The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has confirmed that Iran has filed a lawsuit against the United States over the reimposition of sanctions against Tehran by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, claiming the move violates the nuclear treaty Tehran signed with the United States and five other world powers.
A U.S. State Department official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said on July 17, 2018, that Iran’s application was “baseless” and that Washington intended “to vigorously defend the United States before the ICJ.”
Confirmation by the court on July 17, 2018, came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the case was filed at the ICJ to hold the United States “accountable for its unlawful reimposition of unilateral sanctions.”
“Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of U.S. contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations,” Zarif tweeted. “It’s imperative to counter its habit of violating international law.”
U.S. President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Under the deal signed in 2015, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union agreed to lift international sanctions against Iran.
In return, Iran scaled back its uranium-enrichment program and promised not work on developing nuclear weapons.
The lifting of sanctions has allowed Iran to sell its oil and natural gas on world markets — although secondary U.S. sanctions remained in place.
But in May 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump said during a NATO summit in July 2018 that with the U.S. increasing sanctions on Iran, “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say, ‘Let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”
But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on July 17, 2018, that if Trump wants to negotiate after pulling out of the international agreement, he would have to “initiate the call himself” because Iran’s top leadership was now rejecting any talks with the United States.
Germany dropped a lot of bombs on England (not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom) during World War II. Not all of them exploded – and unexploded ordnance, or UXO, has been an ongoing issue.
According to a report by NavalToday.com, war’s gift that keeps on giving turned up in Portsmouth, England. This is where the Royal Navy is planning to base the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The report said that the German SC250 bomb, which weighed 500 pounds and had 290 pounds of high explosive, was discovered while dredging was underway as part of a program to improve the Royal Navy base’s infrastructure. The London Guardian reported on a past UXO find in Portsmouth in November that was rendered safe in a controlled detonation. The Guardian report also mentioned a bomb discovered in September.
UXO has been a long-running problem after wars. In fact, last October saw EOD personnel in the United States tasked to deal with Civil War cannonballs that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew. UXO from World War I and World War II has been very common in Europe, including poison gas shells.
In 2009, a U.S. Navy release reported that a number of leftover mines and a British torpedo from World War II were discovered during a mine countermeasures exercise during that year’s BALTOPS. Three years later, during that same exercise, an unexploded aerial bomb was discovered according to another U.S. Navy release.
A 2011 Navy release estimates that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are over 200,000 pieces of UXO from not only conflicts, but training exercises dating back to the Russian Revolution.
US President Donald Trump kicks off his Asia tour on Nov. 3 amid the ongoing North Korea crisis. He is first stopping off in Hawaii before heading to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The White House says Trump will be aiming to “underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnerships, and reaffirm United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” But there are concerns in Asia about the degree to which the Trump administration is genuinely committed to the economic prosperity and security of the region given its sharp policy shifts from the previous administration.
Traditional US allies in the Asia Pacific will likely be looking for signs of continued American support from Trump — especially given that the American president pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which was largely seen as a statement about the US’s long-term commitment to the region.
Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping will be closely watched, although analysts aren’t expecting substantive developments. Below, we outlined the key issues to keep an eye on in each of the countries that Trump will be visiting.
On the US-Japan agenda: Trump will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will host the US president for a meeting with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. Trump will also meet with American and Japanese service members.
What’s been going on in Japan: Abe’s ruling coalition recently won a more than two-thirds majority in snap elections. Abe is now set to be the longest-serving prime minister in postwar Japan, and is likely to push for changes in the country’s defense sector.
What to watch for: Abe will likely be trying to gauge whether the Trump administration is on the same page as Japan when it comes to North Korea, and whether it will be committed to security in the region. Notably, during a congratulatory call after the snap elections, Trump and Abe reportedly discussed being united on the need to up the pressure on North Korea.
Why this matters: Japan has been a pacifist nation since the end of World War II; its constitution includes an article that renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and outlaws the use of force as means by which to settle international disputes. But Abe has made efforts to “remove pacifist constraints” on the military.
His agenda has, arguably, been helped forward by the ongoing North Korea crisis, even though about half of poll respondents disagree with the revision of the pacifist clause. It’s possible that if it looks like the US will be pulling out of regional disputes in Asia, Abe might be inspired to move his defense agenda forward.
On the US-Korea agenda: Trump will be participating in bilateral meetings with President Moon Jae-in and will visit American and South Korean service members. He will also speak at the National Assembly, where he is expected to “celebrate the enduring alliance and friendship” between the US and South Korea and call on the international community to up the pressure on North Korea.
