Germany, Brazil ask the U.N. for help re: spies; The last few minutes of Jofi Joseph’s fame; Troops in Afg cost $2.1 million a piece; How do you open up a halal sex shop?; The ‘girly hats’ story wasn’t exactly true, Marines say; and a bit more.
- By Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.
By Gordon Lubold
Brazil and Germany press the U.N. for a resolution on the right to privacy – the first major effort to declaw the NSA. FP’s Colum Lynch, Shane Harris and John Hudson: "The effort follows a German claim that the American spy agency may have tapped the private telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders. It also comes about one month after Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff denounced NSA espionage against her country as ‘a breach of international law’ in a General Assembly speech and proposed that the U.N. establish legal guidelines to prevent ‘cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war.’
"Brazilian and German diplomats met in New York Thursday with a small group of Latin American and European governments to consider a draft resolution that calls for expanding privacy rights contained in the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights to the online world. The draft does not refer to a flurry of American spying revelations that have caused a political uproar around the world, particularly in Brazil and Germany. But it was clear that the revelation provided the political momentum to trigger today’s move to the United Nations. The blowback from the NSA leaks continues to agonize U.S. diplomats and military officials concerned about America’s image abroad." The rest here.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is scrambling to alert foreign intelligence services about docs that show their secret cooperation with the U.S. The WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima: "…The process of informing officials in capital after capital about the risk of disclosure is delicate. In some cases, one part of the cooperating government may know about the collaboration while others – such as the foreign ministry – may not, the officials said. The documents, if disclosed, could compromise operations, officials said. The notifications come as the Obama administration is scrambling to placate allies after allegations that the NSA has spied on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The reports have forced the administration to play down operations targeting friends while also attempting to preserve other programs that depend on provisional partners. In either case, trust in the United States may be compromised." The rest here.
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At USIS, the demand to process clearances boiled down to this: "get off your ass to make a buck." The WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum: "About seven months before his company gave Edward Snowden a clean background check, Bill Mixon was flogging his executives for not pushing security clearances through fast enough. Mr. Mixon, then chief executive of US Investigations Services LLC, warned managers at its Grove City, Pa., operations that USIS wasn’t meeting targets for completing clearances, say former USIS officials. Federal agencies use those clearances to decide who gets access to America’s secrets. ‘You better not have one f- case on your books,’ one former company official says he was told by Mr. Mixon. USIS was approaching the end of its 2010 fiscal year in September.
"It was a demand, former USIS officials say, that Mr. Mixon made repeatedly that year: Do what it takes to finish background checks, even if they aren’t thoroughly vetted. The stress on revenue was also a familiar refrain to managers who had been with USIS for years. Since the government spun USIS off in 1996, its management had gradually built a corporate culture that made revenue top priority. A previous CEO, in 2006, chided managers at a meeting to ‘get off your ass to make a buck.’ The push to hurry out security checks reached a crescendo, former USIS officials say, in late 2010." The rest here.
Mike Hayden, as a WaPo writer wrote this morning, "should’ve taken the quiet car." The WaPo’s piece on the much-tweeted bit about former NSA director Mike Hayden’s eavesdropped convo on the Acela train Thursday by the WaPo’s Brian Fung: "A passenger a few seats away couldn’t help but be intrigued by the conversation, which included chatter about President Obama’s 2008 BlackBerry, specially modified to block foreign eavesdropping. Could it be James Clapper? Tom Matzzie wondered, referring to the director of national intelligence. But why would a sitting official be talking so openly about CIA black sites and rendition? It took nearly half an hour, but then it clicked for Matzzie, a former Washington director of the political group MoveOn.org. He whipped out his phone and began tweeting."
@TomMatzzie – the handle of the guy who used to work in Moveon.org’s Washington office who eavesdropped on Mike Hayden, who no doubt picked up some new followers yesterday.
Pirates nabbed two Americans from a ship off the Nigerian coast. NYT: "…The abductions appeared to be the first involving American hostages in that region in at least two years." More here.
A National Guardsmen opened fire at an armory near a Navy base in Millington, Tenn. The Guardsmen wounded two before he was taken into custody. AP: "Millington Police Chief Rita Stanback said the shooter was apprehended today by other National Guard members. Stanback said the two people shot were also National Guard members. The two people shot were taken to a hospital. Stanback said at a news conference that their conditions were not immediately known, though the Navy reported on its official Twitter account that neither had life-threatening injuries." More here.
