FAS Roundup: November 5, 2012

Intelligence spending drops, extreme weather and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Court Orders FBI to Release Withheld Information: A few years ago, the FBI invoked national security to justify withholding certain information from a Freedom of Information Act requester named Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler. But as rarely happens, a court last month critically assessed the FBI national security claim and ordered the Bureau to release some of the withheld information. Ms. Hetzler, acting pro se (i.e. without an attorney), had requested records concerning her deceased father, who had once been the subject of an FBI investigation.  The FBI provided her with some records but withheld others, stating that they remained classified in order to protect an intelligence activity.
  • An Updated Catalog of Army Weapon Systems: Secrecy News has obtained a copy of the U.S. Army’s 2013 edition of its annual Weapon Systems Handbook, which is filled with updated information on dozens of weapon systems, the military contractors who produce them, and the foreign countries that purchase them. An appendix provides an informative breakdown of military industry contractors by weapon system and by the state where the contractor is located.
  • Extreme Weather: Climate change is a major discussion topic this week, with Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast. In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y writes that we have to try to find a way to reverse the effects of global warming or to adapt to a warmer world with (possibly) more violent weather.
  • Intelligence Spending Drops for a Second Year: According to figures released this week by the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense, for the second year in a row and for only the second time in the post-9/11 era, total intelligence spending declined last year to $75.4 billion. Total intelligence spending is comprised of two budget constructs:  the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP).  The large defense intelligence agencies — including NSA, NRO, and NGA — receive funding through both budget programs.
  • Vulnerability of Electric Power System Assessed by CRS: Secrecy News has obtained a recently released CRS report which finds that the U.S. electric power system is vulnerable to a variety of threats, from natural disasters to operational errors to sabotage or terrorist attack. Over the years there have actually been tens of thousands of recorded attacks on electric power targets, CRS notes, but usually due to “mischief” and with limited or no consequences.

Revisiting Radioactive Source Security

The possibility of radioactive material falling into the hands of criminal organizations or terrorists remains a real and persistent security threat. Currently, there is no legally binding international convention pertaining to the safety and security of radioactive sources that requires states to take preventive action.

The IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources recommends that states inspect facilities, ensure safety and security during use and disposal of sources, monitor inventories, track high-risk materials, strengthen export controls, and require licenses for radioactive-material users from a regulatory authority. FAS President Charles Ferguson and Special Projects Director Mark Jansson write in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. that the Code and implementation of other regulatory controls is certainly encouraging, but raises an important question of why there is still so much illicit trafficking and unauthorized use of radioactive materials.

Read the article here.


FAS in the News

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