Tag Archives: Medill NSJI

PHOTOS: Tea Party Patriots lead rally against Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Tea Party Patriots (in conjunction with For America, the Zionist Foundation of America and Secure Freedom) staged a rally against the Iran nuclear deal on the U.S. Capitol’s west lawn.  The event, which drew speakers including presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump, drew attendees from multiple states who carried signs, donned costumes and/or decked themselves out in all-things red, white and blue.  Here is a reporter’s-eye-view of the event.

Experts say retaliation over OPM cyber attacks may be misguided

WASHINGTON — With cyber attacks grabbing the public’s attention, calls for retaliation, especially against suspected state-sponsored intrusions, have escalated.

Critics argue that a passive approach by the U.S. government only emboldens perpetrators. Draw a red line, they urge; the massive Office of Personnel Management breach, in particular, warranted a decisive response by the government.

But on the other side, some experts warn that retaliation, in any form, would be shortsighted, simplistic, and unrealistic, potentially undermining America’s interests. The rules of engagement, even informal guidelines, have yet to be written, they say.

Those advocating hacking back say the OPM breach should have been the final straw. But where to strike? The Obama administration has not openly accused the Chinese government,or any government, of being behind the OPM cyber attack.

The OPM, which handles security clearance for federal government employees, discovered in June that the agency had been hacked. The latest figures reveal that records of 22 million workers were compromised.

But Robert Knake, former head of cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council, said those advocating for hacking back are overreacting.

“It’s bad. But it’s not devastating,” said Knake of the names and Social Security numbers exposed by the breach. “The reason it’s not devastating is that we know about it.”

Speaking at an Atlantic Council panel last week debating the consequences of retaliating for cyberattacks, Knake said identifying the breach offers the opportunity to mitigate the damage. Once armed with this knowledge, the government can use the hack to its advantage, he argued.

For example, in the unlikely event that China uses information gleaned from the breach to identify Americans involved in sensitive activities, Knake said the U.S. could respond with misdirection by changing personnel.

Knake said the leaking of classified National Security Agency information by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, changed the norms in cyberspace.

“We are in the post-Snowden period where the whole world knows the U.S. engages in this kind of [surveillance] activity,” said Knake. “That we have a very strong program. And we got through all those disclosures without … Angela Merkel or anyone else declaring that it was an act of war.”

Fighting cyber espionage requires a different skillset than defending against pre-Internet, traditional Cold War espionage, said Austin Berglas, former head of the FBI’s New York Cyber Branch. “Whatever country is trying to steal our state secrets or international property doesn’t have to have a physical body. They can do it from their own home. There is a cloak of anonymity that people can hide behind to deny the actions.”

Unlike the Cold War when the adversary was clear, there are many more nations engaged in cyber espionage. China, Russia North Korea and Iran have all been suspected as culprits.

Jason Healey, senior fellow, at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, said that in the Cold War, there was a set of unwritten “Moscow rules” illuminating red lines that would not be crossed.

“It wasn’t a treaty, but there was this sense of where each side could go and if they overstep that, than there might be repercussions,” Healey said at the Aug. 19 panel discussion. “We would never kill a Russian. They will never kill an American spy.”

In contrast, Healey said no set of unifying standards exist for resolving cyber espionage conflicts.

“We have had some cyber espionage cases going back to 1986 where the KGB was spying,” said Healey.

In a telephone interview, Daniel Garrie, founder and editor in chief of the Journal of Law and Cyber Warfare, said countries’ varying attitudes towards cyber warfare make it harder to establish standards between the U.S. and other countries.

“Not only is there no playbook for countries and companies looking to respond to a cyberattack,” said Garrie, “but there are arguably a hundred different play-books, for each country, making the appropriate and permissible response all the more challenging, assuming your legal team understands what sort of action you are seeking to take,”
In some countries, Garrie said hacking is “not per-se illegal and it is certainly not taboo or shameful, in fact, it appears in some countries that such activity is encouraged.”

While it would seem tempting to fighting back against perpetrators aggressively, a tit-for-tat approach in the OPM affair, risks giving rise to many more problems than it would solve.

Winners of the 2015 MRE Journalism Contest announced

Congratulations to all those who submitted their work to the MRE Journalism Contest. Below are the winners, and the judges’ comments.

The Joe Galloway Award

David Wood of Huffington Post for a powerful, fascinating, thoroughly reported, humanized and particularly well-written, well-produced three-part multimedia package examining the prevalence, complexity and impact of “moral injury” that plagues so many who have fought sought since 9/11. “Moral injury is a relatively new concept that seems to describe what many feel: a sense that their fundamental understanding of right and wrong has been violated, and the grief, numbness or guilt that often ensues,” Wood wrote in his introduction to the series. “However we individually feel about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these enduring moral wounds, to young Americans who fought on our behalf, must be counted among the ultimate costs.”

