Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 29, 2014

Posts by Tim Starks

114 Posts

July 28, 2014

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”)

187654961 2 445x298 Did Pakistan Let Haqqani Network Slip Away on Purpose? (Official Says No)

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

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:57 p.m.
Drones, Foreign Policy, War

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

6jBFt 445x295 DARPA Humanoid Robot Plan Going Too Well, Apparently

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

July 21, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’ — a Timely Film

Alan Turing is renowned for his work during World War II, but he could hardly be a more relevant figure in the national security world today. He cracked the “Enigma” code and was a pivotal figure in cryptanalysis, a subject at the heart of the current debate over the National Security Agency. He is considered the father of artificial intelligence, in a time when the autonomy of computers and robots is a topic of ongoing debate. (He’s also relevant to modern discussions about social issues.)

Above is the first trailer for the film “Imitation Game,” about his life, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It will open the BFI London Film Festival in October.

New Lawsuit, Legislation to Aid Iraqis, Afghans Who Helped U.S. in Wars

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Shaheen arrives for the Senate Democrats’ policy lunch on Tuesday, Feb. 25. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There were two developments Monday meant to ensure visas for Afghans and Iraqis who helped the United States in wars in those countries: 1., the announcement of a lawsuit filed by an Iraqi who served as a translator but has been waiting more than two years on his visa; and 2. the introduction of a bipartisan bill to boost the number of Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) available to Afghan civilians who served in a similar role. Full story

Obama Adviser on Cybersecurity: Limit Cyber Capabilities, Regulate Sometimes

By the reckoning of a new report by the left-leaning Center for New American Security, we screwed it up from the start when designing the architecture of digital computing — security just wasn’t drawn into those original blueprints. Now we have to live with it. The report, helmed by Richard Danzig, a former Navy secretary who currently serves as a member of the Defense Policy Board and The President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, makes recommendations on how. Full story

Kim Jong Un Now Mad About Video of Him (Mostly) Dancing Well

The supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, takes himself pretty seriously. But you would think he might be pleased by a video of his head super-imposed on a bunch of people who, for the most part, have some serious dance moves. Full story

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