How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

A former CIA case officer who was arrested on Jan. 16 on a single count of illegally possessing classified information — real names and phone numbers of covert CIA sources, locations of covert facilities, and meeting locations — may have compromised U.S. assets in Russia, according to current and former U.S. officials cited in an NBC News report published Jan. 19th.


A secret task force involving the FBI and CIA suspected that 53-year-old ex-CIA officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, could have been spying for China, during a period when at least 20 CIA informants in China were executed. FBI agents were said to have received information that Lee, who left the CIA in 2007, was cooperating with Chinese intelligence officers while working in Hong Kong, according to sources cited in the report.

In 2012, agents reportedly searched his hotel room and discovered notebooks with the names and phone numbers of CIA sources.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
The Memorial Wall is on the north wall of the Original Headquarters Building lobby. This wall of 103 stars stands as a silent, simple memorial to those CIA officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The Memorial Wall was commissioned by the CIA Fine Arts Commission in May 1973 and sculpted by Harold Vogel in July 1974. (Image CIA Flickr)

U.S. intelligence officials, who suspected that China had infiltrated their covert communications following the executions of their sources in the country, believed that Chinese intelligence officers shared the U.S.’s method of covert communications with Russian intelligence officers during a joint training session. After the training session, Russian officers reportedly “came back saying we got good info on [covert communications],” a former official said to NBC News.

U.S. assets in Russia reportedly began disappearing, prompting a change in operational procedures for communications.

The former officials noted that the information Lee possessed was not all-inclusive, and that not all of those who were sought by Chinese officials were linked to his notebook: “No single officer had access to all of them,” one official said to NBC News.

Also Read: Sailor accused of spying for China, Taiwan cuts deal with feds

The former officials also noted that the CIA’s method for sharing messages with agents could have been easily accessed by the Chinese due to its simplicity: “All they had to do was get one agent’s laptop, and they could figure it out,” and official said.

Lee reportedly flew to back to the U.S. in 2012 with his family on the promise of a job offer, which turned out to be a plan by authorities to lure him back to the U.S. Photographs taken of items in Lee’s hotel room at the time indicated he possessed a 49-page datebook and a 21-page address book filled with sensitive information.

Lee was arrested after flying into John F. Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong.

Articles

Lawmakers visit Parris Island after recruit’s death highlights hazing

Two lawmakers say they are reassured the Marine Corps is working to enact policies to root out hazing after a recruit’s tragic suicide brought public attention to a pattern of mistreatment and abuse by drill instructors within his battalion.


Also read: Here’s what the first 36 hours of Marine boot camp is like

Reps. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, and Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, traveled to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, over the weekend to meet with the depot’s commander, Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, about the findings of three command investigations into the death of 20-year-old Muslim recruit Raheel Siddiqui and other allegations of hazing.

Renforth, an infantry officer, took command of the base in June, after three senior leaders had been fired and 15 drill instructors sidelined in connection with the hazing probes.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

In a joint announcement Wednesday, Dingell and Issa expressed horror at the findings of the investigation, but optimism that the Corps was moving in the right direction.

“This weekend’s visit was an opportunity to see firsthand the changes that are being implemented to achieve this goal. After meeting with General Renforth and talking with other key members of leadership, drill instructors, and recruits, it is clear that the Marine Corps is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves,” Dingell said in a statement.

“General Renforth has assured me this is personal to him and he is committed to working towards real change to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening in the future,” she added.

Dingell, who has the Siddiqui family in her district and has pressed the Marine Corps for information since his March 18 death, said the immediate changes the service had implemented — including automatically suspending staff who are being investigated for hazing and increasing officer oversight of drill instructors — provided evidence of Renforth’s dedication to eradicate the problems.

“This is just a first step and continued monitoring in the weeks and months ahead will be necessary to ensure these policies have their intended effect,” she said.

Issa, whose district includes the Marine Corps’ West Coast recruit depot in San Diego, called the findings surrounding Siddiqui’s death “nothing short of heartbreaking.”

