Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 24, 2014

September 23, 2014

Watch the U.S. Strikes in Syria, Via Pentagon Videos

The Navy and U.S. Central Command have released multiple videos of Monday night’s strikes in Syria, and related footage. As always, the videos only present one side of the conflict, and in the way it chooses to show the military action. All descriptions are via the Pentagon, with some analytical links at the end.

Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:42 p.m.
Navy, War

Sen. Tim Kaine: Congress Shouldn’t Allow Broader ISIS War Without Vote

“The president shouldn’t be doing this without Congress,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Tuesday of strikes against the Islamic State group, and “Congress shouldn’t be allowing it to happen without Congress.” Otherwise, Capitol Hill is embracing the policy of preemptive war favored by former Vice President Dick Cheney that it rejected back in 2001, right after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event. Full story

A Crowded National Security Agenda (With ISIS at the Forefront)

At a forum hosted by Just Security and CQ Roll Call on Monday, the spotlight was on how Congress has been weighing its options for action against the now notorious terrorist group, the Islamic State — and how the fight against the group has crowded out other national security issues.

The event, moderated by CQ Roll Call’s David Ellis (@dellisnyc), was held at New York University’s Washington, D.C. center and featured five national security experts. The panelists were Rachel Kleinfeld (@rachelkleinfeld), a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Gerald Seib (@geraldfseib), the Washington bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires; Tim Starks (@timstarks), who writes for CQ Roll Call’s Five by Five blog; Charles “Cully” Stimson (@cullystimson), a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation; and Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck), co-editor-in-chief of Just Security.

Some highlights: Full story

September 22, 2014

Should the U.S. Be Most Worried About ISIS, or Some Other Threat?

senate briefing005 061014 445x300 Should the U.S. Be Most Worried About ISIS, or Some Other Threat?

Feinstein talks with an aide on the Senate subway in June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Everybody agrees ISIS is a problem for the United States, and the news coverage has put a tremendous focus on the group. But this weekend, some light was shined on the question of whether the group that calls itself the Islamic State is the biggest threat.

The New York Times wrote about the threat posed by Khorasan, which the national spymaster estimates might equal the threat posted by ISIS. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich. (@repmikerogers), said it might even be greater. And Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. (@SenFeinstein), placed Khorasan among the three most dangerous groups threatening the United States, alongside ISIS and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

There’s about to be more light shined on the question: On Tuesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center is set to release a report evaluating the overall threat from jihadists, and Carie Lemack, the director of the group’s Homeland Security Project, discussed some of the report’s highlights with Five By Five on Monday. Full story

Congress Vs. ISIS, National Security and the Elections in the Week Ahead

kaine 230 072214 445x280 Congress Vs. ISIS, National Security and the Elections in the Week Ahead

Kaine speaks with a reporter by the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol in July. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A United Nations climate change summit that President Obama is scheduled to visit this week gives the White House a chance to push its fight against the Islamic State group before other countries. And a U.S. visit next week by new Indian prime minister Narenda Modi is giving think tanks and organizations a lot of reasons to hold India-related events in advance.

Then there are the subjects in the headline. Full story

September 19, 2014

The Time a Computer Interrogated a Suspected CIA Agent

72224867 445x333 The Time a Computer Interrogated a Suspected CIA Agent

An Apple //e computer from 1983 is displayed at the Science Museum in 2006 in London. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

There’s a treasure trove of declassified CIA documents that have hit the street, many of them entertaining, some of them illuminating. Journalists are plumbing their depths. One is an early experiment in artificial intelligence teaming up with, well, intelligence. Full story

Event Reminder: National Security, the Midterms and the 114th Congress

Screen Shot 2014 09 19 at 9.32.46 AM 413x600 Event Reminder: National Security, the Midterms and the 114th Congress

Don’t forget to RSVP for the joint Just Security/CQ Roll Call event Monday, Sept. 22, where a panel (including yours truly) will discuss what role national security is playing in the 2014 elections — then what happens in the next Congress. Also, there are drinks afterward, in celebration of the birthday of Just Security.