The James Crawley Award

Lance Bacon, reporter; Andrew deGrandpre, digital news director; Alex Neill, executive editor of Military Times, for their investigation into whether a Marine Corps order that removed Marine Corps Times publications from prime locations at the front of base exchanges around the world was the result of reporting it was doing “detailing whistleblower allegations suggesting the service’s commandant, Gen. James Amos, abused his authority and interfered in several high-profile criminal cases.” The order was eventually rescinded and the papers returned to the prime locations, while further Military Times reporting “obtained and authenticated emails linking Amos to the newsstand move, raised troubling questions about the Marine Corps’ attempt to limit troops’ access to an independent news source.”

Overseas Large Newspapers Category:  Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review foreign correspondent Betsy Hiel filed a series of eye-opening, deeply reported stories from Iraq in 2014 detailing the people and conditions as ISIS swept toward Baghdad. One of the first Western reporters on the ground after ISIS invaded, she reported on Christians who found temporary refuge from ISIS in an ancient monastery before fleeing as the terrorist group advanced; she explained Kurdish soldiers’ belief that the next target of ISIS is the United States; and she shed light on the sectarian divisions that stand in the way of achieving peace in Iraq.

Overseas Small Newspapers Category: Drew Brooks, Fayetteville Observer

Drew Brooks’ detailed and emotionally stirring series of stories on the Green Berets from Fort Bragg who led the war effort in Afghanistan for 13 years provided an inside glimpse of the lives of Green Beret soldiers deployed to Afghanistan as well as an analysis of why they ended up in such a dominant role and the toll of large numbers of casualties.

Domestic Large Newspapers Category: Mike Wereschagin, Adam Smeltz and Carl Prine, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The two-part series by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review disclosed that emails and documents obtained through a FOIA filed by the paper show that congressional testimony given by Veterans Affairs officials investigating a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that left at least six dead in Pittsburgh was, at the least, obfuscatory and basically contradicted information in the private documents. The work is investigative reporting at its best.

Domestic Small Newspapers Category: This award is shared by Meghann Myers of the Navy Times and Hope Hodge Seck of the Marine Corps Times

Meghann Myers of Navy Times and Hope Hodge Seck of Marine Corps Times separately covered two aspects of a critical gender issues facing today’s military.

Meghann Myers revealed that some of the first women to serve in the submarine force were secretly filmed undressing by their shipmates. The Navy Times story, first reported online, drew immediate attention by Pentagon officials and created national attention.  The commander of the submarine force condemned the tapings as a “breach of trust” and Myers pursued the story and its consequences not only for the sailors but also for the entire service.

Hope Hodge Seck wrote a more complex but equally important Marine Corp Times story about concern that the Marine Corps is under so much pressure to prosecute alleged sexual assaults that the accused are no longer innocent until proved guilty. Sensitive to the reality that sexual assault cases were too easily dismissed in the past, Seck wove actual legal cases with new policy initiatives to explain how the Marines are trying to deal with a significant problem.

Photographer Small Paper Category: Andrew Craft, Fayetteville Observer

Andrew Craft’s collection of domestic and overseas images give a sense of dimension, depth and flexibility as a visual storyteller. Entries included a well-composed, solemnly powerful image of a flag-draped casket being carried; a playful shot of an Army officer horsing around with his young sons before heading on a 9-month deployment and a wide landscape shot of a soldier standing guard over the rugged terrain in Kabul.

Commentary: Marketta Davis, Pensacola News Journal

Marketta Davis is a military brat and military wife whose Pensacola News Journal column, “Military notes,” has an authentic, all-in-the-family tone that is both engaging and enlightening. Writing on everything from stolen valor issues to a 100-year-old veteran reminiscing about World War II, Davis is open in sharing her reactions and feelings and then translating them into larger lessons about military life.

Domestic, Large Broadcast Category: ESPN

ESPN’s compelling Outside the Lines,“Friend Who Fired,” told the story of the Army Rangers involved in the fatal accident that killed Ranger and professional football player Pat Tillman. None of the Army Rangers who fired upon him spoke publicly about the episode until ESPN found Steven Elliott, who agreed to break the silence. William Weinbaum is the producer; Mike Fish and John Barr are the reporters.

Honorable mention: Chas Henry’s Almost Equal: The U. S Military Three Years After Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at 99.1 WNEW radio.

Online Reporting: Jeremy Schwartz, Austin-American Statesman

Jeremy Schwartz’Lost Opportunity” explores the “failure of good intentions” surrounding an expensive, powerful mobile MRI that was believed to be among the most powerful in the world and was planned to scan the brains of troops before, and after, combat, as part of overall traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress syndrome research by the Veterans Administration as part of its $2 billion in yearly research spending. A “fiasco” is what it proved to be, leading to an “inglorious decline” that included no appreciable research, few actual scans, a chronic lack of technical expertise and a key fatal flaw: moving what was to be a portable machine meant for several bases and hospitals required expensive re-calibration after each move, so it stayed put. Now, “The scanner idles 24 hours a day because it’s more expensive to turn an MRI machine off and on than to keep it running.” One use suggested for the unit that houses it: Housing for lab rats. The online package is crisp, well-written and illustrated and nicely designed with intuitive navigation and flow.  Given the topic, it could well have been deadly dull and bureaucratic, but was not in the least; instead, it was driven by good context, insight, perspective and tight writing.