“Beyond training procedures and safeguards, we must do more to prevent active-duty personnel suicide overall,” he said in a statement. “Statistics released earlier this year show the number of service members committing suicide remains unacceptably high while reserve suicide rates have increased.”

I remain committed to assisting our Marines and all of our services in working to provide all the support they need,” he added.

The results of the three command investigations, reviewed by Military.com on Sept. 8, revealed that the drill instructor whose abuse and harassment of Siddiqui provided “impetus” for the recruit’s death had been previously investigated for hazing another Muslim recruit by throwing him in a clothes dryer and calling him a “terrorist.”

The probes revealed a culture of hazing within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that stretched back at least as far as 2015 and was only curtailed after a recruit’s family wrote a letter to President Barack Obama in April, a month after Siddiqui’s death.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet built his own car from a top-secret jet engine

The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.


How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.

Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.

That’s how Art Arfons would make history.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”

In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.

When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.

Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines will fly the Osprey until 2060

The Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet, and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.


While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.

As a result, Corps developers explain that the aircraft has, to a large extent, had trouble keeping pace with needed modernization and readiness enhancements. This challenge has been greatly exacerbated by a major increase in Combatant Commander requests for Ospreys, particularly since 2007, Corps officials say.

“The quality of maintenance training curricula, maturation, and standardization has not kept pace with readiness requirements. Current maintenance manning levels are unable to support demands for labor The current V-22 sustainment system cannot realize improved and sustained aircraft readiness / availability without significant change,” the Corps writes in its recently published 2018 Marine Aviation Plan. “Depot-level maintenance cannot keep up with demand.”

Given this scenario, the Corps is implementing key provisions of its Common Configuration, Readiness and Modernization Plan which, according to Burns, is “designed to achieve a common configuration and improve readiness to a minimum of 75-percent mission capable rate across the fleet.”

Corps officials said the idea with Osprey modernization and sustainment is to build upon the lift, speed and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. This includes arming the Osprey with rockets, missiles or some kind of new weapons capability to support its escort mission in hostile or high-threat environments.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.

The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.

As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability. This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.

In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
An F-18
(Photo by Carlos Menendez San Juan)

“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
Internally Transportable Vehicle can fly on the Osprey.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Alvin Pujols)

Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors, and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems and targeting technologies.

Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.

While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.

Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.

The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
A B-52

At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems, and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.

Navy Osprey

In a concurrent and related development, the Navy is working on its own CVM-22B Osprey variant to emerge in coming years. The project has gained considerable traction ever since the service decided to replace the C-2 for the important Carrier Onboard Delivery mission with the Osprey.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
V-22 Osprey
(Photo by D. Miller)

The Navy Osprey is designed to enable 1,150 miles of flight to the ship with extended fuel tanks. Alongside a needed range increase, the new aircraft will also include a new radio for over-the-horizon communications and a built-in public address system, service officials said.

The new Osprey, slated to first be operational by the early 2020s, will perform the full range of missions currently executed by the C-2s. This includes VIP transport, humanitarian relief mission and regular efforts to deliver food, spare parts and equipment for sailors aboard carriers.

The Navy Osprey variant will take on a wider set of missions than those performed by a C-2. Helicopter or tilt-rotor carrier landings do not require the same amount of preparation as that needed for a C-2 landing; there is no need for a catapult and a tilt-rotor naturally has a much wider envelope with which to maneuver.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

North Korea vows to respond with force if attacked

North Korea issued a message of warning to the United States on April 25, vowing to respond to force with force if attacked.


But Pyongyang did not engage in a major provocation on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army as some analysts have speculated, a possible sign Kim Jong Un could be taking a step back in the face of renewed pressure from China and the United States.

Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated in an editorial on April 25 that its army has the capacity to “respond to any war the United States wants,” and that the “era of the U.S. imperialist’s nuclear terror has ended forever,” because North Korea has developed its own nuclear capacity.

The editorial also suggested the absence of a nuclear or missile provocation on April 25 was no guarantee the Kim Jong Un regime would refrain from a test in the near future.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
This is the guy behind all the big talk. (Photo: KCNA)

“In the area of defense, as we produce more advanced weapons, we must work toward creating more events similar to the ‘March 18 Revolution,'” Pyongyang stated.

