9 October, 2019 12:34

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, October 8, 2019 which is National Fluffernutter Day, World Octopus Day, National Pierogi Day and Alvin C. York Day.

This Past Weekend in Legion History:

· Oct. 8, 1925: Passed at the 7th American Legion National Convention in Omaha is a resolution calling for the national Americanism Commission to develop a plan to formalize a collaboration with the American Red Cross to provide natural disaster relief when and where needed. Posts nationwide by that time have already developed and begun executing disaster-relief programs of their own, often working with Red Cross.

This Day in History:

· The most devastating fire in United States history burns in Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. Some 1,200 people lost their lives and 2 billion trees were consumed by flames. Despite the massive scale of the blaze, it was overshadowed by the Great Chicago Fire, which began later that night about 250 miles away. Peshtigo, Wisconsin, was a company lumber and sawmill town owned by William Ogden that was home to what was then one of the largest wood-products factories in the United States. The summer of 1871 was particularly dry across the northern Midwest. Still, settlers continued to set fires, using the “slash and burn” method to create new farmland and, in the process, making the risk of forest fire substantial. In fact, the month before had seen significant fires burn from Canada to Iowa.

· 1967: A Bolivian guerrilla force led by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara is defeated in a skirmish with a special detachment of the Bolivian army. Guevara was wounded, captured and executed the next day.

· On October 8, 1918, United States Corporal Alvin C. York reportedly kills over 20 German soldiers and captures an additional 132 at the head of a small detachment in the Argonne Forest near the Meuse River in France. The exploits later earned York the Congressional Medal of Honor.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Military Times: US withdrawal in Syria is only a small number of special operators, says Trump administration

· Defense News: Key Republicans, Dems blast Trump’s surprise withdrawal from Syria

· Army Times: More than half of Army spouses in survey say they are stressed, overwhelmed and tired, report shows

· Breaking Defense: Impeachment Slows All Hill Defense Biz; DoD Approps On Life Support

· Stripes: Prosecutors, defense lawyers going to Afghanistan for case of ex-Green Beret charged with murder

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Military Times: US withdrawal in Syria is only a small number of special operators, says Trump administration

By: Shawn Snow   19 hours ago

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The Pentagon said Monday it does not endorse a Turkish operation in northern Syria, and that U.S. troops would not support or be involved in such an operation.

The statement from the Pentagon follows Sunday’s White House announcement that U.S. troops would withdraw from northeastern Syrian ahead of a potential Turkish military incursion to rout out Kurdish militants.

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that Sunday’s announcement did not constitute a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria and that only 50 to 100 U.S. special operations forces were moving to other locations in Syria.

The official explained that Trump’s decision to move the special operators out of the zone of a potential Turkish operation was done to protect troops and keep them out of the crossfire.

Those troops are moving to more secure areas over the next several days, the official said.

“The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the president — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria," Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman said. “The U.S. armed forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.”

Turkey’s potential invasion of northern Syria threatens a resurgence of Islamic State fighters in the region.

The DoD reiterated that “coordination and cooperation” were the best options forward and that unilateral action could create risks for Turkey, Hoffman said.

Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, confirmed to Military Times that Turkey had been pulled off the air tasking order and that the U.S. was not sharing reconnaissance drone feeds with the country.

Thousands of ISIS fighters under the watch of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces across dozens of pop-up detention facilities in northern Syria represent a time bomb waiting to explode.

Their release could lead to a comeback for the terrorist group that has since largely been scattered to remote ares under intense coalition air support and sustained operations by SDF forces.

The White House said Turkey would be responsible for the ISIS fighters detained over the last several years. Sunday’s statement came following a call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

But, some argue America’s NATO ally does not have the capacity or will to oversee the tens of thousands of detainees and refugees.

“Turkey has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity to manage 60k detainees in al Hol camp, which State and DoD IGs [inspector general] warn is the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS. Believing otherwise is a reckless gamble with our national security,” Brett McGurk, Trump’s former envoy for the fight against ISIS, tweeted.

Turkey has long made claims of a pending invasion of northern Syria to buffer against what it sees as Kurdish groups aligned with the terrorist group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Kurdish YPG fighters who fought under the larger SDF umbrella organization to liberate northeastern Syria from ISIS fighters have various allegiances to the PKK. That connection has soured relations between Ankara and Washington.

The stressed relationship now threatens a breakout or release of ISIS prisoners, which could flood the battlefield with new fighters and offset gains made by the coalition and SDF forces who have grounded the terror group into small rural and desert pockets across the Euphrates.

SDF forces are currently holding roughly 11,000 ISIS detainees across more than 30 detention facilities, according to Marine Capt. Marisa Roberts, a spokeswoman for the the U.S.-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria known as Operation Inherent Resolve.

Among those detainees are also nearly 2,000 foreign fighters, “who would otherwise try to return to their home countries and plot attacks on innocent civilians,” Roberts said.

A camp for internally displaced persons known as al-Hol, located in Hasakah province, Syria, is well over capacity, holding nearly 70,000 people including thousands of ISIS families, according to a DoD report.

A DoD inpector general’s report said the SDF were only capable of providing “minimal security” for the sprawling camp, which has allowed “uncontested conditions to spread of ISIS ideology."

The report also said that due to the drawdown of U.S. forces in Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve was having trouble tracking the situation in the camp.

U.S. Central Command noted in the inspector general report that ISIS was likely “exploiting the lack of security” at the camp to recruit and reestablish communications with fighters who left the battlefield.

A congressionally mandated report on the Syrian civil war also sounded the alarm regarding the threat poised by the overburdened ISIS prison camps.

“Security conditions are tenuous inside both IDP [internally displaced persons] camps and pop-up prisons,” the final report for the Syria Study Group reads.

The report warned that ISIS fighters could mimic its tactic of prison breaks to refuel its rise across Syria as it did in Iraq in 2012 and 2013.

Moreover, if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces move to fill the vacuum in northeast Syria, the regime “could “weaponize” these individuals in the same way it utilized al-Qaeda fighters against the United States during the war in Iraq,” the report reads.

Sunday’s White House statement has received much criticism from across the national security spectrum, some who see Trump’s decision as an abandonment of America’s ally in its fight against ISIS in the region.

Former U.S. CENTCOM commander Ret. Gen. Joseph Votel told Military Times that he was “disappointed” in the policy decision.

“The SDF have been exceptional partners,” and the group absorbed nearly 11,000 casualties in the fight against ISIS, Votel said.

“We would have not been successful against ISIS in Syria without them. I am concerned what this might mean for future partnerships,” Votel said.

On Monday, Trump, buffeted by withering criticism, threatened action against Turkey if harm comes to the Kurds.

Roberts told Military Times that the coalition has helped train nearly 300 security guards to help man the SDF prison camps.

“Securely detaining thousands of Daesh fighters is a matter of global security and the SDF needs the assistance of the international community," Roberts said.

"Repatriating foreign terrorists to their countries of origin for potential prosecution is the best long-term solution to prevent them from returning to the battlefield.”

But, repatriation has been a contentious issue among allies.

“The United States Government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused,” the White House statement reads.

The White House said that the U.S. "will not hold them [ISIS detainees] for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer.”

The Syria Study Group report explained that several European countries have refused to repatriate citizens who fought for ISIS, and instead have sometimes chosen to strip their citizenship.

“Many of these countries lack the necessary evidence to charge ISIS fighters in domestic courts; others worry that the fighters could be convicted only on lesser charges and would serve short sentences before being released,” The Syria study reads.

The status of thousands of ISIS fighters in thinly secured SDF prisons is a major national security concern.

Jennifer Cafarella, the research director for Institute for the Study of War, told Military Times that following a Turkish invasion into northern Syria, the SDF could pull security from the prisons and replace them with less capable units.

“We will work with our other NATO allies and Coalition partners to reiterate to Turkey the possible destabilizing consequences of potential actions to Turkey, the region, and beyond,” Hoffman said.

Defense News: Key Republicans, Dems blast Trump’s surprise withdrawal from Syria

By: Joe Gould and Leo Shane III   19 hours ago

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WASHINGTON ― Allies and critics of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill offered a harsh rebuke to the commander in chief Monday in response to his decision to suddenly withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, essentially clearing the path for a Turkish military invasion of the region.

“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos; Iran is licking its chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

"To those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see; and to Turkey, you have destroyed the relationship, what little you had, with the U.S. Congress, and I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria.”

