National Security

FP's Situation Report: A drone strike in Yemen didn't follow the rules

Saudi sidelines a spychief; The crackdown is going to cost Ukraine; Petraeus on North America; Broadwell (trying to) move on; and a bit more.


By Gordon Lubold

A drone strike in December in Yemen that killed at least a dozen people didn't follow Obama's new rules. The WaPo's Greg Miller: "...The report by Human Rights Watch concluded that the strike, which was carried out by the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command, targeted a line of vehicles that were part of a wedding procession, and that evidence indicates 'some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians.' The findings contradict assertions by U.S. officials that only militants were killed in the operation, although the report acknowledged that members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network's affiliate in Yemen, may have been among the dead. Overall, Human Rights Watch "found that the operations did not comply with the targeted killing policies that President Obama outlined" in a speech in May, the report said, citing in particular Obama's requirement of 'near-certainty' that no civilians would be harmed."

"The report represents the most detailed independent examination to date of a strike that has focused attention on the administration's struggles to tighten the rules for targeted killing, provide more information about such operations to the public and gradually shift full control of the drone campaign from the CIA to the Pentagon." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Thursday's tardy edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Please tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please do follow us @glubold.

Ukraine, that crackdown is going to cost you. FP's Jamila Trindle: "After weeks of disagreement between American and European leaders over how to respond to escalating violence in Ukraine, the mounting bloodshed and chaos in the streets of Kiev seems to have finally brought about a hard-won consensus. United States and European Union officials made clear Wednesday that they would be prepared to move ahead with targeted sanctions against the government of embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych if his security forces continued using live ammunition against the protesters clogging the streets of most of the country's major cities. Yanukovych called for a 'truce' Wednesday and promised to negotiate with opposition leaders, but it's not clear if, or when, the talks will lead to a deal." More here. \

Kiev in Flames: An FP Slideshow, here.

Saudi sidelines a spy chief. WSJ's Ellen Knickmeyer and Adam Entous: "Saudi Arabia has sidelined its veteran intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as leader of the kingdom's efforts to arm and fund Syrian rebels, replacing him with another prince well-regarded by U.S. officials for his successes fighting al-Qaeda, Saudi royal advisers said this week. The change holds promise for a return to smoother relations with the U.S., and may augur a stronger Saudi effort against militants aligned with al Qaeda who have flocked to opposition-held Syrian territory during that country's three-year war, current and former U.S. officials said. Prince Bandar, an experienced but at times mercurial ex-diplomat and intelligence chief, presided over Saudi Arabia's Syria operations for the past two years with little success, as a rift opened up with the U.S. over how much to back rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." More here.

Howzthatagain?: Whistleblowers at Haliburton and KBR need to sign non-disclosure agreements. The WaPo's Scott Higham on Page One: "One of the nation's largest government contractors requires employees seeking to report fraud to sign internal confidentiality statements barring them from speaking to anyone about their allegations, including government investigators and prosecutors, according to a complaint filed Wednesday and corporate documents obtained by The Washington Post. Attorneys for a whistleblower suing Halliburton Co. and its former subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, said the statements violate the federal False Claims Act and other laws designed to shield whistleblowers. They filed a complaint with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, requesting an investigation and demanding that the confidentiality statements be turned over to federal authorities so allegations of fraud can be identified.

"'The apparent purpose and intent of the confidentiality agreements was to vacuum up any potential adverse factual information, conceal it in locked file cabinets and gag those with first-hand knowledge from going outside the company,' Stephen M. Kohn, an attorney for the whistleblower, wrote in the complaint.

"Mark E. Lowes, KBR's vice president of litigation, said the confidentially statements are designed to protect the integrity of the internal review process, not to conceal information. He said that the company often receives unfounded complaints and that the process is designed to ensure those complaints are not publicly circulated. He also said KBR employees are encouraged to report allegations of wrongdoing. If those allegations are supported by the facts, he said, they are forwarded to the proper authorities." More here.

No specific threat: Shoe bombs a concern again. NBC's Pete Williams and Robert Windrem: "The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday told airlines about a potential new shoe-bomb threat and urged them to pay extra attention to flights from overseas into the United States. Several officials familiar with the advisory told NBC News that 'very recent intelligence' considered credible warns of possible attempts to attack passenger jets using explosives concealed in shoes." More here.

