Classification May Impede Treatment for Vets

National security secrecy can be an impediment to veterans who are seeking treatment for traumas suffered during military service yet who are technically prohibited from disclosing classified information related to their experience to uncleared physicians or therapists. The problem was epitomized by the case of U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Somers, who participated in classified Special Operations missions in Iraq. He returned with significant physical, mental and psychological damage. He killed himself in June 2013. Secrecy, […]

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Drones in Fact and Fiction

The emergence of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, as an instrument of war is often referred to as a “revolutionary” development in military technology. Thus, a new history of the subject is entitled “Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution” by Richard Whittle (Henry Holt, 2014). But if it is a revolution, it is more like a turning of a wheel that will continue to revolve rather than the permanent transformation of all that […]

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Instability in Yemen, and More from CRS

The population of Yemen has quadrupled over the last 30 years, the Congressional Research Service noted in a newly updated report, exacerbating that nation’s widespread poverty and contributing to the upheaval that is now unfolding. See Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations, January 21, 2015. The United States currently provides refuge to over 300,000 foreign nationals from 11 countries facing civil rest or natural disasters, according to another CRS report. See Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration […]

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US to Detainee: The Government “Regrets Any Hardship”

In an unusual gesture, the U.S. Government last week apologized to Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen who was arrested in 2003 and detained as a material witness in connection with a terrorism-related case. Mr. Al-Kidd, represented by American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, challenged his detention as unconstitutional and inhumane. Now the case has been settled, with an official apology and a payment of $385,000. “The government acknowledges that your arrest and detention as […]

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SSCI Wants Copies of Full Torture Report Returned

Updated below There is a new sheriff in town. Is that the message that Senator Richard Burr, the new chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is trying to send? Senator Burr reportedly wrote to President Obama last week to ask that all copies of the classified 6,700 page Committee report on CIA interrogation practices be returned immediately to the Committee. While the redacted summary of the report has been publicly released and is […]

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New Literature on Secrecy

National security secrecy, which remains a source of conflict and consternation, inspires a steady flow of books and journal articles. As in other policy-related fields, much of this literature is tendentious, derivative or dull. Some of it is insightful, original or usefully provocative. Most works naturally occupy a middle ground including both virtues and defects. Two highly original works on secrecy in recent years — Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Secrecy: The American Experience and Garry Wills’ […]

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Declassification of Nuclear Warhead Build Rate Sought

The Federation of American Scientists this week petitioned the Department of Energy to declassify the annual rate at which the United States built new nuclear weapons throughout the cold war. “The proposed declassification would enrich public understanding of the historical development of the U.S. stockpile. Disclosure of the actual build rate per year would add a dimension to the cold war historical narrative and bolster transparency in nuclear policy,” the FAS request said. Total annual […]

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China and WMD Proliferation, and More from CRS

New or newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following. China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues, January 5, 2015 China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, December 23, 2014 Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress, January 6, 2015 Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, January 5, […]

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“Insider Threat” Program Lags Behind Schedule

The government-wide effort to contain the threat to classified information and sensitive facilities from trusted insiders is falling behind schedule. Currently, the anticipated achievement of an Initial Operating Capability for insider threat detection by January 2017 is “at risk,” according to a new quarterly progress report. Meanwhile, the date for achieving a Full Operating Capability cannot even be projected. See “Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform, FY2014, Quarter 4.” One aspect of the insider threat […]

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IC Inspector General Finds No Overclassification

“We do overclassify,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, admitted at his 2010 confirmation hearing. It’s a theme he has reiterated on a number of occasions on which he has spoken of the need for increased transparency in intelligence. So it comes as a surprise and a disappointment that a new study of the subject from the Intelligence Community Inspector General failed to identify a single case of unnecessary or inappropriate classification. “IC IG […]

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