Graham tweeted that he will introduce a measure to levy “bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.” His co-sponsor would be Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, an advocate of enacting legally mandated sanctions on Turkey since it took possession of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

The White House late Sunday announced that U.S. forces in northeast Syria will move aside, which Trump followed up Monday with a flurry of tweets, vowing it was time to remove the United States from “ridiculous endless wars” and “bring our soldiers home.” The U.S. had asked European and Middle Eastern countries to take back ISIS fighters captured over the last two years, but Trump said he will turn them all over to Turkey.

“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to … figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’ They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!” Trump tweeted.

But Graham, a staunch Trump ally, called the move “unnerving to its core” because of the potential threat it poses to U.S. national security. He also took to Twitter to blast the move as “shortsighted and irresponsible" and “a disaster in the making,” vowing to introduce measures putting new sanctions on Turkey and forcing the president to reverse the decision, which he predicted would receive strong bipartisan support.

My late afternoon, Trump’s decision drew criticism from across the political spectrum, to include both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners," McConnell said in a statement. Pelosi was stronger, saying Trump was again, “deserting an ally in a foolish attempt to appease a foreign strongman.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted the move as “a betrayal of a key partner in our fight against ISIS.” He demanded a full briefing to explain the moves to key congressional committees.

“Trump took this step against the advice of our diplomats and military leaders,” Kaine said in a statement. “He didn’t even notify the Kurds, our allies, or Congress. The Trump Doctrine continues — abandon allies and embolden adversaries.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., previously called for the United States to “responsibly end” military interventions in the Middle East, but he described the sudden shift as “extremely irresponsible” and “likely to result in more suffering and instability.”

The move in the region injects a new plot line into the drama surrounding Trump, who has been focus of a House impeachment inquiry. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Syria envoy Brett McGurk resigned from their positions in December over Trump’s call for a complete U.S. withdrawal, which Trump later reversed.

The new policy shift in line with Trump’s original intent comes amid changes at the top of Trump’s national security team in recent weeks ― the departure of national security adviser John Bolton, and the installation of Joint Chief Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Trump also reportedly ordered a substantial reduction in the staff of the National Security Council under new national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

On Monday, McGurk lambasted the president as “impulsive” and criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for missing in action during the “reckless gamble.” Trump, McGurk said, has “no process to assess facts, develop options, or prepare contingencies. Our personnel are left exposed at the slightest moment of friction.”

“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” McGurk tweeted. “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”

The White House announcement came after after a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Kurdish forces as a threat to his country. Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.

On Monday, Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter that his forces are determined to defend the area at all costs, while “US forces did not fulfill their responsibilities and began withdrawing from border, leaving the area to turn into a war zone.”

Last month, the SDF announced it had begun withdrawing its fighters from the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn as part of a deal for the so-called safe zone in northeast Syria involving the U.S. and Turkey. Ankara had wanted American-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters to pull back from the border.

Erdogan, at the time, threatened to launch a unilateral offensive into northeastern Syria if plans to establish the safe zone failed to meet his expectations, including a demand that Turkish soldiers control the corridor.

On Twitter, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the U.S. “retreat” a “grave mistake” that would confirm Iran’s view ― likely, Rubio means the view that Trump is averse to using military force ― and embolden the country to “escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee was among lawmakers who said Trump had damaged the faith of allies in the U.S. “The Syrian Kurds stood with the United States in the fight against ISIS, and this President just betrayed them in a tweet,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a tweet. “This will further destabilize the region and haunt the United States for years to come. How can anyone trust the United States under this President?”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, likewise said in a post that Trump’s decision would ensure Iran dominates Syria, which will “eventually become a nightmare for Israel."

“Yes, Trump doublecrossed the Kurds, but really a total lack of foreign policy imagination created this crisis,” Murphy said. “Trump wasted the last 30 months. Could have flooded northern Syria w political/diplomatic resources to find a governance structure that both Kurds/Turks could accept.”

Army Times: More than half of Army spouses in survey say they are stressed, overwhelmed and tired, report shows

By: Diana Stancy Correll   18 hours ago

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A majority of Army spouses reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed or tired in the past year.

Such were the results of a new Rand Corp. study evaluating challenges Army spouses encounter, attitudes they have toward the Army and how spouses use resources available to them.

“When asked to indicate the issues they faced in the past year, Army spouses’ most frequently chosen issues were their own feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, or tired, followed by their soldier’s feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, or tired,” the report said.

The report was based on a survey completed by more than 8,500 Army spouses.

