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U.S. Role in Libya Already Costs Hundreds of Millions

Fox News
March 23, 2011

The cost of the American and European assault on Libya already easily tops hundreds of millions of dollars, and has the potential to rise significantly if the operation drags on for weeks or months.

Coalition efforts to undermine Muammar al-Qaddafi’s air defenses and save the rebels from defeat have lasted for four nights already. If the U.S. role continues to be limited, with the Pentagon using its existing budget to cover the expense, the price tag on involvement will only rise moderately.

As of Tuesday, a U.S. defense official told Fox News the U.S. has fired 161 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libyan territory, with 24 missiles being fired overnight Monday into Tuesday. Each missile is priced at $1 million to $1.5 million apiece and dispatched B-2 stealth bombers — round-trip from Missouri — to drop 2,000-pound bombs on Libyan sites.

Read on: www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/03/23/role-libya-costs-hundreds-millions/

Potassium Iodide Distributed to US Military Bases in Japan

By Thessa Esclovon
March 23, 2011

As a precautionary measure, the U.S military began issuing out potassium iodide pills at four of its bases located in Japan.

The recipients of the pills, which are prescribed to prevent sickness from exposure to radiation, were informed not to take them unless they received direct orders to do so.

According to command officials, radiation had been detected, Monday afternoon, at low levels. However, the levels were not high enough to pose a threat to the health of the public.

Potassium Iodide is the only medication approved by the FDA to treat an individual contaminated by radioactive iodine. When taken at the right time and in the correct dose, it is extremely successful in reducing the risk of thyroid cancer.

As means to protect military personnel from being contaminated, the U.S. military has restricted them from entering the 50-mile radius surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The military has, also, advised the families on base to shut off all external ventilation and limit the time they spend outdoors.


Suicidal cousins of drones lead attack on Gaddafi

Space satellites guide cruise missle attack on Gaddafi

By Noah Shachtman
March 22, 2011

When the US military wanted to take out Muammar Gaddafi’s air defense systems, it unleashed a barrage of 122 Tomahawk cruise missiles. But these munitions aren’t like most others in the American arsenal.

Smart, maneuverable, able to see its surroundings and shift to new targets mid-flight, the newest Tomahawks are closer to the unmanned planes flying over Afghanistan than to the weapons they fire. In some ways, the Tomahawk is the drone’s suicidal cousin: a robotic aircraft, packed with explosives, that has no intention of ever coming home.

When officers get ready to shoot off a Tomahawk, “they are basically planning a flight for a little aeroplane,” one Navy official tells Danger Room. “It’s got stubby little wings — but is is an unmanned aerial vehicle.”

The next-gen Tomahawks — known as “Block IVs” — start their flights out just like other missiles, launched from ships or subs. But after 12 seconds of flight, things change. The Tomahawk starts to fly horizontally, skimming above the ocean at a height of less than 15 metres to avoid enemy radar.

GPS waypoints keep the missile on track until it makes landfall. Then, a Tercom (Terrain Contour Matching) system kicks in. too. Using a radar altimeter, the Tomahawk Tercom checks its height, and matches that altitude against a database of satellite and overhead imagery, to make sure the missile is headed in the right direction and at the right height.

Once the Tomahawk’s target is in sight, the missile can dart in for the attack. A Digital Scene-Mapping Area Correlator (“dee-smack” in military jargon) matches a stored picture of the target to the missile’s last sight, to make sure the two match.

Or, the missile can wait a while. The Tomahawk’s controller can give it a new route, telling the Tomahawk to circle around in the air, lingering until an enemy pops up its head. Then comes the strike. …

Read on: www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-03/22/drones-suicidal-cousins

Missile Defense Becomes A Navy Mission

Forbes (Blog)
by Loren Thompson
March 21, 2011

Earlier this month, the cruiser USS Monterey entered the Mediterranean Sea on a new mission. The Monterey was built three decades ago at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, but it is equipped with an improved version of Lockheed Martin’s Aegis combat system that enables it to intercept the kinds of ballistic missiles Iran’s radical Islamic government has been developing. Once on station, it will be the first visible manifestation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to defend local allies against attacks by those missiles. Other warships will follow, and then a newer version of the Aegis system will be deployed ashore in Eastern Europe. The U.S. Navy will thus become the lead service in implementing America’s missile defense strategy — a development few observers could have predicted a decade ago.

The March arrival of the Monterey in the eastern Med is a good time to take stock of how the U.S. missile defense program has changed over time, and consider the way in which changing threats and technologies have transformed the role of the Navy in missile defense from that of a disinterested bystander to a key player. Although critics sometimes question the value of having a globally deployed fleet of warships, missile defense is one area where forward presence and unfettered mobility have proven to be increasingly important. …

Read on: http://blogs.forbes.com/beltway/2011/03/21/missile-defense-becomes-a-navy-mission

Russia, U.S. warm up on missile defense

Washington Post
By Craig Whitlock
March 21, 2011

Setting aside decades of acrimony over President Ronald Reagan’s vision of a “Star Wars” missile shield, the United States and Russia have been holding exploratory but serious talks about potential ways to cooperate on missile defense in Europe.

Russian and U.S. officials have met multiple times in Moscow and Washington since January to consider sharing data from sensors that could detect the launch of a ballistic missile from Iran or another hostile country.

Both sides have cautioned that no deal is imminent and that big differences remain. But the issue has been given a boost by back-to-back visits to Russia this month by Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“We’ve disagreed before, and Russia still has uncertainties,” Gates said Monday in a speech to Russian naval officers in St. Petersburg. “However, we’ve mutually committed to resolving these difficulties in order to develop a road map toward truly effective anti-ballistic missile collaboration.’’

Such an assessment marks a sharp turnaround from years of bitter contention over missile defense. Although Washington always has portrayed its missile defense plans as purely defensive in nature, Moscow has eyed them as a backdoor plot to neutralize Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal.

Mutual suspicions over missile defense nearly derailed the New START arms-control pact last year. Although the treaty was ultimately ratified, U.S. officials until recently were largely dismissive of the idea that there was room for cooperation with Russia on missile defense.

“There is no meeting of the minds on missile defense,” Gates told a Senate panel in June. “The Russians hate it. . . . They will always hate it, mostly because we’ll build it and they won’t.” …

Read on: www.washingtonpost.com/world/russia_us_warm_up_on_missile_defense/2011/03/21/ABY7ei7_story.html

Prisoners Help Build Patriot Missiles

By Noah Shachtman
March 8, 2011

This spring, the United Arab Emirates is expected to close a deal for $7 billion dollars’ worth of American arms. Nearly half of the cash will be spent on Patriot missiles, which cost as much as $5.9 million apiece.

But what makes those eye-popping sums even more shocking is that some of the workers manufacturing parts for those Patriot missiles are prisoners, earning as little as 23 cents an hour. (Credit Justin Rohrlich with the catch.)

The work is done by Unicor, previously known as Federal Prison Industries. It’s a government-owned corporation, established during the Depression, that employs about 20,000 inmates in 70 prisons to make everything from clothing to office furniture to solar panels to military electronics.

One of the company’s high-tech specialties: Patriot missile parts. “UNICOR/FPI supplies numerous electronic components and services for guided missiles, including the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile,” Unicor’s website explains. “We assemble and distribute the Intermediate Frequency Processor (IFP) for the PAC-3s seeker. The IFP receives and filters radio-frequency signals that guide the missile toward its target.”

The missiles are then marketed worldwide — sometimes by Washington’s top officials. Last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pitched the Patriots to the Turkish government last year, a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reveals: “SecDef stressed that ‘nothing can compete with the PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities.’”

