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Pentagon's power (23)
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Incendiary weapons (11)

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US Military

 
  

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Showing 101-118 of 118 events (use filters to narrow search):    previous 100

July 2004

       The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports to Congress on the challenges facing the development of the Global Information Grid (GIG). GIG, sometimes referred to as the “war net,” is the military's “Internet in the sky” (see February 25, 2004) that will give soldiers in the field unprecedented access to data, such as images, maps, and other types of actionable intelligence, via a very high-speed satellite link in real-time. In addition to a variety of management and operational challenges, GAO reports that most of the technologies needed to develop GIG are immature and that the Defense Department “is at risk of not delivering required capabilities within budgeted resources.” For example, “two key GIG related programs—JTRS and TSAT—are facing schedule and performance risks, ... largely rooted in attempts to move these programs into product development without sufficient knowledge that their technologies can work as intended.” Additionally, reports GAO, the Pentagon's Future Combat Systems program “is at significant risk, in part because more than 75 percent of its critical technologies were immature at the start and many will not be sufficiently mature until the production decision.” [The New York Times, 11/13/2004 Sources: The Global Information Grid and Challenges Facing Its Implementation, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, General Accounting Office
          

Fall 2004

       At the request of Donald Rumsfeld, President George Bush issues an Executive Order on the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) authorizing the military “to find and finish” terrorist targets, including certain al-Qaeda network members, al-Qaeda senior leadership, and other high-value targets. The order was cleared by the national-security bureaucracy. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld
          

September 28, 2004

       A group of 28 US companies, including Boeing; Cisco Systems; Factiva, a joint venture of Dow Jones and Reuters; General Dynamics; Hewlett-Packard; Honeywell; I.B.M.; Lockheed Martin; Microsoft; Northrop Grumman; Oracle; Raytheon; and Sun Microsystems announce the formation of the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC). [Business Wire, 9/28/2004; NCOIC website] The consortium's vision is: “Industry working together with our customers to provide a Network Centric environment where all classes of information systems interoperate by integrating existing and emerging open standards into a common evolving global framework that employs a common set of principles and processes.” [NCOIC website] The NCOIC's work will help the military achieve its goal (see August 1999) (see April 7, 2004) to create a “network-centric environment” comprised of integrated network systems that will allow data to be transferred at very high speeds to all levels of the military. [NCOIC website]
          

(Early October 2004)

       The first connections for the Global Information Grid (GIG) are laid. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004]
          

October 29, 2004

       President Bush signs the 2004 Defense Authorization Act which contains a provision giving the Pentagon authority for US special operations to give cash, equipment and weapons to foreign fighters and groups who are willing to ally themselves with the US on certain military operations. Under the new piece of legislation, US Special Operations Command will have as much as $25 million a year to spend on supporting “foreign forces, irregular forces, groups or individuals.” Commenting on Congress' generous appropriation, retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing tells the Associated Press, “For the kind of stuff they want to do—buy AK-47s, pick-up trucks, stuff like that—this is a lot of money. If they can slip someone $100,000 to buy information or buy support (from foreign individuals or groups), then that would be very useful.” Until now, these types of operations were restricted to the CIA—but only when authorized by a presidential directive. This new provision imposes no such restrictions on the Pentagon's special operations. Some observers have expressed concern that this will lead to problems. They fear that special operations will end up funding and arming unsavory foreign elements that later turn against the US, as has happened on countless occasions during the last half-century. Others say the measure is part of Rumsfeld's strategy to make the defense department more autonomous so its activities will not be subject to the oversight of other agencies. [Associated Press, 10/30/2005]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, George W. Bush, Wayne Downing
          

