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Defense Secretary Tightens Classified Information Controls After Ukraine War Documents Leak

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Defense Secretary Tightens Classified Information Controls After Ukraine War Documents Leak

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on April 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has issued new instructions for how military personnel and contractors are allowed to handle classified information after sensitive military planning documents were recently leaked online.

On Friday, Mr. Austin issued a memo (pdf) providing military components, supporting agencies, and contractors with new instructions for how to handle classified national security information (CNSI). Among the changes Mr. Austin ordered were for the heads of various Department of Defense (DoD) components to ensure all their personnel with access to classified information are properly documented and that various security protocols are being followed.

In one portion of his memo, Mr. Austin ordered heads of DoD components that are not part of the Intelligence Community (IC) must “validate the continuing need for their personnel to have access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and ensure personnel who require such access have a valid SCI non-disclosure agreement on file.” The defense secretary also instructed that DoD component heads make sure to document all Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) and Special Access Program Facilities (SAPFs), which are two different facilities used for handling classified information.

The security crackdown was brought on by a number of classified documents that surfaced online this Spring, giving insight into U.S. military strategies and evaluations of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The disclosure of these private documents was ultimately connected by leak investigators to Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old low-level IT specialist with the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

On April 13, Mr. Teixeira was taken into custody and accused of violating the Espionage Act by improperly retaining and transmitting information related to national defense. He is currently being investigated for crimes.

The DoD started a 45-day review of its security programs, policies, and procedures on April 14 following Mr. Teixeira’s arrest. Last week, the 45-day review period came to an end.

“This review found that the overwhelming majority of DoD personnel with access to CNSI are trustworthy and that all DoD Components demonstrate a broad commitment to security,” Mr. Austin wrote. “However, the review identified areas where we can and must improve accountability measures to prevent the compromise of CNSI, to include addressing insider threats.”

Mr. Austin ordered the Defense Security Enterprise Executive Committee and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald S. Moultrie to create a “centralized tracking system” to record locations for storing classified information and to establish greater accountability for individuals with access to those classified settings. This is in addition to documenting which DoD personnel have access to classified information and accounting for all SCIFs and SAPFs. Additionally, Mr. Austin mandated the implementation of “electronic device detection systems and mitigation measures in all DoD SCIFs and SAPFs” in order to further restrict the use of personal or portable electronic devices in classified environments.

The Ukraine War Documents Leak

The documents from the Ukraine war that surfaced online earlier this year included

Online images of the documents bearing “secret” and “top secret” stamps were made available. One document listed the different kinds of military hardware that the US and its allies and partners had sent to Ukraine, along with training schedules for Ukrainian troops to use those weapons systems and potential timelines for a “spring offensive,” which may have been a reference to an offensive that Ukrainian forces are currently engaged in but was only rumored at the time the documents were leaked.

On the Russian and Ukrainian sides of the conflict, another document details equipment losses and casualty assessments. The locations of Ukrainian and Russian forces on the battlefield are described in one document, and the locations of American military units in the rest of Europe are described in another. The rates at which Ukrainian forces have used ammunition for weapons like the HIMARS rocket artillery system were detailed in yet another document that surfaced.

Before they spread to other websites, Mr. Teixeira allegedly posted the documents on the instant messaging service Discord.

The exact number of classified documents that were leaked is unclear.

After he was accused of the leak, the 102nd Intelligence Wing at the Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts underwent a reorganization. The intelligence responsibilities of the unit were transferred to other Air Force units, and a number of the unit commanders were removed from their posts.

Biden Administration

Biden Admin is Using Fraudulent Climate Dataset in Push For Green Agenda, According to Government Watchdog

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A government watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Biden administration over its use of a dataset frequently used to push its climate agenda.

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) filed the complaint with the Commerce Department over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “Billions Project” dataset, which purports to keep track of natural [and climate] disasters that have caused at least $1 billion in damages going back to 1980. The billion-dollar disasters (BDD) data — cited frequently by the Biden administration to insinuate that climate change is intensifying and justify sweeping green policies — is based on opaque data derived from questionable accounting practices, PPT alleges in the complaint.

“American families and businesses continue to struggle with persistently high inflation, which many attribute in large part to the energy policies and government spending of the current administration. The idea that blatant violations of scientific integrity could be underlying the rationale for these policies should concern every American,” Michael Chamberlain, PPT’s director, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated incident. The Biden Administration came into office pledging that its decision making would be grounded in the highest-quality science, but all too often has failed to live up to those promises.”

The complaint was filed with the Commerce Department, as NOAA operates under its auspices, Chamberlain told the DCNF.

PPT’s complaint alleges that NOAA does not adequately disclose its sources and methods for compiling the BDD dataset, adds and removes BDD events from the dataset without providing its rationale for doing so and produces cost estimates that are sometimes significantly different than those generated by more conventional accounting procedures.

While NOAA states that it develops its BDD data from more than a dozen sources, the agency does not disclose those sources for specific events or show how it calculates loss estimates from those sources, PPT’s complaint alleges.

The complaint further alleges that NOAA’s accounting methods are opaque and “produce suspect results.”

For example, when Hurricane Id alia took aim at Florida in 2023, NOAA initially projected that the storm would cause about $2.5 billion worth of damages before insured losses ultimately came in at about $310 million, according to PPT’s complaint, which cites the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

 for that figure. Nevertheless, NOAA subsequently marked up its estimate for how much damage the storm caused to $3.5 billion, a discrepancy for which NOAA provided no explanation, PPT alleges in its complaint.

NOAA researchers have disclosed in the past that the agency considers factors such as functions pertaining to livestock feeding costs — in addition to more conventional types of damages — in their cost calculations.

Further, the complaint alleges that BDD events are quietly added and removed from the dataset without explanation, citing Roger Pielke Jr., a former academic who believes climate change to be a real threat but opposes politicized science. In a forthcoming paper analyzing the merits of BDD statistics, Pielke compared the dataset in late 2022 to the dataset in the middle of 2023 and found that ten new BDD events were added to the list and 3 were subtracted without explanation.

Apart from the issues with methodology alleged by PPT in its complaint, the use of BDD events as a proxy for climate change’s intensity is inherently misleading because economic data does not reflect changes in meteorological conditions, as Pielke has previously explained to the DCNF.

For example, increasing concentrations of assets, especially in coastal areas, can confound the usefulness of BDD events as an indicator for the intensity of climate change, as Energy and Environment Legal Institute Senior Policy Fellow Steve Milloy has previously explained to the DCNF. Hypothetically, the same exact hurricane could hit the same exact place, decades apart, with vastly different damage totals; this would be the case because there are simply more assets sitting in the way of the storm, not because the storm was any more violent due to worsening climate change.

NOAA has acknowledged this limitation of the dataset in prior communications with the DCNF.

Additionally, NOAA will add disasters to the list retrospectively because it adjusts for inflation, meaning that a hurricane that caused $800 million in damages in 1980 dollars would be added to the list because the damages exceed $1 billion when adjusted for inflation, for example.

The Biden administration has frequently cited the BDD dataset to substantiate its massive climate agenda.

For example, Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk cited the dataset in written testimony submitted to lawmakers in February explaining the White House’s decision to pause new approvals for liquefied natural gas export terminals.

The BDD statistics are also referenced Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), the Biden administration’s landmark climate report that is intended to provide the most sound scientific basis for lawmakers and officials to craft climate policy.

NOAA asserted that the increasing frequency of BDD events is a sign of intensifying climate change in a January press release and blog post summarizing 2023, and then defended the use of the dataset in subsequent communications with the DCNF.

