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U.S. Military Casualty Statistics, and More from CRS

Last week the Congressional Research Service published updated U.S. military casualty statistics for post-9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through January 2014. There have been 4,410 U.S. military deaths in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 2,299 U.S. military deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom to date.

While overall fatality figures are already made available on Department of Defense websites, the newly updated CRS report presents some more detailed casualty information that was obtained directly from DoD medical experts.

“This report includes statistics on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, evacuations, and the demographics of casualties.” See A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, February 19, 2014.

Another newly updated CRS report considers the vitality of the U.S. manufacturing sector as compared to that of other countries.

“China displaced the United States as the largest manufacturing country in 2010,” CRS noted for the first time, as others have done. (Last year’s edition of the CRS report still held, based on World Bank estimates, that “The United States remained the largest manufacturing country in 2010.”)

“This report is designed to inform the debate over the health of U.S. manufacturing through a series of charts and tables that depict the position of the United States relative to other countries according to various metrics.” See U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective, February 20, 2014.

A CRS report on the Ukraine that was updated last week has already been overtaken by the tumultuous events of the last few days. But it provides background on recent developments and congressional perspectives on them. See Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, February 20, 2014.

And see, relatedly, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests, February 20, 2014. Also, European Union Enlargement, February 19, 2014.

Updates of other previously issued CRS reports include the following.

Gangs in Central America, February 20, 2014

Employment for Veterans: Trends and Programs, February 20, 2014

Countering Violent Extremism in the United States, February 19, 2014

Another CRS report finds that “Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems.” See Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region, January 23, 2014.

Independence of Financial Regulators, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

Independence of Federal Financial Regulators, February 12, 2014

Small Business: Access to Capital and Job Creation, February 18, 2014

U.S.-South Korea Relations, February 12, 2014

U.S.-Japan Economic Relations: Significance, Prospects, and Policy Options, February 18, 2014

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues, February 14, 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress, February 15, 2014

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy, February 14, 2014

Visa Waiver Program, February 12, 2014

FBI Director: Appointment and Tenure, February 19, 2014

The Debt Limit Since 2011, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

The Debt Limit Since 2011, February 12, 2014

The Corporate Income Tax System: Overview and Options for Reform, February 14, 2014

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: In Brief, February 10, 2014

Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy, February 14, 2014

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, February 12, 2014

The FutureGen Carbon Capture and Sequestration Project: A Brief History and Issues for Congress, February 10, 2014

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Research, Development, and Demonstration at the U.S. Department of Energy, February 10, 2014

Food Fraud and “Economically Motivated Adulteration” of Food and Food Ingredients, January 10, 2014

Rail Transportation of Crude Oil, and More from CRS

A recent boom in U.S. production of crude oil is generating some stress on the transportation infrastructure, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

“The rapid expansion of North American oil production has led to significant challenges in transporting crudes efficiently and safely to domestic markets—principally refineries—using the nation’s legacy pipeline infrastructure,” the CRS report said.

“While oil by rail has demonstrated benefits with respect to the efficient movement of oil from producing regions to market hubs, it has also raised significant concerns about transportation safety and potential impacts to the environment.”

See U.S. Rail Transportation of Crude Oil: Background and Issues for Congress, February 6, 2014.

Other CRS publications that have been withheld by Congress from online public distribution include the following.

The Specialty Metal Clause: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress, February 6, 2014

Federal Reserve: Unconventional Monetary Policy Options, February 6, 2014

FISA Court Appointments, Potential Reforms, and More from CRS

It was announced today that Chief Justice Roberts has appointed Judge James E. Boasberg of the DC District Court to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a seven year term beginning in May 2014. He will replace the outgoing Presiding Judge Reggie Walton, whose term expires in May. The Chief Justice also appointed Judge Richard C. Tallman of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.

The current membership of the FISA Courts can be found here.

Background information on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and potential changes to its operations were discussed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Procedural and Operational Changes, January 16, 2014.

Relatedly from CRS, see Introducing a Public Advocate into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Courts: Select Legal Issues, October 25, 2013

Other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues, January 26, 2014

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 and Beyond: Detainee Matters, January 27, 2014

Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress, January 29, 2014

Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances, February 4, 2014

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations, January 30, 2014

Status of Mexican Trucks in the United States: Frequently Asked Questions, January 3, 2014

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background, Legislation, and Policy Issues, January 23, 2014

Iran: Authority to Lift Sanctions, and More from CRS

The diverse economic sanctions imposed on Iran by U.S. law or executive order, and the feasibility of lifting those sanctions, are tabulated and presented in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

“The sudden possibility that the United States may ease financial sector sanctions, and perhaps commit to an eventual dismantling of the entire panoply of economic restrictions on Iran affecting aid, trade, shipping, banking, insurance, underwriting, and support in the international financial institutions, arrives at a time when Congress has been considering additional sanctions on Iran.”

