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September 15, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

JAG proliferation
The war on terrorism has been exploited by the military judge advocates general (JAGs) to increase their numbers. The proliferation of military lawyers is at an all-time high, with Army JAG strength 10 percent larger than it was at the end of the Cold War.

The three senior JAGs for the Army, Navy and Air Force, known as TJAGs, want three-star rank similar to the surgeons general of the services. But they need a larger corps of military lawyers to justify the boost in rank, we are told. Legislation to increase the three-star rank was proposed this year but failed from lack of Pentagon support.

In the meantime, military lawyers are fighting the Bush administration over detainee trial rights, some of which intelligence and defense officials oppose.

The TJAGs want to give the terrorists access to secrets, including identities of undercover agents and highly sensitive electronic eavesdropping intelligence. Such access would be a windfall for terrorists around the world because the data could be used to compromise U.S. intelligence-gathering against terrorism, the front line of defense in the battle against Islamist jihadists.

According to officials familiar with the debate, TJAGs were part of recent interagency meetings along with officials from the Defense, Justice and State departments on proposed legislation, and all parties reached "total agreement" on the legislation. The TJAGs had complained in the past that they had been left out of decision-making on interrogation, which is not true, so they were made full participants.

But after agreement was reached, the TJAGs publicly denounced in congressional testimony the legislation their representatives had accepted in the interagency debate, we are told.

As one participant told us, "National security was subordinated to TJAGs self-interest. Gaining an increase in JAG strength and three-star rank is more important than defeating the transnational terrorist threat."

The TJAGs then appear to have backed off some of their opposition to the proposed legislation. A letter sent Wednesday by them to the Senate sought to "clarify" their views on detainee trials and war crimes.

Unvarnished military
Harry W. Crocker III, an author and executive editor at Regnery Publishing, is scheduled to appear on the Laura Ingraham radio show Monday to pitch his thoroughly unpolitically correct history of the U.S. military. Its title is, "Don't Tread on Me: A 400-Year History of America at War, from Indian Fighting to Terrorist Hunting."

John O'Sullivan, editor at large for National Review, describes the book as "that rare but admirable thing a book written from a Tory, Imperialist, Southern Gentleman's perspective. Winston Churchill and Andrew Jackson would both be proud. A rousing read through the rattling good tales of American history."

Mr. Crocker writes that the U.S. should have annexed Mexico all of it and Cuba too, and that the U.S. military won in Vietnam, but the Democratic-controlled Congress lost.

As for Iraq, Mr. Crocker tells us, "Americans needn't worry about a civil war in Iraq, as long as we're not involved in it, because we should have divided the country anyway."

Wilson's right
Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV is hard-pressed to find evidence of a conspiracy inside the White House to out his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

But in the end, he appears to have been right when he wrote in a 2003 New York Times op-ed that Iraq never talked to Niger about buying more yellowcake, a processed uranium that can be further refined into weapons-grade material.

A Senate intelligence committee report last week backs a 2002 State Department assessment that reports of the attempted yellowcake buy as "highly dubious."

The Senate report finding relied on "old news" the final 2004 report from Charles Duelfer, who led the Iraq Survey Group's hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

His report said there were two visits by Iraqi officials to Niger after 1998, but neither dealt with a uranium purchase.

In another instance, Ugandan businessman approached Iraq about providing it with uranium from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

An Iraqi intelligence document seized after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 states, "We told him we don't deal with these materials and we explained to him the circumstances of Iraq and the imposed sanctions, and that Iraq is not concerned about these matters right now."

Intelligence reports that Iraq sought yellowcake set off a firestorm from Democrats, who contend that President Bush misled the country when he referred to it in a pre-invasion State of the Union address. Mr. Bush attributed it to British intelligence. Later, the White House said it should not have been in the speech.

To make things more confusing, the British government this year re-examined the issue and said it stuck by its original conclusion that Iraq did, in fact, seek yellowcake from Niger.

To think that Iraq might buy yellowcake from Niger was certainly plausible. It had done it before. Baghdad acquired Niger yellowcake in 1981 when it was in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons and did not report it to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "demonstrating that the Iraqi regime was willing to pursue uranium illicitly," Mr. Duelfer's report said.

Pentagon silence
U.S. counterintelligence and security officials are upset that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, were silent on the case of former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ronald Montaperto. Montaperto was sentenced to three months in prison last week for illegally keeping classified documents and passing sensitive intelligence to Chinese agents.

Apparently, Mr. Rumsfeld, who has publicly criticized the disclosure of classified information to the press, is less concerned when classified data is passed to foreign intelligence services by a Defense Department employee.

By contrast, 12 current and former government and military officials wrote to the judge in the case to defend Montaperto. Among the letter writers was Lonnie Henley, the U.S. intelligence community's second-most senior intelligence analyst on China. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman disagrees. Although Mr. Whitman would not say why no one from the Pentagon wrote to the judge, he said that "the severity of the sentence rests with the judge."

"Protecting information vital to our national security is the responsibility of every employee of the U.S. government," he said. "It is a sacred trust that the American people expect and deserve to have upheld."

DIA spokesman Don Black told us that his agency will cooperate with any reviews of the case.

"We are always concerned about information that may have been given to unauthorized people, no matter what country they are from," he said.

During the sentencing hearing Sept. 8, Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom said that Montaperto met with Chinese Col. Yu Zenghe, who was a military intelligence officer, after reading top-secret documents inside a secure room at the Pentagon on Oct. 4, 1988, and Dec. 7, 1988.

U.S. officials said they think that Montaperto disclosed intelligence to Col. Yu on Chinese sales of missiles to Saudi Arabia and Iran and that the disclosures coincided with the loss of a major U.S. electronic eavesdropping program on China a short time later.

The loss of the electronic spying link made it nearly impossible for U.S. intelligence agencies to connect China's government to arms sales by state-run companies to rogue states.

  • 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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