Posts from August, 2006

Aircraft Anti-Missile Systems Need More Work, DHS Says

(Updated below)

The potential threat to commercial aircraft from hostile use of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (Man Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS) still does not have a satisfactory technological solution, the Department of Homeland Security said in a new report to Congress.

“It is feasible to transition selected military [defense] technology to the commercial aviation environment, but it is challenging from a logistics, cost, export control, and, to some extent, from a liability perspective,” the DHS report said.

“Additional design, development, test, and actual operation [of counter-MANPADS technology] in the commercial environment is needed to improve reliability, reduce drag and weight, incorporate technology protection, [and] enhance producibility….”

See “Department of Homeland Security Counter-MANPADS Program Summary, Report to Congress Detailing Phases I and II Findings of the Counter-MANPADS Program,” DHS Science and Technology Directorate, July 31, 2006.

[Update 08/11/06: At the request of the Department of Homeland Security, Secrecy News has taken this report off-line.]

The new DHS assessment, which has not previously been made available to the public, was first reported by the Associated Press.

See “Airline Anti-Missile System Years Away” by Leslie Miller, Associated Press, July 31.

Extensive background on MANPADS proliferation prepared by Matthew Schroeder of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project is available here.

“Congress needs to keep in mind that onboard anti-missile systems are not a panacea; they only protect planes from a small sub-category of threats, and provide no protection for Americans flying on foreign airliners that aren’t equipped with the systems,” Mr. Schroeder said. “If Congress goes this route, they need to redouble non- and counter-proliferation efforts.”

Selected CRS Reports

Numerous new reports of the Congressional Research Service on subjects of public interest and concern have been issued lately. Yet by design, they are not made readily available to the public. They include the following.

“The Department of Defense Rules for Military Commissions: Analysis of Procedural Rules and Comparison with Proposed Legislation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice”
(pdf), updated July 25, 2006.

“Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Military Commissions in the ‘Global War on Terrorism’”
(pdf), July 6, 2006.

“Military Tribunals: Historical Patterns and Lessons” (pdf), July 9, 2004.

“Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses” (pdf), updated July 31, 2006.

“Israeli-Arab Negotiations: Background, Conflicts, and U.S. Policy”
(pdf), updated July 25, 2006.

“Lebanon” (pdf), updated July 24, 2006.

“European Approaches to Homeland Security and Counterterrorism” (pdf), July 24, 2006.

“China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues” (pdf), updated July 17, 2006.

“Banning Fissile Material Production for Nuclear Weapons: Prospects for a Treaty (FMCT)” (pdf), July 14, 2006.

“North Korean Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States” (pdf), updated July 6, 2006.

“International Small Arms and Light Weapons Transfers: U.S. Policy”
(pdf), updated June 27, 2006.

Of Leaks and Whistleblowers

Senator Christopher Bond (R-Missouri) introduced legislation today to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

“We need to send a message that leaks will not be tolerated and give prosecutors a modern and appropriate tool to go after those who do leak,” he said.

The new Bond bill is identical to the controversial anti-leak legislation sponsored by Senator Richard Shelby in the FY 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act that was vetoed by President Clinton in November 2000.

See “Bond Legislation Targets Intelligence Leaks,” August 2.

Meanwhile, a new U.S. intelligence policy on unauthorized disclosures of classified information is pending, the Director of National Intelligence said last week in a progress report.

“The DOJ and ODNI are … working closely on leaks issues,” he wrote (at page 8). “In March 2006 the ODNI issued policies to consolidate IC reporting of leaks and is now preparing to issue a Community-wide directive on [unauthorized] disclosures.”

The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition disclosed last week that former NSA employee Russell Tice had been summoned to appear before a grand jury investigating the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. See related background, including a copy of the grand jury summons, on the Coalition web site here.

Mr. Tice and other national security whistleblowers testified before the House Committee on Government Reform last February, and the record of that hearing has just been published.