Blogging: Beth Ford Roth, Home Post

Beth Ford Roth’sHome Post” blog entry included a diverse and interesting collection of posts, ranging from whether Marines should be able to roll up their sleeves (wives, the blog says, find this sexy; the Marines declared it is OK again to roll them up); an essay from a dad whose sailor son was lost as sea; and a post about famous people who fought on D-Day.

Oshkosh, B’Gosh: The US Military Is Finally Replacing the Humvee

WASHINGTON — This week marks the beginning of the end for the Humvee.

A UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter being operated by B Company, 43rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, lifts off after having a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) sling loaded to it by Soldiers on the ground assigned to Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 4th Infantry Division and Lithuanian Land Forces Soldiers assigned to the Grand Duchess Birutė Uhlan Battalion (BUB), during exercise Uhlan Fury being held at the Gen. Silvestras Zlikaliskas Training Area, Pabrade, Lithuania, Aug. 10, 2015. The U.S. units are in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve, a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and to enduring peace and stability in the region. U.S. Army Europe is leading Atlantic Resolve enhanced land force multinational training and security cooperation activities taking place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria to ensure multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

A UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter being operated by B Company, 43rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, lifts off after having a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) sling loaded to it by Soldiers on the ground assigned to Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 4th Infantry Division and Lithuanian Land Forces Soldiers assigned to the Grand Duchess Birutė Uhlan Battalion (BUB), during exercise Uhlan Fury being held at the Gen. Silvestras Zlikaliskas Training Area, Pabrade, Lithuania, Aug. 10, 2015. The U.S. units are in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve, a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and to enduring peace and stability in the region. U.S. Army Europe is leading Atlantic Resolve enhanced land force multinational training and security cooperation activities taking place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria to ensure multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

That’s because the US Army chose Oshkosh Defense to manufacture about 55,000 joint light tactical vehicles (JLTVs) that will become the successors to Humvees and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs). The initial contract awarded to Oshkosh on Tuesday is for $6.7 billion and 17,000 vehicles. The total contract, valued at up to $30 billion, could provide the Wisconsin-based company with work through 2040.

The new offering provides underbody and side-armor protection similar to a tank’s, but retains the on-ground and in-theater mobility of an all-terrain vehicle. The vehicle’s reduced weight allows it to be transported by Chinook helicopters and amphibious vessels, a feat that was largely impossible with MRAPs.

Thousands of MRAPs were purchased in response to the traditional Humvees’ failures to sufficiently protect troops from the widespread use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by Iraqi insurgents in the mid-2000s. It was not unusual for soldiers to stack sandbags on the floors of the vehicles for added protection — and still have to contend with canvas for doors. The introduction of the MRAP solved the protection problem, though it came at the expense of battlefield mobility.

“Our JLTV has been extensively tested and is proven to provide the ballistic protection of a light tank, the underbody protection of an MRAP-class vehicle, and the off-road mobility of a Baja racer,” John M. Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense, said in a statement.

The new vehicle reflects the military’s various needs in modern warfare — protecting troops from roadside bombs, traversing mixed terrain quickly, transporting vehicles within and between combat theaters.

The Humvee, which has been the military’s go-to vehicle for decades, was born in 1979, when AM General began early design work on the M998 Series high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle — or HMMWV, pronounced “Humvee” — to replace the legendary Army Jeep. In 1983, the company was awarded an initial contract worth $1.2 billion to make 55,000 Humvees.

The Humvee has since accompanied troops in Panama, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. But now the mainstay military vehicles are being sold off by the dozen, with the bidding starting at $7,500.

In the early ’90s, AM General began production of the Hummer, the Humvee’s commercial spinoff. General Motors later assembled, distributed, and marketed the vehicle before it was discontinued. The last new Hummer was sold in 2010.

The Pentagon dismissed the Humvee’s original manufacture’s design concept for the JLTV, along with an offering by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it was disappointed that the Army and Marine Corps did not select its design.

“We believe we presented a very strong solution and await the customers’ debrief to hear more detail regarding the reasons behind this selection before making a decision about a potential protest,” the statement said.

If the defense goliath chooses to protest the Pentagon’s decision, the Government Accountability Office, which has a forum to resolve disputes over awards of federal contracts, will review the military’s decision.

AM General also expressed disappointment in the decision and is “considering all available options,” a company spokesman said in a statement.

