Posts from May, 2007

A Review of Government Quarantine Authority

The detention of a man infected with tuberculosis who may have exposed fellow passengers on commercial airliners to a particularly resistant form of the disease has generated new interest in the government’s power to quarantine and isolate persons who may pose a threat to public health.

A recent report (pdf) of the Congressional Research Service provides extensive legal, factual and historical background on the subject.

In a nutshell, “state and local governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions, and the federal government has authority to quarantine and impose other health measures to prevent the spread of diseases from foreign countries and between states,” the CRS report explains.

See “Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority,” updated January 23, 2007.

and, relatedly, see “Quarantine and Isolation: Selected Legal Issues Relating to Employment” (pdf), updated February 28, 2007.

“The term ‘quarantine’ is derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni, which refer to the 40-day period during which certain ships arriving at the port of Venice during the Black Death plague outbreaks of the 14th century were obliged to sit at anchor before any persons or goods were allowed to go ashore,” the CRS notes.

National Intelligence Council Sponsors Wiki on Global Disease

Updated below

Students at Mercyhurst College created a wiki-based resource on global disease to support the National Intelligence Council, while demonstrating the utility of the wiki approach for intelligence analysis.

“The fundamental question had to do with the impact of chronic and infectious diseases on US national interests over the next 10-15 years,” said Prof. Kristan J. Wheaton, whose class produced the wiki.

“The 26 students in the class worked for the 10 weeks of the course on the project, producing over 1000 pages of analysis on every country in the world. They also wrote global, regional and national interest reports. They even produced a process report that talks about how they did what they did and several videos to accompany the reports. The project was completed using entirely open sources.”

“The final product is interesting on a number of levels,” Prof. Wheaton told Secrecy News, “not the least of which is the way in which wiki technology facilitated the analysis.”

A description of the activity with a link to the final product can be found on the National Intelligence Council web site here.

Update: Further discussion of this initiative may be found in Government Computer News, Haft of the Spear, The SPOT Report and, for a particularly critical account, Kent’s Imperative.

China Naval Modernization

Updated below

The significance of China’s naval modernization programs and their impact on U.S. national security considerations are explored in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service. See “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress” (pdf), updated May 29, 2007.

Hans Kristensen of FAS observed that a recent Department of Defense annual report (pdf) on Chinese military power conspicuously declined to endorse press reports (mainly attributable to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times) that China intends to deploy five new Jin-class ballistic missile submarines.

“Are you building five SSBNs or not?” Hans inquired in a followup letter to the Embassy of China. “No one here even knows the answer to your question,” the Embassy replied.

See “Pentagon China Report Ignores Five SSBNs Projection,” Strategic Security Blog, May 25.

Update/Clarification: Although the new DoD report did not specify the development of five Jin-class ballistic missile submarines, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence stated in a report last year that China will build “probably five” such subs, as reported in the Washington Times on March 2.

Castro’s Cuba Today

“The chances for a radical change in leadership in Cuba are remote,” the Central Intelligence Agency assessed in a 1966 analysis (pdf) that was declassified last year.

“Fidel Castro is still the undisputed ‘maximum leader’ of the Cuban revolution and the dominant figure in Cuban politics, despite rumors to the contrary which circulated widely last spring.”

See “Castro’s Cuba Today,” Current Intelligence Weekly Special Report, 30 September 1966, declassified October 2006.

See also “Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances” (pdf), Congressional Research Service, updated May 3, 2007.

and “Cuba: Issues for the 110th Congress” (pdf), updated May 1, 2007.

Canada-U.S. Relations

“The United States and Canada maintain the world’s largest trading relationship, one that has been strengthened during the past fifteen years by the approval of two multilateral free trade agreements,” according to another recently updated Congressional Research Service report (pdf).

“But it has been over security-related matters, particularly defense spending, Iraq, and missile defense, that the two governments had their sharpest differences.”

“Notwithstanding these controversies, Canada and the United States have been working together on a number of fronts to thwart terrorism, including strengthening border security, sharing intelligence and expanding law enforcement cooperation.”

