TIME National Security

Former Navy SEAL Who Wrote Bin Laden Raid Book Under Investigation

Book Review No Easy Day
"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden," by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer. AP

Matt Bissonnette wrote 'No Easy Day' (2012) under the pen name Mark Owen

A former Navy SEAL is being investigated by the Justice Department for potentially outing classified material in his best-selling book about the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to a new report.

An attorney for Matt Bissonnette told The New York Times that his client, who wrote No Easy Day under the name Mark Owen, had apologized for not allowing the Pentagon to sign off on his book and offered to relinquish a portion of the millions in royalties he earned from it. Others familiar with the probe said investigators are also interested in Bissonnette’s paid speeches at corporate events.

The report of an investigation comes as Bissonnette readies to release a second book called No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL.

[NYT]

TIME Military

Hagel Orders 21-Day Ebola Quarantine for Returning U.S. Troops

A health worker takes the temperature of U.S. Marines arriving to take part in Operation United Assistance on Oct. 9, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia.
A health worker takes the temperature of U.S. Marines arriving to take part in Operation United Assistance on Oct. 9, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty Images

Military commanders had recommended that Hagel implement a quarantine

U.S. troops who are returning from Ebola missions in West Africa will be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days upon their return home, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.

Military leaders recommended the 21-day quarantine, which goes beyond precautions advised by the Obama Administration for civilians, the Associated Press reports. President Obama has said that the military’s situation is different, however, partly because the troops are not in West Africa by choice.

“The secretary believes these initial steps are prudent given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

Hagel said his order was in response to a recommendation sent to him Tuesday by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The policy will be up for review in 45 days.

About 1,000 U.S. troops are in Liberia and Senegal supporting efforts to combat and contain the virus. Some returning soldiers were put on a 21-day quarantine earlier this week.

TIME White House

White House Computer Networks Hacked

Early morning sunrise is seen over the White House in Washington, Oct. 28, 2014.
Early morning sunrise is seen over the White House in Washington, Oct. 28, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

Russian hackers suspected

Hackers believed to be employed by the Russian government breached White House computer networks in recent weeks, temporarily disrupting services.

Citing unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported there was no evidence that hackers had breached classified networks or that any of the systems were damaged. Intranet or VPN access was shut off for a period but the email system was never downed. The breach was discovered two to three weeks ago, after U.S. officials were alerted to it by an unnamed ally.

“On a regular basis, there are bad actors out there who are attempting to achieve intrusions into our system,” a White House official told the Post. “This is a constant battle for the government and our sensitive government computer systems, so it’s always a concern for us that individuals are trying to compromise systems and get access to our networks.”

Cybersecurity firms in recent weeks have identified NATO, the Ukrainian government and U.S. defense contractors as targets of Russian hackers thought to be working for the government.

[The Washington Post]

 

TIME National Security

U.S. Boosts National Security After Ottawa Shooting

Exact locations of increased security will not be disclosed

Security at U.S. government buildings around the nation will be boosted in the wake of violence that targeted government officials and federal establishments in Canada last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday.

The presence of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) will be enhanced around several locations in Washington, D.C. and other major cities in the country, Johnson said in a statement. FPS protects more than 9,500 federal government buildings that are visited every day by some 1.4 million people, according to the Associated Press. The exact locations and actions will not be disclosed, as they are are sensitive to law-enforcement, but Johnson added that the security presence will be re-evaluated continuously.

The increased security is a precautionary measure to protect government personnel and facilities after a Canadian soldier was fatally shot in Ottawa just outside Parliament, Johnson said. The shooting is the latest crime linked to extremism that targeted government buildings or officials, following a hatchet attack last week on four New York Police Department officers.

“Given world events, prudence dictates a heightened vigilance in the protection of U.S. government installations and our personnel,” Johnson said. “We urge state and local governments and their law enforcement personnel, along with critical infrastructure owners and operators, to be equally vigilant, particularly in guarding against potential small-scale attacks by a lone offender or a small group of individuals.”

