Posts from June, 2006

Avoiding Contamination from Chem/Bio/Nuke Weapons

Tactics, techniques and procedures that military forces should use to avoid contamination from an attack involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons are set forth in a recent military manual (large pdf).

“The possibility that an adversary will use CBRN weapons against the United States and its allies continues to increase daily,” the manual states.

“If these weapons are used, our forces must be ready to implement the principles of CBRN defense [including] contamination avoidance, protection, and decontamination.”

“Executed at all levels and coupled with an effective retaliatory response, these fundamentals will increase the likelihood of a US victory.”

See “Multiservice Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Contamination Avoidance,” U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, February 2006 (13.5 MB PDF).

CRS: Accounting for POW/MIAs, and More

“There has been a long-running controversy about the fate of certain U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) and servicemembers missing in action (MIAs) as a result of various U.S. military operations,” a newly updated Congressional Research Service (CRS) report (pdf) on the subject begins.

“While few people familiar with the issue feel that any Americans are still being held against their will in communist countries associated with the Cold War, more feel that some may have been so held in the past in the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, or North Vietnam,” according to the CRS author.

There is currently one U.S. Army soldier who is listed as a Prisoner of War following his capture by Iraqi insurgents on April 9, 2004.

See “POWs and MIAs: Status and Accounting Issues,” June 1, 2006.

Some other recent CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News that are not readily available in the public domain include the following:

“Federal Emergency Management and Homeland Security Organization: Historical Developments and Legislative Options” (pdf), updated June 1, 2006.

“Military Airlift: C-17 Aircraft Program” (pdf), updated May 30, 2006.

“F/A-22 Raptor” (pdf), updated May 24, 2006.

CIA Nazi Files Released

Some 27,000 pages of Central Intelligence Agency records regarding operational relationships between the CIA and former Nazis following World War II were disclosed yesterday at the National Archives.

The release was announced by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Nazi War Crimes, which was created by a 1998 law. The IWG, which has previously overseen the declassification of eight million war crimes-related records, is chaired by former Information Security Oversight Office Director Steven Garfinkel.

The latest release almost failed to occur due to CIA recalcitrance.

“In 2002, the CIA declared that it was no longer going to follow the criteria observed since 1999 for all the participating agencies in the IWG declassification project [and that] henceforth it would produce files relating only to individuals whom we could prove had personally engaged in war crimes,” recalled IWG member Richard Ben-Veniste (pdf).

“For 18 months the IWG tried to persuade CIA that its unilateral redefinition of its obligation was erroneous and unacceptable,” he said.

This obstacle was eventually overcome thanks to the intervention of the sponsors of the original legislation — Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) — and the effective support of Porter Goss, who had just become the new CIA Director.

CIA spokesman Stanley Moskowitz said (pdf) the Agency was now committed to full disclosure regarding the historical record of CIA’s connections to Nazis.

He said that when the declassification process is completed at the end of this year, “we will have withheld nothing of substance.”

(Mr. Moskowitz himself was once the object of unwanted disclosure when, to the dismay of Agency officials, he was publicly identified as the CIA station chief in Tel Aviv. See “CIA Station Chief in Israel Unmasked,” Secrecy & Government Bulletin, Issue 75, November 1998.)

“The relevance of today’s disclosures [on Nazi war crimes] to the issues this Nation faces today is striking,” suggested IWG member Thomas H. Baer (pdf).

The question the documents raise, he said, is: “To what extent, and under what circumstances, can our Government rely upon intelligence supplied by mass murderers and those complicit in their crimes?”

Initial assessments of the new disclosures were prepared by four historians for the Interagency Working Group, each of which includes several of the newly declassified documents. See:

“New Information on Cold War CIA Stay-Behind Operations in Germany and on the Adolf Eichmann Case” (pdf) by Timothy Naftali, University of Virginia.

“Gustav Hilger: From Hitler’s Foreign Office to CIA Consultant” (pdf) by Robert Wolfe, former archivist at the U.S. National Archives.

“Tscherim Soobzokov” (pdf) by Richard Breitman, American University.

“CIA Files Relating to Heinz Felfe, SS Officer and KGB Spy” (pdf) by Norman J.W. Goda, Ohio University.

