Gates: Advice for the Next President

By Dan Dupont / September 23, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is making news today for comments made at a hearing on Capitol Hill, where the subject was Iraq and how/when/if to get out.

From the AP:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday urged the next U.S. president, who will take office in January, to proceed cautiously in withdrawing troops from Iraq despite an 80 percent drop in violence there.

"I worry the great progress that our troops and the Iraqis have made has the potential to override a measure of caution born of uncertainty," Gates told a congressional hearing in Washington.

Transcript coming as soon as we can get it.

Meanwhile, Inside the Army has news on Iraq transition issues involving a key database of information -- and concerns over how it might be misused:

Defense Department representatives have begun discussing with Iraqi government officials how the U.S. military could help Baghdad set up a biometric identification system -- a technology deemed crucial in quelling the insurgency there, defense officials tell Inside the Army.

"The Iraqis have a biometric capability that they're building," Myra Gray, director of the DOD Biometrics Task Force, said in a Sept. 11 interview. "They need to continue to protect themselves from terrorists, so we will assist them in growing their own, because we have the expertise," she added.

Defense officials are tight-lipped about the extent of the Pentagon's assistance, citing the sensitivity of ongoing discussions with the Iraqis.

"There is some sense of urgency," one U.S. defense source said. . . .

One issue that has sparked some concern is the idea that the data, if it falls into the wrong hands, could underpin an effective "enemies" list that could be used in crackdowns.

"The biometric, in and of itself, is fairly harmless," said Gray. "It's the abuse of the capability to build more than just the biometrics, to build a hit list, to build a discriminatory list of who's privileged and who's not, who can and cannot have certain things" that could be harmful, she added.