TIME National Security

Postal Service Approved 50,000 Requests to Track U.S. Mail, Report Says

US Postal Service Mail Delivery Ahead Of Second-Quarter Results
U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks sit at the Brookland Post Office in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 2013. Bloomberg—Getty Images

An internal audit raised concerns over mail-tracking oversight

The United States Postal Service (USPS) approved some 50,000 requests from law enforcement officials and its own inspectors in 2013 to track Americans’ mail for security and criminal purposes, a New York Times report revealed Monday.

An internal 2014 USPS audit cited by the Times suggested that the protocol for approving the tracking of U.S. mail suffered from a number of flaws, as some requests to track mail were approved without adequate oversight while others didn’t receive immediate attention.

“Insufficient controls could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail and harm the Postal Service’s brand,” the report found.

Read the full story in the New York Times

TIME National Security

Nobel Peace Prize Winners Push Obama for Release of Torture Report

US-POLITICS-OBAMA
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a rally at Chicago State University Oct. 19, 2014 in Chicago. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

Say American leaders have “eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend”

Twelve winners of the Nobel Peace Prize asked President Barack Obama late Sunday to make sure that a Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of harsh interrogation tactics is released so the U.S. can put an end to a practice condemned by many as torture.

The release of the report, which is the most detailed account of the CIA’s interrogation practices in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, would be an opportunity for the U.S. and the world to come to terms with interrogation techniques that went too far, the laureates said in an open letter and petition. The release of the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has stalled as the Obama Administration the CIA, and lawmakers clashed over how much of it should be redacted.

American leaders have “eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend” by engaging in and justifying torture, the peace prize winners said. The letter was published on TheCommunity.com, a project spearheaded by Peace Prize winner and international peacemaker José Ramos-Horta.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is among the laureates behind the letter, which also calls for the closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Read next: The Tragic Nobel Peace Prize Story You’ve Probably Never Heard

TIME Military

What the Failure of ISIS to Take Kobani Means

US-led coalition forces hit ISIL targets in Kobani
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani following a U.S.-led air strike on Sunday. Sercan Kucuksahin / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The Kurdish struggle to hold on to Syrian border town isn't all good news

Coming back after two weeks away, it’s surprising that the Syrian town of Kobani hasn’t fallen to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Pentagon officials were predicting earlier this month that ISIS fighters would overrun the town, near the Turkish border, by mid-October, followed by widespread slaughters among the conquered population.

That hasn’t happened. And while that’s obviously good news in the short term for the city’s 200,000 largely-Kurdish residents, it’s tougher to handicap what it means for the long-term U.S.-led effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.

Earlier this month, U.S. military officers were speaking of ISIS’s “momentum,” and how its string of military successes over the past year meant that quickly halting its advance would likely prove difficult if not impossible. Yet, as far as Kobani is concerned, that seems to be what is taking place.

But that raises the stakes for the U.S. and its allies. Having smothered ISIS’s momentum, an eventual ISIS victory in the battle for Kobani would be a more devastating defeat for the U.S. military than an earlier collapse of the town.

There are concerns that the focus on saving Kobani is giving ISIS free reign elsewhere in its self-declared caliphate—that the U.S., in essence, could end up winning the battle while losing the war.

“The U.S. air campaign has turned into an unfocused mess,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote Friday. “The U.S. has shifted limited air strike resources to focus on Syria and a militarily meaningless and isolated small Syrian Kurdish enclave at Kobani at the expense of supporting Iraqi forces in Anbar and intensifying the air campaign against other Islamic State targets in Syria.”

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed frustration that the Obama Administration believes its latest fight against ISIS will yield success when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t. “We understand the definition of insanity: continue to do the same thing and expect something different to happen,” he said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “If we can contain them there, leave them there, I don’t know what else to do. They’re intent on destroying each other, and they’ve been doing it for 1,400 years.”

The chattering classes are likewise not impressed by the fight for Kobani and the overall U.S. strategy against ISIS.

“The town, once dismissed as inconsequential by American commanders, has become not only a focus of the American operation against the Islamic State, known as ISIS, but also a test of the administration’s strategy, which is based on airstrikes on ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and reliance on local ground forces to defeat the militants,” the New York Times said in a Friday editorial. “A setback in Kobani would show the fragility of the American plan and hand the Islamic State an important victory.”

On Sunday, the Washington Post declared Obama’s strategy “unworkable,” and said “the United States will have to broaden its aims and increase its military commitment if the terrorists are to be defeated” (the Post‘s advocacy for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq should be kept in mind while listening to such drumbeats).

For its part, the Pentagon is willing to trade 2003’s “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad for a long-term campaign of modest and persistent air strikes that can stall ISIS until better-trained Iraqi forces and yet-to-be-tapped-for-training Syrian rebels can begin reclaiming territory.

The U.S. military is willing to take its time, not that it has much choice, given the situation on the ground and the curbs placed on it by the White House. “Here we are not three months into it and there are critics saying it’s falling apart; it’s failing; the strategy is not sound,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Friday. “The strategy is sound and it’s working and there’s no plans to deviate it from right now.”

The Pentagon has made clear from the start that the battle against ISIS “will be a years-long effort,” Kirby said. “So I think a little bit of patience is required here.” Patience, of course, has never been an American trait. Democracies in general are ill-suited to waging lengthy wars.

But one thing the Pentagon has on its side is the dearth of casualties so far in what some are calling the third Iraq war. A Marine was killed Oct. 1 when he jumped from a V-22 aircraft in the Persian Gulf because he feared the aircraft was going to crash (it didn’t). A second Marine died in Baghdad Oct. 23 in what the Pentagon called a “non-combat-related incident.”

If the U.S. can turn the campaign against ISIS into a sustained, low-casualty operation like the drone wars it has been secretly waging for years in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, the public may go along. Whether that will be sufficient to degrade ISIS is, of course, a separate issue.

Read next: 19-Year-Old Marine Is First Soldier to Die Fighting ISIS in Iraq

TIME politics

It Shouldn’t Take Another Tragedy To Reform the Secret Service

US-POLITICS-SECURITY-WHITE HOUSE
A member of Secret Service walks on the North Lawn of the White Houes on October 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama has appointed former Presidential Protective Division (PPD) director Joe Clancy as interim head of the Secret Service a day after Julia Pierson stepped down from the post. MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images

Ronald Kessler is the author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

The latest incident underscores how important it is to overhaul the Secret Service and its management culture that fosters cutting corners

At least a dozen times a year, intruders try to jump the White House fence. Many of them succeed. Until Omar Gonzalez penetrated the White House itself, the Secret Service had stopped the intruders before they got inside, as the Secret Service admirably did on Wednesday evening when a Uniformed Division dog took down a fence jumper.

But this recent incident spotlights how foolish it is to keep the White House fence where it is. Many will argue that moving the perimeter to Lafayette Park and closing off access to the public along Pennsylvania Avenue somehow shuts down access to the president. But no one has access to the president without an appointment and being cleared by the Secret Service. The public sees the president almost every day on television. The idea that our rights will somehow be impinged upon by making the White House safer is a myth.

However, the latest incident underscores how important it is to overhaul the Secret Service and its management culture that fosters cutting corners. A report issued this week by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General brings that into vivid focus. The report describes how Secret Service management as part of Operation Moonlight diverted agents on the so-called Prowler team from protecting President Obama at the White House to instead protecting Lisa Chopey, the assistant to then Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, at her home in southern Maryland.

