Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
July 3, 2015

Military Report Raises Prospect of War With Russia, China

“A somber report released Wednesday by General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, warns of a ‘low but growing’ probability of the US fighting a war with a major power, with ‘immense’ consequences.” The Guardian reports.

“Russia has ‘repeatedly demonstrated that it does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and it is willing to use force to achieve its goals’, the 2015 National Military Strategy says… And the report expresses concern about states developing advanced technological capabilities that are causing the US military to lose its edge in that field.”

“And faced with non-state adversaries like the self-proclaimed Islamic State group that has seized significant portions of Iraq and Syria, Dempsey warned of long and complex fights ahead.”

Feds Warn U.S. Companies About Malware Linked to Chinese

“The FBI is warning U.S. companies to be on the lookout for a malicious computer program that has been linked to the hack of the Office of Personnel Management,” writes Shane Harris.

“The warning, known as an FBI Liaison Alert System, or FLASH, contains technical details of the malware and describes how it works. While the message doesn’t mention the OPM hack, the Sakula malware is used by Chinese hacker groups, according to security experts. And the FBI message is identical to one the bureau sent companies on June 5, a day after the Obama administration said the OPM had been hacked.”

“FBI said it was sending the alert again because of concerns that not all companies had received it the first time. Apparently, some of their email filters weren’t configured to let the FBI message through.”

Surveillance Court OKs NSA Bulk Collection During Transition Period

“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled late Monday that the National Security Agency may temporarily resume its once-secret program that systematically collects records of Americans’ domestic phone calls in bulk,” The New York Times reports.

“The program lapsed on June 1, when a law on which it was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, expired. Congress revived that provision on June 2 with a bill called the USA Freedom Act, which said the provision could not be used for bulk collection after six months. The six­-month period was intended to give intelligence agencies time to move to a new system in which the phone records — which include information like phone numbers and the duration of calls but not the contents of conversations — would stay in the hands of phone companies.”

“But, complicating matters, in May the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled in a lawsuit brought by the A.C.L.U. that Section 215 of the Patriot Act could not legitimately be interpreted as permitting bulk collection at all. Congress did not include language in the Freedom Act contradicting the Second Circuit ruling or authorizing bulk collection even for the six-­month transition. As a result, it was unclear whether the program had a lawful basis to resume in the interim.”

“It remains unclear whether the Second Circuit still considers the surveillance program to be illegal during this six­month transition period. The basis for its ruling in May was that Congress had never intended for Section 215 to authorize bulk collection.”

Growler Pride

The EA-18G Growler, the only airborne electronic attack aircraft in production today, is featured on June’s Frontiers cover.   In this story, you’ll hear first-hand from EA-18G Growler flight crews stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island who operate and maintain these aircraft.

Boeing’s electronic warfare fighter jet is used extensively in combat today.  By detecting enemy threats, jamming enemy radar, and helping aircrews flying other aircraft reach their targets without being detected, the Growler is an essential force in the fight – now and far into the future.

See the cover and read the story here.


OPM Database Might Have Connected Hackers to Covert Operatives’ Records

Shane Harris explains how the “most highly classified personnel records in the entire government” may have been linked to the Office of Personnel Management database that was successfully targeted by hackers.

“In 2010, officials across the government were under pressure to chip away at a backlog in processing security-clearance applications. And a sweeping intelligence law, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, required them to merge their records into one all-purpose security-clearance system… intelligence officials were particularly concerned that names, Social Security numbers, and personal information for covert operatives would be exposed to hackers if the personnel database, known as Scattered Castles, weren’t left to stand on its own.”

“But three years later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence began working with OPM ‘to set the stage for the upload of active, completed clearance records’ from OPM’s system—which was later overrun by hackers—into Scattered Castles… If there are connections between the two—as that recent government report suggests there are—it could be exploited by hackers.”

Meanwhile, Robert Knake argues that the OPM data breach is not as big of a threat to U.S. intelligence as many have speculated.

Thousands of New CIA Black Site Photographs Uncovered

“Military prosecutors this year learned about a massive cache of CIA photographs of its former overseas ‘black sites’ while reviewing material collected for the Senate investigation of the agency’s interrogation program,” according to The Washington Post.

“The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand that all the images be turned over and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.”

