Posts from December, 2007

Maps and Legends

A good map can tell you where you are and show you how to get to where you want to go. What could be more important?

A recent U.S. Army Field Manual (large pdf) explains the rudiments of map reading. But distribution of the manual is restricted, and it has not been approved for public release.

To begin at the beginning: “A map is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth’s surface drawn to scale, as seen from above. It uses colors, symbols, and labels to represent features found on the ground.”

“All [military] operations require a supply of maps; however, the finest maps available are worthless unless the map user knows how to read them.”

A copy of the manual was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Map Reading and Land Navigation,” Field Manual FM 3-25.26, January 2005 (change 1, August 30, 2006) (288 pages, 25 MB PDF file).

Intelligence Oversight Grows in Ukraine

Establishing civilian control of intelligence and security services is a challenge and a crucial milestone for any aspiring democracy. Among other post-Soviet countries of Eastern Europe, Ukraine has made some remarkable strides in this direction.

“As Ukraine continues the process of democratic consolidation, the issue of intelligence oversight remains vital, to ensure political accountability and financial efficiency,” according to a recent master’s thesis on the subject (pdf). “Oversight of intelligence is also important to the political initiatives Ukraine has undertaken to improve ties to NATO and the EU.”

The thesis, by Lt. Col. Oleksii Petrov of the Ukraine Ministry of Defense, presents an updated account of the organization of Ukraine intelligence services, and an explanation of the legal framework in which they operate.

The government of Ukraine publicly discloses current and retrospective spending levels for its various intelligence services, which is more than the U.S. has been able to manage.

Thus, the 2007 budget for the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine (FISU) is 248 million grivnas (around $50 million), and the agency employs 4350 personnel, according to online budget documents cited and translated by the author.

See “Political and Budgetary Oversight of the Ukrainian Intelligence Community: Processes, Problems and Prospects for Reform” by Oleksii Petrov, Naval Postgraduate School, September 2007.

Selected CRS Reports

Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following (all pdf).

“Tanzania: Background and Current Conditions,” December 20, 2007.

“Data Mining and Homeland Security: An Overview,” updated December 5, 2007.

“Polygraph Use by the Department of Energy: Issues for Congress,” updated December 10, 2007.

“Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations,” updated December 12, 2007.

“China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues,” updated December 13, 2007.

“Deemed Exports” and the Stirrings of a New Security Policy

U.S. government regulations that limit disclosures of certain scientific and technical information to foreign nationals — known as “deemed exports” — are obsolete and need to be replaced, according to a new advisory committee report (pdf).

More broadly, however, the new report reflects the growing realization that government secrecy policies have become counterproductive and need to be recalibrated to adapt to evolving technological and geopolitical realities.

“In this new world order, a nation that attempts to build a ‘wall’ around its scientific and technologic communities simply denies itself the opportunity to fully benefit from the vast body of knowledge being accumulated elsewhere – and thereby virtually assures itself of an inferior competitive position in the knowledge world,” the report states.

“With the important exception of a very few highly sensitive military areas, the United States is better served to partner in the global creation of knowledge than to attempt to protect the lesser body of knowledge that can be generated through purely domestic research efforts.”

“Stated otherwise, protecting what we know is in most instances not the primary concern; participating in creating that body of scientific and technical knowledge that is not known is the concern.”

While secrecy — “protecting what we know” — may still be the first instinct of those seeking to preserve the technological advantages enjoyed by the United States, the advisory committee concluded that this approach is no longer well-founded, if it ever was.

“The United States in the latter half of the 20th century was preeminent in many, probably most, fields of scientific and engineering endeavor. Today, the United States is but one among a number of nations or groups of nations competing for leadership across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Just a few examples where other nations have already established leadership positions include polymer composites (Germany), 3D optical memories (Japan), bulk metallic glass (Japan), biostatistics/multivariate statistics (France), population biology (UK), adaptive dynamics (Germany/Switzerland), theoretical biology (Netherlands), and solar energy (Japan/Germany). Any nation today seeking to remain at the forefront of science and technology must be an active participant in the global science and technology community if it is to be successful.”

“In the evolving environment, unlike the recent past, denial of access to United States-possessed knowledge can often be circumvented simply by obtaining it from others.”