North Korea was referring to the date of North Korea’s test of a rocket engine that could be used in the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“The whole world will soon see the significance of our immense victory,” North Korea stated.

Pak Yong Sik, a senior military official, stated North Korea’s nuclear weapons are “on standby at all times” and that “all U.S. imperialist bases in the Asia-Pacific are within range.”

On April 25, North Korea conducted a large-scale conventional drill near Wonsan, on the eastern coast of the peninsula, according to Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff.

About 300-400 artillery guns were deployed in the largest drill of its kind, Yonhap reported.

Also read: Here’s an inside look at North Korea’s ballistic missile inventory

The North Korean leader did not issue a message on the day of the anniversary, most recently making an appearance at a pig farm, according to KCTV.

China and the United States condemned North Korea’s missile provocations in April, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States would respond if North Korea attacks U.S. troops in the region.

“If you see [Kim] attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to [strike back],” Haley said on NBC’s “Today.” “But right now, we’re saying, ‘Don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions,’ and I think he’s understanding that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kremlin denies arrested Marine vet being used as ‘Pawn’

Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in December 2018 in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the right to conduct counterintelligence activities.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28, 2018.


His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, in remarks about the case, that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.

Asked about Hunt’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov also said that he was not aware of statements on a possible swap of Whelan in exchange for Russian citizen Maria Butina, held in the United States.

Butina has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to speculation of a possible swap.

On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.

“As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort or another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.

The Russian outlet earlier reported that Whelan had been indicted on spying charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army just ditched its latest short-term rifle replacement plan

The Army has officially scrapped its search for a short-term replacement for the M4/M16 rifle platform.


Funds for the Interim Combat Service Rifle have been redirected to the long-term project to design the Next Generation Squad Weapon, which will replace the current rifle platform for good. Military Times spotted the announcement on a post on the federal business opportunities website this week.

“Resulting from a change in strategy, the Government is reallocating the ICSR funding to the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW). The NGSW will be a long-term solution to meet the identified capability gap instead of the ICSR, which was an interim solution,” the post says.

When it officially announced the project in August, the Army said it was looking for up to 50,000 commercially available rifles of 7.62 mm caliber.

“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition,” the Aug. 4 notice said. “To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) that is capable of defeating emerging threats.”

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
Private First Class Michael Freise, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment fires an M-4 rifle during a reflex firing exercise at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, Republic of Korea on March 23, 2005. (U.S. Air Force Photo By: Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day)

Current and former Army officials have said for some time that the range and stopping power of the 5.56 mm round currently in use underperforms that of rounds used by adversaries.

The M4/M16 platform has also been criticized, in part because of concerns about jamming and overheating.

Most soldiers and Marines carry M4s, M16s, or M27s that fire 5.56 mm rounds. Specialized personnel, like machine-gunners or snipers, already use weapons that fire rounds of 7.62 mm or some other caliber.

The ICSR was seen as a near-term replacement for the M4/M16 to be distributed to selected units — those more likely to face combat — until the NGSW could be developed and implemented. The Army has said that not every soldier would be outfitted with a 7.62 mm rifle.

Also Read: Was it actually the Marine Corps that helped delay the Army’s 7.62 battle rifle program?

In June 2013, the Army ended a competition to replace the M4 without selecting a winner. The more recent ICSR program also took several twists during is short life.

In September, it was first reported by The Firearms Blog that the Army was scrapping the 7.62 mm ICSR plan. No official reason was given at the time, but The Firearms Blog cited sources saying it was canceled because of a lack of a pressing threat, poorly written requirements, and little support from rank-and-file troops or in the Defense Department.

Shortly after that report, however, Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings — who, as the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, oversees the programs that provide most of a soldier’s gear and weapons — said the service was still evaluating a short-term stand-in for the M4/M16.

“It’s not dead,” he told Military.com of the ICSR plan. “The decision has not been made.”

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner)

In an Army report at the beginning of October, Cummings downplayed the prominence of the ICSR in Army planning.

“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR” or on the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, Cummings said at the time. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon.”

