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December 18, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Obama's arms team
State Department sources say former Clinton administration arms-control official Robert J. Einhorn is the leading candidate to be named undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, the key anti-weapons-proliferation policymaker in the next administration.

The Obama transition team also has picked former State Department arms-control official and current intelligence analyst Vann H. Van Diepen to get Mr. Einhorn's old job as assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, the well-placed sources told Inside the Ring.

Mr. Einhorn, currently with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and part of the Obama State Department transition team, clashed with Republicans in Congress during the Clinton administration on nonproliferation policies and has opposed the Bush administration's policies.

In testimony to the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Mr. Einhorn in 2003 criticized the Bush administration's approach of imposing numerous economic sanctions on China for its arms sales to rogue states, saying the Clinton-era policy of sharing intelligence with China on arms sales and engaging in talks was more effective.

Critics of the Clinton policy said it led to compromises of intelligence gathering that enabled China to mask future arms sales and technology transfers.

Mr. Van Diepen is currently the national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction and proliferation in the National Intelligence Council, the analysis arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

According to both intelligence and policy officials, Mr. Van Diepen was the key author of the controversial National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that was partially made public in December 2007 and stated that Iran halted its nuclear-weapons program in 2003.

Since then, senior intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, have backed away from the NIE conclusion that Iran halted its nuclear-arms program in 2003.

According to one Bush administration security official, Mr. Van Diepen told a group of arms experts earlier this year that the key definition used by analysts in drawing the conclusion that Tehran's nuclear program had stopped was the Iranian definition of a nuclear program, not the standard U.S. government definition. As a result, the NIE came to the conclusion that weapons development was halted by Iran, while other weapons-related aspects continued.

A former intelligence official who worked with Mr. Van Diepen but asked not to be identified said he also was known at the State Department for opposing tough sanctions on China and Russia for arms sales and transfers to rogue states.

Mr. Van Diepen, who spent 14 years as a State Department arms-control official, told the former official that in blocking sanctions - some required under U.S. law - "we don't hunt on the game preserve" - meaning sanctions were off-limits for certain countries, such as China and Russia.

Transition spokesman Nick Shapiro had no comment.

Mr. Einhorn also declined to comment and said in an e-mail that no decisions have been made yet on nominations for the two posts. Mr. Van Diepen and a DNI spokesman did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Pentagon prep for gays
President-elect Barack Obama's defense team has not yet begun the process of lifting the military's ban on open gays, as promised during the presidential campaign.

However, special correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports that the Bush Pentagon has been discussing the issue informally for years. This is because the gay rights lobby has continued to press over the past decade to remove the prohibition, after President Clinton in 1993 lost a battle with the military to remove it and signed a different policy into law.

When Pentagon officials have met in recent years with two key allies -- Great Britain and Australia -- they have inquired how those nations' militaries were faring. Both dropped the homosexual ban.

A Pentagon official tells Inside the Ring that the mixing of straight and gay men has not gone quite as well as the official line put out by military headquarters in both countries. Some personnel quit rather than be forced to live in intimate settings with gays.

The British army lifted the ban on homosexuals in the ranks in 2000 after a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. However, the army continued to ban soldiers from marching in gay-pride parades years after the ban was lifted. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force permitted participation in the gay marches and, eventually, the army relented and allowed it as well.

"It shows how big shifts in national policy can produce a bumpy ride," the Pentagon official said.

Just how big a shift? The British army each year sponsors a Joint Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Matters. British Army Chief Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, who had opposed soldiers marching in uniform in gay-pride parades, addressed the conference in October. He said gays were an important part of his army.

U.S. law states that open homosexuality in the ranks is detrimental to good order and discipline.

Opponents of the ban -- known informally as "don't ask, don't tell" -- say the Obama administration will wait months, and perhaps a year, before moving to change the law.

Missile kills U.S. jihadist
U.S. officials confirmed Tuesday that a missile strike in Somalia killed a Seattle man suspected of being an Islamist radical and wanted on federal gun charges who was working with an al Qaeda-affiliated group.

Ruben Shumpert, a Muslim convert who changed his name to Amir Abdul Muhaimin, was killed in Somalia some time before Oct. 1, according to U.S. officials, who said the strike was part of anti-terrorist military operations carried out near Somalia in recent months.

Shumpert was wanted by federal authorities on gun and counterfeit-currency charges. He had agreed to plead guilty but fled the country days before sentencing in 2004.

"We have very strong indications that [Shumpert] is dead," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Confirmation followed a posting on the Web site of the al Qaeda-linked Somalian terrorist group al Shabab Oct. 4 that was translated earlier this month by the U.S. government. It stated that Shumpert was killed along with two others by a missile strike after exiting a small boat that landed on an unidentified location on the Somali coast.

The report stated that one of several people with Shumpert "turned out to be a spy for the Americans" and helped in the missile strike.

U.S. Navy ships have been conducting Tomahawk cruise-missile strikes on terrorist targets in Somalia since earlier this year in support of operations against the Islamic Courts Council, the militia that seized power in southern Somalia but was ousted by a northern Somali government and Ethiopian military forces in 2007.

Shumpert ran a barber shop in Seattle that federal authorities say was a meeting place for radical Muslims seeking to conduct terrorist activities against the United States.

Shumpert's lawyer, James Vonasch, said he was unaware of reports that Shumpert was killed. Shumpert left behind a former wife with two small children and a common-law wife with two smaller children, Mr. Vonasch said.

Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Seattle, said the case against Shumpert remains open. "We have received similar information that he was killed in acton, but have been unable to confirm that," she said. "He remains a fugitive."

Internet terror
Defense officials say Islamic extremists are increasing their presence on the Internet despite U.S. efforts to use "soft power" to counter radical ideologies.

According to the officials, there are about 40,000 Internet sites used by Islamists to recruit and inform jihadists seeking to attack non-Muslims as part of a grand scheme to create a Muslim caliphate.

By contrast, in 2001, there were about 800 identified jihadist Web sites, the officials said.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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