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Posts tagged ‘Leon Panetta’

Hagel Calls for Urgent Crackdown on Military Scandals.


Concerned that ethical problems inside the military might run deeper than he realized, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered service leaders Wednesday to add urgency to their drive to ensure “moral character and moral courage” in a force emerging from more than a decade of war.

Almost a year into his tenure as Pentagon chief, Hagel had been worried by a string of ethics scandals that produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel decided to push for a fuller accounting.

Last month the Air Force revealed it was investigating widespread cheating on proficiency tests among nuclear missile launch officers in Montana, and numerous senior officers in all branches of the armed forces have been caught in embarrassing episodes of personal misbehavior, inside and outside the nuclear force. The Air Force also is pursuing a drug use investigation.

At the same time, hundreds of soldiers and others are under criminal investigation in what the Army describes as a widespread scheme to take fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.

The steady drumbeat of one military ethics scandal after another has caused many to conclude that the misbehavior reflects more than routine lapses.

“He definitely sees this as a growing problem,” Hagel’s chief spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday after Hagel met privately with the top uniformed and civilian officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

“And he’s concerned about the depth of it,” Kirby said. “I don’t think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn’t have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it.”

Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, had launched an effort to crack down on ethics failures more than a year ago, and the matter has been a top priority for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, for even longer.

Kirby said Hagel has come to realize that he needs to investigate as well.

“We don’t fully know right now what we’re grappling with here and how deep and serious it is,” Kirby said. “And I think, you know, for a leader at his level with the responsibilities that he carries every day, not knowing something like that is something to be concerned about. And he wants to know more.”

Hagel believes that the vast majority of military members are “brave, upright and honest,” and he is encouraged by efforts already under way to curb misconduct, including sexual assaults, Kirby said.

But Hagel told the service leaders Wednesday that he “also believes there must be more urgency behind these efforts” and that all Pentagon leaders must “put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force.”

Kirby was asked whether Hagel believes ethics lapses are a symptom of over-use of the military for the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He believes that that is a factor that should be looked at,” the spokesman said.

A significant portion of the concern about military misbehavior is aimed at two segments of the nuclear force: the Air Force’s land-based nuclear missile corps, and the Navy’s training program for operators of nuclear reactors used as propulsion systems for submarines and aircraft carriers. Neither of those fields was directly involved in significant ways in either of the wars since 2001.

The Navy announced on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into cheating allegations against about 30 senior sailors representing about one-fifth of its instructors at a Charleston, S.C.,-based school for naval nuclear power reactor operators.

Unlike an Air Force cheating probe that has implicated nearly 100 officers responsible for land-based nuclear missiles that stand ready for short-notice launch, those implicated in the Navy investigation have no responsibility for nuclear weapons.

The Navy said its implicated sailors are accused of having cheated on written tests they must pass to be certified as instructors at the nuclear propulsion school. A number of them are alleged to have transmitted test information to other instructors from their home computers, which if verified would be a violation of restrictions on the use and transmission of classified information.

The matter is being probed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Separately, Kirby announced that the Pentagon has picked two retired officers to lead an independent review of personnel problems inside the Air Force and Navy nuclear forces. They are Larry Welsh, a former Air Force chief of staff, and John Harvey, a retired Navy admiral and nuclear-trained surface warfare officer.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

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Army Sees Sharp Drop in Suicides.


The U.S. Army is reported a notable decrease in the number of active-duty soldiers committing suicide last year, saying the number fell from 185 in 2012 to 150.

According to Start and Stripes, the reduction represented a 19 percent drop and reversed what had been referred to by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as an epidemic of suicides. There were weeks and months when more soldiers killed themselves than were felled in combat, the newspaper that military affairs noted.

Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, chief of Army personnel, expressed cautious optimism over the numbers. “I’m not declaring any kind of victory here,” Bromberg said. But he added, “It’s looking more promising.”

