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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Military News

Altman: Jihadists want to scavenge U.S. equipment left on battlefield


Regardless of whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs a bilateral security agreement and the U.S. keeps some number of troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, our troops will leave behind billions of dollars worth of stuff after nearly 13 years of war.

Though the bulk of that will be those hulking tan armored vehicles called MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected), an Iranian hacker group sees a potential bonanza for jihadi dumpster divers.

At the end of an email last year announcing the “first organized ‘cyber intifada’ against the Zionist regime,” the Iranian hacker group Parastoo urged an insurgent scavenger hunt in Afghanistan to look for useful items left behind during the U.S. withdrawal.

Similar to how Imperial Japan turned our discarded subway cars into arms, Parastoo wants to turn our garbage into weaponry.

The email, posted on crypt, says the hackers are looking for computers, printers, components used for personnel management of a base and even heavy weapons. It also solicited “serious experts” who can do “war magic.”

Because this takes place in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, I reached out to the Centcom public affairs shop to see what, if any, concern folks might have over Parastoo’s proffer.

“We are always concerned about maintaining the security of our computer network, whether here in the U.S. or in-theater,” came the reply, via email, from Mark Blackington, a Centcom spokesman. “Regarding the removal of computer equipment from our theater of operations, we won’t get into the specific measures we take, but suffice it to say that we will conduct all procedures necessary to keep our computer network secure.”

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Give credit where it is due. Sen. Bill Nelson last month said the Senate Armed Services Committee on which he sits would revisit a provision in the budget that called for a cut to cost-of-living benefits to retired military, with the goal of “fixing it.”

The committee, as Nelson promised, took it up, and last week his office told me it looks like the provision will be repealed.

The goal of the cut was to save about $600 million a year over the next decade at a time when troop levels, training and purchasing are all being reduced.

The COLA cuts, according to the House Budget Committee, would be “inflation minus 1 percentage point starting with the adjustment in December 2015 — until the retiree reaches age 62. At age 62, the retired pay would be calculated as if each prior year’s COLA had been the full CPI (consumer price index). And after age 62, the COLA itself would be the full” consumer price index.

Last week, when I asked Nelson’s office what “fixed” meant, I got this reply:

“Fixed means go back to the way it was,” said spokesman Ryan Brown. “As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Nelson appreciates the chairman holding a hearing on this so quickly.’’

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A shade more than a year ago, at the monthly Operation Helping Hand dinner at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, I watched a guest singer wow the gathered wounded, families, visitors and staff.

Theresa Sareo not only has a great voice, she also has a deep connection to those who bear scars of war.

In June 2002, Sareo was crossing the street in Midtown Manhattan when she was hit by a drunken driver. She lost her left leg as a result.

Like some of those attending the monthly Operation Helping Hand dinners, she now walks with a prosthetic.

Since her accident, Sareo has spent a lot of time visiting wounded, sick and injured troops and veterans around the country, especially at Haley.

Her story has been turned into an award-winning documentary, “Alive Again.”

On Friday, Sareo’s personal mission will continue, with a concert to raise money for Supporting America’s Finest, a Tampa-based 501(c)(3) corporation “dedicated to raising funds and awareness in support of veterans struggling to overcome mobility challenges from battlefield injuries,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

It produces one major musical event a year, “with all proceeds benefiting veterans in the Tampa Bay area. Funds may be applied to defer medical or family support expenses, medical or technical research, and equipment or building modification.”

This year’s concert, at 5:30 p.m. at the Ritz Ybor, will benefit the Gramatica Family Foundation’s “Building Dreams For Combat Wounded Veterans.”

The organization, created by the football Gramatica family (Martin Gramatica was a Bucs placekicker), provides energy-efficient housing and development assistance to disabled veterans.

“My interest in supporting SAF, the concert, and Gramatica foundation is because these efforts will improve everyday independence and confidence for those whose battles didn’t end when they returned from war,” says Dave Scott, a retired Air Force two-star who helped created SAF.

“It’s not enough to heal the wounds. We need to help injured veterans build the best foundation for the rest of their lives — physically and emotionally.”

Doors at the Ritz Ybor, 1503 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, open at 4 p.m. General admission is $20, with a $5 parking pass if purchased in advance.

For more information or to purchase tickets or sponsorships, go to sup

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For a defense and intel geek like me, living in Tampa offers a flood of people who come here to share their experiences inside the tent.

Add Richard Clarke to that list.

A member of a Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, Clarke has served the past three presidents as a senior White House adviser.

Over the course of 11 years of White House service, he held the titles of special assistant to the president for global affairs, national coordinator for security and counter-terrorism, and special adviser to the president for cyber security.

Prior to his White House years, Clarke served for 19 years in the Pentagon, the intelligence community and State Department.

During the Reagan Administration, he was deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence.

During the Bush (41) administration, he was assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs and coordinated diplomatic efforts to support the 1990–91 Gulf War and the subsequent security arrangements.

Clarke will be in Tampa Tuesday for the monthly luncheon meeting of Women In Defense Greater Tampa Bay chapter.

He will be signing copies of his recent book “Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It.”

Women In Defense was created to “strengthen and influence the defense and national security industry by inspiring women, and growing professional relationships.”

The meeting is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel-International Mall, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa.

It is open to the public, said Lisa Monnet, membership committee director.

The cost is $40 for members and $50 for nonmembers. It is free to active duty military.

For more information, call Monnet at (813) 326-2620.

(813) 259-7629

Twitter: @haltman