Capt. Charles Eadie, a previously enlisted soldier who graduated near the top of his West Point class in 2007, and then went to the London School of Economics, was busted and charged with selling anabolic steroids to an undercover police officer in Columbus, Georgia. He has pleaded not guilty.
Here is an interview he did about his career when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. In it, he mentions that he had a "troubled past" and actually was on probation when he first tried to enlist. "There is definitely a darker path that I could have taken in life," he says, somewhat ominously.
You BD hardasses probably all want to throw the book at him. Maybe I am just a softie but I wonder if he was trying to feel the thrill of living close to the edge, a bit of the adrenaline of combat.
BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Security sources said today that an intelligence official was killed following an armed attack against him west of the capital, Baghdad.
The source told Aswat al-Iraq that the assassins crossed his road and shot him dead.
No other details were given.
Maybe one of those Scandinavian mystery novelists my wife is always reading needs to move to Baghdad.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
If so, the military's anti-drug program is gonna face a major new challenge. "It works for a lot of the guys coming home," reports an Army veteran of Iraq.
[Insert here a lame joke about finally understanding certain TRADOC papers.]
Actually, the bust is not as wacko as it seems. From what I've seen, many people working in drug and alcohol abuse are people who have experienced problems themselves, and some of them do have relapses. So, ironic but not funny. (HT to http://court-martial-ucmj.com/)
Mexican drug boss Tony Tormenta ("storm" in Spanish) went out Butch Cassidy-style in a running firefight the other day across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Not only automatic weapons, but also grenades, were involved. Final score: Drug gang lost 4, Mexican marines lost 3, with one observer, a Mexican reporter, also killed. Border bridges were briefly closed.
Speaking of violence against journalists, a leading Russian reporter got his legs, jaw and fingers broken by someone who apparently disliked the attention he has given to political extremist groups. It takes real courage to write honestly about politics in today's Russia.
What's not to like? Col. Robert Killebrew (U.S. Army, ret.) and Jennifer Bernal-Garcia, both occasional contributors to this blog, are gonna roll out a ground-breaking report on the national security implications of drug cartels. I think this one will get some notice.
It is Sept. 30 at 5 pm. RSVP here. And if you tell 'em Best Defense sent you, you might get a free beer afterwards.
Here's a report from my friend and CNAS colleague Bob Killebrew, who has been hanging out in Colombia. It sounds like the we could learn a thing or two from the Colombian government.
By Col. Robert Killebrew (U.S. Army, ret.)
Best Defense Bogota bureau chief
That the United States has had to painfully re-learn the lessons of counterinsurgency is by now a staple of strategic culture; the story of Gen. David Petraeus and our new counterinsurgency manual is well known even in places that wouldn't know a guerrilla from a traffic cop.
What we don't yet fully understand is that the nature of insurgency itself is changing. In a sense, Iraq and Afghanistan are only the beginnings -- call them "insurgency 101" -- of a dialectical change in warfare that is locating crime, terrorism and insurgency in a shifting network of state and nonstate actors that will make fighting "insurgents," or drug cartels, or violent gangs, much harder for status quo states like the United States. In the hemispheric-wide narco-war that now covers North and South America, the Mexican drug cartels and their fellow travelers - including the Venezuelan government and their Iranian allies -- the only success story so far is Colombia, and some of their lessons are worth considering.
First, context. Colombia had had a rocky time in the 20th century with its military establishment. By the late 1970s, the military existed virtually outside the government as part of a compromise deal to keep the generals happy and the politicians away from security issues. As a result, when the Marxist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) began to make inroads in the 1980s, military action was divorced from the political life of the country, and though the military was fighting a war against the FARC, it was losing because the fighting had no political context. So a painful lesson the Colombians had to learn was to bring the military into a political relationship with the rest of the government, and for the government -- not just the generals -- to take ownership of the war.
RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images
Here's a comment from our drugs ‘n' violence reporter, who lately has gone all "old media" and has been moonlighting for the Washington Post's op-ed page.
