Posts from December, 2006

Specter, Leahy Introduce Bill to “Restore” Habeas Corpus

In another sign of shifting ground in the post-election Congress, Senators Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy yesterday introduced the “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006,” which would reinstate federal court jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees and other suspected enemy combatants.

The bill would repeal two provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 enacted in September that limit habeas corpus. “Habeas corpus” refers to the ability of a detainee to seek judicial review of his case.

“The Constitution of the United States is explicit that habeas corpus may be suspended only in time of rebellion or invasion,” observed Sen. Specter. “We are suffering neither of those alternatives at the present time. We have not been invaded, and there has not been a rebellion.”

“This bill would restore the great writ of habeas corpus, a cornerstone of American liberty for hundreds of years that Congress and the President rolled back in an unprecedented and unnecessary way with September’s Military Commissions Act,” said Senator Leahy.

See the introduction of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act here.

Air Force Space Operations, and Orbital Debris

U.S. Air Force doctrine on space operations is elaborated in a new publication. See “Space Operations” (pdf), Air Force Doctrine Document AFDD 2-2, November 27, 2006.

The threat posed by debris in Earth orbit is the subject of a recent Master’s Thesis, which provides a convenient introduction to the subject and a review of recent literature. See “Orbital Debris: Technical and Legal Issues and Solutions” (pdf) by Michael W. Taylor, Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University, Montreal, August 2006.

ODNI Surveys Intelligence Community Employees

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is conducting an annual survey of intelligence community employees to lay a foundation for future reforms of personnel practices.

The survey (pdf) asks IC employees to evaluate a range of issues from workplace environment and job satisfaction (“How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?”) to attitudes towards other intelligence agencies (“How easy or difficult is it for you to collaborate with members of the IC who are outside your own IC agency?”)

“The purpose for collecting this information is to study and report attitudes and perceptions of the Intelligence Community workforce regarding their work environments, with a focus on various management policies and practices that affect them,” according to the survey form.

“The results will help your organization develop strategies to improve the quality of that work environment — one of the goals of your senior leadership and the Director of National Intelligence.”

Specifically, an official source indicated, the survey will support alignment of the Intelligence Community with the DNI Strategic Human Capital Plan (pdf), which envisions increased integration of U.S. intelligence agencies. It is the second such annual survey to be performed by the ODNI.

A copy of the survey was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Intelligence Community Annual Employee Climate Survey,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, November 2006.

Democratic Reps Tell EPA to Suspend Closure of Libraries

In what may be a harbinger of new rigor in Congressional oversight, four Democratic members of Congress told the Environmental Protection Agency to cease and desist (pdf) from closing public document libraries and dispersing or destroying their contents unless and until EPA obtains specific approval from Congress.

Public interest groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Library Association had expressed alarm over the closure of EPA libraries and the reported destruction of documents. EPA said that it was modernizing and digitizing its collections and that no information has been destroyed.

“We request that you maintain the status quo of the libraries and their materials while this issue is under investigation and review by Congress,” wrote Ranking Members Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN), John Dingell (D-MI), Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and James Oberstar (D-MN) in a November 30 letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

“It is imperative that the valuable government information maintained by EPA’s libraries be preserved,” the Congressmen wrote.

Court Orders Expedited Handling of FOIA Request on Leaks

A federal judge ordered (pdf) the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency to respond within 30 days to a Freedom of Information Act request from reporter Joshua Gerstein for a copy of records regarding unauthorized disclosures of classified information (“leaks”).

Gerstein, a reporter with the New York Sun, had requested all “criminal referrals” regarding classified leaks filed since 2001; all responses to such referrals from the Justice Department; damage assessments of the unauthorized disclosures; and various other related records.

The CIA and NSA had granted Gerstein’s request for expedited processing but then failed to produce any records for eight months. Nor did they offer a justification for their dereliction. [Correction: CIA and NSA denied the request for expedited processing.]

