Pakistan Shifts More Troops to India Border on Intel of Incursion Within Days

Map: Pakistan - red dots show troop redeployments, Dec. 2008In a frightening move that is raising already precarious tensions, Pakistan has begun transferring troops and artillery away from the Afghanistan / northwestern Pakistan front to key points on its border with India, near Kashmir. According to at least some unnamed sources in Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, the move comes in response to new intelligence that India is preparing to launch a raid or attack as soon as early next week.

At this writing, the scale of Pakistan’s troop movements remains unclear, but the emerging news suggests it is significant. Reports from late Friday said “there was little to indicate that the troop movements constituted a major redeployment,” and in its Saturday edition the NY Times reported that “Several senior American officials said they had not seen evidence of major troop movements.”  Yet.

However, the Associated Press on Sunday quoted two anonymous Pakistani intelligence sources as saying “a total of 20,000 soldiers — about one-fifth of the deployment in the tribal areas” were to be redeployed from Waziristan.  While the sources gave no timeframe for how fast or slow the redeployment would be, the AP report said residents in that area are seeing massive and immediate movement.  Mushtaq Bokhari, a resident near the Punjabi border with the North West Frontier Province, reported a “a big, big convoy.  It took about three hours to pass through our city.”

Pakistani and international news reports indicate troops are being redeployed to Kasur and Sialkot (strategic points near hyper-sensitive Kashmir), and Lahore, the second-largest city in Pakistan, just 20 miles from the Indian border.  This area of the country is the stronghold of Lashkar-e-Taiba and related groups which were responsible for the deadly Mumbai raid in which 163 were killed.  It is also perilously close to the national capital of Islamabad.
The Kashmir-Lahore corridor is also the very same area where two weeks ago Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistani airspace, in two separate incidents occurring almost simultaneously.  At the time, both governments made a public show of saying it was understood the incursions were “accidental,” but everyone understood the true message.  At the very same time, there were eyewitness reports that “Long convoys of military trucks” comprised of “hundreds of medium and heavy artillery vehicles” were on the move in the area.  The Times of India summarized Pakistani news reports that quoted travelers, motorists, and residents who had seen the large-scale artillery movements.

Regarding the current troop redeployment, in an article by Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Salman Masood, “Pakistan Moves Troops Amid Tension With India” (New York Times, Dec. 26, 2008), only a few Pakistani officials would speak and all insisted on anonymity.  Somewhat conflicting versions emerged from those who did talk.

One senior Pakistani military official said the decision to move forces and restrict furloughs was made “in view of the prevailing environment,” namely deteriorating relations with India since the terrorist attacks. He added that the air force was “vigilant” and “alert” for the same reason.

…[But] Some of the Pakistani officials who spoke of the redeployment said it was partly a response to new intelligence that suggested India could launch an attack inside Pakistan by early next week. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity.

One senior Pakistani military official who said troops were being redeployed from the areas where government forces were engaging the Taliban, added that the soldiers who were leaving were “being pulled out of areas where no operations are being conducted,” or where winter weather had limited their ability to maneuver. He called the number of soldiers being moved “limited.”

He and another senior Pakistani military official interviewed Friday about the troop movements chose their words very carefully and offered few details. They said nothing harsh about India, even though they were speaking anonymously.

But two Pakistani intelligence officials — one from military intelligence and one from the country’s premier agency, Inter-Services Intelligence — described the situation in graver terms, and said troops along the border with India were on the highest state of alert.

Another Pakistani official said the air force had been in a “point defense” posture for one week, prepared to defend specific key defense installations and cities — including Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore — as well as the Kahuta nuclear weapons laboratory. Pilots are sleeping in uniform with their boots on, the official said.

Meanwhile, at least some Pakistani officials are trying to keep a poker face.  In the AP’s Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008 article, “a senior Pakistani security official denied that the troops were being deployed to the Indian border.”

“He said a ‘limited number’ of soldiers were being shifted from areas ‘where they were not engaged in any operations on the western border or from areas which were snowbound.’

“He declined further comment and asked that his name not be used, also citing the sensitivity of the situation.”

For it’s part, India — for the moment at least — is projecting a calm front even as there are reports that it too is moving troops to the border. On Saturday (Dec. 27), a spokesperson for India’s ministry of defense dismissed the reports as “baseless and speculative,” yet acknowledged there were maneuvers underway. According to a news item on the Indian Sify.com web portal:

“The Army headquarters has termed all such reports as baseless and speculative in nature,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

He said the movements that had been reported were “normal” and “routine.” The Army units were currently training at a winter exercise in Rajasthan and Punjab, which they carry out every year, he added.Some other units were moving to Jammu and Kashmir as part of the regular turn over of troops in the state, he said.”Taking into consideration the climatic conditions of Rajasthan throughout the year, winter months are the best months for troops to practice manoeuvres and hence these annual training exercises,” Kar said.