What’s been going on in South Korea: Moon, who was elected in May, has spoken about the importance of relations between South Korea and China, which is noteworthy given the US’s decision to pull out of TPP. In October, the two countries agreed to end their dispute over the deployment of a US missile-defense system in Korea. Their leaders will be on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries on November 10-11 (after both will have met with Trump).
What to watch for: Not wholly unlike Japan, Korea will also likely be trying to gauge whether the Trump administration is on the same page when it comes to North Korea and overall regional issues. Notably, Trump tweeted a jab at South Korea back in September, prompting analysts to argue that a divide might be opening between the two countries. A split in the US-South Korean alliance would theoretically be a strategic benefit for both China and North Korea.
Additionally, South Korea recently agreed to amend its trade deal with the US, known as KORUS, after Trump threatened to withdraw from it earlier this year.
Why this matters: Any indication that the US wants to pull further out of the Asia-Pacific region could theoretically inspire South Korea to inch closer to China, which is already its larger trading partner.
On the US-China agenda: Trump will be meeting with Xi and will participate in a series of “bilateral, commercial, and cultural events.” The president plans to “stress fair and reciprocal trade and economic relations,” an official told Bloomberg.
What’s been going on in China: An amendment including President Xi’s name was added to China’s constitution during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. This is the first time a living leader’s name was added since Mao Zedong and reflects Xi’s strong standing within the party. Trump tweeted his congratulations to Xi.
What to watch for: Analysts will likely be keeping an eye on any glimmers of insights on trade and North Korea. But “few will be expecting any substantial developments,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, a China economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients this week. “The usual pattern is for China to offer a concession such as on market access, which may never materialize, and to agree a few trade deals, and then for business to continue as usual.”
Why this matters: Trump’s trade agenda and the crisis in North Korea are much more closely intertwined than some might think. Although Trump repeatedly criticized China’s trade agenda, and once called them the “grand champions” of currency manipulation, he ultimately pulled back from officially labeling China a currency manipulator. That’s likely because of the delicate situation in North Korea, which he himself implied in an interview with The Economist.
On the US-Vietnam agenda: Trump will participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting. He’ll deliver a speech at the summit, during which he will “present the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and underscore the important role the region plays in advancing America’s economic prosperity.” He’ll also meet with President Tran Dai Quang.
What’s been going on in Vietnam: US-Vietnam relations improved under the Obama administration. Last year, when Obama visited Hanoi, he announced the US would repeal a ban on the sale of lethal military equipment, which was largely interpreted as a move to support Vietnam in its clashes with China in the South China Sea.
Since Trump came into office railing against China, many thought he might be even tougher than the Obama administration. But he has eased his criticism instead, which has likely raised concerns in Vietnam about future US responses to China’s ambitions in the South China Sea.
What to watch for: Vietnam will likely be looking for signs of commitment from the US on security vis-a-vis China and possibly trade. It’s worth noting that Vietnam would’ve been one of the biggest winners from the TPP agreement, so Trump’s decision to pull out was a major blow.
Why this matters: The US is the biggest recipient of Vietnam’s exports.
On the US-Philippines agenda: Trump will celebrate the 40th anniversary of US-ASEAN relations at the US-ASEAN Summit and participate in meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte.
What’s been going on in Philippines: Duterte announced last year his “separation” from the US and called President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch.” Analysts interpreted this as an attempt to get more economic, trade, and investment benefits from China. He was also likely keen to see some international support for his “war on drugs,” which was denounced in 2016 by both the US and human-rights groups. China expressed support for the crackdown ahead of Duterte’s visit there last year.
What to watch for: Trump and Duterte have a “warm rapport,” according to a senior administration official. Trump once praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” It will be worth watching how their dynamic plays out.
Why this matters: As analysts at BMI Research explained last year, the Philippines has been a key US ally in the Asia Pacific for decades, in part because of its strategic location between the South China Sea and the western Pacific Ocean, both of which are key for international trade. Additionally, the Philippines is an element of the “first island chain” from southern Japan and Taiwan down to the South China Sea, which the US formulated during the Cold War to contain the former USSR and China.
Last year, those analysts argued that if the Philippines were to continue pulling toward China, then the US might have to “increasingly cultivate Vietnam as a regional security partner to partially offset the withdrawal of the Philippines from an informal US-led bloc of Asian nations aimed at counterbalancing China’s rise.”
