Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case

Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. And if you don't get our newsletter, CLICK HERE to subscribe.


THE TOPLINE: A pair of House Democrats is urging their colleagues to join them in calling for the U.S. intelligence community to release information on advanced knowledge of a reported Saudi plot to capture journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Democratic Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (Wis.) and Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSome in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal It's time to eliminate land-based nuclear missiles MORE (Calif.) are circulating a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAmerica's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down German lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs MORE, seeking signatures before they send it next week, according to a Friday news release.

In the letter, the lawmakers want to know if the Trump administration warned Khashoggi of any threats against him, linking their request to efforts to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen's civil war.

Still missing: Khashoggi has not been seen since Oct. 2 when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

Khashoggi has been living in self-imposed exile in the Washington, D.C., area since 2017 and writing columns for the Washington Post critical of the Saudi government.

Turkish officials claim he was murdered inside the consulate and dismembered there. Saudi officials say that allegation is baseless and that he left the consulate alive the same day.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that U.S. intelligence intercepted discussions between Saudi officials about a plan ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him. 

What's in the letter: In their letter, the lawmakers highlight that a 2015 directive gives the intelligence community the duty to warn both U.S. citizens and non-citizens of threats of serious bodily injury, kidnapping and intentional killing.

"Given your office oversees the U.S. intelligence community's duty-to-warn process, we seek urgent answers as to whether Mr. Khashoggi was in fact contacted about the credible threat to his life and liberty posed by the Saudi plot to capture him; the precise date on which any arm of the U.S. intelligence community first became aware of the Saudi plan to detain Mr. Khashoggi; and whether the intelligence community will declassify portions of U.S. intercepts of Saudi officials relevant to Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance," the letter says.

The letter also warns Coats that lawmakers will "use the full force of congressional oversight and investigatory powers to obtain these answers should they not be forthcoming" because of the issue's potential "profound ramifications."

Here are more stories from The Hill on the missing journalist:

-- GOP lawmaker calls on Mnuchin to cancel trip to Saudi Arabia

-- Saudi officials arrive in Turkey for talks on missing journalist

-- Graham on punishment for Saudi journalist's disappearance: 'Everything would be on the table'

-- Turkish officials have recordings supporting charge that Washington Post contributor was murdered: report

-- Richard Branson freezes Saudi business ties amid reports of journalist's murder

-- Saudi Arabia, Turkey to form joint investigation into Khashoggi disappearance





ARMY DISCHARGED MORE THAN 500 IMMIGRANT RECRUITS IN ONE YEAR: During a 12-month period the U.S. Army discharged more than 500 immigrant enlistees who were promised a path to citizenship.

The enlistees were part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) recruiting program, which allows legal noncitizens to join the military in exchange for expedited U.S. citizenship. 

According to a list the Army submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 502 service members who enlisted under MAVNI program were discharged between July 2017 and July 2018.

The list was first obtained by The Associated Press.

The details: Two court documents containing the list were unsealed this week following a request from the AP.

Of the discharged immigrants, more than 100 were told their entry-level performance and conduct was subpar and 48 were dismissed because of an adverse security screening. Others were dismissed for reasons ranging from personal problems to encounters with police.

Because of the long wait caused by new screenings imposed under the Trump administration, dozens of immigrant recruits already in the pipeline were discharged or had their contracts canceled. The ensuing complaints and lawsuits led the Army to halt the discharges and reinstate at least 36 recruits.

As of April there were 1,000 recruits in delayed entry or delayed training programs.

About the program: The Defense Department has recruited more than 10,000 immigrants through MAVNI since 2009, the overwhelming majority in the Army, according to the Pentagon.

The program was started in 2008, when there was an urgent need for immigrants with medical and language skills. It was put on hold in 2016 after concerns of insufficient screening for immigrant recruits.

The history: The Pentagon has had its ups and downs with immigrant recruitment efforts since former President George W. Bush ordered "expedited naturalization" for immigrant soldiers after 9/11. The push was an effort to quickly grow the military, and in 2009 MAVNI became an official recruiting program.

Former President Obama later allowed enlistment for young immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, causing additional security clearances to be added to MAVNI.

The program was suspended in 2016 "after several classified assessments concluded that the program, as previously configured, was vulnerable to an unacceptable level of risk from insider threats such as espionage, terrorism, and other criminal activity," according to the Pentagon.

The Trump Administration required new security screenings and longer enlistments that created a backlog, with some immigrants waiting more than a year to pass through the process.

The military's response: Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Carla Gleason told The Hill on Friday that "there are no individuals being released from their contracts or separated from the military due to their immigration status."

She added that "while the vetting process takes time, it is essential to national security."

Army Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said last month that roughly 80 percent of MAVNI recruits who made it through screening were approved and enlisted.

He said the Army must "exercise due diligence, to make sure we understand who is coming into our ranks and just do that. 

"The process is never quick enough, certainly for them, and for me as well," Esper added.


PENTAGON WATCHDOG KNOCKS ADMIRAL FOR HANDLING OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE: The Pentagon's internal watchdog admonished the Navy's top admiral on Friday for failing to immediately remove his spokesman following allegations of sexual misconduct.

The inspector general concluded that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson's failure to take swift disciplinary action against his public affairs officer (PAO) was a "performance issue" but not misconduct. The inspector general recommended the secretary of the Navy review Richardson's performance.

"Adm. Richardson had full authority to remove the PAO from his personal staff at any time," the inspector general wrote. "We believe that Adm. Richardson's failure to ensure that the PAO was removed from his personal staff in an expeditious manner – for 4 months after he decided to reassign the PAO and take administrative action against the PAO – sent the wrong message about how seriously Adm. Richardson took the allegations of sexual harassment."

Richardson's response: The inspector general's report included a statement from Richardson.

"I welcome the level of scrutiny shown by your investigation as it is appropriate to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, an office which must enjoy the public trust," Richardson said. "I have learned a great deal from this incident and will use these lessons going forward."

The background: In a case it dubbed "Bad Santa," USA Today reported last year that Cdr. Chris Servello was allowed to remain Richardson's spokesman after being accused by fellow officers and a civilian of making unwanted sexual passes and slapping a woman on the buttocks while dressed as Santa Claus at a 2016 office Christmas party.

Servello was reassigned in mid-August 2017, which USA Today noted came weeks after it began asking the Navy about the issue.

At the time, Richardson said he was following advice from his lawyers and waiting for the legal process to play out before firing Servello.

After the USA Today article, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded an investigation by the inspector general.



UAE-led operations have degraded Al Qaeda’s ability to plot attacks against the US and other global targets. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is now at its weakest since 2012. Learn more.



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