Posts from September, 2007

Selected CRS Reports

Recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues,” updated September 5, 2007.

“U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement,” updated September 6, 2007.

“Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy,” updated September 4, 2007.

“Liberia’s Post-War Recovery: Key Issues and Developments,” updated August 30, 2007.

“Australia: Background and U.S. Relations,” updated August 8, 2007.

Psychological Operations Test Military Aptitude

Psychological operations (PSYOP) — military programs that seek to influence the attitudes and shape the behavior of a target audience — have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the armed forces they support while minimizing violent conflict. But the U.S. military is not notably good at conducting such programs.

To achieve their objective, PSYOP practitioners should ideally have a clear understanding of the values and thought processes of their audience (as well as their own), and they should have a credible and compelling message to deliver. These have often been lacking.

According to a 2004 Army evaluation of PSYOP activities during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “it is clear that on the whole, PSYOP produced much less than expected and perhaps less than claimed.”

Two newly disclosed Army publications provide insight into Army PSYOP planning and procedures.

“Psychological Operations Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures,” U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-05.301, December 2003 (a revision was issued in August 2007) (439 pages, 6.2 MB).

“Tactical Psychological Operations: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures,” U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05.302, October 2005 (255 pages, 11.2 MB).

These documents have not been approved for public release, but copies were obtained by Secrecy News.

A related document that was previously disclosed by Secrecy News is “Psychological Operations,” U.S. Army Field Manual 3-05.30, April 2005.

In the worst cases, poorly executed PSYOP activities are not merely futile but may actually be counterproductive.

In 2003, a U.S. information operations officer produced posters picturing Saddam Hussein as Homer Simpson and other figures of ridicule. “The posters enraged Iraqis and led to conflict that resulted in casualties for U.S. forces,” according to a 2005 study of PSYOP lessons learned.

See “Review of Psychological Operations: Lessons Learned from Recent Operational Experience” by Christopher J. Lamb, National Defense University Press, September 2005.

Supreme Court is Asked to Review State Secrets Case

Attorneys for Khaled El-Masri, who was allegedly subjected to “extraordinary rendition” by the Central Intelligence Agency, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the dismissal of his lawsuit against the Agency last year on asserted “state secrets” grounds.

If the petition (pdf) is granted, the Court’s review has the potential to alter the judiciary’s handling of “state secrets” claims generally.

“The proliferation of cases in which the government has invoked the state secrets privilege, and the lack of guidance from this Court since its 1953 decision in Reynolds, have produced conflict and confusion among the lower courts regarding the proper scope and application of the privilege,” the petitioners argued. See Petition for Certiorari, May 30, 2007.

The government replied last week that the petition is an “extravagant request” to overturn “settled precedents” and should be rejected. See Government’s Opposition to Petition for Certiorari (pdf), September 2007.

The historical and legal background of the controversy over use of the state secrets privilege was examined most recently by legal scholar Louis Fisher in “The State Secrets Privilege: Relying on Reynolds,” Political Science Quarterly, Fall 2007 (subscription required).

A critical view of state secrets policy was presented by journalist Barry Siegel in “State-Secret Overreach,” Los Angeles Times, September 16.

DoJ: New Surveillance Law Could be “Misconstrued”

Critics of the new Protect America Act who wonder if it will be used to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans have misunderstood the legislation, according to a Department of Justice official, but he also admitted the law may be susceptible to such a misunderstanding.

“Contrary to some reports, the new legislation does nothing to change FISA’s prohibition against targeting a person in the United States for surveillance without a court order,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein (pdf) at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee last week.

At the same time, he indicated that ambiguities in the language of the law may lend themselves to just such an interpretation.

“To the extent that the statute could be construed to allow acquisitions of domestic communications, we would be willing to consider alternative language,” Mr. Wainstein said in his prepared statement (at page 10).

A copy of Mr. Wainstein’s September 6 statement is here.

The text of his oral remarks is here (pdf).

The ambiguities in the Protect America Act are far more extensive than what has yet been officially acknowledged, according to Morton H. Halperin of the Open Society Institute. (The Open Society Institute helps fund Secrecy News.)

“Congress enacted legislation the meaning of which is simply not deducible from the words in the text,” he told (pdf) the House Judiciary Committee last week.

Will the new law “lead to the interception of phone calls and emails that the intelligence community should not be reading”?

“I have no idea if that is the case or not but neither does anyone else in the public and most of the Congress,” said Mr. Halperin. “That very uncertainty is simply unacceptable and a threat to both our liberty and our security.”

Legacy of Ashes: A Rejoinder

“Legacy of Ashes,” the best-selling new history of the Central Intelligence Agency by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Tim Weiner, has been almost universally praised by prestigious book reviewers as a ground-breaking, comprehensive, reliable and insightful account of the CIA from its inception to the present. It was favorably cited in Secrecy News too.