On Saturday, December 12, 2020, Santa and his elf could be seen driving around central Oahu waving and handing out candy canes to delighted children waving from their driveways as holiday music rang through the air. But this wasn’t an event sponsored by the city or county, or even a military spouses’ group. It was one couple trying to bring the spirit of Christmas to their community.
“It’s been such a hard year for the kids,” PJ Byers told We Are The Mighty. “We wanted to bring an element of Christmas magic to them.”
When PJ and Jenny Byers realized their son Declan, 3, wasn’t going to be able to see Santa in a traditional way this year, they knew they wouldn’t be the only parents feeling a little “bah humbug.”
“It was actually our neighbor’s son who is battling leukemia that got me thinking about other people’s situations,” Jenny Byers shared. “It got me thinking outside the box of my own life. It reminded me that there were other people facing different scenarios and everyone’s circumstance is different in this pandemic.”
Armed with inspiration, the Byers decided to take matters into their own hands. In early fall, the couple ordered costumes from the internet with the intention to create a magical Santa ‘drive through’ experience.
“When we first tossed around the idea for our neighborhood, we didn’t know what December was going to look like,” PJ, a U.S. Naval officer stationed at Pearl Harbor, said. “The closer it got to the holiday season, we decided we wanted to go ahead with the idea so that no matter what your circumstance was – whether you feel comfortable going to the mall with plexiglass or not – every child in our surrounding community would have the chance to see Santa.”
As the holidays neared, the Byers posted their plan in their Facebook community group to ensure neighbors felt comfortable with them driving around in costume and tossing out candy canes.
“I was shocked by the response,” Jenny said. “So many people were so excited and thankful we were offering that they started offering to help. We were just planning on doing it all ourselves. Everyone started pitching in and we got a speaker from a neighbor down the street. We got a Christmas tree donated to put in the back of the truck and several neighbors donated candy canes for us to toss out to the kids.”
Within the Facebook page, the Byers set a date and time for the Santa spectacular.
“We also posted a route so that people could gauge when we would drive by their house,” Jenny explained. “We tried to hit every street in our neighborhood and we set a specific route so that people didn’t gather. Our goal was to hit every house and not have people group together into a big crowd.”
On the day of the event, the couple festooned their truck, suited up for the big event, and began making their way through the neighborhood.
“The kids were so happy,” Jenny shared, adding that local community members had donated more than 1,000 candy canes. “They were so excited to see Santa. We followed COVID guidelines and all candy canes were pre-wrapped. Santa was wearing gloves and there was no contact. It was so sweet to see so many kids so excited and happy.”
The couple’s son, Declan, waved from a neighbor’s driveway as Santa drove by, none the wiser his dad was the man in red.
The Byers shared that beyond something fun for kids, it was a gratifying opportunity for them to contribute to the community.
“I was honored to do it honestly,” PJ shared. “So much has been taken away from the kids this year, it felt like the least we could do to make the Christmas season feel a little bit more normal for them.”
Drafted into the Army in March of 1968, George Lang graduated boot camp and went right into advanced infantry training before heading off to the jungles of Vietnam.
In February of 1969, Lang was scheduled to go on leave when an intelligence officer got word of enemy movement closing in.
Lang had just spit-shined his boots when the company first sergeant updated him on his new mission. Lang put his leave on hold and geared up without hesitation. He and his squad loaded up on “tangos” (boats) and proceeded down the river toward their objective.
Lang and his men maneuvered down the canal toward Kien Hoa Province in South Vietnam, where they eventually dismounted the “tangos” and proceeded inland on foot.
After only 50-meters of patrolling, the anxious squad came in contact with a series of bunkers, linked together by communication wires.
Taking point, Lang was first to spot five armed men guarding the area — he quickly engaged. After expelling a full magazine and getting hit by enemy artillery, the squad came under attack by an additional, but unexpected force — red ants.
The squad dashed toward a shallow pond while under fire to wash off the six-legged attackers. Cleaned off and ready to go, the soldiers located a blood trail and followed it to find the bodies of the VC troops they previously engaged.
Suddenly, another barrage of incoming fire opened up from a nearby bunker, killing a handful of Americans. Lang sprinted toward the dug-in position and took it out with his rifle and a few hand grenades.
Lang destroyed a total of three enemy bunkers, which were also full of weapons. Upon returning to his squad, a deadly rocket detonated nearby, shooting hot shrapnel into Lang’s back, damaging his spinal cord.
Unable to move his legs and suffering unbelievable pain, Lang continued to direct his men. After several hours of coordinating troop movement and medical evacuations, Lang was finally removed from the battlefield and brought to safety for treatment.
