FAS Roundup: December 24, 2012

New JASON report, Congress allows reclassification of restricted data and much more.

From the Blogs

  • JASON on “Compressive Sensing” for DoD Sensors: The latest report from the elite JASON science advisory panel is devoted to the subject of “compressive sensing.”  This term generally refers to the use of sensors for imaging (or other sensing) of an object in a manner that uses a limited subset of the available data in order to improve efficiency or conserve resources.
  • Detained Linguist Released Under Supervision: Former Navy contract linguist James Hitselberger, who has been charged under the Espionage Act with mishandling classified records, was ordered released under supervision while awaiting trial on December 19. Mr. Hitselberger is a multi-lingual translator and collector of rare documents, including records that are now housed in a dedicated collection at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  Unfortunately for him, the government says that his collection activity extends to some documents that are currently classified.

  • The Anti-Hero:  Who hasn’t wanted to just do what they think needs to be done, regardless of what societal mores (or even the law, perhaps) has to say on the matter? If the end result is sufficiently good (or the results of inaction sufficiently bad), why shouldn’t we just do what needs to be done and let the ends justify our actions? Dr. Y investigates this idea in the context of the recent article in Al Jazeera by Eddie Walsh, Adjunct Fellow for Emerging Technologies and High-End Threats, on how the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is using drones to help attack the practice of poaching in Africa.
  • “Crimes Reports” and the Leak Referral Process: “Crimes reports” are official notifications that are sent by U.S. intelligence agencies to the Department of Justice when an unauthorized disclosure of classified information (or another potential federal crime) is believed to have occurred. Crimes reporting is required by statute, by executive order, and by interagency agreement between the Attorney General and the heads of intelligence agencies.
  • Can Disclosures of Classified Information be Authorized?: Executive branch officials will sometimes disclose classified information to reporters and other uncleared individuals.  But this practice is not explicitly authorized in any official statement of classification policy.  In fact, with an exception for life-threatening emergencies, it is usually understood to be prohibited. How can the obviously flexible practice and the seemingly prohibitive policy be reconciled?
  • Reality?:recent scientific paper by physicists Silas Beane, Zohreh Davoudi, and Martin Savage  asks if the universe is even real, or if it (and everything in it, including us) might actually be a very sophisticated computer simulation. In a new post on the ScienceWonk blog, Dr. Y investigates the different perceptions of the universe.
  • Imagery Declassification Preparations Continue: Steven Aftergood writes that intelligence community officials have been meeting with representatives of the National Archives to discuss the anticipated declassification and release of intelligence imagery from the KH-9 satellite dating between 1971 and 1984. Multiple releases of declassified imagery are planned over the coming year “with final delivery of imagery scheduled for September 2013.
  • Congress Permits Reclassification of Restricted Data: Certain nuclear weapons-related information that has been removed from the category of Restricted Data (RD) and designated as Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) can now be restored to the RD category, under a provision approved by Congress in the FY 2013 national defense authorization act. Until now, the removal of information from the Restricted Data category was irreversible, being prohibited by the Atomic Energy Act.  That prohibition is nullified by the new legislation. The authority to reclassify FRD as RD was requested by the Department of Energy last year.


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