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October 28, 2010

Intel budget: $53.1 billion, plus

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, today released the amount that the U.S. government (that's YOU, dear taxpayer) spent on the intelligence agencies in fiscal year 2010, which ended on October 1: $53.1 billion.

That amount covers the National Intelligence Program, but does not include many military intelligence programs.

There was no further breakdown of how the $53.1 billion was apportioned among human spies, eavesdropping and code-breaking, spy satellites, analysis, salaries, R&D and other activities, naturally.

Full press release is here.



October 22, 2010

Waiting for Wikileaks

UPDATE:  According to al Jazeera, the documents show that the U.S. military found that 109,000 Iraqis were killed between Jan. 1, 2004 and Dec. 31, 2009; of those two-thirds were civilians. In addition, the documents capture several incidents where excessive use of force incidents were not investigated. Here is the al Jazeera report. 

According to a Twitter posting by Wikileaks, the website plans to release another 400,000 classified military documents about the by 5 a.m. EST tomorrow morning. Some news organizations already have seen them. And here in the halls of the Pentagon, we hear that the New York Times has the documents as does al Jazeera, and both organizations are expected to release their stories about the documents this evening. Until we see the stories though, it really is all conjecture as the Pentagon will not say which organizations have contacted them about the documents. 

The documents span the entire length of the Iraq war and may include the names of Iraqis who cooperated with U.S. Special forces. In addition, they may have details about the search for and eventual killing of former al Qaida Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi and the first 2004 Fallujah offensive. 

But the Pentagon insists that they do not expect any major surprises in the documents, many of which include first or β€œraw” reports about incidents throughout Iraq. Despite that, they have pleaded with news organizations to not publish them.  Publishing them could endanger troops, the Pentagon said. 

As you may recall, Wikileaks released 90,000 documents over the summer, many of which focused on the war in Afghanistan.  Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said there is no evidence that the Pentagon has that any of the Afghans named in those documents were injured by the Taliban or other insurgent forces.  

So what impact will this latest batch have on our understanding of the Iraq war? We will know in just a few hours. 


October 20, 2010

Press Freedom Index 2010

Available here.

Headlines from the study by Reporters Withour Borders:

* Eritrea's at the bottom, even lower than North Korea.

* Iraq climbs 15 places, to #130.

* The United States hangs steady, at #20, while several European Union nations fall.

* Press freedom in the Philippines, Ukraine, Greece and Kyrgyzstan fell sharply.


October 15, 2010

She's ba-a-a-a-a-ck

Condoleezza Rice has kept a low profile since she left Foggy Bottom and Washington 21 months ago, repairing to the warmer climes of Stanford University's Palo Alto, Calif., campus. Oh, there was that confrontation with a student over the Bush administration's torture policy, and a duet performance this July with Aretha Franklin.

Now, in classic Washington fashion, Condi is back - and projecting a softer image than she did as President George W. Bush's foreign policy soulmate. Suddenly, the former secretary of state seems to be everywhere, meeting with President Barack Obama, appearing on Wold Blitzer's "Situation Room," giving an in-home interview to USA Today.   Kudos to whoever's doing the media strategy.

The reason for the publicity is Rice's new book, "Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me." The book (which we've not yet read) is a recounting of Condi's growing up in racially tense Birmingham, Alabama, and of her family.

Condi remains a fascinating, often enigmatic person, someone who achieved much and rose to heights unheard-of for an African-American woman through hard work, determination and intelligence.

That said, the question she's been getting from our media colleagues are softballs:  Who will win the Super Bowl this year?  Would you take a job if Obama offered one? (Right.) Who are your favorite musicians? Tell us about Birmingham in the 1960s?

Not a wisp about waterboarding. Or Saddam Hussein's supposed quest for uranium in Niger. Or her declaration that the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon was "the birth pangs of the new Middle East."

Call us cynical, but the Bush administration wasn't that long ago, folks.




October 05, 2010

An interactive video captures a Medal of Honor's heroism

The U.S. Army has put together an interactive video of the actions of Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, who on Tuesday will be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Obama. You can watch what lead to his award here. To follow along, you must click on each chapter; the whole video runs for about 10 minutes.

Miller, 24, of Harrisburg, Pa., was a weapons sergeant assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne. He is being honored for sacrificing his own life to save that of his troopers while fighting in eastern Afghanistan. I hope the video gives you some insight into the complexities of fighting in Afghanistan and what Staff Sgt. Miller did that day.

As his citation explains of his final moments: β€œThroughout the engagement, the insurgent fire around Staff Sgt. Miller was so intense that his fellow team members could not see him due to the dust, debris, and RPG and small arms fire impacting around him. During the ensuing 25-minute battle, Staff Sgt. Miller was mortally wounded by a second gunshot to his upper torso under his left arm. Despite suffering a second and fatal wound, Staff Sgt. Miller remained steadfast and continued his selfless acts of heroism. He provided essential disposition and location reports of insurgent actions and he relentlessly fired his SAW until he expended all of his ammunition and threw his final hand grenade.”

He was killed by small-arms fire on Jan. 25, 2008. His parents, Phil and Maureen, will accept the military's highest distinction, on his behalf. You can read more about him here



"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

jon, nancy & warren

Landay, Youssef and Strobel.

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