On March 2, 1971, George Lang was awarded the Medal of Honor from former President Richard Nixon.
Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.
As part of its new Soldier Protection System, the U.S. Army plans to field eye protection that adjusts to daytime and night conditions so soldiers won’t have to constantly change eyewear on operations.
Senior Army equipment officials on Wednesday discussed the new body armor system with lawmakers at a hearing before the House Armed Services Tactical Air Land Forces Subcommittee on the ground force modernization budget request for fiscal 2017.
Army Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, told lawmakers that soldiers have typically had to carry two pairs of protective eyewear over the last 15 years — one for day and one for night.
“It doesn’t sound like much, but that is a huge deal to not have to physically transition eye protection,” Murray said. “The actual lenses do it for you.”
The Soldier Protection System, or SPS, is a full ensemble that goes beyond torso protection and provides the soldier with improved protection for vital areas such as the head and face.
Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked about the recent decision to accelerate the program and the incorporation of sensors designed to monitor a soldier’s vital signs.
The Army’s 2017 budget request shows a significant increase in research and development of the effort, from about $5 million to $16 million, she said.
“The additional funding helps to get us there sooner,” said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology. “Although we were looking at these systems simultaneously, the way the funding allocated wasn’t until 2019 that we could get to the integrated sensor suite.”
The integrated sensors portion of the SPS is “a really important component because what that will allow you do is not only measure things like heart rate but it will also give you feedback on things like hydration,” he said.
Eye protection is another key part of the SPS, Williamson said.
“One of the more impressive things they are doing is building transitional eyewear that allows a soldier to move from a dark environment into the light and back and forth without the disorientation that occurs because of that change in environment,” he said, adding that the new eyewear also increases the blast fragmentation protection by about 10 percent.
The new Modular Scalable Vest portion of the SPS features a more streamlined design compared to the current Improved Outer Tactical Vest.
The most noticeable feature of the SPS is the new Ballistic Combat Shirt, or BCS, which has been updated with soft armor on the neck, shoulders, high chest and high back to protect against 9mm rounds and shrapnel. The lower part of the shirt is still a breathable, fire-resistant material.
It also features the Integrated Head Protection System, which gives the soldier the ability to attach extra armor to the top of the helmet to provide additional protection against snipers shooting down on soldiers riding in an open turret, as well as the armored facemask to protect against gunfire and shrapnel.
The SPS is also part of the Army’s effort to lighten the soldiers load, Williamson said.
“The goal for the entire system is 10 to 15 percent less weight than the soldier carries today,” he said.
Marine Brig. Gen. Joe Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command told lawmakers that the Marine Corps often works with the Army on individual protection equipment programs, such as the new “Enhanced Combat Helmet that we have developed with the Army and now are final stages if fielding the first 77,000 of those.”
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.
A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.
US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flewthrough both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.
A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.
China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.
The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.
The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albionchallenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.
The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.
China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.
In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.
While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.
That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.
When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.
The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.
While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.
That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.
Army paratroopers jumping out of C-17s to descend from the sky into an assault on enemy locations — will now land equipped with better intelligence information to achieve their combat objective, attack enemies and perform missions.
The Army has deployed and emerging airborne satellite system which allows paratroopers to communicate with voice, video and data while flying toward their mission.
The technology, called Enroute Mission Command Capability, or EMC 2, is currently fielded with the Global Response Force at Fort Bragg, NC, a unit including portions of the service’s 82nd Airborne. The GRF is tasked with forcible-entry parachute assault into hostile, high-threat areas, according to Army statements.
Used during the Gulf War in the early 90s, the GRF is tasked with a rapid mission to mobilize and deploy within 96 hours.
The idea with EMC 2 is to give Army paratroopers key, combat-relevant tactical and strategic information about their combat destination while in transit. For instance, EMC 2 can give soldiers an ability to view digital maps, battlefield assessments and intelligence information while traveling to a location instead of needing to wait until they arrive.
“This gives Global Response Force members eyes and ears as they are in route to their mission objective,” Paul Mehney, Director of Communications for Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
If paratroopers needed to land quickly and attack and objective for an offensive assault, raid, or hostage rescue – they would land on the ground already having combat relevant details such as location, composition, weapons or force structure of a given enemy location.
The mobile, airborne satellite network is a new extension of the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T – a ground-based, high-speed radio and satcom network allowing commanders to chat, view digital maps and exchange data between forward bases and while on-the-move in vehicles.
“We will continue to develop this over the next several years,” Mehney added.