Read on: www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/03/prisoners-help-build-patriot-missiles

Pro-WikiLeaks activists target base holding Bradley Manning

CBC News
March 10, 2011

Online group Anonymous attacks computers on marine base housing U.S. army private accused of leaking documents.

A U.S. military base is the latest target of the online activist group known as Anonymous, which has taken up the cause of Bradley Manning, the U.S. army private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.

The group’s objective is to “harass” the staff and disable the computer systems at the Quantico, Va., marine base where Manning is being held, Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown said in an interview with MSNBC.

The group plans to reveal personal information about base officials and disable the base’s communication networks in protest against how Manning is being treated at the base, Brown said.

“It’s sort of an unconventional, asymmetrical act of warfare that we’ve involved in,” Brown said. “And we didn’t necessarily start it. I mean, this fire has been burning.”

Manning, who worked as an army intelligence analyst and had top-secret security clearance, was arrested in May 2010. He was later charged under military law in connection with downloading classified video and documents from military servers and passing them on to a third party. The material related to U.S. military operations in Iraq and also included thousands of diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world .

He has since been moved to the military prison in Virginia, where he has been held in solitary confinement for months.

Anonymous is a loosely organized group that operates online whose members change depending on the cause the group is organizing around at any given time. It’s not the first time the group has turned their attention to the issue of the WikiLeaks disclosures.

It targeted the websites of Paypal, MasterCard and Visa, which had limited or stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and Manning’s defence fund following the release of the U.S. diplomatic cables in November 2010. The sites were disabled mostly using what is known as a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack.

Read on: www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/03/10/anonymous-manning-quantico-ddos.html

U.S. official criticizes treatment of Army private in WikiLeaks case

Los Angeles Times
By James Oliphan
March 11, 2011

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley’s remarks about Pfc. Bradley Manning spark speculation about a rift in the government over the prisoner’s handling.

… P.J. Crowley told a forum in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday that Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment by the Defense Department in a jail at the Marine base in Quantico, Va., was “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.”

According to Manning’s lawyers, he is kept in conditions tantamount to solitary confinement and has been forced to sleep and stand at attention while naked. He is reportedly on suicide watch.

President Obama was asked at Friday, during a news conference, about Crowley’s comments.

“I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are,” Obama said. “I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Pvt. Manning’s safety as well.”

Manning, 23, who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, has been charged with 34 counts, including illegally obtaining from a military database an estimated 250,000 secret U.S. government cables and 380,000 records related to the Iraq war.

He also has been charged with aiding the enemy, a capital offense, although prosecutors have said they do not plan to seek the death penalty. …

Read more: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/11/nation/la-na-wikileaks-manning-20110312

Earthquake response doesn’t shake Okinawans’ opposition to U.S. bases

CNN International
By Eve Bower
March 13, 2011

Every morning at 7:30, Hiroshi Ashitomi trudges up sand-dusted steps, pries open a metal folding chair and joins a handful of his fellow retirees under a plastic tent, facing seaward. They are staging a protest.

Their sit-ins are in opposition to a perceived threat that many of his neighbors also fear: the planned expansion of a U.S. military base on Okinawa’s east-facing Henoko Bay.

Last week, however, the routines of both Ashitomi and the U.S. military were upset. And even though the reason for that disruption — a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami — demonstrated the advantage of having U.S. bases, Ashitomi and others say they will not alter their efforts to get the U.S. military off the island.

In the wake of the earthquake, the U.S. military is sending humanitarian aid and technical assistance to the hardest-hit areas of Japan. Many of these efforts are being launched from bases on Okinawa Island, where the United States maintains a permanent military presence under a treaty the two countries signed after World War II.

Staging areas in Okinawa allowed U.S. assistance to reach the affected areas faster than aid from many other countries. Perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, the U.S. military has made a compelling case for its presence on Okinawa.

But to Ashitomi, who said he views U.S. troops as de facto occupiers, the benefits are outweighed. …

Read on: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.us.okinawa/?hpt=T2