FAS Roundup: December 10, 2012

New START data, Syria’s chemical weapons, transparency on U.S. nuclear forces and much more.


Why Assad Won’t Use His Chemical Weapons

Syria likely has one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical weapon programs in the world, including hundreds of tons of sarin. There are  reports this week that Syria is preparing to deploy its chemical arsenal against rebels. In a new op-ed in Foreign Policy, Charles Blair writes that the greater threat in Syria is terrorist acquisition of chemical weapons if the military loses control over relevant sites and facilities. The Pentagon estimated earlier this year that it would take more than 75,000 troops to secure Syria’s chemical weapons against theft and that assumes that U.S. intelligence knows precisely where they all are.

Read the op-ed here.

Other related Syria stories:

Dec 6: Christian Science Monitor, “Syria Chemical Weapons Scare: Is Assad Threatening to Use Them or Lose Them?”

Dec 6: Reuters TV, “U.S. Warns Syria Not to Use Chemical Weapons”

Dec 5: MSNBC, “Syrian Military Loads Chemical Weapons”

Dec 4: UPI, “Syria: Looted SAMs Give Rebels a New Edge”

Dec 4: BBC World News Service, “World Briefing (Syria and Chemical Weapons)”


From the Blogs

  • Transparency on U.S. Nuclear Forces Proceeds: Steven Aftergood writes that depending on how one measures it, secrecy under the Obama administration has actually increased rather than declined. Criminalization of unauthorized disclosures of information to the press has risen sharply, becoming a preferred tactic. Efforts to promote public accountability in controversial aspects of counterterrorism policy such as targeted killing have been blocked by threadbare, hardly credible national security secrecy claims. But, there are some areas of national security in which the Obama Administration can properly claim to be the most transparent Administration in history.  The size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal is one such topic.
  • New Detailed Data for U.S. Nuclear Forces Counted Under New START Treaty: Last week, the State Department released its fourth batch of data regarding U.S. strategic nuclear forces under the new START treaty. The latest data set shows that the U.S. reduction of deployed strategic nuclear forces over the past six months has been very modest: 6 delivery vehicles and 15 warheads. Hans Kristensen writes that while there have been some reductions of non-deployed and retired weapon systems, there is no indication from the new data that the U.S. has yet to begin to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear forces under the New START treaty.
  • Detained Linguist Seeks Release from Jail: James F. Hitselberger, a Navy contract linguist who was charged under the Espionage Act for mishandling classified records,  asked a court to release him from pre-trial detention. His release would pose no hazard, and he is not a flight risk, his public defenders said. Mr. Hitselberg allegedly removed classified records from a secure facility in Bahrain, and had previously donated classified materials to the Hoover Institution, which maintains a James F. Hitselberger Collection. He is not suspected of transmitting classified information to a foreign power. According to prosecutors, Mr. Hitselberger is a shadowy figure who might vanish if released from custody.  They urged that he be detained until trial.
  • Advisory Board Urges White House to Lead Secrecy Reform: In a long-awaited report to the President, the Public Interest Declassification Board urged the White House to take the lead in fixing the national secrecy system. The Public Interest Declassification Board is an advisory committee that was established by Congress to help promote possible access to the documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities.  In 2009, President Obama asked the Board to develop recommendations for “a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system.”


New Issue Brief: Japan’s Role as Leader for Nuclear Nonproliferation

A country with few natural resources, Japan first began to develop nuclear power technologies in 1954. Nuclear energy assisted with Japanese economic development and reconstruction post-World War II. However, with the fear of  lethal ash and radioactive fallout, and the lingering effects from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, there are many concerns related to Japanese nonproliferation, security and nuclear policy.

In a new FAS special report, “Japan’s Role as Leader for Nuclear Nonproliferation,” Ms. Kazuko Goto, Research Fellow of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of the Government of Japan, writes of Japan’s advancement of nuclear technologies which simultaneously benefits international nonproliferation policies.

The full report can be read here.


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