The competition to win the multi-billion dollar contract began in 2012. Each competitor provided 22 prototypes for the JTLV program. These were then tested over a 14-month period.

“I am tremendously proud of the JLTV program team,” Heidi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, said in the announcement. “Working with industry, they are delivering major improvements in protected mobility for soldiers and have succeeded in executing a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule.”

Oshkosh is scheduled to begin manufacturing the vehicles in the first quarter of 2016 so the Army can start getting the trucks in the field by 2018.

Published in conjunction with Vice News Logo

The first US women in combat will find US women already in combat


On January 1, the US military will open all of its positions to women — including combat duty — unless the individual services prove they should be exempt from the edict. Many consider this a groundbreaking moment for female troops, but women have already served with elite combat units. The upcoming deadline has become, in some sense, more about acknowledging reality than imposing change.

In 2011, all-female Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) were deployed to Afghanistan as “enablers” who kept women and children safe during nightly raids, and served as important resources for gathering intelligence. But these female soldiers were not just communication facilitators — they were part of a team embedded with the military’s elite Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Women have been officially banned from serving in combat roles since the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, but a 2013 announcement that required all positions to be fully inclusionary by 2016 effectively repealed the ban.

As the integration deadline nears, two women have advanced to the final phase in the Army’s Ranger School. Parachuting into the swamps of Florida and slogging their way out is now the last challenge standing between them and graduation from the elite school, which would make them the first women to succeed in the rigorous program.

“Even if only one woman were to pass, it would negate all those arguments that they’re incapable of keeping up,” Katherine Kidder, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told VICE News.

As of now, these women would earn the prestigious Ranger Tab — a qualification earned by just 3 percent of the Army — yet even after graduating from Ranger School they will still not be allowed to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, which performs Special Operations missions, since that would violate the 1994 ban on assigning women to combat positions. Apparently that’s an entirely different thing than assigning women to positions that may entail combat.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VICE News the January 1 deadline “would be a big barrier broken” that could erase the last barrier that prevents women from serving in the elite Ranger Regiment.

This not the first time female soldiers in the US have been in a position to demonstrate their mettle. While the combat ban was in place, nearly 200 female troops died while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, including two who were killed while serving on CSTs.

The war in Afghanistan highlighted the important role women could play in fighting insurgents and operating within other cultures. Male troops couldn’t talk to Afghan women, roughly half of the country’s population, because of cultural and religious norms. By excluding women from missions, the US faced immense losses in intelligence gathering, and it took longer to find insurgents as a result.

The situation created a demand for female soldiers who could interact freely with locals. Women assigned to the CSTs were tasked with engaging with and talking to the female population, earning their trust, and finding out where insurgents were hiding. “Those teams were created because Rangers needed women to help them get the job done,” Lemmon said.

In an odd twist, the Taliban, known for its oppressive treatment of women, actually forced the male-dominated US defense establishment to do what many have been advocating for years: Allow women to be assigned to combat roles. “There’s a true irony in the system,” Kidder told VICE News. “The Taliban, who are repressing women on the one hand, in this strange way have opened the door for American women.”

The role of the CSTs hasn’t escaped the notice of senior Pentagon leadership in the broader debate about assigning women to combat roles. Admiral Eric Olson, then-commander of USSOCOM, appeared before Congress in 2011 and called the CST program “effective and long overdue,” and urged all services “to recognize the capabilities of CSTs as essential military skills.”

In addition to bridging cultural gaps on the battlefield, CSTs may have played a similar role within the Department of Defense (DOD). In January 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey made the historic announcement that women will be able to fight in combat positions. In a letter to Panetta, Dempsey wrote that for this initiative to be successful, the service branches “will need time to get it right.”

The 2013 announcement was important in that it opened up avenues for training and qualification that were previously unavailable, as the services sought to get qualified female troops fully trained and ready to step into their roles before the 2016 deadline.

At the Special Operations Forces Training Facility in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, CST recruits had to go through the Rangers’ infamous “100 hours of hell,” a physically and mentally intense Special Ops selection process.

In her book Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield, Lemmon tells the story of CSTs in Afghanistan — and makes clear that they were capable of not only keeping up, but fighting with a unit of elite Special Operations soldiers. “Sarah, like all the CSTs, understood that contact could come at any time on any night, on any mission — they were never safe, and they accepted that,” she wrote about one of one female soldier.

Another program blazed a trail for the CSTs years before they deployed to Afghanistan. In 2006, the Army created the gender-neutral Human Terrain Teams (HTTs), composed of groups of American social scientists that helped the military understand the foreign cultures and customs they were dealing with overseas.

But much as US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan had difficulty navigating local religious and cultural norms, the social scientists of the HTTs faced culture clashes while embedded with the US military.

While the HTTs were deployed to “win the hearts and minds” of the foreigners, they were not intended to gather intelligence, according to Cynthia Hogle, who was part of an HTT embedded with the Army in Afghanistan in 2012. But that mission and fighting a war were tough to combine. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended the Human Terrain Teams in a speech in 2008, but by June 2015, the DOD officially announced the end of the program.

