FAS Roundup: September 17, 2012

Summer issue of the PIR, nuclear energy debate, legality of targeted killing of terrorists and much more.

Up for Debate: Nuclear Energy in the United States

The U.S. nuclear power industry currently generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. While nuclear plants generate more than half the electricity in six states, the nuclear power industry’s challenges include high nuclear power plant construction costs, public concern about nuclear safety and waste disposal, and regulatory compliance costs.

Will the use of nuclear energy lead to energy independence? In a new edition of the FAS online debate series “Up for Debate,” Dr. Mark Perry from the American Enterprise Institute and Ms. Ellen Vancko from the Union of Concerned Scientists debate the future use of nuclear energy in the United States.

Read the debate here.

Summer 2012 Public Interest Report

The new issue of the Public Interest Report is now available online, featuring articles on America’s cyber policy, strategic responses to cyber espionage and nuclear power safety.

Read the Summer 2012 PIR here.

From the Blogs

  • House Votes to Reauthorize FISA Amendments Act: On September 12, the House of Representatives voted to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act for five years. The Act generally authorizes electronic surveillance of non-U.S. persons and U.S. persons who are believed to be outside the United States, while prohibiting the “intentional” targeting of persons in the U.S. without an individualized warrant, seemingly leaving a wide opening for unintentional or incidental collection. This and other features of the Act prompted concerns about the expansion of surveillance authority and the erosion of constitutional protections.
  • Court Lifts Gag Order on Former Secrecy Czar: This week, a federal judge granted permission to J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, to discuss three documents that were at issue in the trial of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake. Mr. Leonard is an expert witness for the Drake defense and had sought permission to publicly challenge the legitimacy of the classification of one of the documents cited in the indictment against Mr. Drake, which was ultimately dismissed.
  • Limited Data Makes Secrecy Harder to Monitor: A new annual report on government secrecy discusses the quantitative and qualitative obscurity of government secrecy policy which makes secrecy hard to evaluate and to control. The report was published by OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of some 80 organizations concerned with government transparency. The report assembled the quantitative indicators of government secrecy and disclosure that could be obtained, and also discussed several categories that should be available but are not.
  • Pascal’s Wager: Blair Pascal struggled with religious faith for much of his life, finally resolving many of his conflicts when he posed religious belief as a problem in logic rather than of faith. In his thinking, Pascal was weighing a lifetime of behavior versus an eternity of reaping the fruits of that behavior. In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y investigates Pascal’s Wager, and how this cost-benefit analysis can be applied to security challenges and threats.
  • Legality of Targeted Killing of Suspected Terrorists Reviewed by CRS: The legality of targeted killing of suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens, was examined by the Congressional Research Service. The U.S. practice of targeted killing raises complex legal issues because it cuts across several overlapping legal domains. In all cases, the sovereignty of the nation where the strike occurs adds a further layer of legal complexity. With respect to targets who are U.S. citizens, the applicability of the U.S. Constitution is yet another urgent issue.
  • Records of 1940 Katyn Massacre Declassified: The National Archives announced that it has declassified over a thousand pages of records pertaining to the 1940 massacre of thousands of Polish Army officers and intellectuals in the Katyn Forest in the Soviet Union. The question of U.S. knowledge of the massacre, and the possibility of a U.S. coverup designed to protect the World War II alliance with the Soviet Union, has been a topic of speculation in the Polish press which some Polish observers hoped might be confirmed by the newly declassified records.
  • An Army Introduction to Open Source Intelligence: A new U.S. Army publication provides an introduction to open source intelligence, as understood and practiced by the Army. The new manual is evidently intended for soldiers in the field rather than professional analysts, and it takes nothing for granted.  At some points, the guidance that it offers is remedial rather than state of the art.
  • Kim Leak  Prosecution Hits a Bump in the Road: Steven Aftergood writes that prosecutors in the pending leak case of former State Department contractor Stephen Kim said they had discovered that the classified information Mr. Kim is accused of disclosing to a reporter without authorization had been circulated within the government more broadly than they had realized. That discovery requires further investigation and disclosure to the defense, prosecutors said in a recent status report to the court.
  • Pentagon Says it Does Not Conduct Surveillance of Journalists: “The Department of Defense does not conduct electronic or physical surveillance of journalists” as a way of preventing leaks of classified information, Pentagon press spokesman George E. Little wrote last week. But Department officials do “review media reports for possible unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” he said. Mr. Little was responding to a July 20 letter from leaders of the Pentagon Press Association, who questioned the nature of DoD’s intention to “monitor all major, national level reporting” for evidence of leaks.

 

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