Ed's Blog

"Some people know everything, but that's all they know."

GENERAL FLYNN’S FATAL MISTAKE

DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum

The minute Gen. Mike Flynn decided he could fly solo in his interaction with Russian officials, his fate was sealed. This happened before President Donald Trump selected him to be his national security advisor or when he lied to Vice President Pence about his phone conversation with the Russian ambassador. It likely began in 2015 when he traveled to Russia to participate in a forum and he met with Vladimir Putin .

As a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency it’s not as if Gen. Flynn doesn’t have plenty of experience dealing with foreign intelligence officials (friendly and not so friendly), although I doubt he met with them alone. Furthermore, his career in U.S. Army military Intelligence wasn’t in counter-intelligence or counter-espionage. Why is that important? Because counter-intelligence trained people never forget that practically every Russian or Chinese government official, especially diplomats, are always spotting and assessing individuals susceptible to recruitment, people they can elicit information from or useful idiots they can use.

Understanding the breadth and depth of their efforts and the measures the United States uses to counter them makes one far more sensitive to the danger that exists when you appear on their radar. I suspect Gen. Flynn didn’t fully appreciate the risk he was taking, or he just became overconfident in himself. He should have known that any phone conversation with the Russian ambassador would be tapped by NSA and made available to the Department of Justice. If he had, he never would have kept the Vice President in the dark. I heard in a news report today that Gen. Flynn knew he was under surveillance. If that’s true, the first thing he should have done was immediately make the President and Vice President aware of what he was doing and saying, but apparently he didn’t.

Throughout my 43-year career in the military and as a Department of Defense civilian I’ve seen this happen too many times. A military officer or civilian official decides he has the skills or rank to meet with Russian or Chinese officials on his own for the purpose of improving U.S.-Russia or U.S.-China relations. He allows himself to believe that there is no requirement to take someone else along or report his contact to the FBI or his superior to ensure that nothing in the meeting or conversation comes back to bite him.

Three individuals I know were convicted and went to jail because of their contacts with Chinese officials. Others were harshly counseled or their careers were ruined. As the senior country director for China in the office of the Secretary of Defense, I met with Chinese attaches and diplomats on a regular basis. I even had one defect to me in my office. I either took someone along to lunches and meetings with them, or I reported my contacts to the FBI. I knew never to say anything to a Chinese official I didn’t want my boss reading back to me.

I have no doubt that Gen. Flynn is a patriot and had nothing but the best intentions. His service to America has been exemplary. We have not yet seen a transcript of the phone conversation between Gen. Flynn and the Russian ambassador, and I doubt we ever will given how it was obtained, so we don’t know if he gave the ambassador assurances about what the Trump Administration might do after the election on U.S. sanctions on Russia or if the subject only came up tangentially. Personally, I would be surprised if it was the former. Gen. Flynn has enormous staff experience and knew that staff officers don’t make such commitments to foreign governments. Despite accusations by Democrats, it’s also highly unlikely that President Trump told him what to tell the Russian, otherwise, there would have been no reason to lie to the Vice President.

Serving at the highest levels in the national security establishment is a high honor and rare opportunity to serve your country. In that sense, it can be extremely rewarding. At the same time it often is like walking on a wire over an alligator pit. When you slip and fall there is no forgiveness and there are no second chances.

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Filed under: China-Taiwan, Military, National Security, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

WITH ALLIES LIKE BARACK OBAMA WHO NEEDS ENEMIES

obamanetanyahu

Approximately 14 million Jews exist in the entire world. Forty-two percent of them live in Israel. Forty percent of them live in the United States. This only partially explains why U.S.-Israel relations have been so tight over the years since Israel became a state in 1949. The plight of Jews in the Holocaust and Jewish-Americans staunch support for Israel also are major factors. Still, negative anti-Israel attitudes are not uncommon among Americans. Working in the Department of Defense for 23-years, I encountered many people who believed Israel didn’t deserve the treatment it received from the U.S. Government, reflecting similar segments of public opinion. Until President Barack Obama came along, however, no U.S. president had been so outright anti-Israel.