During recent demonstrations, EMC 2 has brought the capability into the cargo section of a C-17 using commercial satellite connections, bringing paratroopers on the move the ability to monitor developments while in transit. The EMC 2 technology uses modified Air Force C-17s engineered to operate with AN/PRC-152 wideband networking radio, commercial satellites and the ANW2 waveform.
“We are interested in helping the Army learn how it will make use of this to support scalable expeditionary operations in a range of environments,” Mehney explained.
A Libyan militant was convicted Nov. 28 of terrorism charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. But a federal jury found him not guilty of murder, the most serious charge associated with the rampage he was accused of orchestrating.
The attack became instant political fodder in the 2012 presidential campaign, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public and stonewalling congressional investigators, though officials denied any wrongdoing. Some were particularly critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the conflict, which dogged her during her presidential campaign.
But the seven-week trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala was largely free of political intrigue.
Jurors convicted Khattala on four counts, including providing material support for terrorism and destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the U.S. compound, but acquitted him on 14 others. Even with the mixed verdict, Khattala, 46, still faces the possibility of life imprisonment for his conviction on a federal firearms charge.
Prosecutors accused Khattala of directing the attack aimed at killing personnel and plundering maps, documents and other property from the U.S. mission in Benghazi. But defense attorneys said their evidence against him was shoddy.
Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the first attack at the U.S. mission, along with Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer. Nearly eight hours later, at a CIA complex nearby, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack.
“Today, a small measure of justice was meted out,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a message to CIA employees. Of Khattala he added: “It took intelligence to find him, soldiers to assist in capturing him, law enforcement to interview him, and a legal team to put him away. Khattala’s sentencing is to follow; but no term in prison will bring our people back.”
Prosecutors acknowledged they lacked evidence to show Khattala personally fired any gunshots, but argued he orchestrated the violence out of his hatred for U.S. freedoms and his suspicion that Americans were operating a spy base in Benghazi. They said Khattala led a group of militia “hitmen” who could be seen on surveillance footage toting weapons and a gas can the night of the attack. Their case relied heavily on the testimony of informants, including one who was paid $7 million to befriend Khattala, help the government gather information on him, and arrange his capture.
Defense attorneys sought to discount the informants as liars who were paid for their stories. Federal public defender Michelle Peterson said in closing arguments that prosecutors were playing to jurors’ emotions to make up for shoddy evidence, including blurry surveillance video and cellphone records she described as inconclusive. Khattala is a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran, which “is not the same thing as terrorism,” Peterson said.
But prosecutors argued the evidence was enough to convict Khattala on all counts.
“He was there to kill Americans, and that is exactly what he and his men did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. DiLorenzo told jurors.
The trial, which opened Oct. 2, was one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years in a U.S. civilian court, even though the Trump administration had argued such suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The mixed verdict could revive that debate, even as newly captured terror suspects — including a second man charged in the Benghazi attacks — are instead brought to federal court.
Supporters of the military commission system argue valuable intelligence is lost when suspected terrorists are afforded protections of the American legal system. But prosecutors said Khattala, who was interrogated at length during 13 days aboard a Navy transport ship headed to the U.S., provided information about other members of the Islamic extremist militia group blamed for the Benghazi attack. Among the men he pegged was Mustafa al-Imam, who was captured last month and awaits trial in the same federal courthouse in Washington.
Jonathan Hafetz, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has handled terrorism cases, said the Khattala trial showed federal courts are capable of handling terror cases, even with his acquittal of murder charges.
“No court system can pretend to protect due process if it only achieves the resolution the government wants in every case,” he said.
Over the last five years, some 4,200 living veterans were declared dead and had their benefits cut off by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After digging through records, Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said the mistake was a function of the way record sharing is done between the Social Security Administration and the VA. When the SSA declared someone dead, the VA would immediately kill their benefits.
Florida Congressman David Jolly had a bone to pick with the VA. Responding to his constituents’ complaints about premature death notices, he headed a Congressional inquiry in 2015. When veterans tried to correct the errors in their mortal status, they found themselves in purgatory between the two agencies. In a written statement, Rep. Jolly remarked on the grave consequences of these kinds of mistakes.
“We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead,” Jolly wrote. “It has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”
The VA admitted its mistake to the congressman and then revived the affected veterans’ benefits as of May 2016. The VA also overhauled its death notice procedures. Now, a veteran will be notified of his or her death by mail to the last known address. The veteran will have 30 days to prove he or she is not dead. If the VA doesn’t hear from the veteran or their surviving family members, the benefits will be terminated.