Wounded Warriors Project is a Fraud- Making Millions Off Disabled Veterans

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My first experience with the Wounded Warriors Project came in 2006, when I made several donations from between $200 and $500 to the organization. I was a stock broker at the time and my income allowed for such idiocy. I guess you could say that I had more money than I had sense, but more importantly, I gave the money because I felt that I needed to do something to take part in the war effort, and what better way than to provide financial assistance to those who were coming back from the wars in the Middle East maimed and wounded. At least that is where I thought the money that I was donating was going.  Continue reading

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Mexican Cartels Hiring US Soldiers As Hit Men

 

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(Freedom Outpost) – It seems bizarre, but the fact is the Mexican cartels are offering big money to recruit hit men from the U.S. military. They contract highly trained soldiers to carry out murders and even share their expertise with gangs south of the border, according to law enforcement experts.Fox News reports:

The involvement of three American soldiers in separate incidents, including a 2009 murder that led to last week’s life sentence for a former Army private, underscore a problem the U.S. military has fought hard to address. Continue reading

Freedom of the Press Foundation Publishes Leaked Audio of Bradley Manning’s Statement

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(Freedom of The Press) -Today, Freedom of the Press Foundation is publishing the full, previously unreleased audio recording of Private First Class Bradley Manning’s speech to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. In addition, we have published highlights from Manning’s statement to the court.

While unofficial transcripts of this statement are available, this marks the first time the American public has heard the actual voice of Manning.

 

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See Help Spread Bradley Manning’s Words Across the Internet to embed the full audio, as well as excerpts from the audio, on your website.

He explains to the military court in his own cadence and words how and why he gave the Apache helicopter video, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars Logs, and the State Department Diplomatic Cables to WikiLeaks. Manning explains his motives, noting how he believed the documents showed deep wrongdoing by the government and how he hoped that the release would “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.” In conjunction with the statement, Private First Class Manning also pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him.

Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to supporting journalism that combats overreaching government secrecy. We have been disturbed that Manning’s pre-trial hearings have been hampered by the kind of extreme government secrecy that his releases to WikiLeaks were intended to protest. While reporters are allowed in the courtroom, no audio or visual recordings are permitted by the judge, no transcripts of the proceedings or any motions by the prosecution have been released, and lengthy court orders read on the stand by the judge have not been published for public review.

 

A short film by Laura Poitras

A group of journalists, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), has been engaged in a legal battle to force the court to be more open. While the government has belatedly released a small portion of documents related to the case, many of the most important orders have been withheld—such as the orders relating to the speedy trial proceedings or the order related to Manning’s prolonged solitary confinement.

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of CCR, called the government “utterly unresponsive to what is a core First Amendment principle.” Ratner noted this is a public trial, the information being presented is not classified, and that contemporaneous access to information about the trial is necessary to understanding the proceedings. Nonetheless, the lawsuit has been tied up in the appeals court for months.

Freedom of the Press Foundation’s mission is to support and defend cutting-edge transparency journalism by supporting those organizations that publish leaks in the public interest. We often report on news surrounding government secrecy, educating the public about the important relationship between leaking and independent journalism. When we received this recording, we realized we had a unique opportunity to bring some small measure of transparency directly by allowing the world to hear for itself the voice of someone who took a controversial and important stance for government transparency.

We hope this recording will shed light on one of the most secret court trials in recent history, in which the government is putting on trial a concerned government employee whose only stated goal was to bring attention to what he viewed as serious governmental misconduct and criminal activity. We hope to prompt additional analysis of these proceedings by other journalistic institutions and the public at large. While we are not equipped (technically or as a matter of human resources) to receive leaked information nor do we plan on receiving them in the future, we are proud to publish and analyze this particular recording because it is so clearly matches our mission of supporting transparency journalism.

The information provided by Manning has uncovered stories of wrongdoing by the United States, as well as by leaders and politicians around the world. The cables were reportedly one of the catalysts that led to the Arab Spring and sped up the end of the Iraq War. To this day, more than two years after their release, the information provided by Manning is used every day by journalists and historians in major publications are the world to enlighten and inform the public, both in the United States and around the world. In a time when the extent and reach of U.S. government secrecy is unprecedented, and there are credible reports that the government has abused its secrecy and classification systems to cover up numerous illegal and unconstitutional activities, Manning’s actions should be seen as an overdue sliver of sunlight into an overly secret system rather than as a basis for a prosecution seeking decades of imprisonment.

By releasing this audio recording, we wish to make sure that the voice of this generation’s most prolific whistleblower can be heard—literally—by the world.

Regardless of whether one believes that Manning’s acts were right or wrong or a mix of both, he has taken responsibility for them by pleading guilty to ten charges, for which he faces up to twenty years in prison. The government however, is continuing to pursue all of the charges against him, including charges under the Espionage Act and “aiding the enemy” —which could have huge consequences for press freedom and the First Amendment. The ACLU has expressed concern that this “aiding the enemy” charge could criminalize speech for all sorts of active military members, noting that “In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its ‘success’ would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals.”

And Harvard Law professor Yochai Benkler has argued that this prosecution could decimate national security journalism by outlawing whole categories of journalist-source relationships in the future: “[T]he prosecutors seem bent on using this case to push a novel and aggressive interpretation of the law that would arm the government with a much bigger stick to prosecute vaguely-defined national security leaks, a big stick that could threaten not just members of the military, but civilians too.”

Extreme secrecy in our courts, just like in our government’s policies and our politics, is an anathema to democracy. Whether military or civilian, this type of closed-door legal process impairs the public’s right-to-know and journalists’ ability to report on matters of deep public concern. The courtrooms of America should be open to the public, so they can see and hear what is being done in their name.

You can donate to aggressive journalism outlets dedicated to transparency and accountability on our homepage. You can learn more about Bradley Manning’s case by visiting the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Bradley Manning denies 12 charges, “aiding the enemy.”

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(ArsTechnica) – Private Bradley Manning has admitted he was the source of the massive stores of confidential information handed off to WikiLeaks, and he pleaded guilty to 10 charges including “possessing and wilfully communicating” all the sensitive information posted on WikiLeaks.

Manning denied 12 other charges, though, including the biggest one of all: “aiding the enemy.” He faces a life sentence if convicted on that count.

Manning will read out a 35-page statement later today describing why he leaked the information, according to The Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington. In another remarkable tweet from this morning, Pilkington reports that Manning actually tried to give his stores of information to The Washington Post and The New York Times but “failed to get through to them,” so he went to WikiLeaks.

Manning’s case now speeds toward a June 3 court-martial, which military judge Colonel Denise Lind has estimated could take 12 weeks. Col. Lind will hear the case herself; there will be no jury at Manning’s request. Manning has already been imprisoned for more than 1,000 days without a trial, a milestone that was marked by his supporters earlier this week.

As The Guardian notes, the information leaked by Manning included video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq, a large leak of US diplomatic cables, files on Guantanamo detainees, and a huge chunk of confidential “war logs” from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reinstate Military Draft Bill Introduced to Include All Women

 

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(Activist Post) -Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) wants all Americans to serve their government, including women. On Friday he introduced one bill that would reinstate the draft and another that would require all women to register for Selective Service as well.

Rangel introduced  The National Universal Service Act(H.R. 747) for the sixth time since first being proposed in 2003 during the Iraq war.  H.R 747 “would require 30 million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 25 to perform two years of national service in either the armed services or in civilian life.”

Rangel also introduced the All American Selective Service Act (H.R. 748) which requires all women to enroll in the Selective Service System.  This would essentially double the number of registrants. The current law requires only men ages 18 to 25 to register, leaving approximately only 13.5 million in the registry.

“Now that women can serve in combat they should register for the Selective Service alongside their male counterparts,” said Rangel in a statement. “Reinstating the draft and requiring women to register for the Selective Service would compel the American public to have a stake in the wars we fight as a nation. We must question why and how we go to war, and who decides to send our men and women into harm’s way.”

The last time Rangel introduced the “draft” bill was in 2011 on the very same day the Obama Administration launched a preemptive war in Libya on no-fly zone orders from the U.N., without Congressional approval, and despite never having been attacked or threatened by Libya.

He admitted at the time that the Iraq war was based on lies, “on false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction and involvement in the 9/11.” Yet he still insisted more Americans should be ”sharing in duty and service.”

In one sense Rangel truly believes all Americans should serve their country in some capacity, especially because the military is stretched so thin where multiple tours of duty are resulting in increased PTSD and record suicide rates.

On the other hand, he also believes a draft would force more young Americans to question the necessity of current wars.

“I served in Korea, and understand that sometimes war is inevitable,” Rangel continued. “However military engagement should be our last resort. If we must go to war, every American should be compelled to stop and think twice about whether it is worth sending our brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters to fight. Currently less than one percent of America’s population is unfairly shouldering the burden of war.”

Obama: When War in Afghanistan Is Over, We Will Fight a War in Afghanistan


 

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(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night that he will end the war in Afghanistan by the end of next year, and that after that he will keep tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan to fight a war in Afghanistan.

“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over,” said Obama.

For the period after 2014, he said, “We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

Thus, U.S. forces left in Afghanistan after the war is “over,” will “pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

“Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda,” said Obama. “Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead.  Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change,” said Obama. “We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

The GAO reported this week that there were about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as of December. If 33,000 of those troops are brought home over the next year, as President Obama said in his State of the Union, that will leave another 33,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan.

Those 33,000 U.S. troops Obama intends to keep in Afghanistan–as Obama described it–will pursue al Qaeda, which is what U.S. troops first went to Afghanistan to do in 2001.

Chris Kyle “The most lethal sniper in U.S military history” found shot dead

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(Cav News) The man who wrote an autobiography claiming to be the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, during the years of Iraqi (cough cough) Operation Freedom, has been found dead with another man at a shooting range in Texas.

Motives are unclear as the news is just breaking. However, according to The Star-Telegram, the police have a 25-year-old man in custody.

Witnesses say that a gunman opened fire at the range then took off in one of the victims truck.

Police say that Chris Kyle, a former Navy seal, who gained famed for his book “American Sniper,” and his claims of punching former  Governor Jesse Ventura, was there to help a fellow soldier from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Kyle received two silver stars, five bronze stars during his time in Iraq was only 38.

Suicide among US veterans 22 per day, 3 times national rate: Report

A new study finds that 22 US war veterans commit suicide everyday.

 
 
(PressTV) -A new official US study says that nearly 22 war veterans of the country commit suicide per day, an estimate that is almost 20 percent higher than the 2007 rate suggested by government’s Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

The two-year study, performed by a VA researcher, further suggests that two-thirds of the veterans who kill themselves are 50 year old or older, indicating that the surge in the suicide rate among US veterans is not chiefly shaped by soldiers that recently fought in the US-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Washington Post reports on Friday.

“The rate is going up in the country, and veterans are a part of it,” said VA epidemiologist Robert Bossarte, who conducted the study, further showing that the overall number of suicides in the United States climbed by about 11 percent between 2007 and 2010.

According to the study’s data, the suicide rate among US veterans is nearly three times the overall national average but an identical percentage of male veterans in their 50’s commit suicide as do non-veteran men in the same age group.

Bossearte further added that men in their 50s, which consists of a considerable percentage of the American war veteran population, have been “especially hard-hit” by the national surge in suicide rate.

The VA researcher, according to the report, reiterated that a great deal of work needs to be done to better understand the data, especially those that concern the persisting suicide risk among veterans of recent US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although they represent a minority of the overall American veteran population, recent studies have indicated that those who fought in recent US wars overseas are 30 percent to 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than their ­non-veteran peers.

To determine the suicide rate among US veterans, Bossarte and his lone assistant “spent more than two years, starting in October 2010, cajoling state governments to turn over death certificates for the more than 400,000 Americans who have killed themselves since 1999,” the report says, adding that the study is based on information obtained from 21 of 42 states that agreed to provide data to the VA researcher.

The study, according to the report, follows long-standing criticism that the governments Veterans Affairs Department has “moved far too slowly even to figure out how many veterans kill themselves.”

Over 1000 Green Berets Sign Letter Supporting Second Amendment

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Propaganda Matrix – by Paul Joseph Watson  -Over 1000 Green Berets have signed a letter re-asserting their oath to support and defend the Constitution by protecting the second amendment rights of American citizens.

The letter, which originally featured at ProfessionalSoldiers.com, was written by “current or former Army Reserve, National Guard, and active duty US Army Special Forces soldiers.”

It highlights the fact that the Constitution was drafted primarily as a means of protecting citizens against “governmental tyranny and/or oppression,” further citing the words of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who outlined the purpose of the second amendment when he stated, “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

“Throughout history, disarming the populace has always preceded tyrants’ accession of power. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all disarmed their citizens prior to installing their murderous regimes,” states the letter. “At the beginning of our own nation’s revolution, one of the first moves made by the British government was an attempt to disarm our citizens. When our Founding Fathers ensured that the 2nd Amendment was made a part of our Constitution, they were not just wasting ink. They were acting to ensure our present security was never forcibly endangered by tyrants, foreign or domestic.”

The legal precedent of the right to keep and bear arms which includes weapons “in common use” by the military is also documented, as is the definition of the term “militia,” which as Court Justice Scalia ruled in 2008, “comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”

Tackling numerous sacred cows brought up by gun control advocates, the letter points out that the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban was completely useless in preventing mass shootings because instead of using high capacity magazines, shooters like Columbine killer Eric Harris simply bought more 10 round magazines and changed them more often.

The letter also documents how, despite its draconian gun ban in 1996, gun crime in the United Kingdom has continually increased, whereas firearm related homicides in the United States decreased by 9 per cent five years after the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban.

At the end of the letter, eight steps are recommended to reduce gun violence while still maintaining the sanctity of the second amendment, including a repeal of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which allows shooters to carry out their massacres unimpeded by responsible gun owners.

Stricter border controls to tackle the flow of illegal firearms from Mexico are also advocated, as is the return of firearm safety programs to schools. The letter also discourages the proliferation of violence in movies and video games, citing recent scientific studies which draw a correlation between desensitization to violence and aggressive behavior in young people and adults.

Amidst the Obama administration’s effort to curtail the second amendment through both executive orders and legislation, numerous top law enforcement officials from across the country have gone public to assert that they will not follow federal orders to confiscate firearms.

Last week,Gilberton, Pennsylvania Police Chief Mark Kessler promised not to enforce unconstitutional laws that eviscerate second amendment rights.