Not happening: DHS abruptly cancels plans to establish a national license-plate recognition database over privacy concerns.  "...The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the agency recently issued a solicitation notice seeking bids for the database project, which would collect data from license-plate readers that rapidly scan the tags of passing vehicles, to help track down and arrest fugitive illegal immigrants. Civil liberties groups were concerned that the proposal, which did not specify what privacy safeguards would be implemented, would have allowed government agencies to scrutinize the travel habits of ordinary citizens who are not suspected of wrongdoing, The Post reported." More here. Original WaPo story here.

A new CNA study says slashing number of troops in Afghanistan would jeopardize stability. The WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum: "An independent assessment of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan concludes that plans to slash the size of Afghan security forces would jeopardize American hopes of stabilizing the country when most international forces leave later this year... Under current plans of the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Afghanistan's domestic security forces would be cut from a peak of 352,000 to about 228,500 after 2015. The new analysis warns that such a reduction, which has been under review for more than a year, would undercut U.S. plans in Afghanistan... Jonathan Schroden, who oversaw the research for the CNA's Center for Naval Analyses, the Virginia-based nonprofit hired by the Pentagon and his research team concluded that the Taliban-led insurgency 'will become a greater threat to Afghanistan's stability' as it rebuilds its strength and expands its control across the country."

CNA's Schroden to Nissenbaum,: "If the U.S. policy goal is to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists and insurgents, drawing down the Afghan security forces to 228,500 puts that goal at risk." WSJ story here.

Summary of CNA report here; CNA's full report here.

David Petraeus and Robert Zoellick pen a piece in Foreign Affairs: North America is where it's at. Petraeus and Zoellick on the "Three Amigos" summit in Mexico: "...The summit points to a great strategic opportunity: 20 years after the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into force, all three countries have the chance to forge a new forward-looking agenda for North American competitiveness and integration and thereby increase the economic growth and global influence of each. As crises in the Middle East and rising tensions in Asia have consumed U.S. policymakers' attention over the past decade, Washington has devoted comparatively little thought to North America. Yet it is precisely the broader global challenges of the 21st century that make an ambitious strategy to strengthen North America so important. By adopting policies that foster a more competitive and integrated region, the three nations can lay the foundation for greater prosperity at home while bolstering their power and positions worldwide.

"Such a strategy can draw strength from several tailwinds that are already blowing in North America's favor. With three democracies, almost 500 million people, and economies totaling $19 trillion, North America possesses the economic and demographic heft to put China and a rising East Asia in perspective.

Their BL: "The best news for North America is that, regardless of what its governments do, market forces will continue to drive the development of an integrated, competitive regional economic power. Nonetheless, public policy choices will play a critical role in either accelerating or undermining that progress. This week's summit gives the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico an opportunity to advance the shared future North America needs." More here.

Read Obama's trip to Mexico in the NYT here.

"Saved Not Cured": Page One: Pete Bunce didn't recognize his own son when he walked into a military hospital in Germany in 2004. The WSJ's Michael Phillips: "Pete Bunce walked into a room at a U.S. military hospital in Germany in March 2004, and stared hard at the unconscious young Marine on the bed. His head, gouged by shrapnel from an insurgent bomb in Iraq, was grotesquely swollen. His face was distorted and his right eye was near blind.

"Mr. Bunce spoke his first thought: 'This is not my son.' The Bunce family and their doctors have spent the decade since trying to restore Justin Bunce to the man they knew, with limited success. Cpl. Bunce remains intelligent and funny. But his brain no longer sends the messages that allow him to walk smoothly, or to warn him when his behavior might offend or frighten people. "I can't dream anymore," he said. 'I would even be happy with nightmares, but I don't even have those.' The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left a generation of brain-injured veterans who, like Cpl. Bunce, may get better, but never well.

"Between Jan. 1, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2013, more than 265,000 U.S. troops suffered traumatic brain injuries, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Most were mild concussions. Some 26,250 troops, however, suffered penetrating head wounds or brain injuries classified as moderate or severe, which caused unconsciousness from 30 minutes to more than a day. The Bunces, their doctors and the Department of Veterans Affairs have embarked on an experiment that could help determine whether some of these veterans can ever resume something close to regular lives." Read the rest of this story here.

