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September 16, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Taiwan envoy
Douglas Paal, the U.S. government representative to Taiwan, is under fire from the State Department for misrepresenting Taiwan's policies to his bosses.

A State inspector general report said Mr. Paal's leadership style caused low morale among employees of the American Institute in Taiwan, the official U.S. office in Taiwan.

The most serious IG charge, however, is that Mr. Paal falsely reported on Taiwanese issues to senior State Department officials, a cardinal sin for envoys. Officials familiar with the details of the IG report said Mr. Paal refused to allow dissenting views and was guilty of suppressing reports from U.S. officials who disagreed with his pro-China views.

As a result, the IG concluded that the U.S. government had an inaccurate picture of the situation in Taiwan.

Mr. Paal also angered the Pentagon by blocking for several years the appointment of an active duty military officer to help Taiwan with arms purchases. Army Col. Al Willner, the new Pentagon liaison in Taiwan, is the first U.S. military officer posted in Taiwan since 1979, when diplomatic relations were downgraded.

The report bolsters the views of conservative critics of Mr. Paal in Washington, who have said that he has pro-China views and has not dealt fairly with Taiwan.

As we reported in this column in 2001, Mr. Paal was picked for the Taiwan post even though he gave a speech falsely asserting President Bush had "misspoke" in saying the United States would do whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself from a mainland attack.

The U.S. officials discussed the unpublished details in the IG report after they were first disclosed in Taiwan's China Times and Taipei Times newspapers. Mr. Paal, who is in Washington, could not be reached for comment. A spokesman in Taiwan declined to comment on the IG report.

Detective work
The Army has compiled a list of more than 450 criminal cases whose DNA was tested by a laboratory where an examiner has admitted to making a false entry in one case.

The list includes defendants from military installations across the country and around the world, from the Air Force Academy to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The blood testing dates back to 1995.

The exams are being reviewed by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory in Forest Park, Ga.

In a memo, the laboratory is asking staff judge advocates — the military's lawyers — to contact the Army Criminal Investigative Command about any cases involving DNA.

The Aug. 25 memo, a copy of which we obtained, states that the examiner had been suspended in January 2004 after "permitting contamination in his testing process. After retraining, he was returned to casework on 13 September 2004, initially working one case at a time under supervision."

The false entry was found the following April. "The examiner was suspended from his DNA case work on 3 May 2005," the Army memo states. "In an inquiry initiated on 2 June 2005, the examiner admitted the false entry."

Morgue duty
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has signed off on mortuary teams from the 54th Quartermaster Company at Fort Lee, Va., deploying to the Gulf Coast.

The job was supposed to be handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But FEMA informed the Pentagon it must first find a contractor for the gritty work.

Nine teams arrived in New Orleans on Tuesday. The team can process 20 remains per day, per team. Another nine teams were on the way. The death toll from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana is nearing the 500 mark.

After peaking at 72,000, the troop strength in the Gulf Coast has dipped below 65,000.

Inhuman enemy
Army Col. H.R. McMaster is a soldier-scholar who once advised Gen. John Abizaid, the top Middle Easter commander, on how to wage war in Iraq.

Col. McMaster now is in the heat of that battle himself. For the past several weeks, he has led the campaign to retake the border town of Tal Afar.

Col. McMaster appeared in the Pentagon this week via a video hookup to describe how his 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, joined by 3rd Iraqi Army Division, routed most of the extremists.

But it was his description of how the enemy occupied their safe haven that got the most attention. Col. McMaster told of beheadings, gunshot killings, a booby-trapped dead child and kidnappings. "This is the worst of the worst in terms of people in the world," he said. "To protect themselves here, what the enemy did is they waged the most brutal and murderous campaign against the people of Tal Afar. ... The enemy here did just the most horrible things you can imagine, in one case murdering a child, placing a booby trap within the child's body and waiting for the parent to come recover the body of their child and exploding it to kill the parents."

Col. McMaster said his men killed scores of the enemy in a series of firefights up and down the tight streets of the crossroads between Syria, where insurgents train, and the critical northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

"These Iraqi soldiers are brave," he said. "They're courageous. They're building capabilities every day."

Col. McMaster said soldiers captured some associates of lead terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

"They are some of the worst human beings on the face of the Earth," he said. "There is no really greater pleasure for us than to kill or capture these particular individuals."

Reform movement
In its effort to reform how it detains and interrogates war-on-terror detainees, the Pentagon and Army have drafted four directives:

•The Department of Defense Directive on the Detainee Program

•The Department of Defense Directive on Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings and Tactical Questioning

•Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations

•Joint Publications on Detention and Interrogation Operations.

  • 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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