“I will take my uniform off and I will stand with freedom before I stand with tyrannical thugs,” he stated.

Read the full letter signed by the Green Berets below.

Panetta officially ends US ban on women serving in combat

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(TheHill) -Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed an order rescinding the ban on women serving in combat units Thursday, setting in motion a three-year plan to open up as many as 237,000 positions to female service members.

The Pentagon leaders said that the policy change will not automatically open every combat position to women, but now the onus will be on the services to make the argument why women should not serve in a particular occupation or unit.

“Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance,” Panetta said before he and Dempsey signed the order that lifted the ban at Thursday’s press briefing.

 

With the 1994 ban on women serving in ground combat units rescinded, the military service chiefs will prepare plans for implementing the new policy that will be submitted to the Defense secretary in May.

The services have until January 2016 to decide what positions might remain closed to women, and senior military officials said they expect that new occupations will be opened to women incrementally.

The White House said Thursday that President Obama supported the decision. Panetta’s potential successor as Defense secretary, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), also supports the move, according to a senior defense official.

A senior defense official said this policy change has been studied for more than a year by the services, and it was unconnected to Panetta’s tenure at the Pentagon nearing an end.

“This was not a snap decision by the secretary,” said a senior defense official.

The Army and Marine Corps are planning tests in the coming months to look at physical capabilities of men and women as they examine the physical standards for the occupations.

Military officials emphasized that lifting the ban will not lead to loosening or strengthening for new positions, and all standards will remain general neutral.

Of the 237,000 positions currently closed to women, 53,000 are closed because of the unit they are part of, even though women are allowed to serve in those occupations. Those jobs are likely to be the first made available to women. The remaining 184,000 are closed based on occupation, which the services will now be examining for women.

The officials said no decisions have yet been made about exemptions that would potentially be sought, such as whether women would serve in special operations units like the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers.

Without weighing in on how the policy will shake out, Dempsey said that he and other top military leaders think some women would be able to handle the high physical abilities required.

“I think we all believe there will be women who can meet those standards,” he said. “The burden used to be that we should say, ‘Why should a woman serve in particular specialty?’ Now it’s ‘Why shouldn’t a woman serve?’”

Beyond physical capabilities, Dempsey and Penatta said they were less concerned about issues like privacy, where some Navy submarines, for instance, remain closed to women and don’t have facilities for them.

“We can figure out privacy,” Dempsey said, adding that those issues were dealt with during the Desert Storm operation where troops were essentially nomadic in the desert.

Another policy issue that must be resolved is whether lifting the combat ban for women will also require them to register with the Selective Service. The Pentagon is required to report on how changing the ban effects the constitutionality of the Selective Service Act being “males only.”

Senior defense officials said those legal issues still needed to be worked out, and Panetta said Thursday that would have to be a judgment call — though he wasn’t sure who was making it.

“I don’t know who the hell controls Selective Service, if you want to know the truth,” Panetta said at the press briefing to laughter. “Whoever does, they’re going to have to exercise some judgment based on what we just did.”

The Defense Department still has to give Congress 30 days notice before making any changes to the ban, which defense officials said would likely occur around the time that the services submit their plans in May.

While most members of Congress from both parties said they supported the Pentagon’s policy change, the new top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) blasted the Pentagon for an “unacceptable” leak to the press before informing lawmakers.

A senior defense official said the defense committees were briefed on the move Wednesday.

Pentagon to end ban on women in front-line combat

(BBC) US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a senior Pentagon official has said.

The move could open hundreds of thousands of frontline positions and elite commando jobs to women.

It overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to small ground-combat units.

But the military would have until 2016 to argue for any specific posts they think should remained closed to women.

The decision is expected to be formally announced on Thursday.

’21st-Century reality’

The senior defence official told the BBC: “This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop plans to implement this decision, which was made by the secretary of defence upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Thirty years of studies, reports and actual experience… have shown that in the infantry women do not have an equal opportunity to survive or to help fellow soldiers to survive”

Elaine Donnelly US Centre for Military Readiness

Military chiefs will be asked to report back to Mr Panetta by 15 May on their initial plans to implement the new policy.

Some jobs are expected to be opened to women this year, while others – including for special forces such as the Navy Seals and the Delta Force – could take longer.

This decision could open more than 230,000 combat roles to women, many in infantry units.

Senate armed services committee chairman Carl Levin welcomed the decision.

“I support it,” he said. “It reflects the reality of 21st-Century military operations.”

That was echoed by Major Mary Jennings Hegar, who served on three tours of Afghanistan with the US Air Force.

“It’s not about whether or not we’re allowing women into combat – women are in combat – it’s about recognising their service,” she told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

“I understand that stereotypically there are some physical differences but… there are a lot of men doing these jobs who are not built like Goliath. It’s unfortunate that we have to hold women to a higher standard.

“If you’re able to meet the standards, then your gender should not hold you back. It’s simple black and white discrimination.”

‘Enormous complications’

Lieutenant Colleen Farrell stands in formation during a ceremony for the 235th birthday of the Marines on 10 November 2010Women comprise 14% of America’s 1.4 million active military personnel

But Elaine Donnelly from the US Centre for Military Readiness told Newsday that the move was “most unfortunate”.

“It’s certainly not going to be helpful to our women in the military, or our men. It will cause enormous complications in the infantry battalions – the small tip-of-the-spear units, the ones that fight the enemy with deliberate offensive action under fire. These units are all-male for very good reasons.

“The UK looked at this same issue some years ago and decided this was not a good idea, in 2002 and 2008.

“Thirty years of studies, reports and actual experience… have shown that in direct ground combat units – the infantry – women do not have an equal opportunity to survive or to help fellow soldiers to survive. The physical aspects of it are only part of the reason.”

Restrictions were first eased a year ago, when the Pentagon opened up 14,500 roles, closer to the front line, which had previously been off limits to female personnel.

In November, a group of four women in the military sued the defence department over the ban, arguing that it was unconstitutional.

One of the plaintiffs, Marine Corps Capt Zoe Bedell, said existing rules had blocked her advancement in the Marines.

During the Iraq and Afghan wars, US female military personnel have worked as medics, military police and intelligence officers, sometimes attached but not formally assigned to front-line units.

As of 2012, more than 800 women were wounded in those wars, and at least 130 have died.

Women comprise 14% of America’s 1.4 million active military personnel.

US marine pleads guilty to urinating on corpse of Taliban fighter in Afghanistan

 

YouTube video showing what is believed to be US Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban

A still from the YouTube video which showed marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Photograph: Reuters

(Guardian) -A US marine who pleaded guilty on Wednesday to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan is likely to be demoted one rank under a plea agreement, although a military judge called for a much harsher sentence.

Staff Sergeant Edward Deptola admitted multiple charges at a court martial, including dereliction of duty for desecrating remains, posing for photographs with corpses and failing to properly supervise junior marines.

The judge, Lieutenant Colonel Nicole Hudspeth, would have sentenced him to six months confinement, a $5,000 (£3,100) fine, demotion to private and a bad-conduct discharge, but she is bound by terms of the plea agreement Deptola reached with military prosecutors. A general will review the sentence and could choose to lower it.

Deptola and another marine based at Camp Lejeune were charged last year after a video surfaced showing four marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead Afghans in July 2011. In the video, one of the marines looks down at the bodies and says: “Have a good day, buddy.”

Deptola was sergeant for a scout sniper platoon. He admitted to the judge that he urinated on one of the three corpses and posed in the “trophy photographs.”

He said he failed to supervise the marines under him when the desecration began, even though he had been briefed that such behaviour violated a marine corps general order.

“I was in a position to stop it and I did not … I should have spoken up on the spot,” he said.

When asked by the judge why he did it, Deptola said: “I have no excuse, no reason, ma’am … it was not the correct way to handle a human casualty.”

He described the day of the incident, saying the platoon had seen heavy action and had 11 confirmed kills, including the three men who were desecrated.

Deptola said another sergeant in the platoon had been killed earlier that day by an IED, and the marines believed the heavily-armed Taliban fighters they killed could have been responsible for it.

Deptola’s defence attorney called the case a “lynching” by the media and general public for an isolated mistake by a well-regarded marine. He argued that Deptola had already been punished by the attention and by being removed from his platoon.

Other marines involved have received low sentences. Staff Sergeant Joseph Chamblin pleaded guilty to similar charges last month. Under a deal reached before his court martial, he lost $500 in pay and was reduced in rank to sergeant. Three other marines were given administrative punishments for their roles.

The urination video surfaced on YouTube around the same time as other incidents that infuriated many Afghans. American troops were caught up in controversies over burning Muslim holy books, posing for photos with insurgents’ bloodied remains and an alleged massacre of 16 Afghan villagers

Marine Honorably Discharged 31 Years After Deserting, Becoming a Woman

 

Elizabeth Tremblay(CNS) – Elizabeth Tremblay of Poland, Maine, talks about her enlistment in the Marines in 1980 when she was Donald Tremblay. Tremblay deserted the Marines in 1981 and was arrested 31 years later. The Marines now say Tremblay has been discharged. (Daryn Slover/The Lewiston Sun-Journal via AP)

POLAND, Maine (AP) — A man who deserted the Marines Corps 31 years ago, moved home to Maine and began a new life as a woman has wondered for years when the law would finally catch up with her.

 

Elizabeth Tremblay, who was Pvt. Donald Tremblay during her military stint, was finally arrested in September and briefly jailed on a decades-old desertion charge, the Lewiston Sun-Journal reported. She learned Monday that she has been discharged “under honorable condition.”

Tremblay enlisted in the military in 1981. After boot camp, he believed he was going to get training in teletype communications but months later was ordered to learn how to drive Jeeps and trucks.

“So, I told them I was going to Maine, and I was staying in Maine,” said Tremblay, who’s now 57. “If they wanted to find me, call my parents. They didn’t say anything. I just did an about face and I left.”

Tremblay drove away from the Marine Corps base in southern California and returned home.

She said she legally changed her name about 15 years ago and began a hormone regimen to prepare for sex-change surgery.

“I started realizing, ‘I’m living a life I should not ever have lived,” she told the newspaper. “I’m on the wrong path.”

She doesn’t know why it took so long for the Marines to find her. Even when she became a woman, her Social Security number stayed the same.

“I’ve been stopped by law enforcement several times, you know, speeding tickets and things like that,” she said. She assumed her record was checked. “Nothing happened.”

But on Sept. 10, 2012, without warning, an Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputy appeared at her door in Poland. A fugitive-from-justice warrant had shown up on the department’s computer for Tremblay.

She spent 2 ½ days in jail but worried it could be just the start of a long stint behind bars.

But on Monday, Capt. Greg Wolf, a Marine spokesman, said the case had been resolved and Tremblay had been discharged.

He said such cases aren’t uncommon. The Marines have 540 active desertion cases pending, and that half of those are 20 years or older, he said.

Tremblay said the good news is “going to take a while to sink in.” She said she’s glad to have it all behind her.

“I knew they would come looking for me at some point,” Tremblay said. “I didn’t expect it would take 31 years.”

Veterans’ hospital exposes hundreds to HIV and hepatitis

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(RT) -A New York veteran’s hospital may have exposed more than 700 of its patients with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C by mistakenly reusing its insulin pens, which are used to inject diabetes patients with a hormone produced by the pancreas.

Patients at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Center are now at risk of acquiring the deadly diseases because of the mistakes made by hospital staff, who didn’t always label the insulin pens for individual patients and therefore reused them on others.

“Although the pen needles were always changed, an insulin pen may have been used on more than one patient,” VA spokeswoman Evangeline Conley told the Associated Press. The reuse of the pens went on for nearly two weeks, putting all patients who received the injections between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1 at risk for the deadly infections. The procedural errors were not discovered until the conduct of a routine pharmacy inspection in November.

Once the hospital discovered the error, it took immediate action to avoid reusing the pens, and began offering free blood tests to any of the patients who might have been contaminated.

Rep. Chris Collis, R-NY, said that based on his conversation with Dr. Robert A. Petzel, undersecretary for health at the Department of Veteran Affairs, the risk of an HIV or hepatitis infection is very low.

“But it’s not out of the realm of possibility, and that’s why they’re testing everyone,” Collins told the Buffalo News. In order to become contaminated, an infected patient’s bodily fluid would have had to flow back into the insulin pens. The risk would have been greater if the needles themselves had been reused.

“That would have been a grave concern,” Collins said.

Even if the chance of infection is low, any risk for HIV or hepatitis is too high of a risk. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, was shocked when he heard about the reuse of the insulin pens and does not believe it should be so easily dismissed.

“What has happened can only be described as the grossest of irresponsible and dangerous behavior,” he said. “The VA must immediately deal with the health of those that were victimized, and promptly launch a top-to-bottom investigation to root out how this happened and tell us what is being done to prevent it from ever happening again, in Buffalo or elsewhere in the country.”

A similar case of unsanitary hospital procedures occurred in June 2010, when a Missouri VA hospital exposed more than 1,800 veterans to both HIV and hepatitis. Patients who had visited the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis for dental work were treated using dental instruments that had been used by others and not been cleaned properly.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” then-Rep. Russ Carnahan told CNN. “No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much-needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital.”

But with the most recent case in Buffalo, veterans are once again facing the chance of acquiring HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to unhygienic practices.

2012 military suicides hit record high of 349

 

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WASHINGTON — Suicides in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year, far exceeding American combat deaths in Afghanistan, and some private experts are predicting the dark trend will grow worse this year.

The Pentagon has struggled to deal with the suicides, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have called an epidemic. The problem reflects severe strains on military personnel burdened with more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of a shrinking force.

Pentagon figures obtained Monday by The Associated Press show that the 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year were up from 301 the year before and exceeded the Pentagon’s own internal projection of 325. Statistics alone do not explain why troops take their own lives, and the Pentagon’s military and civilian leaders have acknowledged that more needs to be done to understand the causes.

Last year’s total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the AP’s count.

Some in Congress are pressing the Pentagon to do more.

“This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Monday. “As our newest generation of service members and veterans face unprecedented challenges, today’s news shows we must be doing more to ensure they are not slipping through the cracks.”