Hogle recalls how hard it was for her to gain the respect and trust of male soldiers. “The military as a whole is narrow-minded, not just when it comes to women,” she told VICE News. “But I think all these programs are going to have a ripple effect.”

Kidder believes that allowing women in combat positions is about something more important to the military than whether women are as capable as men. “It’s not necessarily a conversation about equality, but about how do we make our force as effective as possible — regardless of gender,” she said.


Published in conjunction with USA Today Logo

Data collection brings more benefits than loss, experts say

WASHINGTON – You’re probably one of the 91 percent of American adults who think they’ve lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies (according to a Pew Research study in early 2015). But big data collection brings benefits that outweigh the potential downsides, contended Ben Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a panel discussion at the Capital Visitor Center last Thursday.

Consumers’ concern about online privacy are at all-time high due to the emerging technologies – for instance, e-commerce and mobile devices– which collects a big chunk of consumer data, the Pew Research study says.

However, people who worry about “privacy eroding into the river and being gone forever,” added Wittes, ignore how those benefits actually increase privacy.

The rise of online sales has meant you can mail-order products that might be too embarrassing to buy in person, Wittes added. “Without looking at somebody in the eye, without confessing the interest in this subject, you get what you want.”

Because all e-books look the same on an e-reader, for instance, you can read Fifty Shades of Grey on your Kindle without shame—which may explain why the e-version of this book has outsold its printed version.

The value of the privacy of those purchases, Wittes argued, outweighs the value of the data given for them—like email, credit card numbers, browsing history, personal preferences, and location-based information.

Wittes suggested changing vocabulary that consumers use to describe the benefits they get with giving up some personal information. It’s not only “convenience,” he said, “it’s also privacy benefits.”

Joshua New, policy analyst at the Information Technology Innovation Foundation, said data collection also brings economic benefits to consumers.

He cited car insurance as an example. Instead of deciding your insurance premium based on broad factors – for instance, age, gender, neighborhood, drivers could use data to prove that they are cautious and don’t brake rapidly to get lower premiums even they are in the “high-risk section” based on traditional measurements, New said.

People who strive for online privacy should be aware that there is a cost to it. Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, said it’s not impossible for people to protect their privacy if they don’t mind losing the benefits of giving up their data.

“Companies can offer paid options where user information won’t be collected,’ Thierer said. “But at the moment, I don’t think many people will pay for their privacy.”

A balance between consumer privacy and technology innovation is what the Federal Trade Commission is pursuing. Totally prohibiting data collection, which will create barriers for breakthrough innovations, is definitely not the solution.

“We should definitely limit the use of data,” said Federal Trade Commission member Maureen Ohlhausen, “but not limit the collection of data.”

Published in conjunction with PC World Logo

Seeking better government cybersecurity, before and after the OPM data breach

WASHINGTON – After personnel data held by the Office of Personnel Management was compromised by hackers, the dispute over the improvement and possible reform of federal government’s cybersecurity system has become heated.

The OPM data breach resulted from a compromise of a highly privileged user’s credential, which also gave them access to the data center of the Department of Interior. Although no data was stolen from within DOI’s system, it triggered a large concern about the department’s computer network protection system.

According to the Federal Information Security Management Act, each deferral agency should develop, document and implement an agency-wide program to provide information security. But in reality, many federal agencies are using information protection services provided by other departments, such as DOI. The reason behind it is for economy purposes, according to Sylvia Burns, chief information officer of DOI. “You can gain economy from the scale. So it’s less expensive and more efficient for a customer to consume services from a provider like that.”

In 2005, OPM first became a customer of DOI’s data hosting service. DOI offers its IT infrastructure and host information, ensures the connection between DOI and OPM, and encrypts the connection between the two agencies.

“Shared service is a concept of creating a more robust, centralized point of service around specific activities,” Burns said, explaining the origin of this concept. According to Burns, a 2001 data breach in DOI resulted in disconnecting five DOI bureaus from the Internet for about six and half years. For the fear of being disconnected again, all the bureaus and offices in the department created separate protections for themselves. In that state, cooperation became hard because they were trying to protect themselves from being associated with trust data. In 2008, DOI reconnected those organizations back to Internet, and it turned out that they had difficulty just doing day-to-day work because of the security controls. That’s when the department began to create the segmented system.

Although this time’s data breach was not a result of technical failure, DOI hasn’t seriously treated the 3,000 critical vulnerabilities in its hundreds of publicly accessible computers that were identified by the Office of Inspector General. But viewing this issue from a broader perspective, OPM fell into a trap of an outdated model of cybersecurity system, which we call “line of sight governance.” This is a belief that I can walk down a corridor to where everybody is working and then I have the control of the security surrounding them. In the era of Internet when everyone is connected with the outside world, it’s just impossible to ensure their security by believing that internal system is absolutely secure.

