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2:47 pm, April 20, 2014

Pentagon & Beyond

National Security Correspondent J.J. Green has traveled three continents covering intelligence, terrorism, and security issues. From Afghanistan to Africa, Iraq to Ireland, there isn't anywhere J.J. won't go, nor anyone he won't talk with, to get the stories affecting the defense and national security communities.

U.S. Navy sending vessels to Persian Gulf

The U.S Navy says three coastal patrol boats have arrived at 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain to boost its fleet of the rapid-response craft in the Persian Gulf, where U.S. and Iranian forces often operate within close range. The Navy says the new vessels Wednesday bring the total to eight patrol boats as part of plans to have 10 stationed in Bahrain by early next year.

Hunger-strikers petition to stop force-feeding

The U.S. government has until noon on Wednesday to respond to a request to block the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Lawyers for the prisoner argue it violates human rights. The U.S. military holds 166 foreign captives at the detention camp on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, and a spokesman said 106 had joined a months-long hunger strike to protest the failure to resolve their fate after more than a decade of detention.

How did he escape

How did Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, on the run and facing defeat and certain death at the hands of Rwandan troops, get out of Eastern Congo and into the U.S. Embassy in Kigali Rwanda? A U.N. report says he managed to slip away and used a small path and a single escort to make his way to the U.S. Embassy and turned himself in for arrest on international war crimes charges. He turned up at the embassy on March 18.

Hagel visits NORAD and NORTHCOM

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is in Colorado Springs, Colo., for his first visit to the area since being sworn in. While there Hagel will visit the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. He'll be briefed by Gen. Chuck Jacoby and staff on a number of issues including homeland defense, integrated air and missile defense, US-Mexico military-to-military relations, and defense support of civil authorities. He will also visit Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Fort Carson.

Selective Service figure dies

Curtis Tarr, the former head of the Selective Service System who oversaw the lottery for the draft during the Vietnam War, has died. Tarr died of pneumonia on Friday at his home in Walnut Creek, Calif. He was 88. The nation had held its first lottery drawing for the draft in December 1969. Before the lottery, local draft boards had control over who was called and who was not.

Terror plot suspected in Europe

German authorities are investigating two men of Tunisian origin suspected of planning to use model airplanes for terrorist attacks, prosecutors said Tuesday. At the same time police in Germany and Belgium raided a series of sites searching for evidence of "possible attack plans and preparations." No one was arrested in Tuesday's raids, which were carried out by about 90 police in the Stuttgart and Munich areas of southern Germany and in Saxony in eastern Germany, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Threat from Cyber terrorists grow

Law enforcement and first responder got a special bulletin recently warning them to be aware of and understand that terrorists frequent popular social media sites and Web blogs to gather pre-operational surveillance. Some cyber terrorists according to the bulletin are sophisticated enough to penetrate an organization's network and devices-and gather personal, sensitive, or proprietary data. Virtual tours, security procedures, even business hours are key sources of information for terrorists and criminal organizations. Authorities warn terrorists are getting better and could use this type of information launch both cyber and physical attack almost simultaneously.

Syrian aid remains in limbo

The U.S. government and military are still mulling over how to help Syrian rebels. Sources say the CIA and military are quietly training Syrian rebels on how to use anti-tank and anti-aircraft launchers, but one senior military official says no decisions have been made on what type of weapon support to provide or when to do it.

Pakistan and Afghanistan point fingers

There is a lot of back and forth at the U.N. as Afghanistan and Pakistan traded accusations in the U.N. Security Council on Thursday over the whereabouts of Islamist extremists. The United Nations called increased tensions between the two as "unfortunate and dangerous." Both sides blame the other for deadly terrorist attacks that take place almost on a daily basis.

Cyber thieves swipe Pentagon plans

Hackers stealing sensitive design data from programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could limit the advantage the plane gives the U.S. Defense acquisitions chief Frank Kendall told a Senate hearing he was reasonably confident that classified information related to the development of the F-35 was well-protected. "But I'm not at all confident that our unclassified information is as well-protected," he said.

Talks with the Taliban set to begin

The U.S. is going to meet with the Taliban this week, but is managing its expectations. The talks are designed to achieve peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban opened an office in Doha, the Qatari capital, on Tuesday. U.S. officials say the talks will start in Doha on Thursday, but President Barack Obama says don't expect any quick progress, because the process won't be easy.

Details on women in combat expected

Later today, the military is going to add some clarity on its plan to start moving women into thousands of combat jobs, including those in special operations forces. The Army is expected to develop standards within the next two years to let women train and possibly serve as Rangers. By March of 2016, women could begin training as Navy SEALS. U.S. Special Operations Command is working on deciding what commando jobs could be opened to women, and when the transition would take place.

Trouble looming for West Point head

The Superintendent at West Point West Point is in hot water. Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, according to the Department of Defense Inspector, improperly allowed subordinates to give driving lessons, didn't properly compensate those who worked at a charity dinner and accepted gifts of services from subordinates. The report was released to The Associated Press on Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Punishment for sexual assault formalized

The House of Representatives has endorsed a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for a member of the armed services convicted of rape or sexual assault in a military court. The Associated Press reports, "by voice vote, the House approved the additional punishment as part of a series of steps lawmakers have taken to tackle the growing problem of sexual assault. The provisions are contained in a sweeping defense policy bill for the 2014 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1."

Benghazi story disputed

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that four members of Army special forces in Tripoli were never told to stand down after last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, disputing a former top diplomat's claim that the unit might have helped Americans under siege. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said timing and the need for the unit to help with casualties from Benghazi resulted in orders for the special forces to remain in Tripoli.

Al Qaida has missiles

The Associated Press says it's recovered a 26 page document in Arabic from a building that was occupied by Al Qaida in Timbuktu Mali that strongly suggest they have acquired surface-to-air missiles. The recovery also seems to confirm that the al-Qaida cell is actively training its fighters to use the weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS. It's believed they came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

AUMF repeal-attempt looming

Should the President and Congress take a second look at using the military in the war against terrorism? Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence committee, plans to introduce legislation today to repeal Authorization for the Use of Military Force. He's suggesting the law is outdated. He says, "A lot of troops that we have on the battlefield now were on playgrounds" when the law was passed. He linked the timing to when U.S. combat forces will be out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Chinese cyber army holding exercises

China's rolling out its digital army. Xinhua, the official state news agency says next month they're going to conduct their first "digital" technology military exercise. It'll take place in north China's remote Inner Mongolia region. They're going to focus on digitalized combat, special operations forces, army aviation and electronic counter forces.

DoD responds to claims that weapons systems were compromised

The Pentagon is responding to a Washington Post article claiming key weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese espionage. Spokesman George Little says, "We maintain full confidence in our weapons platforms." Little also says, "The Department of Defense takes the threat of cyber espionage and cyber security very seriously, which is why we have taken a number of steps to increase funding to strengthen our capabilities, harden our networks, and work with the defense industrial base to achieve greater visibility into the threats our industrial partners are facing." He says, "suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect."

The IC responds to President's "drone" speech

After the President's major speech on drones and GITMO, the intelligence community responded. DNI James Clapper welcomed "the effort to strengthen the process for reviewing and approving counterterrorism operations." He said "a consistent and regularized interagency coordination process that involves policymakers, intelligence professionals and the legal community is essential to preventing and responding to terrorism while ensuring the freedoms that are the bedrock of our democracy."

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