Military suicides began rising in 2006 and soared to a then-record 310 in 2009 before leveling off for two years. It came as a surprise to many that the numbers resumed an upward climb this year, given that U.S. military involvement in Iraq is over and the Obama administration is taking steps to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

“Now that we’re decreasing our troops and they’re coming back home, that’s when they’re really in the danger zone, when they’re transitioning back to their families, back to their communities and really finding a sense of purpose for themselves,” said Kim Ruocco, whose husband, Marine Maj. John Ruocco, killed himself between Iraq deployments in 2005. She directs a suicide prevention program for a support group, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS.

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The Army, by far the largest of the military services, had the highest number of suicides among active-duty troops last year at 182, but the Marine Corps, whose suicide numbers had declined for two years, had the largest percentage increase – a 50 percent jump to 48. The Marines’ worst year was 2009’s 52 suicides.

The Air Force recorded 59 suicides, up 16 percent from the previous year, and the Navy had 60, up 15 percent.

All of the numbers are tentative, pending the completion later this year of formal pathology reports on each case.

Suicide prevention has become a high Pentagon priority, yet the problem persists.

“If you have a perfect storm of events on the day with somebody who has high risk factors, it’s very difficult to be there every moment, fill every crack, and we just have to continue to be aware of what the risk factors are,” Ruocco said.

David Rudd, a military suicide researcher and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Utah, said he sees two main categories of troops who are committing suicide at an accelerating pace: Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse, and those who have not gone to war but face troubled personal relationships, money problems or legal woes.

He is not optimistic about a decline soon.

“Actually, we may continue to see increases,” he said.

The Pentagon says that although the military suicide rate has been rising, it remains below that of the civilian population. It says the civilian suicide rate for males aged 17-60 was 25 per 100,000 in 2010, the latest year for which such statistics are available. That compares with the military’s rate in 2012 of 17.5 per 100,000.

Officials say they are committed to pursuing ways of finding help for service members in trouble.

“Our most valuable resource within the department is our people. We are committed to taking care of our people, and that includes doing everything possible to prevent suicides in the military,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith said Monday.

Two retired Army generals, Peter W. Chiarelli and Dennis J. Reimer, have spoken out about the urgency of reversing the trend.

“One of the things we learned during our careers,” they wrote in The Washington Post last month, “is that stress, guns and alcohol constitute a dangerous mixture. In the wrong proportions, they tend to blow out the lamp of the mind and cause irrational acts.”

As recently as 2005 the Army’s suicide total was less than half last year’s.

Joe Davis, spokesman for the Washington office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said war veterans have faced difficulty adjusting to the less intense environment of their home bases. Others struggle with leaving the military in search of work in a tight civilian job market.

“It’s difficult to come back from a war footing to garrison life,” he said, where more mundane problems intrude on troops who had been focused almost entirely on their war mission.

Each year the Pentagon performs an in-depth study of the circumstances of each suicide. The most recent year for which that analysis is available is 2011, and among the findings was that those who took their own lives tended to be white men under the age of 25, in the junior enlisted ranks, with less than a college education.

The analysis of 2011’s 301 military suicides also found that the suicide rate for divorced service members was 55 percent higher than for those who were married. It determined that 60 percent of military suicides were committed with the use of firearms – and in most cases the guns were personal weapons, not military-issued.

That study also found that most service members who attempted suicide – about 65 percent – had a known history of behavior problems, whereas 45 percent of those who actually completed the act and killed themselves had such a history.

One such case was Army Spc. Christopher Nguyen, 29, who killed himself last August at an off-post residence he shared with another member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., according to his sister, Shawna Nguyen.

“He was practically begging for help and nothing was done,” she said in an interview.

She said he had been diagnosed with an “adjustment disorder” – a problem of coping with the uncertainties of returning home after three deployments in war zones. She believes the Army failed her brother by not doing more to ensure that he received the help he needed before he became suicidal.

“It’s the responsibility of the military to help these men and women,” she said. “They sent them over there (to war); they should be helping them when they come back.”

‘We are not a deadbeat nation’: Obama warns Republicans if debt ceiling isn’t raised, then American troops and Social Security checks won’t be paid

(DailyMail) -President Obama warned Republicans on Monday against failing to raise the debt ceiling, saying the move would withhold money from American troops and Social Security recipients.

‘They will not collect ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,’ Obama said of House Republicans, many of whom have vowed to delay raising the debt ceiling until Obama commits to steep spending cuts.

‘America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they have already racked up,’ Obama continued.

he piled pressure on Republicans, pointning out the consequences of America failing to pay its bills. ‘We are not a deadbeat nation,’ he said repeatedly.

 

 
President Obama warned Republicans on Monday against failing to raise the debt ceiling, saying the move would 'send the markets haywire' and plunge the U.S. into a second recession. President Obama warned Republicans on Monday against failing to raise the debt ceiling, saying the move would ‘send the markets haywire’ and plunge the U.S. into a second recession

The U.S. is expected to default on its debt by late February or early March.

‘If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits will be delayed,’ Obama said. ‘We might not be able to pay our troops or honor our contracts with small business owners.’

Threatening the safety of Americans at home and abroad, Obama also warned that food inspectors, air traffic controllers and specialists who collect loose nuclear material would not be paid.

‘Markets could go haywire,’ he said. ‘Interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money – every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.’

The move would slow down the recovery and ‘might tip us into a recession,’ he said. ‘To even entertain the idea of this happening -of the United States of America not paying its bills – is irresponsible. It’s absurd.’

 

 

Responding to Republican calls to offset increases in the debt ceiling with an equal amount of cuts, Obama said the two issues should be considered separately.

‘The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending,’ he said. ‘Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending, it simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to… these are bills that have already been racked up and we need to pay them.’

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a statement insisting that Democrats accept new spending controls.

‘The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time,’ Boehner said. ‘The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation’s obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same.’

 
Obama rebuked the cuts that Republicans have proposed and challenged them to bring the proposals to Congress for a voteObama rebuked the cuts that Republicans have proposed and challenged them to bring the proposals to Congress for a vote

Obama rebuked the cuts that Republicans have proposed and challenged them to bring the proposals to Congress for a vote.

‘If they think that they can get that through Congress, then they are free to go ahead and try,’ Obama said, calling out Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, by name.

He said he refused to accept that Congress would risk a default to make a political point.

 

Obama held the press conference, the last of his first term, as it was revealed that more than half of House Republicans are prepared to allow the U.S. to default on its debt unless he commits to steep spending cuts.

‘We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road,’ House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers told Politico. ‘I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.’

While the results of a default would be dire for the economy, most Republicans agree it’s a better option than allowing additional debt to pile up without an equal-or-greater offset of deep spending cuts.

If House Republicans choose not to force President Obama’s hand on spending cuts with the threat of a default, they are planning to shut down the government in March when a six-month temporary funding measure expires.

‘I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,’ McMorris Rodgers said.

Congress has been repeatedly authorizing temporary funding measures to pay for government operations over the last three years, since lawmakers have been unable to compromise on an annual budget since 2009. The last temporary measure was passed in September and it expires on March 27.

Republicans threatened a shutdown over budget negotiations in the spring of 2011 but a deal was eventually reached (albeit an hour after the deadline) to avert a suspension of operations.

The government has shut down a total of 15 times since Jimmy Carter was president, with most of these episodes lasting only a couple days. One of the most famous shutdowns in history was in 1995, when the government was left without funding for 21 days due to a budget standoff between President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

During that time, from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996, roughly 800,000 federal workers were furloughed and ‘nonessential’ government functions were suspended, including the processing of visas and cleanup at toxic waste sites.

The episode also closed national museums, monuments and hundreds of national park sites.

Clinton Publicly Linked Benghazi to Video Before Woods and Doherty Were Killed

 
woods and dohertyFormer Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods (left) and Glen Doherty were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi along with U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and State Department employee Sean Smith. (AP Photo)

 

(CNS)On the night of Sept. 11, 2012 — before former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by a terrorist mortar strike — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a public statement linking the attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, with an anti-Muslim video, which she referred to as “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

Clinton’s statement, still posted on State’s website, is dated Sept. 11, 2012, and headlined: “Statement on the Attack in Benghazi.”

The statement first notes that a State Department officer had been killed in Benghazi — an apparent reference to Information Management Officer Sean Smith, whose body had been recovered at the U.S. mission in Benghazi by U.S. security officers by about 5:30 p.m. Washington, D.C., time on Sept. 11 — or 11:30 p.m. Benghazi time.

The statement then talks about Clinton’s communications that night with Libya’s president and refers to what Clinton calls “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today,” Clinton said in the statement. “As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

“This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya,” Clinton continued. “President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” Clinton said. “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

“In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide,” Clinton’s statement concluded.

On Jan. 8, I contacted the State Department press office three times by telephone and once by email to ask when exactly on Sept. 11, 2012, the department released this statement by Clinton.

“I just want to know at what time on Sept. 11, 2012, this statement was released,” I asked in an email that I sent at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time after my second phone inquiry.

I was later told that a group that answers questions on Benghazi for the State Department was working on an answer for me.

However, the Associated Press first published a story quoting Clinton’s statement at 10:58 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 11.

The AP released a story that night datelined Cairo, written by Maggie Michael and Sarah El Deeb, and carrying the headline, “American killed in Libya protest over film.” The story noted that Clinton had confirmed that “one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.” It also quoted directly from Clinton’s statement: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

The Associated Press’ Media Relations office confirmed to me that the AP first published its version of this story quoting Clinton’s statement at 10:58 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 11.

A CIA timeline of the Benghazi events provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s report on Benghazi and the State Department’s own Accountability Review Board Report all indicate that Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed at the U.S. “Annex” in Benghazi sometime between about 5:14 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. Benghazi time on Sept. 12. That would be between 11:14 p.m. and 11:26 p.m. on Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C. — or at least 16 minutes after the AP reported Clinton’s statement.

The CIA timeline indicates that a security team sent to the rescue by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli got to the Benghazi Annex about 5:15 a.m. Benghazi time. “They arrive with Libyan support at the Annex by 5:15 a.m., just before the mortar rounds begin to hit the Annex,” says this timeline. “The two security officers (Woods and Doherty) were killed when they took direct mortar fire as they engaged the enemy. That attack lasted only 11 minutes then also dissipated.”

The State Department ARB report provided additional details, but also set the time of the attack that killed Woods and Doherty at approximately 5:15 a.m. Benghazi time.

“The seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli arrived in Benghazi to lend support,” said the ARB report. “It arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than 15 minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds. Three rounds hit the roof of an Annex building, killing security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.”

On Dec. 31, Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, published their own report on Benghazi. This report confirmed both that Woods and Doherty were killed between 5:14 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. Benghazi time on Sept. 12 and that Benghazi was six hours ahead of Washington, D.C.

“American government officials outside of Benghazi learned of the attack shortly after it started at 3:40 p.m. EST (9:40 p.m. Benghazi time),” said the Lieberman-Collins report. “DS (diplomatic security) agents, in addition to notifying personnel at the Annex, immediately alerted officials at the U.S Embassy in Tripoli and the Department of State Headquarters in Washington, D.C.”

“The team from Tripoli finally cleared the airport and arrived at the Annex at approximately 5:04 a.m., about 10 minutes before a new assault by the terrorist began, involving mortar rounds fired at the Annex,” said the report. “The attack concluded at approximately 5:26 a.m., leaving Annex security team members Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty dead and two others wounded.”

General Stanley McChrystal questions US drone warfare

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(Digital Journal) -Retired US Army General Stanley McChrystal, who once commanded all American forces in Afghanistan, has questioned the widespread use of unmanned aerial drones in the War on Terror.
 
McChrystal, 58, acknowledged that drones cause seething hatred of the United States and cautioned that their overuse could threaten US strategic objectives in the ongoing terror war.

 

“What scares me about drone strikes is how they’re perceived around the world,” McChrystal told Reuters. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes… is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

 

McChrystal, the architect of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, added that drones fuel a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘We can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.'”

 

Drones are a tool that should be used as part of a wider strategy, the former general said, and if their use creates more problems than it solves, Washington should reevaluate the situation.

 

Drone strikes, which terrorize populations subjected to them, have indeed stoked widespread anti-Americanism in the countries where they occur– Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia– as well as around the world. Three-quarters of Pakistanis, for example, consider the United States an “enemy.” Drones, which Pakistanis rightfully claim are a violation of their sovereignty, are a big part of the reason why.

 

Perceived American disregard for the hundreds of innocent civilians killed by drone strikes also infuriates many people in affected countries. According to Pakistan’s Interior Minister, up to 80 percent of those killed by drones are civilians, and the London-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism says that as many as 1,117 civilians, including up to 214 children, have been killed by strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2004.

 

Last October, the United Nations announced that it would investigate US drone strikes that killed Pakistani civilians as possible war crimes.

 

Still, the Obama administration has dramatically ramped up its drone program since taking over from Bush in 2009. Recently, the use of drones has increased significantly in Yemen, where there were more drone attacks in 2012 than there were in Pakistan.

 

Obama’s newly-chosen CIA director, John Brennan, is particularly controversial, both because he is the architect of the US drone war and because he has repeatedly lied about civilian drone deaths and the anti-Americanism they breed.

Judge: Army GI in WikiLeaks illegally punished

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(AP) -An Army private suspected of sending reams of classified documents to the secret-sharing WikiLeaks website was illegally punished at a Marine Corps brig and should get 112 days cut from any prison sentence he receives if convicted, a military judge ruled Tuesday.

Army Col. Denise Lind ruled during a pretrial hearing that authorities went too far in their strict confinement of Pfc. Bradley Manning for nine months in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., in 2010 and 2011. Manning was confined to a windowless cell 23 hours a day, sometimes with no clothing. Brig officials said it was to keep him from hurting himself or others.

Lind said Manning’s confinement was “more rigorous than necessary.” She added that the conditions “became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests.”

Manning faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of life behind bars. His trial begins March 6.

The 25-year-old intelligence analyst had sought to have the charges thrown out, arguing the conditions were egregious. Military prosecutors had recommended a seven-day sentence reduction, conceding Manning was improperly kept for that length of time on highly restrictive suicide watch, contrary to a psychiatrist’s recommendation.

Lind rejected a defense contention that brig commanders were influenced by higher-ranking Marine Corps officials at Quantico or the Pentagon.

Manning showed no reaction as Lind read her decision. He fidgeted when the judge took the bench to announce her ruling, sometimes tapping his chin or mouth with a pen and frequently glancing at his attorney’s notepad, but those movements tapered off during the hour and 45 minutes it took the judge to read the lengthy opinion.

