Truthout, By Dahr Jamail, January 11
Beginning in mid-January, Navy SEALs will be practicing unannounced and clandestine combat beach landings across Washington State’s Puget Sound and many other coastal areas of that state.
The simulated combat exercises, which will include the use of mini-submarines and other landing craft, will deposit Navy SEALs carrying “simulated weapons” on 68 beach and state park areas in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Washington’s west coast, unbeknownst to most of the relevant government agencies tasked with overseeing these areas.
Internal Navy emails, two slide shows (which can be viewed in full here and here) and other documents obtained exclusively by Truthout reveal the vast extent of the operations. They also reveal the fact that the Navy labeled the relevant files as “For Official Use Only” and emails as “Attorney-Client privilege,” a move that exempts such documents from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
New York Times, By Nicholas Fandos, December 25
Washington – Foreign arms sales by the United States jumped by almost $10 billion in 2014, about 35 percent, even as the global weapons market remained flat and competition among suppliers increased, a new congressional study has found.
American weapons receipts rose to $36.2 billion in 2014 from $26.7 billion the year before, bolstered by multibillion-dollar agreements with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Those deals and others ensured that the United States remained the single largest provider of arms around the world last year, controlling just over 50 percent of the market.
Russia followed the United States as the top weapons supplier, completing $10.2 billion in sales, compared with $10.3 billion in 2013. Sweden was third, with roughly $5.5 billion in sales, followed by France with $4.4 billion and China with $2.2 billion.
The Intercept, By Murtaza Hussain, December 9
One year ago today, the Senate Intelligence Committee published a highly redacted executive summary of its investigation into the CIA’s torture and rendition program. The 525-page summary was shocking in many of its details, revealing the torture and rape of detainees held in CIA custody and encompassing treatment far in excess of even the torture techniques formally authorized by the Bush administration.
Despite the passage of 12 months, the actual report, comprising 6,700 pages, still has not been made publicly available. In fact, reading it appears to be prohibited among officials in the executive branch. Nearly a month and a half after the report’s initial release, it had not even been taken out of the package in which it was delivered to the Department of Justice and Department of State, according to government lawyers. Even the organization that was the subject of the report, the CIA, tightly controlled internal access and made “very limited use” of it, as had the Department of Defense, the lawyers said in a court filing.
That shunning of the torture report appears to be ongoing and very much by design: It turns out the Department of Justice has “refuse[d] to allow executive branch officials to review the full and final study,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy wrote in a letter last month to the attorney general and FBI director, urging that they or their “appropriately cleared” underlings read the full report.
“The legacy of this historic report cannot be buried in the back of a handful of executive branch safes, never to be reviewed by those who most need to learn from it,” they added.
AFP, By Hashim Safi, November 5
Medical charity MSF Thursday released chilling details from a devastating US bombing of an Afghan hospital, saying staff and patients had been decapitated and lost their limbs with some gunned down from the air.
The raid on October 3 in the northern city in Kunduz killed at least 30 people, sparking an avalanche of global condemnation and forcing the French-founded charity to close the trauma centre.
An AC-130 gunship repeatedly bombed the hospital for around an hour even as MSF staff sent out harrowing messages to officials in Kabul and Washington, informing them of heavy casualties, the charity said in an internal review of the strike.
Médecins Sans Frontières: Afghanistan: MSF releases internal review of the Kunduz hospital attack
US military academy official William Bradford argues that attacks on scholars’ home offices and media outlets – along with Islamic holy sites – are legitimate
The Guardian, By Spencer Ackerman, August 29
New York – An assistant professor in the law department of the US Military Academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a “treasonous” fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.
In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.
Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.
“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote.
“Arms and the Dudes” exposes the sordid underbelly of the military’s weapons trade.