John Allen and Mike O’Hanlon wrote a piece in the WaPo about how the U.S. and Afghanistan can get along. Their BLUF: "The hour is late for such a change of heart, messaging and spirit across our two nations. But it is not yet too late." Read it here.
A Turkish man opened up the first halal sex shop online. How did he do it? FP’s Katelyn Fossett: "While rigid rules govern pre-marital sexual relations in Muslim culture, the Quran and hadith (a record of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions) make clear that sex within the confines of marriage is not purely for procreation, as it is in some Christian denominations. Muhammad told men not to leave their wives for more than six months so as to avoid sexual neglect, and there are even some well-known references to foreplay in the hadith. As Yusuf explains, ‘It’s not a prudish culture … but decorum is still very important.’ For married Muslim couples, specific etiquette governs proper sexual relations, separating haram (forbidden) from halal. ‘Online sex shops usually have pornographic pictures, which makes Muslims uncomfortable,’ Demirel, the Turkish shop owner, told Reuters. ‘We don’t sell vibrators for example, because they are not approved by Islam.’" More here.
The average cost of each of the American troops in Afghanistan is $2.1 million, says Todd Harrison of CSBA. DefenseOne’s Kevin Baron: "For the past five years, from fiscal 2008 through 2013, the average troop cost had held steady at roughly $1.3. million. But the Pentagon’s 2014 war budget would dramatically increase that figure. The added cost, argue Defense Department officials, is a reflection of the price of sending troops and equipment back home in the drawdown. Not so, says Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis’ Todd Harrison. He doesn’t buy that excuse, and argued on Thursday that the U.S. has been moving far greater amounts of troops and equipment in those previous budget years. Instead, he said, as the number of U.S. troops decline, the overhead cost to support the war and the Afghan forces that the U.S. continues to underwrite remains relatively stable." More here.
This could be the last few minutes of Jofi Joseph’s 15 of fame before he disappears. The NYT’s Page Oner today (after the WaPo’s yesterday about the sting operation that led to his downfall) looks at Joseph and who he is (or was) by Jennifer Steinhauer and Jackie Calmes: "Until his Twitter adventures under the handle @NatSecWonk ended his career this week, Jofi Joseph embodied all the elements of a Washington cliché, down to the security card around his neck. His degree in foreign service was earned at Georgetown, which propelled him to his first job as an analyst in the Congressional Budget Office, the ultimately anonymous D.C. gig… He liked cycling: check. He hiked. And like so many denizens of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Joseph, 40, took to Twitter to express all manner of things on the mind. In his case, it was musings on foreign policy, observations about the cognitive abilities of his colleagues and a not-so-minor fixation on the appearance of women, generally expressed ungenerously. Sample Twitter message: ‘Admit it, when you heard Helen Thomas went out on a date with JFK back in the day, you asked yourself, ‘Wait, she was attractive once?’" That piece here.
Is a cigar just a cigar? Is NatSecWonk just a tool? FP’s Rosa Brooks muses on the morals of the story – if there are any – or if this is just a sad tale about a bitter man. Brooks: One: "Washington is even nastier than you thought. If it’s true that @NatSecWonk "unapologetically says what everyone else only thinks," then there are a lot of juvenile, misogynist creeps in the foreign policy world; Two: Washington is not as nasty as you thought — because @NatSecWonk didn’t generally say what "everyone else" thought. (An arrogant assumption, in any case: did the guy think he could read minds?) The ‘broken clocks are right twice a day’ principle operates in the Twitterverse too, so @NatSecWonk probably did voice unspoken but widely shared sentiments from time to time, but the near-universal real-time response to his tweets seems to have been repulsion. Sure, people in Washington may stick a dagger in your back, but for the most part, Washington insults are strategic, not gratuitous. (It’s nothing personal, it’s just politics!) For @NatSecWonk, everything was weirdly personal, and even most hardened Washingtonians were, appropriately, grossed out by his disproportionate vitriol." There’s more, but here’s her closer: "But maybe it’s not an allegory at all. As Sigmund Freud reminded us, sometimes a cigar is only a cigar — and sometimes a story that seems to be about an unpleasant, insecure guy determined to cut everyone else down to size is just that, and nothing more. Goodbye, @NatSecWonk. Can’t say I’ll miss you." The rest of her bit here.