Mike McKee, one of about a dozen Manning supporters in the courtroom, said he was disappointed. He called the ruling “very conservative,” although he said he didn’t expect the charges to be thrown out.

“I don’t find it a victory,” McKee said. “Credit like that becomes much less valuable if the sentence turns out to be 80 years.”

Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network, which is funding Manning’s defense, said the sentencing credit “doesn’t come close to compensating Bradley” for his harsh treatment.

“The ruling is not strong enough to give the military pause before mistreating the next American soldier awaiting trial,” Paterson wrote in an email.

Lind ruled on the first day of a scheduled four-day hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore.

The hearing is partly to determine whether Manning’s motivation matters. Prosecutors want the judge to bar the defense from producing evidence at trial regarding his motive for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of secret war logs and diplomatic cables. They say motive is irrelevant to whether he leaked intelligence, knowing it would be seen by al-Qaida

Manning allegedly told an online confidant-turned-informant that he leaked the material because “I want people to see the truth” and “information should be free.”

Defense attorney David Coombs said Tuesday that barring such evidence would cripple the defense’s ability to argue that Manning leaked only information that he believed couldn’t hurt the United States or help a foreign nation.

Manning has offered to take responsibility for the leaks in a pending plea offer but he still could face trial on charges such as aiding the enemy.

The Crescent, Okla., native is accused of leaking classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He is also charged with leaking 2007 video of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.

Manning supporters consider him a whistleblower whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings in late 2010.

A Marine’s Incredible Letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein

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(LibertyBlitzkrieg)This is an incredible letter from Joshua Boston, Corporal United States Marine Corps, to gun grabber extraordinaire and political oligarch Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Senator Dianne Feinstein,

I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government’s right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma’am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.

I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America.  I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.

I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.

We, the people, deserve better than you.

Respectfully Submitted, Joshua Boston Cpl, United States Marine Corps 2004-2012

US Navy Seal Commander, Who Killed Osama Bin Laden, Commits ‘Apparent Suicide’ In Afghanistan

Navy-Cmdr-Job-W-Price-jpg-600x350

 (Opinion Maker) – SEAL Team 4 Commanding Officer Job W. Price commit suicide. He was best known for finding and then killing Osama bin Laden.

Cmdr. Job W. Price, 42, died Saturday, Dec. 22, of a non-combat-related injury while supporting stability operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.

Suicide of the Officer of this grade raises many questions among the media, as the team was best known for killing Osama Bin Laden that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1, 2011.

Military officials are looking into the death of Cmdr. Job W. Price as a possible suicide, but that his death remains under investigation.

Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pa., was in charge of coordinating all Team 4 missions.

Price was in Afghanistan supporting stability operations in Uruzgan Province. He was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit based in Virginia Beach, Va.

SEAL Team 4 is among eight SEAL team deployments. SEAL Team 6 is best known among them for finding and then killing Osama bin Laden.

US Navy Seal’s ‘apparent suicide’ in Afghanistan under investigation (Guardian, Dec 25, 2012):

US military officials are investigating the apparent suicide of a Navy Seal commander in Afghanistan.

Navy Seal Commander Job W Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, died on Saturday from a non-combat-related injury while supporting stability operations in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.

A US military official said the death “appears to be the result of suicide”. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the death is still being investigated.

“The Naval Special Warfare family is deeply saddened by the loss of our teammate,” said Captain Robert Smith, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group Two, which manages all Virginia-based Navy Seal teams.

“We extend our condolences, thoughts and prayers to the family, friends, and NSW community during this time of grieving.”

Smith added: “As we mourn the loss and honour the memory of our fallen teammate, those he served with will continue to carry out the mission.”.

A US military official confirmed Price was from Virginia Beach, Virginia-based Seal Team 4, which is part of the mission to train Afghan local police to fend off the Taliban in remote parts of Afghanistan.

Price is survived by a wife and a daughter.

237 Israeli soldiers committed suicide in ten years: Report

Israeli soldiers (file photo)

(PressTV) -At least 237 Israeli soldiers have committed suicide over the past ten years, a report says.

According to secret data released by the Israeli military, an average of 24 troops decide to take their own lives every year, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Thursday.

According to the report, an annual average of 40 Israeli army forces also killed themselves between 1990 and 2000.

The official data regarding the suicide rate had been released for the first time by an unknown Israeli blogger, who was later investigated by Israeli police.
The blogger also found out that the real number of suicides in the Israeli army had been much greater than what the official data show.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv published an article in 2003, saying that suicide had been the number one cause of death in the Israeli army.
The Israeli ministry for military affairs recently reported that the number of Israeli soldiers who committed suicide exceeds that of those killed in battles.

Marine guarding school apologizes for posing as marine sergeant

(Digital Journal) -Craig Pusley, a man standing guard outside Hughson Elementary  School, Modesto, Calif., claimed falsely that he is a Marine Sergeant, reports  say. He admitted that he had only borrowed fatigues from a friend and that he is  only a “private first class.”
According to Christian  Post, Pusley has apologized for the damage and controversy that his action  has caused. He explained that he only wanted to help make students feel safe  after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hooks Elementary School, Newtown,  Connecticut. According to the Christian  Post, he said he feels “horrible” about the negative publicity he brought to  the Marine Corps.

A photo of Pusley standing guard  outside the Hughson Elementary School was posted to various websites.  In the  photos, he wore the insignia of the rank of sergeant. According to the Christian Post, when he was asked why he was standing guard outside the  school, he said he wasn’t going to allow children in the neighborhood live in  fear of coming to school.  He told a reporter: “I just want to have a word to  this community that I stand between them and any danger.”

The Modesto Bee reports Pusley  said: “I’m part of a Marine Corps fraternity, and I started noticing online  postings that if Marines stood in front of schools, we never would have had the  Connecticut problem. When I enlisted, I swore to defend this country from all  enemies, foreign and domestic. I just want to be sure all these kids go home  safe for Christmas.”

NY  Daily News reports that Pulsey, who has a 3-year-old son, stood guard in  combat fatigue but was not armed. He said he does not need a weapon: “I don’t  have a fear in the world that if someone came here, I’d have the strength and  the ability to protect.”

Although, media reports said Pusley,  28, left the Corps as a sergeant after deploying  to Iraq and Afghanistan, Navy  Times reports that Marine officials say he graduated from boot camp at  Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, but was in the service less than a year.   According to  Navy Times, Pusley is not a Marine Sergeant and he has never risen above the  rank of private first class. His official designation is “basic Marine.”

However, Pusley told Marine  Corps Times that he never lied about his military service. He claimed that  the reporter who first interviewed him got her story wrong.  He said: “There’s a  lot of fabrication to this story that didn’t come out of my mouth. All I know is  that I talked to a Modesto Bee lady, and everything went crazy.”

Military  Times, however, reports that Mick Rubalcava of Modesto News,  provided a video of Pusley saying he is a sergeant and that he served in  Afghanistan. He claimed he was wounded in Afghanistan.

Pusley claimed that he’s still in the  Marine Corps Reserve with “123 Weapons.”  According to Military Times,  this refers to the “Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines.” Pulsey told Marine  Times that he left the Corps in 2008, after serving a year because officials  said he went on unauthorized absence. Military Times reporter confirmed  that story.

Navy  Times also points out that photographs show him wearing the rank insignia of  a sergeant. He said he borrowed the uniform from a friend and that he was not  aware of the implication of the insignia. He said: “I feel horrible about this.  My intention was for the kids. I don’t understand why everyone has to find a  negative in every situation.”

But the Christian Post reports  that his claim that he borrowed the uniform from a friend only complicates  issues for him because such an act is against Marine Corps policy.

He has offered to stand guard in front  of the school without wearing Marine Corps uniform. But Navy Times  reports that Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett, said: “This is not  the right thing. Not the right time. And not the right place. The uniform  doesn’t make the man. It’s your character that defines you.”

Military  Times reporter comments: “We come across people in Pusley’s predicament  frequently… Donald Laisure… in 2009…  claimed to be a retired four-star  general who earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and an Air Medal in a 54-year  career that included service in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf War. In  reality, he served less than a year on active duty before leaving the service as  a private. California records also show he was once married to convicted  murderer Susan Atkins, the ex-wife of serial killer Charles Manson.”

Digital  Journal also reported that a Marine and father in Nashville, Staff Sgt.  Jordan Pritchard, stood guard outside his childrens’ school, Gower Elementary  School, in fatigue without a weapon.

He said: “I feel like this is something  I had to do.”

Former Marine, parent, stands guard outside elementary school

1am
(Digital Journal) -A former Marine and parent  is standing guard outside a  Nashville, Tennessee elementary school after his daughter told him she was  scared to return to school after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

After obtaining permission from the school to stand watch,  Former Staff Sargeant Jordan Pritchard,  retrieved his old Marine Corps uniform  out of the attic and began standing outside the front entrance of Gower  Elementary School on Monday.  Although he is unarmed, he hopes his presence  sends a message and is a deterrent to anyone who considers entering the school  to try and harm the children or staff.

He is also doing it to ease the mind of  his daughter who was afraid something like the Newtown shooting could happen at  her school.  He told WKRN:

“As a dad, I can’t have that. I can’t have my daughter come to  school worried about somebody coming in and hurting her.  To settle her peace of  mind, who better than her dad to come out here and stand in front of the  school?”

Other parents are thrilled that  Pritchard is willing to spend his day outside the school, protecting the  children inside.  Sarah Knies, who has two children that attend Gower  Elementary, told WTVY:

“He made me feel good. Just to know that he stood up and did  something to make us all feel better today.”

Lucy Hipp, another parent whose  children attend the school said:

“Just to know that symbolic uniform that represents protection  is here at Gower is just heart warming. It’s peaceful, it brought a tear to my  eye yesterday,”

Pritchard says officials with the  school have told him many of the parents who come into the office are crying,  thankful for his presence.  After the Christmas break, he plans to organize  other parents willing to stand guard at Gower and other school around Nashville.

He told WTVR:

“I’m doing this because we need hope….hope is larger than any  weapon.  There’s no job in the world that can pay me enough money to not do  things for the kids and for the parents.”

 

US admits to imprisoning Afghan children

(Digital Journal) – The United States has admitted to imprisoning  hundreds of Afghan children as ‘enemy combatants’ in a report to the United  Nations.

The Associated Press reports  that the State Department informed the world body of the detentions as part of  compliance with the UN  Convention on the Rights of the Child.

More than 200 children, who were mostly  16-year-olds according to the United States’ admission, have been captured  during the ongoing 11-year-long US invasion and occupation in Afghanistan. They  are held for about a year each at the Parwan Detention Facility, a military  prison next to Bagram  Airfield where detainees are held without charge or trial and where Afghan  President Hamid Karzai and former prisoners claim they are held in  “Guantanamo-like conditions” and tortured.

Pentagon documents report at least two  detainee homicides  committed by US troops at Bagram.

The US has been imprisoning the Afghan  children “to prevent a combatant from returning to the battlefield,” according  to the report.

“Many of them have been released or  transferred to the Afghan government,” the report states.

While the military admits that the  average age of the captured detainees is around 16, human rights advocates claim  that much younger children have been rounded up and imprisoned by US forces.

“I’ve represented children as young as  11 or 12 who have been at Bagram,” Tina M. Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, a group that  represents Bagram detainees, told the Associated Press. Foster also questioned  the number of children imprisoned by the United States.

“I question the number 200, because  there are thousands of detainees at Parwan. There are other children whose  parents have said these children are under 18 at the time of their capture, and  the US doesn’t allow the detainees or their families to contest their age.”

Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil  Liberties Union also believes that younger children are being held in the  prison.

“It is highly likely that some children  were as young as 14 or 13 years old when they were detained by US forces,”  Dakwar told the Associated Press.

Dakwar said that imprisoning youngsters  for lengthy periods “exposes children in detention to greater risk of physical  and mental abuse, especially if they are denied access to protections guaranteed  to them under international law.”

In its last report to the United  Nations, filed in 2008, the US admitted that the military held around 500 Iraqi  children. According to that report, the US imprisoned around 2,500 children,  most of them in Iraq, during the course of the War on Terror. Children  as young as 12 were also jailed in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay,  Cuba.

At the notorious Abu Ghraib prison  outside Baghdad, former commander Gen. Janis Karpinski said she visited child  detainees, including one boy who “looked like he was eight years old.”

Children  as young as 11 were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib. Girls, as well as boys, were  held. Both girls and boys were raped and sexually assaulted, as were older  women, by US troops and contractors at the prison; Maj. Gen. Anthony  Taguba’s scathing 2004 report  compiled in the wake of the torture  photo scandal tells of an Army translator who raped  a teenage boy while a female soldier photographed the attack.

Sadly, the vast  majority of prisoners held by the US in Iraq– as many as 90 percent of  them, according to US intelligence estimates– were innocent. Many innocent  Iraqis, especially women, were imprisoned as bargaining  chips in the hope that male relatives suspected of resisting the US-led  invasion and occupation would turn themselves in, another clear violation of  international law.

Gen. Karpinski, who was in charge of  Abu Ghraib at the time of the torture photo scandal, told the BBC that a  superior officer told her he didn’t care about innocent civilians imprisoned by  mistake.

“I don’t care if we’re holding 15,000  innocent civilians,” Maj. Gen. Walter Wodjakowski, then the second-highest Army  general in Iraq, allegedly told Karpinski. “We’re winning the war.”

Although the United States is  submitting its report in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the  Child, the  US and Somalia are the only two nations which have not ratified the treaty.

The Obama administration also indirectly  supports the use of child soldiers by repeatedly granting waivers from the  Child Soldiers Protection Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2008, to  countries in Africa and the Middle East which use children in their armed  forces. The waivers, personally  authorized by President Barack Obama, allow war-torn nations such as Libya,  Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan to receive hundreds  of millions of dollars in US military aid despite the fact that they are known  to use child soldiers.

GI charged in WikiLeaks case admits making noose

(SeattlePI) -An Army private charged with leaking classified material to WikiLeaks said Friday that he tied a bedsheet into a noose while considering suicide during his pretrial confinement in Kuwait.

Pfc. Bradley Manning testified on the fourth day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade near Baltimore. Manning testified under cross-examination that he made the noose in Kuwait before he was moved to a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. He claims that his treatment later at Quantico was so harsh that the charges against him should be dismissed.

He arrived at Quantico classified as a suicide risk. Eight days later, he was upgraded to the less-restrictive “prevention of injury” status.

