the White House. AP’s Matt Lee has the latest from out of both Doha and Washington.
State Secretary John Kerry took a serious spill on his bicycle while in Geneva, breaking his femur and putting the itinerary for America’s top diplomat in jeopardy just as Iranian nuclear negotiations approach a June 30 deadline few expect the parties to reach. More from The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Andrew Morse.
Speaking of diplomacy—The U.S. is treaty-bound to protect a quarter of humanity, as WaPo’s Adam Taylor shows us here.
And in Spain, the U.S. has just been cleared by the Spanish government to maintain its rapid reaction Marine force permanently at Morón Air Base. The Pentagon also gets to station up to 3,000 troops there, up from the current count of 850. AP has more from one of the sites Secretary Kerry had to drop from his schedule after the accident in Geneva.
What’s inside the defense authorization bill from Senate Armed Services chairman Sen. John McCain? One section proposes “lower price caps for new aircraft carriers while also ordering the Navy to explore design changes.” It would also “leave in place a $12.9 billion cost ceiling for the lead ship, CVN 78. But it would lower the price cap for all follow-on ships starting with CVN 79 from $11.49 billion to $11.39 billion.” Finally, it would “give the service chiefs, secretaries and acquisition executives program management authorities now held by the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L).” More from Defense News’ John Bennett, Chris Cavas and Aaron Mehta here.
It also includes a provision to keep 171 A-10 “Warthogs” in combat status—as ever, against the wishes of the Air Force. The Hill’s Martin Matishak has that “evergreen” story.
Better late than never, eh? Yesterday 92-year-old WWII veteran Tony Gianunzio finally got to throw a pitch at Chicago’s Wrigley Field—more than 70 years after he was to make his MLB debut. AP’s John Jackson has the story of the Cubs prospect-turned-Coastie here.
And for your Monday shenanigans, we have this: Florida man drives across state with a 9-foot-missile riding shotgun in his Volvo; no one bats eye. The Palm Beach Post’s Frank Cerabino has the story of Boca Raton businessman Tom Madden, who loaded an old Israeli Air Force surface-to-air missile into his convertible and cruised down U.S. Highway 1 at 35 mph. That bewildering just-another-day-in-Florida story here.