Posts from March, 2008

Marine Corps Will Restore Online Access to Public Documents

The U.S. Marine Corps has agreed to restore public access to unclassified doctrinal documents on its web site.

The official Marine Corps doctrine web site remains inaccessible. But in response to a Federation of American Scientists request (pdf) under the Freedom of Information Act, the Marine Corps said that all releasable contents would soon be made publicly available through the Publications directory of the main USMC web site.

“Publications are actively being loaded with the goal of having all distribution A publications (approved for public release) loaded onto this site as soon as possible,” wrote Captain E.C. Snyder on March 19.

The move follows a similar action by the Army’s Reimer Digital Library last month. The Army had barred public access to its unclassified holdings, but then relented in response to a Freedom of Information Act action by the Federation of American Scientists.

A selection of U.S. Marine Corps documents on intelligence and security doctrine may be found on the FAS web site.

New DNI Directive on Technical Surveillance Countermeasures

Last month the Director of National Intelligence issued a new Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) on “Technical Surveillance Countermeasures” (pdf) (TSCM).

TSCM “represents the convergence of two distinct disciplines — counterintelligence and security countermeasures,” the directive explained. Its purpose is “to detect and nullify a wide variety of technologies used to gain unauthorized access to classified national security information, restricted data, or otherwise sensitive information.”

The directive was released (in a fuzzy, not very well scanned copy) by the ODNI Freedom of Information Act office.

See “Technical Surveillance Countermeasures,” ICD 702, February 18, 2008.

DIA Withdraws, Corrects Official History

To its credit, the Defense Intelligence Agency promptly withdrew an official DIA history that mistakenly described the 1981 Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in the 1980s as an attack on Iran. As soon as the error became public, DIA replaced the entire document with an updated account.

In an email message yesterday to Israeli author Gideon Remez, who discovered the error, DIA webmaster David Baird wrote: “You are correct that the historical fact is wrong. We did not realize it until you pointed it out. We are taking steps to correct it.”

By yesterday afternoon, the 1996 “Defense Intelligence Agency: A Brief History” (pdf), which contained the error, had been replaced on the DIA web site by a 2007 “History of the Defense Intelligence Agency” (pdf). Both documents can be found on the FAS web site.

NATO Enlargement, and More from CRS

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

“Enlargement Issues at NATO’s Bucharest Summit,” March 12, 2008.

“The NATO Summit at Bucharest, 2008,” March 24, 2008.

“Selected Federal Homeland Security Assistance Programs: A Summary,” updated January 31, 2008.

“Selected Laws Governing the Disclosure of Customer Phone Records by Telecommunications Carriers,” March 10, 2008.

Defense Intelligence Agency History Confuses Iraq and Iran

Updated below

In a memorable TV interview with former Secretary of State James Baker, prankster “Ali G” (Sasha Baron Cohen) wondered about the possibility of confusing “Iran” and “Iraq.”

“Do you think it would be a good idea if one of them changed their name to make it very different sounding from the other one?” he asked Secretary Baker.

“Ain’t there a real danger that someone give like a message over the radio to one of them fighter pilots whatever saying bomb ‘Ira…’ and the geezer don’t hear it properly and bomb Iran rather than Iraq?”

“No danger,” Secretary Baker gamely replied.

In an official history (pdf), however, the Defense Intelligence Agency really has confused Iran and Iraq.

Among the “world crises” that transpired during the 1980s, the DIA history cites “an Israeli F-16 raid to destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor.” See “Defense Intelligence Agency: A Brief History” at page 14. (The document, originally published on the DIA web site here, has now been replaced. See update below.)

But there never was an Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear reactor.

Rather, “The description appears to match Israel’s raid on Iraq’s [Osirak] nuclear reactor” in 1981, observed Gideon Remez, an Israeli scholar who is co-author of the recent book Foxbats Over Dimona (Yale, 2007).

“Today’s preoccupation with Iran’s nuclear program seems to have been projected onto the events of 27 years ago,” Mr. Remez suggested this week in an email message to DIA public affairs.

“If that is indeed the case, I’d recommend a correction,” he wrote.

Update: The DIA webmaster acknowledged the error in an email message to Gideon Remez today:

Thank you for your inquiry. You are correct that the historical fact is wrong. We did not realize it until you pointed it out. We are taking steps to correct it.

In fact, the document on the DIA website has already been modified and corrected. The uncorrected original is still available here.

More FRUS Errors of Omission and Commission

Close examination of several recent volumes of the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series has turned up errors and questionable editorial judgments.