See “National Security Whistleblowers in the post-9/11 Era: Lost in a Labyrinth and Facing Subtle Retaliation,” February 14, 2006.

Missile Defense Deployments “Secret for Political Purposes”

(Updated below)

The names of foreign countries that are being considered for deployment of U.S. missile defense systems are unclassified but nevertheless should be kept secret, the Missile Defense Agency ordered (pdf) last year.

“There are many operational and political sensitivities that require varying levels of protection as we consider possible deployments,” wrote MDA Deputy Director Gen. Marvin K. McNamara.

“Therefore, I am requiring that potential host nations being studied or considered by MDA for operational deployments not be identified by country or city name in any form on Unclassified computer systems…..”

The November 22, 2005 MDA memorandum on “Protection of Information Regarding Operational Deployments” was obtained by Nick Schwellenbach of the Project on Government Oversight and is available here.

In an email message also obtained by POGO, an MDA security manager paraphrased the policy this way: “Information regarding operational deployments should be treated as ‘Secret’ for political purposes and, for that reason, the information is to be sent encrypted or by SIPRNET.”

What is at issue here, explained Victoria Samson of the Center for Defense Information, is the location of the third site for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which is still under conideration.

But not everyone got the word.

In a March 20, 2006 briefing (pdf) by MDA Director Gen. Trey Obering, obtained by Ms. Samson, three countries are identified as possible candidates for the third ground-based site: the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Poland. See “Missile Defense Program Update” (at slide 35).

Official controls on unclassified information have mushroomed in recent years. An interagency task force that conducted an inventory of so-called Sensitive But Unclassified control markings recently identified 164 distinct marking systems for controlling unclassified information, according to Grace Mastalli, who co-chaired the task force.

Update: The March 20 Obering briefing was presented at an MDA/AIAA briefing in Washington, DC. It was previously reported by Inside Missile Defense, which noted the identification of the UK as a candidate country for the third GMD site, and also made the briefing available to readers.

House Bill Would Open Up Intelligence Oversight

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House would require the House Intelligence Committee to disclose information on intelligence activities to other congressional committees, as long as such disclosure did not reveal sensitive intelligence sources or methods.

“In order to exercise proper oversight, House committees need all pertinent information and, unfortunately, that process isn’t functioning as it was intended to,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who introduced the bill.

“We should not have to rely on the morning paper to learn about secret government programs, particularly when we sit on committees that are charged with overseeing such programs,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a co-sponsor.

See the “Intelligence Oversight Act” (H.R. 5954) here.

In a move that may enhance its legislative prospects, the bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee rather than to the House Intelligence Committee, UPI’s Shaun Waterman reported (h/t POGO).

Some Recent Congressional Publications

Some noteworthy congressional documents that have recently been published include the following.

“The Need to Know: Information Sharing Lessons for Disaster Response,” House Committee on Government Reform, March 30, 2006.

“Plane Clothes: Lack of Anonymity at the Federal Air Marshal Service Compromises Aviation and National Security”
(pdf), House Judiciary Committee investigative report, May 25, 2006.

“The Terrorist Threat from Shoulder-Fired Missiles” (pdf), House Committee on International Relations, March 30, 2006.

DoD Annual Report on Counterproliferation

The Department of Defense recently published its annual report on counterproliferation, an overview of U.S. government programs to detect, prevent and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

See “Report on Activities and Programs for Countering Proliferation and NBC Terrorism, Counterproliferation Program Review Committee” (pdf), Volume I, Executive Summary, May 2006.

See also the related “Department of Defense Chemical and Biological Defense Program, Annual Report to Congress” (8.5 MB pdf), March 2006.

Stealth Satellite Sourcebook

Published sources on stealthy satellites were compiled in “A Stealth Satellite Sourcebook” by independent researcher Allen Thomson, available here (pdf).

An earlier compilation on the French GRAVES (Grande Réseau Adapté à la Veille Spatial) space surveillance system, also by Mr. Thomson, may be found here (pdf).