FAS Roundup: May 5, 2014

U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile number declassified, ODNI seeks to obscure CIA role in human intelligence and more.

From the Blogs

Using Classification to Curb Secrecy: When government employees believe that classified information in their possession is improperly classified, they “are encouraged and expected” to challenge its classification status, according to President Obama’s executive order 13526 (section 1.8). And sometimes they do. In FY 2012, there were 402 classification challenges filed by government employees. Such classification challenges have the potential to serve as a powerful internal check on over-classification. But that potential is not yet being fully realized, either because the procedure is unknown to employees or because its use is implicitly discouraged.

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Number Declassified: Only 309 Warheads Cut by Obama Administration:  After a transparency hiatus of four years, the Obama administration has declassified the size of its nuclear weapons stockpile: 4,804 warheads as of September 2013. The size is 309 warheads fewer than the 5,113 warheads that the administration reported in 2010 were in the stockpile as of September 2009. What the declassification does not include is a number for how many retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement.

FISA Annual Report Recedes in Importance: For many years, the Justice Department’s annual report to Congress on the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was a primary source of public information on intelligence surveillance activity and on the workings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Today, that is less true than ever before. The latest report which was released last week shows that in 2013, the Government submitted 1,655 applications for electronic surveillance, physical search or both. Of the 1,588 applications that included electronic surveillance, none were denied by the Court. But that hardly provides an accurate sense of the scope or the scale of intelligence surveillance activity.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as arms control and nonproliferation agreements, changes in the Arctic, the effect of sanctions on Iran and the Target data breach.

ODNI Seeks to Obscure CIA Role in Human Intelligence: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is attempting to conceal unclassified information about the structure and function of U.S. intelligence agencies, including the leading role of the Central Intelligence Agency in collecting human intelligence. Last month, ODNI issued a heavily redacted version of its Intelligence Community Directive 304 on “Human Intelligence.” The new redactions come as a surprise because most of the censored text had already been published by ODNI itself in an earlier iteration of the same unclassified Directive from 2008.

Selective Prosecution and the Espionage Act: Government officials disclose classified information to the press with some frequency, but only rarely are they prosecuted for it. Such selective prosecution renders the law unfair, said attorney Abbe Lowell at the April 2 sentencing hearing of his client, Stephen Kim, who pled guilty to an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Mr. Kim, a former State Department Korea specialist who could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, received a 13 month jail sentence.

Letter to President Obama on Nonproliferation Spending Cuts

FAS president Dr. Charles Ferguson joins 99 experts from the nonproliferation and arms control community in signing a letter to President Obama expressing frustration and concern over budget cuts for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs, and urges Obama to work with Congress to increase funding for core nuclear security programs.

The FY 2015 budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) reduces funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the International Nuclear Materials Protection Program (IMPC) by 25% and 27%. Reducing funding for these programs increases the amount of time it will take to secure or eliminate dangerous materials that could be used by terrorists in an improvised nuclear explosive device or a dirty bomb.

The letter originated with the Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Read the letter here. 

Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race

Dr. Robert Norris, Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy, reviews the new book“Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race” by Graham Farmelo in the April volume of the Journal of Military History.

The book recounts how development of the atomic bomb looked from the perspective of the British with the focus on Winston Churchill.  However, the title is misleading as there was never a race for the atomic bomb between Britain and the United States. Britain had an early start in nuclear research but decided to share crucial information with American officials and stimulated what would become the Manhattan Project.  At a certain point Britain, realizing the enormity of the effort, decided to join forces and became a junior partner with the Americans primarily to learn what it could for the post-war period.

Read the review here (PDF).

Short Course on CBRN Weapons, Science and Policy

FAS and George Mason University will host a short course from July 7-9, 2014 as part of GMU’s 2014 summer program in International Security. This three day, non-credit short course is designed to introduce participants to the science, security, and policy dimensions of the threats of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons as well as ballistic and cruise missile.

This course is aimed at professionals in energy policy, nuclear policy, nuclear industry, public health, life sciences, law enforcement, emergency management and national security who have responsibilities for preventing, preparing for, or responding to acts by states, criminals, or terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. Early bird registration is $1,300 until May 15 and 2.1 Continuing Ed Units will be awarded upon completion of course.

Click here for course information and registration. 

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