“This report identifies the legislative bases for sanctions imposed on Iran, and the nature of the authority to waive or lift those restrictions.”

A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions, February 4, 2014.

Other new or newly updated CRS reports on Middle East-related topics include the following.

Iran Sanctions, January 31, 2014

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations, February 6, 2014

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights, February 5, 2014

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations, January 31, 2014

Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy, January 30, 2014

Qatar: Background and U.S. Relations, January 30, 2014

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, January 27, 2014

Leahy Laws Bar Military Aid to Human Rights Violators

By law, the United States is not supposed to provide certain forms of military assistance to foreign security forces that have committed gross violations of human rights.

The underlying laws, which were introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy in the 1990s and which are known as the Leahy laws, are described in a new report from the Congressional Research Service entitled ‘Leahy Law’ Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview, January 29, 2014.

The report notes that “the Leahy laws have been the subject of long-standing debate. Policy makers, practitioners, and advocacy groups continue to deliberate overarching questions regarding their utility and desirability, as well as specific questions regarding their appropriate scope and problems in implementation.”

“For many, the Leahy laws are important U.S. foreign policy tools not only because of their potential to promote human rights but because they may help safeguard the U.S. image abroad by distancing the United States from corrupt or brutal security forces.”

“Some, however, raise concerns that these laws limit the Administration’s flexibility to balance competing national interests and may constrain the United States’ ability to respond to national security needs.”

The contrasting views on the subject stem from uncertainty about the practical consequences of the laws’ implementation, the CRS report said.

“Central to this debate are overarching questions that are difficult to answer given the lack of systematic study of Leahy law results. Have these laws indeed been effective in promoting human rights? To what extent have these laws impeded or advanced other key U.S. objectives, such as countering terrorism, preventing violence, or stabilizing territory? Do the laws lead other nations to choose competitors for foreign influence as the source of military materiel and training? Will the United States be able to control down-range effects as it outsources military training through third-party nations? Competing perceptions of these overarching issues underlie perspectives on specific proposals for congressional action.”

“This report provides background on the Leahy laws, including a brief history of their legislative development; an overview guide to the standards and processes used to ‘vet’ — that is, review and clear — foreign military and other security forces for gross violations of human rights; and a brief review of salient issues regarding the provisions of the laws and their implementation.”

In any event, “the Leahy laws apply only to security assistance funding authorized by the FAA [Foreign Assistance Act] and AECA [Arms Export Control Act] or programs funded through DOD appropriations. They do not apply to other security assistance that may be provided by U.S. government agencies through other provisions of law.”  In particular, they would not restrict security assistance through the exercise of CIA covert action.

The Obama Administration maintains that a goal of U.S. security assistance abroad is to “Promote universal values, such as good governance, transparent and accountable oversight of security forces, rule of law, transparency, accountability, delivery of fair and effective justice, and respect for human rights,” according to a White House Fact Sheet on the April 2013 Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 23.

“Defense trade is an important part of America’s relations with a number of allies and partners, and the United States takes seriously the implications of any transfer of conventional arms to foreign partners,” wrote Acting Assistant Secretary of State Tom Kelly in a blog post yesterday.

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Other new reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public disclosure include the following.

U.S. Naturalization Policy, January 16, 2014

Financial Assets and Conflict of Interest Regulation in the Executive Branch, January 17, 2014

Recent Trends in Consumer Retail Payment Services Delivered by Depository Institutions, January 16, 2014

Status of the WTO Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case, December 12, 2013

Tribal Jurisdiction over Nonmembers: A Legal Overview, November 26, 2013

Perjury Under Federal Law, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

Perjury Under Federal Law: A Brief Overview, January 28, 2014

Perjury Under Federal Law: A Sketch of the Elements, January 28, 2014

Emergency Relief for Disaster Damaged Roads and Transit Systems: In Brief, January 28, 2014

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer, January 27, 2014

Constitutional Analysis of Suspicionless Drug Testing Requirements for the Receipt of Governmental Benefits, January 29, 2014

Federal Employees’ Retirement System: Benefits and Financing, January 30, 2014

Military Retirement: Background and Recent Developments, January 27, 2014

Crisis in the Central African Republic, January 27, 2014

Identity Theft, and More from CRS

Recent reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

Identity Theft: Trends and Issues, January 16, 2014

Executive Order 13438: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, January 24, 2014

Detention of U.S. Persons as Enemy Belligerents, January 23, 2014

Trends in Discretionary Spending, January 24, 2014

Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response, January 24, 2014

Overview of the Federal Tax System, January 23, 2014

International Trade and Finance: Key Policy Issues for the 113th Congress, Second Session, January 23, 2014

“Who is a Veteran?” — Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits, January 23, 2014

An Overview of Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Resources and Federal Actions, January 23, 2014

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, January 17, 2014

The European Union: Questions and Answers, January 15, 2014

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation, January 15, 2014

Iran Sanctions, January 15, 2014