Yyyeah, if you say so.

More here in this AP video news piece via YouTube — including press announcement footage of India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee addressing Pakistan’s redeployment.

Oh yeah, those guys…

Recently released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS):

“Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status” (PDF) — Nov. 20, 2008

And since you mention it…

“Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues” (PDF), as updated on June 20, 2008.

“Pakistan-U.S. Relations” (PDF), updated August 25, 2008

“India-U.S. Relations” (PDF), updated August 12, 2008

Also (but not from the CRS):

“Indian nuclear forces, 2008″ (PDF)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Vol. 64, No. 5, pp. 38-40
By Robert S. Norris & Hans M. Kristensen
Related blog post by co-author Kristensen

(Sources: Secrecy Blog, and FAS Strategic Security Blog. Thanks.)

RAND Study for Homeland Security on Creating a Domestic Intelligence Agency

Reorganizing U.S. Domestic Intelligence: Assessing the Options
By Gregory F. Treverton (RAND, 2008)

Free PDF download

Also, definitely check out the print-quality organizational map of the “US Domestic Intelligence Enterprise”.

One of the questions in the fight against terrorism is whether the United States needs a dedicated domestic intelligence agency separate from law enforcement, on the model of many comparable democracies.

To examine this issue, Congress directed that the Department of Homeland Security perform an independent study on the feasibility of creating a counterterrorism intelligence agency and the department turned to the RAND Corporation for this analysis but asked it specifically not to make a recommendation.

This volume lays out the relevant considerations for creating such an agency. It draws on a variety of research methods, including historical and legal analysis; a review of organizational theory; examination of current domestic intelligence efforts, their history, and the public’s view of them; examination of the domestic intelligence agencies in six other democracies; and interviews with an expert panel made up of current and former intelligence and law enforcement professionals.

The monograph highlights five principal problems that might be seen to afflict current domestic intelligence enterprise; for each, there are several possible solutions, and the creation of a new agency addresses only some of the five problems. The volume discusses how a technique called break-even analysis can be used to evaluate proposals for a new agency in the context of the perceived magnitude of the terrorism threat.

It concludes with a discussion of how to address the unanswered questions and lack of information that currently cloud the debate over whether to create a dedicated domestic intelligence agency.

Joint Intelligence DNA Database

The Joint Federal Agencies (or more often: Antiterrorism) Intelligence DNA Database (JFAIDD) is described in a 2007 briefing slide as “a searchable database of DNA profiles from detainees and known or suspected terrorists.”

The JFAIDD contains 15,000 DNA profiles, according to a 2007 report of the Defense Science Board, with “a queue of 30,000 new samples in the laboratory and 400 [pending] requests for DNA profiles, searches, or comparisons.”  See “Defense Biometrics” (pdf, at page 32).

…But “The FBI can process [only] two samples every three days using manual methods.  Given this rate, the DNA Analysis Unit… cannot keep up with the collection of these samples.”

The Justice Department therefore requested funding to automate the DNA analysis process, to permit analysis of 40 samples a day, five days a week so as to keep pace with the anticipated delivery of “approximately 9,000 samples per year from detainees of the U.S. government.”

More, including related documents and slides, at Secrecy News.

(Anybody else besides me suddenly reminded of John Poindexter’s secret little Total Information Awareness program?)

Torture Report Issued by Senate Armed Services Committee

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) today released the executive summary and conclusions of the Committee’s report of its inquiry into the treatment of detainees in US custody.  The remainder of the report remains classified.

The Committee concluded that the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials was both a direct cause of detainee abuse and conveyed the message that it was okay to mistreat and degrade detainees in US custody.

In the course of its more than 18-month long investigation, the Committee reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents and conducted extensive interviews with more than 70 individuals.

A joint statement released by Levin and McCain emphasized the abuses were directly the result of decisions and orders made at the highest levels of the Bush Administration.  “Attempts by senior officials to pass the buck to low ranking soldiers while avoiding any responsibility for abuses are unconscionable. The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees,” Sen. Levin said in the statement.
The report’s executive summary, the only part to be released publicly, lays blame squarely at the feet of President Bush, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and top generals (including Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller) who reinforced the message personally to their commands.

“Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody

Related Links

Quo vadis, DNI?