The new U.S. framework of cybersecurity standards could be a model for other NATO countries. Inside Cybersecurity's Chris Castelli: "The new U.S. framework of cybersecurity standards could provide a positive example for other NATO countries seeking to improve cybersecurity by boosting cooperation between the public and private sectors, according to a spokeswoman for the alliance's cybersecurity center.

"President Obama said last week the framework 'highlights best practices and globally recognized standards so that companies across our economy can better manage cyber risk to our critical infrastructure.' He called it 'a great example of how the private sector and government can, and should, work together to meet this shared challenge.' Kristiina Pennar, a spokeswoman for the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, told Inside Cybersecurity it is 'highly positive that the government and private sector are reaching out to each other and, as the [White House's] statement said, working together to meet the challenge.'" More here.

Families of Gitmo detainees may get to visit - but no overnights. The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg: " With the prison camps now in their 13th year, the U.S. military is willing to allow some war-on-terror captives to have family visits - if the International Red Cross can find a Caribbean country to host the prisoners' relatives between day trips to this remote U.S. Navy base. It is not yet known which captives would be allowed to meet wives, children or other relatives at this base. Of the 155 detainees, federal review boards have approved 77 for release, with security arrangements. A key obstacle to the visits is the U.S. Southern Command's insistence that family members would be forbidden from sleeping at this 45-square-mile outpost of more than 5,000 residents with hotels, a tent city and suburban-style neighborhoods." More here.

Former Air Force Chief of Staff John Jumper to retire from SAIC. The WaPo's Marjorie Censer: "The chief executive who shepherded McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. through the most significant restructuring in its nearly 45-year history plans to announce his retirement today. John P. Jumper became chief executive of SAIC in early 2012, taking over a storied contractor that was facing a host of problems, from declining sales to a scandal surrounding a New York City contract that resulted in the removal of three company executives." More here.

JIEDDO chief sees a mission despite downsizing. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber: "The head of the US military's counter-IED organization sees the group's mission possibly expanding despite the physical size of the organization declining in the coming year. In the coming months, Lt. Gen. John Johnson, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), must present his case for institutionalizing the organization, which was borne over the past decade of counterinsurgency-oriented wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While he does this, Johnson must reduce his staff from about 3,000 - when he entered the job six months ago - to 1,000 by the end of September." More here.

Techies are pumped up: today, the Pentagon unveils its new electromagnetic spectrum strategy. Teri Takai, the DoD's chief information officer, and Maj. Gen. Robert Wheeler, DoD Deputy CIO for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Infrastructure and Fred Moorefield, DoD CIO Director of Spectrum Policy and Programs, will brief the press at 11 a.m. on the new plan.

Here's Wired magazine's piece from two days ago, "How America's Soldiers Fight For the Spectrum on the Battlefield." Wired's Brendan Koerner: "An electromagnetic mystery in northern Iraq changed the course of Jesse Potter's life. A chemical-weapons specialist with the US Army's 10th Mountain Division, Potter was deployed to Kirkuk in late 2007, right as the oil-rich city was experiencing a grievous spike in violence. He was already weary upon his arrival, having recently completed an arduous tour in Afghanistan, which left him suffering from multiple injuries that would eventually require surgery. In the rare moments of peace he could find in Kirkuk, Potter began to contemplate whether it was time to trade in his uniform for a more tranquil existence back home-perhaps as a schoolteacher. Of more immediate concern, though, was a technical glitch that was jeopardizing his platoon: The jammers on the unit's armored vehicles were on the fritz. Jammers clog specific radio frequencies by flooding them with signals, rendering cell phones, radios, and remote control devices useless. They were now a crucial weapon in the American arsenal; in Kirkuk, as in the rest of Iraq, insurgents frequently used cell phones and other wireless devices to detonate IEDs. But Potter's jammers weren't working. "In the marketplaces, when we would drive through, there'd still be people able to talk on their cell phones," he says. "If the jamming systems had been effective, they shouldn't have been able to do that." Read the rest here.

