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October 8, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Taiwanese arms
The Pentagon recently notified the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) that it is prepared to sell the island advanced anti-radar HARM missiles.

The approval came in response to inquiries for the weapon made recently by Taiwan that also included an appeal for U.S. sales of guidance kits that would turn Taiwan's gravity bombs into satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM). The JDAM decision is pending.

The High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) homes in on surface-to-air missile and other defense radar and is needed by the Taiwanese to maintain a military balance across the Taiwan Strait, said defense officials, who confirmed the sale after it appeared in the Taiwanese press.

If approved, the JDAM kits would give Taiwan's military a much-needed precision strike capability.

The Taiwanese government is preparing to approve a special budget of up to $18 billion in U.S. weaponry, but the government legislature may postpone a vote until next month.

Pentagon officials fear the HARM decision will be thwarted by pro-China officials in the Bush administration, notably White House National Security Council staff Asia specialist Dennis Wilder, who may argue that HARM is offensive, not defensive.

Mr. Wilder, a CIA analyst on loan to the White House, in the past has used "made-to-order" intelligence to block pro-Taiwan arms initiatives, we are told.

In one case, the CIA produced a questionable report that said the U.S. and Taiwanese militaries should not be allowed to communicate over secure channels because China is believed to have spies within the Taiwanese military, a claim dismissed by defense officials as "speculative."

Recently, Mr. Wilder has been said to be behind an effort to block sales to Taiwan of much-needed Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems, which have some classified elements in them.

White House officials have defended Mr. Wilder as an honest broker on China-Taiwan issues.

The Bush administration has approved an estimated $20 billion in U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Yet foot-dragging by pro-China officials has prevented all but $700 million in equipment from being sold.

Kerry's Korea
Military supporters of President Bush tell us the commander in chief missed an opportunity to bash Democrats on a weak North Korea policy and, in the process, rectify a John Kerry misstatement last week.

The Democratic presidential nominee lashed out at Mr. Bush for failing to conduct direct talks with the Stalinist regime over its nuclear bomb making. Mr. Kerry then said, "For two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea. While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods come out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out, and today there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea. That happened on this president's watch."

First, say Bush supporters, the president's response should have been put simply. The Clinton administration negotiated a failed pact with North Korea to stop bomb making in exchange for economic aid. It was the Bush team that discovered Pyongyang's cheating. It had started a secret enriched-uranium operation, something the Clintonites never detected.

Secondly, North Korea built the bomb during President Clinton's watch, not Mr. Bush's.

A secret Defense Intelligence Agency report, copies of which can be viewed in the book "Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander" shows North Korea had produced at least two nuclear warheads by 1999.

Intelligence battle
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, is worried provisions of the Senate intelligence reform legislation will undermine national security.

Mr. Hunter told us that the House version of the intelligence reform legislation would protect the ability of the Pentagon to provide vital intelligence to war fighters.

The Senate version allows a new national intelligence director to strip money from military intelligence programs, upsetting a "delicate balance" in place between the defense secretary and director of central intelligence.

"We kept the Defense Department in the funding stream," Mr. Hunter said. "They've got a seat at the table for both the long term and short term on how funds are used."

The House bill also would give the defense secretary a big say in key appointments to the high-budget military spy organizations, including the National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.

Mr. Hunter said the issue is not part of Pentagon efforts to protect "turf," as some in the Senate claim.

In building a $35 billion space radar, for example, designers need to have military needs in mind, like watching for long-range missile launches.

"If you don't build those things into the system by having a seat at the table, you can end up with less-effective national security assets, or you have to go out and build duplicative systems," Mr. Hunter said.

"Our interest is to maintain the lifeline between soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and the intelligence assets," he said. "Our version does that." The House and Senate version of the reform bill will be worked out in a conference in the coming weeks.

Hyde pressure
House International Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, continues to press the Bush administration to get the U.S. military involved in counternarcotics in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hyde has convened several hearings on the burgeoning poppy crop in Afghanistan and how the resulting opium and heroin are funding warlords and Osama bin Laden's terror organization.

Mr. Hyde on Sept. 30 sent a letter to White House drug czar John P. Walters encouraging a change in policy. Most counterdrug missions are left to Afghan authorities, who receive training and intelligence from Americans.

The congressman included a threat to have Congress create a fund to pay foreign troops to do the job if the White House does not move.

"Until we address the illicit drug production issue in Afghanistan, we and the world community will face staggering amounts of heroin that one day may also come here," Mr. Hyde told Mr. Walters. "These drugs will also continue to fund the ambitions of anti-coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan and our other global terrorist enemies worldwide.

"There is a clear need at this stage for military action against the opium storage dumps and heroin laboratories. If our excellent military cannot and will not undertake this, we will need to fund and support a military counternarcotics battalion of troops from places like Turkey to take on this challenge. As I have said time and again, time is not on our side."

The White House has said it is re-evaluating its drug policy. Officials say President Bush ultimately may approve ordering U.S. troops to strike drug convoys and laboratories.

Report confirmed
A month ago, The Washington Times reported that Saddam Hussein used his dreaded Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), or Mukhabarat, to run a massive smuggling operation. The modus operandi even included IIS agents stationed at the Syrian border, kicking out regular border guards and supervising the import and export of materials prohibited by the United Nations, The Times said. The implication is that why else would Saddam put his trusted Mukhabarat on the border unless really important stuff, like components for weapons of mass destruction, were involved.

This week, the Iraq Survey Group and its chief, Charles Duelfer, released an extensive report on Iraq's quest for weapons of mass destruction. It included this item: "Saddam used the IIS to undertake the most sensitive procurement missions. Consequently, the IIS facilitated the import of U.N.-sanctioned and dual-use goods into Iraq through countries like Syria, Jordan, Belarus and Turkey."

Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, told Mr. Duelfer, "We saw reports that [IIS] would replace border security guards while cargo caravans crossed various border stations."

Mr. Duelfer: "Well, our investigations looked a lot at what took place at some of the border points and surrounding the border-crossing points, and this is described in some detail in our report. Certainly there was a lot of activity related to the transfer of prohibited conventional munitions. The [IIS] was involved in that. They had, you know, people at these border points. There's a lot of traffic back and forth. There were reports about WMD-related materials crossing the border."

Mr. Duelfer said he has not ruled in or out the possibility that Iraq moved some WMD into other countries before the war.

  • 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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