14 April 2016

Indo-US Joint Statement on the visit of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to India

By IDR News Network
12 Apr , 2016

Following is the text of the Indo-US Joint Statement on the visit of Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter to India from April 10-13, 2016: 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter is on an official visit to India at the invitation of Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar from April 10-13, 2016. Raksha Mantri hosted Secretary Carter in Goa. They visited the Indian Naval Base in Karwar and the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. They also visited the USS Blue Ridge which was conducting a port call in Goa during the Secretary’s visit. Secretary Carter then traveled to New Delhi for official talks with Raksha Mantri. He will also meet the National Security Advisor and the Prime Minister.

The United States and India share a deep and abiding interest in global peace, prosperity, and stability. Bilateral Defence cooperation is a key component of the strategic partnership between India and the United States.Secretary Carter’s visit marked the fourth meeting between him and Raksha Mantri Parrikar within a year, demonstrating the regular Ministerial-level oversight of the robust and deepening bilateral Defence relationship.

India’s Air Power Crisis – Analysis

USAF F-15C Eagles from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska and Indian air force MIG-27 Floggers fly together over the Indian landscape.IAF courtesy photo, Wikipedia Commons.

Troubles, They come in Battalions is the latest report by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace on the Indian Air Force (IAF). The substance of the report is divided into five sections, dealing with the supposedly aggravating threat environment, a worsening internal situation of the air force with falling numbers, and finally looks at the three categories of fighters the IAF wants to induct – heavy, medium and light.

Assessing the threat environment Dr Tellis points out that the Indian Air Force has traditionally always had an edge over the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in the high-end spectrum. This however is changing with the PLAAF’s high-end component alone, set to exceed the total strength of the IAF. This imbalance is exacerbated by the presence of a large fleet of UAVs for persistent surveillance and cruise missiles for saturation attacks on Indian targets capable of overwhelming Indian air defences. He also points to the strength of China’s aircraft design and production and the Indian leaderships lack of attention to air warfare. He does however point out some weaknesses in PLAAF infrastructure as well as the need to keep large reserve forces given the several adversaries China faces across its periphery – meaning the full force of the PLAAF probably cannot be brought to bear against one adversary. He then goes on to survey the Pakistan air force and assess what India will be up against in a 1.5 and 2-front war, settling on a 60-squadron air force to comprehensively combat both adversaries or a 42-45 squadron air force in an environment with more limited aims.

The second part of the report goes into the usual rants about the acute numbers shortage the Air Force is facing, putting this down rather crudely to the mismatch of defence needs and the defence budget. The usual arguments are regurgitated – how current force numbers are much lower than it appears on paper, money is not being sanctioned for new projects and how unforeseen expenditures like One Rank, One Pension (OROP) have taken a further toll. It does however acknowledge how much of the problems stems from India’s own internal problems and the inability of the higher defence management system to plan systematically into the future. This leads into the IAF’s own logistic problems of an excessively diversified Air Force of far too many fighter and support aircraft varieties.

Defence Procurement Procedure 2016: An Analytical Overview

By Laxman K Behera
13 Apr , 2016

After a prolonged delay, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) released the revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) on March 28, 2016.1 The document, coming into effect from April 01, 2016, is applicable to all projects which would be given in-principle approval (or the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN)) thereafter.2 It is, however, to be noted that the released document is not a complete one, as a key chapter on strategic partnership and all the relevant annexures, appendices and schedules are still a work in progress and are expected to be released later as part of the comprehensive DPP-2016. Nonetheless, the revised document, the first under the Modi government, has set the tone for a new procurement regime with a clear intention to boost the ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector, and to speed up the procurement process.

While articulating the new features, DPP-2016 draws heavily from the report of the Committee of Experts set up by the Modi government under the chairmanship of Dhirendra Singh, to suggest a policy framework for facilitating ‘Make in India’ in defence and further streamlining the procurement process. Among others, DPP-2016, running into 100 pages, envisages an array of features that include: a preamble to the document which articulates the peculiar nature of defence acquisition and the imperatives of self-reliance in defence production; a brand new procurement category, favouring purchase of locally designed, developed and manufactured products; higher yet flexible indigenisation content requirement in the existing ‘Buy (Indian)’ and ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ procurement categories; a comprehensively revamped ‘Make’ procedure; an institutionalised set of steps for processing the request for information (RFI); and certain measures to deal with procurement in single-vendor situations. This Special Feature analyses some of the key provisions of the new procurement document.