The survey broke down a total of nine categories that Army spouses could identify as problem domains: military practices and culture; work-life balance; household management; financial or legal problems; health care system problems; relationship problems; child well-being; their own well-being and their soldier’s well being.

Within those problem domains, respondents were faced with a total of 96 targeted issues and could select between 8 to 14 specific issues they had experienced in the past year.

According to the report, nearly 56 percent of spouses reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed or tired — an issue that fell into the personal well-being problem area. That number dropped slightly to 49.5 percent when taking into account their soldier’s stress levels.

The report also shed insight on which problem areas Army spouses identify as impacting them the most. If spouses’ specific issues spanned across a series of problem domains, they were subsequently asked to identify their top two problem domains that they believed were “most significant” for them.

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Altogether, spouses pinpointed these areas as their top two problem domains: work life balance, and military practices and culture.

“When asked to prioritize the most-significant problems they faced in the past year, the top problem domains chosen by spouses were work-life balance, military practices and culture, and own well-being, with about 30 percent of spouses having difficulty balancing work and home life, and around one-quarter having difficulty with some aspect of military culture,” the report said.

Nearly 24 percent of Army spouses included their own well-being as one of their top two problem domains, and nearly 23 percent identified relationship problems among their top two problem domains.

Almost all Army spouses — 90 percent — who reported having issues said they did utilize resources available to them, and the report claimed most found that their needs were met. But 32 percent said they had unmet needs even after reaching out to available resources.

Although Army Family Readiness Groups are designed to work as a liaison between a command and families of the unit, and provide information on available family resources, only 15 percent of spouses reported reaching out to these groups.

Who do you ask for help?

In situations where resources were not used, respondents largely said they were uncertain who to reach out to for assistance. The report said this finding indicates that “potentially solvable problems could be persisting because of a lack of awareness of programs and services and how to access them.”

Distance also appeared to play a role in whether spouses took advantage of resources. Spouses who lived further from their soldier’s installation tended to have less knowledge about military resources and reported being less satisfied with military resources in comparison to Army spouses in closer proximity to their post.

Overall, 60 percent of spouses said that they would prefer postcard mailings to receive information about available resources. Other popular modes of communication included Facebook and email, according to the report.

As a result, the report recommended that the Army examine ways to enhance the influence and participation of Army Family Readiness Groups, and investigate how to better connect with spouses via postcards or email.

Likewise, the report suggested that available resources and services become equipped to point spouses in the right direction for assistance by implementing a “no wrong door policy.” This would mean a range of programs could provide insight as to what resources, including those in outside the programs, would target problems raised by spouses.

Altogether, approximately 5 percent of Army spouses responded that they had had no problems in the past year.

Breaking Defense: Impeachment Slows All Hill Defense Biz; DoD Approps On Life Support

There’s not a lot of confidence out there about the prospects for a 2020 budget agreement. "A stripped down mini-NDAA may be all that could pass this year for defense," says one long-time budget watcher.

By COLIN CLARKon October 07, 2019 at 2:08 PM

WASHINGTON: As the House of Representatives gears up to impeach President Trump, it’s getting harder and harder for anyone involved in defense to get a hearing with leadership, and the chances for a defense appropriations bill appear to be getting smaller every day.

While the chances for a second year of regular order (actually passing spending and major policy bills) already seemed unlikely, impeachment is sucking the oxygen out of the room, leaving regular order gasping for air. President Trump’s decision to take $3.6 billion from military construction accounts to build the so-called wall along the border with Mexico probably killed the chances for a defense spending bill. Add impeachment and the experts say abandon hope, all ye who enter the Capitol.

“The appropriations process has been on life support for some time since it became obvious that the House was not coming off their insistence on limitations on the border wall,” says Bill Greenwalt, longtime Senate Armed Services Committee staffer. Despite the budget deal agreement that talked about no ‘poison pills’ on the appropriations bills, “any compromise at this point would be considered capitulation by either side,” he added.

Even if a bill did pass with restrictions on wall spending, Greenwalt thinks President Trump would veto it, eager to prove he can get his signature campaign promise done, even if Mexico won’t pay for it.