Cummings compared the NGSW program to the Modular Handgun System, which developed and introduced a new sidearm for the Army: “It’ll be one complete system, with weapon, magazine, ammo, and fire control on it and we will cut down on the load and integration issues associated with it.”

The NGSW would be “one end-all solution,” he added, with a carbine model replacing the M4 and a rifle version replacing the M249 squad automatic weapon. The weapon would likely fire a caliber between 5.56 and 7.62 mm. The Army is likely to see the first NGSWs by 2022, he said, with other enhancements arriving by 2025.

Articles

Congress wants to make it easier to fire bad VA employees

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.


The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.

The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”

The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.

House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.

“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.

It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.

The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.

The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.

Conservative groups praised the bill.

“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.

The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.

Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.

“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”

Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.

Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Nazi concentration camp guard deported from Queens

The US has deported a 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who had been living in the US for almost 70 years.

Jakiw Palij, who worked as a guard at a labor camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II, was seen exiting a plane in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Aug. 21, 2018. He was then transferred to a stretcher and taken across the city in an ambulance.


The New York Times reported in 2003 that he had had two strokes and was in frail health.

He was deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement early Aug. 21, 2018, the White House said in a press release. He had been living on welfare in Queens, New York, until his deportation, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported.

Palij was born in a part of Poland that is now part of Ukraine. He trained at the Nazi SS training camp in Trawniki, in German-occupied Poland, in 1943 and served as an armed guard at Trawniki labor camp, the White House said.

How a Chinese spy blew the cover for CIA assets in Russia

Jakiw Palij, at his home in Queens.

The camp is the site of one of the largest massacres of the Holocaust. SS and police officers shot at least 6,000 Jewish inmates at the camp and a nearby subcamp in a single day, on Nov. 3, 1943, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Palij immigrated to the US in 1949 as a 26-year-old war refugee and was granted US citizenship in 1959. He lied about his Nazi service during his immigration and naturalization process, saying instead that he spent World War II working in a farm and in a factory, the White House said.

In 2003, a federal judge revoked Palij’s US citizenship for lying in his immigration process. A US judge ordered for his deportation in 2004, but it was implemented in August 2018.

Palij told The New York Times in 2003 that he was “never a collaborator,” claiming instead that his role was to guard bridges and rivers. He also said he joined the Nazis only to save his family.

”They came and took me when I was 18,” he said. “We knew they would kill me and my family if I refused. I did it to save their lives, and I never even wore a Nazi uniform. They made us wear gray guards’ uniforms and had us guarding bridges and rivers.”

But Eli Rosenbaum, the director of a special investigation unit for the Justice Department, said at the time that Palij was “very loyal and very capable and served until April 1945, the last weeks of the war, while other soldiers were deserting right and left.”

Palij also said in 2003: “Let them come and get me. I’m not running. What will they do? Shoot me? Put me in the electric chair? Where are they going to deport me to? What country is going to take an 80-year-old man in poor health?”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Aug. 21, 2018: “The United States will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human-rights abuses.”

Palij’s case will now be part of an investigation at a Nazi crimes investigation unit in Ludwigsburg, Germany, Bild reported.

Germany has jailed former Nazi camp guards, despite their old age, in recent years. Oskar Groening, 96, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2015 but died in March 2018 before he could serve his sentence.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military-veteran community is changing in the coming years

At the start of the new millennium, the United States military was a very different organization. But then, so too was the United States as a country. In the past 20 years, the military has experienced an incredible shift in not only demographics, but also in the way it is formed. This trend will only continue.


A Pew Research Center study of the Department of Defense analyzed all of the data released by the U.S. military on its demographic makeup and found some key facts about how the U.S. military and the men and women who served in it has changed.

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The Army is still the biggest, and the other branches are shrinking

In 2015, the Army was more than a third of the total active-duty force of the United States military. The Air Force and Navy were about a quarter of the force each, with the Marines and Coast Guard comprising 14 percent and 3 percent, respectively. These days, the Navy and Air Force have seen a sizable shrinkage in terms of how big they are in comparison to Big Army. The Marine Corps has also shrunk, although not to the same extent.