Key Provisions

Siachen Day: Operation Meghdoot - A chronicle of unparalleled courage

By Col Jaibans Singh
13 Apr , 2016

In April 1984, the gallant soldiers of the Indian Army, by establishing their writ over the Siachen Glacier, accomplished a feat of valour that has no parallels in the annals of the military history.

Colonel Narendra Kumar, a reputed mountaineer and Commandant, of the Indian Armys’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) came across a map in the possession of a German rafter, in 1977, which showed a dotted line joining NJ 9842 to the Karakoram pass thus depicting that the India-Pakistan boundary line ended at NJ 9842. With great energy he launched a couple of expeditions from 1977 onwards and unearthed the Pakistani plan to control the territory.

Pakistan had already taken the first few steps by opening the area to mountaineering expeditions by civilians and was inching towards gaining military control.

It was under these circumstances that Operation Meghdoot was launched on 13 April 1984 to establish control over Indian territories in the icy heights of the Siachen Glacier. The plan was based on maps, photographs and videos provided by Colonel Kumar.

In an unimaginable feat of grit and bravery the Indian army gained control over the dominating heights on the main passes of the Saltoro Ridge, Sia La and Bilafond La in a short period of time.

India-Pakistan: Who’s Chicken? Playing for Keeps

By Brig Deepak Sinha
12 Apr , 2016

One is not quite sure, given the dissonant and discordant voices emerging from Pakistan, as to whether our search for a peaceful way forward has once again been completely stymied or has just hit another speed- breaker. Time, and actions by the Pakistani establishment, will tell. The fact, however, cannot be disputed, whatever spin the opposition may like to put, that Prime Minister Modi made a genuine and path breaking attempt to get the dialogue jump started.

Let us also not forget that Mrs. Indira Gandhi despite holding 92000 prisoners of war was unable to carve out a more favourable accord at Simla to end the Kashmir imbroglio.

If dialogue has indeed been stalled, as the Pakistan High Commissioner has stated, then Pakistani motive is incomprehensible given that Mr. Modi would have been attending the SAARC summit to be held there in a few months from now. Certainly such an action would put a question mark on Mr. Modi’s willingness to be seen interacting with a political establishment that obviously has little control over issues that matter. If that were to happen, there seems little possibility of the Summit being taken seriously, becoming no more than just another talking shop.

Is Transfer of Defence Technology an undesirable route for India?

By Kevin A Desouza
13 Apr , 2016

India’s march towards the acquisition of competitive defence technology and thus gain assured capability against the military threats it confronts has essentially two routes. The first is indigenous development and the second, import.1

Despite considerable thrust in that direction, albeit with an understandably limited budget, progress towards self-reliance in defence technology has not reached the milestones that were set.

The first route was adopted in the 1950s when the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and additional Ordnance Factories (OFs) were established.2

Despite considerable thrust in that direction, albeit with an understandably limited budget,3 progress towards self-reliance in defence technology has not reached the milestones that were set.4 While overall indigenous development and production has significantly increased in technology levels and volumes over the decades, it has been offset by a faster evolution of defence technology in the world. Consequently, the defence forces continue, as in the past, to depend on imports of competitive defence technology systems. Today, India holds the embarrassing distinction of being the largest importer of defence systems in the world.5

Why India and Saudi Arabia Continue to Grow Closer

April 13, 2016

The geopolitical faultlines of the Middle East are always difficult to traverse, even for great powers, as the United States has found to its considerable cost. Today, the Obama administration is desperately trying to reduce its equities in a region that has been in perpetual turmoil, partly due to external interference and partly due to internal contradictions. This has led to an even greater regional turmoil in the process.

