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January 6, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

China post
Pentagon Asian specialist Richard Lawless is still a leading candidate to replace Michael Green as senior director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council. Mr. Green left last month for Georgetown University.

Former businessman James J. Shinn, the national intelligence officer for East Asia within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is said to have emerged as another leading candidate.

Other possibilities include James R. Keith, a State Department Asia hand, and Victor Cha, the NSC staff specialist for Japan and Korea.

CIA analyst Dennis Wilder, who was named recently as the acting NSC director for Asia, is actively campaigning to be named permanently to the powerful policy coordinating post. Mr. Wilder is a critic of Mr. Lawless and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and their more hawkish views on China.

At one time, Mr. Wilder was considered the top choice to replace Mr. Green, but officials tell us his appointment has run into trouble and is unlikely.

Mr. Wilder, a target of conservative critics in the past, is facing criticism from liberal human-rights activists over his role in arranging the embarrassing visit by President Bush to an "official" Chinese government-controlled Protestant church Nov. 20 in Beijing.

The visit was meant to boost religious freedom in China. But instead, the Beijing government used its state-run propaganda organs to portray the visit as a U.S. government endorsement of China's registered churches, which must have their doctrine and leaders sanctioned by the officially atheist government.

Also, about 30 people were arrested near the church, adding to the embarrassment. The protesters had sought to explain to the president the true state of religious repression in China.

At least six human-rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Dialog, have told the White House they were upset by the visit and by Mr. Wilder's role in arranging it, officials said. Mr. Wilder, who does not speak Chinese, recommended the church visit and Mr. Bush's bicycle ride with Chinese athletes.

The rights activists say privately that Mr. Wilder did not fully understand how China would exploit the president's church visit.

Most of China's Christians are Catholics or Protestants who are part of a vast, unofficial underground church and who regularly face violent repression. Mr. Wilder also has close ties to a network of anti-Pentagon liberals at think tanks and former Democratic officials who specialize in China and have sought to steer U.S. policy in a pro-Beijing direction.

A spokesman for the NSC had no comment on Mr. Wilder's role in arranging the church visit.

Chinese crutch
A soldier we know was being fitted with crutches after knee surgery at an Army hospital. He, like most soldiers, wears a black beret. At one time, the Army planned to buy them from China. But publicity about having a potential battlefield adversary supply the Army with a key uniform component forced it to do an about-face and buy American.

The soldier tells us he was sifting through a closet full of crutches to find the one that fit best. Each, he said, contained a label: "Made in China."

"Won't they ever learn?" the soldier said.

No torture
There were a few loose ends in U.S. Southern Command's investigation of purported torture of detainees, including charges contained in e-mails sent by FBI agents involved in interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The e-mails were fodder for Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. He took to the Senate floor, read from them and accused the military prison of being in the mode of Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II. Facing fierce criticism, Mr. Durbin apologized to veterans for his remarks.

The SouthCom report said no torture occurred at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, only aggressive interrogation techniques and restraints against dangerous detainees, who include al Qaeda and Taliban suspects.

But in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, investigators acknowledged that they had not been able to interview one FBI agent who had written perhaps the most inflammatory e-mail. Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, sternly recommended that the agent be interviewed.

A SouthCom spokesman, Capt. Michal Kloeffler, told us that agent and four others have since been interviewed. Capt. Kloeffler said:

"In response to the request of Senator Warner and at the direction of commander, U.S. Southern Command, General John Craddock, Brigadier General John T. Furlow interviewed five Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who were unavailable previously as part of the original investigation. On September 6, 2005, Brigadier General Furlow completed these additional interviews and reported to General Craddock that the additional information gathered from these interviews did not change or alter the findings and recommendations of the original report. On September 8, 2005, General Craddock accepted Brigadier General Furlow's conclusions."

Lott's hold
We're told that Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, has dropped his "hold" on the nomination of Gordon England to be deputy defense secretary. Mr. England had been serving as "acting" deputy secretary until Wednesday, when President Bush made him a recess appointment.

But Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, has not released her blocking maneuver. A spokesman has said she objects to Mr. England over his shipbuilding policies as Navy secretary, when planned new ships were stripped from the defense budget.

Mr. Lott removed his hold after Mr. England endorsed the DDX destroyer, a ship built in the senator's home state. Maine's Bath Iron Works shipyard is a major employer in the state.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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