Monday, April 21, 2008

Dual Nuclear Chain-of-Command Threatens the Planet

April 21, 2008 -- America's dual nuclear chain-of-command threatens the planet

Wayne Madsen
There is something radically wrong with America's control over its nuclear weapons, particularly those maintained by the U.S. Air Force. After a long investigation, it can now be reported that there is, in effect, two de facto nuclear chains-of-command in the Air Force, one with dangerous links to the neocon cell that exists within the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and Air Force headquarters, the other acting within the bounds of established nuclear weapons surety and control.

On August 30, 2007, a B-52, assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, left Minot AFB with reportedly five AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles armed with W-80-1 nuclear warheads. The number five apparently was reported to Air Force Times, a Gannett publication, by three high-ranking Air Force officers who blew the whistle on what was later described by the Air Force as a "mistake." Later, the Associated Press said there were six nuclear armed missiles on board the aircraft. In theory, there should be no discrepancies for such a small number and for such a serious incident.

The B-52 flew 3 1/2 hours
across the United States with missiles thought by the B-52 crew to be "dummy warheads" being shipped to Barksdale for "disposal" under the US-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT) arms treaty.

There was, according to sources WMR spoke to at both Minot and Barksdale Air Force Bases, no mistake whatsoever in the transfer of the nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to Barksdale. One airman who had been a bomb loader for 11 years in the USAF relayed, "that was no mistake. That was a major operation."

The cover story was that the cruise missiles were flown to Barksdale for decommissioning. However, conventional cruise missiles are sent to Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, Arizona for decommissioning while nuclear missiles, according to the former 2nd Bomb Wing official, are sent to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The nuclear warheads are sent to either Sandia National Laboratories or Pantex in Texas for disposal. Barksdale plays no part in the missile decommissioning process. Barksdale is, however, a major deployment base for Middle East air operations.

It has been discovered that there were a series of security "incidents" directed by what amounts to a renegade nuclear chain-of-command that permitted five or six nuclear 5 to 150 kiloton thermonuclear weapons to remain outside of legitimate control for some 36 hours, resulting in a rare Bent Spear nuclear incident report that quickly reached the Oval Office.

The rogue nuclear chain-of-command starts at the White House office of Vice President Dick Cheney, with significant influence from Cheney's Chief of Staff David Addington, and extends to Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, and further to the Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley.

General Moseley's old National War College fellow faculty member, Dr. Lani Kass, is a key figure in this chain-of-command, and she deserves much more scrutiny. Dr. Kass is a former Israeli Air Force major who emigrated to the United States in 1981. Interestingly, by 1982, this Israeli citizen had somehow not only received a visa to come to the United States, but she managed to secure a position with Booz, Allen and Hamilton as Director of the Russian Research Center. It is unusual that Booz Allen would, in 1982, would have had a center using the term "Russian."

The term "Soviet" was the commonly used military and intelligence phraseology at the time. It can reasonably be concluded that during this time of the cold war, this was a position which required a high-level security clearance-- one which would have not been easily obtained within a year by a non-US citizen. However, in the early 1980s, Washington was the scene of massive Israeli espionage, mostly centered around Navy intelligence analyst and later convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Douglas Feith's security compromise involving the Israeli embassy while serving in the National Security Council under National Security Adviser William Clark, and the presence of a high-level Israeli mole in the Reagan administration, code-named "Mega."

Dr. Kass has mercurially risen to a high-level Pentagon official. She became Special Assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff and Director of the Air Force's Cyberspace Task Force in Washington D.C. Soon, she will be a high-level official responsible for the Air Force's new Cyber Command, headquartered at Barksdale. It deserves noting that Dr. Kass has been a key participant in the development of the national strategy for combating terrorism, as well as the national military strategic plan for the Global War on Terrorism. This former Israeli citizen has responsibilities for formulating a military attack and contingency plan for Iran through "Operation Checkmate." Checkmate's boss is Air Force Lt. General Lawrence Stutzriem.

The chain-of-command then continues with Barksdale AFB's 8th Air Force Commander, Lt. General Robert Elder,Jr., and the previous commander of Minot's 5th Bomb Wing, Colonel Bruce Emig. The 8th Air Force controls the Barksdale B-52s, including the one that transported the nuclear cruise missiles from Minot.

These officers and officials were all involved in the illegal movement of the five or six nuclear armed cruise missiles -- the number remains significant because there is the possibility that one nuclear weapon still remains unaccounted for -- for possible use in the Middle East theater.

Unfortunately, there is more going on in today's Air Force than dual chains-of-command. Just days before the incident involving the unauthorized transport of nuclear weapons from one AFB to another, there was another exercise involving B-52s.

