Advertisements

Jury Finds all Oregon Standoff Defendants Not Guilty of Federal Conspiracy, Gun Charges

c37e4a134c3e1087

The jury of nine women and three men returned the verdicts after five hours of deliberations on Thursday in the high-profile case that riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the federal bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon.

Maxine Bernstein reports: A federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility. Kenneth Medenbach was found not guilty of stealing government property, and a hung jury was declared on Ryan Bundy’s charge of theft of FBI surveillance cameras.

“More than we could have hoped for,” said one of Ammon Bundy’s lawyers, J. Morgan Philpot.

“Stunning,” said defense lawyer Lisa Ludwig, who was standby counsel for Ryan Bundy.

“I’m just thrilled,” said Neil Wampler‘s attorney Lisa Maxfield.

The jury of nine women and three men returned the verdicts after five hours of deliberations on Thursday in the high-profile case that riveted the state and drew national and international attention to the federal bird sanctuary in rural eastern Oregon.

[Read the full text here, at OregonLive.com]

Each defendant stood separately, facing the jury, as the judge read the verdicts. Ammon Bundy, his hands clasped behind his back, nodded as the “not guilty” verdicts were read for him first. As he sat, he smiled and rubbed the shoulder of his lawyer, Marcus Mumford.

His older brother Ryan Bundy stood. As his “not guilty” verdicts were read, he nodded, and mouthed to the jury, “Thank you.” Defendant Neil Wampler hugged and kissed his defense lawyer, Maxfield.

The coda to the stunning verdict, undoubtedly a significant blow to federal prosecutors, was when Ammon Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford argued that his client, dressed in a gray suit and white dress shirt, should be allowed to walk out of the court, a free man.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown told him that there was a U.S. Marshal’s hold on him from a pending federal indictment in Nevada.

“If there’s a detainer, show me,” Mumford stood, arguing before the judge.

Suddenly, a group of about six U.S. Marshals surrounded Mumford at his defense table. The judge directed them to move back but moments later, the marshals  grabbed on to him.

“What are you doing?” Mumford yelled, as he struggled and was taken down to the floor.

As deputy marshals yelled, “Stop resisting,” the judge demanded, “Everybody out of the courtroom now!”

Mumford was taken into custody, a member of his legal team confirmed.

Ammon Bundy’s lawyer J. Morgan Philpot, said afterwards on the courthouse steps that Mumford had been arrested and marshals had used a stun gun, or Taser, on his back. Another member of Ammon Bundy’s legal team Rick Koerber, echoed Philpot, saying he heard Mumford questioning in court why they were using a Taser against him.

Philpot decried the marshals’ treatment of Mumford in the courtroom. “What happened at the end is symbolic of the improper use of force by the federal government,” he said.

By 6:30 p.m., Mumford was released from custody. He confirmed that he was struck with a stun gun once while he was on the floor of the courtroom.

“I grew up on a dairy farm, so am I used to some rough treatment, sure?” he said. But he said the actions of the U.S. marshals were uncalled for.

[Read the full story here, at OregonLive.com]

“All I was asking for was papers. Just show me you have the authority to take Mr. Bundy into custody.”

As to the verdict, “Very pleased, very gratified. This jury was dedicated. They listened to our case.”

Just after the verdicts were announced, people emerged onto the front steps of the courthouse to tell a crowd of media and onlookers.

Supporters of the defendants gathered in a joyous hug. One of them, Brand Thornton of Las Vegas, one of the original occupiers who accompanied Ryan Bundy and others onto the refuge on Jan. 2 and was called as witness by the defense, said that he has been at the trial since Oct. 2.

The verdict “means everything,” Thornton said. It’s huge for ranchers and land rights within Harney County and across the West, he said. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

America’s Air Supremacy Is Fading Fast

air-sup

Peter Layton reports: American air supremacy is in a bear market of long-term decline with no end in sight. The RAND Corporation recently determined: “continuous improvements to Chinese air capabilities make it increasingly difficult for the United States to achieve air superiority within a politically and operationally effective time frame. . . .” These improvements are part of the reason the Center for Strategic and International Studies considers that: “ at the current rate of U.S. capability development, the balance of military power in the [Asia-Pacific] region is shifting against the United States.”

