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WWII Army Grunt To Receive Medal Of Honor For Telling Artillery To Shell His Own Nazi-Infested Position

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 02:56 PM PDT

President Trump is posthumously awarding the Medal of Honor to an Army officer who called an artillery strike down on his own position to stop a German advance during World War II.

Then-1st Lt. Garlin M. Conner had just been treated at a field hospital for injuries and rejoined his unit after on Jan. 24, 1945, when he single-handedly stopped 600 advancing German troops and six tanks by calling in artillery strikes for three hours, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. In the end, 50 German troops were killed and another 100 were wounded.

"Despite the enemy coming within five yards of his position and friendly artillery shells exploding around him, he continued to direct the fire of friendly artillery, which ultimately repelled the assaulting enemy elements," the White House announced on Thursday.

Conner, who was reportedly the second-most decorated World War II soldier when he left the service, died in 1998. Trump called his widow Pauline Lyda Wells Conner on March 26 to let her know that her husband would receive the nation's highest military award for valor, her attorney, Donald Todd, told Task & Purpose.

Todd, his son, Thomas, and Dennis Shepherd, an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs, successfully sued to get the Army to reconsider Conner for the Medal of Honor earlier this year, he said. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also helped pass legislation that helped Conner receive the award, a cause that three states, a bipartisan slate of politicians, and war historian Stephen Ambrose had all advocated over the years.

Pauline Lyda Wells Conner told the Clinton County News that she was skeptical when the White House first told her to expect a call from the president, so she asked a local attorney and his wife to be with her when Trump called.

"I was just scared to death that it was a scam of some kind," she told the newspaper on March 26.

When it became clear that it was no scam, she told the newspaper: "I'm on top of the world right now, and that's what I told the president when he called me."

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The post WWII Army Grunt To Receive Medal Of Honor For Telling Artillery To Shell His Own Nazi-Infested Position appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Mattis Welcomed John Bolton To The Pentagon In The Best Way Possible

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 02:15 PM PDT

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and newly-named Trump administration national security advisor John Bolton couldn't be more different. Mattis is known for his stolid respect to the sanctity of public service, his modesty, and his devotion to the men and women under his command; Bolton is known for his obsession with preemptive and total war and his willingness to let other people's children die in his stead. They will not be West Wing work spouses,  especially given a March 24 New York Times report that Mattis "did not know if he could work" with Trump's replacement for ousted Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

Mattis has claimed that he has "no reservations [and] no concerns at all" about working Bolton — a hawk itching to devastate North Korea despite Mattis' warnings that this "would constitute the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes." And so the Secretary of Defense dropped a sliver of shade upon Bolton's face when he arrived at the Pentagon on Thursday.

"I heard that you're actually the devil incarnate," he told Bolton, "and I wanted to meet you."

It may not be the conventional Mattism, but it falls nicely into SecDef's deadpan sarcasm. But it does bring one to mine: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." We can only wonder which plan Mattis laid out with his suit and tie this morning.

The post Mattis Welcomed John Bolton To The Pentagon In The Best Way Possible appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Texas Army Vet, Arrested With Massive Weapons Cache, Claims It’s For A ‘Classified’ Mission

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 12:00 PM PDT

A 59-year-old Army veteran arrested in a Massachusetts hotel with dozens of weapons claims that he assembled his arsenal as part of a "classified" mission for an unnamed government agency, according to law enforcement.

Texas native Francho Bradley and partner Adrianne Jennings were arrested at the Marriott Residence Inn in Tewksbury, Mass., on March 24th with a massive assortment of firearms and military-style equipment. Bradley claimed he had transported the stockpile to Massachusetts from Texas "because he needed them with him for his mission," according to a police report obtained by The Lowell Sun.

The cache recovered by local law enforcement included several semi-automatic rifles outfitted with suppressors and bump stocks; an AR-15 variant "with a grenade launcher affixed to the bottom"; tactical vests that appeared outfitted with military-style smoke and "flash bang" grenades; and high-capacity magazines, including several "affixed to each other by a homemade case … [that] allows an individual to shoot off all five magazines in a short amount of time."