Mother Jobes, By Bryan Schatz, June 8
In early 2007, three stoner twentysomethings won a Defense Department contract to supply the Afghan military with $300 million worth of ammunition. “The dudes,” as they came to be known—a ninth-grade dropout, a masseur, and a low-level pot dealer, all with little or no experience but plenty of nerve—had begun bidding on Pentagon arms contracts and winning out over massive international conglomerates. The Afghan contract wasn’t their first, but it was by far their largest. They would have to source thousands of tons of mortar rounds, grenades, rockets, and 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition and deliver all of it to Kabul at a particularly fraught time for the Afghan war effort.
Arms and the Dudes publishes June 9.
To fill the order, though, the dudes secretly repackaged millions of rounds of decades-old, surplus Chinese ammo—illegal under the contract terms—before shipping them to Afghanistan. It was all going fine until they got caught by Pentagon investigators and wound up with their mugshots spread across the front page of the New York Times.
Their story is detailed in Guy Lawson’s new book, Arms and the Dudes, a wildly entertaining saga with dual narratives. The first involves blackmail, criminals, hustlers, corrupt government officials, and three kids in way over their heads. The other, and for Lawson more important, side of the story, concerns how the Pentagon came to use private contractors like the dudes as proxies—and eventual fall guys—to secure weapons from gray market arms dealers, the only people who could supply what it needed. I caught up with Lawson to talk about Pentagon contracting, weapons proliferation, and the act of “buying up guns and pouring them into conflict zones like it’s gonna solve the fucking problem.”
VICE News, By Jason Leopold, May 19
On June 9, 2010, a CIA employee working on a secret review of millions of pages of documents about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program contacted the CIA’s internal watchdog and filed a complaint. The employee had come to believe that the CIA’s narrative about the efficacy of the program — a narrative put forward by not just CIA officials, but also then-President George W. Bush — was false.
The CIA employee made the discovery while she was working on the Panetta Review. Named for former CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Panetta Review is a series of documents that top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee say corroborates the findings and conclusions of the landmark report they released last December about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program — that the torture of detainees in the custody of the CIA failed to produce unique and valuable intelligence, and that it was far more brutal than the CIA let on.
Panetta ordered the review in 2009 just as the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it would probe the efficacy of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. CIA employees were tasked with evaluating the cache of documents about the torture program that the agency turned over to the committee during the course of its probe; their goal was to compile the graphic and noteworthy aspects of the torture program — like the fact that detainees were fed rectally — on which the committee might focus.
Several countries told the US its policies on justice for military sexual assault victims weren’t good enough.
Mother Jones, By Jenna McLaughlin, May 14
The US military has a problem with sexual violence. That’s the conclusion of the Universal Periodic Review Panel, a UN panel that aims to address the human rights records of the 193 UN member states. This is the second time that the panel has scrutinized the United States; the first was in 2010, when the list of concerns included detention in Guantanamo Bay, torture, the death penalty, and access to health care. Its latest report came out Monday morning, and there was a surprising addition to the predictable laundry list of US human rights violations.
In one of 12 final recommendations, the UN Council urged the US military “to prevent sexual violence in the military and ensure effective prosecution of offenders and redress for victims.” Other recommendations included stopping the militarization of police forces, closing Guantanamo Bay, ending the death penalty, and stopping NSA surveillance of citizens.
Al Jazeera: US cited for police violence, racism in scathing UN review on human rights
McClatchy, By Mitchell Prothero, May 15
Irbil – The Islamic State on Friday took control of the provincial government center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, and appeared to be in control of most of the city in a major defeat for the Iraqi government.
Islamic State forces also appeared to be closing in on government positions in two other key locations in Anbar province, the towns of Baghdadi and Karmah, in a broad offensive that if successful would end the government presence in all of the province’s major population centers. The capture of Baghdadi also would cut the supply lines to the Iraqi garrison protecting the strategic Haditha Dam.
U.S. officials offered conflicting views of the events, with the State Department and the Pentagon at first downplaying the significance of what had taken place. But a later statement from the White House made clear that the situation was urgent and that the United States was rushing shipments of heavy weapons, ammunition and supplies to Iraq to deal with the Islamic State advance.
