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Nov. 27, 2014
Notes from the Pentagon

Confessions of a Panda Hugger
William A. Reinsch, former undersecretary of commerce for export administration under President Bill Clinton, offered a surprising mea culpa in the latest annual report by the U.S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission made public earlier this month.

Once among the more dovish U.S. officials toward China, Mr. Reinsch, the commission’s vice chairman, has described China as “dangerous.”

“It is a real disappointment for me to write these things,” Mr. Reinsch stated in an “Additional Views” section. “I have always been an optimist about the relationship, but that view is becoming increasingly untenable, as China asserts itself in ways that are inevitably going to bump up against our interests in the region and in multilateral fora.”

Mr. Reinsch said he remains committed to keeping people out of power in the United States who view China as an existential threat. But that appears not to be happening in China, a country that has become increasingly bellicose in both its rhetoric and policies toward the United States.

This year’s annual report is “less nuanced and less temperate” in outlining the threat posed by China’s military, and Mr. Reinsch said the tone was changed deliberately.

“It appears the Chinese have embarked on a path intended to push the U.S. to choose between confronting them militarily or abandoning our friends and allies in the region, gambling that we will choose the latter,” he stated. “That is a dangerous path, and the commission is right to note it.”

He lamented that the 599-page report was filled with “unrelenting bad news” about China. The latest report includes unusually stark assessments of China’s development as both a threatening military and economic power.

“Business, labor, numerous nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. government itself are all dissatisfied with aspects of the bilateral relationship — economic, military and political,” he stated.

China’s current leaders have not produced hoped-for reforms that would improve relations: “At this point not only is that prospect unrealized, but the new regime is proving itself far more aggressive against its neighbors, less cooperative in multilateral fora, and much quicker to suppress alternative voices inside China than its predecessors.”

Businesses investing in China are recalculating whether to continue doing business there and likely will seek future investments elsewhere, he said, noting that the Chinese government this year blocked commissioners for visiting the country.

Mr. Reinsch was the senior Commerce Department export control official during the Clinton administration when waivers of sensitive satellite and rocket technology transfers were approved to China. The U.S. dual-use technology ended up being diverted by the Chinese and resulted in improved reliability of China’s strategic nuclear missile forces. In one case, U.S. technology for placing multiple satellites in orbit was diverted and is now believed to be the basis for China’s multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) that are starting to come online.

Asked about the past technology transfers and his current views, Mr. Reinsch said: “I think it’s a bit of a stretch.”

“The point of my additional views was to draw a distinction between the current government in China and its predecessors,” he said in an email. “So, if you want to accuse me of changing my mind, go ahead. But I would say it’s because the Chinese changed theirs.”

Tens of thousands of U.S. troops in conflict zones around the world will celebrate Thanksgiving thanks to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which this year shipped tens of thousands of pounds of turkey and fixings, mainly to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

About 16,000 troops are in Afghanistan, the largest overseas military presence in the combat zone.

Meanwhile, the National Football League is offering free viewings of its three games played Thanksgiving Day to troops in Afghanistan, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea and Kuwait.

Turkey dinners also were sent to troops deployed recently in Liberia and Senegal to provide humanitarian support with the Ebola virus outbreak. About 1,800 troops, along with 160 contractors and civilians, were sent to the Ebola zone. The DLA sent 2,700 pounds of turkey, 375 pounds of cranberry sauce and 700 pies to those in West Africa.

“Since they can’t be home for the holidays, our team is dedicated to bringing the holidays to them,” said Anthony Amendolia, DLA subsistence customer service branch chief for the Europe and Middle East regions.

The DLA provides U.S. forces with $13 billion annually in food, uniforms, protective equipment, medicine and medical supplies, repair parts and construction and equipment.

CIA Director John O. Brennan is planning a major reorganization that would continue a process begun in the late 1980s to integrate agency spies with analysts and technicians.

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said Mr. Brennan in late September tasked several agency veterans to conduct an internal review “to determine whether the agency is optimized for enduring mission effectiveness, specifically in the areas of integration, agility and resilience.” The review is ongoing, he said.

Mr. Brennan said in a message to all employees Sept. 24 that “I have become increasingly convinced that the time has come to take a fresh look at how we are organized as an agency and at whether our current structure, and ways of doing business, need adjustment to ensure our future success.”

The Washington Post, which first reported the plan, stated that one idea is to create more CIA centers, like the innovative Counterterrorism Center that was first set up in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan and CIA Director William Casey.

The reform plan could replace traditional directorates with similar regional and functional centers, focusing on places like China and staffed with personnel from throughout the CIA bureaucracy.

The agency has come under fire in recent years for a string of intelligence failures: the early 2000s Iraq weapons of mass destruction misestimates; the flawed 2007 national estimate falsely asserting Iran halted work on nuclear arms; more than a decade of misjudgments about China and its military buildup; the 2009 terrorist bombing of a CIA base in Afghanistan; and the failure to gather intelligence on the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The review panel has met several CIA veterans, but not with one operations officer who was instrumental in creating the first Counterterrorism Center — former CIA spy Duane “Dewey” Clarridge.

Mr. Clarridge said in an interview he was surprised at being left out of the review since he first broached the idea of a center that would enlist analysts, operators and technicians in fighting terrorism in late 1985.

“I’m the one who came up with the idea for the Counterterrorism Center,” he said, noting that it opened Feb. 1, 1986. “It was a revolutionary thing at the time and it apparently will lead to restructuring the agency.”

He also noted that Mr. Brennan once worked in the Counterterrorism Center.

The initial center was opposed by many in the agency who viewed it as upsetting the traditional structure. But in the end, “it worked,” Mr. Clarridge said. It was the first time CIA undertook organizational restructuring, commingling personnel from the Director of Operations — the espionage and covert action branch — with analysts from the Directorate of Intelligence, and technicians from the Directorate of Science and Technology. “I retired in 1988, but before I left, I predicted they would create a Counternarcotics Center, a Counterintelligence Center and a Counterproliferation Center,” Mr. Clarridge said. All three were set up. “I also predicted that eventually the center concept would be a model for the whole agency.”

Mr. Clarridge had one of the most illustrious careers in the agency, running covert operations in several regions, including backing for Contra rebels fighting against the communist regime in Nicaragua. He also was caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal and later was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

In recent years, he has been a private intelligence auxiliary working for the military in Southwest Asia.

Mr. Clarridge ran afoul of the agency’s “old boys” network because of his past connection to Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi and his post-career activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

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