The August 30 incident had been preceded by a little-known exercise, known as REX REDUX, which occurred on August 24. Lead by Generals Moseley and Elder, this exercise required three B-52 bombers to leave Barksdale and fly a route to the Atlantic Ocean to an area east of Bermuda. The purpose of the mission, as stated by the Shreveport Times, was to "try out LITENING, a targeting pod that transmits video and other data through cyberspace to planners on shore. They were the first active-duty bombers to use the pod, pioneered by a sister unit, the Reserve 917th Wing." The target of the B-52s was a Navy supply ship, USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo, in the Atlantic Ocean.

The LITENING targeting pod which was tested during the exercise was known as LITENING II. The LITENING targeting pod was created at the Rafael Corporation's Missile Division in Haifa, Israel, with subsequent use of LITENING I for use in the Israeli Air Force. In 1995, the U.S. defense corporation Northrop Grumman teamed with the Rafael Corporation for further development and sales of the LITENING pod.

Two of the planes, titled Rex 51 and Rex 52 for the mission, left Barksdale AFB shortly after 8 am on August 24th. The third bomber, Rex 53, left about half an hour later. This was deemed acceptable, because unlike the other two aircraft, it did not have 10 GBU-12 laser-guided bombs hanging from the pylons. It was carrying a lighter load.

After the B-52 bombers had flown over their intended naval target several times to gather Imagery Intelligence for ground planners, they flew home to Barksdale AFB...but not without trying LITENING II again on the way home. Using forward-looking infrared radar (FLIR), a charged coupled device (CCD) camera, and a laser targeting system that permits a successful precision strike of a target on a single pass -- exactly the type of strike that would be used on nuclear facilities in Iran--the B-52s targeted American land-based locations.

According to the Shreveport Times, also a Gannett newspaper, "the mission was deemed a success by planners since the airplanes proved that they could quickly find and identify a moving ship in busy sea traffic, loiter for hours while transmitting data back to headquarters then wait for further orders. Those orders included assignments on the way home, 'targets of opportunity' intended to further exercise the LITENING pods. In one case, it's a dam at the north end of a lake. In another, it's the parking ramp for aircraft at an airport."

These "targets of opportunity" were American dams, airports, and possibly bridges and other critical infrastructure targets in several southern U.S. states, including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. It would probably come as a shock to anyone living at a lower elevation from the "lit up" dam and passengers at the test airport that they were being targeted by an Israeli-developed precision or "smart" weapons system that can deliver a extremely destructive MK-82 bomb blast and fragmentation destruction.

General Elder spoke at great length to the Shreveport Times. He claimed that the exercise was conducted in order to commemorate the original REX mission, which occurred on May 12, 1938. The original REX mission consisted of three B-17 bombers intercepting the Italian luxury liner, the Rex, off the coast of New York in stormy weather.

It can reasonably be concluded that this REX REDUX, whether or not the pilots were aware of it at the time, was in fact a practice run for a pre-emptive strike on Iran utilizing the LITENING II equipment for improved targeting. As reported by the Shreveport Times, this entire exercise came as a result of suggestion by rival chain-of-command member, General Moseley. The symbolism of tying the LITENING test to the 1938 flight of three B-17s to intercept the Rex 725 miles from New York City cannot be understated. The navigator on the lead plane was Lt. Curtis LeMay, Moseley's predecessor as Air Force Chief of Staff under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. It was LeMay, who, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, advocated wiping Cuba off the map with constant aerial bombing. Substitute Iran for Cuba today, and the message from Moseley and his rival chain-of-command is unmistakable. The REX REDUX 1938 commemorative operation was simply a cover story but one with a subliminal message.

According to military reporter John Andrew Prime, writing in the Shreveport Times, the REX REDUX mission involved the 2nd Bomb Wing's 96th Bomb Squadron; the Air Force Reserve's 917th Wing; the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, part of the 53rd Wing from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, but operating as a detachment out of Barksdale.
All three B-52s were refueled by a KC-10 tanker over the Atlantic.

WMR learned from a source who flew on the REX REDUX mission that Lt. Col. Jim Noetzel, the commander of REX-52 from the 96th Bomb Squadron, was one of two Barksdale officers dismissed from his position, along with Col. Todd Westhauser, the commander of the 2nd Operations Group, the owner of the REX B-52s, as well as the B-52 that flew the nuclear weapons from Minot. What is significant is that the dismissal of Noetzel for the B-52 nuclear incident is the only known link between REX REDUX and the B-52 incident that occurred six days later. However, it is a link that establishes a solid connection between REX REDUX and the nuclear incident. Westhauser was subsequently demoted to Deputy Commander of the 608th Air Operations Group at Barksdale.

The other two REX REDUX B-52 commanders were REX 51 commander Lt. Col. Bob Norberg of the 917th Wing and REX-53 commander Lt. Col. Ricardo Beruvides of the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron whose instrument B-52 belonged to the 11th Bomb Squadron.

Minot's 5th Bomb Wing Commander, Col. Emig, who had been transferred to Minot only three months before the August 30 nuclear incident, was transferred to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Division at the Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. One of the Air Force's primary UAV contractors is Northrop Grumman, which has a cooperative relationship with Israel Aircraft Industries on using Israeli UAV technology, particularly for the Global Hawk UAV.