The new weapons shipments will include an unspecified number of shoulder-fired rockets especially useful in blasting car bombs, which the Islamic State used particularly effectively in its Ramadi offensive.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/05/15/266798/islamic-state-takes-ramadi-government.html#storylink=cpy
AFP, By Don De Luce, May 16
Washington – US military scientists have invented a miniature drone that fits in the palm of a hand, ready to be dropped from the sky like a mobile phone with wings.
The “micro air vehicle” is named after the insect that inspired its invention, the Cicada, which spends years underground before appearing in great swarms, reproducing and then dropping to the ground dead.
“The idea was why can’t we make UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that have the same sort of profile,” Aaron Kahn of the Naval Research Laboratory told AFP.
“We will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up.”
RT, May 11
Around 20 vessels representing nine NATO member states have begun the Baltic Fortress 2015 exercises, taking place off the Lithuanian Baltic Sea coast.
Warships from Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the UK are participating in the exercises, accompanied by a Lithuanian Navy submarine unit and two airplanes from the country’s Air Force.
NATO’s ground forces are also currently involved in two exercises in the Baltic States.
Up to 3,000 Lithuanian troops are taking part in the Zaibo Kirtis (Lightning Strike) drills, aimed at perfecting joint action by the army and civilian authorities against so-called hybrid threats combining both military and non-military methods of fighting.
Estonia is also holding its largest-ever military exercises – Siil (Hedgehog) 2015, involving 13,000 personnel.
The war games, scheduled to conclude on May 15, also include forces from the US, the UK, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands.
Since Russia’s reunion with the Crimea and the start of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine last spring, NATO forces have stepped up military exercises along the Russian border – in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.
CBS/AP, April 30
A Senior Defense Department official confirms to CBS News that U.S. Naval forces have begun accompanying American-flagged maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.
The move is in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior in the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week Iranian naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, and detained it and its crew. Iranian officials say the Maersk shipping line owes it money.
Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the Strait Friday.
“We’ve taken this step to prevent harassment or possible interdiction by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces,” the official told CBS News.
The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them. The officials said the Navy won’t escort these ships but will let them know in advance that they will monitor the situation as they transit the narrow Strait from the Gulf toward the Arabian Sea.
The Baltimore Sun, By Ian Duncan, April 23
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter will lay out the military’s new strategy for fighting battles over computer networks Thursday, today, officials said, revealing what analysts say appears be a tougher, more offensive approach to cyber warfare.
It’s the first major update to the Pentagon’s cyber strategy in four years, a period during which American businesses have suffered major attacks, including the assault late last year on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The document, to be unveiled as Carter delivers a speech at Stanford University, includes descriptions of ways the military can use computers in all stages of a conflict, according to a summary provided by defense officials Wednesday — a sign that the department is opening up about its offensive capabilities.
Arrival of 300 US Army soldiers to train Ukraine’s national guard sparks warnings by Russia of escalation in conflict.
Al Jazeera, April 18
About 300 US Army paratroopers have arrived in Ukraine for training exercises with national guard units – a move that Moscow and eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatist rebels have warned will escalate the conflict.
The troops, from the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, are to spend six months training a total of about 900 Ukrainian national guardsmen.
Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, denounced the guardsmen as “ultranationalists … who stained themselves with the blood of women, children and the elderly during their punitive operations”.
Although Interior Minister Arsen Avakov had said the guardsman units could include the Azov Battalion, a far-right formation notorious for using an insignia used by many military units in Nazi Germany, US Embassy spokesman James Hallock said Azov fighters would not be among those trained.
Counterpunch, By William D. Hartung, April 3-5
With the end of the Obama presidency just around the corner, discussions of his administration’s foreign policy legacy are already well under way. But one central element of that policy has received little attention: the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons exports.
The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.