Manning maintains that neither designation was appropriate because he didn’t feel like hurting himself after leaving Kuwait.

 
 Under questioning by prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein, Manning said that upon arrival at Quantico in July 2010, he was told he would be processed into the brig as a suicide risk. He said he noted on his intake form that he had considered suicide.

He also wrote on the form that he was “always planning and never acting” upon suicidal thoughts.

In January 2011, after complaining about his custody classification, Manning met with a board of officers that made custody status recommendations. He said when he was asked about the statement on his intake form about planning and never acting, he told the board that he might have lied.

“I did say it might have been a sarcastic answer,” Manning said. “I told them today, the end of January 2011, I’m not suicidal. I’m not trying to harm myself or anything like that.”

The testimony marked the first time military prosecutors went face-to-face with Manning.

He spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since his May 2010 arrest, saying he got so used to leg irons and being locked up 23 hours a day that when he was finally transferred to medium-security confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in April 2011, he felt uneasy moving freely around the cell block.

“There was the sense of, ‘OK, I know they’re going to put the hammer down on me soon,'” Manning said near the end of his five hours on the witness stand.

Besides being classified “maximum custody,” Manning was subjected to additional restraints during his nine months at Quantico. Commanders maintained the extra restrictions despite repeated recommendations by brig psychiatrists that they be eased. They included scratchy, suicide-prevention bedding and sometimes having all his clothing, eyeglasses and reading material removed from his cell.

The military contends the treatment was proper.

At one point during his testimony Thursday, Manning donned a dark-green, suicide-prevention smock resembling an oversized tank top made of stiff, thick fabric. He said it was similar to one he was issued in March 2011, several days after Quantico jailers started requiring him to surrender all his clothing and eyeglasses each night as a suicide-prevention measure. This occurred after he told them — out of frustration, he said — that if he really wanted to hurt himself, he could have done so with his underwear waistband or flip-flops.

The 5-foot-3 soldier looked youthful in his dark-blue dress uniform, close-cropped hair and rimless eyeglasses. He was animated, often speaking in emphatic bursts, swiveling in the witness chair and gesturing with his hands.

Also Thursday, the military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, accepted the terms under which Manning may plead guilty to eight of the 22 charges he faces. Coombs revealed the plea offer in early November, saying it would enable Manning to take responsibility for sending U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.

Lind hasn’t formally accepted the pleas but has indicated she will consider them at a hearing starting Dec. 10.

Under the offer, Manning would plead guilty to certain charges as violations of military regulations rather than as violations of federal espionage and computer security laws. The offenses would then carry maximum prison terms totaling 16 years rather than 72.

The pleas would include admissions that Manning sent WikiLeaks classified memos, Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Guantanamo Bay prison records and a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The video, titled “Collateral Murder” on WikiLeaks, garnered worldwide attention. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately during the attack, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.

The government could still prosecute Manning for all 22 counts he faces, including aiding the enemy. That offense carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Manning is accused of engineering the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history. Besides the video, he is charged with sending hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

Bradley Manning to speak for first time since arrest in pre-trial testimony

(Guardian) –Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the largest leak of state secrets in US history, is expected this week to speak publicly for the first time since his arrest in May 2010.

The alleged source of the massive WikiLeaks dump of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables and war logs is expected to be called as a witness at the latest pre-trial hearing opening in Fort Meade army base in Maryland on Tuesday afternoon. His direct address to the court will be a poignant event that will be followed closely by both his supporters, who see him as a heroic whistleblower, and his detractors, who regard him as a traitor.

Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning support network said it would be a very telling moment. “Until now we’ve only heard from Bradley through his family and lawyers, so it’s going to be a real insight into his personality to hear him speak for himself for the first time.”

The hearing, slated to last until Sunday, also marks a crucial stage in the legal proceedings in the run-up to a full court martial scheduled for 4 February.

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, is seeking to have any eventual sentence imposed on the soldier radically reduced or even entirely negated on the grounds that he was subjected to pre-trial punishment while he was confined at Quantico marine base in Virginia.

Manning’s harsh treatment during the nine months he was held in the brig at Quantico, from 29 July 2010 to 20 April 2011, have become something of a cause célèbre, with several influential people and organisations castigating the military authorities for subjecting him to a form of torture.

The treatment led to a wave of international indignation, from figures as diverse as the UN rapporteur on torture, Amnesty International, leading law scholars and PJ Crowley, then spokesman at the US state department, who resigned in protest.

Manning’s lawyers are expected to make the case to the military judge presiding of the pre-trial proceedings, Colonel Denise Lind, that commanders at the brig in Quantico ignored expert medical advice in subjecting the soldier to prolonged solitary confinement. Coombs has requested to call eight witnesses in total, though it is not clear how many of those have been cleared by Lind.

According to the Manning support network, the first witnesses are likely to be the Quantico commanders in charge of the brig during the nine months in which Manning was held there. Legal documents released by Coombs earlier this year alleged that one of the commanders told his staff that “we will do whatever we want to do” with the captive soldier. There may also be an attempt to show that the orders relating to Manning came from higher up the military hierarchy, from a three-star general, suggesting they may have had a political motivation.

Next up are likely to be at least two military psychiatrists who will be asked to testify that they recommended on numerous occasions that Manning be taken off the so-called “prevention of injury” order, or PoI, that kept him in effective solitary confinement.

Official records have shown that the psychiatrists made at least 16 official reports to military commanders that Manning was not a threat to himself or others and therefore should not have been subjected to extraordinary treatment. He was held in his cell for 23 hours a day, withheld possessions, checked every five minutes and stripped naked at night in humiliating fashion.

Manning himself is likely to be the last of the defence witnesses called, after which the army prosecutors will have the floor.

10k US troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2014 deadline

(RT) -Ten thousand US troops will stay in Afghanistan past 2014, senior officials say, despite earlier demands from President Barack Obama to end the war during the second year of his upcoming term.

Most of the 66,000 or so troops currently positioned in Afghanistan will be removed by Pres. Obama’s predetermined deadline, the sources say, but a substantial amount of Americans will be asked to remain indefinitely to conduct training and counterterrorism operations after allied North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops are expunged in late 2014.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Gen. John Allen, the top US commander overseeing the war in Afghanistan, proposed that anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 troops remain overseas following the end of the current NATO operation occurring there. A number closer to 10,000 was established after top Obama administration officials reached a compromise with the Pentagon, the paper reports.

Next, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will have to give the White House his blessing before any number of residual troops is made official. The Journal reports that such an agreement is likely, pending Washington’s willingness to agree on Kabul’s key demands, including an all but certain provision that will provide that US troops will be tried in Afghan court for any future mishaps overseas. Only after a deal is struck between Pres. Obama and Karzai will the final number be cemented.

“At the appropriate time, the president will make decisions about the future scope and size of our presence in Afghanistan based on what is in our national interest and in coordination with our Afghan and [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] partners,” Pentagon press secretary George Little says to the Journal.

Along the campaign trail leading up to the November 6 election, Pres. Obama made a point of touting his administration’s ending of the war in Iraq and the planned exit from Afghanistan. During a televised debate, Vice President Joe Biden echoed that plan, insisting, “We are leaving in 2014, period.”

Just last month, though, the Pentagon official expected to soon take over for Gen. Allen’s role as top commander in Afghanistan announced that he was planning on leaving Americans in Afghanistan as long as necessary.

“[W]e’ll be there beyond 2014 to secure our objectives,” Gen. Joseph Dunford told lawmakers on the Hill this month while fielded questions from Congress. “It’s a question of confidence in the Afghan people that we will remain, confidence in the Afghanistan national security forces that we will remain,” confidence in the “capitols that we will remain,” and confidence among “regional actors that we will remain,” Dunford said.

In May of this year, Pres. Obama said, “As our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”

US building drone subs to track, chase away enemy vessels: Report

(Press TV) -The United States Department of Defense is in the initial stages of developing “unmanned drone submarines” that will navigate oceans across the globe, “tracking and following enemy subs for months at a time,” RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), tasked with developing new military technologies, began the project since “the growing number of adversaries able to build and operate quiet diesel electric submarines is a national security threat that affects US and friendly naval operations around the world,” the report adds, citing a statement posted on DARPA’s website.

The drone subs would potentially be capable of patrolling US coastlines for up to 80 days at a time covering thousands of kilometers using non-conventional sensor technologies that “achieve robust continuous track of the quietest submarine targets over their entire operating envelope,” adds the DARPA’s statement.

The main task of the oceanic drone will be to “patrol the waters for enemy submarines and then chase them away if located,” the report adds, citing Discovery News. “The sub will also gather information deemed necessary by the US government, which will then be sent to US naval commanders up above on land.”

DARPA awarded a $58 million contract in August to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for design and construction of a prototype of the vessel.

The Currency of Classified Information and the Selective Prosecution of Bradley Manning

(Truthout) -On November 8, the Marine Corps Times reported that seven US Navy SEALs have been punished for revealing classified information related to their work as paid consultants for a video game maker, Electronic Arts. The Redwood City, California-based software company developed the video game, “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” which they released last month. The game is marketed on the company’s web site as “written by active US Tier 1 Operators while deployed overseas.”

The seven SEALs also were found to be utilizing official gear without required authorization. One was a member of SEAL Team 6, the team that assassinated Osama Bin Laden.

Navy SEALs, both active duty and retired, are privy to highly sensitive and secretive information about tactics and techniques that are central to the success of their dangerous missions overseas. That is why the government forces them to sign nondisclosure agreements when they enter service and when they leave. It is also why the Pentagon claims it enforces these nondisclosure agreements, although enforcement – as we will see – is selective.

In this case, the actions of the seven Navy SEALs violated signed non-disclosure agreements, as well as the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; yet the punishment they received was a simple letter of reprimand and the loss of half a month’s pay for a period of two months – basically a fine.

The Case of Bradley Manning and Indicted Whistleblowers

Pivot now to the case of Bradley Manning. The Army private is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

One could argue the Navy SEALs’ breach of classified, secret information and the Uniform Code of Military Justice is far more serious than the crimes that Bradley Manning is accused of. The seven SEALs basically lifted classified information, and then peddled the information like a commodity to a software corporation for their own personal profit. This use of classified information should be distinguished from the Manning case, where there was no profit motive whatsoever. Nor was one alleged.

So while the SEALs receive a reprimand and a fine, Manning languishes in a federal prison under what some have called unduly harsh – even torturous – conditions – including extended periods of solitary confinement for more than 900 days.

It would seem that Manning is being subjected to selective prosecution and arbitrary and capricious confinement by the government.

The Obama administration’s soft touch treatment of the SEALs also raises questions about its prosecution of John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterterrorism operative who was part of the operation that located and captured Abu Zubaydah.

Ironically, less than two months after the US Justice Department announced that it would not charge CIA officials who participated in the brutal interrogation of detainees during the Bush administration, prosecutors on October 23, 2012 convicted Kiriakou for telling a reporter the name of a covert CIA officer involved in the program.

Kiriakou is one of six current or former officials to be charged by the Obama administration with leaking secret classified documents; this is twice the number of cases brought by all previous presidents combined.

But the case of the Navy SEALs who personally profited off of selling classified information to a software company that makes video games obviously doesn’t rise to the legal occasion that compelled Kiriakou to plead guilty and face imprisonment for what could be years.

The government’s message seems to be clear: It is OK to steal, commodify and sell national security secrets for personal gain and profit, but those who expose misconduct by the government – misconduct that sheds a spotlight on government malfeasance – under long-standing whistleblower statutes – face imprisonment or even death.

Classified Information for Partisan Gain?

Last year administration critics charged that the Obama White House had illegally disclosed classified details about the Osama bin Laden raid for partisan political gain.

Political commentator Glenn Greenwald, writing back in June of 2012, cited “two glaring contradictions” in the Obama administration’s approach to classified information and secrecy:

(1) At the very same time that they wage an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, they themselves continuously leak national security secrets exclusively designed to glorify Obama purely for political gain; and (2) At the very same time they insist to federal courts that these programs are too secret even to confirm or deny their existence (thereby shielding them from judicial review or basic disclosure), they run around publicly boasting about their actions.

And this autumn found Pentagon officials expressing consternation after publication of No Easy Day, a first-person account of the bin Laden operation by Matt Bissonnette, another member of SEAL Team Six. Bissonnette looked to make a profit by releasing his narrative in a book he wrote under the pseudonym Mark Owen.

Pentagon officials admit that Bissonnette’s book, a New York Times bestseller, contains secret, classified information. Even though they have accused him of violating nondisclosure agreements in publishing the book without submitting it for a security review, they have not – as yet – taken any formal action against him, and he has been allowed to keep the profits.

The Pentagon’s general counsel has, however, threatened legal action against Bissonnette and at last report, the Defense Department was still considering its options.

The head of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, responded to Bissonnette’s book by notifying his force that “hawking details about a mission” and putting other information about SEAL training and operations on the market puts them and their families at risk.

If this is not enough, there are questions about the conduct of unidentified Obama aides accused of leaking national security information to strengthen the president’s foreign policy credentials in the case of the “Obama kill list.” This case of selective leaking – ostensibly for political gain – produced no prosecutions of so-called whistleblowers, nor did it produce any administrative enforcement of the law.

The selective leaking of information has been used not only by politicians trying to garnish undue favor with the public, but – as in the case of former Vice President Dick Cheney aide Stewart Libby – secret classified information was leaked in violation of the law – used as currency – in an attempt to destroy political opponents and provide cover for an illegal war.

In that case, Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, the two George W. Bush cohorts who leaked a covert agent’s identity (Valerie Plame) were never indicted.

General Petraeus, Pillow Talk and Leaked Classified Information

Unfortunately, the manure seems to pile even higher as recent news has emerged that former CIA Director David Petraeus, who resigned over his affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, may have revealed classified information about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya – which raises disturbing questions about the biographer’s access to secretive documents and classified information for personal gain.

According to the FBI, the bureau opened its investigation into the relationship between Paula Broadwell and Petraeus this summer, following clues they claimed hinted that someone may have hacked into the director of the CIA’s email account. More importantly, the FBI also found classified documents on Broadwell’s personal computer, according to The Wall Street Journal. Will the federal government prosecute anyone over this bit of commodified classified information?

