Category Archives: United States

Chelsea Manning To Be Freed 17 May 2017

President Obama has commuted most of Chelsea Manning’s remaining sentence.

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

As I noted in Freeing Chelsea Manning, I was the oldest surviving contributor to Project VIGILANT, prior to resigning in late 2010. I had no direct involvement in Manning’s capture and I took what steps I could to assist in freeing her.

This move not only frees Manning, it frees me too, in a small way.

 

Thanks, Obama.

 

Freeing Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning is in prison for her role in transferring this video, among other evidence of war crimes to Wikileaks.

 

I didn’t know the name Manning on May 25th, 2010, two days before the press got the story, but I was aware that the U.S. had experienced the largest leak in its history, thanks to my relationship with Chet Uber. He and Adrian Lamo, as members of Project VIGILANT, took credit for Manning’s capture. I was the oldest surviving contributor to the group prior to my resignation in late 2010.

Chet Uber & Neal Rauhauser

Chet Uber & Neal Rauhauser

I lived in Maryland during the time Manning was on trial and I had a proper spy movie rendezvous with someone connected to her defense. I reached out to them via a third party, and we selected a certain time to meet at Union Station, a very busy venue. We both left our phones at home and took a meandering walk around the facility. Project VIGILANT has excellent internal compartmentalization discipline and what little I knew of the affair didn’t matter at all to the defense team.

I had already distanced myself from Project VIGILANT’s day to day activities about six months prior to Manning’s capture; they were simply way too reckless for me. Even so, I’ve felt bad about what has happened to Manning, and infuriated over the lack of investigation into the war crimes her whistleblowing revealed.

I very much hope that Chelsea Manning on Obama’s ‘Short List’ For Commutation turns out to be accurate and that President Obama frees her.

 

Light Reconnaissance Strike Groups

 

The Navy and Marines have the Expeditionary Strike Group, a package of transports, escorts, and troops that can be dispatched where and when they are needed. The Navy provides the Carrier Strike Group. The largest unit of force for the Army is the Brigade Combat Team. A direct descendant of the World War II Division, the BCT is based on assumptions that no longer make sense.

The 21st century’s conflicts demand that things be faster and lighter, from the gear in a soldier’s pack to the unit to which he’s been assigned. The Light Reconnaissance Strike Group represents a doctrinal change and I found some very provocative things after noticing the initial story on the Public Intelligence Blog.

What $20 Billion Buys

What $20 Billion Buys

I’m going to put one of the last things mentioned in the document right here at the beginning. We wasted $20 billion on the FCS and GCV, which were both canceled. We could buy the equipment for four complete LRSGs with that.

Organizationally, the LRSG is commanded by a brigadier general and it attaches directly to a joint command. The BCT reports to a division HQ, putting another layer between the field and their top level command. That makes sense in large scale operations where there are multiple brigades attached to a division that is handling their logistics. The 5,500 troops in an LRSG would often be the total force deployed and there is no point to having a layer of middle management.

The LRSG’s logistics independence is a big deal once they get into the field. A BCT will burn through 1.5 to 2.5 million gallons of fuel in ten days, requiring three to five resupplies, while the LRSG can go that whole time with just 762,000 gallons. A savings of 50% to 70% in fuel costs works out to $25 million over a 90 day deployment.

Puma IFV

Puma IFV

Opting to purchase a known working system rather than develop new is pointed out as being most definitely NOT “business as usual”, and the selection of a foreign design, the German Puma IFV, is also a first.

 

Our military has a terrible time with change. The Pentagon wandered around like a lost puppy in the ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, then seized upon al Qaeda as the next global threat, and began pushing for senseless, overweight, ineffective systems like the F-35. The LRSG proposal is low risk, requiring no development time, it merely requires the political will to ignore the Pentagon’s failure prone development/acquisition process and just buy something from one of our NATO allies that works.