“The seemingly inescapable conclusion from these evolving circumstances is that the erection of high ‘walls’ around large segments of the nation’s science and engineering knowledge base has become not only increasingly impracticable, but that attempts to build such walls are likely to prove counterproductive – not only to America’s commercial prowess but also, in balance, to America’s ability to defend itself.”

“That is, the nation will be better served, in balance, by seeking to accelerate its own technical prowess than by seeking to deny potential enemies access to broad ranges of knowledge.”

Though focused specifically on “deemed exports” and disclosures of scientific information to foreign persons, this analysis has obvious implications for the national security classification system and other restrictive information security policies.

The advisory committee, chaired by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, was composed of various luminaries from academia, the commercial sector and the national security community. Its findings were first reported by Paul Basken in the Chronicle of Higher Education on December 21.

See “The Deemed Export Rule in the Era of Globalization,” submitted to the Secretary of Commerce, December 20, 2007.

“Yes, disclosing information may cause damage,” said William Leonard of the Information Security Oversight Office in a valedictory interview with Newsweek this week. “But you know what, withholding that information may even cause greater damage… And I don’t think we [have] sufficiently taken that into account.”

CIA: 50 Year Old Budget Data Would Damage National Security

If a new information security policy emerges, it’s not likely to come from the Central Intelligence Agency, which still adheres to the coldest of cold war secrecy policies.

Due to CIA classification restrictions, a new State Department documentary collection on The Intelligence Community, 1950-1955 suffers from significant, basic omissions.

“Between the fiscal years ended June 30, 1947 and 1955 the total budget has increased from approximately [dollar figures not declassified],” the official history states (in document 192, the Doolittle report).

Similarly, “The number of civilian employees of the Agency under personnel ceilings has increased from [number not declassified] at June 30, 1947, to an estimated [number not declassified] for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1955.”

Thus, the official government history of U.S. intelligence from 1950-1955 does not include either the budget or the size of the CIA. Instead, this half-century old information remains classified, which indicates that CIA thinks its disclosure would damage national security.

That, of course, is too silly to require refutation. All it means is that CIA’s views on classification policy can safely be ignored by anyone who is not legally obliged to comply with them.

Fortunately, a good deal of the historical CIA budget information that was withheld from the State Department volume can be found in David M. Barrett’s book “The CIA and Congress” (University Press of Kansas, 2005) at pages 154-156.

*

Secrecy News was too hasty in writing the December 20 headline that “Foreign Relations in the U.S. [was] Not Published in 2007.” That turned out to be wrong.

On December 21, 2007 the State Department published two print volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, along with an electronic document collection.

In addition to the Intelligence Community volume, the State Historian’s Office released a FRUS volume on “Greece, Cyprus, Turkey 1973-1976,” and an online collection of documents on South Asia, 1973-1976.

It is possible to detect signs of haste in the new publications as well. For example, the South Asia online collection includes two documents (Chapter 3, documents 56 and 61) dated April 27, 1973 and August 1, 1973 that are attributed to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. But Kissinger did not assume the role of Secretary of State until September 22, 1973 [now corrected (12/28/07)].

Selected CRS Reports

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

“U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 1999-2006,” December 20, 2007.

“Overview of Education Issues and Programs in Latin America,” December 19, 2007.

“Nuclear Weapons: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program,” updated December 18, 2007.

“Intelligence Estimates: How Useful to Congress?,” updated December 14, 2007.

“North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Latest Developments,” updated December 5, 2007.

“Franking Privilege: Historical Development and Options for Change,” December 5, 2007.

“Foreign Relations of the U.S.” Not Published in 2007

Updated below

This week marks one full year since publication of the latest print volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, the official documentary record of U.S. foreign policy which dates back to the Abraham Lincoln Administration.

Publication of FRUS is required by law (Public Law 102-138) and is supposed to occur “not more than 30 years after the events recorded.”

But while FRUS has long lagged behind its 30 year deadline, the failure to publish even a single print volume all year is extraordinary and unprecedented in living memory.

“Let’s just say that it didn’t happen on my watch that a year would pass without a volume published,” said one former State Department official. (Two electronic document collections were posted on the State Department web site earlier this year.)

As recently as June 2007, the State Department was still indicating that “10, possibly 11, volumes were scheduled for publication by the end of the year.” But that didn’t happen.

In September, FRUS General Editor Edward C. Keefer “expressed regret that this number [of published FRUS volumes] fell short of earlier projections of 2007 volume production due to a series of problems and in spite of the best efforts of the staff to solve them,” according to the minutes of a September 2007 meeting of the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation.

