Posts from March, 2010

Pentagon Study Critiques 2003 Transition in Iraq

The transition of U.S. military forces in Iraq to post-major combat operations in 2003 was marred by failures in leadership and planning, according to an internal report (pdf) prepared for the Pentagon that was partially declassified and released this month under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The transition that occurred was not the one that was planned,” the 2006 report delicately stated.

“Insufficient and untimely availability of resources impeded effectiveness of post-combat operations and contributed to a difficult transition.”  Intelligence support, joint command and control, and communications infrastructure all “fell short of expectations or needs.”

See “Transitions in Iraq: Changing Environment, Changing Organizations, Changing Leadership,” Joint Center for Operational Analysis, 21 July 2006.

The newly disclosed report was cited in a 2008 book by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.  According to Gen. Sanchez’s account, the report had been suppressed at the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who did not welcome its critical findings.

In 2008, U.S. Joint Forces Command told TPM Muckraker that the report had been completed but was classified and not publicly available.  (“Pentagon Report on Iraq Debacle ‘Remains Classified’” by Paul Kiel, May 6, 2008). Now portions of it have been released.

Another newly declassified report found no corroboration of allegations that the DoD Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) had withheld information from the 9/11 Commission.  The DoD Inspector General said there was no basis for such a claim.  But the 2008 IG report, formerly classified Secret, provides some new details on the operation of the JFIC.  See “Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11″ (pdf), September 23, 2008.

Navy Intel Oversight, Protecting Unclassified Info

The U.S. Navy has released some new guidance pertaining to intelligence programs, including the following items (both pdf).

“Oversight of the Department of the Navy Military Intelligence Program,” SECNAV Instruction 5000.38A, February 5, 2010.

“Required Operational Capabilities and Projected Operational Environment for Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command Forces,” OPNAV Instruction 3501.382, March 1, 2010.

The Department of Defense has invited comment on a proposal to modify and enhance controls on unclassified DoD information held in industry in order to protect such information from unauthorized access and disclosure.  The proposed changes may be altered at a later date, the DoD notice states, in response to ongoing development of a government-wide policy on “controlled unclassified information.”  See the March 3 DoD Federal Register notice here.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued its own proposed rule on the handling of “restricted information” in a March 4 Federal Register notice.

Book: A Genius for Deception

One of the few unclassified discussions of official U.S. policy on the use of “cover stories” to conceal classified activities and operations advised that “Cover stories must be believable.”  (1992 draft SAP Supplement [pdf], at p. 3-1-5).

But such pedestrian guidance would not have been needed by British military and intelligence officials during the past century because they had an almost instinctive gift for concealment and misdirection, writes Nicholas Rankin in “A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars” (Oxford University Press, 2009).

From the emergence of camouflage (a word that entered the English language in 1917) to the development of modern propaganda to the strategic deceptions of World War II, the author treats familiar figures such as T.E. Lawrence and John Buchan (author of The 39 Steps) and many unfamiliar ones.

“A Genius for Deception” is surprisingly colorful, with an endless stream of strange, offbeat and sometimes appalling anecdotes that the author has culled from his extensive reading and research.

He quotes an enterprising British intelligence officer in World War I who discovered that the German officers’ latrines in an East Africa camp “were a good source of soiled documents and letters, yielding ‘filthy, though accurate information’.”

In a personal epilogue, Rankin observes that the calculated deception of an enemy is ethically distinct from and not to be confused with propaganda directed at one’s own people.

White House Offers Glimpse of Cybersecurity Program

The White House yesterday released a newly declassified description (pdf) of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), a highly classified program that is intended to protect U.S. government computer networks against intrusion and disruption.

The cybersecurity initiative was established in January 2008 by President Bush’s classified National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 54, and quickly became controversial in part because of the intense secrecy surrounding it.

“Virtually everything about the initiative is highly classified,” the Senate Armed Services Committee complained in 2008, “and most of the information that is not classified is categorized as ‘For Official Use Only’.  These restrictions preclude public education, awareness and debate about the policy and legal issues, real or imagined, that the initiative poses in the areas of privacy and civil liberties…. The Committee strongly urges the [Bush] Administration to reconsider the necessity and wisdom of the blanket, indiscriminate classification levels established for the initiative.”  No such reconsideration was forthcoming until now.

