What if China Not Just Hacked — But Sabotaged — the F-35?

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Over the last week, two perennial stories have again dominated the news. China continues to be able to hack us — including top DC power players — at will. And the F-35 has suffered another setback, this time a crack in an engine turbine blade (something which reportedly happened once before, in 2007).

The coincidence of these two events has got me thinking (and mind you, I’m just wondering out loud here): what if China did more than just steal data on the F-35 when it hacked various contractors, and instead sabotaged the program, inserting engineering flaws into the plane in the same way we inserted flaws in Iran’s centrifuge development via StuxNet?

We know China has hacked the F-35 program persistently. In 2008, an IG report revealed that BAE and some of the other then 1,200 (now 1,300) contractors involved weren’t meeting security requirements; last year an anonymous BAE guy admitted that the Chinese had been camped on their networks stealing data for 18 months. In April 2009, WSJ provided a more detailed report on breaches going back to 2007.

The Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35 Lightning II, is the costliest and most technically challenging weapons program the Pentagon has ever attempted. The plane, led by Lockheed Martin Corp., relies on 7.5 million lines of computer code, which the Government Accountability Office said is more than triple the amount used in the current top Air Force fighter.

Six current and former officials familiar with the matter confirmed that the fighter program had been repeatedly broken into.

Read more

DOJ Gives Blackwater a Whitewash On Felony Charges

CryingJusticeSomething funny happened in the Eastern District of North Carolina today. Out of the blue in an extremely significant case, and without particular notice to interested observers, much less the public, the criminal case against former Blackwater executives for weapons trafficking, and a myriad of other weapons violations, ended. Poof! Gone with an undeserved and inexplicable sweetheart misdemeanor plea.

From local Raleigh outlet WRAL:

A federal weapons case against the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide ended Thursday with misdemeanor pleas by two former executives, who were fined and placed on probation.

The case stems in part from a raid conducted by federal agents at the company’s Moyock headquarters in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s. An indictment alleged that the company used the Camden County Sheriff’s Office to pose as the purchaser of dozens of automatic weapons.

The indictment also alleged that Blackwater purchased 227 short barrels and installed them on long rifles without registering them and that company officials presented the king of Jordan with five guns as gifts in hopes of landing a lucrative overseas contract and then falsified federal documents once they realized they were unable to account for the weapons.

Gary Jackson and William Matthews, the former president and executive vice president of the company and both Navy Seals, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of failure to keep records on firearms. They were sentenced to four months of house arrest, three years on probation and fined $5,000.

The original indictment was fifteen counts, count em 15 counts, most all serious felonies with significant punishment in the offing. Now granted, a few counts were pared off after a motion to dismiss by a court order dated February 4, 2013, but significant and substantive counts remained viable against Blackwater executives Jackson and Matthews.

But, instead of taking them to trial, or even extracting a reasonable plea that did justice for the public, the DOJ collaborated with the defense and walked into court without notice today, filed a new information containing a single misdemeanor charge and proceeded to sentence them on the spot to a hand slap.

Here is how the official DOJ Press Release described it:

United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court today GARY JACKSON and WILLIAM WHEELER MATTHEWS, JR. pled guilty before United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan, to one count each of failing to make and maintain records related to firearms in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(m) and 923(g)(1)(A).

Additionally, Judge Flanagan sentenced JACKSON and MATTHEWS to 3 years probation, 4 months house arrest with stipulations, and fined them $5,000.00.

According to the Criminal Information filed on February 14, 2013, JACKSON and MATTHEWS, between 2005 and 2007, were employees of a corporate entity formerly known as Blackwater which was a licensed federal firearms manufacturer and dealer, and whose responsibilities for a certain period of time included direct or indirect supervisory authority over employees whose duties included the making and maintenance of records required by federal law. (Emphasis added)

Oh yeah, there was one other mention of note in the release:

The corporate entity formerly known as Blackwater has entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the government in which it has agreed to extensive ongoing compliance programs and the payment of approximately 7 million dollars in fines.

How nice. The Deferred Prosecution Agreement was actually entered into and noticed back in August of last year. It was easy to see the DPA coming, and as much as the US Government relies on Blackwater/Xe/Academi for their security adventures, it was predictable they would be given a DPA (and, hey, DPAs provide lucrative paydays to former DOJ friends who get set up in cushy monitor jobs).