The new model, called the BeyondCorp initiative, assumes that the internal network is as dangerous as the Internet. Using authentication, authorization and encryption, trust is moved from the network level to the device level. For example, Google staff are required to use a security key when connecting their computers to the Internet. When the security key is plugged into the USB portal, it automatically generates a one-time password. With this one-time password and the staff’s own username and password, the Internet is accessible.

“It’s relatively easy to get online in the company, but it can be very hard to access to the internal system when you are at home because a VPN is needed. And not everyone can get it unless you are at certain rank,” said Jiasong Sun, a Google employee. Some companies including Coca-Cola Co., Verizon Communications Inc. and Mazda Motor Corp. are taking a similar approach.

Several questions about DOI’s role in the breach remain unanswered, including whether or not other agencies may have been compromised, how many breaches took place at DOI and whether or not the attackers are still in the system. But this two factor authentication system is a possible solution that the DOI is considering to take after the data breach.

Rep. Will Hurd (R—TX) urges federal agencies and their CIOs to review past IG reports and address the vulnerabilities that have been identified. “We know what needs to be done, we just need to do it,” Hurd said.

The US Army is increasing troop rotations and equipment in Europe

US Army Europe officers speaks to reporters at the Pentagon about their rotational training in Eastern Europe, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (Amina Ismail/Medill NSJI)

US Army Europe officers speaks to reporters at the Pentagon about their rotational training in Eastern Europe, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (Amina Ismail/Medill NSJI)

Officers of the US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment, currently stationed in Vilseck, Germany, stopped by the Pentagon last week to talk about their rotational training in Eastern Europe and the larger array of efforts in the region being held to reassure NATO allies.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea from February 2014, and his increasingly aggressive actions near NATO’s stomping grounds, the Pentagon has been beefing up its military exercises and rotations in Central and Eastern Europe to ensure what US military officials say is the security and stability of its NATO allies.

“I can tell you that the countries that we are training with are concerned with Russia as a threat to the stability of Europe,” Army Colonel John V. Meyer III, commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, told journalists at a roundtable. “We are working on strengthening the alliance. We want a strong Europe.”

The Obama administration’s European Reassurance Initiative was launched in June 2014 with a $1 billion budget for training and temporary rotations.

These rotations are less costly and less politically sensitive than permanently stationing troops in Europe because joint exercises and a temporary presence ensure the allied nation’s sovereignty and improve its military capabilities.

“It is not perceived at all that the US is trying to expand its influence,” Meyer said. “Our host nations, our allies helped sustain us.”

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, commanding general of US Army Europe, hinted at the long-term goal for the army in a promotional video. “Being able to rotate units to come over to train, but also have an in-depth understanding of the culture, the history, the geography, the infrastructure… This is going to be a permanent part of how the army operates,” he said.

One of the things that proves a regular hindrance for US crisis response is sending hundreds or thousands of troops overseas who don’t know the people, language, culture, or terrain of the country where they’re expected to be fighting.

Meanwhile, local forces have little or no experience working with US forces, procedures, or practices. By cycling troops through a region, it gives local forces ample opportunity to practice with US forces, while giving a wide range of American forces at least a basic working familiarity with the area.

For more than a decade, the US and NATO have avoided deploying permanent troops and military equipment to NATO’s newer member states which, during the Cold War, were part of the Soviet bloc, or even the Soviet Union.

This has been avoided in part to minimize tensions and prevent friction with the Kremlin, and is in keeping with the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security “to give concrete substance to their shared commitment to build a stable, peaceful, and undivided Europe.”

Apart from that more peaceful rationale, the US Army had actual wars to fight elsewhere anyway: Afghanistan and Iraq called for the majority of US troops to be in, going to, or coming from the Middle East and Central Asia.

Last month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the army — for the first time since it downsized its presence in Europe — would store tanks, heavy weapons, and infantry combat vehicles in Eastern and Central Europe, a bold move that may be viewed as a violation of the essence of the treaty, which states that NATO members and Russia should not consider each other adversaries.

Carter’s decision was part of the European Reassurance Alliance and Operation Atlantic Resolve, a training program launched by the US Department of Defense in May.

Operation Atlantic Resolve is the European counterpart to the Pacific Pathways model introduced last fall. In September, the US Army Pacific deployed about 1,200 soldiers for the month-long Garuda Shield training exercise in Indonesia. This joint effort with the Indonesian military served as the pilot program, and was the first time the army deployed troops for rotational training exercises with multinational partners.

The move to expeditionary-style forces in many ways dates back to the end of the Cold War, which marked the beginning of a steady decline of US Army presence in Eastern Europe and pre-positioned Overseas Material Configured to Unit Sets (POMCUS). The last US tanks, stationed in Grafenwöhr, Germany, were pulled out of Europe in March 2013, just one year before Russian tanks began moving into Crimea.