“It is doubtful at this stage there are enough Republicans that can somehow interpret a limitation on wall funding as not a poison pill to have enough votes to override a veto,” he added. “I don’t see the numbers for that. The appropriators could punt and let the authorizers handle the issue as there are similar restrictions on the House NDAA. That would likely kill the authorization process as the President’s veto would just move to the NDAA.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, defense expert at the American Enterprise Institute, member fo the Breaking D Board of Contributors and one of the best defense budget prognosticators around, agrees with Greenwalt. “Impeachment,” she says, “just adds fuel to that fire.”

President Trump signed off on on one Continuing Resolution on Sept. 27, which lasts until Nov. 21, one week before Thanksgiving.

Greenwalt, a member of the Breaking D Board of Contributors, argues that we’re more likely to see a series of CRs culminating in a year-long CR than any real compromise.

“A stripped down mini-NDAA may be all that could pass this year for defense as well,” he adds. “Under this scenario, DOD will need to ask for as many anomalies they can get in each upcoming CR,” Greenwalt says, pointing to the programs that will otherwise not be allowed to start. It also would give defense authorizers the power to place restrictions and requirements on programs about which they are concerned. “Given the growing threats in the world, this is not a great situation, but it may be the best DOD can get.”

So, is there any hope for a defense spending bill?

“The only thing that can salvage the 2020 budget process and bills will be (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell and (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and a few others singlehandedly and decidedly acting without any White House involvement,” Eaglen thinks.

Consider how many stories from Capitol Hill you’ve read in the last two weeks that deal with anything other than impeachment and I think you’ve got a good sense of how likely that intervention is.

Stripes: Prosecutors, defense lawyers going to Afghanistan for case of ex-Green Beret charged with murder

By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: October 8, 2019

Prosecutors plan to argue that the man a former Special Forces soldier is accused of killing in February 2010 was a farmer, not a bombmaker for the Taliban.

A military judge heard motions Monday in the case against Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who in June pleaded not guilty in the killing of an unarmed Afghan national named Rasoul. Golsteyn is charged with a single count of premeditated murder and his trial is set for Dec. 2.

Golsteyn was a Green Beret captain with Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group. He contends the killing was justified under the wartime conditions in Afghanistan because the man was thought to be an insurgent who made a bomb that killed two Marines.

A prosecutor, Maj. Brent Goodwin, said Rasoul was a poor farmer with no connection to the Taliban. The man was uneducated and had no training in explosive devices, Goodwin said.

"Rasoul was not a bombmaker," Goodwin said.

Capt. Nina Hillner, a defense lawyer, said Rasoul’s brother said Rasoul was a member of the Taliban.

Goodwin sought a motion to allow prosecutors to take depositions from four people in Afghanistan because they are not available to come to Fort Bragg for the trial. He said their testimony is needed to show the unlawfulness of the killing, to show that a death occurred and to corroborate statements made by Golsteyn.

Rasoul’s body was dismembered and burned, Goodwin said. An agreement between the United States and Afghanistan does not include a requirement for someone to leave their country to testify in a court case, he said.

"The government does not have the capability to compel these witnesses," he said.

Hillner opposed Goodwin’s request and said the prosecutors had not shown that the witnesses’ testimony would be relevant or that there were exceptional circumstances that showed their depositions were needed.

"They haven’t met that burden," she said.

The judge, Col. Tyesha Smith, approved the request for depositions and said they should be done within 30 days. She denied prosecutors’ request for permission to depose other individuals if they showed up and said they were eyewitnesses.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Hessler, who is the assistant operations officer for Fort Bragg’s Criminal Investigation Command office, testified Monday that he had interviewed Rasoul’s son and cousin in Afghanistan. Hessler, who was the agent in charge of the investigation, said that he thought he was going to interview Rasoul’s widow, but she was sick and the cousin showed up instead.

At the prosecutors’ request, Smith ordered to keep secret the names of the people that Hessler interviewed and the names of others that prosecutors want to question.

Hessler testified Rasoul’s son and cousin were both in one room when he interviewed them because there was little space at the compound where he was working. He used an interpreter and a transcript was created from a video of the interviews, he said.

The son and cousin are not able to travel to the United States because they fear retribution from the Taliban, Hessler said.

"They feared the Taliban would find out they were cooperating and talking," he said.

Also at Monday’s hearing, Maj. Joseph Morman, another military prosecutor, said a CIA employee involved in the case has agreed to be interviewed by prosecutors and defense lawyers. Both will be present during the interviews and the employee will have a personal lawyer present, he said.

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