Posts from September, 2008

Army Knowledge Management

Knowledge management — referring to the creation, organization, application and transfer of knowledge — is systematically explored in a new U.S. Army Field Manual (pdf).

Military knowledge management has been going on “implicitly since military operations began,” the Manual notes. But by making its practices explicit, the Manual aims to increase the awareness and efficiency of knowledge management and to increase operational advantage.

“The primary purpose of knowledge management is to help commanders and staffs make informed, timely decisions.” Towards that end the Manual provides a detailed schematic account of the creation and transmission of knowledge in military affairs.

See “Knowledge Management Section,” U.S. Army Field Manual 6-01.1, August 29, 2008.

Special Operations Forces Training and Readiness

The increasing demands placed on U.S. special operations forces have created new challenges for training and retention that were described at a congressional hearing last year (pdf).

“Recruiting since 9/11 has not been a problem for Special Operations Forces,” said Gen. Bryan D. Brown, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. “Every seat in every school is full to start the course.”

But only “about 23 percent graduate from the course,” said Gen. Brown. “They fail the course for all kinds of reasons, one of them being their inability to pass the [foreign] language portion.”

“And so if you can hit a target at 600 meters, that is great, but unless you can speak a language that we ask you to learn, you are still not going to graduate and wear a Special Forces tab.”

Background on the status of Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps special operations forces was presented in the January 2007 hearing volume that was published last month along with detailed answers to questions for the record. See “Current Manning, Equipping and Readiness Challenges Facing Special Operations Forces,” hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, January 31, 2007.

India, Pakistan and More from CRS

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

“India-U.S. Relations,” updated August 12, 2008.

“Pakistan-U.S. Relations,” updated August 25, 2008.

“Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy,” updated August 1, 2008.

“Latin America: Terrorism Issues,” updated August 27, 2008.

“Iraq and Al Qaeda,” updated August 15, 2008.

“Congressional Influence on Rulemaking and Regulation Through Appropriations Restrictions,” updated August 5, 2008.

“Congressional Intervention in the Administrative Process: Legal and Ethical Considerations,” September 25, 2003.

“Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status,” updated July 21, 2008.

On August 19, President Bush announced the nomination of James X. Dempsey, the vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a leading civil liberties organization, to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Secrecy: The Movie

“Secrecy,” a well-reviewed documentary on national security secrecy, begins a theatrical run this month in selected theaters around the country.

By identifying secrecy as a problem, filmmakers Peter Galison and Robb Moss implicitly adopt a critical stance towards their subject matter. But they also make a determined effort to present articulate defenders of secrecy policy alongside the critics (among whom I play a minor role). And they do not impose an artificial resolution on the disagreements that are expressed, as there is none in reality.

Above all, Secrecy does a courtesy to the participants and to the audience by taking the subject seriously. Also, it’s beautifully made. A schedule of upcoming screenings along with other background information can be found on the film website.

Exploring China’s Nuclear Weapons Program

A detailed new portrait of China’s nuclear weapons program is beginning to emerge into the public domain following years of pre-publication conflict between author Danny B. Stillman and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Stillman, a former Los Alamos intelligence officer, was able to learn more about China’s nuclear weapons infrastructure than any other American, particularly since the Chinese, for their own reasons, welcomed his attention. Over the course of numerous visits in the 1990s, he was able to inspect secret nuclear facilities that had been completely off limits to foreigners.

But when he proposed to publish his findings, the Central Intelligence Agency stepped in to block publication. Through the prepublication review process, the CIA objected to approximately 15% of Stillman’s manuscript, which it said contained classified information. A court later affirmed that view. (“CIA Blocks Book on Chinese Nuclear Weapons,” Secrecy News, April 4, 2007). Now a redacted version of the manuscript is scheduled for publication early next year.

A preview of some of the book’s findings with an overview of Stillman’s interactions with Chinese nuclear weapons scientists appears in the current issue of Physics Today. See “The Chinese Nuclear Tests, 1964-1996″ by Thomas C. Reed, Physics Today, September 2008.

Some specialists dispute certain assertions that appear in the article, including a surprising claim that China performed non-explosive nuclear tests for France in the 1990s. See “Report Says China Offered Widespread Help on Nukes” by Dan Vergano, USA Today, August 29, 2008.

Public Participation in Environmental Decisionmaking

A new report from the National Research Council probes deeply into the positive and occasionally negative effects of public participation on the environmental policymaking process.

It is practically an article of faith in democratic societies that openness and public participation are presumptively good, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. On closer inspection, however, including empirical studies of participatory processes, the new NRC report was able to reach some encouraging conclusions.

“When done well, public participation improves the quality and legitimacy of a decision and builds the capacity of all involved to engage in the policy process. It also can enhance trust and understanding among parties,” the report said.

On the other hand, “public participation, if not done well, may not provide any of these benefits — in some circumstances, participation has done more harm than good.”

The 250 page report, including a valuable 50 page bibliography, elucidates some of the conditions for successful participation and those that are likely to result in failure.

“Some participatory processes have functioned as a political tactic to divert the energy of the public away from engaging in dissent on important differences and into activities that are considered safer by an agency…. This use of public participation is counterproductive in the long run,” the report said.

Instead, agencies inviting public participation must have a “commitment to use the process to inform their actions.”

Also, “The power to define the questions to be addressed and to shape the public participation approach — how it is used and by whom — is critical.”

With certain adjustments, the report’s conclusions regarding environmental policy may also be applicable to security policy and other areas of government-public interaction.

See “Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making” by Thomas Dietz and Paul C. Stern, editors, National Academies Press, 2008.

US Strategic Nuclear Forces, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News 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 August 5, 2008.

“Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests,” updated August 29, 2008.

“Defense: FY2009 Authorization and Appropriations,” updated August 1, 2008.

“Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV): Background and Issues for Congress,” August 28, 2008.

“Distribution of Homeland Security Grants in FY2007 and P.L. 110-53, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act,” updated January 28, 2008.

“Globalization, Worker Insecurity, and Policy Approaches,” updated July 31, 2008.

To Evade Penalty, Key AIPAC Witness Seeks to Quash Subpoena

In an unusual maneuver designed to evade a threat of government sanction, a key defense witness in the trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with mishandling classified information last week moved to quash (pdf) a subpoena summoning him to testify at their upcoming trial.

J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, indicated he was prepared to testify that the classified information at issue did not meet the standards for national security classification. If so, the defendants could not have violated the law by receiving and transmitting the information without authorization. Not only would they not be guilty, there would have been no crime.

But prosecutors objected to Mr. Leonard’s testimony, arguing that he should not be permitted to appear since he briefly consulted with prosecutors about the case while he was still a government employee in 2006. In a March 31 motion (pdf), they even suggested that he could be liable to a year in jail if he testified for the defense.

In the normal course of events, government officials are sometimes threatened with sanctions if they refuse to testify in a judicial or congressional proceeding. But in the topsy-turvy world of the AIPAC case, Mr. Leonard is threatened with sanctions if he does testify.

To forestall that eventuality, Mr. Leonard was formally subpoenaed (pdf) by the defense on July 25. His attorney, Mark S. Zaid, then moved to quash the subpoena on August 28, in the expectation that the court would issue an order compelling Mr. Leonard to testify. Such an order would serve to shield him against the threatened sanctions from the prosecution.

“In filing this Motion to Quash, Mr. Leonard seeks either a ruling from the Court that there is no impediment to his testifying or, alternatively, a Court Order requiring that he testify,” wrote Mr. Zaid, who frequently litigates national security and classification-related cases. “Without one or the other action, Mr. Leonard will be forced to reconsider whether he can testify for the Defendants.”

The August 28 motion to quash is posted here. Selected other case files from the controversial proceeding are available here.

The Constitution and 9/11

The presidential campaigns have been largely silent so far regarding the post-9/11 changes in the character of American government. But those changes, documented by constitutional scholar Louis Fisher in a new book, have been profound and far-reaching, and they remain to be addressed.

“Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States abandoned many of its rights and privileges for the accused, both citizens and non-citizens,” Mr. Fisher writes.

“With political power concentrated in the President, executive branch officials met in secret to draft policies that supported the arrest and detention of suspected terrorists. They saw no need to make specific charges, provide counsel, or allow the accused an opportunity to examine evidence.”

“Military commissions became a substitute for civil courts and courts-martial. Suspects were flown to foreign prisons for interrogation and torture. Some of the administration initiatives violated existing statutes and treaties. Once again in America, emergency powers were invoked to disregard individual rights and weaken national security,” writes Mr. Fisher, a specialist in separation of powers at the Law Library of Congress.

For those who have not been paying attention, Mr. Fisher recounts the major departures from legal norms that have unfolded in recent years, with chapters on Guantanamo, domestic surveillance, military tribunals and state secrets. And for those who have been paying attention, the book adds a new dimension of historical understanding, tracing the precursors to current policies and their eventual repudiation. (I contributed a blurb for the book jacket.)

See “The Constitution and 9/11: Recurring Threats to America’s Freedoms” by Louis Fisher, University of Kansas Press, 2008.

Some New Defense Department Doctrine

Noteworthy new doctrinal publications from the Department of Defense include the following (all pdf).

“Operations in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Environments,” Joint Publication 3-11, August 26, 2008.

“Homeland Defense Activities Conducted by the National Guard,” DoD Directive 3160.01, August 25, 2008.

“Clearance of DoD Information for Public Release,” DoD Directive 5230.09, August 22, 2008.