The weapons removed from the hotel room of Texas native Francho Bradley and partner Adrianne Jennings by Tewksbury Police on March 24, 2018

When pressed by detectives about the stash of guns in his room, Francho responded that "he can't tell us what he does for work or why he has all the guns with him, but that he is down in this area working for a government agency that is dealing with a virus," according to the report.

Francho told police that had served as an EOD tech during his time in the military and currently works as a contractor Ensyme Engineering, which claims the Department of Energy and Centers for Disease Control as clients. He also made a number of bizarre claims regarding his public service, including a suspicious stint with the Los Angeles Police Department:

An excerpt from the Tewksbury PD’s report on Francho Bradley’s arrest

Despite their "classified" mission, neither Bradley or Jennings were carrying any military or police identification, nor did they have a license to carry "in any state," according to the police report. "We always bring the guns with us in case he gets deployed," Jennings told detectives.

Oddly, police initially responded to the Marriott when Bradley himself called the police — "to report he believed someone was trying to break into his room." He "had a surveillance video feed of his hotel room in his car, and was concerned because the video feed died" during an excursion to Boston that day, according to The Lowell Sun.

When police arrived, he advised law enforcement of a handgun “hidden” in a drawer in his room because he “didn’t want the gun to get into the wrong hands,” a disclosure which prompted the search that revealed his weapons cache.

francho bradley texas army vet hotel weapons cacheTewksbury Police Department

Texas native Francho Bradley and partner Adrianne Jenning

But while the police report indicates that Bradley cooperated with law enforcement, Detective Patrick Connor came to suspect that Bradley was, in fact, planning a mass-casualty event at one of the gun control marches planned for the metro Boston area the following weekend:

An excerpt from the Tewksbury PD’s report on Francho Bradley’s arrest

Bradley currently faces more than 40 criminal charges and an investigation by state and federal law enforcement officials, according to the Lowell Sun. At his arraignment, Bradley's attorney Robert Normandin claimed the assorted firearms were "props" used by Bradley as part of his consulting business.

Read the full report below:

Arrest Of Francho Bradley And Adrianne Jennings by Jared Keller

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The post Texas Army Vet, Arrested With Massive Weapons Cache, Claims It's For A 'Classified' Mission appeared first on Task & Purpose.

What’s In Store For The Next VA Chief? Let’s Break It Down

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 11:46 AM PDT

It's been an awkwardly long time coming, but as of yesterday afternoon embattled Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin is out of a job. The news comes after a month and a half of uncertainty that began when a scathing inspector general report detailed "serious derelictions" in expensing a Europe trip last summer. And then there were all the accusations and counter accusations of political infighting and rumors of possible replacements — at least all that is over:

Related:  Trump Is Replacing VA Secretary Shulkin With His White House Doctor »

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the president's appointed White House physician, who drew national attention when he complimented President Trump on his "incredibly good genes," has been tapped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs — pending approval by the Senate. Given that this leadership post has been described as "one of the most difficult jobs in government" — which has stymied generals, CEOs and health care executives — we thought it was time to give you a rundown of what's in store for the next officeholder, by the numbers:

More than 1,243 health care facilities. These Veterans Health Administration facilities include 170 VA Medical Centers, and 1,063 outpatient sites — making it the largest health care system in the United States.

9,000,000 veterans.. That's the number who receive medical care from VA, and many of these patients are older and suffer from multiple traumas and injuries that require specialized care: amputations, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and as of 2013, half of all VA patients suffer from chronic pain, to name just a few. And as many as 2 million patients receive in-facility care, according to an American Legion statement.

20,000,000 veterans in the United States… we think. There could be far more veterans than we realize, since an individual's military history isn't tracked by the census bureau, which is a concern since the VA relies on headcount of its target population to get a feel for the size and scope of the services it needs to provide.

$10,000,000,000 contract for Electronic Health Records. A long-term plan to modernize the VA's health records system could be jeopardy, with Shulkin's dismissal coming just as the VA was set to finalize the acquisition of a new electronic health record system.

2nd largest federal agency. The only one bigger is the Department of Defense.

$186,000,000,000 budget for fiscal year 2018.

360,000 employees spread across three separate administrations within the department; the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration.

23 years active duty. Jackson's Navy career began in 1995, and includes postings as an instructor, diving medical officer, diving safety officer, from Panama City, Florida Sigonella, Italy, to Norfolk, Virginia. By 2005 he deployed to Taqaddum, Iraq as part of a Surgical Shock Trauma platoon.

3 presidents. While still in Iraq in 2006, Jackson was selected as a White House physician and served as the supervising physician for the Camp David Presidential Retreat under the George W. Bush administration. Later he led the White House Medical Unit as its director and was the appointed White House physician for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Soon to be 7 VA secretaries in 4 years. The department has been beset by turmoil and scandal. Eric Shinseki resigned from his post as VA chief following the 2014 wait-list scandal the department. Since then, the VA has gone through three sitting secretaries, and is on its third acting secretary, with Robert Wilkie, previously the Pentagon's undersecretary of personnel and readiness, now tasked as the interim chief until Shulkin's replacement is approved by the Senate.

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The post What's In Store For The Next VA Chief? Let's Break It Down appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Does Gen. Dunford Actually Believe His Own Bullsh-t?

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 10:04 AM PDT

I often wonder whether four-star generals actually believe their own bullshit.

That thought has crossed my mind more than once after reading quotes from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You see, old “fightin’ Joe” has been in the news quite a bit lately, since he recently took a trip over to Afghanistan to learn firsthand how everything is shaping up.

Predictably, he returned and told us that, yes, there are a few issues here or there still to be worked out, but he’s “encouraged by the progress” in Afghanistan, some 17 years after the first American boots were on the ground.

Does Dunford actually buy this sales line of “progress” that has been offered ad nauseam by just about every general in Afghanistan for the past 10 years?

Or how about another DoD news item from a week ago, when Dunford talked up the “fundamentally different” strategy of advising and assisting Afghan security forces that was recently implemented by the Trump administration? He told reporters traveling with him that 2018 was “not another year of the same thing we’ve been doing.”

Really, Joe? I’d like to fact check you for a moment here if I could.

Back in Feb. 2013, Dunford assumed command of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, where he oversaw the drawdown of U.S. troops for 18 months. He also put his name and signature on a document explaining the coalition strategy of advising and assisting Afghan security forces, which began in late 2011.

The document, which was an unclassified guidebook intended for soldiers headed to Afghanistan called the [Resolute Support] Security Force Assistance Guide, offered highlights on the advisory mission, and explained that soldiers should “adopt a specific mindset of working by, with, and through” the Afghan security forces.

Sound familiar?

This was from July 2014. It was, in essence, a broad 72-page outline of a strategy where U.S. forces would embed at all levels of Afghanistan’s military and government, and offer their advice and mentorship as Afghan forces improved enough so the U.S. could finally leave.

“The years of investment in combat-oriented mentoring and advising has paid off,” the guide said, noting that Afghans began to take the lead starting with the 2013 fighting season.

Now back to the present: The supposedly-new strategy called for assistance to Afghan security forces — just like we’ve been doing — minus the Obama administration’s timetable for withdrawal. Meanwhile, the Army stood up a new unit called the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade with the express purpose of carrying out this same mission (it plans to slowly roll out up to five more, according to its reenlistment recruiting website).

SFAB’s job is to support Afghan security forces — which, again, have been receiving training from the U.S. and other NATO partners for over a decade — who are still widely illiterate, suffer casualty rates "often described as unsustainable," and continue to be reliant on air support from the U.S., according to a Congressional Research Service report out earlier this month.

The truth is, we’re not doing anything “fundamentally different” in Afghanistan, as Dunford and many other generals would like you to believe. I personally conducted joint patrols alongside Afghan security forces all the way back in 2004, as our company commander regularly met with them and government officials to help them fight the Taliban. But maybe those didn’t count.

Dunford knows we’re doing the same old shit we’ve always done there — training an inept foreign military backed by a corrupt government that will crumble as soon as we pull up chocks.

But he won’t tell you that. And as long as Congress keeps dumping money into a war that will never be won, he’ll continue to bullshit us all.
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The post Does Gen. Dunford Actually Believe His Own Bullsh-t? appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Air Force Finally Acknowledges Its Uniforms And Gear Are Not Made To Fit Women

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 10:02 AM PDT

The Air Force is "taking a really hard look" at whether the service's uniforms and gear fit female airmen correctly, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters on Thursday.

"Our uniforms have not traditionally been sized for women — and that's beyond just the uniform itself; it's also the gear that we have," Goldfein said during a Defense Writers Group breakfast. "We have women performing in every combat mission and we owe it to them that have gear that fits, that's suited for a woman's frame, that she can be in for hours on end."

Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, is leading a review into flight and tactical gear for female airmen, Goldfein said. One piece of gear being looked at is flight vests for fighter pilots.

F-15E pilots, for example, can be in the cockpit for up to 10 hours at a time, yet female pilots wear the same combat vests as their male counterparts, Goldfein said. "We can do better than that," he added.

Pilots have to carefully arrange how they wear their emergency, communications, and other gear on their vests so that they can still move inside the cockpit, said Goldfein, a veteran of many combat missions.

"You've got to be able to turn; you've got to be able to look around," he said. "I want to make sure that the weight-bearing side of that vest is suited for both men and women."

Overall, Goldfein said that he and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright are seeing if it is possible to whittle down all of the different types of uniforms that airmen have by selecting the "best of breed."

One option being considered is replacing the tiger-striped Airman Battle Uniform with the Army's camouflage uniform.

In a March 27 Facebook post, Wright wrote the Air Force is "really — like really — close to making a decision" on whether to adopt the Army's Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform.

"I will tell you that we have a significant number of airmen, who wear the OCP not only for daily but also downrange when they're performing duties, especially in Central Command," Goldfein said Thursday — but he added that there was nothing to announce yet on whether all airmen will wear the Army's camouflage uniform.

That dovetails with what Wright wrote to airmen yesterday.

"This is one of those large movements that we absolutely can’t get ahead of ourselves on," he wrote. "It's tough sifting through the rumor mill to make the right decision on your next uniform purchase, and I get it. I work to be as transparent with you as possible. But right now, there is no decision — either way."

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The post Air Force Finally Acknowledges Its Uniforms And Gear Are Not Made To Fit Women appeared first on Task & Purpose.

The A-10 Warthog Just Got The Money It Needs To Stay Alive

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 09:31 AM PDT

The Air Force is set to acquire new wings for its A-10 Thunderbolts in order to keep the vaunted attack aircraft in operation until the 2030s.

The Air Force told Congress last year that 110 of its 283 A-10s were at risk of being permanently grounded unless money was apportioned to restart production and rewing the remaining planes.

The service has already paid to replace the wings on 173 of its A-10s, but Boeing, which originally built the wings, has since shut down production, and the Air Force didn’t have funding for new wings for the remainder — 40 of which would have to be grounded by 2021, according to CNN. Those aircraft are still flying with wings from the late 1970s, according to Aviation Week.

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by President Donald Trump this month included $103 million requested by the Air Force to fund the rewinging. That is enough to cover the production of four new sets of wings, but going forward, Boeing might not be supplying them.

a-10 thunderbolt air forceU.S. Air Force

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt flies over Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, October 29, 2015. US Air Force

“If the omnibus comes out in the way that we expect it to, [the fiscal year 2019 budget] will restart the line for the rewinging and will include enough money for about four more rewings on top of the 170-plus that are already rewinged,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee on March 20. “The FY19 budget request includes $80 million for additional rewingings of the A-10. We’ll go out for a bid, but we think that will get us between eight and 12 more in FY19.”

The program is considered a “new start,” and under it, the new wings will come with a higher price, as engineers work through the hiccups of the design phase.

Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, mentioned that the service was looking for a new partner on the A-10 earlier this year.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said in January. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”

Because of the potential for A-10s to be grounded if they don’t get new wings, “acquisition is being expedited to the maximum extent possible,” according to a draft request for proposal for A-10 wings, issued in February.

a-10 thunderbolt air forceU.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 74th Fighter Squadron commander, lands an A-10 Thunderbolt, December 3, 2014.