Today, with much ballyhoo, President-elect Obama announced what was touted as his national security team.  Much of the team had been telegraphed, some loudly.  (Let us pause, just for a moment, to consider the fact that Rush Limbaugh actually considers Clinton as Secretary of State as a “brilliant stroke” by Obama.)

But while today’s Chicago press conference formally announced Obama’s picks for National Security Advisor (a Marine with the slightly unnerving name of Jim Jones) and director Homeland Security, conspicuously absent from the dais was a Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

For the 50-60 years prior to 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act and, specifically, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the head of all US intelligence operations — at least ostensibly — was the head of the CIA, whose official title was Director of Central Intelligence (note absence of the word “Agency”).  Now, by law, the role of “intelligence czar” for the president is executed by the Director of National Intelligence, who has his own (burgeoning) staff.  Technically, CIA now answers to the DNI, not directly to the President.

The ABC News online coverage today noted “Obama Mum on Key Intelligence Posts”, while also mentioning “Democratic sources” recently saying Obama’s current leading candidate for DNI is Admiral Dennis C. Blair (ret.), formerly Commander-in-Chief of US Pacific Command.  The two have reportedly met in Chicago, but nothing is yet official and all concerned are neither confirming nor denying, in the usual fashion.

The current DNI is Mike McConnell (not to be confused with Attorney General Mike Mukasey, who recently collapsed during a speech to the arch-conservative Federalist Society (official DOJ transcript), shortly after Washington State Supreme Court justice Richard Sanders stood up and shouted “Tyrant! You’re a tyrant!”). McConnell was preceded as DNI by John “I love Death Squads” Negroponte.

Parenthetically, the same ABC News piece also mentions in a postscript that among the many people bending Obama’s ear on national security lately is Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Advisor for Bush I (1989-1993) and Ford (1974-1977). To Scowcroft’s credit, he did publicly oppose the then-supposedly “undecided” invasion of Iraq in an August, 2002 op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal.  But this will undoubtedly be fodder for the leftie bloggers already critical of Obama’s middle path.

In related news, President-elect Obama’s top pick to head the CIA, John Brennan, chose the day before Thanksgiving to suddenly withdraw himself from consideration because, he said, of mounting hubbub about his possible role in Bush administration policies on interrogration and detention.

Newt Gingrich Rises from the Grave

Here we go again.  The Washington Times is reporting a behind-the-scenes power struggle in the Republican National Committee to oust the current chairman and replace him with either former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and everyone’s best pal from the ’90s, Newt Gingrich.  The paper says supporters of the ouster want “a leader who can formulate a counter-agenda to President-elect Barack Obama’s administration and articulate it on the national stage.”  There’s no doubt Gingrich is skilled at psychological warfare and right-wing insurrection, and he (a co-architect of an impeachment, don’t forget) has been articulating Obama counter-strategies in recent months.

Publicly he’s been playing it cool, but Gingrich is now letting it be known (apparently at least, from the mouth of his Georgian friend Randy Evans to the ear of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter) that “If a majority of the RNC thought he was needed, he would accept that appointment.”  It remains to be seen who will be thrown into which briar patch, especially since it all has to be done in stage whisper thanks to the official “smooth transition” party line coming out of the White House.

Update – Jan 5, 2009:  It has developed that Gingrich is not, in fact, one of the (currently) six men running for head of the RNC.  As reported in the Jan. 3, 2008 edition of the Washington Post, that distinction goes to:

While the “draft Gingrich” effort obviously went nowhere, he remains an active voice in the power struggle.

In the cold winter of 1998, when he retired under a damning cloud from both the Speakership and the House, some went so far as to predict Gingrich was politically finished.  But after his obligatory quiet and contrite period, Gingrich has been rehabilitated within Republican inner circles and, while not a member of the RNC itself, has been playing an increasingly prominent role within what I fondly refer to as the Junta — the kinda guys that meet Cheney after work for scotch, or periodically visit him at an undisclosed location for a round of ping pong.  Ultimately, whether this is all just parlor gossip and footsie or not, the fact that Newt Gingrich is being discussed in that kind of light at all is noteworthy, both in terms of the arc of the Gingrich Sagaâ„¢ (will he be another Nixon?) and not least as a read on the latest Kremlin-ology.

Where has he been?  Well you may ask.  After he resigned from Congress, Gingrich landed in 1999 at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, rubbing elbows with the likes of National Security Advisor-to-be Condoleezza Rice. In 2000, during the lead-up to the first Bush campaign, Gingrich became a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the right-wing think tank of choice for the Bush administration.  He even started appearing as a pundit on conservative TV, and during the latest election got to where he could even show his face openly in the mainstream media again.  Most recently, the day after the presidential election, he published an op-ed piece entitled “Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley”, arguing that the post-Enron accounting reforms should be wiped away because they haven’t “been enough” to stop the collapse of the housing and credit bubbles simultaneously, despite a complete lack of enforcement by the Bush administration.  This, from a guy who probably went hot tubbing in the Caribbean with the dudes from Enron.

