Daily Archives: January 14, 2013

DARPA’s Deep-Sea Sleeper Drones Fly Out of the Ocean

LMSW Cormorant launch
LMSW Cormorant launch. Concept: Lockheed Martin

aviationweek.com | Jan 11, 2013

by Graham Warwick

Arguing it is costly and complex to send large numbers of warships to forward operating areas – and that the energy and logistics needed to deploy lower-cost unmanned systems over oceanic distances limits their usefulness – DARPA has come with another idea.

That idea is to pre-deploy “deep-ocean nodes” in forward areas years in advance. These would be commanded from a safe stand-off distance to launch to the surface and release waterborne or airborne unmanned systems to disperse and provide ISR or “non-lethal effects” over a wide area in contested environments.

The program is called Upward Falling Payload (UFP), and DARPA plans to brief industry at a proposers’ day on Jan 25 in Washington, DC.

The UFP system would, the notice says, comprise three elements: “The ‘payload’ which executes waterborne or airborne applications after being deployed to the surface; the UFP ‘riser’ which provides pressure-tolerant encapsulation and launch (ascent) of the payload; and the communications which triggers the UFP riser to launch.”

DARPA plans a multi-phase effort to demonstrate the UFP systems. Details are sparse, but the program sounds like it could build on previous efforts such as Lockheed Martin Skunk Work’s Cormorant submarine-launched UAV (pictured above), which was cancelled in 2008. Cormorant was to be a high-performance UAV, but there has been other work on the encapsulated, underwater launch of small UAVs.

The research agency has looked at other ways of forward-deploying unmanned systems. One was Rapid Eye, which was a concept to deploy the UAV a long distance at short notice by rocket, releasing it to unfold and power up in the upper atmosphere. Another was Vulture, a large solar-electric UAV designed to stay aloft and ready in the stratosphere almost indefinitely, Neither got to the flying stage.

Lockheed Cormorant unmanned aircraft

Pentagon Prosecutor To Drop Conspiracy Charges Against Alleged 9/11 Plotters

KSM
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Ap

Miami Herald | Jan 10, 2013

by Carol Rosenberg

The Pentagon’s war crimes prosecutor has decided to no longer seek a conspiracy conviction at the Sept. 11 death penalty trial, a move designed to shore up the case after a federal court undercut the authority of the Guantanamo war court three months ago, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

The announcement means that reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged accomplices would still face a capital trial at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. The next pre-trial hearing is Jan. 28.

But the Pentagon would allege seven rather than eight war crimes, notably 2,976 counts of murder — one for each person killed when terrorists hijacked passenger planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001. Other alleged crimes include terrorism and hijacking aircraft.

A senior Pentagon official, retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, has yet to sign off on the move. But the Defense Department statement made clear that the 9/11 prosecutor was trying to drop the conspiracy charge to make the case less vulnerable to civilian court challenge.

“This action helps ensure the prosecution proceeds undeterred by legal challenge,” Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said the statement, which was released Wednesday afternoon.

At issue is the Oct. 16 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that overturned Guantanamo’s best-known conviction — that of Osama bin Laden’s driver. The federal court said the Pentagon had no authority to prosecute the driver, Salim Hamdan of Yemen, on a charge of “providing material support for terrorism” because his alleged crimes took place between 1996 and Nov. 24, 2001, when he was captured in Afghanistan.

Congress for the first time defined “providing material support for terrorism” as an international war crime in 2006.

Now, the federal court is hearing a similar case that argues “conspiracy” also was not an international war crime at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. That case is an appeal by Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a Yemeni who is the only prisoner among Guantanamo’s 166 captives currently serving a judicially imposed life sentence.

The conundrum created by the conspiracy charge, and its proposed withdrawal, provided critics with another opportunity to question the war court that President George W. Bush created and President Barack Obama had reformed.

“Each time the government overreaches, eventually the courts push back. The latest move by the prosecution makes clear that it recognizes the fragility of the entire process,” said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch.

“The military commissions, even absent conspiracy charges, are still fundamentally flawed,” she added.

Those charged are: Mohammed, 47, a Pakistani who in a transcript of a secret 2006 military hearing at Guantanamo bragged that he devised the Sept. 11 attacks “from A to Z”; two alleged deputies in the “enterprise,” Ramzi bin al Shibh, 40, and Walid bin Attash, 34, both Yemeni; Mustafa al Hawsawi, 44, a Saudi, and Ammar al Baluchi, 35, a Pakistani.