The Army has invested millions in a comprehensive effort to develop ways to head-off suicides and bolster emotional resilience among soldiers. It has also been collaborating with the National Institutes of Health on suicide prevention. One experimental program involving 30 soldiers at Fort Carson in Colorado showed a 60 percent reduction in attempted suicides.

“I think we’ve hit the turning point where people are really, really talking about behavioral health and the fact that it’s OK to have problems,” Bromberg said.

Some attribute the decline in suicides to the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.

“I get the sense when I work with military people now, they just don’t seem as burnt out as they used to be,” psychologist Craig Bryan at the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies told Stars and Stripes.

The Army suicides were included in a preliminary report of all presumed and actual suicides across all branches of the service in 2013. The figures show that suicide deaths were down from 351 across all military branches in 2012 to 284 overall last year.

But the preliminary data also shows that suicides among those who are no longer on active duty remained at record levels. The Army reported 151 suicides among members of the National Guard and reserves, an increase from 140 suicides in 2012.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Obama to O’Reilly: Fox News Reason for My Problems.


President Barack Obama twice blamed Fox News Channel for misinforming the public on issues that have bedeviled his presidency in the past year during a pre-Super Bowl interview with the network’s Bill O’Reilly.

The two sat down in the White House on Sunday for a live pregame interview that started about 4:35 p.m. and aired for about 10 minutes.

Story continues below video.

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O’Reilly first noted that Obama’s detractors believe he did not initially say the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead was terrorism because it happened in the heat of an election.

Obama had just weeks earlier said al-Qaida was on the run after U.S. Navy SEALs assassinated its leader, Osama bin Laden.

“That’s what they believe,” O’Reilly said of Obama’s detractors.

“And they believe it because folks like you are telling them that,” Obama said in the often testy interview.

“No, I’m not telling them that. I’m asking you whether you were told it was a terror attack,” O’Reilly countered.

Obama said it was “inaccurate” to say that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told him the attack was terrorism when he first gave him the news. O’Reilly noted that Gen. Carter Ham, head of operations in Libya, has testified he immediately told Panetta the attack was terrorism, and not the result of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim video.

“But it’s more than that because of Susan Rice,” O’Reilly said, noting that Rice, who was then U.N. ambassador, used the video explanation days later on the Sunday talk shows.

“Just as an American, I’m just confused,” he said.

“Bill, I’m trying to explain it to you if you want to listen,” Obama countered.

The president also turned on Fox News when questioned about the IRS scandal, in which conservative groups were scrutinized more heavily when seeking tax-exempt status.

“These kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part, because you and your TV station will promote them,” Obama said.

O’Reilly asked if Obama was saying there was no corruption in the IRS scandal.

“No,” Obama said.

“There was some boneheaded decisions out of a local office,” adding that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption.”

O’Reilly also asked why Obama didn’t fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the botched rollout of the Obamacare website in October.

Obama argued that while glitches had been anticipated, no one expected a complete failure of the site. He said everything had been fixed, and the site is now running as it should.

O’Reilly noted that only 8 percent of Americans agree with Obama, and again pressed about firing Sebelius.

“I’m sure that the intent is noble,” O’Reilly said, “But I’m a taxpayer, and I’m paying Kathleen Sebelius’ salary, and she screwed up. And you’re not holding her accountable.”

“Well, I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable,” Obama said. “But when we’re midstream, Bill, we want to make sure that our main focus is, how do we make this think work so that people are able to sign up, and that’s what we’ve done.”

O’Reilly asked if Obama considered the biggest mistake of his presidency telling “the nation over and over, if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance?”

“Oh, Bill, you’ve got a long list of my mistakes in my presidency,” Obama said.

But he did admit he regretted that the “grandfather clause” written into the Affordable Care Act didn’t cover everyone.

“That’s why we changed it,” he said.

“You gave your enemies a lot of fodder for it,” O’Reilly said.