November 2004

       US forces use white phosphorus (WP) gas munitions as incendiary weapons against human targets during its seige of Fallujah, Iraq. [Inter Press News Service, 11/26/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004; Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (A); London Telegraph, 11/9/2004] White phosphorus—also known as Willy Pete or Whiskey Pete—is used by the military for signaling, screening, and incendiary purposes. It burns spontaneously in the air and will continue to burn until all white phosphorus particles have disappeared. White phosphorus munitions, upon explosion, distribute the particles over a wide swath of area. Its smoke easily penetrates clothing and protective gear and can burn a person's flesh to the bone. [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005; GlobalSecurity [.org] , 11/9/2005] According to Jeff Englehart, a US soldier involved in the seige of Fallujah, “Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone. ... Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for.” [Independent, 11/8/2004] “Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad tells reporter Dahl Jamail. “They used everything—tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.” Another resident, Abu Sabah, from the Julan area, explains: “They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.” He says the pieces then explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is applied. “People suffered so much from these,” he adds. [Inter Press News Service, 11/26/2003] Corroborating their accounts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some “Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.” Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, tells the newspaper, “The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004] Leutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, in November 2005, will deny that US troops used white phosphorus gas against people in Fallujah. “I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus,” he tells Democracy Now. “White phosphorus is used for obscuration, which white phosphorus produces a heavy thick smoke to shield us or them from view so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is used to destroy equipment, to destroy buildings. That is what white phosphorus shells are used for.” He insists that the pictures showing melted corpses with clothing still intact is not proof of white phosphorus attacks. “That can happen from numerous ways and not just from white phosphorus attacks. That can happen from massive explosions. If you look at the car bombs that the terrorists use today, you have the same effects from car bombs from suicide vests. I have personally witnessed these things here in Baghdad.” [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005] The Pentagon, however, does not deny that the weapon was used against human targets. On November 14, 2005, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venables says that white phosphorus was used to “fire at the enemy.” He adds: “It burns ... It's an incendiary weapon. That is what it does.” It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants [Independent, 11/15/2005 (A)] “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.” [BBC, 11/16/2005] In 1980, the Convention on Conventional Weapons banned the use of incendiary devices, like white phosphorous, in heavily populated areas. The United States was one of the few countries that refused to sign the agreement (see October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983). Even so, an instruction manual used by the US Army Command and General Staff School (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas states that “it is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.” [Independent, 11/19/2005 Sources: Iraqi National Accord] There are a number of first-hand accounts of the battle, as well as video footage and photographs, suggesting the use of white phosphorus against human targets.
Jeff Englehart, who is in a tactical attack center about 200 meters from where a lot of the explosions that are happening [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005]
, later recalls: “I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete. ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children.” [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (A)]
Photographs provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (B)]
, include numerous high-quality, color close-ups of bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelized by the shells. [Independent, 11/8/2004]
A documentary, titled “Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre,” broadcast on Italian news channel RAI a year after the assault shows helicopters launching white phosphorus munitions directly into the city. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (A)]
According to the RAI film, the US has attempted to destroy filmed evidence of the alleged use of white phosphorus on civilians in Falluja. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (B); BBC, 11/8/2005]
A March 2005 US Army report written by three US artillery men who participated in the siege will confirm that white phosphorus was used against human targets during the seige. “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive weapons]. We fired �shake and bake� missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.” [Independent, 11/15/2005 (A) Sources: US Army, The Fight For Fallujah: Field Artillery 3/4/2005]

People and organizations involved: Steve Boylan, Abu Sabah, Abu Hammad, United States
          

November 2004

       US forces use white phosphorus (WP) gas munitions as incendiary weapons against human targets during its seige of Fallujah, Iraq. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (A); London Telegraph, 11/9/2004; Inter Press News Service, 11/26/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004] White phosphorus—also known as Willy Pete or Whiskey Pete—is used by the military for signaling, screening, and incendiary purposes. It burns spontaneously in the air and will continue to burn until all white phosphorus particles have disappeared. White phosphorus munitions, upon explosion, distribute the particles over a wide swath of area. Its smoke easily penetrates clothing and protective gear and can burn a person's flesh to the bone. [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005; GlobalSecurity [.org] , 11/9/2005] According to Jeff Englehart, a US soldier involved in the seige of Fallujah, “Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone. ... Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for.” [Independent, 11/8/2004] “Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad tells reporter Dahl Jamail. “They used everything—tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.” Another resident, Abu Sabah, from the Julan area, explains: “They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.” He says the pieces then explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is applied. “People suffered so much from these,” he adds. [Inter Press News Service, 11/26/2003] Corroborating their accounts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some “Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.” Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, tells the newspaper, “The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/2004] Leutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, in November 2005, will deny that US troops used white phosphorus gas against people in Fallujah. “I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus,” he tells Democracy Now. “White phosphorus is used for obscuration, which white phosphorus produces a heavy thick smoke to shield us or them from view so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is used to destroy equipment, to destroy buildings. That is what white phosphorus shells are used for.” He insists that the pictures showing melted corpses with clothing still intact is not proof of white phosphorus attacks. “That can happen from numerous ways and not just from white phosphorus attacks. That can happen from massive explosions. If you look at the car bombs that the terrorists use today, you have the same effects from car bombs from suicide vests. I have personally witnessed these things here in Baghdad.” [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005] The Pentagon, however, does not deny that the weapon was used against human targets. On November 14, 2005, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venables says that white phosphorus was used to “fire at the enemy.” He adds: “It burns ... It's an incendiary weapon. That is what it does.” It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants [Independent, 11/15/2005 (A)] “It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.” [BBC, 11/16/2005] In 1980, the Convention on Conventional Weapons banned the use of incendiary devices, like white phosphorous, in heavily populated areas. The United States was one of the few countries that refused to sign the agreement (see October 10, 1980-December 2, 1983). Even so, an instruction manual used by the US Army Command and General Staff School (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas states that “it is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.” [Independent, 11/19/2005 Sources: Iraqi National Accord] There are a number of first-hand accounts of the battle, as well as video footage and photographs, suggesting the use of white phosphorus against human targets.
Jeff Englehart, who is in a tactical attack center about 200 meters from where a lot of the explosions that are happening [Democracy Now!, 11/8/2005]
, later recalls: “I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete. ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children.” [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (A)]
Photographs provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (B)]
, include numerous high-quality, color close-ups of bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelized by the shells. [Independent, 11/8/2004]
A documentary, titled “Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre,” broadcast on Italian news channel RAI a year after the assault shows helicopters launching white phosphorus munitions directly into the city. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (A)]
According to the RAI film, the US has attempted to destroy filmed evidence of the alleged use of white phosphorus on civilians in Falluja. [Rainews24 (Italy), 11/2005 (B); BBC, 11/8/2005]
A March 2005 US Army report written by three US artillery men who participated in the siege will confirm that white phosphorus was used against human targets during the seige. “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive weapons]. We fired ?shake and bake? missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.” [Independent, 11/15/2005 (A) Sources: US Army, The Fight For Fallujah: Field Artillery 3/4/2005]