For more information, consult the Interagency Working Group on Nazi War Crimes.

CRS Views the Joint Strike Fighter

“The Defense Department’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is one of three aircraft programs at the center of current debate over tactical aviation, the others being the Air Force F-22A fighter and the Navy F/A-18E/F fighter/attack plane,” explains a newly updated Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

“The JSF program is a major issue in Congress because of concerns about its cost and budgetary impact, effects on the defense industrial base, and implications for U.S. national security in the early 21st century.”

Each of those matters is explored by CRS in “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program: Background, Status, and Issues” (pdf), updated June 2, 2006.

See also “Proposed Termination of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F136 Alternate Engine” (pdf), April 13, 2006.

Congress does not permit direct public access to products of the Congressional Research Service.

Waiting for a Ruling in the AIPAC Case

In the near future a federal court will decide whether the prosecution of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for allegedly mishandling classified information can proceed, or whether it must be dismissed on First Amendment grounds.

It will be a fateful decision either way.

If the prosecution is permitted to proceed, it would reflect an unprecedented determination that private individuals who are not engaged in espionage can be punished for receiving and transmitting national defense information. Such a finding would instantly transform many national security reporters, researchers and others into potential criminals.

If the case is dismissed, it would imply a bold affirmation of First Amendment values against the encroachment of a Justice Department that keeps testing its ever-expanding boundaries.

In their latest pleading (pdf), the defendants called the attention of Judge T.S. Ellis, III, to a new decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which they said supports their argument for dismissal of the AIPAC case.

The Supreme Court decision last week, in a case called Garcetti v. Ceballos, held that when a government employee makes a statement as part of his official duties, he does not enjoy First Amendment protections against retaliation by his employer. The decision was widely viewed as a defeat for whistleblower rights.

But attorneys for the former AIPAC defendants pointed to the sharp distinction made by the Supreme Court between the speech of a government official, which the Court said is not protected by the First Amendment, and the speech of a member of the public, who still possesses First Amendment rights.

“Ceballos confirms the defendants’ argument that while it may be proper to sanction a government employee for certain types of speech, the First Amendment does not allow the government to punish subsequent oral transmissions by non-government individuals” like those in the AIPAC case, the defense attorneys wrote.

“The Motion to Dismiss should be granted.”

See “Defendants’ Notice of Supreme Court Decision Relevant to Defendants’ Joint Motion to Dismiss the Superseding Indictment,” filed June 2, 2006 in USA v. Rosen, Weissman.

Managing WMD Civil Support Teams

In the event of an attack against the United States involving weapons of mass destruction, National Guard units known as WMD civil support teams (CST) would be called upon to respond.

“The mission of the WMD CST is to support civil authorities at a domestic CBRNE [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive] incident site by identifying CBRNE agents/substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional support.”

The operation of WMD civil support teams was described in a recent National Guard publication on “Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team Management,” January 12, 2006 (1.2 MB PDF).

Further detail is presented in “Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures,” U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-11.22, June 2003 (233 pages, 6 MB PDF).

Disposal of Chemical Weapons in the Ocean, and More (CRS)

(Updated Below)

“The U.S. Armed Forces disposed of chemical weapons in the ocean from World War I through 1970,” the Congressional Research Service recalled in a valuable new report (pdf).

“At that time, it was thought that the vastness of ocean waters would absorb chemical agents that may leak from these weapons. However, public concerns about human health and environmental risks, and the economic effects of potential damage to marine resources, led to a statutory prohibition on the disposal of chemical weapons in the ocean in 1972.”

“For many years, there was little attention to weapons that had been dumped offshore prior to this prohibition. However, the U.S. Army completed a report in 2001 indicating that the past disposal of chemical weapons in the ocean had been more common and widespread geographically than previously acknowledged.”

“The Army cataloged 74 instances of disposal through 1970, including 32 instances off U.S. shores and 42 instances off foreign shores. The disclosure of these records has renewed public concern about lingering risks from chemical weapons still in the ocean today.”

See “U.S. Disposal of Chemical Weapons in the Ocean: Background and Issues for Congress,” May 24, 2006.