The DPA was easy to see coming, today’s sweetheart plea was not. No, it happened basically as a covert op on the public and interested legal community. Did you notice the bolded date in the DOJ press release? DOJ states the plea was entered on February 14, 2013. What is interesting is that it was not placed on the official court docket until today – at the same time Judge Louise Flanagan, a conservative Bush appointee, was accepting the plea and sentencing Jackson and Matthews, thus ending the case. All designed so the public would not know and could not have any input. Diametrically contrary to the fundamental precepts of the American justice system.

How little of a wrist slap is the sentence? I’ve had common DWI clients sentenced to more. Compare and contrast to the punishment the DOJ sought to impose on Aaron Swartz.

The sentence is now done and entered, but what about the process? It was a stunning affront to justice and the public right to know. I have complained relentlessly about the collusion between the DOJ and another Bush era criminal, former Office of Special counsel Chief Scott Bloch. But at least in Bloch there was minimal notice given to the public and we knew what was coming, in spite of inexplicable collusion between the DOJ and the criminal defendant. Not so in the case of these Blackwater executives, Jackson, Matthews, et al.

Even in Bloch, in spite of complete collusion on the part of the DOJ, the court set sentencing for nearly three months after the entry of the plea. Not so with Judge Flanagan and the Blackwater boys. How unusual is it that a Federal court sentences criminal defendants immediately in high profile important cases with important implications like this? VERY UNUSUAL.

In fact it is simply stunning, all the more so considering that the parties and the court hid the fact the plea was entered from the public and the court docket system in the period between the entrance of plea on February 14 and the plea acceptance and immediate sentencing today.

To give you an idea of how out of the ordinary such a sentencing on the spot is, there are directly applicable provisions in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that must be specifically obviated on the record to even attempt it. Rule 32(c) provides:

(c) Presentence Investigation.

(1) Required Investigation.

(A) In General. The probation officer must conduct a presentence investigation and submit a report to the court before it imposes sentence unless:

(i) 18 U.S.C. §3593 (c) or another statute requires otherwise; or

(ii) the court finds that the information in the record enables it to meaningfully exercise its sentencing authority under 18 U.S.C. §3553, and the court explains its finding on the record.

(B) Restitution. If the law permits restitution, the probation officer must conduct an investigation and submit a report that contains sufficient information for the court to order restitution.

18 USC 3593 concerns death penalty cases, so the ONLY way Jackson and Matthews could have been sentenced today is for the court to have made a specific finding, based upon information on and in the record, and then stated the specific reasons for the decision, and evidence supporting it, all on the record.

Did Judge Flanagan do that? Well, we do not know because there is no sentencing minute entry on the docket as there normally is. It just isn’t there. What’s more, we cannot know if there was a stipulation to hide the plea entry and immediate sentencing plans in the plea agreement (docket number 364), because the plea agreement is SEALED.

All ability of the public to know this was coming, and to discern what really happened, has been secreted from the public. Secret justice (or, more properly, injustice).

How and why did all this occur? Undoubtedly because of the highly classified and incestuous relationship between Blackwater and the US Government, and the resulting ability of Blackwater to literally blackmail and extort concessions through graymail threats (See here for a short history of graymail).

So, through secrecy, classification, graymail and direct collusion with the DOJ, Blackwater, and its executive henchmen, win and the American public lose yet again. I have been practicing criminal law for 25 years and I am absolutely offended by what occurred in Judge Louise Flanagan’s courtroom today. Both she and the Obama Department of Justice should be made to answer for it.

[UPDATE: It appears the plea agreement itself is not completely sealed, it is just kept “unavailable” from the public docket. Upon information and belief, it can be viewed if you personally go to the clerk’s office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and ask to see it. The other items described in the post as missing from the docket entirely remain so missing.]

Mr. Moral Rectitude’s Sleazy Payment

According to Defense News, John Brennan was paid roughly $2,090 a day while working for The Analysis Corporation in 2008. He was paid roughly $8,496 for each of the 20 days he worked in 2009 before he became Obama’s counterterrorism czar.