The Coast Guard, however, has grown.

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The profile of the American veteran will shift significantly

Right now, 91 percent of veterans are male, but by 2045, the share of female veterans is expected to double while the actual number of female veterans will increase to more than 2.2 million. The number of male veterans is predicted to drop by half, to 9.8 million in 2045. These groups will also become more ethnically diverse as the older generations of veterans die. The share of Hispanic vets is expected to double, and the expected share of African-American veterans will increase to 16 percent.

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Fewer Americans are veterans and that number will only drop

As of 2015, seven percent of the American population were veterans, down from 18 percent in 1980. With it came a drop in the number of active-duty military personnel, and the numbers keep on dropping. In 2045, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the number of veterans will drop by 40 percent of its current population, as Gulf War vets become the dominant era, and Vietnam veterans start to die off.

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More women are joining – and more are in command

The number of women in the U.S. military is rapidly changing. According to the Defense Department, women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army, and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps. More than one in five commissioned officers were women in 2017, a number that is projected to rise, a far cry from women being just five percent of officers in 1975.

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The U.S. military is getting smaller – troops are seeing more action

One in five veterans today served after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As a result of being a smaller force than the U.S. military of the Cold War Era, which includes the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts of the time, Members of the post-9/11 military generation were more likely to have deployed and served in combat. They are also more likely to have experienced some kind of traumatic incident.

Articles

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

The new Star Wars movies are pretty exciting. It freaked out the entire media landscape in a way unseen since the days before cable TV ensured we all didn’t watch the same episode of Friends on Thursday night. As each trailer brings the new, Jar-Jar free reality of an impending new saga upon us, the inner child of someone who once read the Star Wars Encyclopedia cover to cover bubbles to the surface, realizing some of the tech seen in the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens would have been really useful on some real-world deployments.


Rey’s Visor

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Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is a human scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku (that’s not the desert world of Luke Skywalker’s Tattooine). Jakku is home to thieves and other criminals and someone like Rey must survive by salvaging old parts and reselling them. Having protection from the elements in the harsh, dry, dusty environment (sound familiar?) of Jakku is a real plus.

Rey’s eyepro is stripped from an old Stormtrooper helmet, giving her the same tactical advantage Imperial Stormtroopers had on the battlefield. Though it limits her field of vision, it does help her see in the dark, and through smoke, sand, and glare.

BB-8 “Roller Ball” Droid

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As an Astromech droid in the line of R2-d2, the BB-8 droid can deftly work with electronic devices, which would do efficient work with deactivating explosive devices. The new droid comes with a number of improvements on the R2 unit’s original design, including a head which appears to float on a 360-degree base, giving the robot vastly improved maneuverability for the rocky slopes of Afghan terrain.

Luke Skywalker’s Cybernetic Hand

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Although in some sci-fi epics, cybernetic hands are more of a problem, in the Star Wars universe, cybernetic limb replacements allow for full range of motion, full use, and full sensitivity. These prosthetic replacements connect mechanical parts directly to the user’s brain via a neural net interface, covered by synthskin, to where no one would know the difference to look at it. This would be an excellent way to care for troops injured in Afghanistan, considering more than 1,000 lost limbs there. Good thing science already figured this one out. Thanks, DARPA.

Deflector Shields

What military unit wouldn’t want an invisible force field to protect them from harm while they destroyed their enemies. It may not be necessary in Afghanistan, but it sure would be nice to have. It’s much more necessary in the Star Wars Universe, where not having deflector shields looks like this:

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Honorable Mention: Rey’s Staff

It may not actually help in combat in Afghanistan, but if you want to see how Rey’s skills with that staff weapon might look onscreen, check out this video of Daisy Ridley’s stunt double, Chloe Bruce, working with one like it:

Close enough for government work, either with the U.S. or the New Republic.

And finally, we want lightsabers. Please, please make it happen, DoD.

NOW: Meet Adam Driver, Marine Vet and Star Wars’ Next Villain

OR: The U.S. Military wants to build Star Wars hover bikes

MIGHTY TRENDING

If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

The Air Force has laid out plans to welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions.