It’s unclear if NatSecWonk will work in #This Town ever again. But plenty of former Pentagon officials find work here. Politico’s Austin Wright: "Hundreds of Defense Department officials requested ethics opinions from the government over the past two years as they retired from the military and sought jobs with private companies or organizations. The ethics opinions are required for certain current and recently retired officials, including those involved in procurement decisions, before they’re allowed to take new jobs with defense companies. The Defense Department released a database of the ethics opinions to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had sued the department to get it. CREW provided an early copy of the database exclusively to Politico. It sheds new light on an ongoing arrangement in which defense companies dangle lucrative job opportunities in front of Pentagon officials who manage millions – sometimes billions – of dollars in government contracts. As a result, many officials leave the department with specific landing spots in mind." More here.
Women activists in Saudi try, try again on countering the ban on driving. NPR’s Deborah Amos: "Activists in Saudi Arabia tried once, they tried again and now they’re making a third challenge to the kingdom’s long-standing ban on female drivers. Some women have recently made short drives, posting videos on social media sites, and many more are planning to get behind the wheel on Saturday. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that effectively prohibits women from driving, a ban supported by conservative clerics. While there is no law formally banning female drivers, the government does not give them licenses. Government authorities seem to be more lenient these days, however." More here.
The Texas philanthropist who didn’t throw her weight around but played a unique role in the hunt for Africa’s ultimate bad guy – Joseph Kony. The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Rubin: "One night in July, 2010, Shannon Sedgwick Davis, a lawyer and activist from San Antonio, Texas, and the mother of two young boys, found herself seated across from the chief of the Ugandan Army, General Aronda Nyakairima, at his hilltop headquarters, in Kampala. ‘It was one of those out-of-body experiences,’ Davis told me. Davis was on the verge of becoming deeply involved in the campaign to capture Joseph Kony. In the course of a quarter century, Kony abducted tens of thousands of people, mostly children, and conscripted them into the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.), which was conceived as a Ugandan rebel force but whose primary target has been civilians in several African nations…The operations that Davis would help set in motion-which have remained under wraps for more than two years-have helped to transform the Ugandans’ pursuit of Kony. He has been driven from his safe haven, in Sudan, and the Ugandan troops, aided by African Union forces and American advisers, are now close on his trail. Davis has played a unique role in the long war against Kony since 2006, when she first began to help fund advocacy groups and activists working on the issue." Said one high-ranking Ugandan officer of Davis: "She is so down to earth…She never throws her weight around like most Americans.’" More here.
The ‘girly hats’ story wasn’t totally true, Marines say, but the Corps is thinking about changing women’s "bucket cap." So there was this story in the New York Post yesterday that said President Barack Obama was pushing for Marines, who stand guard at the White House, to change their headgear. The NYPost, yesterday: "Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a "unisex" look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines’ iconic caps with a new hat that some have derided as so ‘girly’ that they would make the French blush. ‘We don’t even have enough funding to buy bullets, and the DoD is pushing to spend $8 million on covers that look like women’s hats!’ one senior Marine source fumed to The Post. ‘The Marines deserve better. It makes them look ridiculous.’" But Marines pushed back hard, saying under no way shape or form did Obama ask for a change to Marines’ covers. But a change is possible – for women’s covers only. ABC’s Luis Martinez: "The Marine Corps is contemplating a uniform change that would create a unisex service cap. The Marines are also exploring whether to have women use a slightly modified version of the hat used by male Marines instead of the distinctive "bucket cap" they now wear. If the unisex design is chosen it would be the first change to that part of the Marine uniform since 1922. A Marine official says that recently the Marine Corps Uniform Board, comprised of non-commissioned officers and officers, discussed a change in the headgear known as a "cover" as a means of streamlining uniform rules for men and women. Since 1952 female Marines have worn distinctive service caps known as ‘bucket cover.’ About 6 percent of the 195,000 Marines in active duty are women." ABC story, here and the Post story, here.