People and organizations involved: Abu Sabah, Steve Boylan, United States, Abu Hammad
          

November 13, 2004

       The New York Times reports on the Pentagon's efforts to develop its own internet, or “war net”, which the Pentagon calls the Global Information Grid (GIG). The GIG would, among other things, allow soldiers to download high-resolution imagery of the places where they are fighting. The “essence of net-centric warfare is [the]... ability to deploy a war-fighting force anywhere, anytime,” says John Garing, strategic planning director at the Defense Information Security Agency, who is quoted in the article. The newspaper reports that “[a]dvocates say networked computers will be the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal” and that “fusing weapons, secret intelligence and soldiers in a global network ... will .... change the military in the way the Internet has changed business and culture.” The article quotes several officials and people in private industry who are involved in GIG. For example, Robert J. Stevens, chief executive of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, says that the DoD's objective is to provide troops in the field with a “a picture of the battle space, a God's-eye view” which he says will give the military “real power.” Linton Wells II, director of the Office of Networks and Information Integration, says that net-centric principles (see August 1999) are becoming “the center of gravity” for war planners and that the “tenets are broadly accepted throughout the Defense Department.” The article also reports that skeptics of the program doubt that the Pentagon will succeed in its project because it will require excessive amounts of bandwidth—enough to download “three feature-length movies a second.” The Times reports that the program has a projected cost of $120 billion—roughly 5 times the total cost, in today's dollars, of the Manhattan project to build the atomic bomb. [The New York Times, 11/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Linton Wells II, Robert J. Stevens, John Garing
          

Week of November 14, 2004

       President George Bush issues a presidential directive establishing an interagency group to consider whether it “would best serve the nation” to give the Pentagon complete control over the CIA's elite paramilitary units. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; New York Times, 11/23/2004; Associated Press, 11/22/2004 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant] The units carry out the government's most sensitive covert operations including “training rebel forces; destabilizing governments and organizations through violence; and directly attacking enemy targets and individuals.” [Associated Press, 11/22/2004] CIA paramilitary activities are conducted under presidential directives called “findings.” [New York Times, 11/23/2004] The panel will consist of representatives from the State and Justice Departments, the Pentagon, and the CIA. Critics of the proposal, including veteran members of special operations branches, note that CIA units operate “under a different set of findings and carry different legal protections than the military, in particular for cases in which they are ordered to conduct the most extreme clandestine operations,” the New York Times reports. Other critics say the move, which is based on a recommendation by the 911 Commission, is part of a Pentagon strategy to wrest control of covert operations from the CIA. Thomas W. O'Connell, the assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, denies this, telling the New York Times, “I have heard it said that there is a conspiracy within the Department of Defense to go and rip off the agency's capabilities, and I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.” [New York Times, 11/23/2004] However, former CIA officers tell investigative reporter Seymour Hersh a few months later that they believe otherwise. They feel the study's conclusion has already been made. “It seems like it's going to happen,” Howard Hart, the former chief of the CIA's Paramilitary Operations Division says. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Howard Hart
          