Some other recent CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News that are not readily available in the public domain include:

“Defense: FY2007 Authorization and Appropriations” (pdf), updated May 31, 2006.

“The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States” (pdf), updated May 5, 2006.

Update: The disposal of chemical weapons in the sea was extensively reported by John M.R. Bull of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Virginia. See his remarkable series “The Deadliness Below.” (Thanks to Robert McClure of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Dateline Earth.)

The Case of Thomas Butler: The Last Chapter

The prosecution of Thomas C. Butler, the distinguished scientist who was convicted in 2004 of exporting plague bacteria to Tanzania without proper authorization and of various contract violations, came to a final conclusion last month when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition (pdf) to review the matter.

Yet the Butler case may endure as a parable of our times, since Dr. Butler, a specialist in plague and other infectious diseases, is such an unlikely criminal and the government’s pursuit of him seems so heavy-handed.

By all accounts, Butler is a person of extraordinary stature and achievement.

“The defendant’s research and discoveries have led to the salvage of millions (!) of lives throughout the world,” Judge Sam R. Cummings of the Northern District of Texas admitted in March 2004, before sentencing him to two years in jail.

A terrorist is one who destroys life indiscriminately. We lack a word for someone who saves millions of lives indiscriminately. If there were such a word, it could be applied without exaggeration to Thomas Butler.

But incredibly, his expertise in infectious diseases was invoked against him by the post-9/11 prosecution.

“From the outset of the trial, the government openly sought to use the specter of plague to convince the jury that Dr. Butler was a ‘bad person’,” wrote Butler’s defense attorney, George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley.

“The government analogized the actions of Dr. Butler to the practice in the Middle Ages of catapulting plague-infested human cadavers into walled cities to cause panic and death, bringing widespread panic to the quiet town of Lubbock,” Turley recalled.

See the Butler’s petition for certiorari, filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on April 11, 2006.

The petition was denied without comment by the Court in a May 15, 2006 order.

Science Magazine (26 May 2006, p. 1120) reported that “His supporters, including chemistry Nobelist Peter Agre… are hoping against hope for a presidential pardon, if not from George W. Bush then possibly from his successor.”

Selected case files, statements of support and other background materials on the Butler case are available from the Federation of American Scientists here.

Dr. Butler completed his prison term and returned home in December 2005.

Selected Agency Declassification Plans

In his 1995 executive order 12958, President Clinton directed that most historically valuable classified records be automatically declassified as they become 25 years old. The onset of this automatic declassification process was deferred repeatedly, but it was affirmed in principle by President Bush in his 2003 executive order 13292, and the initial phase of the process is now scheduled to begin at the end of December 2006.

“It is one thing to conceive such a concept and quite another to implement it,” wrote William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in the latest ISOO annual report (pdf) to the President.

“As of September 21, 2005, ISOO estimate[d] that 155 million pages of classified national security information must be declassified, exempted, or referred to other agencies by December 31, 2006.”

“ISOO believes, for the most part, that the Executive branch is progressing toward fulfilling its responsibilities for these records by the deadline,” Mr. Leonard wrote.

A selection of agency declassification plans presented to ISOO detailing plans for compliance with the automatic declassification deadline, obtained under the FOIA by Michael Ravnitzky, is posted here.

For related background, see “Progress Toward the Automatic Declassification Deadline of December 31, 2006″ in the 2005 ISOO Annual Report to the President (at page 19).

JAG Handbook on National Security Litigation

The legal issues and security procedures involved in litigating national security cases are introduced in a handbook (pdf) published by the Navy Judge Advocate General.

“National Security Cases and cases involving classified information are inherently complex because they impose strict security, reporting, coordination, and approval requirements on top of the necessities of investigating, trying, defending, or adjudicating charges.”

“Some offenses are capital and often are ‘high visibility’ cases overseen by the media, senior government officials, and Congress.”

The JAG handbook “contains information and guidance on the preparation, prosecution, defense, and adjudication of such cases.”

See “The Judge Advocate’s Handbook For Litigating National Security Cases,” Office of the Judge Advocate General, Department of the Navy, n.d. (2002).