Enter China. In an attempt to gingerly probe its ability shape a new regional order, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia earlier this year was aimed at gaining greater political and economic salience in a region where Beijing has been reluctant to get involved so far. But as the balance of power in the region unravels, new equations are emerging and older paradigms are no longer sufficient.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the region once again recently for his visit to Saudi Arabia, eight months after his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There have been calls in India that the country should be willing to insert itself in the broader geopolitical dynamic of the region involving Iran and Saudi Arabia. Modi was right to resist that temptation. Before New Delhi can do that, it needs to make sure that its vital interests are preserved both in Riyadh and Tehran. India’s ties with Saudi Arabia have grown significantly over the last two decades based on their burgeoning energy ties and the 2.8 million-strong Indian diaspora in the Saudi kingdom. At a time when Riyadh has been losing its market share with countries such as China and the United States, it has emerged as the top supplier of crude oil to India, supplanting Iraq.

US Nuclear Concerns Real, But Targets Wrong – Analysis

By N. Sathiya Moorthy*
APRIL 13, 2016

Anti-proliferation lobbies in the US and elsewhere, especially in South Asia, should be celebrating US President Barack Obama’s call for India and Pakistan to reduce their nuclear arsenal. Their celebrations should stop there, however. Instead, they should all be telling the US where to begin, and what all not to jump.

It’s anybody’s guess why Obama chose to mention India-Pakistan nuclear weapons non-proliferation at a news conference at the end of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in the American capital of Washington, DC. Nations do not discuss their n-weapons programme, and their ‘military doctrines’ in public. The US and Russia, the two nations that Obama mentioned as those that had to reduce their n-arsenal, have not done so.

It’s equally unknown, how and why the non-proliferation aides and advisors of the American President did not refer to the post-Pokharan II Indian concerns about China being the (main) nuclear concern. Americans were believed to have been behind the ‘leak’ of then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s confidential missive to President Bill Clinton. Afterward, then Defence Minister George Fernandes acknowledged that China was the ‘potential (nuclear) threat number one’ for India.

The Dirty Bomb: Jehadi Nuclear Threat from Pakistan- A Wake Up Call

By Brig Arun Bajpai
13 Apr , 2016

The fourth nuclear security conference held at Washington under the chairmanship of American President Barrack Obama and attended by heads of 50 countries including the Indian PM Shri Narendra Modi on 01 April, was definitely an eye opener for these leaders specially the live threat from the Jehadi Dirty Bomb. The item which made these world leaders sit up straight in their seats and gasp was the short film which showed jehadis flying a crop duster light aircraft spraying deadly radioactive material extracted from radiological equipment found all over the world causing horrific sickness and death among the citizens. However this is nothing to the type of threat India faces from the combination of state and non-state actors from Pakistan and their dirty bomb.

Pakistan has the world’s fastest growing nuclear stockpile. It also harbors the most dangerous jihadi groups. The real cause for worry for India are the jihadi groups…

Is the Afghan Taliban's Leadership Finally Coalescing Once Again?

April 13, 2016

With the Taliban’s declaration of their usual “Spring Offensive” for the year, Afghanistan’s fighting seasoning is about to head into full swing. 2015 marked a turbulent year for both the Afghan government and security forces—who faced their first full year as the primary guarantors of Afghan security following the end of U.S. and NATO combat operations—and the Taliban, who underwent their own leadership transition. In the meantime, the Islamic State expanded its presence in the region, beginning 2015 by declaring a shura, or leadership council, for what it called Khorasan Province, using an an old Arabic name for roughly the territory occupied by the modern states of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Tajikistan.

It’s been no secret that the Islamic State and the Taliban haven’t gotten along. Last year, the Taliban released a statement suggesting that “The Islamic Emirate [of Afghanistan] does not consider the multiplicity of jihadi ranks beneficial either for jihad or for Muslims.” Shortly after that statement was released, the Taliban announced that its leader and Amir al-Muminin, Mullah Omar, had been dead for two years, sparking a leadership struggle that splintered Taliban ranks to this day. After the dust settled, the largest Taliban faction ended up under the command of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who was once Omar’s right-hand man and largely pulled the group’s strings from behind the scenes after Omar’s death in 2013.

China Expanding Its Nuclear Capabilities

Omar Lamrani
April 12, 2016

China Moves to Expand Its Nuclear Capabilities

-China will significantly adjust its nuclear force structure, even as it officially maintains its no-first-use and minimal deterrence policies.