Paula Broadwell, ready to move on. Tampa Tribune's Howard Altman: " Paula Broadwell, in Tampa on Wednesday for the first time since news that her affair with former CIA Director David Petraeus had local connections, says she wants to "move on" from the ensuing scandal that brought down two national security leaders and turned a Bayshore Boulevard woman into an international icon. Broadwell, a major in the Army Reserves, moderated a panel at the University of South Florida's Citizenship Initiative conference on Modern Warfare. It's only her second visit to Tampa, which became a focus of an unfurling story two years ago when Jill Kelley, a friend of Petraeus, reported to the FBI receiving threatening emails from Broadwell.

"Broadwell, who co-authored a book about Petraeus and served with the U.S. intelligence community, U.S. Special Operations Command and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to her biography, says her reintegration into the public spotlight 'is going well.'" More here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: U.N. talking to al-Qaeda in Syria

McMaster picks up a third star; Guardsmen acting badly; A Navy CO channels George Costanza; and a bit more.


By Gordon Lubold

The United Nations has been quietly cultivating informal contacts with al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate to get humanitarian assistance into the country. FP's Colum Lynch with this exclusive: "...The contacts with leaders from the Jabhat al-Nusra terror group, which have not previously been reported, are mostly informal and sometimes involve little more than conversations between U.N. relief workers and Jabhat al-Nusra fighters at a specific checkpoint. In other cases, the U.N. funnels requests for safe passage through other more moderate armed opposition groups. Other more direct communications remain a closely-held secret. "We don't talk about the details," said a senior U.N. official who confirmed the contacts. 'These are not face to face contacts - they usually take place on telephone or Skype.'

"The outreach is highly sensitive within the U.N. and the broader international relief community. U.N. officials fear that the disclosure of any dealings, however incidental, with terror groups could fuel criticism that the world body is conveying such groups a kind of political legitimacy they don't deserve. Still, U.N. officials say they have no choice but to deal with the militants. The world body is racing against time to get food and aid to the hundreds of thousands of civilians who are facing starvation in Homs, Aleppo, and other besieged Syrian towns and cities. It has been pressing the Syrian government to allow aid workers to cross through military-held territory, but senior officials say such permissions -- even if granted by Damascus, which is far from certain -- would be insufficient if Jabhat al-Nusra and other armed opposition groups didn't make similar guarantees.

"...There are early signs that the outreach efforts may be paying off. Jabhat al-Nusra fighters have so far largely refrained from targeting relief workers inside Syria, and have provided assurances that their forces will not target U.N. aid convoys. That stands in stark contrast to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an even more extremist al Qaeda-inspired movement that has abducted foreign relief workers, seized aid supplies, and launched attacks against hospitals and other opposition forces." Read the rest here.

Next door, Lebanon is hosting about a million refugees from the Syrian conflict - that means that one in four people in Lebanon are Syrian. The BBC's Kim Ghattas this morning: "The pictures of Hezbollah's martyrs hang from the lampposts and balcony railings. They are plastered on walls and car windshields. The men died not fighting Israel - Hezbollah's arch enemy - but supporting the forces of its ally President Bashar al-Assad, across the border in Syria. The southern suburbs of Beirut, a predominantly Shia area, are Hezbollah's support base. The area is often referred to as a 'stronghold' of the radical Shia Islamist militant group. The term conjures up images of dark alleys and military installations, devoid of civilian life. But it is more of a middle-class suburb, bustling with traffic, cafes and shops, with expensive cars parked outside buildings." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Please tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please do follow us @glubold.

Page One: It's getting really ugly in Kiev. The NYT's Andrew Higgins and Andrew Kramer: "Protesters in Kiev stoked what they are calling a 'ring of fire' separating themselves from the riot police in a desperate final effort on Wednesday to defend a stage on Independence Square that has been a focal point of their protests and keep their three-month-old movement alive. Men staggering with exhaustion dismantled the tents and field kitchens from the movement's earlier and more peaceful phase and hauled their remnants onto the fires. They piled on mattresses, sleeping bags, tent frames, foam pads and whatever else looked flammable, burning their own encampment in a final act of defiance.

"Ukraine's Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 25 people, including police officers, protesters and a journalist found dead on a side street near the square, had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on the antigovernment demonstrators Tuesday and in subsequent fighting on streets in the government district of the Ukrainian capital. The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been injured and that nine of the dead were police officers. The Interior Ministry said all the police officers had died from gunshot wounds, although witnesses said it appeared that several officers had been trapped in a burning armored vehicle.

