Posts from February, 2008

NBC Weapons and Missiles, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following (all pdf).

“Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons and Missiles: Status and Trends,” updated February 20, 2008.

“Water Infrastructure Needs and Investment: Review and Analysis of Key Issues,” updated January 23, 2008.

“Russian Energy Policy toward Neighboring Countries,” updated January 17, 2008.

“North American Oil Sands: History of Development, Prospects for the Future,” updated January 17, 2008.

Preservation of Iraq War Records, and More DoD Doctrine

The Joint Chiefs of Staff recently reaffirmed the requirement to preserve historically valuable records pertaining to the Iraq War.

“Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and NOBLE EAGLE and current operations pertaining to Iraq are a prominent part of American and world history. It is important that we preserve the historical records of these continuing operations and we obtain information and lessons that can be applied in planning, shaping, and implementing our national defense in the future.”

See Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Notice 5760, Preservation of Historical Records of Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle and Pertaining to Iraq (pdf), 7 September 2006, current as of 31 January 2008.

A new Army Regulation defines policies and procedures governing military civilians who are engaged in human intelligence and counterintelligence activities. See Army Regulation 690-950-4, “Military Intelligence Civilian Excepted Career Program” (pdf), 20 February 2008.

A revised new Army Field Manual 3-0 on “Operations” has not yet been released.  The Defense Department has released its own revised doctrine on Joint Operations. See Joint Publication 3-0 (pdf), change 1, 13 February 2008.

House Republican Blasts Bush Administration “Stonewalling”

“The disdain and uncooperative nature that this administration has shown toward Congress… is so egregious that I can no longer assume that it is simply bureaucratic incompetence or isolated mistakes. Rather, I have come to the sad conclusion that this administration has intentionally obstructed Congress’ rightful and constitutional duties.”

That rather damning criticism comes not from a liberal opponent of the Bush Administration, but from one of its most right-wing supporters in Congress, California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

“This administration is setting a terrible precedent. What people have to understand… is when there is a liberal Democrat in the White House, the President will have set [the precedent] that Members of Congress can simply be dismissed, and that when they are trying to do a congressional investigation need not be cooperated with, in fact, can be obstructed. Is that the type of President that we want? Is that acceptable? It shouldn’t be acceptable to Democrats and it shouldn’t be acceptable to Republicans,” he said on the House floor on February 26.

Rep. Rohrabacher described a series of incidents in which the Bush Administration blocked congressional initiatives or failed to meet his expectations. Some of the offenses described, like the failure to administer a polygraph to former national security advisor Samuel R. Berger concerning his theft of documents from the National Archives, seem idiosyncratic or otherwise questionable. But the Congressman’s outrage appears genuine enough.

“It is truly with a heavy heart, Madam Speaker, that I stand here reciting example after example of the maliciousness and condescending attitude exhibited by this administration. It is a problem that’s flowing from the top.”

“When I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle accusing this administration of stonewalling, of coverups, or thwarting investigations, I sadly must concur with them,” Rep. Rohrabacher concluded.

Army Will Restore Access to Online Library Within 2 Weeks

“We fully intend to put the Reimer Digital Library back to where the public can access the unclassified documents,” wrote U.S. Army Major General Tony Cucolo in an email message to Secrecy News.

Public access to the online library of U.S. Army publications has been blocked since February 6, when a system security upgrade was installed. In response, the Federation of American Scientists filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking release of the entire contents of the library for republication on the FAS web site. (Secrecy News, Feb. 13).

“We underestimated the impact of blocking public access,” wrote Col. Michael J. Negard on February 22.

“Our intent was to protect sensitive information, the server itself, and the network from attacks by outside sources, not to deny the public access to publicly releasable information. We absolutely respect and value our freedom of information and the American people’s ‘right to know’,” he wrote.

“TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command] is currently working to restore public access to unclassified and releasable information.”

“We expect this to be completed within two weeks,” Col. Negard indicated.

The Washington Post, whose coverage helped elevate the issue and expedite its resolution, reported the latest developments in “Army Says It Will Restore Public Access to Online Library” by Christopher Lee, February 23.

“The Dark Bush Legacy on Secrecy”

The leading presidential candidates should be questioned about their willingness to depart from the secrecy practices that have characterized the Bush Administration, wrote civil libertarian Nat Hentoff in his syndicated column this week.

Whether it concerns domestic surveillance, coercive interrogation, or extraordinary rendition, “I haven’t heard any of the frontrunners stress this need for a clean break with the Bush administration’s use of a ‘unitary executive’ doctrine to cloak these and other extrajudicial — and indeed extralegal — practices in deep secrecy,” Mr. Hentoff wrote.

See “The Dark Bush Legacy on Secrecy” by Nat Hentoff, Washington Times, February 25.