By Jennifer Bernal-Garcia
Best Defense cocaine cartels correspondent
The new issue of Foreign Affairs features an article by former DEA Administrator and former CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner titled "The New Cocaine Cowboys - How to Defeat Mexico's Drug Cartels." It provides a great overview of the factors that led to the current situation in Mexico, covering pre-existing corruption but also the incremental efforts of the past three presidential administrations to try to curb cartel influence. It also, however, misses a number of points that would have made it truly timely and therefore falls short of providing a true outline for government success.
Bonner makes three main assertions. First, Mexico can learn important lessons from Colombia's struggle against its own cartels in the ‘90s. It is a more apt comparison than the Plan Colombia period, as has been already pointed out by scholars like Vanda Felbab-Brown of Brookings. Basically, fighting very fragmented cartels requires the skillful use of law enforcement against every level of their organizations.
Bad idea, sergeant.
Ed Yourdon / Flickr.com
I am a bit surprised to find myself thinking that if this soldier really did what he is accused of doing-just throwing classified information onto the internet randomly-than he should go off and do time.
Why surprised? Because I was the recipient of tons of leaks over the years as a reporter. Most were not potentially dangerous, and a much of it was way overclassified. And when I did have stuff that could endanger troops and other people, my editors had a procedure in place to discuss it with officialdom before going to press. They didn't give the government the power to censor, but they did give them a serious chance to make their case.
I believe in the First Amendment, close to absolutely. Newspapers should be allowed to pretty much publish whatever they want. I believe that does our country far more good than harm. Yet I also believe in military discipline. People should do their jobs and keep their words-reporters and soldiers alike. Yes, that sometimes puts people at odds, but the founding fathers, in their wisdom, gave us an adversarial system, designed to check and balance power.
But then, I am a rule of law guy. Prosecuting this soldier is the right thing to do-but even more so would be going after all those who tortured people in our name. In fact, let's go after the torturers first, because they have done far more damage to our country and values. If the government has some free time left over after dealing with that stain, then sure, go after this kid.
laszlo-photo / http://www.flickr.com/photos/laszlo-photo/3560013736/sizes/m/
Stars & Stripes reports that a Navy doctor, Lt. Cdr. Anthony Velasquez, who had been accused of molesting female patients, pleaded to some charges and was given a deal in which most of the charges were dropped -- and he wound up not doing any time, and his fine was suspended.
Somebody wearing Navy stars has some ‘splaining to do.
(HT to the IC)
A few days ago a former Mexican presidential candidate apparently was kidnapped. Yesterday half the police force in a town quit after two of their colleagues were ambushed. Attacks on the political and security systems look like an insurgency to me.
This looks like a classic candidate for an inter-agency wargame: How could the various arms of the U.S. government, from military to legal to diplomatic, economic and political, help the people of Mexico?
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
This kind of atrocity, allegedly committed by a drug gang, reminds me of Chechnya. But it is in a place where I have vacationed, and where my son has lived.
Meanwhile, the cartels seem to be ganging up on a group of hit men in the border area.
Honduras also is seeing drug violence.
I'm voting for growing drug-related insecurity along the U.S.-Mexican border as the sleeper national security issue of the year. It may even combine with post-Castro Cuba, as drug gangs seek to move into that island's ungoverned spaces -- and there will be some.
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Here is a report review by a CNAS colleague of mine.
By Jennifer Bernal-Garcia
Best Defense illegal drugs correspondent
I sat down recently with the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment NDTA), which came out last month. Bottom line up front: good on thoroughness, bad for your morale.
Some takeaway points:
While the failure of the "war on drugs" is an oft-rehashed theme, the NDTA goes into specifics. The availability of most illegal drugs -- heroin, marijuana, meth and MDMA -- throughout the country is increasing, mostly as a result of ramped-up production in Mexico. Apparently the costs resulting from lost productivity associated with drug abuse, the burden on the justice system, and the environmental impact of drug production are a staggering $215 billion.
Heart of Oak/Flickr
By Col. Robert Killebrew, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense criminal cartels correspondent
The media has picked up on the Mexican cartel wars, and Hillary Clinton's high-level trip down there is an indication of official concern. From where I sit, the danger now is that we'll overreact, in the grand old American tradition, and do more harm than good. The danger of doing so is particularly acute in regard to Mexico, which has a key presidential election coming up in 2012 and whose continued fight against the cartels is by no means assured. Here are some thoughts.