-Adjustments will include enlarging the Chinese nuclear arsenal while enhancing its mobility and capabilities.

-As China’s nuclear force grows, the United States and Russia will make a greater effort to include Beijing in future arms control agreements.


Since conducting its first successful nuclear test in 1964, China has maintained one of the least belligerent nuclear policies in the world. But certain changes in technology over the past two decades have forced Beijing to re-evaluate its approach. In the coming years, China will look to revamp its nuclear force to keep its deterrent credible against the increasingly lethal arsenals of the United States and Russia.

Of all the nuclear powers, China was the first to declare a no-first-use nuclear policy, pledging to use its nuclear weapons only against states that launch a nuclear attack against it first. Beijing has also promised never to deploy its nuclear weapons on foreign soil, and it has long opposed the idea of establishing an extended nuclear deterrence. Furthermore, though China has built up an arsenal that is both large and diffuse enough to survive an initial strike, it has avoided engaging in an arms race with the United States and Russia to match their nuclear strength. It also stores its nuclear warheads in a separate location from its delivery systems, mating the two only in times of great tension. In short, Beijing has confined its nuclear program to providing a credible but minimal deterrence. 

Chinese Spying America’s Midwest Cornfields

Josh Kenworthy
April 12, 2016

In a Midwestern cornfield, a scene of Chinese theft and espionage

United States law enforcement agencies are a urging farmers and businesses more broadly to be increasingly vigilant amid a rise in attempted thefts of genetically engineered seed and other commercial secrets.

Mo Hailong, one of six Chinese nationals US authorities accused in 2013 of digging up seeds from Iowa farms with plans to send them back to China, pleaded guilty in January, according to Reuters. Mr. Mo had his case prosecuted by the Justice Department as a matter of national security rather than a normal criminal case.

The FBI and Justice Department has reported a growing number of agricultural espionage cases in the past two years, including government research facilities, companies and research facilities. While the FBI says it knows of connections between the accused individuals and the Chinese government, it does not have evidence to prove the link that would stand up in court. The Chinese government denies it is involved.

The trend particularly highlights how highly coveted and vulnerable advanced food technology secrets are, particularly in China where 1.36 billion of earth’s roughly 7 billion person population lives, Reuters said. However, while the Chinese government has indicated it wants to be a leader in the biotechnology world, there is also evidence to suggest this may be stymied by Chinese consumer wariness about the yet unknown problems that could stem from the consumption of genetically modified food.

South China Sea: 3 Ways to Win the Money War

April 12, 2016

China’s domination of the South China Sea is not yet a fait accompli, but the United States must implement a countercoercion strategy more urgently in order to maintain a favorable balance of power.

Since the beginning of this year, China has deployed surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, as well as fighter aircraft, to Woody Island, a part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea. These actions are stepping stones for China to dispatch missile batteries and jets to the more geopolitically significant Spratly Island chain. Now, there is growing concern that Beijing may declare an air-defense identification zone in the South China Sea. Left unchallenged, the Chinese are on track to create “mini denial zones” and bring greater coercive force to bear against neighboring Southeast Asian states. If current trends continue, the South China Sea will be a “Chinese lake” before 2030.

Rollback of Chinese gains in the South China Sea is not a viable policy option—the island building is a reality and, short of force, there is little Washington can do to make China withdraw from features it occupies. Thus, Washington must focus its efforts on preventing Beijing from expelling another claimant from a contested territory. One component of U.S. strategy should be the expansion of military assistance programs for Southeast Asian partners. Littoral Southeast Asian states badly need maritime domain awareness capabilities, coast guard and naval vessels, and coastal defenses, as well as additional training to fend off Chinese maritime coercion—all of which the United States can provide.

China ‘Abducts’ Taiwanese in Kenya

April 12, 2016

Taiwanese of all stripes were aghast this week after eight Taiwanese nationals were among a group of Chinese citizens forced onto a plane to China last Friday. It is not known why Chinese authorities sought to have the Taiwanese extradited to China; the eight had been cleared of charges of telecommunications fraud by a court in in Kenya. The incident, which Taipei has described as “illegal abduction” and “uncivilized action,” raises serious questions about Chinese extraterritoriality and the “one China” policy.