It’s not clear how inappropriate Broadwell’s access was. One thing we do know is that, as an Army reservist with a background in counterintelligence, Broadwell certainly had a high-level security clearance – which raises further questions about the commodification of intelligence and the potential use of classified information for her biography of the former CIA head.

Summary

It is clear that secret classified information has been offered for sale to for-profit corporations by Navy SEALs and others, directly profiting off inside information.

What is not clear is how those who have served their country as courageous whistleblowers – people like Bradley Manning and John Kiriakou, to name just two – can be placed under lock and key and – in the case of Manning – put in deplorable conditions for serving the public interest and the public’s right to know.

The decision to prosecute someone under federal law has created, in the words of Mark Amsterdam a former staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, “a prosecutorial monopoly” by the Justice Department “as an agent of the Executive branch.”

Amsterdam is right. This is most obvious in the selective enforcement of the law and the targeting of public interest whistleblowers by the Obama administration – the selective prosecutions that occur even as self-serving commodifiers of classified information and politicians use leaks for their own personal advantage and profit and are subsequently let off the prosecutorial hook.

On November 15, 2012 three Nobel laureates penned a letter demanding a cessation to the political persecution of Manning. Three Nobel Peace Prize winners – Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, say the US Army private actually deserves gratitude, not persecution. Manning himself was nominated for the Nobel in 2012.

Our president is both a constitutional law scholar and a Nobel laureate. It is time he heeds the advice of these other Nobel laureates and respects the rule of law, ceasing the persecution of Bradley Manning and ending the war on whistleblowers.

Petraeus Scandal Engulfs Afghanistan War Chief

Gen. John Allen in Afghanistan last December. Photo: NATO ISAF

Allen, who is married, allegedly exchanged what’s being described as “inappropriate communication” with Jill Kelley, the 37-year-old Tampa socialite who claims she received threatening emails from Petraeus’ mistress (and biographer) Paula Broadwell. Kelley reportedly approached the FBI with the alleged threats, kicking off the investigation that ultimately uncovered Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell and prompted the retired four-star general to resign from the CIA last week.

The news of Allen’s alleged involvement in l’affair de Petraeus broke early Tuesday morning when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, en route to Australia, released a statement to reporters traveling with him. Panetta said the FBI told him on Sunday that it was investigating Allen, who succeeded Petraeus as head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in July 2011 and has overseen the beginning of the America’s staged withdrawal from the conflict.

Panetta immediately notified the White House, the Congressional armed services committees and the Defense Department Inspector General of the Allen probe, according to The Washington Post.

Allen’s former aides in Kabul can’t believe that their former boss has been entangled in this tawdry mess. “The Gen. Allen that I worked for is a man who is very serious about the public trust,” Lt. Col. Ray Kimball, an Army officer who served on Allen’s staff for nearly a year, tells Danger Room. “I never heard the name Jill Kelley until this weekend.”

 

Allen was expected to hand over command of the Afghanistan war to Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford in coming weeks. The plan was that Allen would then take over as military head of NATO and U.S. European Command. Panetta has reportedly moved up Dunford’s ascension and put Allen’s European posting on ice, according to The New York Times. Allen is reportedly in Washington as of Tuesday.

“I have asked the President – and the President has agreed – to put his nomination on hold until the relevant facts are determined,” Panetta said in a statement.

“While the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined, General Allen will remain commander of ISAF,” Panetta added. “His leadership has been instrumental in achieving the significant progress that ISAF, working alongside our Afghan partners, has made in bringing greater security to the Afghan people and in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. He is entitled to due process in this matter.”

It’s not clear from initial reports what exactly “inappropriate communication” means. (Allen, for his part, “disputes that he has engaged in any wrongdoing in this matter,” according to an unnamed senior defense official.)

He’s never been alone with her,” another unnamed official tells the Washington Post. “Did he have an affair? No.”

Allen and Kelley did exchange “a few hundred emails over a couple of years,” the official added. But “most of them were about routine stuff.”

“I don’t even know what he’s supposedly being accused of, and I don’t think anyone else outside of the DODIG [Department of Defense Inspector General] does either,” says Kimball.

“The FBI’s decision to refer the Allen matter to the Pentagon rather than keep it itself, combined with Panetta’s decision to allow Allen to continue as Afghanistan commander without a suspension, suggested strongly that officials viewed whatever happened as a possible infraction of military rules rather than a violation of federal criminal law,” notes the Associated Press’ veteran Pentagon correspondent Bob Burns.

Kelley, who is married, is a volunteer “social liaison” to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, home to U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command, both deeply involved in the Afghanistan war. She is said to have hosted parties for military personnel at her million-dollar home.

Broadwell apparently perceived Kelley as some sort of threat to Broadwell’s relationship with Petraeus. Media reports have portrayed Kelley and her husband as close friends of Petraeus and his wife of 37 years.

Both Broadwell and Kelley are doing their best to escape the intensifying media spotlight. Petraeus, for his part, has not made any public statement since his surprise resignation on Friday. (Although some of his former aides are speaking out.) It’s unclear whether Petraeus, who has been temporarily succeeded at the CIA by his former deputy Michael Morell, will testify as planned in the ongoing Congressional investigation into the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Regardless of the outcome of the FBI investigation of Allen’s communications, the probe comes at a critical time for the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan. Insider attacks continue as U.S. and NATO forces struggle to train up enough Afghan forces to replace the main foreign force that’s scheduled to withdraw in 2014. The U.S. is expected to maintain a smaller advisory force, though how big and for how long have yet to be announced.

Whatever Allen did to become entangled in the Petraeus-Broadwell-Kelley scandal, it’s certainly an unwelcome distraction from the hard work of winding down a painful, 11-year-old war.

Sick veterans wait for Obama’s promise

(Washington Times) It was one of the simplest, most poignant promises Barack Obama made in 2008 in his first campaign for the White House: He would fulfill “a sacred trust with our veterans” by significantly reducing the government’s lengthy backlog of pending claims for disability coverage. The goal: All veterans could get a decision on disability claims within 125 days.

But on this Veterans Day, as Mr. Obama prepares for his second term, the president’s pledge not only remains unfulfilled, it has become a rallying cry for sick veterans, their widows and their advocates, who now wait as long as two years for disability decisions from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Records obtained by the Washington Guardian show that as of Nov. 5, the day before Mr. Obama won re-election, 558,230 of the 820,106 veterans seeking disability coverage had their claims pending for more than the 125-day target. That’s 68.1 percent, or nearly double the 36 percent rate in the summer of 2010.

And there are tens of thousands more cases pending in various forms of appeal, where decisions can take months or years to resolve. For instance, the average time it takes to resolve a case before the Veterans Appeals Board is 883 days, or almost 2½ years.

The reason things have become worse rather than better under Mr. Obama is that the claims workers his administration hired did not keep pace with the crush of demand from Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans or the new coverage areas authorized in 2010 for Vietnam veterans.

“In the last two years, it has gotten far worse than it has ever been,” said Walter J. Tafe, director of the Burlington County Military and Veterans Service in New Jersey, who has helped thousands of veterans or their widows navigate the VA bureaucracy to secure benefits they’re owed.

Mr. Tafe said he sympathizes with the regional VA workers, who work hard but simply don’t have the resources to keep up with increased demand. He added that he seldom, if ever, sees a case, even a simple one, resolved within the 125-day target that the VA set.

“I’m happy if we can get it done in a year. And that’s a simple case. Complicated cases, it can be 18 months or 24 months, easily,” Mr. Tafe said in an interview with the Washington Guardian.

And as Veterans Affairs has tried to speed up work to keep the backlog from growing out of hand, its error rate has soared. The VA inspector general told Congress this summer that it found an error rate on high-risk disability claims of 30 percent — more than double the agency’s goals — meaning, veterans can be approved or denied benefits incorrectly.

An analysis of appeals cases by the Board of Veterans Appeals suggested that error rate could even be higher, at least in contested cases. It grants appeals or remands cases back to the VA about three-quarters of the time, mostly because of mistakes.

Another factor for the delays is the administration’s politically popular decision to approve many more illnesses to be covered under VA disability claims for Vietnam War veterans affected by Agent Orange. But when planning and resources didn’t keep up, the system crumbled under the weight of the new burdens.

“Too many veterans still wait too long. That’s unacceptable,” VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey acknowledged in September.

And so VA has set another goal and strategy. It has redeployed 1,200 employees to work on backlogged claims, increased oversight, significantly increased training of employees and begun a transition from a paper system to a paperless, digital processing system. The workers who underwent training have been able to reduce their error rates, VA said, citing one hopeful sign.

Ms. Hickey says the strategy should be a “lasting solution that will transform how we operate and eliminate the claims backlog.”

“VA’s goal is to process all disability claims within 125 days, at a 98 percent accuracy level, and eliminate the claims backlog in 2015,” the agency said in a statement to the Washington Guardian.

VA boasted that it managed to process more than 1 million benefits claims in 2012, and in the past few months, the number of pending claims has dropped a few percentage points in total even as the more complicated cases aging over 125 days has shot up.

If the VA’s new strategy meets its goal, Mr. Obama’s pledge could be fulfilled by the final year of his second term. But those on the front lines see many more obstacles, including a bureaucratic mindset that complicates even the simplest cases.

“There’s a bureaucracy that goes on inside the VA that just clogs the system,” said Mr. Tafe, who recalled a case with which he tried to help this summer, involving the widow of a veteran who died of a certified service-related illness.

He said the VA held up the elderly woman’s payments for seven months until she could prove she had not remarried in the weeks after her husband of 53 years passed away.

“It’s insulting that that’s the type of bureaucracy we’re dealing in,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking for me to tell widows we can’t give you any money because you’re stuck in a bureaucracy like this.”

Mr. Tafe said the VA has added some processing employees, but not enough to meet the crush of claims, and the new workers “can’t learn a complicated system in just a year.”

As it has for years, the VA claims it doesn’t have enough money to meet its growing demands.

But the Washington Guardian over the past three months has highlighted numerous instances in which VA employees wasted money, including $6 million on two training conferences in the vacation hot spot of Orlando, Fla., where workers enjoyed limo and helicopter rides and upgraded hotel rooms. In another case, more than $5 million was spent on security software that ultimately was never installed and collected dust on shelves.

Meanwhile, a recent investigation found that veterans at one clinic in Memphis, Tenn., waited an average of nine hours to see a doctor when they sought emergency care.

Even if processing speeds improve, the VA has the additional challenge of stopping errors. And veterans going through the process feel stuck in limbo; in some cases, already well past the one-year-mark on pending cases.

One veteran, who spoke to the Washington Guardian only on the condition of anonymity because he still works for the government, described the 28-month odyssey he has endured.

“I submitted my VA claim July 2010, and it still has not been completed. The VA estimates the claim to complete between January and June 2013,” he said.

The veterans caught in the worst predicament are those whose service falls between the Vietnam veterans — whose new Agent Orange claims are targeted for priority completion within two years — and the very newest veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, whose claims for disability often can exceed a dozen conditions that need to be validated and go to the head of the line because of the pressing needs.

“I can understand the need to complete claims of veterans who served in Vietnam 40+ years ago. I also can understand that troops on active duty in the board process have ‘head of the line’ privileges, so to speak,” the one veteran stuck for 28 months said. “But, the cost is that all other veterans are put on the back burner with a huge unknown as to when their rating will be completed.”

Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans

(Pro Publica) A strange thing happened when Christopher DeLara filed for disability benefits after his tour in Iraq: The U.S. Army said it had no records showing he had ever been overseas.

DeLara had searing memories of his combat experiences. A friend bled to death before his eyes. He saw an insurgent shoot his commander in the head. And, most hauntingly, he recalled firing at an Iraqi boy who had attacked his convoy.

The Army said it could find no field records documenting any of these incidents.

DeLara appealed, fighting for five years before a judge accepted the testimony of an officer in his unit. By then he had divorced, was briefly homeless and had sought solace in drugs and alcohol.

DeLara’s case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.

A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Seattle Times has found that the recordkeeping breakdown was especially acute in the early years of the Iraq war, when insurgents deployed improvised bombs with devastating effects on U.S. soldiers. The military has also lost or destroyed records from Afghanistan, according to officials and previously undisclosed documents.

The loss of field records — after-action write-ups, intelligence reports and other day-to-day accounts from the war zones — has far-reaching implications. It has complicated efforts by soldiers like DeLara to claim benefits. And it makes it harder for military strategists to learn the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the nation’s most protracted wars.

Military officers and historians say field records provide the granular details that, when woven together, tell larger stories hidden from participants in the day-to-day confusion of combat.

The Army says it has taken steps to improve handling of records — including better training and more emphasis from top commanders. But officials familiar with the problem said the missing material may never be retrieved.

“I can’t even start to describe the dimensions of the problem,” said Conrad C. Crane, director of the U.S. Army’s Military History Institute [4]. “I fear we’re never really going to know clearly what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan because we don’t have the records.”

The Army, with its dominant presence in both theaters, has the biggest deficiencies. But the U.S. Central Command in Iraq (Centcom), which had overall authority, also lost records, according to reports and other documents obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act.

In Baghdad, Centcom and the Army disagreed about which was responsible for keeping records. There was confusion about whether classified field records could be transported back to the units’ headquarters in the United States. As a result, some units were instructed to erase computer hard drives when they rotated home, destroying the records that had been stored on them.

Through 2008, dozens of Army units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan either had no field records or lacked sufficient reports for a unit history, according to Army summaries obtained by ProPublica [5]. DeLara’s outfit, the 1st Cavalry Division, was among the units lacking adequate records during his 2004 to 2005 deployment.

Recordkeeping was so poor in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2007 that “very few Operation ENDURING FREEDOM records were saved anywhere, either for historians’ use, or for the services’ documentary needs for unit heritage, or for the increasing challenge with documenting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” according to an Army report from 2009 [6].

Entire brigades deployed from 2003 to 2008 could not produce any field records, documents from the U.S. Army Center of Military History show.

The Pentagon was put on notice [7] as early as 2005 that Army units weren’t turning in records for storage to a central computer system created after a similar recordkeeping debacle in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

In that war, a lack of field records forced the Army to spend years and millions of dollars to reconstruct the locations of troops who may have been exposed to toxic plumes that were among the suspected causes of Gulf War Syndrome.

At the outset of the Iraq war, military commanders tried to avoid repeating that mistake, ordering units to preserve all historical records.

