It was just a few weeks ago that Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced, according to The Guardian, that his country “planned to increase its military projection abroad, including in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.” The next day, Russia's Viktor Leonov docked in Havana. The Guardian described the Leonov as having been “commissioned by the Soviet Union in 1988 near the end of the cold war. It is outfitted with electronic surveillance equipment and missile defense systems and is a signals-intelligence asset of the Russian navy, according to the Russian government.”
Not long before Vladimir Putin dispatched the Viktor Leonov to Cuba, China began making threatening noises about Japanese-controlled islands in the South China Sea. That development shouldn't have come as a shock to anybody, since Agence France-Presse reported in 2011 that “China's navy is playing an important role in the country's drive to become a world military power, with the recent trials of its first aircraft carrier underlining the scale of Beijing's naval ambitions. China has become increasingly assertive on the high seas and the carrier's first outing last month sparked jitters in the United States and Japan, which said the move would have a big impact' on the region.”
Then there's Iran, which earlier this year threatened to destroy the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the waters of the Middle East and dispatched a couple of ships derisively described by an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as “rust-buckets” to threaten America off its Atlantic coast. Nobody believes the Iranian vessels or threat represented any genuine danger to the U.S. Navy, but Russia and China are a different story.
As a Russian journalist helpfully reminded the world during the Ukrainian crisis, his country still possesses the nuclear weapons required to reduce the U.S. to “radioactive ash.” China possesses the same capability. And both nations are expanding their naval powers because control of the seas is a key to being a world power.
So what's the U.S. Navy been doing while all of these developments have been happening? Among other things, spending millions of dollars tracking which Americans have received traffic violations and parking tickets, as well as who has been involved in fender-benders. Data about all of these national security threats is daily entered into the Law Enforcement Information Exchange (LinX) managed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, according to a report by the Washington Examiner's Mark Flatten.
Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University, told Flatten that LinX worries him because “clearly, it cannot be right that any part of the Navy is collecting traffic citation information. This sounds like something from a third-world country, where you have powerful military intelligence watching everybody.” Officials with NCIS claim LinX is needed as part of the nation’s defense against terrorist attacks. That’s why the program was started during the Bush administration in 2003, they explain. That raises this question: How exactly does knowing about Aunt Martha's latest speeding ticket protect American naval supremacy on the high seas?