In a "striking showdown" with a member of his own party, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on Tuesday he would remove from a defense spending bill language by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to give military prosecutors rather than commanders the power to decide which sexual assault crimes to try, The New York Times reports.
The House Armed Services Committee discusses the issue Wednesday as part of the defense bill, a day after senior military leaders were in the hot seat in the Senate.
The military chiefs are fighting a bill, co-sponsored by a fifth of the Senate, that would strip commanders of the legal power to oversee major criminal cases and transfer that authority to uniformed prosecutors.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Navy veteran of Vietnam, said at Tuesday's hearing that a woman came to him the previous night and said her daughter wanted to join the military. She asked McCain if he could give her his unqualified support for the idea.
“I could not,” said McCain. “I cannot overstate my disgust and disappointment over the continued reports of sexual misconduct in our military. We’ve been talking about the issue for years, and talk is insufficient.”
The president will announce on Thursday restrictions on the use of unmanned drone strikes and a shift in the control of them from the CIA to the military, The New York Times reports.
Also in his speech at the National Defense University, Obama will renew his long-stalled effort to close Guantanamo, media report.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Congress on Wednesday that the Obama administration has killed four Americans in overseas counterterrorism operations since 2009 — the first time it has publicly taken responsibility for the deaths.
America's fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates is going to last "at least 10 to 20 years,’’ Michael Sheehan, an assistant secretary of defense for special operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Sheehan was arguing against changes to the 2001 military force law, enacted days after the 9/11 attacks, that gave President George W. Bush the authority to launch the invasion of Afghanistan and target al Qaeda.
The law says the commander in chief has the authority to attack ‘‘nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.’’
The Obama administration argues that the law allows it to target "associated forces" in the same way that the United States waged war against allies of the Axis powers in World War II, such as Romania and Bulgaria, even though Congress hadn't declared war on them.
Lawmakers are considering a new authorization of the law, but human rights groups fear that it could create an open-ended “forever war.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said the administration’s theory had “essentially rewritten the Constitution here today” because it was up to Congress to declare war. “I don’t disagree that we need to fight terrorism, but we need to do it in a constitutional way,” he said.
In its annual report to Congress on Chinese military developments, the Pentagon says for the first time that Beijing’s government and military have conducted computer-based attacks against the United States, including efforts to steal information from federal agencies.
Senior Col. Wang Xinjun, a People’s Liberation Army researcher, is quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as responding, “The Chinese government and armed forces have never sanctioned hacking activities.” The military frequently uses such academics as alternative spokesmen, says The Associated Press.
At a hearing Thursday, GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colo., quoted the Defense Intelligence Agency as saying it had concluded with "moderate confidence" that North Korea had developed a nuclear bomb that could be fitted on a ballistic missile.
But that assessment was swiftly dismissed by several U.S. officials and South Korea, Reuters reports.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Seoul Friday on a trip to assure South Korea and then Japan that the United States continues to be committed to their defense.
Kerry also will visit China to try to get officials there to put more pressure on North Korea.
American weapons deployed in response to North Korean saber rattling could be used to counter the extensive military capabilities Beijing has built up to delay or prevent the arrival of American forces to areas near China in the event of a conflict, Reuters says.
The comment of Chinese President Xi Jinping that no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain" may have been aimed Washington as well as Pyongyang — reflecting Chinese unease at the U.S. "rebalancing" or "pivot" policy of winding down wars in Southwest Asia and paying renewed attention to the Asia-Pacific region, says Reuters.
Meanwhile, as North Korea warned on Tuesday that the peninsula was on the brink of nuclear war — a statement dismissed by analysts as hyperbole — Pacific commander Adm. Samuel Locklear told a Senate committee that the North’s young leader may not have left himself an easy exit to reduce tensions.
In what's being seen as an indication of China's increasing irritation with North Korea, Chinese President Xi Jinping said over the weekend that no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain."
Meanwhile, North Korea hasn't shown any sign of preparing its army for war, indicating that recent threats are partly intended for domestic consumption to bolster young leader Kim Jong-un, Reuters says.
And the United States and South Korea have drawn up plans to respond to the threats in a limited way to prevent an escalation to broader war, says The New York Times.