Rahmat Gul/AP
An Afghan police officer checks a gun as weapons are displayed after being handed over
from local commanders of illegal militants.

Missing US Weapons in Afghanistan Represent Latest Security Error

February 13, 2009 10:57 AM
by Josh Katz
A congressional investigation reveals that thousands of weapons are unaccounted for and may be in the hands of the Taliban or al-Qaida, recalling other recent security failures.

Thousands of Weapons Unaccounted For in Afghanistan

Congressional auditors revealed on Thursday that the Taliban or al-Qaida may be in possession of thousands of U.S. weapons, including “rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, shotguns” and mortars, because of security failures, according to The Baltimore Sun. About “2,410 highly prized night vision devices” are also missing.

The Pentagon has lost track of approximately 87,000 weapons that were meant for Afghan security forces, “one-third of the 242,000 shipped by the US government between December 2004 and June 2008,” the Government Accountability Office said in its 46-page report. Also, the GAO said that an additional 135,000 weapons that NATO allies gave the Afghan army and police lacked “monitoring,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Defense department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Pentagon was already in the process of finding the weapons. Whitman also said, “the record will show that our performance on this has improved over time,” according to the Sun.

The report attributed the security lapses to “under-staffed US military officials” who “neglected to record serial numbers or conduct on-site inventories once the weapons were delivered,” AFP writes. The GAO also said that corruption and illiteracy in the Afghan army and police was a contributing factor.

GAO inspectors even cited an occasion when they arrived at an Afghan police station’s arms room that was merely protected by a “wooden door and a miniature padlock,” according to AFP.

So far, the U.S. has spent $16.5 billion to arm and train Afghan security forces, and should spend another $5.7 billion in 2009, the Sun reports.

A similar security failure occurred in August 2007, when the Pentagon couldn’t account for about 200,000 weapons given to Iraqi security forces. In that episode, “Officials with the U.S. training command blamed insufficient staff and the lack of a ‘fully operational distribution network’ for the poor record-keeping,” CNN reported at the time.

Related Topic: Recent military blunders

Military Secrets Found in MP3 Player

In late January, Chris Ogle, 29, of New Zealand, discovered U.S. military secrets in his MP3 player.

When Ogle was working in Oklahoma he bought the MP3 player for $15 in a thrift shop, but it came with an unexpected bonus. According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), Ogle found “60 highly sensitive US military files,” including social security numbers, home addresses and cell phone numbers of American soldiers operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was also information about mission deployment on the device. A reporter in New Zealand even dialed some of the numbers to find that they were current.

Ogle then handed the player with the files to two U.S. Embassy officials in New Zealand, and they rewarded him with a new MP3 player. Although it is still not clear why the files were stored on the device or how they got there, an American woman said that someone robbed her home last year and the stole “flash drives containing sensitive military information,” AP wrote.

Afghan Bazaars Sell Military Secrets

In April 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that stolen U.S. military secrets were being sold at bazaars in Afghanistan. Specifically, flash drives stolen from military laptops were on sale; the drives contained private information about military personnel, as well as “documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for ‘kill or capture’ and discussions of U.S. efforts to ‘remove’ or ‘marginalize’ Afghan government officials whom the military considered ‘problem makers,’” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Biggest Military Hack of All Time”

Gary McKinnon of the United Kingdom searched for proof of an alien cover up by hacking into U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, Pentagon, and Department of Defense computer systems. According to Ars Technica, he is responsible for the “biggest military hack of all time.”
McKinnon was caught and the Bush administration had him extradited to the United States for prosecution. However, Mayor of London Boris Johnson recently called for President Obama to send McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, back to Britain, saying that the self-professed “bumbling computer nerd” doesn’t deserve such a response.

The Guardian writes: “And, yes, since you ask, he does think that he found evidence that the US military is infiltrated by beings from the planet Tharg. He even knows the names and ranks of various non-terrestrial officers, though unfortunately they have been deleted from his hard drive.”

U.S. Air Force Gaffes

In June 2008, findingDulcinea reported that the forced resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and Secretary Michael W. Wynne made Defense Secretary Robert Gates the “first defense secretary to fire both the military and civilian heads of a service at the same time,” according to The Washington Post.

The Air Force had experienced a string of recent oversight failures. In August 2007, the leadership came under fire for accidentally flying nuclear-armed cruise missiles across the United States, which were then left unmonitored. In March 2008, news surfaced that the Air Force had mistakenly shipped classified nuclear materials to Taiwan.

Gates said that his decision to force out the two officials was “based entirely” on the Donald report, which analyzed the Air Force’s nuclear weapons errors. Gates also suggested that this was not the end of the Air Force shakeup.

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