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June 7, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Musharraf threatened
U.S. intelligence agencies have picked up information indicating al Qaeda terrorists are working to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

An intelligence report from Southwest Asia, which has not been confirmed, stated that al Qaeda terrorists are trying to conduct the assassination to precipitate a conflict between Pakistan and India.

Tensions between the two-nuclear armed states are extremely high. Artillery exchanges across the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed Kashmir state have been intense over the past week.

Al Qaeda views a conflict as good for the organization. The war would make it harder for Pakistan to cooperate with U.S. military and intelligence forces now searching for al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Asked about al Qaeda efforts to exploit the India-Pakistan tensions, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday: "It would be, you know, most unfortunate if someone saw it in their interest to create incidents on either side of the LOC or the border in the hope that those incidents would be judged to be by the other party and thereby incite people to activities they would otherwise avoid."

DIA chief to quit
The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency is stepping down as the Pentagon's top spy.

Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, who has been the DIA chief for the past three years, is leaving after what critics described as an unremarkable tenure. Unlike the FBI and CIA, the DIA so far has avoided public criticism for its intelligence failures related to counterterrorism, including the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen and the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Adm. Wilson is best known for introducing a corporate-management gimmick called the "Four Thrusts," an attempt to give direction to the agency. They include dealing with "asymmetric" warfare threats, "attacking" DIA's computer-database problems, achieving integration and interoperability, and revitalizing and reshaping its work force, including its politically correct diversity-management program.

A defense official told us Adm. Wilson will leave his post July 18 and retire from the service the next day. A successor has not been named, the spokesman said.

The leading candidate to replace Adm. Wilson is said to be Rear Adm. Lowell Jacoby, currently the J-2, or intelligence chief for the Joint Staff. Unlike in past U.S. conflicts, in which the J-2 provided briefings for reporters, Adm. Jacoby has been all but invisible to the press.

Another candidate for the DIA post is said to be Army Lt. Gen. R. W. Noonan, who is currently the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

USA missions
Army Special Forces have conducted realistic exercises in this country, right under our own noses, to simulate raids on al Qaeda terrorist cells overseas.

Military sources tell us one such training program was conducted this spring in two East Coast cities.

The operation had all the hallmarks of a real reconnaissance mission and raid. There were safe havens, drop zones, infiltration, "ex-filtration" and live-fire training. Commandos used mass transit, military aircraft and automobiles.

In New York City, some of those who lost family members in the World Trade Center attacks supported the exercise by providing transportation and safe houses. Some firehouses played host to the visiting Green Berets, the force that turned the tide of battle in Afghanistan.

Speicher update
Senior Pentagon policy officials are close to again changing the status of a missing Navy pilot whose plane was shot down near Baghdad during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

A defense official said policy-makers in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, known as OSD, are close to a decision on whether to change the status of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher from missing in action to prisoner of war.

It would be the second time in two years the pilot's status changed. He was initially declared killed in action in 1991. Last year, the Pentagon reclassified him as "missing in action."

New intelligence this year bolstered earlier reports indicating the Iraqis are holding an American pilot prisoner. The reports are said to be the main reason for considering the new POW status.

The change is being pushed by several Republican congressmen who have seen the new intelligence reports suggesting Cmdr. Speicher is alive.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon bureaucracy is moving very slowly in following up on Baghdad's March offer to let U.S. officials visit the country and investigate Cmdr. Speicher's fate.

The reaction is typical of what critics say is the Pentagon's dismissive approach to POW and missing-in-action issues.

Defense officials in charge of the case are supposed to be working on a formal response to the Iraqi offer and then scheduling a trip to Geneva for meetings with Iraqi diplomats. "There does not appear to be any activity to support this goal, however," a source close to the Pentagon tells us.

Terror brief
Ambassador Francis Taylor, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, recently briefed representatives of nongovernmental organizations on the ongoing war on terrorism.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council attended, and in turn briefed us on Mr. Taylor's presentation:

  • Al Qaeda has trained between 10,000 and 50,000 extremists.

  • On the legal front, 77 suspected terrorists are in custody on 116 criminal charges.

  • On September 11, the airline hijacking was financed by $500,000 moved in small amounts through 20 countries. Leads on the 19 hijackers have led the FBI to 40 countries. The United States has frozen more than $100 million in terrorist money.

    Mr. Taylor also said the U.S. must persuade Muslims to stop hating the West, despite widespread Islamic teachings to the contrary. The department is trying to help Pakistan come up with secular alternatives to the cleric-run madrassas, breeding grounds for anti-American terrorists.

    On Iran, the prime state sponsor of global terrorism, the ambassador said there is some dissent in the country, but probably not enough to dislodge hard-line leaders.

    All quiet
    Sighs of relief can be heard inside the Pentagon's E-Ring. The Bush Pentagon has taken on feminists in two important policy decisions recently, and so far the critics have stayed largely silent.

    First, aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reined in the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. They dismissed Clinton-appointed holdover members and restricted the panel's charter.

    More recently, the Army pulled female soldiers from a reconnaissance squadron that is part of the combat brigade of the future. The Army said the unit's missions were evolving into direct ground combat. Under department policy, women are barred from such fighting.

    While feminist groups are generally quiet, some are criticizing the changes in various chat rooms. One critic wrote:

    "At this point, perhaps the Bush administration should stop this piecemeal appeasement strategy and make a sweeping policy change, eliminating all women, racial or ethnic or culturally diverse personnel, sexually active personnel and non-GOP voters from all branches of the military."

    The Washington Times first reported the reconnaissance unit decision last week. We've since seen a copy of the order.

    "Your recommendation that RSTA squadron be coded P1 (male only) is approved," wrote Lt. Gen. John M. Le Moyne, an Army deputy chief of staff, to the Army Training and Doctrine Command. "Effective immediately, no additional women may be assigned to the squadron. Those women currently assigned will be reassigned as soon as possible."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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