"In an indication of deepening concern in Washington, the State Department issued an urgent warning late Tuesday telling American citizens in Ukraine to avoid all protests, keep a low profile and remain indoors at night while the clashes continue.

"With hundreds of riot police officers advancing from all sides after a day of deadly mayhem here in the Ukrainian capital, antigovernment demonstrators mounted a seemingly doomed act of defiance late on Tuesday. The attack on the square began shortly before 8 p.m., when police officers tried to drive two armored personnel carriers through stone-reinforced barriers outside the Khreshchatyk Hotel on the road to the square. The vehicles became bogged down and, set upon by protesters wielding rocks and fireworks, burst into flames, trapping the security officers inside one of them and prompting desperate rescue efforts to save those caught in the second vehicle, which managed to pull back from the protesters' barricade." More here.

Reuters this morning: "Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accused pro-European opposition leaders on Wednesday of trying to seize power by force after at least 26 people died in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic gained independence. European Union leaders said they were urgently preparing targeted sanctions against those responsible for a crackdown on protesters who have been occupying central Kiev for almost three months since Yanukovich spurned a far-reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15-billion Russian bailout." More here.

Leave no man behind: If there was ever a time for the "interagency" to work together, it was now, says Duncan Hunter.  Rep. Duncan Hunter, the former Marine turned California Republican, is calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to appoint a single individual to coordinate government-wide efforts to get Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned safely to the U.S. Bowe has been held by the Taliban since 2009, and the WaPo reported yesterday that the U.S. was considering a prisoner swap with the Taliban to get Bergdahl home. "While I am aware that U.S. Central Command is in direct control of the Bergdahl situation, I am concerned by the lack of cohesiveness and interagency coordination overall," Hunter wrote Hagel. "Since CENTCOM is not designed to effectively implement and manage an "all government approach," I believe it would be extraordinarily beneficial to establish centralized control of the Bergdahl operation that is fully capable of linking broader government activity." Hunter added: "It is absolutely critical that efforts to free Bergdahl are not overcome by bureaucracy." Read the whole letter, provided to Situation Report, here.

Steven Green, convicted of the shockingly brutal rape of an Iraqi girl, found dead in his cell. The LAT's David Zucchino: "It was one of the most disturbing war crimes to emerge from the brutal conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: U.S. Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in 2006 after shooting and killing her parents and younger sister. Then he and his combat buddies from a nearby U.S. Army checkpoint set the girl's corpse on fire. Green, 28, serving five life sentences, apparently has committed suicide eight years after the crimes. He was found hanging in his cell at the federal maximum security prison in Tucson last week and died Saturday, prison officials announced Tuesday. They said Green's death was being investigated as an apparent suicide." The rest here.

The Army regroups: H.R. McMaster's going to pick up a third star. Breaking Defense's Sydney Freedberg on the spate of Army general officers announced for promotion yesterday: "...Then there's H.R. McMaster. A blunt-spoken bulldog of a man who made his name as both a scholar and practitioner of counterinsurgency in Iraq, McMaster long looked like the classic Army maverick who did well on the battlefield but made too many enemies on his own side to rise past the rank of colonel. After McMaster was passed over for brigadier general twice in a row - normally the death knell for an Army career - getting him his first star required the arch-counterinsurgent, Gen. David Petraeus himself, temporarily taking over the Army promotion process. Petreaus's own star has fallen since. And there's lots of talk in national security circles about his "COINista" followers are following him down, now that we're done with a messy guerrilla wars forever (again) and can focus on a proper high-tech enemy like the Soviet U-excuse me, China. Whatever truth of the trash talk in general, however, McMaster in particular has gone on from strength to strength to strength: This will be his third star in less than six years." More here.

Move over China - Iran's the new cyber threat. FP's Shane Harris: "In March 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, publicly announced the creation a new Supreme Council of Cyberspace to oversee the defense of the Islamic republic's computer networks and develop news ways of infiltrating or attacking the computer networks of its enemies. Less than two years later, security experts and U.S. intelligence officials are alarmed by how quickly Iran has managed to develop its cyber warfare capabilities -- and by how much it's willing to use them.

