Posts from May, 2006

Rethinking Intelligence Analysis, Cont’d

As well established as the practice of intelligence analysis may be, researchers continue to ask elementary questions about what analysis is, how it is done, and how it can be done better.

“Intelligence analysis involves a complex process of assessing the reliability of information from a wide variety of sources and combining seemingly unrelated events. This problem is challenging because it involves aspects of data mining, data correlation and human judgment,” one recent study (pdf) performed for the Office of Naval Research observed.

The study focused on development of computer tools to support the analytical method known as Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH), previously explored by Folker (pdf), among others.

See “Assisting People to Become Independent Learners in the Analysis of Intelligence” by Peter L. Pirolli, Palo Alto Research Center, Inc., Final Report to the Office of Naval Research, February 2006.

Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence

A “Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence,” published this month, is the third in a new series of reference works on major intelligence services, following volumes on British and U.S. intelligence.

“Mossad,” the name of the Israeli foreign intelligence service, is probably the best known Hebrew word after “shalom,” the preface suggests.

The new Dictionary, written by Israeli professor Ephraim Kahana, provides background, updated organizational charts, and other information on the Mossad and several other Israeli intelligence and security agencies.

The 424-page Dictionary provides an introduction to Israeli intelligence, along with entries on significant persons, operations and key historical episodes. All of the obvious topics are covered, from the capture of fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann to the Jonathan Pollard case, as are other relatively obscure subjects, such as the defense security organization Malmab, and its querulous director Yehiel Horev.

The individual subject entries are mostly brief, and do not include sources or references. But the book includes a fine bibliography (at least for those who lack Hebrew) featuring hardcopy and online resources on Israeli intelligence.

See “Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence” by Ephraim Kahana, Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, MD, May 2006.

House Moves to Abolish NNSA Counterintelligence Office

The Counterintelligence Office of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would be abolished under new legislation and its functions would be reintegrated into the Department of Energy.

The action would mark a striking reversal of one of the key intelligence reforms adopted following a series of security lapses at the Department of Energy national laboratories in the 1990s, which led to the establishment of the NNSA with its own counterintelligence activity.

Section 3117 of the House version of the FY 2007 Defense Authorization Act “would consolidate the counterintelligence programs of the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration under the Department of Energy.”

For related background, see “Intelligence Reform at the Department of Energy: Policy Issues and Organizational Alternatives” (pdf), Congressional Research Service, April 10, 2006.

The consolidation of DoE and NNSA counterintelligence under the authority of DoE was reportedly sought by the DoE Office of Intelligence, led by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, and the move would tend to strengthen the influence of his Office.

Some sense of the scope of activities of the DoE Office of Intelligence can be gleaned from a DoE classification guide that was released last week in redacted form.

See “DOE Classification Guide for Intelligence Information” (redacted), August 2001, change 1, November 29, 2004, (1.7 MB PDF).

Some New DoD Directives on Intelligence, Select Agents, Etc.

Some notable new directives from the Department of Defense on defense and intelligence policy include the following.

“DoD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning” (pdf), DoD Directive 3115.09, Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence), 3 November 2005, change 1, 10 May 2006.

“DoD Law of War Program” (pdf), DoD Directive 2311.01E, May 9, 2006.

“Minimum Security Standards for Safeguarding Biological Select Agents and Toxins” (pdf), Department of Defense Instruction 5210.89, April 18, 2006.

“Safeguarding Biological Select Agents and Toxins” (pdf), Air Force Policy Directive 10-39, 26 April 2006.

“Air Force Critical Infrastructure Program” (pdf), Air Force Policy Directive 10-24, 28 April 2006.

The New York Times and the Espionage Act: Letters

A provocative article written by Gabriel Schoenfeld in the March 2006 issue of Commentary Magazine proposed that the New York Times should be held liable under the espionage statutes for having published the December 16, 2005 article that revealed the existence of the Bush Administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program.

Discussion of that proposal continues with several lengthy letters to the editor in the June 2006 Commentary, including one from myself, along with a reply from the author.

“Mr. Schoenfeld argues that the paper committed not only a shameful act but a crime,” wrote Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute. “My view is that it may have violated a criminal statute but that its conduct was far from shameful.”

“What should the Times have done when it received the information? Exactly what it did do,” Mr. Halperin wrote.

“During the 90 years of the [Espionage Act's] existence, no one in government has attempted to push it in the direction Mr. Schoenfeld advocates, because to do so would have been constitutionally questionable and politically incendiary,” wrote Paul McMasters of the Freedom Forum.

“Although portions of the Espionage Act are riddled with ambiguous language, the provisions governing unauthorized publication of classified communications intelligence are perfectly clear, and the Times’s actions unequivocally violated them,” responded Mr. Schoenfeld. “I find it striking that not one of my correspondents challenges this.”

See “The New York Times and the Espionage Act,” Gabriel Schoenfeld and Critics, Commentary Magazine, June 2006.

NRC Reconsiders Secrecy of Nuclear Fuel Exports

In response to a request from a public interest group, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) agreed (pdf) to disclose the amounts of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel sought for export by two foreign countries. But the NRC said it reserved the right to withhold similar information in the future.