A review of Brennan’s financial disclosure reports indicates that in 2009, TAC paid him a total of $169,923 in salary and bonus, which has not been previously reported. The financial disclosure reports, submitted as required of all White House employees, don’t say why he’d receive a bonus if he was leaving the company to join the government, or why he’d received such a large salary if he worked for the company for only 20 days that year.

In November 2008, two months before Brennan joined the Obama administration, TAC announced that the CEO was taking a “leave of absence” from the firm. That is, it is not clear that he was actually on the clock for the transition period before he received that $169,000.

Mind you, this isn’t anything that such illustrious people as Dick Cheney haven’t already done (and in larger figures, too).

Tim Shorrock provided some background on the company in his book.

There were questions about Brennan’s ties to his former company when it was part of the investigation into the failure to connect-the-dots before the UndieBomber attempted to strike the US, though as part of an ethics waver he agreed to recuse himself from anything specifically pertaining to TAC. 

The White House has granted a special ethics waiver to allow President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser to conduct a review of the intelligence and screening breakdown that preceded the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt on an American passenger plane over Detroit.

[snip]

Mr. Brennan, who was a longtime C.I.A. officer, needed the waiver because for more than three years before his current post he was chief executive of the Analysis Corporation, an intelligence firm that provides services to the government. Norm Eisen, the White House ethics counsel, wrote on the White House Web site on Wednesday that Mr. Brennan’s past ties to the company, were outweighed by his knowledge of the nation’s intelligence system.

And, of course, Brennan’s the guy who has sacrificed US privacy to get more data in databases.

The umbrella company that has absorbed TAC continues to get lots of contracts doing intelligence analysis.

Tom Coburn Takes on the Zombie Apocalypse

I tell you, if Tom Coburn just stuck to shutting down the most egregious Homeland Security fearmongering boondoggle abuses rather than shutting down government itself, I might grow to love the man.

His latest effort (for which some of his staffers appear to have staged a very fun photo shoot) takes on the stupid things localities bought under the $7.1 billion Urban Area Security Initiative, which was originally intended to help likely terrorist targets (like NYC) prepare against an attack, but which turned into a big boondoggle for towns unlikely to be targeted.

The describes how Keene, NH (home of the Free State Project) tried to use a grant to buy its 40-cop police department–which has faced just one murder in the last two years–an armored vehicle to protect its annual pumpkin festival. Keene was not alone; the report has several pages dedicated to the graft Lenco Armored Vehicles has been conducting selling governments in Waukesha, WI and Santa Barbara, Carlsbad, Escondido, and Fontana, CA BearCats they have no need for using sole source bids.

The report attacks Pittsburgh for having bought an LRAD–which it used during the G-20–as “a kinder and gentler way to get people to leave.” It also describes how San Diego County used an LRAD to protect a speaking event with Darrell Issa, Duncan Hunter, and Susan Davis.

But the centerpiece of the report is the description of how first responders used grant money to attend a training session in a San Diego resort at which they were entertained by a Zombie Apocalypse simulation billed as “a very real exercise, this is not some type of big costume party.”

One notable training-related event that was deemed an allowable expense by DHS was the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit 2012. Held at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa on an island outside San Diego, the 5-day summit was deemed an allowable expense by DHS, permitting first responders to use grant funds for the $1,000 entrance fee. Event organizers described the location for the training event as an island paradise: “the exotic beauty and lush grandeur of this unique island setting that creates a perfect backdrop for the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit.

[snip]

The marquee event over the summit, however, was its highly-promoted “zombie apocalypse” demonstration. Read more

Did Michael Hayden Pick the Contractor for Mitt’s Voter Turnout Website?

A lot of people are laughing at this account of Mitt Romney’s ORCA–and automated GOTV tracking system. Rather than the efficient new system that would leapfrog Obama’s turnout machine, the system crashed even before the evening rush started.

The entire purpose of this project was to digitize the decades-old practice of strike lists. The old way was to sit with your paper and mark off people that have voted and every hour or so, someone from the campaign would come get your list and take it back to local headquarters. Then, they’d begin contacting people that hadn’t voted yet and encourage them to head to the polls. It’s worked for years.

From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of “rah-rahs” and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.