“It’s unclear whether the military prosecutors have been able to review all the photographs and why they hadn’t unearthed them years earlier…  The official added that many of the pictures appear to have been taken for budgetary reasons to document how money was being spent.”

Pentagon Failing to Train Enough Syrian Rebel

“The U.S. military’s program to train and equip thousands of moderate Syrian rebels is faltering, with fewer than 100 volunteers, raising questions about whether the effort can produce enough capable fighters quickly enough to make a difference in the war against the Islamic State,” The Associated Press reports.

“The main problem thus far has been finding enough Syrian recruits untainted by extremist affiliations or disqualified by physical or other flaws. Of approximately 6,000 volunteers, about 1,500 have passed muster and await movement to training camps in other countries. Citing security concerns, the Pentagon will not say exactly how many are in training.”

“Officials said that as of Friday, the number in training had dropped below 100 and that none has completed the program. Dozens who were initially accepted have been sent home during training or quit because of revelations about their background or other problems.”

Ex-Im Bank Critical for National Security

Congress leaves town this week for the Independence Day holiday without renewing the Export-Import Bank charter, putting the livelihoods of thousands of hard working Americans at risk.

Boeing is one of the many U.S. exporters that are competitively disadvantaged without Ex-Im. Airlines have been telling Boeing for months that they are concerned about the potential demise of Ex-Im and the impact that could have on their ability to finance purchases of U.S.-made airplanes. Uncertainty over Ex-Im’s future is giving airlines a reason to buy from Airbus. All of Boeing’s foreign competitors have government export credit agencies backing their sales.

Commercial airplanes are America’s number one manufactured export, supporting more than 160,000 jobs at Boeing and another 1.5 million jobs in its U.S. supply chain. Eliminating the bank would weaken the U.S. aerospace sector and cede sales, market share and high-tech jobs to countries like France and China. It also would risk losing skills and knowledge that are essential to national security. More and more defense products are being built on commercial platforms – the Navy’s P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft and the new Air Force KC-46 tanker, for example.

Opponents of Ex-Im casually dismiss such arguments, saying the private sector will do what Ex-Im does. They ignore the fact that companies like Boeing cannot perform the role of a bank and still have the capital needed to develop new products – especially commercial airplane products that require billions of dollars to bring to market.

They also ignore what commercial banks have said repeatedly, which is that they are in no position to compensate for Ex-Im should Congress let it expire. Commercial banks have limits on how much they can lend any one customer or industry. Boeing’s customers sometimes fall outside of those limits, either because they are in developing regions that are last in line for commercial loans, or because they are growing fast and can secure loans for additional airplane purchases only if a government agency like Ex-Im is willing to guarantee the loan.

Too risky, some might say? Ex-Im’s track record for loan defaults is actually better than most commercial banks – less than 2 percent during 80 years of operations, and less that one-quarter of one percent last year. The airline default rate on Ex-Im-backed loans is especially low – close to zero. Ex-Im has a rigorous vetting process, and with the fees it collects for its services it not only is able to cover all of its own expenses, but earn a sizable profit for the U.S. Treasury.

There are a lot of good reasons for reauthorizing Ex-Im and absolutely no good reasons for letting it die. Most members of Congress know that. They should be given a chance to vote on an Ex-Im reauthorization bill. Read more at

Iran Talks Set to Pass June 30 Deadline

“The Iran nuclear talks will spill beyond a Tuesday deadline,” writes The Washington Post, “as Iran’s foreign minister broke off from the negotiations and flew to Tehran for consultations.”

“A potential agreement to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief remains elusive in this final round of talks, the culmination of more than 19 months of intense negotiations. Major differences still divide the two sides: Iran on the one hand and six world powers, including the United States, on the other. The key unresolved issues concern the pace at which sanctions would be lifted and how much access Iran would grant international inspectors who would monitor its compliance.”

Associated Press: “Both sides recognize that there is leeway to extend to July 9. As part of an agreement with the U.S. Congress, lawmakers then have 30 days to review the deal before suspending congressional sanctions. But postponement beyond that would double the congressional review period to 60 days, giving both Iranian and U.S. critics more time to work on undermining an agreement.”