According to the anticipated schedule included in the draft request, a final request is expected by April 3, a proposal due date on June 5, and the awarding of the contract by the end of the March 2019. (The 2019 fiscal year runs from October 2018 to September 2019.)

The service has committed to maintaining six of the nine A-10 squadrons it has, but the contract will ultimately determine how many wings the service can actually buy, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week, saying “the majority of the A-10 fleet will fly and fight for the foreseeable future.”

The hard-fighting A-10 emerged last year from a debate between lawmakers and the Air Force over whether it would stay in service, and in recent years it has seen duty all over the world.

It was a workhorse in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, releasing 13,856 weapons between August 8, 2014 and mid-2016 — second only to the F-15E Strike Eagle, which released 14,995 weapons over the same period.

The Thunderbolt has also seen duty in Afghanistan, where the government requested the A-10 return in late 2017. A squadron of 12 A-10s arrived in the country in January, where it has taken part in an intensified air campaign against militants in the country — in particular, the Taliban and its drug-producing facilities.

a-10 thunderbolt air forceU.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski

The venerable aircraft will soon face competition closer to home, however, with comparison testing between it and the F-35— the plane originally meant to replace the A-10 — happening as soon as this summer, when the F-35 is scheduled for testing in close-air-support and reconnaissance operations.

Congress has said that the Air Force cannot shed any A-10s until that evaluation takes place. But whatever the results, the Thunderbolt looks likely to have vocal supporters.

“If I were to sit down to design a heavy attack platform, it would look just like the A-10,” Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France told The Aviationist. “Our airframe was built to extend loiter times over the battlefield, deliver a substantial amount of ordnance, and survive significant battle damage. It does these things exceptionally well.”

“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden told Scout Warrior. “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful, calculated, and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”

“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson, the Air Force secretary, told lawmakers in December.

Read more from Business Insider:

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The post The A-10 Warthog Just Got The Money It Needs To Stay Alive appeared first on Task & Purpose.

‘Duke Nukem’ Is Getting A Live-Action Movie Starring John Cena

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 08:59 AM PDT

Every American man of a certain age is intimately familiar with Duke Nukem, the muscle-bound Army veteran who's been crushing alien invaders and saving the planet since he first burst onto your MS-DOS screen back in 1991. But after decades of chewing bubblegum and kicking ass at the behest of the CIA, everyone's favorite action hero is bringing the fight where it belongs: a movie theater near you.

Pro wrestler and brick shithouse John Cena is reportedly on board to play the titular Nukem in a live-action movie adaptation of the iconic video game series, which hopefully will be reminiscent of the breakout 2016 murderfest Deadpool, producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller told CinemaBlend this week.

"[Cena] is confirmed at this point, but if he reads the script and he doesn’t like the script, I’m sure there’s ways that he could pull out, but right now he’s our guy," Form said, adding that the as-yet-unfinished script for the movie is "going to be about tone."

"How do you nail that tone in the way that Deadpool nailed the tone?" he said. "I think we have to do that, and if we don’t get the tone right then we’re not going to make the movie."

Related: John Cena Tells Us What Branch He Would Join If He Went Into The Military »

How do you nail that sweet, sweet Deadpool tone? Gratuitous violence and a hefty dose of uber-macho dick jokes — something easy for Nukem, a pastiche of every barrel-chested Terminator rip-off that ever went straight to video in the '80s and '90s.

And Cena, the goofiest musclehead-turned-actor since Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson became America's woke sweetheart, may be the perfect mix of brawn and humor for the part. Beyond his freakish resemblance to Duke Nukem, Cena has a long relationship with the U.S. military, from going through Marine Corps boot camp as a personal challenge to diving deep into his character as an Army sniper in 2017's The Wall.

Sure, it's not the biggest advantage when you're playing a caricature of a super-soldier fighting off an alien invasion, but Cena will certainly attempt to bring a level of authenticity to the role.

In the meantime, we're just sitting here imagining Cena threatening to skull-fuck us with a size 13 boot.

WATCH NEXT:

The post 'Duke Nukem' Is Getting A Live-Action Movie Starring John Cena appeared first on Task & Purpose.