The article followed up on a related piece that I wrote for the Nieman Watchdog earlier this month, “The Next President Should Open Up the Bush Administration’s Record.”

Senate to Hold Hearing on GAO and Intelligence Oversight

The simplest, most effective and most achievable way to improve congressional oversight of intelligence might be to utilize the Government Accountability Office to audit and evaluate intelligence programs, a prospect that is opposed by the Director of National Intelligence.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Friday, February 29 to consider pending legislation that would bolster GAO’s role in intelligence oversight. The Federation of American Scientists will be represented among the witnesses.

“The need for more effective oversight and accountability of our intelligence community has never been greater,” said Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) last year. “Yet the ability of Congress to ensure that the intelligence community has sufficient resources and capability of performing its mission has never been more in question.”

DNI Report Details Data Mining Programs

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence provided an overview of U.S. intelligence data mining development programs in a new report to Congress (pdf).

Data mining is used by intelligence agencies to search through databases in order to discern patterns of activity that could indicate a threat to national security.

The new report presents brief descriptions of several data mining-related intelligence projects, some of which have previously been publicly identified and others that appear to be newly disclosed.

“The Video Analysis and Content Extraction (VACE) project seeks to automate what is now a very tedious, generally human-powered process of reviewing video for content that is potentially of intelligence value.”

“Reynard is a seedling effort to study the emerging phenomenon of social (particularly terrorist) dynamics in virtual worlds and large-scale online games and their implications for the Intelligence Community.”

“Because application of results from these research projects may ultimately have implications for privacy and civil liberties, IARPA [the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency] is also investing in projects that develop privacy protecting technologies,” the report stated.

The ODNI Report to Congress is unclassified, but was accompanied by a classified annex. See “Data Mining Report,” ODNI Report to Congress, February 15, 2008

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A Word from Wikileaks

Although we have declined more requests for comment about Wikileaks than we have responded to, some participants in the project feel that we have said too much.

Jay Lim of Wikileaks sent the following advisory email today:

“Who’s side are you on here Stephen? It is time this constant harping stopped.”

“You know full well if you make n comments about us and m negative ones about us it’ll only be the negative comment that is reported — since everyone else has only positive things to say and by your position at FAS there is an expectation of positive comment. You are not a child. As a result of your previous criticism it seem you are becoming the ‘go to’ man for negative comments on Wikileaks. Over the last year, our most quoted critic has not been a right wing radio host, it has not been the Chinese ambassador, it has not been Pentagon bureaucrats, it has been you Stephen. You are the number one public enemy of this project. On top of everything else, your quote is the only critical entry on our Wikipedia page. Some friend of openness!”

“We are very disappointed in your lack of support and suggest you cool it. If you don’t, we will, with great reluctance, be forced to respond.”

“Jay Lim”

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U.S. Nuclear Weapons, and More from CRS

Some noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service on nuclear weapons policy include the following (all pdf).

“U.S. Nuclear Weapons: Changes in Policy and Force Structure,” updated January 23, 2008.

“Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty,” updated January 18, 2008.

“Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power,” updated January 30, 2008.

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Army Says It Will Restore Public Access to Online Library

The U.S. Army said today that it would restore public access to the online Reimer Digital Library of Army publications, after having blocked the site on February 6.

Last week, the Federation of American Scientists filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for a copy of the entire Reimer collection for publication on the FAS website or, alternatively, for renewed public access to the site.

The Army chose the latter option.

“TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command] is currently in the process of making it available to the public again,” said Mrs. Alverita Mack, a Freedom of Information Act officer at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

“The Army has seen the error of its ways,” said another Defense Department FOIA officer. “Also, they want you to withdraw your FOIA request.”

The dispute over the shuttered website was reported today in the Washington Post. See “Army Blocks Public’s Access to Documents in Web-Based Library” by Christopher Lee, February 21.

By moving the Reimer site behind the password-protected Army Knowledge Online (AKO) firewall, the Army placed the public at a disadvantage, but not only the public.

“The Army has not only restricted access to the public but to everyone else in DoD as well,” one Navy correspondent explained to Secrecy News. “So… those working for the AF, Navy, Marines, etc will not be able to access these documents — unless they are able to get an AKO account — which isn’t a given.”

“I happen to have an AKO account but only because I know someone who was willing to sponsor me,” the Navy official wrote. “It is getting harder and harder to access information within DoD let alone from outside it!”

The Freedom of Information Act is not often an effective mechanism for changing government policy, nor was it intended to be. But in this case, where the Army had moved to block public access to thousands of releasable documents, the FOIA proved to be the optimal tool for compelling a change in policy.

Mrs. Mack, the Army FOIA officer, said today that she did not know exactly when the Reimer Digital Library would again be accessible. And, she said, it might end up at a different URL than before. We indicated that we would withdraw our FOIA request after public access is fully restored.