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October 4, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Schools threatened
U.S. intelligence agencies received reports this week indicating Islamic terrorists have targeted American schools for attack, intelligence officials said.

The reports indicate that the targeting includes plans to attack all levels of educational institutions in the United States, ranging from elementary schools to colleges and universities, said officials familiar with the reports.

The information on schools as terrorist targets is among the scores of threat reports received by U.S. intelligence agencies every day. Some officials questioned the veracity of the report but said U.S. intelligence agencies have to weigh all the reports carefully.

Gitmo dispute
The Defense Intelligence Agency, which is in charge of interrogating the prisoners held at the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is having trouble getting information. Defense sources tell us interrogators are being undermined by the general in charge of the prison, Army Brig Gen. Rick Baccus, who is being too nice to the 598 captured terrorists.

Pentagon officials tell us Gen. Baccus has catered to the prisoners who are there, after all, because of actions that sprang from their extremist version of Islam.

Gen. Baccus in April addressed the detainees and began speaking with the words "peace be with you" and finished with "may God be with you." He promised that as long as he is in charge the prisoners will be "treated humanly."

Gen. Baccus also authorized putting up posters supplied by the International Committee of the Red Cross around the camp. The posters remind prisoners they need only cooperate as required by the Geneva Convention on the rules of war — name, rank and serial number.

The too-kind treatment upset Army Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey, who is in charge of the interrogation unit at Guantanamo Bay, nicknamed "Gitmo." A spokesman for Gen. Dunlavey could not be reached for comment.

Lt. Col. Joe Hoey, a spokesman at Guantanamo Bay for Gen. Baccus, said he was unaware of any dispute.

"We have to do what we have to do," Col. Hoey said. "We're feeding them three times a day, and letting them practice their religion five times a day, and taking care of their medical needs. If that hinders interrogations, that's too bad."

Presidential brief
The "Defense Program Overview" brief prepared for President Bush while he vacationed in Crawford, Texas, in August is pretty much the same document presented to reporters a few weeks later at the Pentagon.

But we thought two questions needed to be addressed. Under the heading of "cost cutting capability and process issues," both briefings mention the "active-reserve mix" — a reference to the 1.4 million active and 1.3 million Guard and Reserves.

A senior defense official says the administration is looking at ways to save money by cutting troops, if not next year, then two to four years from now. The source said the target is 70,000 active and Reserve forces.

Asked about the briefing's reference to "cost cutting capability," the Pentagon released a statement to Inside the Ring. "At this time, we are not planning any cuts from the fiscal year 2002 end strength levels for either the active force or Reserve components. We are, however, studying what might be the right mix of skills and units, especially in the Reserve components. We are seeking to capitalize on the unique strengths of the Reserves in meeting the evolving needs of the nation in the 21st century."

The briefing also says the Pentagon is prepared to accept greater risks — normally a reference to casualties — in the second of two simultaneous wars. This would essentially be a trade-off in order to meet other transformation goals. The Pentagon did not respond to questions about increased risk.

Pentagon insiders say most of the skepticism on going to war with Iraq does not rest with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but with its planning arm, better known as the Joint Staff.

While the six chiefs are asking "what if" questions, and some are pushing for more ground troops than civilian planners believe are needed, they are not opposed to a war to prevent Saddam Hussein from possessing nukes.

But there is strong dissent within units of the Joint Staff. Some argue the United States cannot count on Iraq military defectors to do their share. They also worry about detracting from the ongoing war on terrorism and about further destabilizing the Middle East.

Libel redux
Former Navy Lt. Carey Dunai Lohrenz is appealing the decision by a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss her libel lawsuit against Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness.

The judge ruled that Mrs. Lohrenz is a public figure, thus requiring her to show that Mrs. Donnelly demonstrated a reckless disregard for the truth when she charged that the pioneer woman fighter pilot received special treatment during flight qualifications. The judge ruled Mrs. Lohrenz failed to meet the public-figure burden.

The former pilot's attorneys are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Rummy's top 10
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shows no sign of letting up in his drive to change the way the armed forces budget and fight. He sent a memo to his top aides Sept. 17 giving them direction for bringing change in the fiscal 2004 budget, which goes to Capitol Hill early next year.

"As you develop proposals for the fiscal year 2004 DoD legislative program, you should adopt the perspective that now is the time to change the way we operate," Mr. Rumsfeld writes.

"Every week it seems a senior official in this department tells me we are constrained in our ability to do something by an obsolete legal provision," he adds. "Similarly, I often hear of initiatives we would like to take, but for which we need additional statutory authority."

He concludes: "The war on terrorism does not supplant the need to transform DoD; instead, we must accelerate our organizational, operational, business, and process reforms."

The defense secretary's top 10 priorities: war on terrorism; joint war-fighting; transforming joint forces; improving intelligence; fine-tuning career paths; forming new relationships worldwide; countering weapons of mass destruction; homeland security; shortening acquisition process; and improving policy-making within interagency process.

Maginnis offer
We wrote last week that well-known conservative pundit Robert Maginnis had left the Family Research Council and was seeking to find another base in a Washington think tank.

Well, it did not take long for the pro-drug-war Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, to get a job feeler. It came, tongue in cheek, from the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws:

"Col. Bob: Always a position open here at for a military expert who would seek to defend marijuana smokers who also serve their country, of which there are many. Let us know & good luck wherever you go."

•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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