 

Ballistic Missile Submarines

Nuclear Missile Submarines

Nuclear Missile Submarines

I frequent places where there are left leaning foreign policy folk and they tend to be less informed on our various weapons systems. I came across this infographic on the nuclear missile boats of the world. Like the Global Aircraft Carrier Infographic this image shows how dramatic the difference is between U.S. capabilities and the rest of the world. We have fourteen nuclear missile equipped submarines, the rest of the world has fifteen total, and eight of those fifteen are in the hands of our allies.

Notice who’s in this club? The U.N. Security Council Permanent Members. There are rumors that Israel’s Dolphin class provides them second strike capabilities, but this is via cruise missiles rather than ballistic missiles. A trifling difference and one that Israel would never admit, even if true.

The boat types in the infographic are:

Ohio class (USA)

Jin class (China)

Triomphant class (France)

Vanguard class (United Kingdom)

Borei class (Russia)

 

Just having a submarine fleet is not enough, they have to be exercised regularly, or they become a hazard to their unpracticed crews. Quality counts, too. The U.S. lost Thresher in 1963 and Scorpion in 1968. The Soviet Union lost sixteen boats during the Cold War and Russia lost two after that.

Like most other systems, the U.S. could idle half or two thirds of our nuclear missile boats and still have a credible second strike. This will not happen until our economy faces some sort of wrenching adjustment similar to the one in 1929.

FAS B-61 Nuclear Bomb Report

Part of today’s reading was the Federation of American Scientists issue brief The B61 Life-Extension Program: Increasing NATO Nuclear Capability and Precision Low-Yield Strikes. I caught this typo, which is pretty funny for such a polished document:

A Small Typo

A Small Typo

Nuclear weapons are not a normal area of interest for me, but these are not normal times. Specifically:

I’m paying close attention to Election 2016 Cybersecurity & “Operations Psychological”, and this will continue to be of interest after the 2016 election is complete. We really need to pass the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016.

A Russian sub was spotted in the English Channel, and in general there are a lot of reports like those I recall from the late seventies and early eighties, when tensions with the Soviet Union were high. There are a lot of reports like this, more often stuff involving aircraft over the North Sea and in the Baltic region.

Part of the information warfare problem is this: Bellingcat, MH17 & Kremlin Trolls, a cyberconflict which has its roots in Russia’s dismemberment of Ukraine.

If we add a JDAM style tailkit to the B61 Nuclear Bomb they can be made much more accurate. These are Dial-A-Yield weapons, with capacity ranging from 400 kilotons down to 0.3 kilotons. A sub-kiloton weapon that can hit within five meters of an underground bunker’s entrance is a very tempting tool in the hand of a military commander when the facility is hardened against the GBU-28, our most capable conventional bunker buster.

But such a use would create fallout, both physical and political. Maybe it’s better than we amp up development of things like the GBU-28, and leave the nuclear genie in its bottle.

The Turner Legacy By J.M. Berger

I have known of The Turner Diaries for at least twenty years, but never considered reading it until J.M. Berger published The Turner Legacy, an analysis of the history and impact of this book, known as the bible of violent white nationalists.

The book itself is unremarkable; 120 pages of slightly less than young adult novel grade writing, produced in the early 1970s, published as a collected work in 1978, and set in the early 1990s. The nature of the work is such that it remains a functional tool of the final step of radicalization today. The original author, William Luther Pierce, adjusted the original timeline from the 1980s to 1990s when the work was published as a book, and an editor today could easily substitute 2021 as the start year.

I only read about thirty pages of the book, but I read every page of Berger’s analysis. The unintentional genius of Pierce’s work isn’t clear to the casual reader, but Berger makes it accessible. The reason this book is so influential is a combination of the writing style, which appeals to the less educated, it’s relatively formless nature, which permits the reader to mentally insert his own specific views at the appropriate points, and the implicit assumptions about the likely reader’s place in the progression towards violence.