After heavy speculation and rumors about the US decision to store such equipment, and before Carter’s official announcement, Putin responded at an arms fair west of Moscow.

“More than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles able to overcome even the most technically advanced anti-missile defense systems will be added to the make-up of the nuclear arsenal this year,” he said.

Considering Russia’s satellite nuclear warning system will be out of service until November, this addition to Putin’s arsenal — and his public announcement — leaves the rest of the world hoping he will become neither brash nor desperate enough to make use of it.

Under Operation Atlantic Resolve, smaller companies of about US 100 soldiers are deployed to the Baltic States, while larger battalions of troops deploy to Poland to engage in rotational training exercises with allied armed forces. These so-called Regionally Aligned Forces are units that rotate into the country without bringing equipment, but instead use the European Activity Set, which contains a combined-arms, battalion-sized group of vehicles, and pre-positioned equipment permanently stationed in the US Army’s training area in Grafenwöhr — the exact location where only two years ago soldiers marked the end of an era, as the last US tanks withdrew from European soil.

The current US operations throughout Europe have a Cold War precedent. NATO’s annual REFORGER — Return of Forces to Germany — exercises filled a similar role: proving to both NATO and Russia that the US is capable of moving a large, decisive combat force quickly into the region in the event of war.

According to the official fact sheet, “Operation Atlantic Resolve will remain in place as long as the need exists to reassure our allies and deter Russia from regional hegemony.”

But is this rotational presence really going to send a clear and strong message to the Kremlin? Magnus Nordenman, an analyst with the Atlantic Council, thinks it sends “somewhat of a message.”

“The preference is to have permanently based forces, but if we can’t have that, then certainly rotations are better than nothing,” he told VICE News.

Both Marine General Joseph Dunford, the nominee to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his prospective vice chairman, General Paul Selva, bring not only experience in strategic mobility, but also described Russia as a greater threat than China, North Korea, or Iran during their confirmation hearings, and encouraged deployment of heavy weapons in Europe to defend NATO allies.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who initially disagreed with Dunford and Selva, was alarmed by Putin’s comments. “Nobody should hear that kind of announcement from a leader of a powerful country and not be concerned about what the implications are,” Kerry said.

The short-term objective of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s training now seems obvious. “It provides us with operational mobility to maneuver throughout the alliance, and that is an incredible capability that we have inside Europe now,” Colonel Meyer said.

“A lot has been said over the last weeks about whether or not Russia is a threat, and what I can say is, I am training the formation to deal with any of the threats we can be faced with,” he added.

That same type of training has already occurred in the Pacific. Garuda Shield, along with the other training operations in Malaysia and Japan, were framed as a “Pacific Rebalance” — the current bureaucratic moniker of the Obama administration’s 2013 Pacific Pivot. The official Army Pacific Command website calls these efforts a “tangible demonstration of US commitment to Indo-Asia Pacific region security and stability.”

This operation, like its European equivalent, aims to train US forces with allied forces and familiarize the troops with the region.

Interestingly, the US Army is also focused on increasing its maritime and expeditionary capabilities, and appears to be reassessing its roots and fundamentally rethinking its structure and responsibilities.

With the implementation of this new, lighter-footprint form of power projection, some of the highest-ranking army officers envision a smaller, more flexible force capable of doing the strategic job of a much larger force. European commander Hodges would like “30,000 soldiers [to] achieve the strategic effect of 300,000 soldiers.”

“I don’t think he was being literal,” army spokesman Joseph Buccino told VICE News. “In a literal sense, it is impossible to replicate 30,000 [troops] with 300,000.”

But at least one commander sounded a word of caution.

“Rotating presence is no substitute for permanent forward presence,” said General Philip Breedlove, commander of the US European Command, which controls all military forces in that theater, in a Pentagon press briefing in April. But, he added: “Genuinely and fully funded rotational presence can play an important role in helping meet the requirements in our theater.”

This is ultimately the rub. This sort of “virtual presence” is a good way to extend limited peacetime resources, but is still just a placeholder for non-existent troops that will be sorely needed should conventional deterrence fail and war break out.

Published in conjunction with Vice News Logo


Gitmo hearings for top al-Qaida commander delayed

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA – It has been eight years and three months since alleged senior al-Qaida commander Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi arrived at Guantanamo Bay. Now much-anticipated hearings related to his alleged war crimes charges have been delayed two more days.

Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Defense Department  spokesman, said Monday the Pentagon will not comment on why the military commission judge, Navy Capt. J.K. Waits, has delayed the start time of the first session  this week.

Reasons  for delaying hearings run the gamut from natural disasters to last-minute legal disclosure of new evidence that could complicate the hearing, a Guantanamo defense attorney said.

Military commission personnel will  meet Tuesday to review scheduling for the pre-trial hearings, which are not expected to begin before Wednesday morning. The Guantanamo Review Task Force recommended Hadi for prosecution in January 2010.