Worse, with Russia resurgent, American air supremacy is also declining in Europe. General Frank Gorenc, USAFE Commander notes:

“The advantage that we had from the air, I can honestly say, is shrinking…This is not just a Pacific problem. It’s as significant in Europe as it is anywhere else on the planet…I don’t think it’s controversial to say they’ve closed the gap in capability.”

America’s current air supremacy rests on the F-15 fighter fleet complemented by small numbers of F-22s. The elderly F-15s are though having problems handling the latest, new-build Russian and Chinese fighters. In assessing performance against the Russian Su-35 fighter (now being acquired by China), the National Interest’s Dave Majumdar observes: “Overall, if all things were equal, even a fully upgraded F-15C with the latest AESA upgrades would have its hands full…”

6jet2609a

As regards the much higher performance F-22, only about ninety are available for global air supremacy tasks. This is arguably too small for winning air supremacy in one theatre, let alone both Europe and the Pacific. Ongoing peacetime training attrition is further gradually reducing this small fleet. The 2009 decision ceasing F-22 production early was based in part on beliefs that it was irrelevant to countering Islamic extremists or the counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Events have now overtaken this perspective.

Today, the dangers of a resurgent Russia and a more assertive China have become both more apparent and important. America’s current air supremacy force structure remains highly effective for wars against third world tyrants, such as Saddam Hussein in 2003. These kinds of wars though are not the only conflicts now possible. Instead, there is a growing need to be able to deter, and potentially to win, wars involving near-peer competitors.

A U.S. fighter jet flies over an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Associated Press

Some consider the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will in time address declining air supremacy. Countering this sanguine view, the worrying RAND study earlier noted included the F-35 (and the F-22) albeit not the new Chinese J-20 or J-31 stealth aircraft. This study, in looking at 2017, may actually understate what China will be capable of later this decade when it has more than 1,000 advanced fighters in service.

So what? Does air supremacy matter? Air supremacy will not win a war but it will stop a war being lost. America has not won a war without air supremacy—a point that has been widely recognised. It’s no surprise that China sees air superiority as one of the key “Three Superiorities” that can decide a conflict’s outcome. Nor is it a surprise that a major part of Russia’s force modernisation is fighter development and procurement.

The still-in-development F-35’s contribution to future American air supremacy is mixed. The aircraft was designed as a short-range aircraft primarily for attacking ground targets while having a secondary air-to-air capability. Twenty years ago American air supremacy was unquestioned except for Russian-built SAM systems that the F-35 was built to defeat. But times change, albeit the F-35’s 1990’s era airframe design cannot.

An F-22 fighter jet (U.S. Air Force)

An F-22 fighter jet (U.S. Air Force)

Given that, the F-35s avionics have now been tweaked to compensate for the F-35’s designed-in constrained air-to-air fighting capabilities. The idea is that data received from the aircraft’s onboard systems fused with information from accompanying aircraft and distant sensors will provide the pilot with a god’s eye view of the battlefield. With this, the pilot will be able to kill hostile aircraft at long range before opposing fighters can close and engage the F-35 where it is weakest. Close-in manoeuvrability is then irrelevant. There are several concerns with this concept.

[Read the full story here, at The National Interest Blog]

Data fusion is an inherently complex business. Before every flight the F-35’s mission data files must be updated with the latest electronic signatures of friendly and hostile forces. Without this, the pilot’s god’s eye view may be inaccurate and dangerously misleading. In broad terms, the process involves advanced in-theatre and national intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems collecting the tetra-bytes of data necessary, skilled teams analysing this before on-forwarding to the United States, on-call software teams quickly translating the evolving tactical circumstances into mission data files and then retransmitting back out to the field to load onto each F-35 before every sortie.

Read the rest of this entry »