The service, through the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, or VRRAD, is encouraging pilots who held a job in the 11X career field to apply before Dec. 31, 2018, officials said in a release this week.

In an effort to address the increasing pilot shortage, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson last July signed off on the program, which aims to fill flight staff positions with those who have prior pilot experience and expertise, thus allowing active-duty pilots to focus on training and missions.

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Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

Returning retirees will not be eligible for aviation bonuses, the release said. They will deploy only if they volunteer.

Pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major, or lieutenant colonel can apply for VRRAD, according to the service’s criteria for the program.

While the Air Force select candidates on a first-come, first-served basis, officials said, applicants are required to be medically qualified for active duty with a flying class II physical; must have served in a rated staff position within the past 10 years; or have been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within five years of application.

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Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Officers who retired following, or in lieu of, a Selective Early Retirement Board, and officers who retired for a physical disability are not eligible to apply, the release said.

“We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require requalification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding.

“They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments,” Jarding, who works at the Air Force Personnel Center, said in the release.

The Air Force is looking to fill 25 positions for an active-duty tour of one year.

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A pilot flies a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Aug. 22, 2017. The F-22 is a component of the Global Strike Task Force, supporting U.S. and Coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

“We have a number of positions around the Air Force that require the expertise of someone who has been a military pilot, and [we] would like to be able to keep our pilots who are current in the aircraft in the aircraft and try to fill some of these vital flight slots,” Wilson said in August.

Should those positions remain unfilled through 2018, the Air Force will keep the program open for additional applicants, the release said.

Former airmen can apply for the program, which began Aug. 11, through the Air Force Personnel Center via the myPers website. Those without a myPers account must establish one via http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon has 6 months to disclose what it knows about UFOs

As part of the newly passed COVID-19 relief legislation, lawmakers are demanding answers from U.S. intelligence agencies and the Defense Department on the potential existence of UFOs and other unidentified aerial phenomena.

The $2.3 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation passed last month includes the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2021, which provides more resources toward investigation gathering and “strengthening open source intelligence” collection among the agencies, according to a release from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill in June. The Senate passed the legislation in July.

Some of that information includes what the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its counterparts know about unidentified aerial phenomena — also known as “anomalous aerial vehicles.” Lawmakers expect to see a report on the collected UFO data 180 days from the bill’s passage, according to the legislation.

News website Complex was first to report the details. The report will be unclassified, but will include a classified supplement.

Lawmakers are concerned that there is “no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” which is why a sweeping report on all relevant information regarding UAPs is essential, according to the bill’s text.

Lawmakers want information on any UAPs that were found using geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, or measurement and signature intelligence, regardless of which agency or service collected the data, the bill states.

The UFOs don’t have to be out of this world, either. The legislation requires information on any technologies China, Russia, Iran, North Korea or others may possess in this field, including “aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries,” it adds.

In April, the Pentagon officially acknowledged three incidents reported by Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilots after years of speculation that pilots were encountering alien spacecraft during training missions.

The Defense Department that month published videos of the incidents — one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015 — “which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017,” officials said in a statement.

“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military airspace incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said at the time.

The video confirmation came a few months after Navy pilots got the word out there had been an increase of UFO sightings in recent years. As a result, the service issued new guidelines on how best to document sightings or encounters, according to a 2019 report from Politico.

The New York Times reported that pilots had sightings — and, in one instance, a near collision — while flying training missions off the East Coast between 2014 and 2015.

Then last August, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist officially created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, a Navy-led unit, to hunt down any pertinent encounters service members may have had with aerial objects that pose a threat to national security.

The U.S. government has looked into UFOs for years, most notably between 2007 and 2012 when the Pentagon began its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, an effort championed by then-Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and the Senate majority leader at the time.

The program was meant to “pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Defense Department said, motivated by events such as the 2004 “Tic Tac” incident, which was documented in one of the Navy’s released videos.

In that incident, F/A-18 pilots from the aircraft carrier Nimitz, operating off the San Diego coast, reported spotting a large, Tic Tac-shaped object that appeared to be floating without the assistance of an engine or exhaust plume.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.