FAS Roundup: August 13, 2012

Congress resists efforts to reduce secrecy, U.S. strategy in Yemen, new CRS reports and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Justice Department Silent on IG Role in State Secrets Cases: The Department of Justice told Congress recently that it would not disclose the number of state secrets cases involving alleged government misconduct, if any, that have been referred to an Inspector General for investigation. Under a revised state secrets policy that was announced by Attorney General Holder in 2009, the Department committed to referring credible claims of government wrongdoing that could not be adjudicated in court because the state secrets privilege had been invoked to the Inspector General of the relevant agency for further investigation.
  • The 52 Percent Solution in Yemen: Debate has picked up on the U.S. strategy in Yemen. John Brennan, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, recently explained the administration’s policy, which had been accused of focusing narrowly on counterterrorism. Mark Jansson, director of Special Projects, writes that ultimately we should not get caught up in the numbers game in evaluating U.S. policy towards Yemen. More balance would be great, but balance is not the sole indicator of efficacy. What Americans and Yemenis alike need to know is whether the plan for Yemen is actually working.
  • Congress Resists Efforts to Reduce Secrecy: Ordinarily, critics of government secrecy focus their ire — and their strategy — on executive branch agencies that refuse to release certain national security-related information to the public. Steven Aftergood writes that  to an extent that is not widely recognized or understood, it is Congress that has erected barriers to greater openness and has blocked efforts to improve transparency.

  • What About Thorium?: There is four times as much thorium on Earth as there is uranium, and that less than 1 percent of uranium consists of U-235. In the past few years, there has been discussion in the United States, China and India regarding thorium power. What exactly is thorium power, and what are the pros and cons of it?
  • Secrecy News Odds and Ends: Steven Aftergood recaps the latest secrecy news from this week, including the Senate confirmation of five individuals to the long-dormant Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and a request by public interest groups to members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to preserve the requirement for the Intelligence community to produce annual report regarding security clearances.


  • Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, spoke on a panel regarding if advanced conventional capabilities will undermine or enhance deterrence at the 2012 United States Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in Omaha, NE on August 9. His speech can be found here.  On August 10, Mr. Kristensen spoke to the Public Policy and Nuclear Threats “boot camp” which was held at the University of California San Diego regarding new directions for U.S. nuclear strategy. Slides from the briefing can be found here.

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