First, Mexico is only one part, though probably the most important one, of a theater of operations that stretches from the Venezuelan-Cuban-Iranian alliance and the Andean Ridge, through Columbia and the FARC, up the cartel-controlled drug routes through Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, and into the United States, where the cartels control most of the wholesale drug distribution in the US and "subcontract" to the Latino gangs (and others) for retail sales. The same outfits that slit throats in Mexico are also operating in Atlanta.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Gunmen killed two Americans and a Mexican associated with the staff of the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez.
"The cartels are already in full operation in the US in most cities, wake up Americans! It is your problem too, it is your OTHER war," comments "Jen" in Mexico.
Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
I think Mexico is the wild card in our national security situation, which is one reason I like carrying reports by my CNAS colleagues Bob Killebrew and Jennifer Bernal-Garcia about drugs, gangs and such. Along those lines, John McCreary's NightWatch reports that
Local TV news in Texas reported that the Zetas have left Reynosa tonight. They've moved about 150 miles west to Nuevo Laredo. Sources reported the Zetas want to take over the city and make it their base of operations. The U.S. Consulate General's office already has confirmed a gun battle in Nuevo Laredo. ... According to the TV news cast the Zetas are already calling in reinforcements. Some 700 Zetas from around Mexico are joining the 500 already brought to the area last week. The Gulf Cartel also called in reinforcements last week and reportedly joined forces with La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Sinaloa Cartel."
McCreary's conclusion: "If this report is accurate, Laredo, Texas, needs to prepare for a spillover of violence and an influx of drugs."
Here's a guest post from Jennifer Bernal of CNAS regarding a recent Washington Post article about Mexican cartel operations inside the United States:
By Jennifer Bernal
Best Defense Drugs, Crime & Terror Beat Reporter
The story caught my eye because beyond outlining the mind-boggling scale of certain Mexican cartel operations in the U.S., it illustrates a key question when fighting them: Does fragmenting groups ultimately make detecting and dismantling them easier or more difficult? In Mexico, Felipe's Calderon government has been repeatedly criticized for trying to take on all the country's drug cartels at once with agencies that did not have the capacity to do so. It is argued that the extreme flexibility of the cartels simply allows them to reconfigure, and they end up striking back with more horizontal and unruly violence.
The story of the Flores brothers shows how associations between domestic gangs and international drug trafficking organizations can spring up in ad hoc ways, which contributes to easily-shifting alliances. In the case of the Flores brothers, their father and older brother ran drugs for the Sinaloa cartel. While the article does not explicitly state whether the brothers joined a local Chicago gang like the Latin Kings or the Two-Six, it's easy to speculate that they would, with their family ties providing the necessary bridge between the two types of groups.
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Here is a report from my CNAS colleague Jennifer Bernal-Garcia, who is working with Bob Killebrew on the merger of drug gangs and terrorism, about a meeting they held recently with law enforcement experts on gang violence:
By Jennifer Bernal
Best Defense Drugs & Crime Correspondent
Cops are the first line of defense against gangs, and they have a pretty good understanding of the issue. Talking with them yields a pretty grim assessment: There is a huge gang problem in the United States. Our cops in attendance estimated that the U.S. might have up to 1 million gang members, although the problem is often underreported both because it is difficult to detect and because of local politicians' incentives to downplay crime figures in their areas. The gang problem is inherently tied in to broader regional criminal trends. The extensiveness of drug trafficking south of the border and the degree to which cartels violently contest state authority is well acknowledged. There is nonetheless a common misperception that drug networks disintegrate when you cross the border into the U.S. They don't. Gangs -- mostly youth gangs -- step in to domestically distribute the drugs that cartels traffic in.
Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
The Mexican navy, operating far inland, whacked a major drug lord. (Apparently the navy has good intelligence and is less corrupt than other security forces.) I think the situation in Mexico is shaping up as something less than a war but more than a criminal action. What to call it? Given Mexico's location, this should be of more than academic interest to the United States government and its military. My CNAS colleague and mentor Bob Killebrew is doing a study on the merger of crime and terrorism in Mexico and other western hemisphere nations.
Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
George Brazier of Arlington, Virginia has the best letter to the editor I've read today. He suggests that the Army
Take the scarce resources now being wasted on drumming out of the military competent, patriotic Americans who happen to be gay and instead focus them on people posing actual threats.
Makes sense to me.
For all you national security law junkies, here's a firsthand report from my CNAS colleague Jennifer Bernal on the American Bar Association's two-day long annual hoedown on National Security Law. (I know, what was second prize?):
There was one panel that I made not sure not to miss: 'Narco-violence Along the Border,' correctly -- in my opinion -- flagged as 'an emerging issue in national security law.'
I work on issues related to this narco-violence at CNAS, so I found the fact that this issue was prominently featured at the ABA conference both striking and encouraging. Now, as with most unsettling geopolitical phenomena, one can argue at different levels whether and how the situation in Mexico poses a national security threat to the United States. (The 'failed state' argument that an unstable southern neighbor is inherently detrimental to U.S. security versus the view that only considers direct attacks on the U.S. homeland, and so on.) What is certain is that the drug war in Mexico now routinely spills across the border. (It's why cities in places like Arizona are now tremendously unsafe, with drug-related kidnapping rates that have tripled in the past eight years.)
As the panel moderator put it: To what extent should we deal with drug-trafficking groups with the same methods we use with terrorist ones? How should the U.S. government handle the line between law-enforcement and intelligence- and military-oriented responses? Given a national legal framework that depends on formal categories (citizen vs. non-citizen, state vs. non-state) and the ways in which drug violence and associated problems repeatedly defy them, the answers are complicated indeed.
Unfortunately, the panel fell flat of my expectations by omitting to address these questions completely. The preceding discussion, 'Legislative Update on Developments in National Security Law,' was as jargon-y as you would expect from its title, setting my expectations for the upcoming one. Yet -- and as ironic as this sounds -- what was missing from the panel on narco-violence was a discussion of, well, law. What we got instead was a very thorough run-down of the situation in Mexico. The panelists discussed mounting death tolls (more than 5,600 casualties in 2008 alone), the alarming amount of manpower and firepower wielded by cartels, the chaotic nature of the confrontations between them, as well as the ways in which the U.S. exacerbates the conflict (drug demand and gun supply). Most of this information was on point, but it never evolved into a policy discussion.
Fact: most people don't know as much as they should about Mexico. (This became painfully obvious during a low moment in the panel when the speaker asked the audience a number of very basic questions about the country, to astounding general silence.) There's value to informing people. Yet I would have hoped for more from a discussion hosted by the ABA. Even what is arguably the biggest and most obvious legal question when it comes to policies to curb U.S. drug demand, the de-criminalization of marijuana, emerged as an afterthought in the very last question of the Q&A. Really?
Certainly, even just getting the facts right is important. It's also why I'll take this chance briefly to discuss two particular items of misinformation that I hear cited at just about every turn. I don't mean to claim that they're the most important, only that they keep coming up and require clarification.(Read on)
My CNAS homie retired Army Col. Bob Killebrew has a good piece in Small Wars Journal on crime and terrorism. As you might expect, the news isn't good. Bob, a longtime mentor of mine, is especially worried by the nexus of drugs, crime and insurgency, and their effect on the way we live: "the explosion of the illicit economy, the merger of crime and terrorism, and their reach inside our borders, have added a new and possibly more imminent challenge to our safety -- not only at the national level, but on our streets."
A veteran Special Forces trainer, one-time Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Stewart, fluent in German and knowledgeable about evasion techniques, is convicted in Vilseck, Germany, of sexual assault and kidnapping, and then sent to a hotel room escorted only by a sleepy member of his unit? And the Army is surprised that he takes off and disappears in the black Audi Q5? (But he eventually saw the light and turned himself in. But apparently not before taking some poison that wound him up in intensive care at Walter Reed. This guy is out to beat the astronaut lady who wore Depends.)
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
The U.S. embassy in Kabul says it is firing its frat boy security contractors. This brings to mind a recent news report that the British security guard charged with murdering two of his colleagues in the Green Zone early in August had a criminal record back in the UK. He actually left Britain despite being on probation for robbery and firearms offenses, the papers reported.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.