December 2004

       The House approves the intelligence reform bill 336-75 after a two week stand-off instigated by House Speaker Dennis Hastert on behalf of the White House and Pentagon, which publicly professed support for the bill. A compromise was not reached with the Republicans until the intelligence reform bill was altered to reduce the power of the new national intelligence director so that the secretary of defense could maintain his “statutory responsibilities.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/21/2004; New Yorker, 1/24/2005; CNN, 11/24/2004; CNN, 12/8/2004; Washington Post, 1/23/2005] “Rummy's plan was to get a compromise in the bill in which the Pentagon keeps its marbles and the CIA loses theirs,” a former high-level intelligence official tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. “Then all the pieces of the puzzle fall in place. He gets authority for covert action that is not attributable, the ability to directly task national-intelligence assets” including US spy satellites. “Rumsfeld will no longer have to refer anything through the government's intelligence wringer,” the former official continues. “The intelligence system was designed to put competing agencies in competition. What's missing will be the dynamic tension that insures everyone's priorities—in the CIA, the DOD, the FBI, and even the Department of Homeland Security—are discussed. The most insidious implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell people what he's doing so they can ask, ‘�Why are you doing this?’ or ‘�What are your priorities?’ Now he can keep all of the mattress mice out of it.” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld
          

December 2004

       Intelligence Brief, a newsletter published by former CIA officers Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, reports that the White House has given the Pentagon permission “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat,” including Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia, [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] and Tunisia. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed former high-level intelligence official interviewed by Seymour Hersh] The operations' chain of command will include Donald Rumsfeld and two of his deputies, Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin. Under these new arrangements, “US military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems,” New Yorker magazine reports. “In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities.” Describing how the operations would be conducted, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reports: “The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls ‘action teams’ in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. ‘Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?’ ... [a] former high-level intelligence official asked me.... ‘We founded them and we financed them,’ he said. ‘The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about it.’ A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon's commando capabilities, said, ‘We're going to be riding with the bad boys.’ ” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, William Boykin, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Philip Giraldi, Vincent Cannistraro, Stephen A. Cambone
          

(Early January 2005)

       Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a former high-level intelligence official on the topic of the military's increased control over US covert operations, the waning power of the CIA, and the administration's plans to act militarily against Iran. According to the former official, the Defense Department has almost a free reign in the covert activities it oversees. “The Pentagon doesn't feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the official says. “They don't even call it ‘covert ops’ —it's too close to the CIA phrase. In their view, it's ‘black reconnaissance.’ They're not even going to tell the cincs [the regional American military commanders-in-chief].” On Iran, the former official is clear about the administration's intent. “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign,” the former official says. “The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.” He says an invasion is not conditional in any way. “It's not if we're going to do anything against Iran. They're doing it.” The source suggests that the administration will present its intentions to the public much differently than it did in the case of Iraq. “We've got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We're not going to rely on agency pissants,” explains the former official. “No loose ends, and that's why the CIA is out of there.” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
People and organizations involved: US Congress  Additional Info 
          

(Early January 2005)

       A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration has been consolidating control over the military and intelligence communities' strategic analyses and covert operations, and transforming the role of the CIA into mere “facilitators” of the administration's policies. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed source interviewed by Seymour Hersh]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

January 2005

       Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone issues a set of new guidelines reinterpreting the Pentagon's reporting requirements to Congress on its covert operations. The new guidelines were drafted by the Pentagon's legal counsel at the insistence of Donald Rumsfeld. The Washington Post reports: “Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all ‘deployment orders,’ or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position US forces for combat. But [the guidelines] ... state that special operations forces may ‘conduct clandestine HUMINT operations . . . before publication’ of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the ‘war on terror’ as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary's war powers to times and places of imminent combat. Under Title 50, all departments of the executive branch are obliged to keep Congress ‘fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities.’ The law exempts ‘traditional . . . military activities’ and their ‘routine support.’ [The set of new guidelines] ... interprets ‘traditional’ and ‘routine’ more expansively than his predecessors.” Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O'Connell, who oversees special operations policy, explains to the Washington Post, “Many of the restrictions imposed on the Defense Department were imposed by tradition, by legislation, and by interpretations of various leaders and legal advisors.” He then asserts that over time these mechanisms unnecessarily watered down the Pentagon's authority. “The interpretations take on the force of law and may preclude activities that are legal. In my view, many of the authorities inherent to [the Defense Department] . . . were winnowed away over the years,” he says. In addition to its efforts to evade congressional oversight, the Pentagon also seeks to diminish its dependency on the CIA. According to written guidelines acquired by the Washington Post, the Defense Department will no longer await consent from the agency's headquarters for the human intelligence missions it “coordinates” with the CIA, instead it will work directly with agency officers in the field. The Pentagon will consider a mission “coordinated” after it has given the agency 72 hours. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005; Washington Post, 1/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Strategic Support Branch, or Project Icon, Thomas O'Connell, US Congress, Stephen A. Cambone
          

