Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 2, 2015

Posts by Tim Starks

404 Posts

March 2, 2015

AIPAC, DNI and ISIS in the Week Ahead

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah leave Tel Aviv on their way to Washington D.C. on March 1. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah leave Tel Aviv on their way to Washington D.C. on March 1. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Getty Images)

It’s another week of manic budget hearings. The highlights are Ashton B. Carter voyaging to both Senate Armed Services and House Appropriations to talk fiscal 2016 authorization and spending bills, respectively. Other topics of budget hearings this week include all four services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the F-35.

Here’s the non-budget hearing stuff — Thursday and Friday are light compared to the rest of the week with the exception of the aforementioned budget hearings, so we’ll leave them out: Full story

February 27, 2015

Weekly Recap: Jihadi John, Homeland Security Department, Afghanistan

Acrobatic pilots perform on the first public day of the Australian International Airshow at the Avalon Airfield near Lara southwest of Melbourne on Feb. 27. (Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)

Aerobatic pilots perform on the first public day of the Australian International Airshow at the Avalon Airfield near Lara southwest of Melbourne on Feb. 27. (Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Department of Homeland Security. The big newsmaking security fight this week has been about whether, and how, DHS would run out of money because Congress hasn’t passed a short-term funding measure before Friday’s deadline yet. For as much as the two parties are at each others’ throats, some Republicans were willing to not assume the worst about Democrats on one part of the debate.
  • ISIS. There are a lot of cyberspace components to the fight between the Islamic State group and its nemeses. Here are some of them.
  • Security at the Oscars. National security made more than just a cameo at the Academy Awards.
  • Afghanistan. Views are shifting among Democrats, at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, about the wisdom of the Afghanistan troop drawdown timeline.
  • Elsewhere. Who knows what to make of the story about Chicago’s mini-Gitmo; here’s the original story and some pushback. The Central Intelligence Agency wants to expand its cyber operations. And “Jihadi John” was unveiled.

 

February 26, 2015

In Threat Report, Right-Wing Extremists or ‘Right-Wing Extremists?’

Reason has shared an intelligence assessment from within the Department of Homeland Security this month that CNN had reported was about the potentially dire threat posed by right-wing extremists.

The publication challenges some of the conclusions of that CNN reporting, about a group known as “sovereign citizen extremists”:

In short, the DHS report presents sovereign-citizen violence as a fairly rare risk that officers should nonetheless be prepared for should it arise. It does not claim that the threat to police is growing, it does not conflate the sovereigns with other anti-government groups, it makes no broad claims about terror on the right (the word “right-wing” appears nowhere in the document), and it does not compare the sovereigns to ISIS or to any other foreign terrorists.

It should be noted that the “SCEs” overlap with some views of right-wing extremists, but otherwise, the report indeed doesn’t seem to view these types as a severe threat. “Sovereign citizen” groups and individuals deny the authority of federal, state or local governments.

By Tim Starks Posted at 12:42 p.m.
Homeland Security

Growing Support for Slowing Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

New Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has already made news a couple times for suggesting a possible slowdown of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal timeline. That notion is getting some backing from Capitol Hill Democrats.

Reports John M. Donelly for CQ.com subscribers:

Republicans have long criticized the administration for setting dates for the withdrawal, and now Democrats who oversee the Pentagon have gradually begun to agree — and they have done so more and more openly. They appear concerned that without U.S. troops, the situation in Afghanistan could quickly deteriorate, as it did in Iraq after U.S. forces left more three years ago.

Among the Senate Democrats voicing levels of concern or opposition in the piece: Jack Reed of Rhode Island (the top Democrat on Armed Services), Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Tim Kaine of Virginia.

A version of the story appears on the Roll Call website as well.

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:57 a.m.
War

February 25, 2015

Amid Homeland Security Funding Dispute, Inflated Mall of America Scare?

Security K9 teams are presented to the media during a tour of the Mall of America security systems on Feb. 23 in Bloomington, Minn. In a newly released video, Somali militant group al-Shabaab called for terror attacks at a number of sites, including Mall of America. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Security K9 teams are presented to the media during a tour of the Mall of America security systems on Feb. 23 in Bloomington, Minn. In a newly released video, Somali militant group al-Shabaab called for terror attacks at a number of sites, including Mall of America. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Some journalists have questioned the White House about whether administration officials have overhyped a potential terror threat against shopping malls like the Mall of America in Minnesota at the same time it is trying to end a congressional standoff over homeland security funding.

At least some Republicans said Tuesday that they bought the legitimacy of that threat. Full story

February 24, 2015

The Other Kind of ISIS War: in Cyberspace

President Barack Obama addresses the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism Feb. 19. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama addresses the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism Feb. 19. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Forget about the actual bombing campaign(s) against the Islamic State group for now. There’s a surprising amount of war being waged against, and by, the group online. Full story

Security Politics (‘American Sniper,’ ‘Citizenfour’) at the Oscars

(L-R) Filmmakers Dirk Wilutzky, Laura Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald, Lindsay Mills, and filmmaker Mathilde Bonnefoy accept Best Documentary Feature for 'Citizenfour' onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on Feb. 22 in Hollywood. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

(L-R) Filmmakers Dirk Wilutzky, Laura Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald, Lindsay Mills, and filmmaker Mathilde Bonnefoy accept Best Documentary Feature for ‘Citizenfour’ onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on Feb. 22 in Hollywood. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

A pair of national security-themed films figured into the Oscars, one winning and one  losing more often than not. Naturally, that got people to talking. Full story

February 23, 2015

Check Out This F-16 That Flew With a Wing Half Ripped Off

(Photo: Air Force)

(Photo: Air Force)

There was a collision in October on an F-16 training mission where one pilot ejected safely and the other pilot landed with a plane that looked like THAT. After flying for 100 miles.

The Air Force Times has a rundown of the recently-released report about what went wrong in the F-16 mishap. Foxtrot Alpha offers a reminder of other harrowing flights involving damaged aircraft.

By Tim Starks Posted at 12:08 p.m.
Air Force

Budget Hearings, NSA, National Guard in the Week Ahead

Kerry arrives in the Capitol's House chamber before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, Jan. 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kerry arrives in the Capitol’s House chamber before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Jan. 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There are so many budget-related hearings this week for all the security/foreign policy-related agencies that we’re just going to link to the committees having those hearings and let you sort out which ones you care about, like so: House Appropriations; Senate Appropriations; House Armed Services; House Foreign Affairs; House Veterans Affairs; and Senate Veterans Affairs. Secretary of State John Kerry is among the luminaries making their way to the Hill for those hearings, and some of the subtopics include the Air Force, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs.

With that out of the way, here’s the rest of the schedule. Full story

February 20, 2015

Weekly Recap: Presidential Politics, Weaponry, Viagra (Again)

Syrian scholar and Muslim cleric Sheikh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi listens as U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism Feb. 19. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Syrian scholar and Muslim cleric Sheikh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi listens as U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism Feb. 19. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Weaponry. Armed drone exports are an area for congressional intervention, but maybe not like you think. And the technical capabilities of other countries bombing the Islamic State group might be one of several problems with others getting involved.
  • Politics. We’ve spent some time on the other GOP presidential candidates’ foreign policy views, and turned our attention this week to Jeb Bush‘s.
  • Viagra. People seriously can’t seem to get enough of us writing about the Pentagon Viagra budget so it keeps making the weekly recap.
  • Elsewhere. There’s a permanent Secret Service boss on tap. Here‘s what the Atlantic says ISIS is about, and a counterpoint. And here‘s what a Russian cybersecurity firm says about the United States spying on foreign computers.

The Downsides of Other Countries Bombing ISIS

Jordanians hold banners shouting slogans during a demonstration on Feb. 6 in the capital Amman to express their solidarity with the pilot murdered by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Jordanians hold banners shouting slogans during a demonstration on Feb. 6 in the capital Amman to express their solidarity with the pilot murdered by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

On one level, there’s an upside for the United States being joined in its fight against the Islamic State group by, say, Egypt and Jordan. There are, however, downsides starting to emerge. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 7:30 a.m.
Terrorism, War

February 19, 2015

Pentagon Personnel Shuffle Under Ashton Carter Begins

Kirby conducts a briefing at the Pentagon, Jan. 9. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Kirby conducts a briefing at the Pentagon, Jan. 9. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In the past couple days, a couple of high profile positions have been shuffled around at the Pentagon under new Secretary Ashton B. Carter. Full story

#ThrowbackThursday: The Marshall Plan

President Barack Obama and aides have caught heat from conservatives over their recent remarks about the need to address the underlying causes of violent extremism, such as those related to the economy.

Starting back in 1948, a liberal friend on Facebook pointed out, the Marshall Plan devoted $160 billion in today’s dollars to rebuilding Europe after World War II. Then-Secretary of State George Marshall said in a speech presaging that aid:

It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the USA. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

February 18, 2015

Which Bush Will Jeb Bush Be on Foreign Policy?

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Detroit Economic Club Feb. 4. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Detroit Economic Club Feb. 4. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Prospective GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Wednesday offered a somewhat muddled message about where he stands in contrast to father George H.W. and brother George W. on foreign policy:

“I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”

Slight issue. Bush I and Bush II represent very different poles of the Republican Party. Take Iraq, where Bush I’s pragmatic approach led Bush II to take the neoconservative approach. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 12:45 p.m.
Personnel

Congress Could Block Armed Drone Sales, But Probably Just Situationally

In this handout released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Northrop Grumman, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator lands after completing the first launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle from an aircraft carrier in, 2013 at Naval Air Staion Patuxent River, Md. ( U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman via Getty Images)

In this handout released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Northrop Grumman, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator lands after completing the first launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle from an aircraft carrier in, 2013 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. ( U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman via Getty Images)

Congress is more likely to block individual armed drone sales deals overseas than to block a new policy announced Tuesday allowing expanded exports overall. (CQ.com story for subscribers) Full story

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