September 18, 2014

Scottish Independence: North Korean Annihilation of England Possibly Pending


North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, threatened “annihilation” of “English hegemons” early Thursday if they interfered with Scottish independence, which is, of course, ironic, but also is about how much the North Koreans wants some of that delicious Scotch whisky. Not even kidding. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:33 p.m.
Foreign Policy, War

Missile Defense Test Was No “Softball Shot,” Says Boeing

That missile defense test from June, the first successful one in five years? It wasn’t “some softball shot,” as critics allege, according to Boeing officials managing the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program. And in so far as it was “scripted,” they said, it was only because fully simulating a nuclear missile attack isn’t easy. Full story

Rocket Launch Race Taking Off: Jeff Bezos Vs. Elon Musk

485517059 445x295 Rocket Launch Race Taking Off: Jeff Bezos Vs. Elon Musk

Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in April. (Bruce Weaver/AFP/Getty Images)

The multibillion dollar battle pitting Elon Musk‘s SpaceX vs. defense industry giants Lockheed Martin/Boeing over Pentagon satellite launch contracts was already one of the most interesting in the national security world, if not all of the federal government. This week, it has gotten even hotter. Full story

September 17, 2014

Obama Reaffirms No Boots On The Ground But Chatter Continues

A day after the U.S. military’s top officer raised the possibility of boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama clarified the administration’s plans during an address to troops at U.S. Central Command.

“As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama said on Wednesday, the day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there could be circumstances under which he’d recommend the president use combat troops to fight the Islamic State.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed inclined to agree with Dempsey, telling CBS This Morning: “The reality is, they’re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own.”

“So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy,” he added, noting that to say otherwise “traps” the president.

See below for more commentary and analysis on the issue:

Film Review: What War Feels Like For Soldiers

 Film Review: What War Feels Like For Soldiers

Movie poster for “Korengal: This Is What War Feels Like”

After finishing a deployment at a notoriously dangerous outpost in northeastern Afghanistan, Capt. Dan Kearney recalled what it was like to be stationed there.

“Bad guys come to you so you can kill them,” Kearney says in the film, “Korengal: This is What War Feels Like,” a documentary released in May from the Academy Award-nominated director of “Restrepo.”

Five by Five attended a screening of the film along with a panel discussion, sponsored by New America and featuring the film’s director, Sebastian Junger, Navy veteran Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., Command Sgt. Maj. La Monta Caldwell  and Blayne Smith of the veterans group, Team Red, White & Blue.

In the film, soldiers described themselves as “bait” for members of Al-Qaida and the Taliban when they were on patrol. “I pretty much never thought I’d make it out of the valley alive,” says Spec. Misha Pemble-Belkin.

Over the course of five years, 42 American soldiers lost their lives while deployed to the outpost, which the U.S. shuttered in 2010 after unsuccessful attempts to gain the trust of the locals and to drive off the Taliban and Al Qaida.

“What I want is for viewers to understand the experience of combat by soldiers,” Junger told Five by Five. “Soldiers really don’t debate the merits of the war, the morality of the way, the strategy of the war, they really are focused on the mission that they are given.”

Indeed, your blogger found “Korengal” to be a more personal look into the lives of soldiers than 2010′s “Restrepo.” The film included intricate details like soldiers describing the sound of bullets flying as well as how tedious the terrain was to traverse.

September 16, 2014

Sens. Levin, McCain Offer Rejoinders for Code Pink at ISIS Hearing (Video)

The anti-war group Code Pink is a staple at national security hearings, good for a handful of disruptions per, but largely they are just part of the scenery now. At Tuesday’s Armed Services hearing on the Islamic State group (aka ISIS or ISIL), two senators went beyond the usual “escort them out of the room, please/we might close this hearing to the public if you don’t stop” approach.

Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:49 p.m.
Terrorism, War

Video: Jetpack Makes Guy Run Fast

Vroom vroom. Arizona State University has teamed with the Pentagon on a project to help soldiers run faster while carrying heavy loads — in the case of this jetpack, it adds 11 pounds but shaves off seconds — with the goal of running a four-minute mile. Full story

September 15, 2014

IG: Missile Defense Agency Could’ve Saved Millions on Contract, Didn’t

1474748 445x296 IG: Missile Defense Agency Couldve Saved Millions on Contract, Didnt

(FILE PHOTO) An unarmed Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (USAF/Getty Images)

[Updated Sept. 16, 11:03 a.m.] If only the Missile Defense Agency had taken a look at some audits, it could’ve saved millions of dollars on a $1 billion contract, according to a Defense Department inspector general report released Monday. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:21 p.m.
Budget, Procurement

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