Posts from May, 2009

CRS on the Classified Information Procedures Act

The Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) was enacted in 1980 to provide a mechanism for handling classified information that was likely to arise in criminal trials.  The Act provided for the identification of such information, provisions for establishing its relevance and admissibility, and for introducing unclassified substitutions that could be openly discussed at trial.

The CIPA has figured prominently in numerous trials, most recently in the now-concluded case against two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.  It also serves as a possible model and inspiration for resolving other conflicts between national security secrecy and due process in civil cases, such as those involving state secrets.

“As Congress recognized when it passed the Classified Information Procedures Act, courts have many tools at their disposal to move litigation forward even when some of the evidence cannot be disclosed,” said Sen. Russ Feingold earlier this year in endorsing the State Secrets Protection Act (S.417).

A report on the CIPA, including discussion of its shortcomings and limitations, was prepared by the Congressional Research Service in 1989.  That report has not been updated to include recent developments, and it has been withdrawn from distribution by CRS.  A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA): An Overview,” March 2, 1989.

Odds and Ends from CRS

New reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following (all pdf):

“Sending Mail to Members of the Armed Forces at Reduced or Free Postage: An Overview,” April 27, 2009.

“State, Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Guide to Component Accounts,” March 30, 2009.

“Foreign Operations Appropriations: General Provisions,” April 30, 2009.

“Taiwan-U.S. Relations: Developments and Policy Implications,” May 1, 2009.

“Proposals for a Congressional Commission on the Financial Crisis: A Comparative Analysis,” April 29, 2009.

“Assessment in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Primer,” April 9, 2009.

“U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: Senate Rejections and Committee Votes Other Than to Report Favorably, 1939-2009,” March 24, 2009.

“The 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) Outbreak: Selected Legal Issues,” May 4, 2009.

A GEOINT Analysis of Terrorism in Afghanistan

It is possible to discern potentially significant patterns in terrorist activity through an analysis of geospatial intelligence information concerning terrorist incidents, the DNI Open Source Center (OSC) says.

A recent OSC study of terrorism in Afghanistan (large PDF) illustrates the growing sophistication of geointelligence analysis tools.  By analyzing parameters such as location, timing, frequency, lethality and other such characteristics, the OSC study identified “hotspots” for terrorist activity and changes over time.  It also provided data for evaluating an OSC predictive model of terrorism in Afghanistan.

The study “revealed spatial patterns and a distribution of incidents that would be valuable to those interested in the dynamics of Afghanistan’s security.”

Some of the resulting conclusions are trivial or obvious.  Thus, OSC found that terrorist incidents are more likely to occur in populated areas of the country than in barren wastelands.  Other conclusions concerning seasonal variations and changes in target distributions may have more practical significance.

The OSC study has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Afghanistan — Geospatial Analysis Reveals Patterns in Terrorist Incidents 2004-2008,” Open Source Center, April 20, 2009 (in a very large 19 MB PDF file).

The study features “interactive GeoPDFs” that are embedded in the document.  In order to open them, it is necessary to activate the “Layers” function in Adobe Reader.  To do so, click on “View,” then select “Navigation Tabs” and click on “Layers.”

Tactics in Counterinsurgency

“Tactics in Counterinsurgency” (pdf), a new U.S. Army Field Manual, expands upon the Counterinsurgency doctrine of the best-selling December 2006 manual (pdf) on that subject.

The new manual was previously circulated in an interim, draft form and then abruptly withdrawn from public access.  (“‘Tactics in Insurgency’ Again Online,” Secrecy News, April 6, 2009).  Now it has been finalized and formally released.

“At its heart, a counterinsurgency is an armed struggle for the support of the population,” the manual declares. “This support can be achieved or lost through information engagement, strong representative government, access to goods and services, fear, or violence. This armed struggle also involves eliminating insurgents who threaten the safety and security of the population.”

“However, military units alone cannot defeat an insurgency. Most of the work involves discovering and solving the population’s underlying issues, that is, the root causes of their dissatisfaction with the current arrangement of political power. Dealing with diverse issues such as land reform, unemployment, oppressive leadership, or ethical tensions places a premium on tactical leaders who can not only close with the enemy, but also negotiate agreements, operate with nonmilitary agencies and other nations, restore basic services, speak the native (a foreign) language, orchestrate political deals, and get ‘the word’ on the street.”

See “Tactics in Counterinsurgency,” Field Manual 3-24.2, April 21, 2009 (300 pages, 10 MB PDF).

