Posts from March, 2007

AP: More Than a Million Pages Removed from Archives

More than 1 million pages of historical government records have been removed from public access at the National Archives on asserted security grounds since September 2001, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Some of the records are more than 100 years old.

See “Government guards papers from public eye” by Frank Bass and Randy Herschaft, Associated Press, March 14.

To illustrate the sometimes questionable nature of the document withdrawals, the Associated Press has posted an interactive “quiz” for readers (thanks to resourceshelf.com).

New Army Regulation Redefines Leadership

A new U.S. Army regulation (PDF) “updates the definition of leadership and introduces the concept of the Pentathlete.”

The regulation identifies various aspects and levels of leadership, describes the warrior ethos and its place in Army culture, and discusses the responsibility of leaders and how they are trained.

Pentathletes in this context “are multi-skilled, innovative, adaptive, and situationally aware professionals who demonstrate character in everything that they do, are experts in the profession of arms, personify the warrior ethos in all aspects from war fighting to statesmanship to enterprise management, and boldly confront uncertainty and solve complex problems.”

See “Army Leadership,” Army Regulation AR 600-100, March 8, 2007.

Janet Reno on Leaks (2000)

The steps by which the Justice Department conducts investigations of unauthorized disclosures of classified information (“leaks”) were described by then-Attorney General Janet Reno in 2000 testimony before a closed hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At a moment when some, such as Senator Jon Kyl, are proposing to enact new statutory penalties against leaks, it is noteworthy that the Attorney General concluded that such penalties are unnecessary.

“We believe that the criminal statutes currently on the books are adequate to allow us to prosecute almost all leak cases,” she testified.

Significantly, “We have never been forced to decline a prosecution solely because the criminal statutes were not broad enough.”

(A similar judgment was offered by Attorney General John Ashcroft in a 2002 report to Congress: “I conclude that current statutes provide a legal basis to prosecute those who engage in unauthorized disclosures, if they can be identified.”)

Ms. Reno’s testimony, formally released under the Freedom of Information Act last week, provides perhaps the best single overview of the Justice Department’s handling of leak cases, from the initial “crime report” (sometimes called a “crimes report”) that advises the Justice Department of the leak, to the agency’s submission of answers to eleven specific questions about the leak, to the difficulties of conducting an investigation and the Department’s decision whether to prosecute.

“While we are prepared to prosecute vigorously those who are responsible for leaks of classified information,… I also want to say that the Department of Justice believes that criminal prosecution is not the most effective way to address the leak problem,” she said.

“In addition to the difficulties of identifying leakers, bringing leak prosecutions is highly complex, requiring overcoming defenses such as apparent authority, improper classification, and First Amendment concerns, and prosecutions are likely to result in more leaks in the course of litigation.”

“In general, we believe that the better way to address the problem of leaks is to try to prevent them through stricter personnel security practices, including prohibitions of unauthorized contacts with the press, regular security reminders, and through administrative sanctions, such as revocation of clearances,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Committee proceeded to endorse a new anti-leak statute against her advice. It was enacted by Congress and then vetoed in November 2000 by President Clinton.

The Justice Department Office of Public Affairs released the Reno testimony in October 2003 to reporters from the Washington Post and the Associated Press, who briefly quoted it in passing. But others who requested a copy, including Secrecy News, were told to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

Following a pointless and wasteful three-and-a-half year “review” by the Justice Department, the testimony has now been formally released under the FOIA without redaction.

But leak controversies remain ever green, even aside from the proposed Kyl Amendment, the ongoing prosecution of two former AIPAC officials for allegedly mishandling classified information, and so on.

The New York Sun reported that Rep. Tom Davis, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, rebuked the Justice Department last week for failing to properly account for leak investigations that had been terminated. See “Gonzales Said To Stonewall a GOP Query” by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, March 12.

Scraps From CRS

Some recent products of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues,” updated January 31, 2007.

“National Guard Personnel and Deployments: Fact Sheet,” updated January 10, 2007.

and courtesy of U.S. News and World Report’s “Bad Guys Blog,” “Drug Trafficking and North Korea: Issues for U.S. Policy,” updated January 25, 2007.

Legal Support to Military Operations

The conduct of warfare today raises challenging new legal issues that require prompt and operationally sound responses, according to a new publication (pdf) from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Modern military operations take place in an increasingly complex geo-political environment. The classic scenario of defending against cross-border aggression represents only one of the challenges facing current [joint forces]. Stability operations, foreign humanitarian assistance operations, and civil-military operations present increased requirements for direct legal support,” the new document states.