Judge Maxine M. Chesney of the Northern District of California therefore ordered the agencies “to produce all non-exempt records and non-exempt portions of records that are responsive to Gerstein’s FOIA requests” within 30 days.

In a separate ruling, Judge Chesney also ordered (pdf) the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the FBI to respond within 30 days to similar requests from Gerstein regarding leaks.

Neither order precludes agencies from invoking lawful exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act and withholding documents accordingly.

See “Reporter Wins A Court Battle With Government,” New York Sun, December 4.

DoD Updates Policy on GAO Investigations

A newly updated Department of Defense Instruction sets forth Pentagon policy on interactions with the Government Accountability Office, the congressional investigative agency.

“It is DoD policy that the Department of Defense cooperate fully with the GAO and respond constructively to, and take appropriate corrective actions on the basis of, GAO reports,” the new Instruction (pdf) says.

But DoD will also “be alert to identify errors of fact or erroneous interpretation in GAO reports, and to articulate the DoD position in such matters, as appropriate.”

See “Government Accountability Office (GAO) Reviews and Reports,” DoD Instruction 7650.02, November 20, 2006.

FBIS Views the Future of Soviet Space (1987)

“The USSR is publicly discussing an ambitious array of manned and unmanned space missions … planned over the next quarter century,” the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service reported in a 1987 internal assessment (pdf).

“Recent items in the Soviet press and scientific literature… have provided new details on Soviet space plans from the present through the end of this century,” said the FBIS analysis, which was marked “For Official Use Only.”

The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991. FBIS was absorbed into the DNI Open Source Center in 2004 2005.

See “Soviet Space Missions Planned Through the Year 2000,” Foreign Broadcast Information Service Science and Technology Perspectives, April 8, 1987 (4.5 MB PDF file, thanks to Allen Thomson).

Some other historical U.S. intelligence assessments of Soviet space programs can be found here.

Killing Habeas Corpus

Habeas corpus refers to the right of a person who has been detained by the government to challenge his detention in a court of law. Although the U.S. Constitution does not permit the suspension of habeas corpus except in case of invasion or rebellion, last September Congress did so anyway at the behest of the Bush Administration.

In a startling display of how easy it can be to disable even the most elementary constitutional protections, Congress enacted the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which would deprive suspected enemy combatants held abroad of their ability to seek judicial review of their status.

Proposed limits on habeas corpus were the subject of an intense and contentious hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, the record of which has just been published.

See “Examining Proposals to Limit Guantanamo Detainees’ Access to Habeas Corpus Review,” Senate Judiciary Committee, September 25.

Some of the more electric moments in the hearing were recounted in The New Yorker this week in a profile of Sen. Arlen Specter, who inexplicably condemned the proposed new restrictions on habeas corpus and then voted in favor of them. See “Killing Habeas Corpus” by Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, December 4.

“In my view, [the Military Commissions Act] has dishonored our Nation’s proud history,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who introduced legislation on November 16 that would repeal several of the Act’s provisions.

New from JASON

The elite JASON defense science advisory panel, most of whose deliberations and conclusions are classified, surfaced publicly for a moment with two new releases.

One new JASON report addresses the feasibility of reducing Defense Department dependence on fossil fuels.

“In light of an increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, as well as rising fuel costs for the U.S. and the DoD, and implications with regard to national security and national defense, JASON was charged in 2006 by the DDR&E [Director, Defense Research and Engineering] with assessing pathways to reduce DoD’s dependence on fossil fuels.”

A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Reducing DoD Fossil-Fuel Dependence,” JASON report JSR-06-135, September 2006 (105 pages, 4.5 MB PDF).

The second release is an unclassified summary of a JASON review of plutonium aging in nuclear weapons, which found that most plutonium weapon “pits” have “credible lifetimes of at least 100 years.” This important conclusion diminishes the case for any new nuclear weapon development.

See the unclassified executive summary (pdf) of the JASON report on “Pit Lifetime” (flagged by ArmsControlWonk.com).