Concerns about overclassification were also expressed by the National Academy of Sciences in a 2009 report, which called for “a broad, unclassified national debate and discussion about cyber-attack policy,” and argued that “secrecy even about broad policy issues serves mostly to inhibit necessary discussion about them.”

The Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative was “the single largest request and the most important initiative of the President’s fiscal year 2009 [intelligence] budget request,” the House Intelligence Committee said in its report on the FY2009 intelligence authorization act.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (pdf) just last month seeking declassification and disclosure of the Bush Administration’s NSPD 54.

But that foundational directive was not disclosed, nor did the Obama Administration address the issue of offensive cyber policy raised by the National Academy.  Instead, the White House released a descriptive summary of 12 component elements of the Cybersecurity Initiative, a gesture that it said was consistent with the President’s emphasis on increased transparency.

“Transparency is particularly vital in areas, such as the CNCI, where there have been legitimate questions about sensitive topics like the role of the intelligence community in cybersecurity,” said Howard A. Schmidt, the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator who announced the disclosure.  “Transparency provides the American people with the ability to partner with government and participate meaningfully in the discussion about how we can use the extraordinary resources and expertise of the intelligence community with proper oversight for the protection of privacy and civil liberties,” Mr. Schmidt said.

But without a clear delineation of legal authorities and implementation mechanisms, the scope for meaningful public discussion seems limited.

As the House Intelligence Committee put it in 2008, “a cybersecurity initiative [is] worthwhile in principle, but the details of the CNCI remain vague and, thus, open to question.”

In order to bolster independent oversight of programs such as the CNCI that must remain classified, at least in part, dozens of public interest organizations including the Federation of American Scientists this week urged President Obama (pdf) to finally appoint the members of an independent executive branch oversight board.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (pdf), originally proposed in 2004 by the 9/11 Commission to monitor and defend civil liberties in information sharing and counterterrorism activities, was given independent agency status by Congress in 2007.  But it has remained vacant since that time and thus unable to fulfill its assigned task.

“It is crucial that you nominate qualified individuals to serve on the PCLOB, so that it may begin to provide guidance as new policies and procedures are developed,” the public interest group letter said.

Army Foresees “Perpetual Turbulence” in Cyberspace

U.S. Army doctrine (pdf) published last week anticipates an increasingly unstable information environment that may challenge Army operations and test national capabilities.

“Unprecedented levels of adverse activity in and through cyberspace threaten the integrity of United States critical infrastructure, financial systems, and elements of national power. These threats range from unwitting hackers to nation-states, each at various levels of competence. Collectively, the threats create a condition of perpetual turbulence without traditional end states or resolution.”

Under prevailing circumstances, the Army says, “Notions of ‘dominating’ cyberspace are simplistic and unrealistic. A realistic and meaningful goal is to achieve and maintain freedom of action in and through cyberspace while being able to affect that of the adversaries.”

The Army’s assessment and proposed response are described in “Cyberspace Operations Concept Capability Plan 2016-2028,” TRADOC Pamphlet 525-7-8, February 22, 2010.

Use of U.S. Forces Abroad, 1798-2009, and More from CRS

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

“Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2009,” January 27, 2010.

“Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians,” February 26, 2010.

“China-North Korea Relations,” January 22, 2010.

“Honduran Political Crisis, June 2009-January 2010,” February 1, 2010.

“Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence,” February 16, 2010.

“Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues,” February 1, 2010.

House Approves Two Secrecy Policy Measures

The House of Representatives last week approved two secrecy-related amendments to the pending FY 2010 intelligence authorization act (HR 2701).  The amendments and the bill itself await further action in a House-Senate conference.

An amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) would require the Director of National Intelligence to identify records held by U.S. intelligence agencies that deal with human rights violations in Argentina committed by that country’s military dictatorship between 1976 and 1985, and to review such records for declassification (sec. 360).  An amendment by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) would require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to prepare a report “containing an analysis of the problem of over-classification and ways to address such over-classification” (sec. 358).