January 8, 2005

       Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering a new approach to dealing with the insurgency in Iraq, which they call the “El Salvador Option.” During the 1980s, the US funded and supported El Salvadorian paramilitary units which were implicated in numerous assassinations and kidnappings including the murder of four American nuns in 1980. Now the Pentagon is debating whether the same tactics should be used in Iraq. “What everyone agrees is that we can't just go on as we are,” one unnamed senior military officer tells Newsweek. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Another military source interviewed by the magazine contends that Iraqis who sympathize with the insurgents need to be targeted. “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” the source says. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” One proposal would “send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria,” Newsweek explains. Among the proposal's supporters is Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. [Newsweek, 1/8/2005]
People and organizations involved: Ayad Allawi
          

January 23, 2005

       The Washington Post reports that according to “[f]our people with firsthand knowledge” the Strategic Support Branch (see Shortly after September 11, 2001) has “begun operating under ‘non-official cover’ overseas, using false names and nationalities” in missions that “skirt the line between clandestine and covert operations.” Under US law, “clandestine” operations are conducted in secret, while “covert” operations are more sensitive and are denied by the government if revealed. Covert actions require a written “finding” by the president affirming its necessity with prompt notification of senior congressional leaders of both parties. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]
People and organizations involved: Strategic Support Branch, or Project Icon
          

February 4, 2005

       Senior defense officials say that a preliminary study commissioned by the Pentagon has concluded that authority over the CIA's paramilitary units should not be transferred to the Pentagon. The study, conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Virginia, reviewed the 911 commission's recommendation that CIA paramilitary operations be consolidated under Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. Booz Allen Hamilton's conclusions were based on a series of tabletop war games in which veteran CIA officers and Special Operations soldiers “explored how each agency's paramilitary units would respond to different contingencies, including threats involving terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and missions to train indigenous fighters or gain control of ungoverned territory,” the Washington Post reports. A senior defense official familiar with the study tells the newspaper, “If you take the very small paramilitary capabilities away from the CIA, in my view, it would limit their ability to conduct foreign intelligence activities which they are required by law to do.” Furthermore, he adds, “we don't have the legal authorities to be doing what the CIA does, so getting all those assets doesn't make any sense.” [Washington Post, 2/5/2005]
People and organizations involved: Booz Allen Hamilton
          

March 10, 2005

       In a 233-page ruling, District Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismisses a lawsuit against US chemical companies that supplied the military with Agent Orange during the '60s and '70s. The lawsuit was filed by a group of lawyers on behalf of a million or so Vietnamese, seeking compensation for the effects of the toxic defoliant, which was sprayed on at least 3,181 villages during the Vietnam War (see 1960-1973). Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, diabetes and birth defects among Vietnamese soldiers, civilians and American veterans. Lawyers for Monsanto Co., Dow Chemical Co., Hercules Inc., and more than a dozen other companies argued that they were just following the legal orders of the commander-in-chief. “We've said all along that any issues regarding wartime activities should be resolved by the US and Vietnamese governments,” Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Dow Chemical, claimed. “We believe that defoliants saved lives by protecting allied forces from enemy ambush and did not create adverse health effects.” Coming to the defense of the chemical companies, the Justice Department filed a brief asserting that a ruling against the firms could cripple the president's powers to direct US armed forces in wartime. In his ruling Judge Weinstein concludes that the plaintiffs did not prove that Agent Orange had caused their illnesses. “The fact that diseases were experienced by some people after spraying does not suffice to provide general or specific causation,” Weinstein writes. “There is no basis for any of the claims of plaintiffs under the domestic law of any nation or state or under any form of international law. The case is dismissed.” [BBC, 3/10/2005; Associated Press, 3/10/2005]
People and organizations involved: Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Jack B. Weinstein, Hercules, Inc.
          
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