Senator and Presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain (R-Ariz.) got into a little bit of a tiff recently over the issue of military personnel being able to carry personal firearms for self-defense purposes while on base. As Politico reports, Sen. Cruz suggested that he was “pressing” Sen. McCain – the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee – on the issue, while in response, the former chief engineer of the Straight-Talk Express showed the kind of trademark wit that won him the votes of twenty-two of America’s fifty-seven states . . .
“I was fascinated to hear that because I haven’t heard a thing about it from him. Nor has my staff heard from his staff,” McCain said of Cruz (R-Texas). “It came as a complete surprise to me that he had been pressing me. Maybe it was some medium that I’m not familiar with….”
“Maybe it was through, you know, hand telegraph. Maybe sign language,” McCain said. “Ask him how he communicated with me because I’d be very interested. Because who knows what I’m missing.”
In the end, Sen. Cruz appears to have backed down, allowing that he “may have misspoken”. Apparently, he’d been pressing the previous head of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and just got the two mixed-up.
Fair enough. All those old white male senators kind of look the same to me too, sometimes.
This doesn’t appear to have been the first row between the two, and probably won’t be the last, so I’m sure we’ll have all manner of entertaining barbs between these two solons, especially as the 2016 campaign heats up.
Meanwhile, the Shreveport Times reported last month that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been threatening the lives of U.S. Air Force bomber crews here in the United States.
B-52 bomber crews from Barksdale Air Force Base [in Bossier City, La. – across the Red River from Shreveport,] and its sister base in Minot, N.D., form a quarter of the 100 U.S. military personnel threatened in online postings by the terror group Islamic State in Syria, or ISIS.
The 25 local names, with photos and addresses that in many cases appear to be old, are in the list of personnel the terror group is asking [its adherents to] follow and…to harm.
The text opening the page says the list was gained after what is called the “Islamic State Hacking Division … hacked several military servers, databases and emails,” though the list includes many names of personnel who have appeared in news accounts and features over past years.
Included among them are personnel from Barksdale active duty 2nd Bomb Wing and its 307th Bomb Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit….
Air Force Global Strike Command [responded] to a query from The Times.
“The Air Force Office of Special Investigation is coordinating with appropriate federal and local authorities on this matter,” the response said. “We have taken the appropriate steps to make sure that everyone impacted has been notified.
“As always, force protection is a primary concern. As such, we are encouraging all Airmen to ensure privacy settings on online/social media forums are adjusted to limit the amount of available personal information. As it relates to personal social media accounts, we are encouraging personnel to remove personal details such as physical addresses, email addresses and phone numbers. As always, vigilance and force protection considerations remain a priority for commanders and their personnel worldwide. A strong emphasis is always placed on ensuring the appropriate (operational security) and force protection training occurs and procedures are in place.”
Bossier City police have taken notice, spokesman Mark Natale said.
“BCPD is aware of the situation and is prepared to provide assistance to Barksdale Air Force Base in regard to this issue,” he said. “As part of that effort the police department is working to step up a law enforcement presence in certain locations of the city.”
Shreveport police said they have not been asked to provide extra patrols or take other steps. They also pointed out that since much of the information appeared taken from social media and online sites, it had little credibility.
“When you think about the information that these people have, it’s essentially equivalent to a dating site,” said Shreveport Police spokesman Cpl. Marcus Hines. ” It’s nothing you couldn’t get on anybody with five minutes of work.” (Emphasis added)
Yes, this is probably a simple list compiled by someone plugging in a few search terms into a search engine and spitting out whatever results came by after “five minutes of work.” However, the attitude expressed by Cpl. Marcus Hines, in my mind, is rather flip. Someone from Iraq isn’t going to fly into Louisiana or North Dakota and, using this list, start assassinating bomber crews. But we have seen in the not-so-distant past several incidents where locals sympathizing with the aims of ISIL have decided to step up and launch their own attacks: as in places like Ottawa, and Sydney. It has become a commonplace to hear news of arrests of people in the USA who are trying to join the Islamic State or were inspired to try to commit acts of violence by it.
(It also makes me wonder what someone with more than five minutes to spend on the task might come up with. After all, we’re not talking about hacking DoD databases here, either – after all, lots of commercial have employment information for their customers – like credit-card issuing banks, for example.)
Is it likely that someone will try to attack these USAF crews here at home? maybe not. Is it possible? Absolutely. It is also not simply a matter of stepping up base security; for those not in the know, most USAF personnel (and almost all officers – like the kind that would command and pilot a B-52,) live off-base. At some point in their day, they’re going to be outside the fence, with no help from guard dogs and Air Police sentries.
So once Sens. McCain and Cruz get done exchanging barbs, it would be nice if they — and the rest of Congress — could either, pass a law allowing people to carry on base in compliance with local state laws, or else explain to us why crews entrusted with the operation and care of one of the most venerable and storied weapons in the American arsenal, are not to be trusted carrying a pistol for their own defense, subject to the same rules as any civilian, even after the enemy has threatened to attack them at home.