FAS Roundup: July 9, 2012

Second thoughts in Congress about drones, new CRS reports and much more.


From the Blogs

  • Air Force Policy on Congressional Relations: Steven Aftergood writes that the U.S. Air Force says its policy is to provide information to Congress as needed, but with preference given to members of the Armed Services Committees over other Committees, and to the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committees over other members. This information was released as part of a newly revised Air Force Instruction.
  • Financial Costs of Classification Soar: At a time when “leaks” are said to be running rampant, the government is spending more money than ever before to protect classified information. The estimated cost of securing classified information in government increased last year by at least 12% to a record high level of $11.36 billion. An additional $1.2 billion was spent to protect classified information held by industry contractors. One factor in the rising costs may be the continued growth of the secrecy system.  While some essential security costs are fixed and independent of classification activity, the failure to rein in classification and especially over-classification is a likely contributor to marginal cost growth.
  • Covert Action is Prominent in Carter Admin History: Covert action was a particularly prominent feature of U.S. foreign policy during the Jimmy Carter Administration, according to a report last month from the State Department Historical Advisory Committee. Covert action or other intelligence activities are said to figure in at least half of the volumes that will constitute the official record of the Carter Administration’s foreign affairs.
  • Prosecutors Dispute Claims of Selective Anti- Leak Prosecution: Last month, former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is accused of unlawfully disclosing classified information to two reporters, said in pre-trial motions that he had been wrongly and unfairly singled out for prosecution, particularly since he had criticized the U.S. practice of waterboarding. This week, prosecutors unsurprisingly rejected such claims while affirming that they intend to vigorously pursue their case against Mr. Kiriakou. The new government filing presents a series of legal arguments against the defense motions for dismissal, explaining why prosecutors believe the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the Espionage Act statutes under which Mr. Kiriakou is charged are sufficiently clear and specific to be constitutional.
  • The DNI as Security Executive Agent: The anti-leak procedures announced last week by the Director of National Intelligence apply specifically to intelligence community employees.  But the DNI is also responsible more broadly for security policies that affect almost everyone who holds a security clearance for access to classified information, whether or not it pertains to intelligence, as well as other government employees who are candidates for “sensitive positions.”

  • Second Thoughts in Congress About Domestic Drones: Steven Aftergood writes that some members of Congress are having second thoughts about the future use of unmanned aerial systems in U.S. airspace, judging from a colloquy on the House floor last week. When Congress passed the FAA re-authorization bill, recalled Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), it included “this very simple language allowing for the expansion of unmanned aerial vehicles in the national airspace.”
  • NSA Tells Former ISO Director to File a FOIA Request: William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, served as an expert witness for the defense in the misconceived prosecution of Thomas Drake, in which all felony charges against Mr. Drake were dismissed. (Mr. Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count.) Now Mr. Leonard is seeking permission from the trial judge in the Drake case to publicly disclose and discuss certain National Security Agency documents cited in the charges against Mr. Drake that he says were classified in violation of national policy. But government attorneys said that Mr. Leonard has no standing to request relief from the protective order that was imposed on the NSA documents.  They added that if he wants the documents to be publicly disclosed he should request them under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Role of Intelligence Community Contractors Questioned: Persistent questions about the U.S. intelligence community’s reliance on contractors to perform or support core mission functions were explored in a partially closed hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee last year.  A redacted transcript of the classified session of the hearing was included in a hearing volume which was recently published. At first glance, the questions seemed more interesting than the answers that intelligence community officials were able to provide at the hearing, but it was remarkable to see those questions raised at all.

FAS Member on NewsHour

  • Mr. Matthew Bunn, associate professor at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and FAS member was featured on NewsHour on July 5, 2012 speaking about the report released by an independent parliamentary panel which blames the Japanese government for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The transcript can be found here.


  • On July 6, FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson gave a presentation about FAS’s work to senior researchers and students interning at Janelia Farm. This research institute, located in Ashburn, Virginia, is part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and provides a stimulating setting for scientists to “pursue biology’s most challenging problems.” You can view the presentation slides here.

FAS in the News

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