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June 17, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

China report fallout
U.S. intelligence analysts and others in several agencies are trying to find out how they were excluded from a highly classified report on China that identified 10 years of intelligence "surprises" related to China's military development.

What has current China analysts in the CIA and elsewhere worried is their fear that the report, labeled "Top Secret" codeword and designated "HCS," for humint (human intelligence) control system, will trigger a far-reaching review similar in scope and aggressiveness to the presidential panel that probed failures related to intelligence on Iraq's weapons.

Copies of the 95-page report and associated briefing slides have been recalled from a limited distribution and are to be locked away to prevent congressional oversight panels from seeing them, we are told.

The China report was ordered by Dennis Wilder, a longtime CIA analyst on China who is now on the White House National Security Council staff. Critics within the intelligence community say Mr. Wilder, by limiting participation in the study to pro-China analysts, was trying to exonerate analysts, like himself, who missed the Chinese military developments over the past decade.

One analyst told us the intelligence failures on China were the result of key analysts, including Mr. Wilder, "carrying out their own private foreign policy" aimed at minimizing China's military buildup.

Many dissident analysts now are wondering why they were excluded from the China study and suspect that it was part of an effort to cover up past intelligence failures on China.

Also, the intelligence community is set to start a second study of intelligence lapses on China. That inquiry will look at the failures to know key intelligence on China, whose communist rulers are intensely secret about even the smallest political, military and strategy issues.

The report on China "unknowns" will reflect the oft-stated views of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who warns that when it comes to intelligence, what you don't know can be as important, or as dangerous, as the known intelligence on a subject.

Mr. Rumsfeld put it this way to British interviewer David Frost:

"There are things we know we know, and that's helpful to know you know something. There are things we know we don't know and that's really important to know, and not think you know them when you don't. But the tricky ones are the unknown unknowns, the things we don't know we don't know. They're the ones that can get you in a bucket of trouble."

Several key Chinese military developments will be addressed in the Pentagon's forthcoming report on Chinese military power with the phrase "the Pentagon does not know" about key aspects of the armed forces and its strategies.

Eagle Claw
The House is set to vote Monday on a bill to commemorate Operation Eagle Claw, the failed U.S. military operation to rescue American hostages in Iran on April 24, 1980.

The bill sponsored by Rep. H. James Saxton, New Jersey Republican, will honor the five airmen and three Marines who died during the aborted rescue mission, along with dozens of other U.S. troops who were injured at Desert One, south of Tehran, after a collision between a helicopter and a C-130 aircraft that set off a fireball during a dust storm.

Mr. Saxton, chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities, said that although the operation was a military disaster, it proved to be an important "wake-up call" that led to a major upgrade of U.S. special operations commandos and the creation of the Special Operations Command, which under the Bush administration has been transformed from a support command to a key leader in the war on terrorism.

Rummy's attention
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has sent a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, assuring the California Republican he will monitor the Army's ongoing transformation and how it affects positions for women.

Mr. Hunter won the commitment as he dropped an amendment to the 2006 defense authorization bill that would have frozen current positions open to women. Mr. Hunter acted on evidence that the Army is violating the women-in-combat rules by assigning them to support units that embed with war fighters.

"I am reviewing the Army modular force concept in light of the evolving nature of ground combat operations," Mr. Rumsfeld wrote. "I do not anticipate any significant shift in present department policies, nor in the quality and scope of opportunities available to military women."

Pantano update
Charles Gittins, the attorney for 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, has sent an e-mail of thanks to radio talk-show host Michael Savage.

Mr. Savage was one of the first to come out in support of Lt. Pantano, whom the Marine Corps charged with the murder of two Iraqi insurgents, only later to drop the charges. Mr. Savage talked almost nightly of Lt. Pantano's predicament and urged his millions of listeners to contribute to a defense fund.

"Your support was critical to our successful defense of Lt. Pantano," Mr. Gittins wrote. "Your constant support and visibility on the issue kept Lt. Pantano's plight at the forefront of public discourse and made it nearly impossible for the Marine Corps to take the case to trial."

  • 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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