Constitutional Challenges to NSA Collection, and More from CRS

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

Overview of Constitutional Challenges to NSA Collection Activities and Recent Developments, April 1, 2014

Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: A Brief Overview, March 31, 2014

The Debate Over Selected Presidential Assistants and Advisors: Appointment, Accountability, and Congressional Oversight, March 31, 2014

Unlawfully Present Aliens, Higher Education, In-State Tuition, and Financial Aid: Legal Analysis, March 28, 2014

Unlawfully Present Aliens, Driver’s Licenses, and Other State-Issued ID: Select Legal Issues, March 28, 2014

Regulation of Clinical Tests: In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) Devices, Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs), and Genetic Tests, March 27, 2014

EPA and the Army Corps’ Proposed Rule to Define “Waters of the United States”, March 27, 2014

The Volcker Rule: A Legal Analysis, March 27, 2014

Foreign Assistance to North Korea, April 2, 2014

 

Classified Nuclear Weapon Drawings Missing at Labs

Classified design drawings used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons have not been properly and reliably maintained by nuclear weapons labs managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of Energy Inspector General said in a report last week.

“NNSA sites could not always locate as-built product definitions or associated drawings for nuclear weapons and components in official records repositories.” At the Pantex Plant, “officials were concerned and surprised at the difficulty in finding as-built product definitions for the nuclear weapons,” the DoE IG report said.

At Los Alamos, the information system “allowed changes to classified nuclear weapons drawings without using an approved change notice. This practice could permit unauthorized changes to weapons drawings.” Questioned about undocumented changes to a particular weapon drawing, “officials were unable to explain why changes were made, but told us that they ‘assumed’ the changes were needed.”

“Over the decades of nuclear weapons development, neither NNSA nor its sites treated the maintenance of original nuclear weapons… information as a priority,” wrote DoE Inspector General Gregory Friedman.

“Not having complete and accurate [weapon production] information can have significant effects on surveillance and safety, and can lead to time-consuming and expensive recovery efforts.” See National Nuclear Security Administration Nuclear Weapons Systems Configuration Management, Audit Report DOE/IG-0902, March 26, 2014.

“NNSA is on a trajectory towards crisis,” said Norman Augustine, the venerable engineer and aerospace executive who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

“The ‘NNSA experiment’ involving creation of a semi-autonomous organization [within the Department of Energy] has failed,” he said.

NNSA “has lost credibility and the trust of the national leadership and customers in DOD that it can deliver needed weapons and critical nuclear facilities on schedule and on budget,” Mr. Augustine said. He spoke at a March 26 briefing for the House Armed Services Committee.

The problems are not entirely attributable to NNSA itself, he said, but are due in part to an eroding consensus concerning the role of nuclear weapons in national security policy.

“At the root of the challenges are complacency and the loss of focus on the nuclear mission by the Nation and its leadership following the end of the Cold War,” Mr. Augustine said.

He cited “the absence of a widely accepted understanding of, and appreciation for, the role of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology in the 21st century, with the resultant well-documented and atrophied conditions of plans for our strategic deterrent’s future– in DOD as well as in DOE.”

Missing the Open Source Center / World News Connection

The decision by the Central Intelligence Agency to terminate public access to its translations of foreign news reports at the end of 2013 continues to reverberate among frustrated former consumers.

The translations had been performed by the Open Source Center (OSC) at CIA, and marketed to subscribers through the NTIS World News Connection (WNC). Their absence has left a felt void, particularly since the daily products had been continuously available to the public (by paid subscription) since 1974.

“The first three months of 2014 have seen so many crucial international stories that current WNC Daily Report public access could have helped to illuminate,” said one disappointed subscriber. “OSC short-sightedness is mind-boggling.”

An effort to reverse the CIA move and to restore public access is beginning to take shape, but the prospects for success are uncertain.

Besides translations, the Open Source Center also produces original analysis of open sources. Much of this material is unclassified and could be released. Occasionally, some of it leaks.