Five Stages of Violent Extremism

Five Stages of Violent Extremism

The Turner Diaries presume anyone reading it has already reached stage four, and is engaged in self-critique. Are they doing enough for “the cause”? The book provides methods and motivations to act immediately. Six groups and nine “lone wolves” did take action, killing 200 people, the bulk of whom died in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Victims Attributed To The Turner Diaries

Victims Attributed To The Turner Diaries

Given the rhetoric flowing from Donald Trump regarding race, guns, and the legitimacy of our electoral process, we should assume that a new wave of violence is about to erupt, and that The Turner Diaries will again provide the template for such activity. The worst event credited to the influence of this book, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was committed by veterans who had taken part in the thirty eight days of ground combat during Desert Storm.

Today there are half a million veterans who have seen hardcore urban combat in Iraq and long distance counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. Our Congress simply abandoned about 30,000 of them, mostly men who had closed head IED injuries, who were dismissed with PDO (personality disorder) discharges, leaving them with no benefits. The rest are also being shortchanged in various ways as the excitement (and profit) of the endless war dwindles. We were always going to have some trouble with returning veterans, but this mistreatment sets the stage for it to be orders of magnitude worse than if we had, as a nation, done the principled thing.

Election 2016 Cybersecurity & “Operations Psychological”

Putin & Trump Kiss

Putin & Trump Kiss

The DNC Intrusion, which has been identified as a Russian state sponsored activity by CrowdStrike, has consumed the cybersecurity news cycle for the couple weeks. I wrote Regarding Those Kremlin Trolls on June 4th, ten days before Guccifer 2.0 began releasing the documents from that intrusion.

My interest in Russian “Operations Psychological” began in late 2015, a fact which was memorialized by this post on Robert David Steele‘s Phi Beta Iota blog: Russian Information Operations The Menace of Unreality – How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money

Prior to a friend compelling me to pay attention to Peter Pomeranzev’s special report I had my own practice in this area, which is most clearly memorialized in the Conspiracy Brokers (on hiatus again 8/31/2016. email for access) WordPress blog. Domestic politics gifted me with a steady supply of unhinged wingnuts starting in 2010, so I made use of them, until they slowly and painfully learned that using their web browsers to look for me was akin to staring into an open blast furnace.

 

Watching @realDonaldTrump‘s bizarre meltdown over the last forty eight hours, it’s clear that the Republican party is about to become be made willing to address the hate groups that have overrun their party over the last six years.

The U.S. government can produce legislation, allocate funding, and prosecute the worst of it, but there are many things that need doing which would be violations of our 1st Amendment rights to free speech, free association, and free assembly. As a private citizen, taking action in this area is the dirty end of the domestic politics field, a place where I’ve been mired since 2010. The work is entirely legal, but extremely distasteful.

 

Here is some required reading if you want to be able to track what is said here. Concepts found herein will be referenced with little or no explanation, unless I’m expanding on a specific point.

The Menace of Unreality – @peterpomeranzev‘s special report for @Interpreter_Mag

Winning The Information War – @peterpomeranzev and @edwardlucas

Why We’re Post Fact@peterpomeransez‘s Granta essay

Understanding Russia’s Concept for Total War in Europe via @StopFakingNews

Conspiracy Theories – @CassSunstein‘s seminal work on cognitive infiltration

Recursive Fury – Lewandowsky et. al.’s study of conspiracy theorists’ response to profiling

Know Your Enemies 2.0 – encyclopedia of advanced persistent threats (APTs)

 

Here is some recommended reading, things that have shaped my thinking over the years.

Understanding Clandestine Networks – JSOU publication on insurgent & terror networks

Challenge of Virtual Conflicts – JSOU publication on virtual aspects of insurgent networks

Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of GlobalizationNational Defense University text book

 

Here are a few Twitter accounts that qualify for automated RTs by me

@Interpreter_Mag

@peterpomeranzev

@edwardlucas

@johnrobb

@CassSunstein