American Forces Press Service

January 22, 2014

 

The Defense Department today released a new instruction that details its updated policy on making religious accommodations requested by service members, Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan J. Christensen said today.

A DOD instruction implements a policy or prescribes the manner or plan of action used to carry out a policy, operate a program or activity, and assign responsibilities.

“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members,” Christensen said, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.”

When a service member requests such an accommodation, he added, department officials balance the need of the service member against the need to accomplish the military mission. Such a request is denied only if an official determines that mission accomplishment needs outweigh the need of the service member, Christensen said.

Requests to accommodate religious practices will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, the spokesman noted.

Defense.gov: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=121525
Updated DOD Instruction Regarding Religious Accommodation: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/130017p.pdf

Somali American caught up in a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign

In MINNEAPOLIS — Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia. Packed with news and controversial opinions, it rapidly became a magnet for Somalis dispersed around the world, including tens of thousands in Minnesota.

The popularity of the site, Somalimidnimo.com, or United Somalia, also attracted the attention of the Defense Department. A military contractor, working for U.S. Special Operations forces to “counter nefarious influences” in Africa, began monitoring the Web site and compiled a confidential research dossier about its founder and its content.

In a May 2012 report, the contractor, the Northern Virginia-based Navanti Group, branded the Web site “extremist” and asserted that its “chief goal is to disseminate propaganda supportive” of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group. The contractor then delivered a copy of its dossier — including Warsame’s Minnesota home address and phone number — to the FBI. A few days later, federal agents knocked on the webmaster’s door.

Although he did not know it, Warsame had been caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation, according to public records and interviews.

 

Newly released emails say no sailors watched bin Laden’s burial at sea after Navy SEAL raid

WASHINGTON — Internal emails among U.S. military officers indicate that no sailors watched Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson and traditional Islamic procedures were followed during the ceremony.

The emails, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily blacked out, but are the first public disclosure of government information about the al-Qaida leader’s death. The emails were released Wednesday by the Defense Department.

Bin Laden was killed on May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One email stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer briefly describes how bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, and then placed in a weighted bag.

According to another message from the Vinson’s public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship’s leadership was informed of the burial.

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid. In a response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Vinson.

The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

U.S. To Release 5 Britons At Guantanamo Bay

Brian Knowlton IHT WASHINGTON U.S. officials will soon release five of the nine British citizens detained at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the British government announced Thursday. All were captured while allegedly fighting alongside Taliban militants against U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan A Spaniard was returned Friday to Spain, where he reportedly faced immediate interrogation by a magistrate investigating terrorism. The fate of about 10 other European detainees, including French, Swedish and German nationals, remained unclear. Negotiations over the release of British detainees had rotated partly around the sticky question of whether they would be jailed, tried or freed upon returning home. The Pentagon has announced plans to establish a panel to review detainees’ cases annually to see which of them posed no threat and could be released. But senior Defense Department officials said Feb. 12 that they expected to keep large numbers of the detainees for many years, even indefinitely. Some of the roughly 650 detainees have been held for as long as two years without being charged. To date, nearly 90 detainees have been released, and U.S. officials have suggested that more than 100 of those deemed less dangerous might be eligible for eventual release.