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September 22, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Terrorist hunt
We understand that U.S. commandos have developed a clever technical procedure for tracking terrorists in Iraq, and elsewhere, we presume.

The tracking is used by a special military intelligence unit within U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which includes Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force. The technique was instrumental in finding and killing al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in June and in capturing a number of his lieutenants.

President Bush paid special tribute to JSOC after a U.S. Air Force F-16 dropped the bomb that killed Zarqawi, one of al Qaeda's most ruthless killers who pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden.

Cuban spy damage
Ana Montes, a Cuban spy working inside the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), caused serious damage to U.S. national security by revealing U.S. electronic intelligence-gathering secrets and also by providing a feedback mechanism for communist disinformation from the Castro regime.

The damage is outlined in a classified assessment completed several months ago by the office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, now under the new Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte. It was disclosed this week in the new book by Bill Gertz, Pentagon reporter for The Washington Times, titled, "Enemies: How America's Foes Are Stealing Our Vital Secrets And How We Let It Happen."

According to unclassified portions of the assessment, Montes met openly with Cuban intelligence officers at restaurants in the D.C. area as often as twice a week, a rate much more frequently than other spies.

Counterintelligence officials determined that the damage caused by Montes was nearly equal to that caused by CIA turncoat Aldrich Hazen Ames and FBI traitor Robert Philip Hanssen, who both spied for Russia.

Montes had almost unlimited access to U.S. secrets, including the identities of American intelligence personnel and information that defectors provided to U.S. intelligence.

A senior U.S. counterintelligence official familiar with the damage assessment said: "As a career analyst with high-level security clearances, [Montes] had access to virtually unlimited amounts of sensitive data from a number of intelligence community organizations."

She turned down several promotion opportunities to remain as a DIA analyst and keep her access to secrets. The counterintelligence official said that Montes commented during one debriefing she viewed "just about all the information there was about Cuba."

Montes also networked extensively with other civilian and military intelligence officials and agencies, allowing her "to obtain information that was not readily available to the typical analyst," the official said. She sat with a special interagency intelligence group known as the Hard Target Committee, which would meet to discuss all the intelligence operations under way in the most difficult places, including Iran, China and North Korea. Over the years she had access to hundreds of thousands of intelligence reports, many of which she could re-create because "she had an extraordinary, almost photographic memory," according to the counterintelligence official.

The damage assessment concluded, "Montes was the first national-level analyst from the intelligence community known to have turned traitor and the most damaging Cuban spy arrested to date."

The report noted that Montes "was able to effectively inform the Cubans of the United States information gaps and served as a feedback loop for the Cubans that potentially would facilitate the formulation and execution of a robust denial and deception program at U.S. intelligence."

The counterintelligence official said: "Her damage was especially grave and affected every major intelligence community organization. She compromised numerous sensitive intelligence collection activities and provided Havana with a unique window into Washington that undoubtedly helped the Cubans chart their tactics and strategy in dealing with Washington."

U.S. officials also think that information she provided to the Cubans led to the deaths of Nicaraguan anti-communist Contra rebels and possibly of American agents as well.

Pay increase
Throw out the conventional wisdom once again.

A Rand Corp. study has found that rather than taking a salary cut, most reservists called to active duty actual make more money.

In fact, only 17 percent of all Guard and Reserve troops suffered a pay cut compared with their civilian pay stub.

"Typically, these reservists are people in their mid-20s to mid-30s, with some college but not necessarily a bachelor's degree," Rand quoted its economist and lead study author, David Loughran, as saying. "Generally, military pay is quite good for this group. Moreover, reservists receive additional special pay when activated and their earnings are not subject to federal taxes."

Co-ed dorms
Recent accusations of rape and sexual harassment at the service academies is partly a failure of leadership and partly the fault of housing young men and women in the same dorms, say alumni with whom we have talked.

One former Naval Academy graduate tells us Bancroft Hall, the co-ed dorm at Annapolis, is a frequent site of prohibited sexual intercourse. The source said midshipmen know places for having sex where they will not be detected. Such knowledge is passed on to the next class.

Peace through strength
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addressed the annual Keeper of the Flame award dinner Wednesday night at a black-tie affair in Union Station's East Hall.

Mr. Rumsfeld reminded the several hundred guests, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, and NATO commander Gen. Jim Jones about Winston Churchill's remark after the successful evacuation of British troops from the continent at Dunkirk.

"Churchill said in the Parliament very simply, 'Wars are not won by evacuations.' And we need to remember that today," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "They're not won by retreat or wishful thinking. They're won by determination, they're won by understanding the nature of the enemies we face, and the consequences, I would say the dire consequences of failing to understand them or failing to defeat them."

Mr. Rumsfeld said he met recently with former British Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher, who he noted had been criticized for her outspoken advocacy of "peace through strength," which was the motto for the evening's host, the Center for Security Policy.

The dinner honored Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, along with five veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • 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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