Hadi, one of Guantanamo’s remaining high-level detainees, is charged with conspiring and leading a string of violent attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to 2006.

The Mosul, Iraq native is accused of  attacking civilians and also medical helicopter  attempting to recover casualties from the battlefield; directing fighters to kill all coalition soldiers and take no prisoners; providing a reward to the Taliban for assassinating a civilian United Nations worker; acting on orders from Osama bin Laden; attempting to assassinate then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf; and destroying historic Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hadi allegedly instructed fighters to dress in local attire in order to blend in with the civilian population , and instructed them to videotape attacks and victims’ deaths for use in al-Qaida propaganda films. He is accused of masterminding a series of attacks on American, Canadian, German, British, Estonian and Norwegian forces, including a 2003 attack on a U.S. military convoy at Shikin, Afghanistan, that killed two U.S. soldiers and injured numerous others. After another one of his attacks on Oct. 25 2003 killed two more U.S. soldiers, Hadi’s fighters shot at injured coalition soldiers, according to the charges against him.

The pre-trial hearings scheduled this week will hinge on defense motions related to Hadi’s status as an unlawful enemy combatant, a term used by the U.S. government to denote status of unlawful combatants without protections under the Geneva Conventions.  (Is that change OK?)

If the prosecution proves that Hadi is entitled to prisoner-of-war status, the jurisdiction of his case will be limited to the military commissions at Guantanamo, rather than federal court.

Three defense motions on the table this week relate to Hadi’s conspiracy charges, which have come under fresh scrutiny in the wake of a recent 2-to-1 panel opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul.

Bahlul’s 2008 “inchoate conspiracy” conviction was overturned because the commission at Guantanamo did not have authority to convict him of a conspiracy charge according to the law of war on Article III grounds, the panel wrote.

On Sunday, the chief prosecutor in the Hadi case, Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, said the military commission judge may defer judgment on the conspiracy charges in order to see if the D.C. circuit opinion will remain final, or be petitioned again by the government en banc by July 27. Martins also noted the two cases should not be conflated.

“There’s a strong doctrine of also considering individual cases. Bahlul’s not exactly the same as Hadi. They’re slightly differently situated before the law and before the court,” Martins said.

Martins addressed questions of whether the Bahlul decision may challenge the future of Guantanamo’s military commissions, calling these opinions “both overstated and myopic.”

“Regardless of the government’s decision, military commissions will continue moving toward trial in its seven ongoing cases,” he said Sunday. “We’re not even in the controversial area of law in how we’ve been charging.”

If Hadi is present should the hearings proceed Wednesday as planned, it will be the first time he has appeared in court since judge Navy Capt. J.K. Waits rescinded his “no-touch” order for female guards in March.

Previously, Guantanamo Bay obliged Hadi’s demand that female guards not be permitted to touch him, citing his adherence to Islam as justification on grounds of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Capt. Waits said the overturned appeal resulted from a need for a well-functioning facility and elimination of gender discrimination.

If Hadi is convicted, he faces life in prison, distinct from other active prosecutions at the Guantanamo war court in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole terror attacks which seek military execution.

Published in conjunction with UPI Logo


Hearing delayed for Gitmo detainee

Flags wave at Camp Justice in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is scheduled to appear before a military commission Wednesday. (Matt Yurus/Medill NSJI)

Flags wave at Camp Justice in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Abd al Hadi al Iraqi is scheduled to appear before a military commission Wednesday. (Matt Yurus/Medill NSJI)

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Monday’s pretrial proceedings for Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a “high-value target” detained at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2007, were delayed Sunday after a closed-door meeting with prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge.

The hearings, originally set to begin Monday, are scheduled to last two weeks. The Defense Department made it clear in a statement that the military judge was responsible for any decisions regarding scheduling.

“We thus will not comment on why he has delayed the start time of the first session on the record this week,” said Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a DoD spokesman. He added that court proceedings likely would not start before Wednesday morning.

Such delays are not uncommon.

Another closed-door meeting will be held Tuesday afternoon to determine the schedule for the remainder of the hearings, which are due to conclude on Friday, July 31.

The Hadi hearing is expected to involve a variety of preliminary motions. The defense is expected to argue that the U.S. military commission does not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant and that certain evidence and out-of-court statements should be suppressed.

Hadi’s trial date has not been set. He is accused of being a high-ranking al-Qaida commander who allegedly conspired and ordered attacks that resulted in the deaths of at least eight U.S. service members in Afghanistan. He was captured in 2006 and held in CIA custody for at least 170 days before arriving at Guantanamo Bay.

At a meeting with reporters Sunday, Chief Prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said he would not comment on the specifics of the motions.

“There’s a pretty strong principle that we don’t litigate stuff ahead of the judge,” Martins said.

Published in conjunction with Military Times Logo