The eight nationals in question were among a total of 37 individuals — 23 of them Taiwanese — who were acquitted of fraud in an April 5 Kenya High Court decision and were given 21 days to leave Kenya. One of the eight is reportedly a Taiwanese-American. The remaining 15 Taiwanese were put on a plane to China on Tuesday, also in defiance of the court order. Chinese officials in Kenya reportedly pressured Kenyan authorities to send the Taiwanese nationals to China.

Taiwanese foreign ministry officials dispatched from South Africa (Taiwan has no official diplomatic relations with and no representative office in Kenya) have been denied access to the Taiwanese individuals, and reports indicate that submachine gun-wielding Kenyan police used tear gas to subdue the Taiwanese who resisted deportation. Kenyan authorities had also told the Taiwanese that their government had bought them tickets to return home, which turned out to be a lie (see an undated letter by detainees expressing fears of being sent to China).

Chinese PLA Training: A Window on Military Culture

April 13, 2016

As a newly-minted lieutenant in the U.S. Army of the 1990s, I learned quickly that there were two main tasks in the peacetime military: training and combat readiness. Training is what you would expect: honing troops’ ability to do their job in combat, including everything from physical fitness and individual weapons qualification to working effectively within small groups and large units. The term combat readiness is a bit deceptive, covering activities that don’t build combat skill directly but without which individuals and units might never even make it to the battlefield. This means maintaining weapons and equipment, ensuring medical preparedness, and administrative readiness, etc. The way the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) handles these tasks says much about its military culture.

A guide for PLA company commanders distinguishes between training and combat readiness, although the latter is limited to direct combat preparation. Training occurs in two phases: (1) preparation, including political indoctrination, organization, materiel and equipment, and instruction; and (2) execution and assessment. Readiness includes academic and Party education (again), alerts, equipment and materiel maintenance, readiness exercises, and inspections. Other areas (e.g. medical) are covered separately under administration, logistics, and armaments management.

Economy Of Islamic Fundamentalism Poses Threat To Bangladesh – Analysis

By Rupak Bhattacharjee*
APRIL 12, 2016

Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami continues to be a potent force despite being weakened politically largely due to its economic prowess. Jamaat won eighteen seats in 2001 parliamentary elections while the number came down to just two in 2008. The party’s influence over the predominantly Muslim society of Bangladesh can not be ascertained from the number of seats it secured in the successive Jatiya Sangsad polls.

The radical Islamic group operates diverse organisations like banks, real estate and insurance companies, educational institutions, medical care facilities, coaching centres, transport and tourist enterprises, media outlets, publication houses and charities. Some of the leading Jamaat- affiliated institutions include: Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), Social Islami Bank Limited, Ibn Sina Trust, Agro Industrial Trust, Far Eastern Life Insurance Company Limited, Takaful Insurance Company Limited, Keori Limited, Coral Reef Properties Limited, Retina, Panjeri Publications, Fouand al-Khateeb Charity Foundation, Al Hera Samaj Kalyan Foundation, Diganta Media Corporation, Daily Sangram, Education Aid, Darul Islam Centres, Manarat International University, International Islamic University Chittagong, Darul Ihsan University, Rabita al-Alam al-Islami Bangladesh, Allama Iqbal Sangsad, Al-Mutada Development Society and Centre for Strategy and Peace Studies.

Terror Threat in UK at “Severe”

Alexis Flynn and Jenny Gross
April 12, 2016

Terror Threat Weighs on U.K.

LONDON—A trip to the U.K. last summer by a suspect arrested in the Brussels and Paris attacks, Mohamed Abrini, served as a reminder about the degree to which the U.K. is vulnerable to similar terrorist atrocities.

With Islamic State’s external operations unit explicitly targeting Britain for aiding the U.S.-led coalition against the extremists in Syria and Iraq, officials privately say it is a matter of when, not if, terrorists get through. Senior British security officials also note the continuing threat from al Qaeda against the West.

But the U.K.’s long experience in dealing with terrorist threats and relatively restrictive gun laws, among other factors, provide some protection, officials and other experts say.

