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July 28, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Damaged shield
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is warning Congress not to cut his missile defense budget, citing "current world events," an apparent reference to North Korea's and Hezbollah's missile firings and Iran's fiery rhetoric.

Mr. Rumsfeld made his objections known in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican. The two committees are meeting in conference to hash out a defense authorization bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

"The department strongly opposes the proposed reductions in the missile defense program which would delay the fielding of critical defensive capabilities," he said in the Monday letter. "One proposed reduction that is particularly damaging is the elimination of the $56 million in funding for a U.S. missile defense site in Europe, which will cause a 12-18-month delay in deploying a defensive capability for the United States against longer range ballistic missile threats from Iran, as well as protect our European friends and allies, and our U.S. forward deployed forces, from Iranian medium and intermediate range ballistic missile threats."

The European missile interceptor site could be located in Britain, the Czech Republic or Poland.

Leak probe
Former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence officer Russ Tice was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury this week to testify in the investigation into who provided the New York Times with details of the agency's counterterrorism eavesdropping program.

A grand jury in Alexandria is looking into potential violations of Section 793 of the espionage code, which deals with unauthorized gathering, transmission or loss of secret defense information.

Mr. Tice, who is set to testify Wednesday, tells us he was a source for the New York Times but was not the source of the disclosure about the information. "I was not cleared for the program," he said.

The newspaper reported Dec. 15 that President Bush after the September 11 attacks authorized the electronic eavesdropping of Americans in an effort to track calls from Islamic terrorists overseas. Critics have said the program is illegal, but the Bush administration says the eavesdropping is legal under presidential powers.

Mr. Tice said he has not disclosed any classified information and that talking to reporters is protected by the free-speech provisions of the Constitution.

"I think this is an effort at intimidation," he said. "This grand jury is not only putting me through the ringer, but anyone else who brings charges of criminal wrongdoing against the government."

Mr. Tice worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for many years and at the NSA until May 2005 on sensitive special-access programs related to electronic intelligence gathering, including space systems communications, non-communications signals, electronic warfare, satellite control, telemetry, sensors and special capability systems.

Mr. Tice lost his security clearance, and ultimately his intelligence job, after he followed procedures and reported to security officials his suspicions that an Asian-American co-worker at DIA showed signs of working as an agent for Chinese intelligence.

Gitmo grades
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an occasional critic of President Bush's war policies, this summer visited the Guantanamo Bay prison where about 450 al Qaeda and Taliban operatives are held.

The political left roundly bashes the detention center and heaps sympathy on detainees who the administration says would like to kill Americans if they had the chance.

But Gen. McCaffrey, a seasoned war combatant who also served as President Clinton's drug czar, found something else: A well-run prison where even the inmates on a hunger strike gain weight.

"During 32 years of military service and five years of responsibilities as the U.S. National Drug Policy director I have visited many, many U.S. prisons and jails at the federal, state and local jurisdiction as well as innumerable U.S. and foreign military and civil detention operations overseas," Gen. McCaffrey wrote in a memo to colleagues at West Point, where he is an adjunct professor.

"The Guantanamo detention center is the most professional, firm, humane and carefully supervised confinement operation that I have ever personally observed," he said. "There is now zero physical or mental abuse of prisoners in this facility by either guard personnel or military intelligence interrogators."

He adds a troubling disclosure: "Eight-five percent of detainees tell U.S. interrogators that when released they will try to kill Americans."

A U.N. human rights panel has called for closing Gitmo. The Supreme Court has rejected Mr. Bush's plan to try some detainees in military tribunals without Congress' OK. There have been a few detainee suicides, and the American Civil Liberties Union obtained FBI e-mails that listed cases of prisoner abuse.

But military investigations found explanations for how those inmates were treated and reported over-the-top interrogations on only one detainee.

Wrote Gen. McCaffrey, "Medical care, dental care, mental health care, nutrition and cultural sensitivity exceed the standards of U.S. first-line institutions."

He added, "Detainees receive 4,200 calories a day with 53 individually prepared special diet meals. .. Detainees on hunger strikes have gained an average of 20 lbs since going on strike."

Other findings:

  • "All detainees have significant opportunities for recreation. Sports opportunities include soccer, volleyball, basketball, table tennis and board games."

  • "All detention blocks are dry, clean and free of unhealthy conditions. Ample running water and Gatorade are provided."

  • "Approximately one third of current detainees are extremely dangerous, trained and clever and might be classified as capable of leadership of terrorist operations. Many detainees are capable of physical violence with intent to kill against U.S. personnel. .. U.S. naval security battalion guards both men and women are physically attacked with prison-fashioned weapons and 'cocktails' of urine and human feces."

    Of the June 10 triple detainee suicides, Gen. McCaffrey said, "This was an extremely professional, widely coordinated and carefully planned and detailed act of political/information warfare. Very courageous, very effective."

  • 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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