But the Army botched the job. Despite new guidelines issued in 2008 [8] to safeguard records, some units still purged them. The next summer, the Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade Combat Team in Iraq was ordered to erase hard drives before leaving them for replacement troops to use, said a Guard spokesman, Capt. Keith Kosik.

Historians had complained about lax recordkeeping for years with little result.

“We were just on our knees begging for the Army to do something about it,” said Dr. Reina Pennington, a Professor at Norwich University in Vermont who chaired the Army’s Historical Advisory Committee. “It’s the kind of thing that everyone nods about and agrees it’s a problem but doesn’t do anything about.”

Critical reports from Pennington’s committee went up to three different secretaries of the Army, including John McHugh, the current secretary. McHugh’s office did not respond to interview requests. His predecessor, Peter Geren, said he was never told about the extent of the problem.

“I’m disappointed I didn’t know about it,” Geren said.

In an initial response to questions from ProPublica and the Times, the Army did not acknowledge that any field reports had been lost or destroyed. In a subsequent email, Maj. Christopher Kasker, an Army spokesman, said, “The matter of records management is of great concern to the Army; it is an issue we have acknowledged and are working to correct and improve.”

Missing field records aren’t necessarily an obstacle for benefit claims. The Department of Veterans Affairs also looks for medical and personnel records, which can be enough. The VA has also relaxed rules for proving post-traumatic stress to reduce the need for the detailed documentation of field reports.

But even the VA concedes that unit records are helpful. And assembling a disability case from witness statements can take much more time, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the retired Army vice chief of staff who worked to combat suicides and improve treatment of soldiers with PTSD and brain injuries.

“You would always love to have that operational record available to document an explosion, but there are other ways,” Chiarelli said. “You can provide witness statements from others who were in that explosion. But it’s going to be more difficult.”

After reviewing findings of the ProPublica-Times investigation, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to report on efforts to find and collect field records.

“Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are unable to document the location and functions of their military units could face the same type of problems experienced by Cold War veterans exposed to radiation, Vietnam era veterans exposed to herbicides and Gulf War veterans exposed to various environmental hazards,” Murray said in a statement.

Former Secretary of the Army Peter Geren told ProPublica that he was never told about the extent of the problem of missing war records. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)Former Secretary of the Army Peter Geren told ProPublica that he was never told about the extent of the problem of missing war records. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Already, thousands of veterans have reported respiratory problems and other health effects after exposure to toxic fumes from huge burn pits that were commonly used to dispose of garbage in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DeLara remains embittered about the five years he spent waiting for his disability claim. In an interview at his home in Tennessee, he pointed to Army discharge papers showing he’d received the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, awarded for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Next to that were blank spaces where his deployment dates should have been.

“If they’d had the records in the first place, and all the after-action reports,” DeLara said, “this never would have stretched on as long as it did.”

A Desperate Search for Records

The Army is required to produce records of its actions in war. Today, most units keep them on computers, and a 4,000-soldier brigade can churn out impressive volumes — roughly 500 gigabytes in a yearlong tour, or the digital equivalent of 445 books, each 200 pages long.

Field records include reports about fighting, casualties, intelligence activities, prisoners, battle damage and more, complete with pictures and maps. They do not include personnel or medical records, which are kept separately, or “sigact” reports — short daily dispatches on significant activities, some of which were provided to news organizations by WikiLeaks in 2010.

By mid-2007, amid alarms from historians that combat units weren’t turning in records after their deployments, the Army launched an effort to collect and inventory what it could find.

Army historians were dispatched on a base-by-base search worldwide. A summary of their findings shows that at least 15 brigades serving in the Iraq war at various times from 2003 to 2008 had no records on hand. The same was true for at least five brigades deployed to Afghanistan.

Records were so scarce for another 62 units that served in Iraq and 10 in Afghanistan that they were written up as “some records, but not enough to write an adequate Army history.” This group included most of the units deployed during the first four years of the Afghanistan war.

The outreach effort by the Army was highly unusual. “We were sending people to where they were being demobilized,” said Robert J. Dalessandro, executive director at the Army’s Center of Military History. “We even said … ‘Look we’ll come to you’ — that’s how desperate we got.”

As word of missing records circulated, the Joint Chiefs of Staff became worried enough to order a top-level delegation of records managers from each service branch to Baghdad in April 2010 for an inspection that included recordkeeping by U.S. Central Command.

Centcom coordinated action among service branches in the theater. Among other things, Centcom’s records included Pentagon orders, joint-service actions, fratricide investigations and intelligence reviews, with some records from Army units occasionally captured in the mix.

After five days, the team concluded [9] that the “volume, location, size and format of USF-1 records was unknown,” referring to the acronym for combined Iraq forces. The team’s report to the chiefs cited “large gaps in records collections … the failure to capture significant operational and historical” materials and a “poorly managed” effort to preserve records that were on hand.

In a separate, more detailed memo [10], two of the team’s members from the National Archives and Records Administration went further.

“With the exception of the Army Corps of Engineers, none of the offices visited have responsibly managed their records,” they wrote. “Staff reported knowledge of only the recently created and filed records and knew little of the records created prior to their deployments, including email. … It is unclear the extent to which records exist prior to 2006.”

Part of the problem was disagreement and lack of coordination about who was responsible for certain records, including investigations into casualties and accidents, according to Michael Carlson, one of the two archivists.

“The Army would say it’s Centcom’s responsibility to capture after-action reports because it’s a Centcom-led operation. Centcom would say it’s an Army responsibility because they created their own records,” Carlson said in an interview. “So there’s finger-pointing … and thus records are lost.”

Nearly a year after the U.S. pullout from Iraq, Centcom said it still is trying to index 47 terabytes of records for storage, or some 54 million pages of documents. It’s not clear if those include anything recovered after a 2008 computer crash the Baghdad team termed “catastrophic.”

Lt. Col. Donald Walker, an Air Force officer who took over as Centcom records manager in 2009, acknowledged that there was confusion about responsibility and confirmed that that some Centcom records may have been lost. In part, he blamed computer problems and the competing demands of wartime.

“Something just had to fall off the plate, there was so much going on,” said Walker, who worked out of Centcom’s Tampa, Fla., headquarters but was among the Baghdad inspectors.

Rather than risk letting classified information fall into the wrong hands, some commanders appeared to buck the orders to preserve records. One Army presentation asserts that in 2005, V Corps, which oversaw all Army units then in Iraq, ordered units to wipe hard drives clean or physically destroy them before redeploying to the States.

“They did not maintain the electronic files. They just purged the servers,” according to the Military History Institute’s Crane, who said he heard similar accounts from more than a dozen veteran officers in classes at the Army War College.

The orders directing Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade to erase hard drives before leaving Iraq came “from on high,” according to unit spokesman Kosik, who said he confirmed the erasures with a senior Guard officer with first-hand knowledge. He said the orders came from outside the Washington Guard.

“There was a lot of confidential information, and they were not allowed to take it out of theater,” said Kosik. “All that was wiped clean before they came home. … It was part of their ‘to-do’ list before leaving country.”

Steven A. Raho III, the Army’s top records manager, said in an interview that he couldn’t estimate what, if any, records might be missing. But Raho said his agency wasn’t responsible for collecting records, only for storing them in the Army’s central records system when individual units handed them over.

Units are not required to do so, he emphasized. “All’s I know is we have some and units have some,” Raho said.

As a test, ProPublica filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for a month’s worth of field records from four units deployed in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The requests went to Raho’s Records Management and Declassification Agency, which forwarded them to each unit.

One brigade — the 2nd Combat Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division — did not respond, but FOIA officers from the three others said they searched and could find no responsive records.

“I don’t know where any Iraq operational records are,” said Daniel C. Smith, a privacy act officer at Fort Carson, Colo., who handled the request for the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division. “I’ve never been able to find out where they went.”

At Fort Riley, Kan., FOIA officer Tuanna Jeffery looked for records from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division. “Prior to and upon the inactivation of the unit on March 15, 2008, that unit had turned in absolutely no records,” she responded.

In a follow-up email, Jeffery said the entire 1st Armored Division did not turn in any field records through 2008.

‘They Couldn’t Find It’

Army veteran Christopher DeLara spent five years waiting for his disability claim to be approved. The VA said it couldn’t find Army records to corroborate his combat experiences. (Shawn Poynter for ProPublica)Army veteran Christopher DeLara spent five years waiting for his disability claim to be approved. The VA said it couldn’t find Army records to corroborate his combat experiences. (Shawn Poynter for ProPublica)

Chris DeLara is not the type of soldier to wear his heart on his sleeve, but the 1st Cavalry Division’s shoulder patch is tattooed on his right forearm in a swirling piece of body art. Beneath it are the words: “Baghdad, Iraq.”

DeLara, 38, grew up in Albany, N.Y., never dreaming he might someday fight a war. Now, his tour in 2004 and 2005 haunts his every day. Since winning his appeal in March 2011, he is classified as fully disabled by post-traumatic stress and cannot work. He was awarded a stipend of about $30,000 a year and has moved near Knoxville, Tenn., where he recently bought a modest house.

Getting to a stable point wasn’t easy.

DeLara was an administrative specialist, essentially a personnel clerk. But he was repeatedly pulled out of his scrivener’s life for missions as a roof gunner on convoys. It was a time of insurgency and exploding factional violence in Baghdad.

“They told us, ‘This may be your job, but guess what? You’re going to be doing everything,'” he said. “We had many hats. You go to combat, your job is secondary. Combat is first.”

DeLara did not want to discuss his combat experiences, but they are described in part by a judge in the Board of Veterans’ Appeals ruling that approved his PTSD claim.

In the years after his deployment, DeLara told psychiatrists and others who treated him at various times that two of his friends were killed in an insurgent attack on his convoy, and that he was unable to stop one of them from bleeding to death from a ruptured artery.

He said that one his commanders was shot in the head in front of him by insurgents, and reported that he had killed an Iraqi youth who had tried to attack his convoy after it was stopped because of a roadside bomb, according to the judge’s summary.

After his return in 2005, DeLara was diagnosed several times with PTSD or its symptoms, according to VA exam records cited by the appeals judge. He drank and used drugs even though he’d abstained from them in the Army. In 2006, he overdosed on prescription drugs.

DeLara said he lived for a time in a shelter for troubled vets. He and his wife eventually divorced, but he credits her for helping him fight for his claim when he might have given up.

They first applied for a PTSD benefit in 2006, DeLara said. A denial came the next year because his separation document, called a DD-214, did not list any dates of overseas deployment, he said.

“They couldn’t find it. Well my ex-wife, she being as persistent as she is, we started pulling all the stuff” to send to the VA, he said. DeLara dug out the movement order sending his unit to Iraq and the brigade roster with his name on it. He added descriptions of his combat experiences. “Basically what it was, I needed to provide proof,” he said.

But he was denied again, this time because the VA said his symptoms were of bipolar disorder, not PTSD. DeLara said he appealed but got a letter saying there was insufficient evidence that he’d experienced combat stress. The VA told him that it had “no records, none whatsoever” of his time in combat, DeLara said.

“We basically put the whole packet together from scratch again,” DeLara said. This time, he tracked down his former company commander, who was incensed about the VA denials and provided a letter confirming an incident in which DeLara came under enemy fire. Still, two years went by before DeLara received word that his appeal was set for a hearing in January 2011.

Although the judge found in his favor, the ruling notes that, in June 2008, the center responsible for locating his records “made a formal finding of a lack of information to corroborate a stressor for service connection for PTSD.” The center even looked a second time but still came up empty-handed.

DeLara said he still can’t believe it. “I had dates and everything” in the supporting material he and his ex-wife sent to the VA, he said. “The simple fact is that nobody filled out after-action reports,” DeLara said. “There was no record of it.”

Asked how often a search for unit records comes up empty, officials at the VA said they didn’t know — the agency doesn’t track that statistic. A VA spokesperson said missing field records are not a major factor delaying veterans’ claims, however. And some veterans’ advocates agree.

“As long as an officer or a buddy who witnessed the event is willing to sign a notarized statement, that’s good,” said John Waterbrook, who advises vets on disability issues in Walla Walla, Wash.

In 2009, as DeLara was refiling his case, veterans’ groups complained to Congress that soldiers serving as clerks or mechanics unfairly faced a higher burden of proof for PTSD than those with an obvious combat role, even though they faced the same dangers in wars with no front lines.

The VA relaxed its rules the next year, so that a vet’s account of combat stress is proof enough if a VA medical examiner agrees. But while the change helps, it hasn’t sped up claims or made field records less valuable, said Richard Dumancas, the American Legion’s deputy director of claims.

Field records can come into play for other injuries. Take the case of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lorenzo Campbell, a 53-year-old soldier with the Washington Guard who filed a disability claim resulting from a 2004 injury in Iraq.

During a rocket attack, Campbell banged his knee on a concrete bumper after jumping out of a Humvee to find cover. He saw a doctor, but there was no record in his medical files. His knee gradually deteriorated, and he now wears a brace and is unable to run.

Campbell said he tried to get records of the rocket attack from the state Guard but was told they were classified and left on computers in Iraq. He said he offered a letter from another soldier testifying to the incident and swore out a statement himself, but it didn’t suffice.

“I tried to keep fighting it,” he said. “They kept writing me saying they need more information, they need more information.”

Campbell said his disability claim took four years to be approved — a delay that could have been shortened had the records been available. “If you have no records,” he said, “you can be fighting for five or six years and still not prevail.”

Tradition Eroded, Warnings Brushed Aside

Military recordkeeping has been the cornerstone of the nation’s war history for centuries. From the founding of the republic through the Vietnam War, recordkeeping was a disciplined part of military life, one that ensured that detailed accounts of the fighting were available to historians and veterans alike.

The records can hold untold stories that can surface decades after a conflict.

The massacre of civilians by U.S. forces at No Gun Ri, South Korea, in July 1950 came to full national attention only in 1999, nearly 50 years after the fact. Journalists at The Associated Press, working in part with military field records, uncovered the extent of the tragedy. Later, other reporters used the records to show that one purported witness wasn’t really present.

By the Gulf War, however, what had been a long tradition of keeping accurate, comprehensive field records had begun to erode [11]. Old-style paper recordkeeping was giving way to computers. And Army clerks had been reduced in number, leaving officers to take care of records work.

According to the Army’s “Commander’s Guide to Operational Records and Data Collection,” published in 2009, the problem became evident [12] months after the end of Desert Storm, when vets began reporting fatigue, skin disease, weight loss and other unexplained health conditions.