Mr. Abrini, who was arrested in Brussels last week, visited Birmingham, Manchester and London during a roughly weeklong trip in June and July, according to people familiar with the matter, as previously reported. They said authorities believe Mr. Abrini, who they suspect had recently been to Syria, may have been scoping out possible attack targets.

The U.K.’s most senior counterterrorism police officer, Mark Rowley, said last month that officials had discerned a shift in Islamic State’s tactics.

He said the group wanted to inflict an “enormous and spectacular” terrorist atrocity in the U.K., potentially carried out by people trained to a paramilitary level, whereas previously the plots they had seen had focused on more lone-wolf style attacks.

Death and Taxes in Islamic State

April 13, 2016

In January of this year, an internal ISIS memorandum on the group’s finances was leaked to the public. In it, ISIS revealed it was cutting the pay of its soldiers substantially. In 2015, ISIS’s fighters were being paid between $400 and $1,200 per month, depending on their seniority and their job. The leaked memo said ISIS was going to cut its fighters’ salaries in half.

In the months since the memo leaked, there have been reports that ISIS isfacing defections over the pay cuts. Reports of ISIS defections are nothing new, and in the past have led to overly optimistic assessments of ISIS’s strength, but this is the first time the reports have been accompanied by hard evidence that ISIS can’t make payroll anymore.

The reports of ISIS’s financial difficulties coincide with significant losses of territory for the group. The Iraqi Army retook Ramadi in February; in March, Syria’s army retook the ancient city of Palmyra. There are a number of reasons for ISIS’s recent losses, including the eighteen-month-old U.S.-led bombing campaign, the increasing competence of the Iraqi Army and the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s forces are finally fighting ISIS rather than ignoring it. But it seems clear from reports on the scene that one of the factors is ISIS’s financial troubles.

Democracy Left Out in the Cold

APRIL 11, 2016

This week, United Nations talks meant to chart a path toward a peaceful, democratic future for Syria are set to resume in Geneva. But, in an absurd twist, the legitimate representatives of a large, democratically governed area in the country will not be invited to attend.

This area is called Rojava, in the northern part of Syria, and despite its frequent description as “Kurdish,” it is governed inclusively by Kurds, Arabs, and the area’s other ethnic groups. Furthermore, its self-defense forces are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces backed by the United States that have advanced toward Raqqa, the center of the Islamic State’s power in Syria.

Both in strategic and moral terms, Rojava’s existence is a rare bright spot in this conflict. So the exclusion of its representatives from the U.N. process is not only unfair, but makes no sense if the aim of the talks is to establish a viable path to democracy in Syria.

The primary reason for this injustice is that Turkey opposes Rojava’s military force, the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., claiming it is one and the same with the P.K.K., a Kurdish group with a long history of armed conflict with the Turkish government.Photo
Residents of Derek, in Rojava, Syria, in a local assembly. CreditJohn Moore/Getty Images

Should the FBI and Other Law Enforcement Agencies Have to Get a Warrant Before Conducting Covert Aerial Surveillance Over American Cities?

Peter Aldhouse
April 12, 2016

These Lawmakers Want The Feds To Get A Warrant Before Spying From The Skies

Even for politicians who knew that government law enforcement agencies were regularly watching American cities from above, the dense pattern of circles on the maps BuzzFeed News published last week, showing more than four months of flights by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), were an eye-opener.

“This investigation makes clear aerial surveillance by the federal government is no longer a rare occurrence — these flights are happening thousands of time a year, all over the country,” Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, told BuzzFeed News by email.

“There was a time when cost and resource barriers prevented the government from conducting twenty-four-seven aerial surveillance,” he added. “Now, high-quality digital cameras, unmanned aircraft and other technology advances are quickly tearing those barriers down.”

Together with Dean Heller, Republican Senator from Nevada, Wyden is introducing an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act that would require federal law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting video surveillance from the air. Currently, warrants are only required if planes use equipment to track the cell phones of suspects on the ground. What’s more, warrants can be waived in emergency situations.

