Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 1, 2014

October 31, 2014

Weekly Recap: Obama National Security Team in Turmoil, ISIS Fight Rolls On

It was an eventful week before the midterm elections, both around the globe and within the United States’ borders. Here’s some of what we covered, and some of what you might have missed elsewhere.

  • Important. We wrote about how ISIS continues to evolve as an organization, as well as how the cost of the war against the group is rising.  We also wrote about how anonymous administration officials keep shooting Democrats in the foot at exactly the time when they need it least.
  • Neat. We provided video of a super soldier suit, plus video of a ride in a U-2 cockpit.
  • Inside the Building. Technocrat had a talk with Chris Calabrese of the Center for Democracy and Technology about the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and dipped into how Orbital Sciences’ rocket explosion could impact military rocket procurement. The Container ran a number of items about airline security.
  • Outside the Building. The New York Times had a splashy story about the Obama administration’s national security and foreign policy team being under duress, filled with anecdotes that generated headlines in and of themselves. One of those was about Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel taking issue with the White House on Syria policy, which the Los Angeles Times then expounded upon in their own piece.

Mark Your Calendars: CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference Next Week

Want to know the impact of the elections on the 114th Congress? Check out CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference on Nov. 6. It will be held at The Liason Capitol Hill. See below for more info and a code for 20 percent off your registration fee.


CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference is next week!  Here are 3 reasons you shouldn’t miss it:

  • Frontline perspective from our keynotes and sessions, including our newest keynote panel with Rob Collins, Executive Director, NRSC and Guy Cecil, Executive Director DSCC
  • Behind-the-scenes revelations into what happened, what’s next and what’s on the horizon for the 114th Congress
  • “You-won’t-hear-it-anywhere-else” insight from our panelists and speakers.  View our newest speakers - including Gov. John Engler, President of the Business Roundtable.

Don’t miss all the insight, perspective and networking next week at CQ Roll Call’s Post Election Impact Conference!


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Five By Five Friday Q&A: Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council, Part One

jamal abdi website Five By Five Friday Q&A: Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council, Part OneAccording to a recently published story, a high-ranking Obama administration official declared an Iran nuclear deal his top second term priority, on par with the push for a health care overhaul in his first term. The National Iranian American Council has advocated on behalf of a diplomatic agreement and giving it time to work rather than imposing new sanctions mid-negotiations, in a bid to avert war with Iran.

In an interview Jamal Abdi (@jabdi), the group’s policy director, spoke with Five By Five about the economic ramifications of a deal; the prospects of an agreement and the chief barriers; the Obama administration plan not to approach Congress for sanctions relief help, at least at first; and the fears that Iran is trying to exploit the negotiations to simultaneously get sanctions relief while continuing to build a bomb.

This is the first of two parts. (Interview edited slightly for length.) Full story

October 30, 2014

ISIS Increasingly Learning to Become Like a Country

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Iraqi forces on an armored personnel carrier advance in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, north of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala on Oct. 30 after they retook the area ISIS jihadists. (Hidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)

First came word that ISIS was sorting out how to run post offices and other services. Now there’s a report that they’ve figured out how to run an advanced intelligence apparatus. Full story

Begich vs. Sullivan Senate Debate Shows Rising Role of National Security in Midterms

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Alaska Sen. Mark Begich arrives for the Senate closed briefing in the Capitol on the White House strategy on ISIS on Sept. 11. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

For the latest evidence that national security and foreign policy are figuring into the midterm elections in ways they weren’t even two months ago, consider the Wednesday evening Senate debate in Alaska: Full story

Video: In the Cockpit of a U-2 Spy Plane, Up High and Down Low

We recently wrote how it looked like the storied U-2 spy plane would likely avert retirement yet again this year, as well as about how the plane is difficult to land and flies so very, very high. Watch the video above to see what it looks like from the cockpit when the U-2 gets way, way up there, then check out the view from a chase car during the landing.

If you want to watch another U-2 landing as viewed from a chase car, here’s a taste. Then, for another view from 70,000 feet, try here or here, with the second link offering some testimonials from U-2 pilots.

