Situation Report

FP NatSec Exclusive: Mutiny among guards at the Kabul embassy; Panetta just met with David Cameron on Algeria; How Mike Vickers delivered for “Zero Dark Thirty”; Was Petraeus the last smart Army general? Dempsey meets with the Russians, and more.

Panetta had a last-minute meeting with British PM David Cameron about the crisis in Algeria. With several countries still in the dark about just what went down and who is where after Algerian troops raided the natural gas complex to end the hostage standoff, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is in London this morning, had ...

Panetta had a last-minute meeting with British PM David Cameron about the crisis in Algeria. With several countries still in the dark about just what went down and who is where after Algerian troops raided the natural gas complex to end the hostage standoff, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is in London this morning, had an unscheduled meeting with Cameron within the past hour. Situation Report learns that Algeria and Mali issues took up about half the meeting, which was "more a policy than a tactical discussion," we’re told by senior defense officials. "There was an in-depth discussion of the current, unfolding situation in Algeria… and ‘compared notes,’" we’re told.

Panetta, in a speech this morning EST at Kings College in London: "We are working around the clock to insure the safe return of our citizens." He also said that anyone who looks to attack the U.S. will have "no place to hide."

The outgoing defense secretary is also calling for NATO to help out on cyber-security issues. Pentagon press secretary George Little: "The Secretary’s speech today about the future of the transatlantic Alliance calls for resolve in the face of a myriad of security threats facing the US and Europe, and calls on European allies to help transform NATO to meet those common challenges. In particular, the Secretary is calling for the US and Europe to work together on cybersecurity and Asia-Pacific security issues. These are priorities he has made for the Department of Defense, and on his final trip to Europe, he believes they are paramount for the alliance as well."

Panetta is now at "The Ship & Shovell" pub in London with staff. He’ll head to a meeting with several members of Parliament later today. He drank Tangle Foot ale at the pub, we’re told.

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FP NatSec Exclusive: There are serious security issues at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. FP and the Project On Government Oversight have published a striking piece about poor security around the embassy despite a $500 million contract with the security firm Aegis. A sensitive State Department document from this past July, obtained by POGO, describes a "mutiny" among guards who defend the embassy.

POGO’s Adam Zagorin: "In July, dissatisfaction boiled over when more than 40 members of the embassy’s Emergency Response Team signed a petition sounding an alarm about embassy security, people familiar with the document said. The petition, submitted to the U.S. State Department and Aegis, expressed a ‘vote of no confidence’ in three of the guard force leaders, accusing them of ‘tactical incompetence’ and ‘a dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.’ Two guards say they were quickly fired after organizing the petition, in what they called ‘retaliation.’"

A guard serving at the U.S. embassy in Kabul said last November: "[I]f we ever got seriously hit [by terrorists], there is no doubt in my mind the guard force here would not be able to handle it, and mass casualties and mayhem would ensue."

Jim Amos is meeting with his general officers this week. Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos has been meeting with his three- and four-stars at Quantico since Tuesday. Deets about the agenda were few, but we’re guessing ethics — a topic on which Amos had already been reaching out across his senior officer corps in the wake of recent scandals — and budgetary issues were somewhere on the schedule. How Mike Vickers "delivered" for Hollywood. FP and the National Security Archive yesterday posted the transcript of the interview that Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal had with Mike Vickers. The under secretary of defense for intelligence, with approval from Leon Panetta, raised the curtain on a number of operational details about the raid that killed bin Laden.

National Security Archive’s Nate Jones: "The Vickers transcript is more important than that, however. It reveals the deep uncertainty among intelligence analysts over whether it was actually bin Laden hiding in the Abbottabad compound, and it provides the most complete and specific inside history of the creation, planning, training, and approval of the U.S. strike that killed the man behind the September 11 attacks."

The probability percenters: who thought what about bin Laden raid: "The Vickers interview was the genesis of the scene at the crux of Zero Dark Thirty. As Vickers tells it, two weeks before the raid, a ‘red team’ composed of officers from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the CIA, and the DIA tried to ‘come up with alternative hypotheses’ as to who was living at the compound. (One member of the red team had gotten married the day before and had to ‘ruin/cancel’ his honeymoon.) The red team’s chief naysayer was dubbed ‘Mr. Forty Percent.’ Michael Morell believed the chance bin Laden was at Abbottabad was 60 percent; Vickers himself, and others in the NCTC, were ‘in the 80 camp.’ Vickers never specifically mentions the analyst Bigelow has dubbed ‘Maya,’ but he does reveal that the estimates ranged from ‘95 percent down to forty.’ In the film, Maya informs her taken aback superiors that there is a 95 percent certainty that the Abbottabad shut-in is bin Laden." More on FP:

More ZD30 documents from the National Security Archive: "Lifting the government’s shroud over the mission that killed Osama bin Laden."

A cyber whodunit: Hunting Red October. This week, Kaspersky Lab, an IT security firm, announced they had uncovered "Red October," a new cyber spying operation that targets a range of diplomatic facilities, defense companies and energy firms around the globe, and it may mark an "evolution of the cyber black market," writes Killer Apps’ John Reed.  Kaspersky has said the perpetrators behind Red October "appear to be Russian-speaking, but the lab can’t provide evidence that this is an official Kremlin-backed operation. The lab also can’t eliminate the possibility that private hackers are responsible. That’s right, we may be seeing the rise of private spy agencies, think SPECTRE or whatever Raoul Silva, Javier Bardem’s character in the latest 007 film, calls his organization."

Dempsey met Russia’s new chief of the General Staff. The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron tells us that "with tensions between Moscow and Washington at higher-than-usual levels, the top military officers of the United States and Russia met for the first time in person this week while attending a NATO meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, diving right into a discussion of ‘irritants’ between the two powers." Dempsey met Gen. Valery Gerasimov at a time when many in the arms control community expect the U.S. — with the help of likely new defense secretary Chuck Hagel — to press Russia for more reductions in nukes. In the meeting, Gerasimov and Dempsey "discussed issues the Russian Federation considers irritants to the relationship," his spokesman, Col. David Lapan, told the E-Ring. "We had a productive and candid discussion on a variety of subjects," Dempsey said on his Facebook page. More here:

David Petraeus: the last smart general in the Army? FP’s Rosa Brooks asks the question after reading "The Insurgents," the new Fred Kaplan book. She wonders if the spate of copy lately, from Tom Ricks and others, about the services’ lack of strategic thinking is a spreading cancer across the U.S. military. "There are a lot of disgruntled grunts out there — and a widely shared complaint is that This Man’s Army (and Navy, and so on) may pay lip service to creativity, vision, and big ideas, but in reality, big ideas are as welcome in the military as ants at a picnic."

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