“Military lawyers were true combat multipliers in Iraq,” said General David H. Petraeus, who is now U.S. commander in Iraq. “I tried to get all the lawyers we could get our hands on — and then sought more.”

The missions and functions of military lawyers and organizations are described in “Legal Support to Military Operations,” Joint Publication JP 1-04, March 1, 2007.

FBI Committed Numerous Violations in Info Requests

The Federal Bureau of Investigation made numerous “improper and illegal” uses of the investigative tool known as “national security letters,” by which it gathers information in national security cases, a report (large pdf) by the Justice Department Inspector General found.

The abuses identified by the Inspector General “did not involve criminal misconduct,” the report said. “However, the improper or illegal uses we found included serious misuses of national security letter authority.”

These included the collection of information not permitted by law, the collection of information on persons not properly the subject of an FBI investigation, the failure to identify and report such errors, and quite a bit more.

See “A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters,” DoJ Office of Inspector General, March 2007 (199 pages in a large 35 MB 12 MB PDF file) (Thanks to Prof. Edward P. Richards for providing a compressed, searchable version of this document).

In a statement today, the FBI did not dispute the new report’s conclusions.

“The Inspector General conducted a fair and objective review of the FBI’s use of a proven and useful investigative tool,” said Director Robert S. Mueller, III, “and his finding of deficiencies in our processes is unacceptable.”

The development of the FBI’s counterintelligence role in the crucible of pre-World War II security concerns is detailed in an interesting new book from the excellent University of Kansas Press. See “The Origins of FBI Counterintelligence” by Raymond J. Batvinis, Univ of Kansas Press, March 2007.

Jihadis and the Internet

A new report (pdf) from a Dutch counterintelligence agency warns of the growing role of the Internet in Islamic extremist circles.

“The Internet is an important platform for radicalisation and can even serve as a virtual [terrorist] training camp. Jihadis not only use the Internet as a resource, but can also attack the Internet itself with terrorist activities (the Internet as a target) or use the Internet against other targets (the Internet as a weapon),” and so forth.

See “Jihadis and the Internet,” National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (Netherlands), February 2007.

Fortunately or unfortunately, much of the report is overly credulous and cannot be taken at face value, according to George Smith of GlobalSecurity.org and the Dick Destiny blog.

Among other examples, he noted the report’s citation to an online manual on the use of botulinum toxin as a weapon. But the manual itself is either a hoax or a primitive misunderstanding, and has previously been debunked by Dr. Smith, a chemist (Secrecy News, 08/08/05).

It “is an example of someone professing to know what he is doing on poisons who profoundly and obviously does not know what he is doing,” Dr. Smith said in 2005.

The new Dutch report excludes “the now large critical body of work” on the magnitude and character of the terrorist threat, Dr. Smith said. “It’s the standard script.”

More from CRS

Some recent publications of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“Conventional Warheads For Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated February 9, 2007.

“The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center: Issues for Congress,” updated February 15, 2007.

“National Security Surveillance Act of 2006: S. 3886, Title II (S. 2453 as Reported Out of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” updated January 18, 2007.

“Active Military Sonar and Marine Mammals: Events and References,” updated February 12, 2007.

“U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement,” updated January 31, 2007.

Congressional Intelligence Oversight in Jeopardy

In a “shocking and inexcusable” action that may threaten the institution of congressional intelligence oversight, an anonymous Senator yesterday blocked Senate consideration of the pending Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2007. No intelligence authorization bill has been passed by Congress for the past two years.

If Congress remains unable to legislate an intelligence authorization act, which is the principal product of the intelligence oversight committees each year, then the committees themselves could be rendered irrelevant, officials say.

“The Senate’s failure to pass this critical national security legislation for the past 2 years is remarkably shocking and inexcusable,” said an angry Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“The result of this continued obstruction will be diminished authority for intelligence agencies to do their job in protecting America. I hope the [anonymous] Senator involved takes satisfaction in that,” Senator Rockefeller said March 6.

The Senator who is holding up the bill is Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), according to Tim Starks of Congressional Quarterly.

Sen. DeMint “is said to be concerned about provisions of the bill that require the Bush administration to report to Congress on its detention policies, such as those pertaining to its secret CIA prisons, as well as a provision to declassify the total intelligence budget,” CQ reported on March 6.