The Nuclear Control Institute (NCI) had argued last February that NRC secrecy regarding HEU exports was impeding public deliberation on the subject, and that such deliberation had in the past contributed to a reduction in international traffic in the weapons-grade material.

NRC chairman Nils J. Diaz agreed in part.

“With respect to the two pending applications for export of HEU, the NRC has decided that the total quantity of material requested in the particular export applications may be released,” he wrote to NCI President Paul Leventhal and analyst Alan Kuperman in a letter dated April 26 and disclosed this week (pdf).

Chairman Diaz revealed that Belgium had applied for export of 85.5 kilograms of HEU reactor fuel, and that Canada was seeking 15.5 kilograms of HEU.

Unfortunately, the utility of the new disclosures for public deliberation over nuclear exports was undercut by the fact that Belgium’s application has already been approved. A copy of the May 3 export license, with the amount of fuel to be sent to Belgium still blacked out, is here (pdf).

“This new NRC policy of considering disclosure of requested export amounts upon request is an improvement over the blanket redaction policy,” said NCI’s Alan Kuperman, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“But it will not restore a meaningful opportunity for public comment unless in each case the public promptly requests and the NRC promptly grants disclosure of the amount of the export license request, well in advance of the commission’s decision on that license request,” he told Secrecy News.

Kuperman praised outgoing NRC chairman Diaz for his constructive response, but he said that “we’ll be appealing for the routine release of these numbers.”

“Unprecedented” AIPAC Prosecution Draws Growing Attention

The prosecution of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for allegedly mishandling classified information is attracting growing attention as the momentous character of the case and its implications for American civil liberties become clear. (AIPAC itself is not a defendant and is not accused of wrongdoing.)

“When we say that this is an unprecedented case, we’re not saying it hyperbolically the way people use ‘unprecedented’,” said defense attorney Abbe Lowell, according to the newly disclosed transcript of an April 21 court hearing. “We literally mean it’s unprecedented. There is not a case like it.”

Never before
has the Espionage Act of 1917 been used to prosecute uncleared, non-governmental persons who are engaged in protected First Amendment activities (not espionage) for receiving and transmitting national defense information.

If these defendants are guilty of a crime, then so are many other people.

“I think Mr. Lowell is absolutely right,” Judge T.S. Ellis, III said at the April 21 hearing. “It is an unprecedented, it’s a novel case.”

Prosecuting attorney Kevin DiGregory argued that the defendants had conspired to improperly gather and disseminate classified information and therefore “they stand in the shoes of a thief.”

But the court rejected that assertion.

“You’re not going to attempt to prove, and it isn’t alleged in the indictment, that these defendants in some way conspired to steal [the information],” said Judge Ellis. “I don’t think you gain much from an analogy that doesn’t fit.”

“I find this a very, very hard problem,” he said. “I’m exquisitely sensitive to the [defendants'] motion to dismiss that I’m continuing to consider,” he said.

Assuming the case is not dismissed, the trial will begin August 7.

A copy of the transcript of the April 21 hearing on the matter was obtained by Secrecy News.

The AIPAC case may be a prelude to the establishment of an American version of the British Official Secrets Act, wrote civil libertarian Nat Hentoff. See “Chilling Free Speech” by Nat Hentoff, Washington Times, May 8.

The case could “change the nature of how news is gathered in Washington and how lobbyists and academics interact with the government,” wrote author David Wise. See “Read the News, Go to Jail,” by David Wise, Los Angeles Times, April 30.

Both articles were entered into the Congressional Record yesterday by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA). See “The Big Chill in Washington, DC,” May 9.

In Print

** The new Journal of National Security Law & Policy has recently published its second issue featuring several meaty articles on interrogation, torture and the rule of law. The full contents of the issue, along with subscription information, are available online here.

** “Regulatory transparency–mandatory disclosure of information by private or public institutions with a regulatory intent– has become an important frontier of government innovation.” A new journal article assesses when and how such transparency works. See “The Effectiveness of Regulatory Disclosure Policies” by David Weil, et al, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 25, No. 1 (abstract only).

** The case of Sam Adams, the intelligence analyst who challenged official assessments of the size of Viet Cong forces during the Vietnam War, is revisited in a new book. “It’s the first complete narrative of the intelligence war at the heart of what went wrong in Vietnam, and it also happens to be highly relevant to what’s happening today in Iraq,” suggests the publisher. See “Who the Hell Are We Fighting? The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars,” by C. Michael Hiam, Steerforth Press, published April 25, 2006.

DNI Report Views Proliferation, Circa 2004

“We remain concerned that Tehran may have a clandestine nuclear weapons program,” according to a new but rather anticlimactic U.S. intelligence report (pdf) to Congress.

The new report on foreign acquisition of weapons of mass destruction during 2004 was released by the Deputy Director of National Intelligence this week.

Such a report is required by statute to be prepared and delivered every six months. The last report, for the second half of 2003, was released in November 2004.

See “Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January Through 31 December 2004,” Unclassified DDNI Report to Congress, May 2006.