Conspiracy is the No. 1 alleged crime on the Pentagon’s Sept. 11 charge sheet — and lays out 167 specifications, a narrative that spanned five years of meetings, training, travel and terror that began in 1996 with bin Laden’s declaring a jihad against America and Mohammed met with bin Laden to propose a plot of hijacking airplanes into buildings.

The Saudi and Baluchi, who is Mohammed’s nephew, are allegedly implicated in the conspiracy by allegedly helping the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers with wire transfers and travel arrangements to reach U.S. soil.

“Withdrawal of the conspiracy charge essentially removes the heart of the body of charges currently pending against Mr. al-Hawsawi,” said Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, his military defense attorney.

The Defense Department did not release the new narrative that the prosecution would be pursuing.

The move left a number of open questions, chief among them whether the Justice Department would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take on the Hamdan case. It has until Jan. 14 to file a petition with the justices.

In a federal filing on Wednesday in the Bahlul case, Justice and Defense Department attorneys argued that the Hamdan ruling was wrong. But they said, given that decision, the court should rule swiftly and overturn Bahlul’s conviction, in what appeared to be a bid to move the issue along to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In short, particularly with respect to conspiracy, it is plain that Congress authorized the military commission here to try Bahlul for this offense,” the government lawyer wrote.

Bahlul’s Pentagon paid appellate attorney, Michel Paradis, said he would not discuss the development because the prisoner had asked him not to make comments on the case.

$1 Trillion Platinum Coin: Yes, It Really Originated In A ‘Simpsons’ Episode

forbes.com | Jan 13, 2013

Sunday mornings represent prime time for political dicussions. Let’s limit ours to silly policy, platinum and The Simpsons. 

First off, let’s get this out of the way: The $1 trillion platinum coin will not happen. “Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit,” says a Treasury spokesman.

Now, speculation and chatter swirled for weeks about the possibility, and more importantly, the fiscal feasibility, behind the trillion-dollar coin. Some very smart folks—right down to a former U.S. mint chief—suggested the Treasury could take advantage of a loophole, mint a $1 trillion platinum coin and ship it to the Federal Reserve. In theory it would then allow the U.S. to keep paying its bills, even though the country surpassed its $16.4 trillion debt limit. Another solution: Perhaps the government can issue IOU’s that we redeem at our local Wells Fargo or Bank of America.

Treasury, Fed Oppose Using Platinum Coin to Avoid Debt Ceiling

The coin thing sounded great, though, right? Well, it sounded a bit far-fetched…even more so when you consider that fiscal theorem originated in Los Angeles, not Washington D.C. It is, in fact, ripped right from the halcyon days of the late 1990s—when Butterfinger BB’s still existed, and The Simpsons was in its ninth season. In that stretch of episodes, there was one called The Trouble With Trillions, an amusing romp that alluded to Stark Trek and included Fidel Castro.

The Trouble with Trillions
Johnson sends Homer on a secret mission. They reveal that in 1945, President Harry Truman printed a one trillion-dollar bill (with his photo on it) to help reconstruct post-war Europe.

Here’s a succinct episode synopsis from Ed Yardeni, a widely followed economist, that my colleague, Chris Helman, unsurfaced for us from a Yardeni client note:

In 1945, President Harry Truman secretly printed a one-trillion-dollar bill with his photo on it. He did so to help pay for the post-war reconstruction of Europe. He entrusted Montgomery Burns with the mission of transporting the large denomination to the Europeans. However, the money never arrived, and the FBI suspects Burns kept the money. That’s the premise of an episode of The Simpsons, first aired on April 5, 1998 titled, “The Trouble with Trillions.” Homer Simpson is caught cheating on his taxes and is turned into an informant by the FBI. Along the way, the bill is stolen by Fidel Castro.

I looked for the episode on YouTube. Alas, Fox and News Corp. keep a tight lid on copyright content. I found only this, the bit in which Castro makes off with the $1 trillion bill:

That Yardeni included it in his daily market musings reflects how ridiculous the whole thing became. A discussion over an idea dreamt up more than a decade earlier as a Simpsons plot device.

Senator Rand Paul: What Israel Does With US Money and Weapons is None of Our Business

rand paul
Paul’s late-night trip to the Wall was relatively low-key. Accompanied by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, Paul spends a few minutes of reflection at the Wall.

Cutting aid to Israel did not come up during his meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or President Shimon Peres.

jpost.com | Jan 12, 2013

By HERB KEINON

As week-long visit to Israel comes to a close, senator says US should not meddle in decisions regarding settlement construction, but on issue of Iran J’lem’s decision making has ramifications for the entire Mideast.

It is “none of our business” whether Israel builds new neighborhoods in east Jerusalem or withdraws from the Golan Heights, and the US should not tell Israel how to defend itself, US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said Saturday night at the end of a week-long visit to the country.

Paul, a maverick libertarian senator known for his advocacy of slashing US foreign aid, said at a press briefing that the issue of cutting aid to Israel — something he advocates as part of a gradual process — did not come up during his meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or President Shimon Peres.

Paul said that he was not interested in the message of his trip being that he came here “touting and spouting “ cutting aid to Israel. “I came here to show that I am supportive of the relationship between Israel and America,” he said.

Rand Paul Aligns Himself With Zionist Criminals

The first-term senator’s anti-foreign aid approach does concern some pro-Israel advocates in the US, concerned that he wants to significantly trim Washington’s annual $3billion military aid to Jerusalem.

PHOTOS: Rand Paul Visits The Western Wall

“The biggest threat to our nation right now is our debt,” said Paul, adding that a bankrupt America would not be a good ally for Israel. “This does mean that we have to reassess who to give aid to, and when we do reassess that, I would begin with countries that are burning our flag and chanting death to America. No one is accusing Israel of that.”

Paul said he was not talking about anything different than what Netanyahu said in a 1996 speech to Congress, in which he advocated Israel gradually weaning itself of American aid dollars. Paul said this would benefit Israel and its defense industry, because it would not have to buy all its weaponry from the US, and that a curtailment of US foreign aid would also mean less money for arms for Israel’s neighbors.

Stating that the US gives more foreign aid to Israel’s neighbors than to Israel, Paul said that if the US gives 20 F-16 fighter plans to Egypt, Israel then feels it needs to buy 25; or if the US gives Egypt 200 tanks, Israel feels the need to purchase 300.

Paul stressed that he was worried about giving weapons to Egypt at the present time, especially since he said Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is listening to a spiritual leader calling for “the death of Israel and all its friends.” He said he was “very disappointed” that after giving Egypt some $60 billion in aid over the last 30 years, rioters there climbed the roof of the embassy last year, took down the US flag and burned it. “That should never have happened and is inexcusable,” he asserted.

Paul said the issue of his position regarding aid toward Egypt did come up in the conversation with Netanyahu.

Unlike most senators who visit the country, Paul had two public appearances during his week here, an indication perhaps that he is indeed — as has been widely speculated — gearing up for a 2016 presidential bid. He also spent a day in Jordan, meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Paul, a newly appointed member of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, would not comment on the controversial nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, or how he would vote. Regarding the overall direction of the US-Israel relationship in a second Obama term, he said that “even with the problems,” America’s ties with Israel are so strong that they will remain that way “even with the Obama administration not seeming to be going out to dinner with Netanyahu, or playing bridge, or whatever you do with your friends.”

While Paul said the US should not meddle in Israel’s decision making regarding settlement construction or the Golan Heights, he said Iran was a different issue because it had ramifications for the entire Middle East.

The senator, who voted for sanctions against Iran, said the sanctions would have a better chance of success if Russia and China were involved, and advocated using trade leverage with those countries to get them on board. As opposed to what he termed “show votes” on sanctions at the UN, where some countries do whatever they can to show their strong opposition to the US, he advocated “ quiet diplomacy” with China and Russia on the matter.

“We do a lot of trade with Russia, and Iran does some,” he said. “But I think the trade with America is more important to China and Russia, and I think that trade should be used with some leverage to get them to cooperate and help talk Iran down and get them to do the right thing.”

Paul was not the only republican senator in the country over the weekend, and Netanyahu on Friday met another delegation of five republican senators — led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another Kentucky senator — where Iran was the focus of discussion.

“My priority, if I’m elected for a next term as prime minister, will be first to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told the delegation.”I think that was and remains the highest priority for both our countries. I appreciate the American support and your support for that end. “

McConnell, at the meeting, talked about the storing bipartisan support for Israel, even as Republicans and Democrats are at odds on so many other issues.

“As everybody in Israel knows, there are a lot of things we disagree on in America,” McConnell said. “We’ve had big battles over deficit and debt, but there’s board bipartisan support for Israel, and our agenda in this part of the world is the same as your agenda. You’re one of our best friends, and we’re happy to continue that relationship.”