Working primarily as a web developer, I had some serious questions. Things like “Has this been stress tested?”, “Is there redundancy in place?” and “What steps have been taken to combat a coordinated DDOS attack or the like?”, among others. These types of questions were brushed aside (truth be told, they never took one of my questions). They assured us that the system had been relentlessly tested and would be a tremendous success.

[snip]

Now a note about the technology itself. For starters, this was billed as an “app” when it was actually a mobile-optimized website (or “web app”). For days I saw people on Twitter saying they couldn’t find the app on the Android Market or iTunes and couldn’t download it. Well, that’s because it didn’t exist. It was a website. This created a ton of confusion. Not to mention that they didn’t even “turn it on” until 6AM in the morning, so people couldn’t properly familiarize themselves with how it worked on their personal phone beforehand.

[snip]

From what I understand, the entire system crashed at around 4PM.

FWIW, Obama’s campaign had two innovations from 2008 this year. For vote trackers–the same purpose as this website was supposed to serve–they had bar code labels for each voter that the tracker would collect on a sheet to be picked up; I assume–but did not see–someone came and picked up those labels and used them later in the day.

Read more

Another Breach of Contractor-Protected Critical Infrastructure

In my never-ending campaign to document all the ways the private sector is a bigger risk to our critical infrastructure than terrorists, hackers, political activists, or average citizens, take a look at the job Raytheon’s $100 million security system for JFK Airport has done.

Daniel Casillo, 31, was able to swim up to and enter the airport grounds on Friday night, past an intricate system of motion sensors and closed-circuit cameras designed to to safeguard against terrorists, authorities said.

[snip]

“We have called for an expedited review of the incident and a complete investigation to determine how Raytheon’s perimeter intrusion detection system-which exceeds federal requirements-could be improved. Our goal is to keep the region’s airports safe and secure at all times,” the Port Authority said in a statement.

This comes just weeks after an 82 year old peace activist was able to breach the security provided by failed Olympic security contractor G4S. In response to that failure, POGO is calling out Energy Secretary Steven Chu for his history of outsourcing to poorly-overseen contractors.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement provided to the Knoxville News Sentinel on Monday: “The department has no tolerance for security breaches at any of our sites, and I am committed to ensure that those responsible will be held accountable.” But there is no denying that Y-12 [the actual part of Oak Ridge breached] was a giant failure of federal oversight. Now the people being axed are lower-level employees rather than those who have allowed the security standards to fall far below acceptable levels, such as Secretary Chu, himself.

Secretary Chu should be the first on the chopping block. He has been preaching for years that government overseers should get off the back of the contractors and everything will be fine. Then, of course, he is shocked when Y-12 is successfully attacked by an 82-year-old nun.

After only one year in the position, Secretary Chu’s deputy secretary, Daniel B Poneman, sent a memorandum (PDF) to the department with a safety and security reform plan aimed at curtailing pesky government oversight. “Contractors are provided the flexibility to tailor and implement safety programs in light of their situation without excessive Federal oversight or overly prescriptive Departmental requirements,” the memo said.

It should be clear by now that the current culture at DOE and its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is to take their orders from contractors and provide little or no oversight. Read more

Blackwater’s Slap on the Wrist for Gun Smuggling and Arms Trafficking

Viewed from one perspective the facts that Blackwater has admitted to amount to running guns–precisely the crime that Fast and Furious attempted to combat. Viewed from another perspective, Blackwater’s actions amount to the same kind of thing Viktor Bout is in prison for: making weapons deals with sanctioned entities.

But Blackwater will suffer no more than a wrist slap for such things: a $7.5 million fine, a third of which can be credited to implementing a compliance system that is substantially already in place, as well as a $42 million Consent Agreement fine it signed two years ago. (It has paid two $6 million installments of the $42 million fine it owes to State Department; even while it continues to get contracts with State)

That doesn’t make the Deferred Prosecution Agreement any less funny.

There are the repeated lists of all the aliases of Blackwater–by my count some 37 companies or subsidiaries. Just in case you needed master list of how many times it has tried to change its identity.

There’s the bragging about Blackwater’s new compliance structure (paid for, presumably, as part of this fine), featuring John Ashcroft (the monitor on one of the most corrupt DPAs ever) and former AIG (AIG?!?!?!) compliance whiz Suzanne Folsom.

