FAS Roundup: March 5, 2012
Syria and WMD, Chinese ICBMs spotted, DoD responds to nuclear targeting questions, why sanctions on Iran won’t work and much more.
From the Blogs
- DoD Responds to Questions on Nuclear Targeting: Are U.S. nuclear forces on hair trigger alert? Not exactly, a Department of Defense official told Congress. “Although it is true that portions of the U.S. nuclear triad are capable of rapid execution upon authorization from the President, a robust system of safeguards and procedures are in place to prevent the accidental or unauthorized launch of a U.S. nuclear weapon,” said James N. Miller, Jr., Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
- Chinese Mobile ICBMs Seen in Central China: Hans Kristensen writes that recent satellite images show that China is setting up launch units for its newest road-mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in central China. Several launchers of the new DF-31/31A appeared at two sites in the eastern part of the Qinghai province in June 2011; which is part of China’s slow modernization of its small (compared with Russia and the United States) nuclear arsenal.
- Court Says Agency Classification Decision is Not “Logical”: DC District Judge Richard W. Roberts did an astonishing thing that federal courts almost never do: He probed into the decision to classify a government document and concluded that it was not well-founded, in an opinion that was published this week. He ordered the agency to release the document under the Freedom of Information Act.
- What We Can Learn from Cancer Statistics: Dr. Y writes that many of the things we are concerned about (electromagnetic fields, radiofrequency radiation, cell phones, the level of radiation found in medical x-rays, and so forth) – things to which our exposure has skyrocketed over the last several decades without a concomitant increase in cancer rates – might not be as bad as we fear.
- There is No Reporter’s Privilege, Leak Prosecutors Insist: “There is no ‘reporter’s privilege’ that shields the identity of confidential sources in good-faith criminal proceedings,” prosecutors reiterated in a new pre-trial brief in the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of leaking classified information to author and New York Times reporter James Risen. Consequently, they said, Mr. Risen should not be permitted to invoke such a privilege to shield his source.
- Army: Recovery of Captured Journalists Poses “Challenges”: Steven Aftergood writes that a recently updated U.S. Army doctrinal manual on recovery of U.S. military personnel who are captured by enemy forces — which is considered “one of the highest priorities of the United States Government” — includes a new section on the recovery of journalists who have been kidnapped or detained abroad.
- DoD Inspector General Tallies Leaks of Classified Intel: In response to a congressional directive, the Department of Defense Inspector General has provided to Congress “an inventory of all identified unauthorized disclosures of SCI [sensitive compartmented information, or classified intelligence] to the public within DoD from the past three calendar years.” The unclassified version of the IG report, stripped of almost all of its content, was released on March 1.
- Balancing Research Capability, Oversight, and Communication Post the H5N1 Controversy: The Virtual Biosecurity Center, a project spear-headed by FAS, published an editorial by Dr. Barbara Johnson on the H5N1 research debate. FAS worked with Dr. Johnson to ensure her timely and level-headed editorial received pre-publication approval so that it could be shared with the Virtual Biosecurity Center’s wide audience.
- Lessons from Oklo: In 1972, French scientists noticed that uranium from a particular mine in the Oklo region of the African nation of Gabon had a different isotopic makeup than any other uranium ore on Earth, being depleted in U-235. After some great scientific detective work they realized that the only plausible explanation for the discrepancies they found was that this ore body had undergone fission – that the Earth once had a natural nuclear reactor.
- DoD Issues New Information Security Regulation: On February 24, 2012, the Department of Defense published its long-awaited new information security regulation that finally brings the Department into conformity with the Obama Administration’s 2009 executive order on national security classification policy. Steven Aftergood writes that the new regulation generally follows the classification guidelines set by the Obama executive order, but it also elaborates on them in interesting ways, such as presenting comprehensive guidance on practically every aspect of classification and declassification policy, including an extended discussion of how to respond to unauthorized disclosures of classified information.
- The Depreciating Dollar, and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as energy projects on federal lands, changes in the Arctic and North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
- Fearful of a Nuclear Iran? The Real WMD Nightmare is Syria: Charles P. Blair, Senior Fellow on State and Non-State Threats, writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the international concern should be directed toward Syria and its weapons of mass destruction. Syria’s revolution will likely be an unpredictable, protracted, and grim affair. And Syria likely has one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical weapon programs in the world.
- Questions about Nuclear Power: Nuclear power is all over the news today, yet there remains many unanswered questions regarding this power source. A new article written by Dr. Frank Settle and Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, (editors of the recently published report, The Future of Nuclear Power in the United States), examines questions such as how nuclear power differs from other sources of electricity and future expansion of the nuclear power industry in the United States.
- Why Iran Sanctions Won’t Work: Ali Vaez, director of the FAS Iran Project, writes in CNN’s Global Public Square Blog that while the Iranian nuclear crisis is nearing its 10th anniversary, all attempts to resolve the standoff have come to naught. There are simply no easy solutions to this conundrum.
- Steven Aftergood, director of the Government Secrecy Project, spoke at a seminar on secrecy and national security at Princeton University on March 1, 2012.
- FAS President Dr. Charles D. Ferguson presented at the American Physical Society meeting in Boston on February 27, 2012 on why physicists have a responsibility to science; you can view his presentation here.
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FAS in the News
- Mar 1: Columbia Journalism Review, “My Lawyer, Myself”
- Mar 1: The Guardian, “Menwith HIll Eavesdropping Base Undergoes Massive Expansion”
- Mar 1: Discovery News, “How North Korea Got the Bomb”
- Feb 29: The Atlantic, “The Case for Letting Iran (Almost) Build a Bomb”
- Feb 29: Politico, “Judge Issues Rare Order to Release Classified Document”
- Feb 29: The New American, “Privacy Rights Groups Fight FAA on Use of Drones in U.S.”
- Feb 27: Huffington Post, “Anonymous, WikiLeaks Team Up in Stratfor Disclosure”
- Feb 27: Boston Globe, “Smarter Nuclear Reduction”
- Feb 27: Mother Jones, “Should Wyoming Build an Aircraft Carrier?”
- Feb 24: CNN – Global Public Square Blog, “Decoding Iran’s Conflicting Signals”