FAS Roundup: September 24, 2012

Nonstrategic nuclear weapons, surveillance of journalists, building a new foundation with Yemen and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Declassification Declassified- PRC and the W88 Warhead: In 2006, the Department of Energy formally declassified the already widely publicized fact “That the People’s Republic of China obtained some Restricted Data information on the W88 [nuclear] warhead, and perhaps the complete W88 design.” Then, in a remarkable display of bureaucratic acrobatics, DOE classified the memo that authorized the declassification of that information.  The declassification memo was found to merit classification at the Secret/Restricted Data level. Five years later, in 2011, the two-sentence memo was reviewed for declassification and DOE has now released it.
  • Production of (Deleted) Weapons, 1981: For decades, President Reagan’s 1981 National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 7 remained entirely classified.  According to a 1999 listing of Reagan NSDDs issued by the National Security Council, even the title of NSDD 7 was classified. In 2008, the document was partially declassified, bearing the title “[deleted] Weapons.”  It stated: “The production and stockpiling of [deleted] weapons is authorized with stockpiling being restricted to the United States [deleted].”
  • Securing Radioactive Sources: In 2005, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a series of orders  that helped clarify measures that could be taken to help safeguard high-risk radioactive materials. These measures are about to be collected into a single new regulation, 10 CFR 37, that will put much of this information in one place. In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y discusses measures to secure radioactive sources.
  • Govt Appeals Order to Release Classified Document: This week, government attorneys appealed an extraordinary court order that required the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to publicly release a classified government document. They said the order reflected “improper skepticism” of the government. In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Center for International Environmental Law, DC District Judge Richard W. Roberts had ruled earlier this year that a classified USTR position paper was not “properly classified” and therefore must be disclosed under FOIA. Steven Aftergood writes that this was a bold move by Judge Roberts, since it involved making an independent assessment of (i.e., “judging”) the validity of a government classification action.  That is a task that courts have gradually shunned over the years.
  • Surveillance of Journalists- A Look Back: The DoD disavowed active surveillance of journalists. Even if there were surveillance to be done, it would probably not be performed by DoD. The celebrated CIA “family jewels” report on illegal Agency activities prior to the mid-1970s that was finally released in full in 2007 included descriptions of CIA operations to surveil reporters in order to identify their confidential sources.



  • Building a New Foundation with Yemen: FAS President Charles Ferguson and Special Projects Director Mark Jansson write about the International Science Partnership in AAAS’s quarterly publication, Science & Diplomacy. Promising opportunities exist for technical collaboration between American and Yemeni scientists and engineers who can play an important role in overcoming some of Yemen’s most pressing challenges, building a foundation for a more robust bilateral relationship, and paving the way to multilateral collaboration on issues affecting the region.
  • Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, 2012: In a new edition of the Nuclear Notebook, Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, and Dr. Robert S. Norris, senior fellow for Nuclear Policy, write in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists regarding nonstrategic nuclear weapons. Today, at least five of the world’s nine nuclear weapons states have, or are developing, what appears to meet the definition of a nonstrategic nuclear weapon: Russia, the United States, France, Pakistan, and China.


  • On November 5, FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson will speak at a forum on nuclear regimes hosted by Virginia Tech  in Arlington VA. Dr. Ferguson will speak about nuclear power and nonproliferation regimes.

For more information on the forum, click here.


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