There’s the way it says Blackwater can’t charge the government any aspect of its fine (what is left after its credit for compliance infrastructure, that is). Only in DPAs is money not fungible, I guess.

There’s the way they try to guard against Blackwater rebranding again (the DPA is written in the name Academi and invokes Xe) by selling itself to someone else. (There’s apparently an Erik Prince declaration I’m going to have to chase down tomorrow.)

And there’s the way that of those who signed this DPA for Blackwater, only the name of the attorney is included in the text.

Now maybe I shouldn’t be laughing so hard. The DPA implies that the US Attorney in North Carolina’s Eastern District, Thomas Walker, is still investigating. Maybe Erik Prince will go to jail? Ha!

But this DPA is more a case study in the myriad ways corporate entities escape all justice in this day and age than any real accountability for the same kind of actions we impose stiff sentences on others for.

As always, the lesson is if you’re going to commit crimes, do it as a corporation.

Nuke Site Breached Just Days After SSCI Moved to Eliminate Reporting on Nuke Site Security

I have been dawdling about writing this post, in which I explain that two of the reporting requirements the Senate Intelligence Committee rather stupidly, IMO, moved to eliminate last week pertain to the security of our nuclear labs.

Back when I criticized the plan to eliminate these reports in June, I wrote,

The bill would eliminate two reporting requirements imposed in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee scandal: that the President report on how the government is defending against Chinese spying and that the Secretary of Energy report on the security of the nation’s nuclear labs. Just last year, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory had to separate from the Internet because some entity–China would be a good candidate–had hacked the lab and was downloading data from their servers. Now seems a really stupid time to stop reporting on efforts to avoid such breaches.

In spite of these very obvious reasons, the Senate did indeed eliminate two reporting requirements pertaining to national labs (though they kept the one pertaining to Chinese spying).

(7) REPEAL OF REPORTING REQUIREMENT REGARDING COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY PRACTICES AT THE NATIONAL LABORATORIES.—Section 4507 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act (50 U.S.C. 2658) is repealed.

(8) REPEAL OF REPORTING REQUIREMENT REGARDING SECURITY VULNERABILITIES OF NATIONAL LABORATORY COMPUTERS.—Section 4508 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act (50 U.S.C. 2659) is repealed.

I’m glad I waited. Now I can use this story to demonstrate how vulnerable our nuclear labs remain.

The U.S. government’s only facility for handling, processing and storing weapons-grade uranium [Oak Ridge National Lab] was temporarily shut this week after anti-nuclear activists, including an 82-year-old nun, breached security fences, government officials said on Thursday.

[snip]

The activists painted slogans and threw what they said was human blood on the wall of the facility, one of numerous buildings in the facility known by the code name Y-12 that it was given during World War II, officials said.

While moving between the perimeter fences, the activists triggered sensors which alerted security personnel. However, officials conceded that the intruders still were able to reach the building’s walls before security personnel got to them.

When James Clapper’s office asked to throw these reports out, they justified it by saying they could just brief the information rather than report it regularly.

This reporting requirement should be repealed because it is over a decade old and the Secretary of Energy and the National Counterintelligence Executive can provide the information requested through briefings, as requested, if congressional interest persists.

Oak Ridge Lab has been breached twice in two years, once via its computer systems and now physically. I’m sure Congress will be getting a slew of briefings about the lab, but it really does seem like a little reporting requirement might help DOE to take this seriously.

The Transnational Crime Organizations Chasing the Transnational Crime Organizations

William Arkin has a post on the proliferation of what he calls the “counter-everything” trend–organizations targeting transnational organizations that sell drugs or people or whatever. He ends it by wondering why this is all getting worse–why borders are more porous after 10 years of purportedly combating transnational whatevers.

Finally, one has to ask, with all of the enhanced intelligence collection and sharing and border control that is part of the post 9/11 world, why is this problem getting worse?  How is that possible, that borders are more porous?  So much for the war against terrorism.

You might start with the fact that in response to a threat posed by unprivileged enemy combatants (AKA terrorists) we sent out a bunch of men, not wearing uniforms, to engage in warfare that mirrors those other unprivileged combatants.

But the problem becomes even more apparent when you read Arkin’s list of contractors getting rich of the pursuit of transnational criminal organizations.

