Huh News! The Man Who Conned the Pentagon

Al JazeeraImage via Wikipedia

Aram Roston writes in about The Man Who Conned The Pentagon. I tell you, this is like watching a really bad, bad comedy movie. It’s funny if only it were not too painful to laugh at taxpayer’s money down the drain. Quick excerpts below.

[T]there were no real intercepts, no new informants, no increase in chatter. And the suspicious package turned out to contain a stuffed snowman. This was, instead, the beginning of a bizarre scam. Behind that terror alert, and a string of contracts and intrigue that continues to this date, there is one unlikely character.

The man’s name is Dennis Montgomery, a self-proclaimed scientist who said he could predict terrorist attacks. Operating with a small software development company, he apparently convinced the Bush White House, the CIA, the Air Force and other agencies that Al Jazeera—the Qatari-owned TV network—was unwittingly transmitting target data to Al Qaeda sleepers.
Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte weighed in. What secrets—what embarrassments—could be exposed if Montgomery and Trepp were to depose intelligence and military officials? Negroponte issued a declaration that warned of “serious, and in some cases exceptionally grave, damage to the national security of the United States.” He invoked the state secrets privilege. The judge in the case issued a protective order; the secrets of eTreppid’s government business would remain untold.

Active links added above. Read the whole spectacular story here.

Goldman Decision Upheld in Brazil; GSP Bill Passes

Here is an update on the child abduction case that has turned into a child custody battle in Brazil that I last posted on Monday (Child Abduction Case Threatens Trade Bill):

The Christian Science Monitor reported that Brazil’s chief justice upheld late yesterday a lower court order handing 9-year-old Sean Goldman over to his American father. The Brazil custody case has been dragging on for five years, reflecting the difficulty of international custody disputes.

More here and here. But no word yet when the boy will actually be turned over to his father in Brazil.

AP also reports that Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s hold on the renewal of the $2.75 billion trade deal that would remove U.S. tariffs on some Brazilian goods was lifted after Tuesday’s ruling.

Last night, the U.S. Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 4284, legislation that will extend the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) duty preference programs until December 31, 2010. As soon as the President signs the bill, the extension will be enacted into law.

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Child Abduction Case Threatens Trade Bill

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[Page: S13792] GPO’s PDF

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President Signs H.R. 3326 Defense Appropriations Act of 2010

The Pentagon, looking northeast with the Potom...Image via Wikipedia

On December 19, 2009, the President signed into law: H.R. 3326, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010,” which provides FY 2010 appropriations for Department of Defense (DOD) military programs including funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, and extends various expiring authorities and other non-defense FY 2010 appropriations.

Bill Total for Defense

FY2009 Enacted: $625.3 billion
President’s Request: $640.1 billion
House Passed: $636.3 billion
Senate Passed: $636.3 billion
2010 Total Bill: $636.3 billion

Some highlights:

  • Military Pay: The bill provides a 3.4% military pay increase, 0.5% above the request.

  • Supporting Military Families: $472.4 million for Family Advocacy programs and full funding for Family Support and Yellow Ribbon to provide support to military families, including quality child care, job training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families experiencing the separation and stress of war.

  • Readiness and Training: $154 billion, $1.3 billion above 2009, for the Defense Operation and Maintenance Account to increase readiness and training of our troops. The bill rebalances funding from preparing for Cold War-era type conflicts to the highest priority readiness requirements for the hybrid operations that our military will be facing for the foreseeable future.

  • Reining in Outsourcing: $5 billion, greater than the previous year, to allow defense personnel, not contractors, to perform critical department functions. The Department estimates that every position that is converted from contract to federal civilian saves on average $44,000 per year. Additionally, the bill reduces contracted advisory and assistance services by $51 million, and includes general provisions to stop further conversions by the Department of Defense from government functions to contractors.

  • The bill also directs DoD to in-source the task of vetting and issuing Common Access Cards and report on planned improvements of access control because the Committee found that about 212,000 contractors had been mistakenly been given Common Access Cards, causing a potential security risk.

  • Inspector General Oversight: $288 million, $16 million above the request, for the Inspector General to hire additional investigators to ensure proper oversight of DoD acquisition and contracting.

  • No Permanent Bases: Continues a general provision prohibiting the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • Torture: Continues a general provision prohibiting the torture of detainees held in US custody.

  • CERP: Provides $1.2 billion, a reduction of $300 million from the request, for the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP), and withholds $500 million in funding until the department develops and submits a comprehensive spending plan.

  • Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility: Provides no funds for the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Naval base.

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