"For several years, Iran was believed to possess the ambition to launch disruptive attacks on Western, Israeli or Arab computer networks, but not necessarily the technological capability of actually doing so. Those doubts have largely evaporated. In late 2012, U.S. intelligence officials believe hackers in Iran launched a series of debilitating assaults on the Web sites of major U.S. banks. The hackers used a well-honed technique called a denial of service attack, in which massive amounts of traffic are directed at a site's servers until they crash. But the traffic flow in the bank attack was orders of magnitude greater than anything U.S. security officials had seen up to that point, indicating a remarkable degree of technical sophistication... Officials now say it took the Navy four months to fully clear its systems and recover from the breach, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal." Read the rest here.

Remember the Pentagon's "unfunded priorities lists?" They're probably back. Time's Mark Thompson on Swampland: "...Such 'wish lists' all but died under defense secretary Robert Gates. But if lawmakers have their way, they'll be back...The Air Force was Gates' primary target. In 2008, its list totaled more than those of the three other services combined. That year, the Air Force's wish list topped out at $19 billion-in addition to its White House-approved $144 billion budget request-and included dozens of extra airplanes. By two years ago, the practice had all but stopped... But, like a leaky basement that inevitably surrenders to the unrelenting pressure of water building up outside its walls, Congress is renewing its requests for such lists now that Gates is gone...

"Hagel is insisting any responses go through his office before they're sent on to Capitol Hill. 'He just wants to be informed about what they're submitting,' Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. That's the choke point that Gates used to throttle earlier lists. Just how lengthy any new wish lists are will be a key test of Hagel's clout inside the Pentagon." Read that here.

Channeling George Costanza: Was that wrong? Navy Times' Meghann Myers: "The commanding officer and senior enlisted leader of a Florida-based ordnance testing unit have been fired after determining their command sought Submarine Birthday Ball funds from local strip clubs, the Navy said Tuesday. Capt. John Heatherington, the CO of Naval Ordnance Test Unit in Cape Canaveral, Fla., was relieved of duty Tuesday by Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, the director of Strategic Systems Programs, SSP spokesman John Daniels told Navy Times. NOTU's senior enlisted leader, Master Chief Missile Technician (SS) Eric Spindle, has also been relieved as part of the investigation. The firings stem from the command's fundraising for the 2014 Submarine Birthday Ball at Cape Canaveral, with NOTU members soliciting sponsors for a November golf tournament to raise funds for the ball, Daniels said, including local dry cleaners, restaurants and two local adult entertainment businesses. Daniels said Heatherington knew of the donations from the strip clubs but did not rectify the situation. The fund-raising team included active-duty, civilian and contract personnel, who are being handled administratively, Daniels added." The rest here.

Seinfeld's Costanza's full quote after he was busted having sex on a desk at the office: "Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell ya, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon..."  Watch it here.

The conservative advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America's new campaign is blunt: "America's veterans are dying, it's the VA's fault." Military Times' Leo Shane: "... The line, pulled from a CNN piece earlier this year, refers to VA Inspector General findings of 31 preventable deaths at Veterans Affairs Department medical centers nationwide in recent months. The deaths have been the focus of increased scrutiny from congressional Republicans, who have accused VA leaders of failing to hold employees accountable for a variety of failures. The CVA effort - online at vaaccountability.org - is a continuation of that criticism. Organizers note that no senior officials have been fired over the preventable deaths or problems such as the ongoing disability claims backlog. 'Overall, VA is a calcified bureaucracy unable to meet the basic needs of veterans,' the new website states. 'VA responds to criticism by denying problems, stonewalling inquiries, and finding quick fixes to distract the media and watchdog groups.' More here.

A group of National Guardsmen took some really stupid selfies that went viral. Army Times' Joe Gould: "The Wisconsin National Guard has suspended a soldier from a funeral honors detail over two photos that sparked outrage and shock after the pictures were posted to social media. One image shows a group of soldiers - some grinning, some striking comic poses - beside a casket draped in the American flag. The accompanying caption said, "We put the FUN in funeral your fearless honor guard from various states." The other, posted on Instagram, is a selfie of a woman who appears to be in an honor guard accompanied a caption that reads: "It's so damn cold out...WHY have a funeral outside! Somebody's getting a jacked up flag..."

Said Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, in a news release: "We expect all of our Soldiers and Airmen to live by a core set of values, in word and deed... I was appalled by the offensive photos and comments that appeared on this Soldier's social media site regarding her duties as a funeral honor guard member." More, including an image of the soldiers posing with a likely empty casket, here.