Other contractors providing intelligence support to the trafficking empire include: BAE Systems, Celestar, Delex Systems, Duer Advanced Technology & Aerospace (DATA), FedSys, Inc., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 STRATIS, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Prosync Technology Group, and SAIC.  Parsons Corporation is working on the methamphetamine/precursor chemicals problem set for the DIA.

My favorite among these is BAE, which almost caught money laundering to set up a slush fund for covert ops, until the Saudis threatened to stop partnering with us to combat the terrorism that Saudis citizens were then and probably are still funding.

I guess DOD wanted to bring in experts on transnational crime.

Then Tim Shorrock got into the laugh, and pointed out that SAIC recently got caught running a giant kickback scheme to defraud NYC. Lucky for SAIC the Obama Administration hasn’t ended the fetish for Deferred Prosecution Agreements that let companies like this continue chasing transnational thieves.

And then there’s the really seedy pick: of Parsons Corporation–they were literally deemed the “most wasteful” Iraq contractor, making them a bit of a poster child for corruption–“working on the methamphetamine/precursor chemicals problem set for the DIA.” Mind you, when Parsons was last robbing federal taxpayers and even now, they billed themselves primarily as a construction company (they’re famous for schools in Iraq that started crumbling before they were finished)–though they have branched out into the spook business. And yet they’ve sold themselves as drug experts to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

I simply can’t imagine why the transnational crime problem continues to grow.

Iraq Learned the Ray Davis Lesson from Pakistan

Before I point out an (IMO) overlooked detail from the NYT story describing how contractors in Iraq are being “harassed,” let me first draw attention to what NYT has hidden in paragraph 8:

Private contractors are integral to postwar Iraq’s economic development and security, foreign businessmen and American officials say, but they remain a powerful symbol of American might, with some Iraqis accusing them of running roughshod over the country. [my emphasis]

I suppose NYT felt the need to offer an innocuous explanation for the presence of so many contractors. But when you realize who is offering that explanation, the attempt to normalize the contractors doesn’t seem so innocuous anymore.

Which leads me to the detail that most struck me.

Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, industry officials say, including many Americans who work for the United States Embassy, in one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government’s asserting its sovereignty after the American troop withdrawal last month.

The detentions have occurred largely at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about the contractors’ documents, including visas, weapons permits and authorizations to drive certain routes. Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks. [my emphasis]

You see, it’s not just that Iraq has created the TSA identity check from hell for the contractors at the Baghdad Airport. It’s not just that Iraq wants to keep track of who’s packing what. Iraq also has certain routes they’re restricting access to without appropriate paperwork, thereby limiting access to those areas for anyone not willing to go without a contractor protecting them or at least sufficient notice to get paperwork.

That kind of location-based “harassment” seems to be behind the most extreme case described, in which Iraq stopped a 10-car convoy–of the 15 contractors involved, 12 were Iraqi–on its way from south of Baghdad north of the city.

Last month, two Americans, a Fijian and 12 Iraqis employed by Triple Canopy, a private security company, were detained for 18 days after their 10-vehicle convoy from Kalsu, south of Baghdad, to Taji, north of the capital, was stopped for what Iraqi officials said was improper paperwork.

One of the Americans, Alex Antiohos, 32, a former Army Green Beret medic from North Babylon, N.Y., who served in the Iraq war, said in a telephone interview Sunday that he and his colleagues were kept at an Iraqi army camp, fed insect-infested plates of rice and fish, forced to sleep in a former jail, and though not physically mistreated were verbally threatened by an Iraqi general who visited them periodically. “At times, I feared for my safety,” Mr. Antiohos said.

It’s not clear whether this will continue. An anonymous DOD source quoted in the story suggests the tension reflects a period of adjustment. But to the extent it does continue, it does more than just push around the contractors who have been pushing around Iraqis for 8 years.

It also means that outside businessmen stay away from certain places. It makes it less likely that American intelligence officers will seek out certain parts of the country. That may–as NYT’s apologists suggest–hinder Iraq’s development. It may permit Nuri al-Maliki to assert control of the country in some very unsavory ways.

But this seems more than “asserting sovereignty,” like a teenage kid with a new drivers license. Iraq seems to be imposing specific restrictions that may restrict the plans we’ve got for Iraq going forward.

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