The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BILL GERTZ

The House Com­mit­tee on Armed Ser­vices this week im­posed re­stric­tions on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that would pre­vent Rus­sian air­craft from us­ing ad­vanced sen­sors dur­ing treaty-ap­proved spy flights over the United States.

The lim­its are con­tained in the com­mit­tee’s markup of the fis­cal 2015 de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill that was com­pleted Tues­day.

The bill would block fund­ing for any cer­ti­fi­ca­tion un­der the Open Skies Treaty for up­grad­ing sen­sors aboard Rus­sian air­craft used to con­duct sur­veil­lance flights over the U.S. The treaty per­mits fly­overs as a con­fi­dence-build­ing mea­sure among the 34 na­tions that are sig­na­to­ries.

Un­der the bill, fund­ing would be blocked un­less the sec­re­tary of de­fense, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence cer­tify to Congress that Rus­sia is “no longer il­le­gally oc­cu­py­ing Ukrainian ter­ri­tory.”

An­other cri­te­rion for ap­prov­ing the up­graded air­craft is that the of­fi­cials must cer­tify that the new sen­sors do not pose a high risk to U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity.

A third re­stric­tion is that no fund­ing for the air­craft cer­ti­fi­ca­tion can be spent un­til the three of­fi­cials cer­tify to Congress that Rus­sia is “no longer vi­o­lat­ing the Intermediate-range Nu­clear Forces Treaty [INF] and is in com­pli­ance with the Treaty on Con­ven­tional Forces in Europe.”

U.S. of­fi­cials say Rus­sia is in non­com­pli­ance with both treaties, with two 1987 INF treaty is­sues con­sid­ered mil­i­tar­ily sig­nif­i­cant.

Rus­sia and the United States in re­cent weeks en­gaged in a ver­bal tug of war over the spy flights. Moscow tem­po­rar­ily blocked a U.S. over flight of Rus­sia last month, claim­ing the U.S. and Czech Repub­lic team con­duct­ing the flight had failed to fol­low proper pro­ce­dures.

Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry spokesman Alexan­der Luka­she­vich told the news agency ITAR-TASS April 21 in ex­plain­ing why the U.S. over flight was blocked that Moscow re­gret­ted the U.S. op­po­si­tion to “our dig­i­tal ob­ser­va­tion equip­ment” for its new air­craft.

The White House has said it is re­view­ing whether to ap­prove the new Rus­sian spy air­craft and has not made a de­ci­sion.

The new Rus­sian air­craft in ques­tion is the Tu-214ON, which will be out­fit­ted with dig­i­tal im­agery equip­ment, side­ways-look­ing syn­thetic aper­ture radar, and in­frared gear.

The radar is ca­pa­ble of imag­ing through some bar­ri­ers and cov­ers used to mask ad­vanced weaponry and is rais­ing new fears among mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials that Rus­sian elec­tronic spies will learn se­crets of arms de­vel­op­ment pro­grams.

The House mea­sure is said to have bi­par­ti­san sup­port and is likely to win the back­ing of the Se­nate, where Repub­li­cans and Democrats re­cently raised con­cerns about the new Rus­sian air­craft.

Four mem­bers of the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence — Repub­li­cans Dan Coats of In­di­ana and James E. Risch of Idaho, and Democrats Mark Warner of Vir­ginia and Martin Hein­rich of New Mex­ico — wrote to Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry to ques­tion ap­proval of the new equip­ment.

“We strongly urge you to care­fully eval­u­ate the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion on fu­ture Open Skies ob­ser­va­tion flights and con­sider the eq­ui­ties of key U.S. govern­ment stake­hold­ers,” they stated. alarm bells among U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials con­cerned he im­prop­erly dis­closed clas­si­fied elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion, or sig­nals in­tel­li­gence — dubbed SIGINT by spies.

Mr. Kerry spoke Fri­day be­fore a meet­ing of the Tri­lat­eral Com­mis­sion, an elite group of pri­vate sec­tor busi­ness lead­ers and for­mer govern­ment of­fi­cials. He re­vealed that the U.S. had ob­tained elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence in­di­cat­ing Moscow’s role in fo­ment­ing antigov­ern­ment ac­tiv­ity in east­ern Ukraine.

The re­marks were recorded by Daily Beast re­porter Josh Ro­gin, who ac­cord­ing Joseph S. Nye, the com­mis­sion’s North Amer­i­can chair­man, was able to sneak into the meet­ing.

Mr. Nye apol­o­gized for the se­cu­rity breach in a let­ter to Mr. Kerry: “The Com­mis­sion pledges to all those who par­tic­i­pate in our dis­cus­sion that noth­ing said in the room may be used with­out the ex­plicit per­mis­sion of the speaker.” The let­ter was ob­tained by Politico.

The Daily Beast quoted Mr. Kerry in a re­port Tues­day as telling the group “in­tel is pro­duc­ing taped con­ver­sa­tions of in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives tak­ing their or­ders from Moscow, and ev­ery­body can tell the dif­fer­ence in the ac­cents, in the id­ioms, in the lan­guage. We know ex­actly who’s giv­ing those or­ders, we know where they are com­ing from.”

The com­ments make clear that mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions were in­ter­cepted. Such in­tel­li­gence is nor­mally highly clas­si­fied.

The State Depart­ment later claimed that Mr. Kerry was re­fer­ring to Ukrainian in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts of the Rus­sians com­mu­ni­cat­ing with their agents in­volved in the desta­bi­liza­tion op­er­a­tions.

But one U.S. of­fi­cial said that, ei­ther way, the pub­lic dis­cus­sion of elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence se­crets is at the very least a se­cu­rity vi­o­la­tion.

Asked if an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Mr. Kerry’s re­marks is un­der­way, Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, said: “Not to my knowl­edge.”

Asked by a re­porter Tues­day about U.S. ev­i­dence link­ing Rus­sian of­fi­cials to un­rest in east­ern Ukraine, Pen­tagon spokesman Navy Adm. John Kirby said, “I’m loath to get into any kind of in­tel­li­gence is­sues here from the podium.”

“But re­gard­less of what you call them, what uni­forms they’re wear­ing, clearly, there are what we would con­sider ir­reg­u­lar el­e­ments that are at the very least, in­flu­enced by Moscow in­side Ukraine,” Adm. Kirby said, adding that De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel urged his Rus­sian coun­ter­part to put a stop to the desta­bi­liz­ing op­er­a­tions.

“It’s an in­flu­ence we’d like to see stop,” Adm. Kirby said. “It’s an in­flu­ence that is only fur­ther fo­ment­ing the pro-Rus­sian sep­a­ratists that were al­ready in Ukraine, fo­ment­ing and fos­ter­ing the vi­o­lence that they are com­mit­ting.”

The Rus­sian agents in Ukraine “cer­tainly don’t be­have like any­thing other than well-trained, pro­fes­sional in­di­vid­u­als,” he said. “They move and they act; they com­mu­ni­cate very much like armed forces or mil­i­tary mem­bers would.”

“It’s clear that they are hav­ing a dan­ger­ous, vi­o­lent in­flu­ence in­side east­ern Ukraine,” he added.


The new Rus­sian air­craft in ques­tion is the Tu-214ON, which will be out­fit­ted with dig­i­tal im­agery equip­ment, side­wayslook­ing syn­thetic aper­ture radar and in­frared gear.

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