Situation Report

A weekly digest of national security, defense, and cybersecurity news from Foreign Policy reporters Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, formerly Security Brief. Delivered Thursday.

The Chinese hack American weapon systems designs; What the Syrians want from Obama; Marines behaving badly; Who is Capt. Robert George Keats? Allen spills on what the investigation was like and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold Finger-pointing at China. A new report provides evidence that Chinese hackers have peeked into some of the U.S.’ most sensitive, advanced weapons systems. The WaPo:  "Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

Finger-pointing at China. A new report provides evidence that Chinese hackers have peeked into some of the U.S.’ most sensitive, advanced weapons systems. The WaPo:  "Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board." A public version of the report was released in January; the list of compromised weapons is listed in the confidential version, provided to the WaPo. "Some of the weapons form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system. Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore. Also on the list is the most expensive weapons system ever built — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is on track to cost about $1.4 trillion. The 2007 hack of that project was reported previously."

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Situation Report, where we knew there would be money in that banana stand: the return of AD. Geek out on NPR’s tracking of running gags, from "I’ve made a huge mistake" to "zip me up," to "The Patriot Act," here. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings, and national security stories of success or excess. And please follow us @glubold.

The key suspect in the gruesome attack in London had connections to al-Shabaab. The suspect, Michael Adebolajo, one of two primary suspects in the murder of an off-duty soldier, Lee Rigby, had been detained in Kenya in 2010 and deported to the U.K. "A former United Nations monitoring official familiar with the case said on Sunday that, while in Kenya, Mr. Adebolajo met with family and associates of a firebrand cleric who had connections with a Somali militant group." Full WSJ story, here.

New fears of sectarian conflict: There have been 500 deaths in Iraq in the month of May, AFP reports.

McCain went to Syria to meet with the rebels. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the loudest critics of the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria, traveled there from Turkey to meet with Syrian rebels. Our former colleague Josh Rogin, now at The Daily Beast, spoke with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, yesterday. Rogin: "McCain…made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris…. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey. Both in Syria and Turkey, McCain and Idris met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units that traveled from around the country to see the U.S. senator. Inside those meetings, rebel leaders called on the United States to step up its support to the Syrian armed opposition and provide them with heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and airstrikes on the Syrian regime and the forces of Hezbollah, which is increasingly active in Syria. Idris, to Rogin: "What we want from the U.S. government is to take the decision to support the Syrian revolution with weapons and ammunition, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons…. Of course we want a no-fly zone and we ask for strategic strikes against Hezbollah both inside Lebanon and inside Syria."

USIP hosts a discussion on a Syria no-fly zone, "Options and Constraints," tomorrow at 10 a.m. Deets here.

Page 1: USAT’s story on Marines (one former Marines and several active Marines) verbally attacking Obama, California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier, and posting lewd pictures of female Marines. USAT’s Tom Vanden Brook: "The former Marine was interviewed last week by the Secret Service for the threatening post against Obama, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are ongoing…. The U.S. Capitol Police have been investigating several threatening posts against Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., the government official said…. Several Marines also have been referred to their commanders for non-judicial punishment, said Marine Capt. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman. That punishment can range from raking leaves to loss of rank to dismissal from the service, he said. The Marines have received complaints about a number of social media sites, Flanagan said, including a vulgar Facebook page that prompted Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to write letters of complaint to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Marine Corps’ commandant, Gen. James Amos. Facebook took down that page." And: "Some of the posts suggest female Marines achieved their rank by performing sex; another shows a female Marine on her knees with a snake being put in her mouth. A recent post about Speier refers to her in vulgar terms and accuses her of trampling First Amendment rights."

Who is Capt. Robert George Keats? Behind the music of Hagel’s speech Saturday at West Point. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ended his address Saturday about sexual assault and other issues at the military academy with a tribute to Capt. Robert George Keats, West Point class of ’65, who served as Hagel’s company commander in Vietnam and was KIA. Before the speech, Situation Report is told by a defense official, Hagel’s staff tracked down the Keats family and told them of Hagel’s speech. One of Keats’ brothers, Walter, made plans to travel to the graduation, and even invited Keats’ roommate from West Point, Robert Scully. Before the speech, the two met privately with Hagel — they were not aware that Hagel had served under Keats’ command. They then watched the ceremony and speech from the superintendent’s box and went to the West Point cemetery, where Keats is buried.

