The Complex

Foley's Executioner Likely British National

Evidence is mounting that the man who executed American journalist James Foley is a British national fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.

According to BBC Radio, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that the masked man in the video was likely a British citizen.

"On the face of it, it appears to have been a British person. We'll have to do some more analysis to make quite certain that that is the case," Hammond said. "There are significant numbers of British nationals in Syria, increasingly in Iraq" who pose a "direct threat to our own national security. It just is one more example in a catalog of brutality by this organization," he added.

Hammond also suggested that the video is genuine -- something the United States would later confirm -- and that British authorities are trying to identify who the man is. "All the hallmarks point to [the video] being genuine. We're very concerned by the apparent fact that the murderer in question is British, and we are urgently investigating -- agencies on both sides of the Atlantic -- are first of all looking to authenticate the video, to make sure that it is genuine, and sadly it appears to be, and then to see if we can identify the individual in question."

The Guardian also reported that a former hostage of the Islamic State identified Foley's murderer as the ringleader of two other Brits who are guarding foreign nationals in Raqqa, an Islamic State stronghold in Syria. The newspaper reported that the executioner called himself John and was the lead negotiator in talks earlier this year to release 11 hostages of the Sunni militant group.

The executioner was "intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings," the Guardian reported, based on what the former hostage told the publication. Hostages referred to the group as "the Beatles" because of the group members' nationality, the former hostage said.

The CIA declined to comment on the report. British intelligence services also did not comment.

News that the executioner is British comes a week after pro-Islamic State groups distributed propaganda on London's streets praising the militants. The flag of the group formerly known as ISIS was also flown over a housing estate in East London.

Barack Obama's administration did not comment on the executioner but confirmed the video's authenticity. The U.S. president was visibly angry when he discussed the beheading Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 20, but did not specify what actions the United States would take -- if any -- in the wake of it.

"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people," Obama said from Martha's Vineyard, where he's vacationing. "We will be vigilant and we will be relentless."

A few hours later, the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon might deploy up to 300 additional troops to Iraq, though in what capacity was unknown. The United States continued targeting Islamic State fighters with airstrikes Wednesday, despite the terrorists' threat to kill another American journalist.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about Foley, 40, who worked for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse, and other outlets.

According to GlobalPost, Foley came to journalism as a second career. He also covered the war in Syria, where he was abducted on Nov. 22, 2012. Foley earned his bachelor's degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee and graduated in 1996, according to the university's alumni magazine.

In an article published in 2011 recounting his time as a prisoner in Libya, Foley said his faith helped him survive and thanked Marquette's Catholic community for its prayers.

"It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth," he said of a prayer vigil held for him while a prisoner. "If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn't make sense, but faith did."

Photo by ARIS MESSINIS

The Complex

Navy's Nuke Cheating Scandal Is Getting Even Bigger

It turns out that a Navy cheating scandal at a nuclear power training site in Charleston, South Carolina, is much bigger than originally feared.

Senior Navy officials said in February that roughly 20 sailors had cheated on their qualification exams. Now, 78 enlisted sailors are implicated and the Navy is kicking out at least 34 of them, according to the military. Meanwhile, 10 of the sailors remain under criminal investigation. So far, the cheating appears to be limited to this unit in Charleston, but it dates back to at least 2007, according to an internal Navy investigation. The Navy's new punishments were first reported by the Associated Press.

The Navy is requiring additional ethics training and making other changes but some say the problem runs much deeper than just one unit or even one service. The Navy's cheating scandal is just one of several high-profile ethical violations found in the military in the last year.

"There's something in the water right now," said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine two-star general and former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer. "There's an underlying, fundamental thread tying these incidents together," Punaro said, pointing to cheating, bribery, sexual harassment, and procurement scandals across the services.

But he said it's particularly worrisome to see ethics problems crop up among the Navy's nuclear forces.

"This is the last place you would ever expect to see this," Punaro said. "They have just the highest standards you could ever believe, so that should make us nervous about the Navy but also what's happening elsewhere."

The Pentagon is worried too. In March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tapped Rear Adm. Margaret "Peg" Klein, a former Naval Academy commandant, to serve as his "senior advisor for military professionalism," a newly created position ordered to report directly to the secretary about ethics matters.

Meanwhile, the Air Force had its own cheating scandal, at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, where nine officers were fired and the commander resigned after 100 or so officers were implicated in January.

In February, word got out that more than 800 soldiers were under investigation for allegedly gaming a National Guard recruitment program and pocketing millions of dollars in kickbacks.

The Navy is also dealing with multiple bribery scandals.

The most famous one centers around Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based contractor that supplied and serviced Navy ships at ports all over Asia. Multiple senior naval officials, enlisted sailors, and an agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were charged with accepting bribes from the company and its CEO, Leonard Glenn Francis, known as "Fat Leonard." In exchange, the Navy officials provided inside information that helped the company win contracts and make more money.

But it's not the only bribery scandal.

On Aug. 12, Scott Miserendino, a former contractor for the Navy's Military Sealift Command, pled guilty to accepting bribes and conspiring to commit bribery, according to the Justice Department.

"In addition to the more than $265,000 in cash bribes, Miserendino also admitted that he and [Kenny Toy, the former afloat programs manager for the N6 Command, Control, Communication, and Computer Systems Directorate] received other things of value, including flat screen televisions, laptop computers, a vacation rental in Nags Head, North Carolina, a football helmet signed by Troy Aikman, and softball bats," the Justice Department said in its statement.

Punaro blames these scandals on a lack of accountability and leadership up and down the chain of command.

"If you can cancel $50 billion worth of procurements and not one person is held accountable, what does that tell you about the system?" Punaro asked.

DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett