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November 12 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Terror threat

The U.S. government this week relaxed its warning of a terrorist threat to financial centers in Washington and New York. The decision led to a lessening of the security posture on Capitol Hill, where barriers have blocked traffic at checkpoints for months.

Intelligence officials tell us one of the strange bits of threat information obtained by the CIA was that al Qaeda had targeted 24 members of Congress for assassination. The intelligence report, according to officials who have read it, said that al Qaeda had picked the congressmen because they had access to one of the three Energy Department national laboratories, including the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia facilities.

Intelligence officials said there was no explanation for why the terror group was targeting the members linked to the laboratories.

The intelligence reports indicated that al Qaeda would attack using explosives-laden vehicles, hijacked tanker fuel trucks and hijacked helicopters.

Fortunately, the threat did not materialize. Some officials believe the CIA was fooled by at least one source who claimed that an attack by al Qaeda would be timed to coincide with the Nov. 2 elections. The source later was found to have been bogus, officials said.

Base closures
The Pentagon is quietly moving ahead with plans to conduct another round of contentious military base closings, we are told.

Defense officials said a series of "scenarios" for shutting down bases and facilities across the country has been drawn up for the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process for 2005.

The BRAC process already has prompted furious lobbying against local closures by such varied figures as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Republican, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. Base shutdowns in the past lead to job and income losses for states and communities.

Congress has authorized a new round of closures for 2005 as part of Pentagon efforts to streamline unneeded infrastructure and to save money. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regards the upcoming BRAC round as a necessary part of his military transformation campaign.

The BRAC scenarios were drawn up by Rumsfeld aide Raymond F. DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, who has made it known within the Pentagon he will be leaving in January.

Earlier base closures in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 led to a total closure of 97 military installations.

The next round of closures will be a joint effort of the Pentagon and the nine-member Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission over the next two years.

Fallujah spin The Pentagon has provided Capitol Hill aides with a steady flow of "talking points" to sell the public on the battle for Fallujah.

Two main points:

c "Fallujah is a haven for terrorists and anti-Iraq forces that are intent on keeping the Iraqi people in fear and poverty. The Iraqi government will no longer tolerate terrorist or insurgent control of Fallujah. A safe and secure Fallujah will allow the government of Iraq to rebuild the city's infrastructure and ensure its long-term future."

c "This is another important moment in the history of the new Iraq. No government can allow terrorist and foreign fighters to use its soil to attack its people."

DIA director
Pentagon officials tell us the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency is in trouble. Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby is said to have run afoul of Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone.

Officials tell us that Adm. Jacoby is not in trouble because of policy differences, although some say he should be. The problem is related to Adm. Jacoby's withholding of budget information from Mr. Cambone, who holds the top Pentagon civilian post dealing with intelligence.

Adm. Jacoby has been criticized by some in the Pentagon for the DIA's failure to correctly assess the state of Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction program prior to the Iraq war.

Adm. Jacoby has been head of DIA since 2002 and is expected to be replaced. Officials said he also has been viewed as someone who does not share the hawkish views of communist China held by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

A DIA spokesman said he is unaware of any conflicts between Adm. Jacoby and Mr. Cambone.

Former Marine Oliver North is out with "War Stories II: Heroism in the Pacific." The decorated Vietnam combat veteran used his first "War Stories" to tell of heroism in Operation Iraq Freedom.

The new book allows the "greatest generation" to tell how it beat Japan.

" 'War Stories II' offers a voice to ... heroes who sacrificed their lives during World War II - forever silenced from telling their stories," says a Regnery Publishing statement. "Those who did survive tell their own stories as well as those of their fallen brothers."

The Phantom
A senior Pentagon official on the whereabouts of terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, now that the takeover of Fallujah failed to capture him:

"Sightings of Zarqawi are as frequent as Elvis. We think he probably bailed out of Fallujah well in advance of our assault on the city. As for Iran, there are reports but nothing really pinned down."

Draft unpopular
President Bush vigorously denied Democrats' charges that he planned to bring back the draft. The House of Representatives voted overwhelming against conscription.

Now, the American people weigh in. The Gallup poll's "Tuesday Briefing" found overwhelming opposition.

The poll of 1,012 adults, taken Oct. 10-11, found that only 14 percent want the draft back, compared with 84 percent who opposed it. The survey had a margin of error of three percentage points.

More Americans oppose a draft now than did before the Iraq war. In January 2003, 27 percent wanted conscription.

Bin Laden, Arafat
Even the Pentagon officials who call Al Jazeera "Osama bin Laden's network" still were not quite prepared for the lavish praise the network heaped on Yasser Arafat, who died yesterday morning.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera only presented Palestinians who support the use of violence and gave no air time to any Arab seeking peace with Israel, said officials who monitored yesterday's coverage.

  • 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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