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October 11, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Russian nuke exercise
Russian strategic nuclear forces are preparing to conduct a long-range aviation exercise that is expected to include aerial probes of U.S. air defenses, defense officials said.

The exercise begins next week and involves long-range bomber deployments to bases throughout Russia, including the bomber base of Anadyr in northeastern Siberia near the Bering Sea and the Tiksi air base in north-central Siberia on the Laptev Sea.

Tu-95 Bear H bombers, which carry air-launched nuclear cruise missiles, will be deployed. Tu-160 Blackjack bombers also are expected to take part in the war games.

The Russian bombers have flown close to the United States in past exercises, prompting the U.S. Air Force to scramble F-16 interceptor jets. Two Tu-95s flew within 37 miles of Alaska in April as part of spring war games.

Pentagon officials sought to play down the Russian exercises as routine. Other defense officials, however, said the maneuvers show the Russian military still regards the United States as its main enemy.

Iraq digs in
U.S. intelligence agencies have spotted Iraqi military preparations for an attack. Iraqi ground forces have begun building earthen berms around tanks and armored vehicles at several deployment sites.

Earthen fortifications also are being built at several air bases around the countries to protect aircraft.

The construction was photographed recently by U.S. spy satellites and circulated to senior Bush administration officials.

"It shows the Iraqis are getting ready for an attack," said one official who has seen the photographs.

Navy roadblock
The Navy yesterday notified lawyers for Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly that they want to bar the court testimony of a former Pentagon laser expert who is planning to support Cmdr. Daly's contention in a civil court case that a Russian merchant ship was the source of a laser attack that permanently damaged his eyes during a surveillance mission in 1997.

The Navy action was the latest step by the service in legally siding with Russia's Far Eastern Shipping Co. (FESCO), which owns the Kapitan Man — the merchant ship that doubled as an intelligence-collection vessel for Russian military intelligence and was photographed during a U.S.-Canada military surveillance mission.

Cmdr. D.E. O'Toole, Navy deputy assistant judge advocate general, stated in a letter dated yesterday that laser expert Terrence C. Kessler could not testify in the ongoing trial because he is a former Navy contractor. The letter prohibited Mr. Kessler from testifying about Navy documents or Navy policies and positions on the laser attack.

Mr. Kessler is a key expert witness who testified in pretrial questioning that a red light from the Kapitan Man, which was photographed by Cmdr. Daly from a Canadian helicopter on April 4, 1997, was more likely a laser than a running light, as FESCO contends.

Lawyers for Cmdr. Daly are challenging the Navy position and will appeal to the judge in the case. Mr. Kessler is set to testify next week. The trial began on Monday in federal court in Seattle.

Larry Klayman, a lawyer for Cmdr. Daly, said that the Navy repeatedly undermined their case against FESCO by blocking testimony and documents. "The broader issue here is that for the Navy, apparently their servicemen come second to politics," Mr. Klayman said in a telephone interview.

No dissent
After several newspapers reported dissension among the Joint Chiefs on war with Iraq, The Washington Times contacted several senior defense sources and was assured that all six chiefs, while not uniformly enthusiastic, support toppling Saddam Hussein to prevent him from obtaining nuclear weapons.

At a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, pointedly asked Gen. Richard B. Myers whether there was significant dissent among the most senior commanders on a potential war. Gen. Myers emphatically denied it.

In a recent interview we asked Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, who keeps his ear to the ground on military matters, whether he believes the chiefs back the use of force to oust Saddam.

"I do, and I've thought about each of them individually. I think we've got a pretty good crew now," the Mississippi Republican said.

He added, "If the military people don't want to fight, what is their role? Do they want to be people that clean up after natural disasters?"

Navy cheerleader
Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, has sent a pep-talk message to sailors on maintaining the war on terrorism. He also puts in a pitch for his new vision, Sea Power 21.

"Your performance at the leading edge of the war on terrorism continues to be superb and highlights the unique value of naval forces around the globe, every single day," the four-star admiral says.

"While we maintain our keen focus on the war, we must also keep an eye toward the future by ensuring that advanced warfighting concepts and capabilities are developed. To guide this effort, I have issued a vision called Sea Power 21. This document explains how we will align, organize, integrate and transform our Navy to meet the challenges that lie ahead. It is built around three core operational concepts: sea strike, sea shield, and sea basing. Sea strike is about projecting offensive power with unparalleled precision and persistence. Sea shield is about extending defensive capabilities to protect the homeland, the joint force, and coalition partners. Sea basing is about providing operational independence to the joint team from sovereign naval platforms."

"Please share this vision with your sailors so they are aware of the powerful future before us."

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

  • 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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