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August 13, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Letter from Iraq
An Air Force F-16 pilot who is flying bombing runs to support U.S. Marines and Army troops fighting terrorists in Najaf tells us that fighting was fierce this week.

The fighters were called in to drop precision-guided bombs, and helicopter gunships also took part.

The terrorists and other anti-coalition elements "really are not winning," our pilot correspondent says. "Not even a little."

Bombing runs had to be sharply curtailed to avoid collateral damage, the pilot says. "That really pains me, as an F-16 pilot, not because we don't get to mop up all of the action, but more importantly because that means that our 'boots on the ground' are too closely engaged to allow safe delivery of the stuff that we carry. Accuracy is our forte, but these [bombs] still go 'boom' when they hit. I mean, really BIG Boom."

The pilot quoted one colonel on the ground as saying "The engagements in the cemetery were done on foot, encountering numerous fighters at a range when you can smell a man, and it's hand-to-hand combat."

Echoing the political debate under way here, the pilot took a slap at a certain Democratic presidential candidate who has been critical of President Bush's handling of Iraq.

"The vast majority, maybe even all of us, are 100 percent behind our president's decision to free Iraq and go on the offensive against terrorists," he said. "Hunkered down in Massachusetts, waiting for the next terrorist strike, is no way to deal with Bad People. That's why we're here."

The pilot said many in the military in Iraq are upset at the U.S. television networks for biased reporting. "The Third Reich's Disinformation Machine couldn't possibly have been as thorough as the broadcast 'news,' " he said.

Sticking together

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has approved a new program called the 2004 Training Transformation Implementation Plan. Its aim is to ensure that no forces deploy on operations without first going through rigorous joint training with the other services.

The plan calls for a robust and realistic practice environment so all units under combatant commanders worldwide know how to work together from the start.

Rummy and Joyce
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, have seen and traveled a lot during his long career in politics, the cabinets of three presidents and corporate board rooms.

But he has never taken the heat he's feeling today from Democrats and the press over mistakes and casualties in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

In recent remarks before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations/Commercial Club of Chicago, Mr. Rumsfeld talked of how the press focuses on the negative in Iraq and writes little about positive developments in what could be the Middle East's first significant democracy.

"Now, what do we do about that?" Mr. Rumsfeld said to his hometown audience. "Well, we get up every morning and go right after it. Joyce calls this the what did she say? This is her this is our 'pinata period.' "

Covert action training
When the war on global terror began after the September 11 attacks, the CIA lacked a good covert action capability the ability to conduct semi-secret paramilitary operations, such as the one that eventually help oust the hard-line Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The agency had plenty of spies schooled in the arts of intelligence gathering. But it had no large pool of covert action operations officers.

To quickly beef up its covert action capabilities, the CIA took the stopgap measure of having the military transfer special operations soldiers, who also were in short supply. The agency also hired contractors, many of them former Special Forces or former CIA officials, who were called on to conduct paramilitary and other types of covert warfare.

To develop a better in-house covert action capability, the CIA recently launched a new type of covert action training for its clandestine service officers known as "ruggedized training." Rather than learning how to recruit spies, some new clandestine service officers are getting paramilitary training more useful to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Shaw vindicated
We reported recently on an inaccurate Los Angeles Times report that John A. Shaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, was under FBI investigation over accusations that he improperly interfered in communications contracting in Iraq.

A Justice Department official we contacted said there was no probe of Mr. Shaw and never was.

Now the Pentagon has gone further. A statement released Tuesday cleared Mr. Shaw of "press allegations" that he was under investigation by the Department of Defense inspector general.

"The allegations were examined by the DoD IG criminal investigators and a criminal investigation was never opened," the statement says.

"Shaw is not now, nor has he ever been, under investigation by the DoD IG," the statement says, noting that questions regarding any FBI probe should be addressed to the FBI.

Intel gut
Navy Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, recently delivered his assessment of the effect of intelligence budget cuts in the Clinton years.

The decade marked al Qaeda's rise as the deadliest Islamic terror operation, yet major developments went undetected by U.S. intelligence.

"I don't think it was the drawdown of the '90s that hurt us so much," Adm. Jacoby said this week. "It was the fact that we could not restock the shelves, and so we basically made no hires, and so we weren't bringing in new talent and training them, and so we do have a very young work force now that is part and parcel. We also did not have the investment money to put into modern information management techniques and that all-source approach that I talked about in my statement. So we're catching up. And those were desperately felt impacts."

Maj. Schmidt, con't
The civilian attorney for Maj. Harry Schmidt has filed a complaint with the Air Force's judge advocate general, accusing the pilot's prosecutors of "apparent intentional misconduct."

The issue revolves around a salute, or lack thereof. The prosecutors told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Maj. Schmidt failed to salute when he appeared before Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson at an administrative hearing. The general severely reprimanded Maj. Schmidt for dropping a bomb from his F-16 that mistakenly killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002.

But Maj. Schmidt's attorney, Charles Gittins, said in his complaint that the major did salute. The officer, a Naval Academy graduate and former Navy officer, even went so far as to get a briefing beforehand on Air Force protocol for saluting indoors.

"I took approximately 3-4 steps into the office and stopped within about 4-6 feet of the general and stood at attention," Maj. Schmidt said in a written declaration. "When I stopped, I saluted Lt. Gen. Carlson and sounded off, 'Maj. Schmidt reporting as ordered, sir.' "

  • 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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