Argentina’s so-called “dirty war” in the 1970s was a national trauma that persists in living memory, involving the death and disappearance of tens of thousands of victims.  “By passing this measure today,” said Rep. Hinchey, “Congress is helping to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the terrible human rights abuses committed by the despotic Argentinian regime of the 1970′s and 1980′s and helping to bring truth and justice to what was a horrific period in South America.”

Rep. Harman’s amendment would help to enlist the new Inspector General of the Intelligence Community in the process of intelligence classification reform.  Under the Inspector General Act of 1978, only Congress can require the Inspector General to undertake this task.  And the IG should be well-positioned to do so, with all of the necessary clearances and depth of access.

In truth, however, it is a little late in the day for a “report” on overclassification.  It is more than a half century since the Coolidge Committee (pdf) informed the Secretary of Defense that “overclassification has reached serious proportions,” and dozens of other official and unofficial commissions and reviews have generated similar findings (pdf) since that time.

Fortunately, secrecy policy today seems to have moved beyond the “analysis” phase. A focused effort to combat overclassification in practice was approved in President Obama’s executive order 13526 (sec. 1.9).  Specifically, all classifying agencies have been ordered to perform a “fundamental review” of their classification guidance “to ensure the guidance reflects current circumstances and to identify classified information that no longer requires protection and can be declassified.”

The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review is “the most important effort to address this problem [of overclassification],” said William H. Leary of the National Security Council.

“[It] is a totally new requirement that agencies conduct fundamental reviews of their classification guides and other guidance to ensure that they eliminate outdated and unnecessary classification requirements.  The first of these fundamental reviews has to be completed within two years, and agencies are required to make public the results so that people… can hold us responsible for the results,” said Mr. Leary, who spoke at a January 20 program at American University’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy.

“These reviews can be extremely important in changing the habits and the practices of classifiers throughout government,” he said.

Arab Media Outlook Sees Growth in 2009-2013

A study (pdf) of the news media in 15 Arab countries shows some new signs of vigor and creativity in the Arab press, despite familiar financial constraints and structural changes affecting news organizations.  Overall daily circulation and the number of news publications continue to rise.

“We are confident that the fundamentals of the media in our region are strong enough to not only withstand the storms of the times, but also to forge ahead, learning lessons from the past and making amends for things that went wrong,” wrote Mona al Marri, chairperson of the Dubai Press Club in the United Arab Emirates, which produced the new study.

“A majority of media stakeholders that we interviewed across the 15 countries covered in the report thought future prospects for the media in the region were positive in spite of the impact of the economic downturn,” said Maryam bin Fahad, executive director of the Press Club. “We also noticed a growing preference for local Arabic content in countries that produce local content such as Egypt and Lebanon, indicating further maturation of the media industry and media consumers away from generalized regional or global media content.”

“The newspaper industry in the Arab Region is currently an unsaturated market in the majority of countries,” according to the study. “The concentration of newspapers in the region relative to its population remains low compared to Western Europe, North America and even Eastern Europe.”

“Bahrain has, by far, the highest concentration of newspaper titles by population in the region,” followed by Qatar and Kuwait.  Other countries, “including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, could benefit from an increase in newspapers.”  Varying levels of press freedom and legal protection for the press are noted in passing.

“Arab Media Outlook 2009-2013: Inspiring Local Content,” was released last month and is posted with the permission of the Dubai Press Club.

Some New Congressional Hearing Volumes

Noteworthy new volumes of congressional hearings on national security-related topics include the following (all pdf).

“War Powers in the 21st Century,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 28, 2009 (published January 2010).

“Voice of Veterans of the Afghan War,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 23, 2009 (published February 2010).

“Strategic Importance of the Arctic in U.S. Policy,” Senate Appropriations Committee, August 20, 2009 (published January 2010).

“Defeating the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and Other Asymmetric Threats: Today’s Efforts and Tomorrow’s Requirements,” House Armed Services Committee, September 16, 2008 (published December 2009).

“Implications of the Supreme Court’s Boumediene Decision for Detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: Non-Governmental Perspective,” House Armed Services Committee, July 30, 2008 (published January 2010).