As first reported in my book The First Family Detail, the agents who were diverted to protect Chopey also retrieved confidential law enforcement records on Chopey’s neighbor who had allegedly harassed her. But neither the Secret Service nor the FBI has the authority to protect its own employees. Only when a federal law enforcement officer is threatened or retaliated against as a result of an investigation does such action become a federal offense. As a support employee, Chopey is not a law enforcement officer and was not engaged in an investigation. Thus, retrieving 13 pages of records on the neighbor violated federal criminal laws because the agents had no legitimate law enforcement authority to conduct an investigation of this nature (a point the DHS report failed to note).

Also left unsaid in the DHS report was that one of the purposes of the Prowler team is to look for possible snipers as Marine One lifts off with the president from the White House grounds. On July 1, 2011, Obama and his family left in the helicopter in the late afternoon to go to Camp David, but the Prowler team was nowhere to be found. Instead, the team had been diverted to protect Chopey in southern Maryland.

As if that is not shocking enough, the DHS report quotes Secret Service management and former director Sullivan as defending the decision to divert agents from protecting the president. They claimed the diversion did not impinge on the president’s safety. That, along with the comment by former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson that Secret Service uniformed officers exercised “tremendous restraint” in not taking out Gonzalez even though he penetrated the White House, pinpoints both the arrogance and the negligence of the Secret Service today.

The Secret Service agents involved in Operation Moonlight were fully aware that they were breaking the law, but they felt that their jobs were on the line, a Secret Service agent who asked not to be quoted by name for fear of reprisals told me for the book. The agents “obtained all this information illegally and kept it and were told not to talk about it outside the squad,” the agent says. “They kept records at the duty desk and made agents on every shift initial that they had gone all the way out to southern Maryland to check on the woman’s welfare on the taxpayer dollar.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has appointed a four-person panel to recommend security improvements at the White House and to suggest a new director. One development the panel should explore are so-called non-lethal weapons such as ear-splitting sound and high-energy beams that are used to protect our nuclear facilities. And the panel should recommend an outside director such as a former FBI official to change the management culture that encourages cover-ups and brazenly defends the indefensible.

This time, the Secret Service succeeded in apprehending a fence jumper. The next time, it may not. It took the assassination of President Kennedy to substantially upgrade the Secret Service the last time. It should not take another tragedy to reform the Secret Service now.

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME National Security

U.S.: 1 American Released From North Korea

Jeffrey Fowle
Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea speaks to the Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Wong Maye-E—AP

(WASHINGTON) — Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released, the State Department said Tuesday.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was on his way home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. Fowle is from Miamisburg, Ohio. Harf said the U.S. is still trying to free Americans Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae.

Associated Press journalists in Pyongyang spotted the U.S. government plane at the capital’s international on Tuesday.

Washington has tried for months to send a high-level envoy to North Korea to seek release of the three men.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage in its standoff with the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs, a charge that Pyongyang denies.

TIME National Security

More Americans Say Boots Are Needed on the Ground to Fight ISIS

Syrian Kurds Battle IS To Retain Control Of Kobani
Smoke billows following an airstrike by US-led coalition aircraft in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and militants from Islamic State, on October 14, 2014 as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border. Gokhan Sahin—Getty Images

Many believe the air campaign is not enough, a poll finds

More and more Americans say combat ground troops need to be deployed to take the fight to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Approximately 41% of Americans surveyed said the military campaign against ISIS should include “air strikes and combat troops,” compared with the 35% who said the offensive should be constrained to aerial bombardments. Of the individuals polled, just 15% said they believed no military action should be taken against the radical Islamist group.

The findings represent a reversal in public opinion since a similar poll was taken in September, when 40% of those surveyed only backed air strikes and 34% were in favor of the use of aerial assaults and combat troops together.

Coalition bombers and fighter jets continued to batter ISIS positions across Iraq and Syria this week. U.S. Central Command confirmed that American aircraft and those from partner nations launched 22 strikes in Syria and at least one aerial assault in Iraq on Tuesday.

Read next: The FBI Wants Your Help IDing American ISIS Fighters

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