Hagel, to cadets, on Keats: "He was an outstanding writer who helped put together General Douglas MacArthur’s memorial articles. He established West Point’s history club and became its first President. After graduation, he completed Airborne and Ranger schools, married his high school sweetheart, and volunteered for duty in Vietnam. A few months after arriving in Vietnam, Captain Keats took command of my company — B Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Within ten days of taking command, on February 2, 1968 — shortly before his 24th birthday — he was killed. I was there." A
nd:
"Captain Keats is buried at West Point Cemetery, alongside other heroes of the Long Gray Line — including 33 of the more than 90 West Point graduates who have died in uniform since September 11, 2001…. At Captain Keats’ funeral service a letter he had sent as a cadet was read aloud. He wrote of being an idealist, committed to upholding and defending American values and virtues."

Keats, in that letter, on serving: "I am in a fight to save the ideal now. I shall be until the day I die. The world can only be saved by people who are striving for the ideal. I know we shall win, it can be no other way."

Hagel: "Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember, that like Robert George Keats, you chose to be a soldier at a defining time in our nation’s history. You too are fighting for an ideal — as the Class of 2013 motto says, you are ‘defending the dream.’ America needs you, and it will count on you to uphold this ideal. In Captain Keats’ words, ‘It can be no other way.’" The whole speech, here.

ICYMI: John Allen talked to Martha Raddatz about the ordeal that he and his wife Kathy endured. There were no bombshells in the Sunday interview on ABC’s "This Week." But in the exclusive interview with the former ISAF commander, Raddatz gives Allen followers a taste of what it was like being investigated for possibly inappropriate e-mail contact with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. In addition to the pressure of the investigation, the public scrutiny, the unwanted media attention, and conducting a war, there was pressure on him as to whether he could continue as commander. Allen, to Raddatz: "Well, I was notified that e-mails were — had become known, that was going to require an investigation into the appropriateness of a relationship. And I had to reflect on whether I believed I could remain in command. And I believed I could. In fact, I felt an obligation to a duty to remain in command. I had to deal with the realities of something that was going on back here. I won’t tell you that there wasn’t a lot of pressure in that regard. But my sense of duty to the war effort and more importantly my sense of duty to the troops demanded that I remain focused on that."

"Empty chairs." Allen, on what he remembers the most about losing 561 service members during his tenure: "This particular ceremony was for three sets of remains. And the wife of one of the soldiers was in an adjacent unit. And I’ll remember her gripping the coffin, the flag-draped coffin, crying his name in the back of the C-130. I’ll never forget that, because there was the catastrophe of the loss playing out in front of our eyes in the belly of that cargo aircraft as we were sending that young soldier home forever."

On whether it is "absolutely necessary" (Raddatz) that troops remain in Afghanistan: "Oh, there’s no question. The international community will remain engaged, our forces will continue to train the Afghan forces well after 2014."

On whether Iraq would have been better off with American troops there: "I don’t think there’s any question." ABC story and video of the interview, here. Transcript of "This Week," here.

Noting

  • Marine Corps Times: (paywall) Politics, privilege and promotion (How a commandant’s son escaped controversy and got a promotion to battalion commander).
  • Danger Room: This Pentagon project makes cyberwar as easy as Angry Birds.
  • The New Yorker: In the crosshairs: the story of how a decorated sniper’s assistance to a troubled veteran resulted in tragedy.

The Stans

  • Small Wars: Did Obama snub the Joint Chiefs on Afghanistan?
  • Los Angeles Times:  Choosing sides in Afghanistan (Max Boot).
  • AP: Afghanistan dinner massacre: seven police killed by commander’s guests.
  • Al-Jazeera: Taliban condemns Afghanistan’s pink balloon project. 
  • NYT: Pakistan struggles to keep its lights on. 

Syria, Year Two

  • AP: Israel minister warns Russia against arming Syria.
  • BBC: Russian arms "to deter foreign intervention in Syria."
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Russia disappointed by EU’s move to lift Syria arms embargo.   

 

 

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. Twitter: @glubold

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