The interview was scheduled to continue after the live broadcast. The recorded interview is set to air Monday night on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

“I know you think maybe we haven’t been fair,” O’Reilly noted near the end of the live interview, “but I think your heart is in the right place.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

CIA Papers Show Panetta Leaked Details on bin Laden Raid.


Image: CIA Papers Show Panetta Leaked Details on bin Laden Raid

Newly declassified documents show Tuesday that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed secret information to “Zero Dark Thirty” scriptwriter Mark Boal when Panetta gave a speech at CIA headquarters marking the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Panetta said through a spokesman that he didn’t know Boal was in the room.

Judicial Watch filed a request for the more than 200 pages of documents, which the CIA released Tuesday. The documents concerned the internal investigation of its role in the film about the bin Laden raid.

“I had no idea that individual was in the audience,” Panetta said in a statement. “To this day, I wouldn’t know him if he walked into the room.” Panetta spokesman Jeremy Bash said Panetta assumed everyone in the audience had the proper clearance to hear the speech.

The documents refer to Panetta revealing the name of the ground commander of the unit that carried out the raid.

Parts of the speech transcript released in the documents Tuesday are still blacked out.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the CIA has since “overhauled its procedures for interaction with the entertainment industry after an extensive internal review.” He said the agency now maintains “a centralized record-keeping system for entertainment industry requests and, earlier this year, issued detailed guidance on contact with the industry and support for entertainment-related projects,” to make sure classified material is protected.

Boal declined to comment.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Doctor Who Helped U.S. Find bin Laden Speaks Out From Prison.


The doctor who led U.S. forces to their capture of Osama bin Laden is speaking out, saying  he is being denied justice and refused access to his lawyers and information about the progress of his case in Pakistan.

Shakil Afridi says he had to smuggle a hand-written letter out to his attorneys from prison, where he continues to work to make the world aware of his conditions, the BBC reported.

“I am the first individual in Pakistan to have been denied permission to meet my lawyers, which is my basic legal right,” he wrote this week from his prison cell, noting this marks the first time he’s had contact with his lawyers in 15 months. “What kind of a court, what kind of justice is this?”

His lawyers explained the difficulty in mounting a defense for the imprisoned doctor, noting much of the legal proceedings in his murder case are from a closed tribal process and are not in writing.

“We are strategizing our defense by just anticipating what our client may want. We have no permission to consult him on specific issues,” one of his two lawyers, Qamar Nadeem, told the BBC.

Afridi remains jailed on what has been described as a “bizarre” murder charge, the UK’s Daily Mail reported, with a purported trial date set in December.

Afridi was jailed after a teenage patient he operated on for appendicitis in 2005 died. 

“A woman blamed Afridi for the death of her son,” an official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “She stated that he operated on her son at a hospital in Khyber Agency even though he was not a surgeon, and that caused (her son’s) death.”

Afridi, who helped the CIA track the mastermind terrorist, has received little help from the U.S. after his crucial role in locating Bin Laden. He last communicated with the outside world in September 2012, calling Fox News on a cell phone that had been smuggled into his cell.

Afridi’s profile has been raised by news coverage, while the U.S government, which has praised his efforts, appears to have done little to assist him.

“This was an individual who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told GQ magazine

“He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan. He was not in any way doing anything that would have undermined Pakistan.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Andrea Billups

 
 

Rep. Taylor: Hillary Says She Backed bin Laden Raid, Biden Didn’t.


Image: Rep. Taylor: Hillary Says She Backed bin Laden Raid, Biden Didn't

By Cathy Burke

Hillary Clinton reportedly chastised Joe Biden over the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound that killed the 9/11 mastermind — saying the vice president opposed the mission while she was a fierce advocate of it.

“I know she’s running for president now, because toward the end, she was asked about the Osama bin Laden raid,” Republican state Rep. Tom Taylor told The Atlanta Journal Constitution about the former Secretary of State’s remarks Tuesday at a convention of the National Association of Convenience Stores. The convention was closed to the public and to journalists.