According to one outside source, the situation has been complicated by staff turnover, “indifferent management,” and even a pending Inspector General complaint.

In response to an email inquiry from Secrecy News, however, FRUS Editor Keefer wrote that “It is not quite as bad as you think.”

“We have two print volumes ready to go,” Dr. Keefer said. “The books are overdue from the printer, but we will try to release them before the end of the year.”

Dr. Keefer said he would provide a fuller response after the holidays.

An online collection of many of the FRUS volumes dating from 1861 to 1960 has been established at the University of Wisconsin. More recent volumes are posted on the State Department web site.

Update: On December 21, the State Department published two new print volumes of FRUS, along with another electronic document collection.

Congress Approves FOIA Reform Bill

Open government advocates hailed the passage of procedural amendments to the Freedom of Information Act that are intended to improve government responsiveness to FOIA requests and to strengthen the hand of requesters.

The OPEN Government Act, which cleared both the Senate and the House over the past week, “becomes the first major reform to the Freedom of Information Act in more than a decade,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s leading co-sponsor in the Senate along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) led passage in the House.

Among other things, Senator Leahy explained, “This legislation will improve transparency in the Federal Government’s FOIA process by: restoring meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA; imposing real consequences on Federal agencies for missing FOIA’s 20-day statutory deadline; clarifying that FOIA applies to government records held by outside private contractors; establishing a FOIA hotline service for all Federal agencies; and creating a FOIA Ombudsman to provide FOIA requestors and Federal agencies with a meaningful alternative to costly litigation.”

For all of its procedural virtues, the OPEN Government Act does not touch the root of government secrecy, namely the decision to withhold information. The Act does not repeal or modify any of the more than one hundred statutory exemptions from disclosure under the FOIA. And it does not address the proper scope or application of the classification system. That is a task for another day.

Coincidentally, the Department of Defense this week issued a proposed new FOIA regulation for public comment. It will presumably have to be revised again to be made consistent with the new Open Government Act.

Classification Reform Bill Introduced in House

Speaking of classification reform, Rep. Jane Harman and 13 Democratic colleagues this week introduced “The Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2007.”

The legislation focuses on the Department of Homeland Security and aims to make the Department a model of judicious information policy by curtailing classification and other restrictions on disclosure.

“The goal is simple: make the Department of Homeland Security the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to preventing over-classification and to limiting the use of sensitive but unclassified markings,” Rep. Harman said in a news release.

“DHS is an excellent place to start and — if it gets a handle on its own burgeoning over- and pseudo-classification addiction– can become a ‘best practices’ center and the test bed for the rest of the Federal Government,” she said.

The legislation’s incremental approach has much to recommend it, though some of the details of the proposed strategy are questionable, obscure or remain to be determined.

It is probably unworkable, for example, to insist on “allow[ing] the classification of documents only after unclassified, shareable versions of intelligence have been produced.” Some classified intelligence documents will have no unclassified counterpart, though the use of unclassified “tear sheets” should be encouraged whenever possible.

Other proposed steps, such as establishment of “an independent Department declassification review board to expedite the declassification of documents,” could help create new impetus for disclosure.

Goldsmith: “Extreme Secrecy… Led to a Lot of Mistakes”

In October, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a riveting hearing with Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel. The record of that hearing has just been published.

As was widely reported at the time, Mr. Goldsmith challenged the legality of certain aspects of the President’s warrantless surveillance program and raised questions about other policies and procedures in the “war on terrorism.”

“There’s no doubt that the extreme secrecy [surrounding the Terrorist Surveillance Program] — not getting feedback from experts, and not showing it to experts, and not getting a variety of views, even inside the executive branch — led to a lot of mistakes,” he said.

The PDF version of the hearing record includes Mr. Goldsmith’s answers to questions for the record from the Senate Committee members (pp. 38-49). In most cases, he deflected the Senators’ pointed questions. But several of the exchanges are interesting nevertheless.

Asked about the Administration’s refusal to disclose to Congress the legal memoranda justifying its interrogation program, Mr. Goldsmith stated:

“I believe it is the President’s prerogative not to disclose these opinions. And I believe it is the Congress’s prerogative to use political pressure to try to force the Executive to disclose the opinions.”

See “Preserving the Rule of Law in the Fight Against Terrorism,” hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, October 2, 2007.