SpaceX Rocket Failure Highlights Challenges of Space Missions

“Space pioneer Elon Musk’s company suffered a major setback Sunday when its Falcon 9 rocket carrying an unmanned cargo capsule had a catastrophic failure, breaking up shortly after liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“It was the first launch failure of a Falcon 9, the flagship booster of closely held Space Exploration Technology Corp., or SpaceX, as Mr. Musk’s Southern California company is known… The Dragon capsule was filled with some 4,000 pounds of food and water-recycling equipment, experiments, a spare spacesuit and other cargo destined for the space station. Sunday’s failure follows the failed launch of a Russian cargo capsule in April. Orbital Sciences Corp., the only other U.S. company able to resupply the orbiting laboratory, is struggling to resume its flights after an earlier rocket failure of its own.”

“Now, however, a joint SpaceX-Federal Aviation Administration investigation could take months to reach a conclusion, and fixes may take longer to implement. Meanwhile, all Falcon 9 flights are expected to be suspended.”

To Fight Lone Wolf Terrorists, Recognize They Are Not Alone

Gabriel Weismann argues that the “lone wolf” label for some acts of terrorism obscures ways thats law enforcement can combat domestic radicalization.

“The solo terrorists are often recruited, radicalized, trained and directed by others online. The current wave of lone-wolf attacks has been propelled by websites and online platforms that provide limitless opportunities for individuals to explore and locate their virtual pack.”

“Yet they are traceable because they share common characteristics, despite their varied backgrounds. First, they are not really alone: They are connected online, where they often engage in robust conversations. Across a wide variety of sites and platforms, they can reveal a strong commitment to or identification with extremist movements. In addition, their actions do not take place in a vacuum. Their virtual packs can be monitored and studied. Thorough outreach by law enforcement into radical, extremist and other terrorist communities is another key to find early warnings.”

It’s Boom Time: KC-46 tanker program reaches milestones with refueling booms

The KC-46 program completed two key refueling boom milestones recently. Its first test aircraft (EMD1) took to the skies with the refueling boom and wing air refueling pods installed. The airworthiness flight was the first with refueling equipment. During the four hour flight from Boeing Field to Paine Field in Washington, pilots and engineers examined how the aircraft handled with the extra hardware attached. The flight, with the boom and wing pods installed on the aircraft, tested aerodynamics and performance rather than the functionality of the refueling elements, which were not operational.

Additionally, the program’s second test plane (EMD2) is well on its way to becoming a truly militarized tanker aircraft.  Boeing employees installed the fully-functional advanced refueling boom, with the wing pods to follow soon.  Once completed, the aircraft will be able to carry 31,000 gallons of fuel and have the ability to fuel multiple aircraft simultaneously—a capability that offers flexibility in the battlefield.  The test flight of the first fully outfitted test plane is scheduled for later this summer.

Check out the 767-2C (EMD1) in flight and get a behind-the-scenes look inside the factory at a boom installation in this video:

Intelligence Chief Calls China “Leading Suspect” in OPM Hack

“The top U.S. intelligence official signaled Thursday that Chinese hackers were behind the theft of millions of personnel records from the federal government,” The Wall Street Journal reports, “marking the administration’s most pointed assignment of blame since the breach was announced June 4.”

“Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking at a Washington intelligence conference, said China was the ‘leading suspect’ in the attacks… The administration previously avoided publicly attributing the breach to China, though numerous U.S. officials privately have said the hackers were Chinese.”

“In past years it was unusual for the U.S. government to identify suspected cyberthieves, but that may be changing. In December, the White House accused North Korea of stealing and destroying large amounts of records from Sony Pictures Entertainment. And in May 2014, a federal grand jury indicted five Chinese military hackers for ‘computer hacking, economic espionage’ and other offenses against entities including a U.S. nuclear plant.”

Are Space Wars Heating Up?

“The Pentagon and intelligence community are developingwar plans and an operations center to fend off Chinese and Russian attacks on U.S. military and government satellites,” writes Defense One.

“The ops center, to be opened within six months, will receive data from satellites belonging to all government agencies… One of several changes to space strategy and posture that have emerged from a year-long Pentagon review, the new facility is part of a $5 billion boost for space security included in the Defense Department’s 2016 budget request. Among the other high-priority projects in the request are $21 million for Navy communications satellites, up from $11 million the previous year; and $100 million for space-based reconnaissance, up from $78 million the previous year.”

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