Surveillance over Washington, D.C. last year. Faint lines show flight tracks, which become dense circles when planes repeatedly monitor the same location. FBI planes are in red; DHS in blue. Peter Aldhous for BuzzFeed News
ID: 8415293

Accused Spy Served in One of the US Navy’s Most Secretive Intelligence Units

David Larter
April 12, 2016

Accused spy served in one of Navy’s most shadowy squadrons

A U.S. Navy officer charged with spying for a foreign power worked at one of the service’s most elite reconnaissance squadrons, whose operations are shrouded in secrecy.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, a naval flight officer, worked for Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 for a year before being arrested last summer, according to his Navy record. The Kaneohe, Hawaii-based VPU-2 is one of two special projects squadrons that sources say are made up of the fleet’s top maritime patrol officers, who fly the P-3 Orion and P-8A Poseidon.

“VPU guys are generally the top 25 percent of the program,” said an aviation officer who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive maritime surveillance programs. “They are specially screened.”

Lin faces charges for sharing classified information with sources in the Asia-Pacific region. His placement inside the shadowy world of VPU-2 could give foreign spymasters unparalleled access into classified reconnaissance capabilities and intelligence from the region.

Very little is public about the VPUs, including details about the aircraft they fly. The outfit has access to Joint Urgent Operational Needs funds, which sidesteps and speeds the normal acquisitions process, the officer said.

Generally speaking, the VPU officers are those who earned the highest evaluations during their first tour, the officer said.

The New Normal in U.S.-Saudi Relations

April 13, 2016

Next week’s U.S.-GCC summit in Riyadh is the last opportunity for the Obama administration to recalibrate the U.S.-Saudi relationship. While officially a multilateral summit between the United States and the six Gulf monarchies, all eyes will be on President Obama and King Salman. Both leaders will seek to project an image of comity. The photo ops, boilerplate statements and spin surrounding this encounter, however, will belie an increasingly fractious relationship. Relations are unlikely to crumble anytime soon. But unless Riyadh and Washington work toward a new understanding of what each can expect from the other, the pillars supporting the U.S.-Saudi relationship will continue to erode.

The Backdrop

Saudi Arabia has depended for decades on the United States for external security. It is natural, given this dependence and the asymmetry in power between the two countries, for the House of Saud to fret over America’s security commitments, to seek constant reassurance of U.S. solidarity and to be sensitive to any sign that America is providing less than unconditional support.

Voters Are Rejecting the EU's Hubris

April 13, 2016

In its “advisory referendum” on the European Union’s association agreement with Ukraine, the Dutch electorate rejected this foray beyond the EU’s frontiers while manifesting general unease about where the EU is heading. Effectively, this was a vote of no confidence in the EU’s Eastern Partnership, which hatched the ill-fated accord with Ukraine.

In conjunction with monetary policy and management of the migrant crisis, the Eastern Partnership completes a trifecta of EU policies which were well intentioned, but poorly conceived and implemented with little appreciation of risks or consequences. By provoking a violent reaction from Russia, the Eastern Partnership made an intended partner, Ukraine, a victim.

The Eastern Partnership was launched in 2009 to broaden political and economic ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, supposedly “in parallel with the EU’s strategic partnership with Russia.” With each, the EU initiated negotiations for an association agreement plus a so-called Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area based on the acceptance by the partners of the bulk of the EU’s regulations and practices. In no case did the EU accept practices from the partner countries; the concessions were entirely one-way.


APRIL 12, 2016

Defense reform — frequently relegated to a no man’s land somewhere between wonkish dreams and third-rail issues — has reappeared as the issue du jour. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s newest set of reform proposals rolled out on April 5 may be a tall order, particularly in the last year of an administration. Armed Services Committee Chairmen Sen. John McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry are pursuing parallel measures, though their form and timeline remain unclear. There is bipartisan agreement that many of DOD’s processes, organizational charts, and incentives are outdated, and that billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted annually as a result. But there are several visions of defense reform that are in competition.

The defense reform agenda has suffered from competing visions and ever-increasing scope. From Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) to military compensation to Goldwater-Nichols, “defense reform” has become a catch-all for all that is wrong with the department, making the agenda hard to swallow. But more than that, defense reform too often connotes “efficiencies,” a green eyeshade lens that distances it from the national security mission and imparts anxieties in DOD staff. As a result, defense reform finds many advocates in budget season but few serious implementers. Recent senior leaders have not been able to commit the time and political capital necessary to achieve sustained reform.


APRIL 11, 2016

A retired senior U.S. diplomat diagnoses America’s amnesia and its dysfunctional approach to strategy and foreign affairs. He also offers a cure. Will Washington listen?

Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from the author’s remarks to East Bay Citizens for Peace of the Barrington Congregational Church and the American Friends Service Committee on April 2, 2016 in Barrington, Rhode Island. The original speech was publishedat the author’s personal website.

One of our most charming characteristics as Americans is our amnesia. We are so good at forgetting what we’ve done and where we did it that we can hide our own Easter eggs.

I’m reminded of the geezer — someone about my age — who was sitting in his living room having a drink with his friend while his wife made dinner. He said to his friend, “you know, we went to a really terrific restaurant last week. You’d like it. Great atmosphere. Delicious food. Wonderful service.”

“What’s the name of it?” his friend asked.

He scratched his head. “Ah, ah. Ah. What do you call those red flowers you give to women you love?”

His friend hesitated. “A rose?”

Danish Spy Agency Takes Out Full-Page Ads Looking for Hackers

Tara Seals
April 12, 2016

Denmark Takes Out Full-Page Ads for Hackers

Denmark’s official spy agency, the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (DDIS), is creating a training academy for hackers.

The agency has placed full-page ads in local newspapers and online asking, “Do you have what it takes to become a member of a secret elite force?” Specifically, that means hackers with well-developed programming abilities, math and logical intelligence, and a clean criminal record. And, according to Lars Findsen, the head of the intelligence service, “a high degree of personal integrity, because they will be handling secrets and sensitive information.”

He added that Academy recruits will spend four and a half months at the school starting in August, working on a range of defensive and offensive techniques. These include counterintelligence (breaking encrypted communications of the enemy) and hacking the networks of terrorists. In many cases, they will have the chance to use methods that would be illegal outside of the purview of government-led programs.

“When you have these unique talents, you want to use them and you have very special opportunities in our environment,” Findsen said.

At the end of their stint, the best and brightest will be offered positions in the Danish intelligence community.


APRIL 12, 2016

In intelligence circles, gaining access to a senior policymaker for a 20-minute “round table” to communicate the finer details of an intelligence product is an incredible luxury. Written intelligence reports today are often meant to be absorbed in a matter of minutes, with little time for a follow-up briefing. Intelligence products add unique value since they are objective and based on sensitive sources. However, from the perspective of a busy policymaker reading a report in between meetings, intelligence products can also come across as simplistic or confusing. Incorporating complex scientific and technical information can complicate intelligence products even more, depending on the experience of the consumer. The contentious 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction is an important example of an intelligence report that relied on conveying scientific information. That report attempted to convey a highly technical assessment of Iraq’s suspected weapons programs in the space of a few sentences, while still retaining confidence levels and sourcing.

Scientific and technical intelligence analysts thus face the great challenge of quickly, effectively, and clearly conveying information to policymakers. An example of meeting this challenge is aptly illustrated in the book Most Secret War, one intelligence officer’s account of a high-level meeting that occurred over 75 years ago.

America's Free Riders Must Fight Their Own Battles

April 13, 2016

America’s major alliances date back six to seven decades. Washington has been protecting Europe, Japan and South Korea for longer than most Americans have been alive.

The original justification for this expensive global role was the Evil Empire, as President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union. Aggressive communism had to be contained, and America’s allies were in various degrees of prostration at the end of World War II and the Korean War. For a short moment of history the U.S. had to take on a unique and oversized international role to preserve the “free world.”

But that moment passed long ago—actually, even before the end of the Cold War. By the 1960s most of Washington’s Asian and European allies had recovered economically. With serious effort—which one would expect from nations facing serious, even existential security threats—they were capable of at least matching their potential antagonists. As the world moved into the 1980s it was evident that only their own lethargy and stinginess prevented America’s friends from taking over most, if not full, responsibility for their own security.

Today it is frankly unbelievable that Washington allows its Asian and European allies to continue cowering behind it. That they prefer not to do more is understandable. But that is no reason for America to do it for them.