Washington pundits are calling attention to the potentially deadly side effects of the Obama administration’s recent release of memos on interrogation techniques. They claim the CIA is now entering a state of paralysis and adopting a risk-averse mentality that has placed intelligence-gathering operations at risk. Does this sound familiar? You may have read this sort of attitude described by the 9/11 Commission as a contributing factor to the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The current situation is reminiscent of a previous “doom and gloom” period at Langley following the revelations of the Church Committee (1976).
The Central Intelligence Agency has rejected a request by former Vice President Dick Cheney to declassify two memos that discussed what was learned as a result of the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques. Apparently the two memos are tied up in a Freedom of Information Act case pertaining to the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes of Abu Zubaydah. Cheney plans to appeal the refusal.
NEW MONEY LAUNDERING TACTIC?
Could those “gift cards” you buy at major chain and “box” stores have an unintended use? Allegedly, they help drug lords hide their money so they can get their ill-gotten gains out of the United States. A gift card can hold a lot of money – and it takes up much less space than a ton of cash. Plus, under U.S. law (as it presently stands), they do not have to be declared. As we go to press, the Justice Department and FBI have not provided answers to our queries, but Senator Joseph Lieberman (ID-Connecticut) is considering legislation that would help address this problem.
WHAT’S WITH THE TOW?
You might be surprised to know that in at least one instance, American troops are using an anti-tank missile originally designed to whack the toughest Soviet tanks as part of the defenses of combat outposts in Afghanistan. The BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missile has a range of 3,750 meters. It is primarily an antitank system, but was most famously used during the 2003 take-down of Saddam’s brats Uday and Qusay. However, its most valuable asset is a thermal sight, giving it 24/7 capability to view the battlefield in all weather.
The TOW provides long-range observation and fires beyond the range of small arms and has a relatively small warhead (which minimizes collateral damage). It can be very useful if a helicopter gunship or Predator isn’t around due to weather or a lack of airframes.
The TOW’s warhead weighs 5.9 kilograms, or about 15 pounds. The bad guys in Afghanistan are hiding behind or mixing themselves with civilians. As a result, collateral damage is becoming an issue. The advantage of a ground-based system such as the TOW is that friendly forces can be more precise in identifying and then striking the desired target. When a ground element has to “talk on” a fixed-wing or rotary-wing pilot or designate a distant target with a laser, there is always a greater chance for error in target identification by the pilot.
MONTANA TO FEDS: HANDS OFF GUNS MADE HERE!
Montana told the federal government to back off by passing legislation that holds that as of 1 October, any firearms made in Montana and kept in Montana by residents of that state do not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Gary Marbus, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, says “The primary purpose of HB 246 is to set up a legal challenge to federal power to regulate everything under the Sun using the authority granted to Congress by the Constitution to regulate commerce ‘among the states.’ We want to test and roll back the commerce clause power of Congress. Firearms are the reason in Montana to test federal commerce clause power because that reason is consistent with our strong firearms culture here. We believe we should be able to make and use our own guns without federal intervention. Secondarily, this may develop new small business in Montana, once we prove the legal principles in court. It may also poise Montana to avoid some federal gun control.”
Similar legislation has been introduced in Texas and Alaska.
AIRMAN SAVES 300 LIVES!
Over 300 people on board a commercial airliner owe their lives to the sharp eye of Air Force Staff Sergeant Bartek Bachleda. As the airliner was taking off, he noticed a fuel leak. After the sergeant took a video and showed it to the crew, the airliner was diverted and was able to make a safe landing.
Hopefully, the Air Force will provide proper recognition for this. Perhaps the Airman’s Medal would be an appropriate award for saving the 300 people on the airliner. WELL DONE, STAFF SERGEANT BACHLEDA!!!
STAY SAFE OUT THERE
Derek Nelson of the Navy Safety Center wrote the following in a recent summary of mishaps (in this case, a list of “Not-So Funnies”) from the Naval Safety Center: “During the past five summers, 229 Sailors and Marines have died in traffic wrecks and other off-duty mishaps. I would like nothing better, come Labor Day, than to have no new material.”
While this issue will get to readers in the middle of summer – hopefully all can do their part to make Mr. Nelson’s wish a reality.
IRAQ VETS FOR CONGRESS
They served our country in Iraq – and now they want to serve in Congress. Iraq Veterans for Congress has formed a political action committee, with the goal of recruiting Iraq War veterans to run for Congress and providing them funds. In the 2008 election, they succeeded in electing Duncan D. Hunter and Mike Coffman to the House of Representatives from California and Colorado, respectively. Now, they seek to elect more Iraq War veterans. For more information, go to www.iraqvetsforcongress.com.