“Sensational climate claims made without proper scientific basis and spread by government officials threaten the public’s trust in its scientific officials and undermines the government’s mission of stewarding the environment,” PPT’s complaint states. “It also poses the danger of policymakers basing consequential government policy on unscientific claims unsupported by evidence.”

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Biden Administration

U.S. Military Has Started Recalling Retirees Due to Recruiting Crisis

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The U.S. Army Publishing Directorate released the ALARACT 017/2024, titled, “Utilization of the Army Retiree Recall Program.”

The document cites Executive Order 13223 from the Bush administration in 2001.

A retiree recall is a “retired Soldier who is ordered to active duty (AD) from the Retired Reserve or the retired list under 10 USC 688/688a, 12301(a), or 12301(d). Per AR 601-10, Recalled retiree Soldiers must be aligned to a valid vacant AC requirement that matches the grade and skill of the retiree before he or she may be recalled to AD,” according to the document. “The retiree population will be utilized as a last resort to fill Active Component vacant requirements.”

The ALARACT 017/2024 comes as the U.S. military is experiencing a recruitment crisis.

The U.S. Army recently announced that it is cutting thousands of positions. Authorized troop levels will now be an estimated 470,000 by fiscal year 2029, down 24,000 from its 494,000 soldiers.

“While making these investments and adding formations, the Army must also reduce force structure to protect readiness in light of decreased end strength. The Army is currently significantly over-structured, meaning there are not enough soldiers to fill out existing units and organizations. Army leaders seek to have at least 470,000 soldiers in the Active Component by FY29, which is nearly 20,000 above the current end strength but a reduction of about 24,000 authorizations compared to currently planned force structure,” the report

 states.

It added that the Army is “undertaking a similarly important transformation of its recruiting enterprise so that it can man units sufficiently, continue to bring the right types and amounts of new talent into the Army, and rebuild its overall end strength.” Noting the ongoing recruitment failure within the U.S. military, the document noted, “The Army must solve its recruiting challenges to successfully transform for the future.”

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Biden Administration

Trucker Claims he was Forced at Gunpoint to Transport Illegal Immigrants

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A truck driver in Texas who was arrested for smuggling migrants claims that he was forced to transfer them at gunpoint.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has highlighted smuggling and drug activities linked to illegal immigration as reasons for deploying Texas National Guard personnel and Texas Department of Public Safety officers to address the surge in migrant encounters at the US-Mexico border, which reached a record 2.4 million during the 2023 fiscal year, marking a substantial increase from the previous year.

Senate Bill 4 includes a provision allowing Texas to enforce its own immigration regulations, distinct from federal oversight. This provision proposes increasing the minimum sentence for convicted migrant smugglers or individuals operating stash houses from two to ten years.

The truck driver in question, Luis Enrique Lara from Laredo, was apprehended at a highway checkpoint on March 24 and charged with various offenses related to transporting migrants, as per an affidavit from the Laredo Morning Times. The affidavit indicates that during a checkpoint s top, law enforcement’s K-9 unit signaled potential contraband in Lara’s trailer. Subsequently, officers found three migrants hidden under pillows, contrary to Lara’s assertion that he was unaware of their presence.

Lara explained to authorities that he was coerced by an individual named “Luis” at gunpoint about a month before his arrest at a gas station in Katy. This person allegedly instructed Lara to transport migrants to San Antonio, leading to the events that culminated in his detention.

Concerns about human and drug trafficking across the southern border have been raised by various political figures and officials, including former US Ambassador to the UN and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who expressed worries about criminal exploitation of border vulnerabilities.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has also testified about the potential for terrorists using fake IDs to enter the country undetected, emphasizing the challenges faced by federal agencies in monitoring illegal immigration flows.

Governor Abbott, while facing criticism from some religious leaders regarding the portrayal of migrants, has urged legislative action to address illegal border crossings. The political landscape suggests differing approaches depending on election outcomes, with potential shifts in immigration policies based on who holds office.

SOURCE: LAREDO MORNING TIMES

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