“When the Army began investigating this rash of symptoms, its first thought was to try and establish a pattern of those affected: What units were they in? Where were they located? What operations were they engaged in?” the guide says. “The answers provided by investigators were: ‘We don’t know. We didn’t keep our records.'”

When Secretary of the Army John McHugh arrived in 2009, he received a report saying that the recordkeeping system was broken and pleading for resources to fix it. In an email, the Army said that it is 'working to correct and improve' records management. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)When Secretary of the Army John McHugh arrived in 2009, he received a report saying that the recordkeeping system was broken and pleading for resources to fix it. In an email, the Army said that it is ‘working to correct and improve’ records management. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Afterward, the Army created Raho’s records agency and a central records system. As the war on terror began, however, inspections and penalties for recordkeeping at the command level had largely fallen by the wayside, according to Army documents [13] and interviews with officers who helped search for Gulf War records.

Robert Wright, a retired Army historian, said training broke down. “They fight as they train, and they never were trained,” he said.

On March 28, 2003, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz ordered retention of all records [14] in the Iraq war. Military records, he wrote, “are of enduring significance for U.S. and world history and have been indispensable for rendering complete, accurate and objective accountings of the government’s activities to the American people.”

But in the combat zones, there were other priorities.

Kelly Howard served as operations officer to Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who was in charge of the Iraq war from 2004 to 2007. Her primary job was archiving Casey’s papers, a task that had been ignored until her arrival in 2006. Casey stored them in a foot locker, among other places.

“The reason so many things got lost … is because so many people at higher levels weren’t requiring it,” Howard said, referring to systematic recordkeeping. “You do what your boss wants you to do. It’s not that anyone said, ‘No, I don’t care about that.’ It’s just so many other things were important.”

Alarms mounted at about the same time as DeLara finished his Baghdad tour.

In 2005, the Army’s Historical Advisory Committee learned that Raho’s agency had not “received any records from units deployed in Afghanistan & Iraq.”

This came as a shock. Members of the group include a mix of civilian historians and officials from the Army War College and Center of Military History.

“So we go through the whole meeting,” said Richard Davis, senior historian at the National Museum of the U.S. Army. “So I ask the records manager point blank. I said, ‘How many records have been retired from overseas by U.S. Army units?’ And the answer was zero.

“By late October the records management people here in Washington had received not a single document from Afghanistan or Iraq,” Davis said. “At that point all the historians looked at each other and said ‘Holy shit! ‘”

Minutes from the committee’s 2006 meeting quote Raho [15] as saying, “Our problems are that the training for Army personnel is incomplete, the responses are uneven, and the records themselves are either incomplete or nonexistent.”

Another member suggested writing a book. “As an institutional history, I think it’s a great idea,” responded historian Pennington, then the committee’s chairwoman. “‘Losing History’: It’s a topic that merits visibility and study.”

The committee included regular warnings about a broken recordkeeping system in its annual reports to the secretary of the Army.

The 2006 report to Secretary Francis J. Harvey said Raho had described “major problems [13]” in records collection, including “the lack of centralized control of data collection, the destruction of records without evaluation, and inadequate communications between Army units and records collection personnel.”

Raho, the report said, “observed that 17 to 23 percent of all Iraq/Afghanistan War veterans will suffer from various forms of PTSD. … Without strong and immediate action to remedy present shortcomings, the Army’s ability to substantiate veteran disability claims will be degraded seriously, with potentially highly troublesome and expensive consequences.”

In its 2008 report, the committee said: “Units are losing their own history. This will create a snowball effect, resulting in problems with awards and heritage activities in the future.”

Pennington signed the report, adding a personal comment: “After six years of service on DAHAC, and now as its chair, I am frankly discouraged by the frequency with which DAHAC has expressed some of the same concerns, and how little progress has been made on some issues.”

Then-Secretary Geren’s office responded with a thank-you letter under his signature. But Geren said in an interview that he was not personally informed about missing records, despite his March 31, 2009, letter. “I’m confident it was not brought to my attention.”

When McHugh, the current secretary, arrived in 2009, he received a committee report reiterating that the system was broken and pleading for resources to fix it. “This has been requested every year since 1997,” the report said.

“It’s probably the most serious problem historians have ever had,” Pennington said in an interview. “I honestly don’t know how we’re going to be writing records-based history in 20 to 30 years.” Typically, field records remain classified for two to three decades after a war, then are transferred to the National Archives.

Although committee members felt unheard, wheels had slowly begun moving in the Army. In 2007, Raho’s agency and the Center of Military History launched the outreach project [16] that discovered the historians were right: Scores of units did not have the records they should.

Because Raho did not have enough staff, the Center of Military History provided detachments for the search. For more than two years they collected field reports, turning up about 5.5 terabytes’ worth.

Some additional records have dribbled in since: Dalessandro, the center’s director, said one brigade of the 1st Armored Division handed over field records from its 2007 Iraq deployment. It’s possible that more might be found from other units, but historians say the chances fade with each year.

Burn Pits: The New Agent Orange?

The demand for the field records isn’t likely to abate as members of Congress ratchet up pressure to investigate exposure to burn pits.

Veterans’ groups say [17] the long-term health impacts could be similar to those of herbicides in Vietnam. Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine, ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, said missing field records “could have consequences for veterans for years to come.”

In September, the House passed the Open Burn Pit Registry Act to track veterans with symptoms and find out where they were exposed and for how long. A similar measure is pending in the Senate. The VA currently runs registries for Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome [18], and last year the Institute of Medicine said more research is needed [19].

Some veterans’ advocates say field records could provide critical.

“It’s going to be very hard to connect individuals without the field records,” said Dan Sullivan, director of the Sgt. Thomas Sullivan Center, a nonprofit named after his brother, an Iraq vet who died from mysterious health complications.

“It would strike me that they are very important.”

Newborn baby among six killed in Afghan blast: police

(Yahoo) A mother and her newborn baby were among six family members killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan overnight, police and witnesses said Sunday.

The victims were heading home from the hospital after the mother had given birth when the bomb planted by Taliban insurgents tore through their vehicle in Khost province on the Pakistan border, police said.

“Six people — three women, two adult men and a newborn baby — were killed,” deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Yaqoub told AFP.

Relatives said the family was returning home after the mother delivered her baby in hospital in the town of Sabari.

Five other civilians were killed in two separate roadside bomb blasts in the southern province of Kandahar Sunday, President Hamid Karzai’s office said in a statement offering condolences to the families of all those killed.

Roadside bombs are the weapon of choice for the Islamist militants who are fighting to bring down the Western-backed government in Kabul.

The improvised explosive devices often miss their military targets and hit civilians who use the same roads.

The United Nations says 1,145 civilians were killed in the war in the first six months of this year, blaming 80 percent of the deaths on insurgents. More than half the deaths were caused by roadside bombs.

Afghan soldiers attack NATO troops

(news.com.au) An ISAF spokesman in Kabul said that the attack by two Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers occurred in Muqur district of Badghis province in the early hours of Saturday, which resulted in the injury of one NATO soldier and one attacker but no fatalities.

“Two ANA service members turned their weapons against ISAF forces in Badghis province. There was no fatalities, but one ISAf soldier was injured and one attacker was also wounded when ISAF troops returned fire. Both attackers were detained by ISAF and Afghan forces,” the spokesman said without giving more details.

A provincial spokesman confirmed the incident but said that only one attacker, an ANA soldier who “was suffering from mental problems”, was involved.

“The soldier who opened fire was suffering from mental problems, he was wounded when ISAF forces returned fire and later detained by Afghan and ISAF forces,” said provincial governor spokesman Sharafudin Majidi.

Shootings by Afghan forces have taken an increasing toll on NATO troops and have seriously undermined trust between NATO forces and their Afghan allies in the fight against hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents.

In the most recent previous attack a man in Afghan police uniform opened fire on NATO-led coalition forces in southern Helmand province on October 30, killing two British soldiers.

The Afghan conflict has seen a surge in insider attacks this year, with more than 50 ISAF troops killed by their colleagues in the Afghan army and police.

There are presently around 100,000 US-led forces fighting alongside Afghan security forces against a Taliban-led insurgency that has been raging in the war-torn country since a US-led invasion toppled the hardline Islamist regime in late 2001. NATO combat forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Petraeus Resigns From CIA After Feds Uncover ‘Extramarital Affair’

(Wired) Petraeus told CIA employees Friday in a letter that he was stepping down “for personal reasons… After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”

Former aides to Petraeus, the retired four-star general who led the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, said they “never in a million years” would’ve believed that Petraeus would risk his storied career in such a fashion. But he did. CIA representatives confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Danger Room. “He feels that he screwed up.  He did a dishonorable thing and needed to try to do the honorable thing,” e-mails one former confidant.

According to Slate and the Associated Press, Petraeus’ partner in the affair was his biographer and confidant Paula Broadwell, who travelled with Petraeus extensively while he was the top commander in Afghanistan. The former aide, however, insists that the affair began after Petraeus retired from the military — and while he was director of the CIA.

Whenever the affair began, America’s most famous general in a generation and its leading spy is now leaving Washington in disgrace.

Petraeus’ CIA tenure first appeared to be in jeopardy last week, when the Wall Street Journal published an article alleging that Petraeus has been, in effect, asleep at the switch during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

But Petraeus’ former aide insists that wasn’t the reason for his departure. “This had nothing to do with Benghazi or relationship with the White House — which by the way was excellent — or anything else for that matter,” the aide tells Danger Room. “Just his flawed behavior.”

 

It is difficult to overstate the impact Petraeus had on the U.S. Army. Obviously, there’s his stewardship of the surge in Iraq, which sold the military on counterinsurgency, which it would apply too much less success in Afghanistan. But Petraeus’ influence took subtler, and possibly longer-lasting, forms.

Before he took command of the Iraq war in 2007, Petraeus ran the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, a haven for Army big think. There, Petraeus tutored a lot of majors and lieutenant colonels back from Iraq and Afghanistan as they came to grips with how they could have applied their military training so assiduously but without notable effect on the wars. With counterinsurgency, Petraeus gave them, and the many others he mentored, a template for viewing both their experiences and military operations going forward. The Army’s next generation of generals will carry that as a formative experience.

Doug Ollivant, a retired Army officer who worked closely with Petraeus as the National Security Council’s director for Iraq policy under both the Bush and Obama administrations, says Petraeus’ legacy within the Army was “fixed” when Petraeus shed his uniform to helm the CIA.

“I’m kind of appalled to live in a country where you have to resign over an affair that has little to no effect on your job, although I recognize the blackmail implications,” Ollivant tells Danger Room, cautioning that if Petraeus was “sleeping with someone the director of the Agency shouldn’t be, then that’s something different.”

Just this week, Broadwell solicited from Petraeus five “Rules for Living” for Newsweek. His first lesson: “Lead by example.” His fifth: “We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.”

Anonymous law enforcement officials tell NBC News that Broadwell is “under FBI investigation for improperly trying to access his email and possibly gaining access to classified information.” Other officials are telling the Associated Press that a FBI investigation led to the discovery of Petraeus’ affair.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the President accepted Petraeus’ resignation, and offered his “thoughts and prayers [to] Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, added in a separate statement, ”I wish President Obama had not accepted this resignation, but I understand and respect the decision.”

Petraeus met his future wife, Hollister “Holly” Knowlton, in 1973. She was the “beautiful, smart and witty” daughter of West Point’s superintendent, visiting for a weekend football game. He was a young cadet, drafted into a blind date with her, according to All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, Broadwell’s deeply detailed biography.

Soon, the two would find themselves commuting to each other’s colleges whenever time allowed, sometimes braving fierce New York snowstorms to spend time together. Petraeus would sneak in the side door of the superintendent’s home aside the Plain, the academy’s parade field, to visit Holly when she made the trip back to West Point…

David’s roots stood in sharp contrast to his bride’s patrician-military upbringing. To Petraeus, the stature of Holly’s family was intoxicating. He loved becoming a part of it. Holly’s well-connected and accomplished grandparents has a large compound in West Springfield, New Hampshire, with a boathouse on a nearby lake that they would visit often. Holly’s father, Lieutenant General Knowlton, came from a prominent and well-to-do Massachusetts family and had graduated seventh in his class at West Point…

He would become Petraeus’s “military father,” according to General Knowlton’s wife, Peggy. Petraeus would be their “fourth son.”

When Petraeus took over command of the Afghan war effort in 2010, he made an appearance before Congress. In his opening statement, he said: “My wife, Holly, is here with me today. She is a symbol of the strength and dedication of families around the globe who wait at home for their loved ones while they’re engaged in critical work in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. She has hung tough while I have been deployed for over 5 1/2 years since 9/11.”

On the heels of the Petraeus resignation came another unexpected announcement with suddenly familiar overtones: defense giant Lockheed Martin fired its interim CEO, Chris Kubasik, for a “close personal relationship” with a subordinate.

Appeals Court: Tortured whistleblowers can’t sue

(Antiwar) The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a lawsuit by two US whistleblowers, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, who were tortured by the US military after coming forward with evidence of wrongdoing by the contracting company they were working for.

The court ruled that US military commanders “enjoy broad immunity” in cases of torture abroad and that the military chain of command “couldn’t be responsible” just because detainee abuse crossed a legal boundary. The ruling added that torturing detainees is “a part of human nature that is very difficult to control.” They added that being liable for the torture would “distract” the military’s leadership.

US Court of Appeals Judge James Gwim had previous rejected Obama Administration arguments to this effect, saying that torture lawsuits could continue against officials and that US citizens were always entitled to due process related to their detention. The administration condemned Gwim for “second-guessing” the military.

Vance and Ertel approached the government about an illegal program dubbed “beer for bullets,” in which the company they were working for smuggled liquor into Iraq to trade to US soldiers for their weapons and ammo, and then sold those weapons on the open market. When the company learned they were whistleblowers, they had their papers confiscated and the military captured them when they attempted to return to the US.

Dissenting Judge David Hamilton blasted the ruling, saying that there were clear avenues for handling torture cases inside the US, and there was no good reason to “erect hurdles” just because the US citizens were tortured by the US outside of the country.

“That disparity attributes to our government and to our legal system a degree of hypocrisy that is breathtaking,” Hamilton added. Vance and Ertel’s lawyer says the two have not decided whether or not to appeal to the next level, but said he believes the ruling’s grant of blanket immunity will eventually wind up in the Supreme Court.