In a detailed and sharply-worded critique, author Jeffrey T. Richelson dissents.

The book “makes ill-supported claims, issues grandiose judgments, and gives only cursory attention to important episodes,” says Richelson, who himself has produced several volumes of intelligence history.

“The kudos lavished on Weiner’s book… are just as disturbing as the volume’s shortcomings,” writes Richelson, and “the uniform praise … leaves one with a sinking feeling.”

“An intelligent debate about the strengths and shortcomings of the CIA, as well as its future, requires an unbiased understanding of its performance — something missing both from Legacy of Ashes and its reviews.”

See “Sins of Omission and Commission” by Jeffrey T. Richelson, published in the Washington DeCoded blog.

Selected CRS Reports

Notable new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“India-U.S. Economic and Trade Relations,” August 31, 2007.

“U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress,”
updated August 20, 2007.

“United States Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom,” updated August 17, 2007.

“Federal Prison Industries,” updated July 13, 2007.

“Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan: Effects and Countermeasures,” updated August 28, 2007.

Leaks Led to Imprisonment of Source, CIA Says

Unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the press led to the imprisonment of a CIA source and other damaging consequences, said Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden in a speech last week.

“Some say there is no evidence that leaks of classified information have harmed national security. As CIA Director, I’m telling you there is, and they have,” Hayden told the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Let me give you just two examples: In one case, leaks provided ammunition for a government to prosecute and imprison one of our sources, whose family was also endangered. The revelations had an immediate, chilling effect on our ability to collect against a top-priority target.”

“In another, a spate of media reports cost us several promising counterterrorism and counterproliferation assets. Sources not even involved in the exposed operation lost confidence that their relationship with us could be kept secret, and they stopped reporting.”

“More than one foreign service has told us that, because of public disclosures, they had to withhold intelligence that they otherwise would have shared with us. That gap in information puts Americans at risk.”

“Those who are entrusted with America’s secrets and break that trust by divulging those secrets are guilty of a crime. But those who seek such information and then choose to publish it are not without responsibilities.”

In his comments on unauthorized disclosures, Director Hayden did not address wrongful withholding of information, and did not acknowledge any reasons why American might be skeptical of CIA disclosure policies. “CIA acts within a strong framework of law and oversight,” he said.

The text of his September 7, 2007 speech is here.

While leaks have been a perennial problem from the government’s point of view, it does not follow that new legislation to combat them is a fitting solution.

“I am not aware of a single case involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information that would have been prosecuted but could not be because of the lack of statutory coverage,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft in testimony (pdf) prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2001.

The Ashcroft testimony, dated September 5, 2001, represents a missing link between the testimony of Janet Reno on the same subject on June 14, 2000, and a subsequent report to Congress on leaks that was submitted by Mr. Ashcroft in October 2002.

The testimony was approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to a handwritten notation on the document, but the scheduled Intelligence Committee hearing was cancelled and the Ashcroft testimony was never delivered.

A copy of the text was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Michael Ravnitzky.

President’s Daily Briefs May Be Withheld, Court Rules

Two editions of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) dating from the Johnson Administration may be withheld from disclosure by the CIA, a federal appeals court ruled last week (pdf).

The court deferred to a CIA argument that despite their age, the 40 year old records could compromise protected intelligence methods.

However, the court rejected a CIA claim that the PDB is itself an intelligence method that is inherently exempt from disclosure. As a result, each decision to withhold a particular PDB must be independently justified.

The records were sought by political scientist Larry Berman, who was represented by the San Francisco law firm Davis Wright Tremaine and the National Security Archive.

In explaining its decision, the appeals court suggested that CIA had too much legal authority to withhold information from the public.

The court noted its view that the Agency’s authority to withhold is so expansive that it “might be contrary to congressional intent,” and the judges recalled that in a 1992 decision (Hunt v. CIA), “we have invited Congress to ‘take the necessary legislative action to rectify’ that disparity.”

“Congress, however, has to date left the NSA [National Security Act] materially unaltered and so we must continue to afford the CIA broad deference.”

A copy of the September 4 appeals court ruling in Larry Berman v. Central Intelligence Agency is here.

See also “CIA briefs kept sealed: Court rules against UC Davis professor” by Sharon Stello, Davis Enterprise, September 5.

New Regulation on Army Command Structure

The organizational structure of the United States Army may be confusing to anyone who is not routinely involved with it, and probably also to some who are.

A new Army Regulation aims to clarify the missions and functions of each Army Command, as well as defining command relationships within and among the Commands.

See “Army Commands, Army Service Component Commands, and Direct Reporting Units” (pdf), Army Regulation 10-87, 4 September 2007.