In a marvelous piece described (but not disclosed) by Michael Rubin in Commentary on March 19, the Open Source Center reportedly performed a critical analysis of the music that was performed at the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics.

“The Open Source Center’s Russia analysts… observed that during the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies, Russian authorities played an instrumental version of a song that called for Alaska’s return to Russia.”

A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Samantha Ravich and Carol Haave praised the value of open source intelligence and called for new investment in this area (“Nukes and ‘Snowden-Proof’ Intelligence,” March 17).

“Crafting new analytic methods for acquiring and exploiting… open-source scientific literature is crucial for understanding the pace, scale and scope of other countries’ nuclear-weapons aspirations,” they wrote, while open source intelligence “can often give us better insight into foreign leaders’ motivation and intent” than some other modes of collection and analysis.

But today’s CIA has proven to be an unreliable custodian of the open source intelligence enterprise, having deprived the public of access to its products for the first time in four decades. If there is ever to be a resurgence of open source intelligence, it probably ought to be managed and housed far from CIA.

US-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation, and More from CRS

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

U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress, March 24, 2014

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, March 24, 2014

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests, March 21, 2014

Major U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan Since 2001, March 26, 2014

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, March 27, 2014

Comparison of Rights in Military Commission Trials and Trials in Federal Criminal Court, March 21, 2014

The Trend in Long-Term Unemployment and Characteristics of Workers Unemployed for Two Years or More, March 24, 2014

Selected Characteristics of Private and Public Sector Workers, March 21, 2014

Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: How to Find Documents and Other Resources, March 25, 2014

Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues, March 25, 2014

Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Introducing a Public Advocate, March 21, 2014

Intelligence Whistleblower Law Has Been Used Infrequently

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) has rarely been relied upon by intelligence agency whistleblowers, according to a newly released 2009 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Inspector General.

During the ten year period after the Act came into effect in January 1999, intelligence agency Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) said that only ten whistleblower complaints had been filed.

“According to the questionnaire responses we received, since 1 January 1999, 4 IC OIGs received a total of 10 ICWPA complaints,” the October 2009 report said.

“The CIA and DoD OIGs received four complaints, and the OIGs for DOJ and ODNI each received one complaint.”

“Of the 10 complaints, 3 were deemed by the CIA and DOD OIGs to be ‘urgent concerns,’ as defined by the ICWPA, and all 3 were found to be credible. The CIA and DOD OIGs notified Congress of the three complaints, as required by the statute.”

“Of the remaining six complaints, all… were deemed ‘not credible’ by the respective OIGs.”

“Of the 10 complaints received by the IC OIGs during the 10-year reporting period, 3 of them — 2 from CIA and 1 from DoJ — included allegations of reprisal.”

“However, the CIA OIG found no evidence of reprisal when it investigated these allegations. The DoJ OIG referred the complaint to the DoJ Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigated the matter and found no evidence of reprisal.”

“The OIGs also reported that none of the complaints submitted to the IC OIGs was deemed fraudulent or made in ‘bad faith’,” the report said. But the contents of the complaints and any consequences resulting from them were not described in the report.

See the Report to Congress on the use of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act submitted by ODNI Inspector General Roslyn A. Mazer, October 19, 2009.

The creation of an Intelligence Community-wide Inspector General in 2010 included establishment of a new IC IG Hotline, which “provides a confidential means for IC employees, contractors, and the public to report fraud, waste, and abuse.”

During a recent six-month period, the IC IG internal Hotline received 70 contacts from IC personnel as well as 77 contacts from the general public, according to a March 2013 semi-annual report. The results of those contacts, i.e. whether they prompted an investigation and corrective action, were not reported.

By comparison, the Department of Defense Hotline received more than 15,000 contacts during a six-month period ending September 2013. The DoD Inspector General opened 1,341 cases as a result.

DoD has a budget and a workforce that are roughly an order of magnitude larger than those of the Intelligence Community, so the two cannot be directly compared.

But it appears that whistleblower reporting of suspected waste, fraud and abuse has been institutionalized and routinized to a far greater extent in the Defense Department than within the Intelligence Community, where it remains uncommon.