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February 5, 2014

News Briefs February 5, 2014

U.S. official: Snowden leaks lead to Pentagon change

A top U.S. military intelligence official says the Pentagon will have to make costly changes to programs and personnel because of leaks by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.

Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn told Congress Feb. 4 that his agency has to assume that Snowden took every document he accessed, and that much of it concerned Pentagon programs. He says he believes there will have to be changes in all branches of the U.S. military because investigators have to assume the information is compromised.

Officials have said Snowden downloaded some 1.7 million documents. U.S. intelligence officials have said some of those documents include the identities of undercover operatives. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. AP

China’s navy holds Indian Ocean drills

A three-ship Chinese navy squadron has concluded exercises in the Indian Ocean and sailed on to the western Pacific, showing off the growing reach of the country’s seagoing forces.

State broadcaster CCTV said Feb. 4 the squadron includes China’s largest amphibious landing ship, the Changbaishan, along with a pair of destroyers. It said they reached the Indian Ocean on Jan. 29 and carried out a series of drills on the themes of counter-piracy, search and rescue, and damage control.

Although not directly targeted at India, the exercises underscore China’s rivalry with the other Asian giant.

China has been systematically developing a blue-water navy that has global reach, sending ships to join anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia and taking part in joint exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere. AP

Japan should lift ban on collective defense

A government panel will urge Japan to allow its military to help allies that come under attack, in a major reversal of the country’s ban on collective defense under its pacifist constitution.
The panel on Feb. 4 discussed ways that Japan can improve its defense capability and said it will present its near-final draft recommendation in coming weeks.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants Japan to play a greater role in international peacekeeping and step up its defense posture, citing potential military threats from China and North Korea.

The 14-member panel, headed by former Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai, says the revision is possible if the government alters its current interpretation of the war-renouncing constitution.

Formal constitutional change involves high hurdles, though Abe eventually hopes to achieve that.

The constitution, written under U.S. direction after World War II, says the Japanese people ìforever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nationî and that ìland, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.î The government has interpreted those clauses as meaning that Japan cannot possess offensive military weapons such as ICBMs or long-range strategic bombers.

Abe and other supporters of the change believe that restrictions should be removed from the military, and that Japan’s current self-defense-only policy is inadequate as the region’s security environment becomes more challenging. They say there may be instances in which Japanese troops have to fight for allies during international peacekeeping missions, even when Japan is not attacked directly. AP

U.S. troop morale higher in Afghanistan

U.S. soldiers had higher morale and suffered fewer mental health problems in Afghanistan last year as they handed off more duties to Afghans and saw less combat themselves, according to a report released Feb. 3.

The Army report was drawn from a battlefield survey and interviews in June and July. It was the ninth time since the practice started in 2003 in Iraq that the service had sent a team of mental health experts to the field of war to measure soldier mental health and assess available care.

The report says rates of soldiers with depression, anxiety and acute stress – as well as tendencies toward suicide – were lower than in the most recent previous surveys. AP
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