A New Question (And A Few Regrets) About That Desert Storm Memorial

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 06:45 AM PDT

In response to my item the other day opposing a Desert Storm Memorial (my concerns were, 1. Too small an operation and, 2. War it began not yet over), I got a lot of responses. Some of it hate mail. It is striking how unimaginative such messages are—same words again and again. It felt like we were sitting in the Long March Bar and a bunch of drunks ran through screaming and then ran out the back door. And then the regulars right the chairs and order another round of Imperial IPAs.

But I also got some thoughtful notes from people saying, ‘Hey, I lost friends there, don't mock it.’ I did not intend to do so, and I apologize to those who took offense. I lost friends in Iraq also, and I know that hollow feeling. I also heard from many people suffering health problems they attribute to their service in Desert Storm. It sounds like they need a lot more help than they are getting.

Another person wrote that casualties should not be the metric of whether to erect a memorial. That begs the question: What is the best way to determine whether or not to build a monument on public land?

The post A New Question (And A Few Regrets) About That Desert Storm Memorial appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Russian Spies In Seattle: Black Ops, Soviet Subs And Counterintel In The Pacific Northwest

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 05:00 AM PDT

Wanted — FBI recruits for a career in surveillance. Must be comfortable tailing subjects by foot, vehicle or on public transportation, use electronic equipment, and work nights and weekends as necessary.

The online job post at fbijobs.gov gives a glimpse into the shadowy world of espionage that continues to unfold between the United States and Russia. The Trump administration cited the risk of such clandestine activities in its decision Monday to close the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

The Cold War spycraft that was the stuff of John le Carré thrillers may have taken a back seat in the popular imagination in the age of post-9/11 terrorism, but for FBI agents trying to identify Russian consular staff who are using their positions as cover for intelligence gathering, the work never stopped, and it may have intensified amid growing tensions between Moscow and the West.

"It's no secret that consulates serve as a potential platform for covert activities," said Charles Mandigo, a former special agent in charge of the FBI Seattle office, "just as consulate personnel and embassy staff provide the country with the opportunity to insert a spy onto U.S. soil."

Related: The U.S. Is Shutting Down A Russian Consulate Near A Major Navy Nuclear Arsenal »

Seattle has everything to attract espionage interests from Russia, or any number of other countries, he said.

"Think about it. There's Boeing, which runs all kinds of black operations," said Mandigo, referring to the giant defense contractor's secret work with the Pentagon. "There's the University of Washington, which gets all kinds of government contracts. There's Microsoft. There's proximity from a military point of view, particularly Bangor."

Naval Base Kitsap, near Bremerton, includes the submarine base at Bangor, home to the West Coast fleet of Trident submarines, part of America's triad of land-, air- and sea-based nuclear arsenal. It's estimated that within the past decade, up to a quarter of the country's nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons have been stored there.

David Major, a former FBI agent involved in counterintelligence, estimates that a third of a Russian Consulate's staff may be involved in intelligence work. Major is president of CI Centre, which is involved in counterintelligence training and education.

Tracking when Russian officials come and go from work, when they retire for the night, and who their friends are can be labor-intensive work.

"It can take a long time to identify somebody," Major said. "You want to know everything you can about this person to paint a picture of them."

A senior Trump administration official did not cite any specific incident of Seattle-based espionage linked to this week's orders but said the actions, which included the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats, were part of a broader effort to "degrade" the Russian capability to spy.

The closure of the Seattle consulate — which leaves only three remaining in the country, none on the West Coast — is part of a broader response in the West to allegations that the Kremlin was involved in the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

"There will be a response"

The closure and expulsions were condemned by Russian government officials, who are expected to announce retaliatory measures. They say that diplomatic staff being expelled have worked in space, science, trade, culture and other areas.

"Truth will always prevail. We shall not be provoked into an emotional outburst. But there will be a response," declared the Russian ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, in a statement posed on the embassy website.

The decision to close the consulate has also received pushback from some Americans. They point out that the U.S. and Russia both use diplomatic installations for intelligence gathering, and that in this era of frosty relations, it is important to keep consulates, and lines of communications, open.

"We regret that the interests of U.S. businesses and private citizens are being jeopardized in a political 'tit-for-tat' exchange between the governments," wrote Derek Norberg, president of the Washington-based Council for U.S.-Russia Relations, in a letter to State Department officials after last year's announcement of the closing of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. He is drafting a similar letter of protest about the closing of the Seattle consulate.

Spying subs

Russian espionage interest in Washington state stretches back for decades — long before the 1992 opening of the Seattle consulate.

In 1987, even amid the glasnost thaw, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer broke a story that Soviet submarines — using intelligence garnered from the spy ring formed by John Walker — had penetrated the Strait of Juan de Fuca through the 1980s. Walker served many years in the U.S. Navy, and the leaked information helped Russians slip past U.S. anti-sub defenses.

A decade later, in 1998, Jack Daly, then a Navy lieutenant and intelligence officer, was dispatched on a Canadian helicopter to take surveillance photographs of a Russian cargo ship in the Strait of Juan de Fuca that was suspected of spying on the Trident submarines. He says the ship fired a laser that singed his retinas. He sued in U.S. District Court over the laser attack and his injury, but in 2002, a jury rejected his claim.

As Russian President Boris Yeltsin took power in the 1990s, there was lots of talk of democracy in Russia, and many U.S. officials thought espionage would ebb. "We wanted our peace dividend, and didn't want to worry about this anymore," said Major, who added that the spying did not end and the FBI fought to continue support for counterintelligence as the new consulate opened in Seattle in 1992.

Ayn Dietrich-Williams, FBI spokeswoman in Seattle, declined to comment on FBI surveillance operations in the Puget Sound region. She said the FBI does not disclose the numbers of employees at the Seattle field office because it fluctuates.

Related: Russia, Our New Anti-Terror 'Ally', Is Spying Inside The US Like It's 1959 »

Mandigo, who served 29 years in the FBI until his retirement in 2003, said the bureau has remained fiercely protective of its role in counterespionage, as there aren't other law-enforcement agencies assigned to the task. He said the Seattle "active" counterintelligence division survived the shifting priorities within the bureau in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Mandigo's leadership of the Seattle FBI office included nominal oversight of agents, technicians and others assigned to foreign counterintelligence. But Mandigo explained that he had very little to do with these operations because they were supervised and directed out of FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., or from New York.

In addition to keeping track of Russians, some of this FBI work also involved debriefing Americans who traveled to Russia.

One Washington businessman with work that takes him to Russia said he repeatedly has been approached by FBI officials who want to understand what he does. They don't ask him to conduct espionage but want him to report any criminal activity he sees, said the businessman, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of those contacts.

FBI agents also may be involved in sting operations that target Americans trying to sell secrets.

In 2017, Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old Boeing engineer from Culver City, Calif., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in California to charges of attempted economic espionage. He tried to sell documents to an undercover agent he believed to be a Russian intelligence officer in a case developed out of the FBI office in Los Angeles.

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©2018 The Seattle Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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That’s Rotten! Why Gun Crews In The Age Of Wooden Ships Aimed Low

Posted: 29 Mar 2018 04:00 AM PDT

I always thought that in the age of fighting sail and wooden ships, gun crews aimed their cannons at the waterline because that would sink the enemy's ship. But, I kind of wondered, if that were the case, why not aim slightly lower, where a good shot likely would let even more water in the enemy's hull, and be more difficult to plug? (I thought the answer was perhaps that at many angles, the cannonball might skip, rather than plunge into the water, but I wasn't sure.)

Well, now I know better. There is a very specific reason to aim right at the waterline.

I was reading an discussion of wood rot in boats and trees by Richard Jagels, professor emeritus of forest biology at the University of Maine. He offers a much more precise explanation: On wooden ships, the weakest point on the hull is right along the waterline, because that's where the most rot occurs.

There's a biological explanation for that, having to do with oxygen and moisture. Fungi need a balance of both to thrive and rot wood. Let him tell you: "Above the waterline, planking is usually below 20 to 25 percent moisture content, which is too dry for fungal activity. Below the waterline, wood becomes progressively saturated until the oxygen requirement is not met; again decay is halted. Near the waterline, conditions are just right for decay to rapidly progress: the Goldilocks solution for rot."


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