See “Canada-U.S. Relations,” updated May 15, 2007.

CRS on Access to Government Information, and More

As frequently mentioned, the Congressional Research Service does not make its products directly available to the public. Some noteworthy new CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News and not readily accessible elsewhere include the following (all pdf).

“Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” updated May 24, 2007.

“Access to Government Information in the United States,” updated April 23, 2007.

“Security Classified and Controlled Information: History, Status, and Emerging Management Issues,” March 8, 2007.

“Security Classification Policy and Procedure: E.O. 12958, as Amended,” updated April 23, 2007.

“Central Asia’s Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests,” updated April 26, 2007.

“Detection of Explosives on Airline Passengers: Recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and Related Issues,” updated April 26, 2007.

“Treatment of ‘Battlefield Detainees’ in the War on Terrorism,” updated January 23, 2007.

“The International Space Station and the Space Shuttle,” updated April 26, 2007.

“Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education: Status and Issues,” updated April 23, 2007.

“Intelligence Issues for Congress,” updated May 16, 2007.

“National Science Foundation: Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction,” updated May 4, 2007.

“Crime and Forfeiture,” updated May 9, 2007.

“The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Three Years,” updated May 1, 2007.

Joint Chiefs on Deployment and Redeployment of U.S. Forces

A new Joint Chiefs of Staff publication (pdf) describes operational principles for executing deployment and redeployment — meaning transfer or withdrawal — of U.S. military forces.

“Redeployment operations, particularly for combat units, … should be identified and planned as early as possible,” the document instructs. “The operation or campaign is concluded when the national strategy end state is achieved and redeployment operations are complete.”

“Although the emphasis of this publication is on overseas deployments and redeployments, deployments within the homeland are possible in support of homeland defense and civil support.”

See “Deployment and Redeployment Operations,” Joint Publication 3-35, 7 May 2007.

Anonymous Senator Blocks FOIA Bill

Updated below

An unidentified Republican Senator placed a secret hold on the Open Government Act, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, thereby preventing the Senate from acting on the bill this week.

“Regrettably, an anonymous Republican hold is stalling this important Freedom of Information Act legislation, needlessly delaying long-overdue reforms to strengthen FOIA and to protect the public’s right to know,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a co-sponsor of the bill along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

“It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered by a secret and anonymous hold. This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike, can and should work together to enact,” Sen. Leahy said in a May 24 floor statement.

“I hope that the Senator placing the secret hold on this bill will come forward, so that we can resolve any legitimate concerns, and the full Senate can promptly act on this legislation,” he said.

Update: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has acknowledged that it was he who placed the hold on the bill. See this account from the Society for Professional Journalists, and this from Tapscott’s Copy Desk.

DoD Issues Policy on Conduct at Raven Rock Mountain

The Department of Defense has issued a new statement of security policy for the Raven Rock Mountain Complex, also known as Site R, which is one of the U.S. government’s emergency command centers and relocation sites.

Although it is located in Pennsylvania, not Virginia, Raven Rock was legally designated in 2003 as part of the Pentagon Reservation, and the new policy reflects that change.

Among other things, the policy dictates that “it shall be unlawful to make any photograph, sketch, picture, drawing, map or graphical representation of the … Raven Rock Mountain Complex without first obtaining the necessary permission.”

The policy was published in the Federal Register on May 25.

CRS on Terrorist Precursor Crimes

The role of domestic criminal activity in generating financial and operational support for terrorism is considered in a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.

So-called “terrorist precursor crimes” may include various types of fraud, counterfeiting, narcotics trade, and illegal weapons procurement.

“This report provides an overview of the types of terrorist precursor crimes known, and/or alleged, to have been employed by individuals and/or groups in the United States. The report highlights issues related to the breadth of this activity in the United States, as well as the opportunities for intelligence collection and law enforcement-related countermeasures.”

But it is not immediately clear that “terrorist precursor crime” is a useful analytical construct since only “a very small percentage of individuals engaged in such activity” are likely to have any “nexus to terrorism.”

A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Terrorist Precursor Crimes: Issues and Options for Congress,” May 24, 2007.