“She took 25 minutes to answer. Without turning the knife too deeply, she put it to Biden,” Taylor said.

Taylor said Clinton repeatedly mentioned Biden’s opposition to the May 2011 raid, while painting herself and then-CIA director Leon Panetta as supporters of the mission that took down the world’s most-wanted terror leader.

From 3,000 to 4,000 people at the convention packed the Thomas Murphy Ballroom in the Georgia World Congress Center to hear Clinton, the newspaper said. The bin Laden query was the last of a Q-and-A session with the audience.

“She took the rest of the time and went over, answering that question. She was ready to speak on that,” Taylor said.

Clinton struck a similar theme at another recent speech before the Long Island Association, Politico reported.

Clinton was asked about bin Laden at that event as well, an attendee told Politico. “She and the CIA director were for the attack, and Biden and the secretary of defense were against the attack.”

She also said wives and children who were vulnerable during the attack were moved “to a safe location so they wouldn’t be hurt,” suggesting media accounts had not included that fact, the attendee said.

Representatives for Biden and Clinton did not offer comment to Politico.

In Atlanta, most of Clinton’s remarks related to the shutdown crisis — and about the lack of a “collegial relationship” in Congress that helped avoid legislative gridlock in years past, Taylor told the Journal-Constitution.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Leon Panetta: Obama Shares Blame for Current Crisis.


In a striking rebuke to his former boss, Leon Panetta said Monday President Barack Obama should engage more with congressional Republicans to resolve the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.

“You have to engage in the process … you’ve got to roll up your sleeves,” Panetta said at a breakfast hosted by The Wall Street Journal, The Hill reported.

Asked repeatedly whether he was being critical of Obama, Panetta asserted, “I don’t want to put it all on the president” adding there is “enough blame to go around”  but didn’t spare Obama, either, the Washington Post reported.

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Panetta, who served as Obama’s CIA chief and then defense secretary, said Obama makes a “fair” point that it would be wrong to allow Congress to use a default on the debt ceiling to gain hostage-taking leverage in budget talks.

“We govern either by leadership or crisis,” said Panetta. “If leadership is not there, then we govern by crisis. Clearly, this town has been governing by crisis after crisis after crisis.”

Panetta also said Washington “has gotten a lot meaner in the last few years,” and that relationships have deteriorated, The Post reported.

“This president — he’s extremely bright, he’s extremely able, he’s somebody who I think certainly understands the issues, asks the right questions, and I think has the right instincts about what needs to be done for the country,” he said, adding, however:

“You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process … that’s what governing is all about.”

The Hill reported Panetta also decried the “almost a total breakdown in trust among people on the Hill,” saying “the greatest national security threat we face is our ability to govern.”

Panetta, who also was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff during the last government shutdown in 1996, said Clinton was more engaged.

“They shut down the government but we were negotiating up until the last minute in the Oval Office,” he noted.

And he said just because talks between Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Obama on a deficit grand bargain broke down in 2011 is “no reason to walk away” from any further deficit talks.

“In this town, you’ve got to stay with it,” he said, The Post reported. “You’ve got to stay at it.”

If Obama is not comfortable personally negotiating, he should empower another Democrat to speak for him, Panetta said.

“He’s at the point where he really has to look at the legacy,” Panetta said. He said that a deficit deal with Boehner could bring about a new willingness by Republicans to move away from confrontation to governing the country.

The former Pentagon head also criticized the administration for its handling of furloughs, The Hill reported — slamming the decision to furlough 70 percent of intelligence personnel as not essential.

“Who the hell came up with that?” he asked.

And he also blasted the administration’s handling of death benefits for soldiers killed in combat, which were initially held up by the shutdown, and its decision to furlough 800,000 defense workers only to call half of them back to work later.

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“These decisions have been by the seat of the pants, what’s essential and what’s not essential. I think not enough though was put into how exactly this would be implemented,” he said, The Hill reported.

“Everybody could have done a better job, especially on this intelligence stuff,” he said.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

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