FAS Roundup: July 30, 2012

Cost of B-61 life extension program, nuclear Japan, new report on U.S. transitional housing and much more.

From the Blogs

  • U.S. “Secretly” Circumvents Somalia Arms Embargo: In apparent violation of an arms embargo on Somalia that it helped to impose 20 years ago, the United States is providing clandestine military support to Somali security services without notifying United Nations monitors as required by the embargo.
  • Justice Department Defends Use of State Secrets Privilege: “The Government has invoked the state secrets privilege sparingly and appropriately,” the Department of Justice said in a 2011 report to Congress that was released this week. The 8 page report describes the features of the internal process for determining whether to assert the state secrets privilege in a particular case, including the standards and procedures for validating the use of the privilege.
  • B61-12: NNSA’s Gold-Plated Nuclear Bomb Project: Hans Kristensen writes that the disclosure during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on July 25 that the cost of the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP) is significantly greater that even the most recent cost overruns calls into question the ability of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to manage the program and should call into question the B61 LEP itself. Kristensen writes that if these cost overruns were in the private sector, heads would roll and the program would probably be canceled.

  • Security-Cleared Population Tops 4.8 Million: The number of people who held security clearances for access to classified information increased last year to a new reported high of more than 4.8 million persons as of October 1, 2011, a new intelligence community report to Congress said. Last year’s annual report, the first official count of security cleared personnel, had indicated that there were over 4.2 million clearances in 2010.  That number astonished observers because it surpassed previous estimates by more than a million.
  • How Much Privacy?: The right to privacy – the need for privacy – isn’t limited to people; companies and nations have these same needs, and for many of the same reasons. Dr. Y writes that the problem is that it is so easy to justify keeping something out of the public eye – whether it’s personal information, governmental information, or state secrets – and it is so very difficult to always understand the intention of those who are locking away this information. How do we – society – know when the need for privacy is legitimate and when it is not? How can we know what is in the hearts and in the heads of those who are trying to maintain this privacy?
  • Reporters Seek Clarification of Pentagon Anti-Leak Policy: After the Department of Defense issued a statement last week saying that it would “monitor all major, national level reporting” for evidence of unauthorized disclosures of classified information, Pentagon reporters wrote to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ask whether such monitoring extended to surveillance of the press.
  • A Post Office in Honor of CIA Officer Gregg Wenzel: Steven Aftergood writes that the House of Representatives voted on July 23 to name a post office in upstate New York after CIA officer Gregg Wenzel, who died in a car accident in Ethiopia in 2003 while under cover.
  • NSA Releases Disputed Email from Drake Case: On July 20, the National Security Agency released a declassified email message entitled “What a Wonderful Success” that had been used as the basis for a felony count against former NSA official Thomas Drake in 2010, who was charged with unlawful retention of classified information, including that message. Although all of the felony counts against Mr. Drake were eventually dismissed, the “What a Wonderful Success” email remains controversial because it has been challenged by a leading classified expert as an exemplar of reckless overclassification.
  • Soviet Camouflage, Concealment and Deception: “The Soviet Union has developed a doctrine of ‘maskirovka’ which calls for the use of camouflage, concealment and deception (CC&D) in defense-related programs and in the conduct of military operations,” wrote President Ronald Reagan in the recently declassified 1983 National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 108.
  • Senate Intelligence Committee Adopts a Dozen Anti-Leak Measures: The Senate Intelligence Committee’s markup of the 2013 intelligence authorization bill includes 12 provisions that are intended to combat unauthorized disclosures of classified information. Steven Aftergood writes that in several respects, the proposed new measures are not a dramatic departure from the status quo.  Unauthorized disclosures are already barred by non-disclosure agreements that all cleared personnel must sign. Unauthorized contacts between intelligence personnel and the press are already discouraged or prohibited. The Director of National Intelligence has already ratcheted up leak investigations and started an insider threat detection program.


Japan: A Nuclear Nation

On July 25, FAS President Charles Ferguson appeared on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to discuss nuclear power in Japan. At the time of the accident in 2011, Japan depended on nuclear reactors for about 30% of its electricity. After the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Japanese government shut off its reactors, scrapping its plans to increase nuclear energy.

To view the interview click here.


International Learning and Best Practices in U.S. Transitional Shelter

Natural disasters in the U.S. and globally displace families and entire towns. Outside the U.S. innovative and new transitional shelter solutions are easing this human tragedy and hastening redevelopment. A new FAS report written by Ms. Lindsey Marburger, manager of the Earth Systems Program, and Dr. Ryan Snyder, fellow for Energy Studies, offers advice to help the U.S. disaster relief community, led by FEMA, to more effectively plan for and deploy transitional shelter.

Click here to read the report.


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