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August 20, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Missing test data
U.S. intelligence officials say the missing classified data at Los Alamos National Laboratory is related to secret nuclear tests conducted by computer simulation.

The data is considered extremely sensitive because it is used in the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons.

It is contained on several computer disks that were stored in a top-secret facility at Los Alamos, N.M. The disks were last used in April. When lab researchers went to use them in July, they were gone from a secure vault within the X Division.

Los Alamos is currently studying the possibility of a nuclear warhead that can burrow through rock before detonating.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, came to the embattled lab's defense last week when he said the missing data may have been misplaced not stolen.

"It may be that what we have here is a false positive the system says something is missing when it is not," Mr. Domenici said. "Just as if it were a medical test, it is better to find out the inventory was wrong than that the disks were actually missing. But this entire situation only reinforces that we need to improve the inventory system."

Other officials said there are fears that a foreign intelligence service may have been behind the theft.

Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roarke declined to comment on the nature of the information on the missile disks. "It's an ongoing investigation," he said.

U.S. nuclear weapons labs have been targeted for years for secrets, the intelligence officials said.

In the 1990s, the U.S. intelligence community determined that China obtained secret information through espionage on about every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal.

Fallujah bombing
We have obtained dramatic video footage of a U.S. Air Force F-16 jet bombing a group of Iraqi terrorists or former Saddam Hussein guerrillas during recent fighting in Fallujah.

The black and white footage begins with an Air Force pilot pointing a laser-designator to direct a 1,000-pound guided bomb toward a building in Fallujah. The action is part of the Air Force's close air support mission for U.S. and Iraqi ground forces.

While the bomb is heading toward the building, suddenly a large group of people appears on a street and they begin running toward a battle.

"I've got numerous individuals on the road. Want me to take those out? " the pilot asks a controller.

"Take them out," comes the quick reply.

Another voice watching the action states: "It's not a good day for them."

The group includes at least 30 Iraqis who are moving as a group rapidly up the street, apparently unaware they have been targeted by the U.S. warplane in the area.

"Ten seconds," says the pilot.

"Impact," the voice says as a huge plume of smoke rises from the bomb blast.

Another voice says: "Oh, dude" as he surveys the destruction.

Pro-China NSC?
Washington China hands who are hard-liners on Beijing are quietly voicing their concern about the recent appointment of CIA analyst Dennis Wilder to be the top China specialist on the National Security Council staff.

Mr. Wilder is viewed by conservatives as one of the most liberal CIA analysts on China. He is seen as a major player in enforcing the "China-is-not-a-threat" political line within the intelligence and policy communities.

NSC spokesman Sean McCormack said he is unaware of conservative criticism of Mr. Wilder. "He's a career professional and we think he's the right man for the job," he said.

Kissinger visits Rice
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a secret visit to the White House last week to talk with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. A White House spokesman declined to comment, saying only Miss Rice's meetings with foreign leaders are publicized.

Officials tell us the likely topic of the Kissinger meeting was Asia either China or North Korea or both.

Mr. Kissinger has been a supporter of Beijing since his policies led to the diplomatic opening in the 1970s. He was recently quoted in the official Chinese press as calling the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping "one of the greatest figures in the 20th century."

A spokesman for Kissinger Associates in New York had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Job switch
The Air Force is urging hundreds of noncommissioned officers to change careers midstream.

The volunteer program is designed to correct a current imbalance among specialists and give enlisted folks more say in their careers. But if the goal of about 1,100 switchers is not met, the Air Force may have to order job changes.

Bum rap
The military pundits' rap on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is that he dictates soldier-lite war plans to his combatant commanders, such as Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Our sources have said for months that such unsubstantiated charges are untrue. The truth is that Mr. Rumsfeld offers overall guidance and uses catch phrases to send messages during war-planning conferences. But the plan, in the end, is the combatant commander's plan.

For example, Mr. Rumsfeld sent the message on the need for special operations in Iraq by repeatedly telling Gen. Franks to remember the lessons of Afghanistan, where covert warriors won the day. "Speed kills," he would tell Gen. Franks.

Now, Gen. Franks confirms all this in his memoir, "American Soldier."

The retired four-star general writes it was he who thought the off-the-shelf plan for Iraq was "too big, [400,000 troops] too slow and out-of-date." In December 2001, he presented Mr. Rumsfeld with a "Commander's Concept" that began the framework for the lightning-fast conquest of Baghdad.

"I told the secretary that I wanted to develop new options for Iraq, and he agreed," Gen. Franks writes, "From that point on it was clear: Don Rumsfeld was eager to be part of the solution."

And this assessment from Gen. Franks: "Rumsfeld believed in realpolitik. He would fly halfway around the world for a sit-down meeting with Uzbek President Islam Karimov whose human rights record was tarnished at best in order to secure the vital K-2 air base for American operations in Afghanistan. He'd probably have shaken hands with the devil if that had furthered our goals in the war on terrorism."

  • 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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