The record of conversations between Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger that was published in FRUS last month failed to include what is arguably among the more sensitive and significant discussions that they held, regarding Kissinger’s offer to establish a US-China “hotline,” development of contingency plans for accidental or unauthorized launch of nuclear-armed missiles, and provision of warning information in the event of Soviet moves against China. That discussion, which does not appear in FRUS, was memorialized in this document (pdf).

Fortunately, this memorandum and many more of comparable significance were collected and published by William Burr of the National Security Archive in his 1999 volume “The Kissinger Transcripts.”

In another surprising editorial lapse (in Nixon FRUS volume XXIX on Eastern Europe, document 77, page 203, footnote 2), the editors state that “On January 17 [1969] student Jan Palach set himself on fire in the center of Prague to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.”

“Anyone who knows this subject is aware that Palach immolated himself on the 16th of January, not the 17th,” said Mark Kramer, editor of the Journal of Cold War Studies at Harvard. “This date is very well known in Czech society, and no one would confuse it with the 17th.”

Interestingly, while the State Department got this date wrong, Wikipedia got it right.

Needless to say, everyone makes errors. The FRUS series remains a crucial resource for historical understanding, even with the occasional error. And a robust FRUS publication schedule with some errors is vastly preferable to a gridlocked schedule with no errors. Still, there may be room for improvement in the editorial process.

Homeland Security Council Fades to Black

The Homeland Security Council (HSC), a White House agency that advises the President on homeland security policy, has become one of the darkest corners of the U.S. Government.

The Council was established by President Bush shortly after September 11, 2001 and it was chartered as an agency within the Executive Office of the President in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

“Thereafter, the HSC disappeared from the public record,” a new report from the Congressional Research Service (pdf) noticed.

In particular, according to CRS: The Homeland Security Council “does not appear to have complied with requirements for Federal Register publication of such basic information as descriptions of its central organization.”

It has never disclosed “where, from whom, and how the public may obtain information about it.”  Nor has it published the required “rules of procedure, substantive rules of general applicability, and statements of general policy.”

Moreover, “No profile of, or descriptive information regarding, the HSC or its members and staff has appeared, to date, in the annual editions of the United States Government Manual.”

This peculiar state of affairs was described by Harold C. Relyea of the Congressional Research Service in “Organizing for Homeland Security: The Homeland Security Council Reconsidered,” March 19, 2008.

Last week, President Bush appointed assistant attorney general Kenneth L. Wainstein to be homeland security adviser and chair of the Homeland Security Council, succeeding Frances F. Townsend.

Russia Weighs Restrictions on Internet

Legislation pending in the Russian Duma [parliament] would impose new Russian government controls on online content, according to an analysis of Russian news reports from the DNI Open Source Center.

Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Duma, was quoted as saying:  “We know that the Internet is all too often used as an instrument for destabilization and for terrorism. That kind of use of the Internet must be stopped.”

“Bloggers expressed varying degrees of alarm over the potential danger the law would pose to their community, with some alleging [that a sponsor of the legislation] is trying to use the law to silence his opponents and dismissing the law as unlikely to be passed,” according to the OSC report.

See “Russia–Increased Attempts to Regulate Internet,” DNI Open Source Center, March 24, 2008.

Domestic Satellite Surveillance, and More from CRS

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

“Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues,” March 21, 2008.

“The Next Generation Bomber: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress,” March 7, 2008.

“U.S. Nuclear Cooperation With India: Issues for Congress,” updated February 12, 2008.

“Nuclear Weapons in U.S. National Security Policy: Past, Present, and Prospects,” updated January 28, 2008.

“U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress,” updated February 1, 2008.

“Direct Overt U.S. Aid, Export Assistance and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2009,” March 24, 2008.

“Cybercrime: An Overview of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute and Related Federal Criminal Laws,” updated February 25, 2008.

Four FRUS Volumes and an Error

The U.S. State Department last month published four new volumes of its official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, documenting the foreign relations of the Nixon Administration:

“European Security”

“Germany, 1969-1972″

“Eastern Europe”

“China, 1973-1976″

Inevitably, it seems, the occasional error creeps in.

Document 13 of the China volume transcribes a February 18, 1973 conversation between Chinese Premier Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger in which Chou cited press reports that “the United States had contacts with Ismail” (on page 148). The FRUS editors inserted Footnote 3 explaining that “Ismail Fahmi was the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1973 until 1977.” That’s true, but that’s not who Premier Chou was talking about. “It is common knowledge that Chou was referring to Sadat’s national security adviser — Hafez Ismail,” wrote A, a Secrecy News correspondent.