Emig's colleague, 5th Maintenance Group commander, Col. Cynthia Lundell, was not as fortunate. Directly responsible for the nuclear weapons at Minot, Lundell was transferred to a "dead end" special assistant job at Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. WMR has learned that Emig was in charge of Minot when a number of experienced senior non-commissioned officers and officers, including those directly responsible for nuclear surety and safety, were suddenly transferred on temporary assignments to Iraq and Afghanistan from Minot in the months and weeks prior to the nuclear incident.

It is clear that the rival nuclear chain-of-command acted outside the authority of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and used a little-known nuclear weapons protocol known as the "permissive link" that allows nuclear weapons to be moved and used outside of presidential authority and the transmittal of nuclear codes found in a briefcase known as the "football" that is always carried by the President's military aide.

The 1992 decision by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to abolish the Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC), thus splitting Air Force nuclear command-and-control between the Air Force Space Command and the Air Combat Command, permitted the type of incident that occurred at Minot and Barksdale last year.

The exercise also linked up in a major way the missions of Barksdale's cyber-warfare element and the 2nd Bomb Wing's strategic B-52 mission. Targeting weather data was exchanged between the B-52s and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The influence of Kass, the Israeli emigré and top Air Force cyber-war official, cannot be understated with reference to the melding of the two missions. One former top 2nd Bomb Wing officer told WMR that this mixing up two disparate missions makes him suspicious of the Air Force's intent.

The involvement of Tyndall and Eglin Air Force bases in REX REDUX is significant. A little over a week after the Minot-Barksdale nuclear weapons incident, the body of US Air Force Captain and Major-selectee John Frueh, assigned to "Operations Weather" at Hurlburt Field, adjacent to Eglin, was found near is rental car, near Badger Peak in Washington state. Frueh was in Portland to attend his best friend's wedding. Frueh's last phone call to his family in Florida was from a pay phone at Portland International Airport on August 30, the very same day the B-52 flew with the loose nuclear missiles from Minot to Barksdale.

Frueh was a U.S. Air Force Special Operations "Weather Warrior" with the 10th Combat Weather Squadron at Hurlburt Field. Weather Warriors are, according to the Air Force, "Special operations weathermen [who] are meteorologists with advanced tactical training to operate in hostile or denied territory." It should be noted that Iran is considered "denied territory" by the U.S. military.

Frueh was last seen on August 29 in Portland. He was carrying in his backpack at Global Positioning System (GPS), camera, camcorder, and cell phone. Oddly, Frueh's last call to his family was from a pay phone at the airport and not from his cell phone.

There were initial reports that when the B-52 from Minot landed at Barksdale on August 30, it sat on the runway for as much as ten hours, virtually unguarded with five or six nuclear weapons under its starboard wing. However, WMR spoke to a former high-ranking officer with the 2nd Bomb Wing in Barksdale who said that the security for the movement of any nuclear weapons is extremely tight. The officer said that when the nuclear weapons were removed from their highly-secured bunkers, known as "igloos," within the similarly highly-secured weapons storage facility at Minot, two-person controls, constant checks of the weapons' serial numbers, higher officer sign-offs, the clearing of a secure route from the weapons storage facility to the B-52 on the ready alert apron by armed security personnel, the placement of orange cones around the nuclear weapons while they are stationary, and the entering of the weapons types on the B-52 flight log, known as the "781." The "781" would inform the crew whether they were carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, either under the wings or in the plane's interior.

The Air Force story about nuclear warheads being mistaken for "dummy warheads" was perplexing to the former 2nd Bomb Wing officer who said he was only familiar with conventional and nuclear warheads for the advanced cruise missiles, although he conceded that shaped unarmed warheads may have been used for the structural integrity of the missiles. The officer said he implemented a system whereby conventional weapons were treated with the same high degree of security as that afforded for nuclear weapons to prevent the type of incident that occurred last August.

The former officer also said that when the B-52 landed at Barksdale, the ground maintenance crew would have been given the plane's "781" by the flight crew. Barksdale load teams would then unload the missiles and place them within the "igloo" at Barksdale. When the five or six conventional weapons were matched against their serial numbers, it would have become apparent that the B-52 had transported nuclear weapons instead of conventional weapons. He was emphatic that if Minot had conducted an inventory of their weapons at any point during the 36-hour event, they would have been "missing" five or six nuclear weapons. "That," he said, "would have caused all hell to break loose."

Barksdale role in REX REDUX and the Minot nuclear flight was rewarded handsomely by Air Force Secretary Wynne. On September 12, a few weeks after the Minot nuclear incident, Wynne announced in Shreveport that he was bearing a gift: Barksdale had been selected as the interim headquarters for the Air Force's new Cyber Command. Wynne made his announcement at a place where gambling sometimes pays off: the Horseshoe Casino Riverdome. However, gambling with nuclear weapons is a high risk that never pays off.

This is Part I of a two-part article by Wayne Madsen


No comments: