Posts from October, 2008

Economic Aid for BRAC Communities, and More from CRS

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

“Economic Development Assistance for Communities Affected by Employment Changes Due to Military Base Closures,” October 16, 2008.

“Financial Turmoil: Comparing the Troubled Asset Relief Program to the Federal Reserve’s Response,” October 8, 2008.

“Administering Green Programs in Congress: Issues and Options,” October 6, 2008.

“U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians,” October 8, 2008.

I.F. Stone Award for Journalistic Independence

On October 7, the first I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence was awarded to John Walcott, now of McClatchy Newspapers. As the Washington bureau chief for Knight Ridder, Mr. Walcott led a team of reporters including Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel who distinguished themselves for thoughtful, critical and skeptical news coverage of the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

The award ceremony served as an occasion for an assessment of the state of journalistic independence, and an attempt to derive the lessons of the recent past. The highlights of the ensuing discussion were presented by Dan Froomkin of the Nieman Watchdog in “The Lessons of our Failure,” October 17.

The I.F. Stone Award is administered by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University along with the Nieman Watchdog.

A rich archive devoted to the life and work of I.F. Stone may be found here.

NATO Enlargement, 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).

U.S. Nuclear Cooperation With India: Issues for Congress, updated October 2, 2008.

Iraq’s Debt Relief: Procedure and Potential Implications for International Debt Relief, updated October 2, 2008.

NATO Enlargement: Albania, Croatia, and Possible Future Candidates, October 6, 2008.

Navy DDG-1000 Destroyer Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress, updated October 9, 2008.

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, updated October 2, 2008.

Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler Aircraft: Background and Issues for Congress, updated October 2, 2008.

Direct Overt U.S. Aid, Export Assistance and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2009, updated October 16, 2008.

Air Force on Directed Energy Weapon Safety

A new U.S. Air Force Instruction (pdf) establishes a safety program for directed energy weapons (DEW) in view of the fact that “DEW systems create unique hazards that are different from conventional and nuclear weapons.”

“Potential DEW systems covered by this instruction include, but are not limited to, high-energy lasers, weaponized microwave and millimeter wave beams, explosive-driven electromagnetic pulse devices, acoustic weapons, laser induced plasma channel systems, non-lethal directed energy devices, and atomic-scale and subatomic particle beam weapons.”

See Air Force Instruction 91-401, Directed Energy Weapon Safety, September 29, 2008.

Update: Sharon Weinberger at Danger Room volunteered to be on the receiving end of a directed energy weapon known as the Active Denial System and she lived to tell the tale, and more besides, here.

Air Force Role in Nuclear Weapon Management

Another new U.S. Air Force Instruction (pdf) describes the Air Force role in joint DoD-DOE nuclear weapons development, production, refurbishment, and retirement activities.

“Although the DoD and DOE co-manage nuclear weapons through all system life cycle phases, each has specific responsibilities,” the Instruction explains.

“The DOE through the NNSA is responsible for designing, developing, building, sustaining, and dismantling all nuclear warheads. The DoD through the service component is responsible for developing the requirements and specifications for nuclear warhead operational characteristics; the environments in which the warhead must perform or remain safe; the determination of design acceptability; and the military requirements for warhead quantities.”

See Joint Air Force-National Nuclear Security Administration (AF-NNSA) Nuclear Weapons Life Cycle Management, AF Instruction 63-103, September 24, 2008.

FOIA Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense

A newly revised Pentagon instruction (pdf) updates Freedom of Information Act policy regarding requests submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“A classified document containing unclassified information may not be denied in total under exemption 1 [of the Freedom of Information Act, which exempts properly classified information] unless the unclassified information, when taken in aggregate, would reveal classified information.”

Furthermore, the instruction says, “It is OSD policy that OSD and JS Components shall promote the public trust by making the maximum amount of information available to the public on the operation and activities of the Department of Defense, consistent with the Department’s responsibility to ensure national security.”

See Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff (JS) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Program, Administrative Instruction No. 108, September 29, 2008.

DoD Directive Closes Loopholes in Detainee Interrogation Policy

A newly reissued Department of Defense directive (pdf) explicitly prohibits several of the more controversial interrogation techniques that have previously been practiced against suspected enemy combatants.

So, for example, the new directive states that “Use of SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape] techniques against a person in the custody or effective control of the Department of Defense or detained in a DoD facility is prohibited.” Waterboarding, in which a sensation of drowning is induced, is one such SERE technique.

In another new prohibition, the directive states that “No dog shall be used as part of an interrogation approach or to harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce a detainee for interrogation purposes.”

Yet another new prohibition limits the role of psychologists advising interrogators: “Behavioral science consultants may not be used to determine detainee phobias for the purpose of exploitation during the interrogation process.”

The new directive states that it simply “codifies existing DoD policies.” The restrictions noted above, however, did not appear in the prior edition of this directive (pdf), dated 2005.

See “DoD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning,” DoD Directive 3115.09, October 9, 2008.

A Veneer of Secrecy Reform at the Pentagon

At first glance, several provisions in a newly reissued Defense Department Instruction seem to offer a surprisingly forthcoming public disclosure policy to curb the steadily increasing secrecy of recent years. But on closer inspection, that is probably not the case.

“Declassification of information shall receive equal attention with classification so that information remains classified only as long as required by national security considerations,” according to DoD Instruction 5200.01, entitled “DoD Information Security Program and Protection of Sensitive Compartmented Information” (pdf),October 9, 2008.

This DoD requirement that declassification and classification should receive “equal attention” does not appear anywhere in the President’sexecutive order on classification or in its implementing directive which allow agencies to prioritize declassification as they see fit.

Similarly, the new DoD Instruction dictates that “The volume of classified national security information and CUI [controlled unclassified information], in whatever format or media, shall be reduced to the minimum necessary to meet operational requirements.”

No such policy on reducing the volume of secret information to the minimum is specified in the executive order or in the President’s May 2008 policy on controlled unclassified information.

On second glance, however, it turns out that both of these requirements have been on the books at the Pentagon for over a decade (except for the reference to the new CUI category) in the previous version of DoD Directive 5200.01, even as secrecy has grown by leaps and bounds. In other words, these provisions have proved to be mere rhetorical gestures that do not actually constrain official secrecy policy.

A DNA Database for Counterterrorism

DNA samples of thousands of suspected terrorists from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been collected and preserved in a little-known U.S. government database that is intended for forensic intelligence and counterterrorism purposes.

As of 2005, seven thousand detainee samples had been processed into the Joint Federal Agencies Antiterrorism DNA Database. Ten thousand more were “inbound” at that time from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a public presentation. See “The Department of Defense DNA Registry and the U.S. Government Accounting Mission” (pdf) by Brion C. Smith, August 2005 (at page 14).

The Joint Federal Agencies Antiterrorism DNA Database working group is comprised of representatives of the Department of Defense, the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community.

Disclosure of DNA and other medical information for intelligence purposes is explicitly authorized by government regulations.

“Under U.S. and international law, there is no absolute confidentiality of medical information for any person, including detainees,” according to the new DoD directive 3115.09 (pdf) on intelligence interrogation. “Medical information may be released for all lawful purposes… including release for any lawful intelligence or national security-related purpose.”

Update: See, relatedly, this new report from the Government Accountability Office, which curiously refrains from mentioning the term “DNA”: DOD Can Establish More Guidance for Biometrics Collection and Explore Broader Data Sharing (pdf), GAO-09-49, October 2008.

Army Intelligence Views Kidnapping and Terrorism

Kidnapping and other forms of terrorist violence have developed into a significant form of asymmetric conflict, according to a new U.S. Army manual (pdf) that describes the theory and practice of kidnapping with numerous case studies from recent years.

“This document promotes an improved understanding of terrorist objectives, motivation, and behaviors in the conduct of kidnapping,” the 168 page manual states.

See “Kidnapping and Terror in the Contemporary Operational Environment,” U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Intelligence Support Activity, 15 September 2008.

The manual on kidnapping is the sixth supplement to “A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century,” an Army instructional series, portions of which are labeled “for official use only.” A copy of the set was obtained by Secrecy News.