An Algerian Nuclear Bibliography

Algeria is one of the Middle Eastern North African nations that has the scientific and technological capacity to develop nuclear weapons if legal, political and other barriers to nuclear weapons proliferation decline and lose their efficacy.  “Algeria has the expertise and the means to produce nuclear weapons” should it decide to do so, said independent researcher Mark Gorwitz, and he added that it might be able to accomplish the task in just a couple of years.

Mr. Gorwitz prepared an updated open source bibliography of Algerian nuclear science and engineering publications, which is posted here (pdf).

Christopher Bolkcom – RIP

To the shock and bewilderment of those who knew him, Christopher Bolkcom, a distinguished analyst at the Congressional Research Service, died suddenly May 1 at age 46.

Twenty years ago, Christopher was a research assistant working for John Pike here at FAS.  He quickly went on to become a national expert on military aviation and other aspects of defense policy.  When looking over a bibliography of studies prepared for the secretive Office of Net Assessment, I was impressed to see that Christopher had co-authored several papers for the influential Pentagon group more than fifteen years ago. More recently, as a CRS analyst, he wrote dozens of authoritative reports on military aircraft and all kinds of related topics.  He was much in demand.  As noted by the Project on Government Oversight, he testified at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee just last Thursday, the day before he died.

But Christopher’s testimony (pdf) and his publications on “Tactical Air Modernization” (pdf) and the like don’t begin to capture the depth and vitality of the man.  He knew enough discord in his own life to make him thoughtful and forgiving towards the weaknesses of others.  (Well, sometimes.)  He had a mischievous sense of humor and he liked to live on the edge.  He pursued the martial arts, he rode a motorcycle to work, and he listed me as a reference for his security clearance renewal.

Above all, Christopher was a loving father to his two young children, Jessica and Max.  He  was also a generous and devoted friend.  His family has invited those who remember him to make a donation in his name to the Falls Church Presbyterian Church Youth Program, 225 E. Broad Street, Falls Church, Virginia 22046.

Govt Seeks Dismissal of AIPAC Case

Prosecutors today filed a motion for dismissal (pdf) of the controversial case against two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, who were charged under the Espionage Act with unlawful receipt and transmission of classified information.

“The landscape of this case has changed significantly since it was first brought,” the government motion stated, referring to several court rulings against the prosecution, which drastically increased its burden of proof, while granting defense motions to introduce previously classified information and to call influential expert witnesses for the defense.

“In addition to adjusting to the requirement of meeting an unexpectedly higher evidentiary threshold in order to prevail at trial, the Government must also assess the nature, quality, and quantity of evidence – including information relevant to prosecution and defense theories expected at trial.”

“In the proper discharge of our duties and obligations, we have re-evaluated the case based on the present context and circumstances, and determined that it is in the public interest to dismiss the pending superseding indictment,” prosecutors wrote in their May 1 motion.

If the case had gone forward and prosecutors had prevailed, it would have set a terrible precedent for using the Espionage Act to regulate and to punish access to classified information by non-official persons.  Instead, the dismissal of the case after years of fruitless litigation makes it extremely unlikely that prosecutors will attempt a repeat performance.

Ron Kampeas at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency had the first word on the motion for dismissal this morning.  Eli Lake at the Washington Times had an on-the-record confirmation.

A “Secret” Database of Israeli Settlements

Last January 30, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz disclosed a secret Israeli government database on settlements in the occupied West Bank, and posted the Hebrew text (pdf) of the database on their website.  Last month, the ODNI Open Source Center completed an English translation of the 200-page document.  Secrecy News obtained a copy of the translation (pdf) which we are publishing today.

The database provides a concise description of each of the dozens of settlements, including their location, legal status, population, and even the origins of their names, which are often Biblically-inspired.  Crucially, the database makes clear that unauthorized and illegal construction activity has taken place in most of the settlements.

“An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements – about 75 percent – construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued,” according to the Haaretz account.  “The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.”

A copy of the database had been requested by Israeli citizens groups under that country’s freedom of information law, but release was denied by the Defense Ministry.  Haaretz obtained a copy independently and, notwithstanding Israel’s military censorship apparatus, proceeded to publish it. See “Secret Israeli Database Reveals Full Extent of Illegal Settlement” by Uri Blau, Haaretz, February 1, 2009.

The English translation of the settlement database prepared by the ODNI Open Source Center is now available here.  A copy of the Hebrew original is here.