It’s possible to argue persuasively that there are several reasons for this. Barack Obama ascended to the presidency believing that his “magic” could cut through the decades of intransigence in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Then he came face to face with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who took office three months after Barack Obama. Like most Israeli prime ministers, Netanyahu was a no-nonsense pragmatist undazzled by Barack Obama’s proclaimed “charm and brilliance.” He didn’t ask “How high?” when Obama said jump. Their relationship was strained from the outset. Netanyahu understood that President Obama was competence challenged and that the president’s policy approach to the problem was flawed.

Another popular explanation is that President Obama is pro-Muslim and anti-Israel. From his apology tour in 2009 to his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to his over indulgence of Iran to his rejection of the term Islamic-jihadist terrorism, he has demonstrated his affinity for the Muslim world on numerous occasions. Is it any wonder that so many Americans, as many as 40 percent in one survey, believe he is a Muslim?

Finally, I have no doubt that President Obama truly believes that Israel settlements are the main roadblock to peace and although his principal purpose in abstaining from the vote on the UN resolution condemning them may have been to stick a finger in Netanyahu’s eye, he likely believes that ultimately he’s doing Israel a favor.

Ever since the Camp David Accords achieved through the efforts of President Jimmy Carter, the prevailing rationale behind U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the belief that a negotiated settlement is possible by Israel trading land for peace, and even though this almost happened when Yasser Arafat was leading the Palestinians, it remains a distant mirage. When the peace process fell apart because Arafat couldn’t accept the best deal from Israel he was ever going to get, it proved that Palestinians have no intention of living side by side with Israel in a “two state” solution.

Indeed, however, President Obama may have done Israel and incoming President Elect Donald Trump a favor. By allowing the UN to remove whatever bargaining chips Israel had by declaring all Israeli settlements, including those in Jerusalem, as illegal, he destroyed any incentive Israel had for a negotiated peace. The Palestinians, emboldened by the UN will no longer seek a negotiated settlement trading peace for land. The UN says they don’t have to.

It’s time to stop believing that Washington, D.C., can discover the magic formula for peace. It should stop pouring U.S. taxpayer funds into the Palestinian National Authority, reduce U.S. funding for the UN and make it abundantly clear that the United States has Israel’s back by providing the military and economic assistance necessary. The UN, with President Obama’s help, has destroyed any chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians for at least another generation.

Filed under: National Security, Politics, , , , , , , ,

JOURNEY TO AN UNKNOWN DESTINATION: In the Company of Great Americans

Beside Birddog at Vung Tau Apr 67

If you wonder why I haven’t posted anything on this blog recently, it’s because I’ve been writing my memoir for the past several months. It will still be a while before it’s published, because I’m having several people review the manuscript before I submit it to the Department of Defense for security review. Like everyone else in government who had a Top Secret security clearance, I signed a non disclosure agreement that requires me to submit any book that deals with what I did in government for review before I can publish it. Since many of you who know me or worked with me over the years are in the book, I want to keep you up to date as we move forward. To whet your interest, here’s the synopsis.

Synopsis

Life is a journey to an unknown destination, best traveled in the company of Great Americans. Ed Ross’ life is just such a story. This incredible no-holds-barred, first-person memoir reveals the good the bad and the evil of a 43-year career in the military and government, with stories of triumph, tragedy, murder, espionage, suicide, defection, terrorism, bureaucratic politics, sacrifice for love of country and associations with great Americans. It begins with a small child running free on the streets of Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965, he becomes a highly decorated artillery observer with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, where he comes face to face with the reality of death. Recruited by U.S. Army Military Intelligence, he becomes a clandestine case officer and returns to Vietnam as a covert intelligence operative, running sensitive, deep-cover operations against the Viet Cong. Following his second tour in Vietnam he serves as the chief counter-intelligence/counter-espionage in the 500th Military Intelligence Group, Hawaii, responsible for the Asia-Pacific Theater of operations. Studying Chinese at the Defense Language Institute in Anacostia, Maryland, and the American Embassy School for Chinese Language and Area Studies in Taichung, Taiwan, becoming fluent and literate in Chinese, he receives his master’s degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and is assigned as a senior China analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C., where he writes Defense and National Intelligence Estimates on China and Taiwan that help change the course of history. As a U.S. military attaché in the People’s Republic of China, he opens the door to U.S.-China defense relations. Medically retired from the U.S. Army in 1984 with life threatening end-stage renal disease, he receives a kidney transplant the following year and goes on to a 23-year career in Washington, D.C., as the Special Assistant for China in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he is the architect of U.S. arms sales to China and oversees sensitive U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. As Acting Deputy Assistant of Defense for POW/MOIA Affairs, he creates the Defense Prisoner of war Missing in Action Office and leads the Department of Defense through the intense scrutiny of the American people, the media and the Congress of the controversy over accounting for MIAs in Southeast Asia. As Principal Director for Operations in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, he led at the nexus where grand strategy and amorphous bureaucracy converged to train and equip friends and allies around the world. A novelist and a columnist, he is a prolific writer.