Aw yeah, the good times are back. Keep an eye over your right shoulder, folks.  It’s gonna get weird out there.

WCAG 2.0 Moves to Proposed Recommendation Status

On Nov. 3, 2008, the W3C‘s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group published Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 as a Proposed Recommendation.

WCAG defines how to make Web sites, Web applications, and other Web content accessible to people with disabilities. “Proposed Recommendation” means that the technical material of WCAG 2.0 is complete and it has been implemented in real sites. This is the last step before WCAG 2.0 becomes the official standard.

The WCAG Working Group is welcoming final comments on WCAG 2.0 through 2 December 2008, less than a month away.

I highly recommend that every single person in the web business read this stuff carefully. If you have something constructive to contribute to the discussion, now is the time.

WCAG 2.0 will supersede WCAG 1.0, which has been the operative accessibility standard since 1999. There are some important changes to the standard that all coders, IAs, and designers should take note of, and it’s worth noting that there have been periods of considerable controversy during WCAG 2.0′s adoption process.
Current official working drafts of WCAG 2.0 primer documents:

Read the official announcement. Check the latest changes and status of WCAG 2.0.

Bush Intervenes in Ohio Voter Case

As reported today in “Bush Orders DOJ to Probe Ohio Voter Registrations” on the news site, The Public Record:

President George W. Bush has asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate whether 200,000 newly registered voters in the battleground state of Ohio would have to reconfirm their voter registration information, an issue the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on last week.

The unprecedented intervention by the White House less than two weeks before the presidential election may result in at least 200,000 newly registered voters in Ohio not being able to vote on Election Day if they are forced to provide additional identification when they head to the polls.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Bush Friday asking that he order the Department of Justice to probe the matter.

…Boehner said in his letter: “Unless action is taken by the [US Justice] Department immediately, thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of names whose information has not been verified…will remain on the voter rolls during the November 4 election; and there is a significant risk if not a certainty, that unlawful votes will be cast and counted….”

…Boehner wrote to Mukasey Monday and wrote to Bush when his query to the attorney general went unanswered, he said.

…A federal appeals court recently ordered Ohio election officials to help counties set up a computer system to ensure the veracity of voter registrations.  [See story on CNN.com]  …Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the case and dismissed the lower court’s ruling.  [See story on CBSNews.com]

And speaking of such things, the Brennan Center for Justice is maintaining an ongoing investigation of “the voter suppression tactics unfolding as America faces another presidential election.” It’s called 2008′s Voter Suppression Incidents So Far, and it’s hosted over at AlterNet.

Look sharp, fellow citizens — this is just the tip of the dirty tricks iceberg.  The Republican war on voting has been decried in recent editorials in august papers like the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times, which went so far as to issue a call to “fight for their right to cast a ballot” and gave the toll-free number of the voter rights group Election Protection to call if you discover you’ve been wrongly disenfranchised.  (The number is 1-866-OUR-VOTE, by the way).

Hersh: Bush Admin in “Major Escalation” of Covert Ops Against Iran

The July 7-14 issue of The New Yorker includes a major new piece by Seymour Hersh, “Preparing the Battlefield” (already available in its entirety online), which reveals that late in 2007…

…Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, …are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Meanwhile, there has been mounting pressure within the Bush Administration for a military strike against Iran, the extent of which is unclear but various accounts and recent developments suggest it would be a major one.

Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House’s concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution.

…The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders” — the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world — “have weighed in on that issue.”

The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March [2008], Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran.

Read the latest article online. For further context, see also Hersh’s earlier reporting for The New Yorker on the Bush Administration’s covert policies viz. Iran:

“The Next Act” (Nov. 27, 2006) — The debate within the Bush Administration over the extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and how best to counter it.

“The Redirection” (March 5, 2007) — A major policy shift, or “redirection,” in the Bush Administration’s Middle East strategy. The redirection has brought the U.S. closer to an open confrontation with Iran and propelled it into the sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

“Shifting Targets” (Oct. 8, 2007) — The Bush Administration’s shifting policy toward Iran and the Pentagon’s preparations for possible “surgical strikes” against key Iranian targets. Hersh discusses how the Bush Administration is seeking to redefine the war in Iraq as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran.