Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 30, 2014

July 29, 2014

Financial Issue Earns a Weigh-In From Hagel

A company’s $92 million settlement with the federal government’s consumer financial watchdog organization doesn’t seem like an obvious concern for the secretary of Defense. That amount of money is peanuts in the defense-budget world, and those kinds of agency actions generally wouldn’t have much impact on national security. But not this settlement, and not for Chuck Hagel.

Full story

Official Won’t Rule Out More Iran Nuclear Negotiation Extensions, Action Without Congressional Input

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Corker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, had hoped on Tuesday to get two commitments from the Obama administration: That, after one extension of the Iran nuclear talks, they wouldn’t go beyond that; and that the administration wouldn’t act to lift sanctions in any way without Congress at least weighing in first.

He didn’t get either, exactly. Full story

Pentagon Weather Satellites Raise Hacking Vulnerability, Watchdog Finds

No one has ever done a security assessment of a Defense Department weather satellite program used by the Pentagon to monitor potential battlefield conditions, according to an inspector general report. There might not even ever be a security assessment to make sure it meets DOD’s standards, in fact. And because that system is interwoven with another program by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, it makes that one more vulnerable to hacking. Full story

July 28, 2014

DOD Bribe Suspect Caught in Soup Shop First to Be Extradited From Iraq Under 1936 Pact

An ex-Defense Department contractor who is back on U.S. soil to face criminal charges six years after fleeing the country is the first person extradited from Iraq under a 1936 pact. The man had been on Interpol’s “most wanted” list. Full story

Africa, Korea, Gaza in the Week Ahead

With the United States-Africa Leaders Summit starting Aug. 4, there is a preponderance of events about the continent this week in advance. President Barack Obama himself will kick off some of the pre-Summit activities. Africa has been a growing national security concern, given events in Nigeria, Libya and elsewhere.

It’s also the last week Congress is in town for a while. The schedule is a bit ambiguous, but before everyone leaves, there could be action at various levels on a new secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs; legislation addressing the VA’s health care backlog; a bill overhauling the National Security Agency’s bulk record collection programs; and declassification of a report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation and detention practices under President George W. Bush. Full story

John Oliver on the Terrifying State of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Security on ‘This Week Tonight’

Is John Oliver’s “This Week Tonight” even a comedy show, fundamentally? Sometimes, it veers so far into scathing commentary that the satire and laughs take a back seat. Above, from Sunday night’s episode in a clip with NSFW language, Oliver goes on a 15-minute screed against the security of U.S. nuclear weapons that reaches this crescendo: Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 4:34 a.m.
Pop Culture

July 25, 2014

U.S. Nuclear Material Vulnerable to Theft, Panel Fears

The Senate Appropriations Committee is perturbed at a whole host of things contributing to large quantities of nuclear and radiological materials — including in the United States — being “still unsecure and vulnerable to theft.”

That’s the word from John M. Donnelly, writing for CQ.com subscribers. He details how the panel, in its fiscal 2015 Energy-Water bill committee report, restores nuclear non-proliferation funding and chides the administration for abandoning a 2025 goal of securing 2,900 buildings, such at medical facilities and universities, where there is “little or no security.”

Also from the committee report, by this author for the Energy Xtra blog, is another nuclear-related buildings issue: the fact that the National Nuclear Security Administration is sitting on 450 unused facilities, and has a maintenance backlog that has made some of the buildings still being used dangerous.

Banana Terrorism Case Thrown Out

A seven-year legal battle to hold Chiquita responsible for killings in Colombia stemming from payments to a U.S.-labeled terrorist group might have come to an end late Thursday when a court dismissed a suit against the banana and produce giant. Full story

Twitter Chat With Five By Five’s Tim Starks on Defense, National Security

Forgive the very, very brief lapse into first person: I’ll be doing a Twitter chat with Powell Tate for their series of conversations there with defense and national security writers and newsmakers, starting at 10:30 a.m. EST.

You can follow along on the exchange between @timstarks and @wsglobaldef via the hashtag #WSGlobalDef. Or just visit it later via the same method.

July 24, 2014

Did Pakistan Let Haqqani Network Slip Away on Purpose? (Official Says “No”)

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Pakistani schoolchildren stand at the spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated at an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad on Nov. 11. AAMIR QURESHI (Aamir Quereshi AFP/Getty Images)

Leaders in Pakistan have declared it of late, both publicly and privately: The country is going after all militants, even the Haqqani network, an organization that U.S. military officials have deemed a de facto arm of the Pakistan intelligence agency ISI.

Some have raised doubts about whether that’s actually happening, though, pointing to evidence that Haqqani network militants have merely shifted elsewhere, with the complicity of Pakistan. A senior Pakistani official insisted Thursday that Pakistan wants the Haqqani network destroyed, but that to a certain degree it’s in the hands of Afghanistan, NATO and the United States. Full story

Key Senator Warns He Might Block Iraq Arms Sales Again

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Menendez arrives in the Capitol for a vote on April 29. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., feuded with the administration over a $6 billion sale of Apache helicopters to Iraq earlier this year, when he played a key role in blocking the deal for a while. On Thursday, he threatened that he might hold up potential future deals — but for a slightly different reason this time. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 11:07 a.m.
Foreign Policy, War

Gen. Odierno: Russia Stealing From Iran’s Playbook?

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno is suggesting the use of surrogates — like the kind Russia is leaning on in Ukraine — could be the future of warfare. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:20 a.m.
Army, Foreign Policy, War

July 23, 2014

DARPA Humanoid Robot Plan Going Too Well, Apparently

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Team ViGIR’s humanoid robot entry for DARPA. (via @darpa on Twitter, July 23)

Apparently the DARPA competition to build a humanoid robot is going so swimmingly that the Defense Department’s advanced research wing is pushing back the schedule — not the usual reason for a missed deadline at the Pentagon. Full story

State Department Official: ISIS Now ‘a Full-Blown Army’

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KHAZAIR, IRAQ — Iraqi families who fled recent fighting vs. ISIS near the city of Mosul prepare to sleep on the ground as they try to enter a temporary displacement camp but are blocked by Kurdish soldiers on July 3. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A State official offered a dire assessment Wednesday about the growing power of the group in Iraq that calls itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL): “It’s no longer a terrorist group,” said the department’s deputy assistant secretary of State for Iraq and Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. “It’s a full-blown army.”

Given that, asked the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, why didn’t the United States conduct drone strikes earlier? Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 11:16 a.m.
Drones, Foreign Policy, War

Border Task Force Boosts National Guard Role; Others Less Enthused

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Granger at a hearing of her House Appropriations Committee State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs lat year. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

A House GOP border task forces recommended Wednesday that the National Guard be deployed to the southern border in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors entering the country, the same week Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced plans to use the Guard for just that. Others are less sure it’s the right answer. Full story

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