HASH(0xbeb8fc)

News of Iraq trip with Kushner midair poses security risks

News of Iraq trip with Kushner midair poses security risks

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s failure to keep senior adviser Jared Kushner’s trip to Iraq secret isn’t standard practice for top U.S. officials visiting warzones. Such trips are usually kept quiet, with the co-operation of journalists, until the officials arrive in order to ensure maximum security.

A senior administration official told reporters Sunday evening that Kushner — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law — was in Iraq, even though he was still en route. For the military and security professionals managing the mission, the public disclosure of the unannounced trip was a security breach. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, also was on board.

Although the plane landed safely in Baghdad on Monday, the Iraqi capital is hardly a secure location, having suffered countless extremist attacks over the years. The threat is no less acute today as Iraq wages a bitter battle to try to rid the Islamic State from its territory. For trips to the city, the military seeks to avoid public mention of plans ahead of time so extremist groups can’t plot attacks.

“It’s been longstanding practice to strictly avoid announcing the visits of senior U.S. officials in advance of their travels to warzones,” said George Little, a Pentagon and CIA press secretary for Leon Panetta, who managed both departments under President Barack Obama. “The main reason is obvious. You want to avoid giving the enemy any information that could help them to target these delegations, especially in areas where the battle lines aren’t clear on the map.”

Knowing when and where a senior U.S. military or civilian official might arrive makes attacks easier. Such details could help groups target the plane as it takes off or lands, or use roadside bombs or shoulder-launched rockets to strike dignitaries while they’re on the ground.

U.S. security details work with host countries to make sure routes and buildings are secure, trying to do so in the most inconspicuous manner possible.

The choice of plane, too, is determined by danger level. In warzones, officials often fly more rugged combat aircraft, such as the Air Force’s heavy C-17 transport plane. These can take off and land quicker on shorter runways. Steeper, corkscrew landings are sometimes preferred to minimize the threat from surface-to-air missiles.

Reporters co-operate, too. Those travelling with top leaders into conflict areas must keep the trip secret, with reports generally “embargoed” until landing. Restrictions can be tighter on rare occasions.

But these practices all are predicated on the administration not making the trip public prematurely.

“The moment of vulnerability is, if they know you’re coming, a surface-to-air missile going after the airplane,” said Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s White House press secretary. “If you can diminish the time they know — and by the time you’re there, the whole thing is a flood of security agents — it makes it almost impossible in theory for them to do anything bad.”

For the Trump administration, Kushner’s voyage marks the second time a secret trip hasn’t gone as planned.

In February, the White House arranged for Trump to visit Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to honour the returning remains of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed a week earlier. In keeping with the practice of past White Houses, the trip wasn’t announced. News organizations agreed not to report on the trip until after Trump arrived at the base.

But unlike past occurrences, Trump left the White House in broad daylight in Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House, taking off in full view of pedestrians. The AP was forced to report that Trump had left the building.

For the last 15 years, as Republican and Democratic presidents and Cabinet members have travelled in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, media have largely adhered to the unwritten rules.

In 2003, when then-President George W. Bush secretly travelled to Iraq to see troops on Thanksgiving Day, about a dozen reporters accompanying him had to hand over their cellphones, pagers and other electronics upon boarding Air Force One. They couldn’t file stories while Bush was on the ground, only after he left Iraqi airspace.

There have been occasional mistakes and misunderstandings. Host countries sometimes spill the beans and Cabinet members also slip up, though rarely with details about flights as they’re incoming.

Security incidents aren’t uncommon.

When Defence Secretary Panetta’s plane was taxiing after landing in Afghanistan in 2012, an Afghan contractor hijacked an SUV and tried to run down senior Marine officers waiting on the ramp to welcome the Pentagon chief. The contractor then set himself aflame inside the vehicle, forcing the plane to taxi elsewhere on the runway to avoid the fire.

Officials said they didn’t think the man knew about Panetta’s arrival.

___

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed.

Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press

Just Posted

McGarva, Grizzlies top Storm 3-0

Revelstoke remains unbeaten at home

UPDATE: Trans-Canada Highway is partially open east of Revelstoke

Road is open with single lane alternating traffic

Update: Police expand search in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Examination continues in Silver Creek, while another search happens between Salmon Arm and Enderby

Who is Curtis Sagmoen?

The Observer reveals what we know about the man attached to the Silver Creek property where human remains were found

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

A golden opportunity

Orthodontist offers sweet deal for the pocketbook

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Most Read