Check back for updates.

Filed under: Books, China-Taiwan, Movies-TV, National Security, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND CHE GUEVARA

CheandObama

The picture of President Barack Obama standing with Raoul Castro in front of a large image of Che Guevara speaks volumes. At the very least, Pres. Obama’s advance team is incompetent. At worst, the President has no problem identifying himself with one of the most brutal communist murders in modern history, something no American president should ever do.

As Michael J. Totten write in World Affairs, “The truth about Che now has its boots on. He helped free Cubans from the repressive Batista regime, only to enslave them in a totalitarian police state worst than the last. He was Fidel Castro’s chief executioner, a mass-murderer who in theory could have commanded any number of Latin American death squads, from Peru’s Shining Path on the political left to Guatemala’s White Hand on the right.”

Wherever you stand on the U.S. official recognition of Cuba, President Obama’s management of foreign affairs during his time in office has only two possible explanations. Either the President is totally ignorant of foreign affairs and therefore incompetent in the management of them or President Obama has more sympathy for America’s enemies than he has for America.

While many argue the latter is more the case than the former, I tend to believe that both are equally at play. His ignorance of foreign affairs gives him a false sense of reality about American’s enemies, as evidenced by his dealings with Russia and Iran. At the same time, his revulsion, passed down to him by his father, of Western colonialism, and his experience with the pro-socialist/communist views of his mother, forged his world view.

We can’t climb into Barack Obama’s head, so it’s not possible to know what mixture of incompetence and anti-Americanism affect his foreign policy decisions at any given time. I speculate, however, that Pres. Obama will cherish the photo of him standing in front of Che’s image with Raoul Castro. If you believe Pres. Obama has done just about all the damage he’s going to do to America, he’s not done yet. God only knows what he has up his sleeves for the next seven months. And after the election, regardless of who becomes our next president, Barack Obama will be ever-present in the media underpinning his legacy.

Filed under: National Security, Politics, The Presidency, , , , ,

INDICTING HILLARY CLINTON

Hillary-Clinton

With new disclosures in a letter from the Intelligence Community inspector general to the chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Foreign Relations committee, the Hillary Clinton email scandal has entered a new and precarious phase for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Given the punishments handed out to people like General Petraeus and other high-ranking government officials for disclosing classified information to people without the proper clearance or a need to know, many respected former government officials and legal experts argue the Justice Department must indict her. On the other hand, others say that President Obama, who has shown blatant disrespect for the law, simply won’t indict her; she’d have to commit an axe murder in public before he would allow her to be prosecuted.

For almost any other offense, I would agree with the latter. For this offense, however, I believe the administration has no choice but to indict her. I held a TOP SECRET SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION (SCI) clearance for 32 years in the department of defense. During much of that time I had access to several special access programs (SAP). Among the most sensitive of them was HUMINT (human intelligence). This is information about clandestine human intelligence collection operations. Disclosure of this information reveals sources and methods which pose not only a grave risk to U.S. national security but puts at risk the lives of foreign agents and U.S. case officers. High-level sources have told FOX News reporter Catherine Herridge that some of those emails referred to in the inspector general’s letter involved HUMINT information. Consider the fuss and the designation of a special prosecutor made over the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity, and she no longer was working as a clandestine agent.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ recently stated that, “The odds were pretty high” that governments hostile to the United States accessed Hillary Clinton‘s private server.” This makes Clinton vulnerable. She sent and received classified information thru a personal unclassified email server. According to the law, whether or not it was marked as classified at the time is irrelevant. The secretary of state should be able to recognize classified information when she see’s it. I can tell you from personal experience, recognizing classified information isn’t that hard to do.

Whether or not the Russians, Chinese or Iranians hacked into her email or not, allowing that possibility to exists constitutes gross negligence. Again, under the law [18 U.S.C § 793(f)(1)] such gross negligence is a felony.

I won’t predict that President Obama’s Justice Department will indict Hillary Clinton, but if it doesn’t the damage to our country done by that omission will be greater than the damage Hillary Clinton already has done by her disregard for national security. It would set a precedent that would make it very difficult to prosecute senior officials who commit similar offensives in the future.

To be sure, indicting a former first lade, senator and secretary of State would be unprecedented and would set off a bitter partisan debate. Nevertheless, no American is above the law.

Filed under: National Security, , , , , , , , , ,

IRAQ – Déjà vu

arlington_national_cemetery

It sickens my heart as a Vietnam War combat veteran to watch Iraq fall apart like South Vietnam did. We may not have to watch American helicopters evacuating the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist army takes over the city, but again we are watching the disintegration of a government and the loss of territory U.S. warriors fought and died for. Were their sacrifices in vain as some now say they were?  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: Military, National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UKRAINE: APPROACHING CRITICAL MASS?

Ukraine

Critical mass in nuclear science is the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Critical mass in international politics is the smallest amount of aggression needed to start a war. Despite what President Obama and other Western leaders say and do, the situation in Ukraine may be fast approaching that point.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

THE OUTLOOK FOR U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY IN 2012

pentagon

Straight-line projecting current trends into the future is easy; but odds are that you’ll be less than half right. History rarely unfolds in a straight line; and the U.S. national security environment in the year ahead is fraught with twists and turns. Nevertheless, straight-lining things, odds are that by this time next year, threats to U.S. national security will be worse than they were in 2013. The question is what events could alter this prediction?  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, Uncategorized

DON PUTIN MAKES OBAMA AN OFFER HE CAN’T REFUSE

GodfatherPutin

Watching Russian President Vladimir Putin outsmart President Obama, I felt like I was watching a remake of The Godfather. No matter how you feel about Barack Obama, no American should enjoy watching the top Russian crime boss make the world’s top cop look foolish.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PRESIDENT OBAMA BLINKS

Who-just-blinked

The president who has treated Congress as if it were an advisory board rather than a co-equal branch of government suddenly wants congressional authorization, which he does not require, for a military strike on Syria.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, The Presidency, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ASSAD, CHEMICAL WEAPONS AND OBAMA

obama_assad

A year ago, President Barack Obama said that if the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria, it would cross a red line that would result in “serious consequences.” Last week, Assad crossed that line again, killing hundreds and debilitating several thousand with a chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Will President Obama impose serious consequences this time?  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DON’T SUSPEND MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO EGYPT

Supporters of Egypt's former President Mubarak shout slogans outside a police academy before Mubarak's trial in Cairo

Since the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) overthrew President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, members of Congress and foreign policy experts in and out of government have debated whether or not the U.S. should suspend the $1.3 billion annual Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Egypt. The Obama administration’s Egypt and Middle East policies are in tatters, but the one thing it has done right is to continue military assistance to the EAF.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TIME FOR REGIME CHANGE IN NORTH KOREA

kim_jung-un

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the perfect example of what will happen when rogue regimes acquire nuclear weapons. They use them to intimidate their enemies, extort concessions from those that will negotiate with them, and sell the technology to the highest bidder. Regime change or war is the only way to stop them.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: China-Taiwan, National Security, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CHUCK HAGEL AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

hagel

Whatever your views on Secretary of Defense designate Chuck Hagel, if the Senate confirms him, the likelihood that he will leave Defense four years from now better than he found it are extremely low. Discussions about Sen. Hagel’s personal views on gays, Iran, Israel, and other issues aside—after all, the White House makes policy, not the Pentagon—he will have little going for him and enormous challenges to deal with as he assumes office.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FIFTY YEARS OF MIDDLE EAST POLICY ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE

Fifty years of U.S. Middle East policy is on the verge of collapse. On all sides countries inimical to its interests or hostile to its existence surround Israel. At the same time, the Islamist-fundamentalist movement is gaining influence and power while U.S. leverage in the region plummets. Iran is on the verge of building nuclear weapons as it supplies ever more deadly weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas. It’s not clear what will reverse these trends at this stage, but strong U.S. leadership and action is needed now more than ever.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

Filed under: National Security, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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