And if you want to read about the U-2′s competition in the Obama fiscal 2015 budget, McClatchy recently penned a feature on the Global Hawk.

October 29, 2014

With ‘Bibi’ Comments, More Unhelpful Election Season Talk from Anonymous Administration Officials

Just a few weeks ago, some anonymous Obama administration sources floated the notion of bringing Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil by going around Congress. Last week, some more anonymous administration officials floated the notion that they might make a deal with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid dealing with Capitol Hill on sanctions relief.

Both stories gave Republicans campaign fodder as elections neared. Apparently addicted to supplying ammunition to the administration’s critics on the campaign trail, the latest hubbub served up by an anonymous administration official was to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” The response has been predictable. Full story

For His Final Act, Chuck Hagel Plans to Think Big

hagel 186 091614 445x296 For His Final Act, Chuck Hagel Plans to Think Big

Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by ISIS on Sept. 16. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Asked Wednesday about his goals during the Obama administration’s final two years, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the idea is to “bring this country back together to work together to address the big, big issues coming at our country that will have long-term consequences for our society, for our next generation.”

That means: the ongoing threat of terrorism, climate change and other challenges not likely to subside anytime soon. Full story

October 28, 2014

No Confusion Over Military, Civilian Quarantine Rules, Obama Says

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Obama makes a statement on his administration’s response to the Ebola crisis before departing the White House on Oct. 28. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

To some, the Pentagon has seemed to be at odds with the White House message over quarantines for those fighting Ebola in Africa; while the Defense Department is weighing an expanded quarantine like the one the Army has already used, the White House has emphasized that blanket quarantines for health workers is a bad policy.

On Tuesday, in brief remarks to the media, President Obama explained what he saw as the difference. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:48 p.m.
Army, Foreign Policy

Super Soldier Exosuit Showing Improvement, According to Researchers

The Pentagon’s futuristic R&D wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, wants to construct a suit meant to give “superhuman” abilities to soldiers, although they’re more like “betterhuman”  qualities — reducing fatigue, increasing speed, boosting the ability to carry more weight, and doing it all with less risk of injury. The above video shows how testing is going for prototypes at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Full story

Unfinished Afghanistan Prison Renovation Plagued By Shoddy Workmanship, Watchdog Says

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A hallway in the prison. (credit: SIGAR)

Afghanistan’s largest prison was supposed to be renovated under a State Department contract to allow it to take in more detainees, but five years later, the project sits unfinished, hampered by defective workmanship and other problems, according to a report released Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Full story

October 27, 2014

Estimated Cost of ISIS War: $1 Billion and Rising

457890038 445x295 Estimated Cost of ISIS War: $1 Billion and Rising

Thick smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani as Turkish soldiers stand guard on the Turkish side of the border during fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish People’s Protection Unit forces, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province Oct. 26. (Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images)

A spending watchdog group, using a conservative estimate, figures that the cost of the operation against ISIS has ticked past $1 billion. And the estimate for daily costs just got revised by the Pentagon. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 11:58 a.m.
Terrorism, War

Navy Birthday, IAEA & John Kerry in the Week Ahead

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John Negroponte in a 2012 file photo. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Iraq, Iran, ISIS — all of those are the subject of events in Washington, D.C., this week, along with the subjects in the headline, Ukraine and much more. Full story

October 23, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: Battleship Musashi Triggers a Tsunami

That video of a Littoral Combat Ship launch (h/t) from the weekend feels like it should cause more of a splash, literally. Once upon a time, there was a ship that caused much more than a splash — the subject of this week’s Throwback Thursday. Full story

New Things We Know About the Senate Intelligence Interrogation Report


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Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on April 1. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Thanks to some dandy behind-the-scenes reporting from the Huffington Post and McClatchy, we’re learning a great deal about the long-delayed, much-disputed Senate Intelligence Committee report on the interrogation and detention practices under President George W. Bush. It’s a good thing, because with the way things are going, the public probably won’t see the report itself anytime soon. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:53 a.m.

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