See You Around…

This is my last posting to the FAS blog, as I am moving on to pursue commercial interests, among other things. Working at an NGO has been a unique and unusual experience for me, and one I’m glad for, but it’s time to try something new (and yes, your blogger is, after all, a true believer in free market capitalism). I am staying put in the DC area, though, and will still be reachable via my new commercial website. In fact, do check it out at This is my edited e-book on the history of Soviet computing, fully downloadable and accessible 24/7. And there will be more to come out of this site as it evolves, since there are still many critical issues in international science and technology policy to tackle, especially as the former Soviet Union becomes a greater part of the global economy. I appreciate all your comments, emails, and support over the last several months. You, Dear Reader, make blogging all worth while. See you around, and stay in touch.

CRS on Protecting National Security Information

“It’s not a crime to publish classified information,” explained Washington Post reporter Dana Priest in an electric moment on last Sunday’s NBC Meet the Press, even though “[commentator William] Bennett keeps telling people that it is.”

Mr. Bennett, who was sitting right next to Ms. Priest, had declared last April that reporters like Ms. Priest who publish classified information “against the wishes of the President” should be “arrested.”

“I don’t think what they did was worthy of an award,” Mr. Bennett had said, referring to the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting by Ms. Priest and two New York Times reporters — “I think what they did is worthy of jail.” (Editor and Publisher, 04/18/06).

But Mr. Bennett was wrong and Ms. Priest was correct: There is no comprehensive statute that outlaws the publication of classified information.

(As Ms. Priest went on to explain, there are several narrow categories of classified information, such as communications intelligence, covert agent identities, and a few others that are protected by statute.)

A new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service describes the legal framework governing the disclosure and publication of classified national security information.

“This report provides background with respect to previous legislative efforts to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information; describes the current state of the laws that potentially apply, including criminal and civil penalties that can be imposed on violators; and some of the disciplinary actions and administrative procedures available to the agencies of federal government that have been addressed by federal courts.”

“Finally, the report considers the possible First Amendment implications of applying the Espionage Act to prosecute newspapers for publishing classified national defense information.”

The Congressional Research Service does not make its products directly available to the public. But a copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Protection of National Security Information,” June 30, 2006.

Engineering Bio-Terror Agents

A private researcher investigating the history of the U.S. biological weapons program at the National Archives recently came up empty.

“She asked for the files for Fort Detrick from 1946 to 1956, and was brought 16 cartons,” recounted Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland. “However, every single file in every one of the 16 cartons had been removed, and replaced with a page dated post-2002, saying that the item had been withdrawn.”

The Fort Detrick records were removed from public access “after the Bush administration ordered agencies to withhold anything that might aid terrorists,” reported Scott Shane, then of the Baltimore Sun, in an August 1, 2004 Sun story on Fort Detrick’s Special Operations Division.

Meanwhile, the record of a congressional hearing that was held last year on biological terrorism has just been published.

See “Engineering Bio-Terror Agents: Lessons from the Offensive U.S. and Soviet Biological Weapons Programs,” House Committee on Homeland Security, July 13, 2005.

Pakistan to receive 36 F-16 fighter jets

On Monday, the Bush administration announced a massive $5.1 billion arms package for Pakistan, the largest arms sale to the Indian subcontinent since US sanctions were suspended in 2001. The package includes 36 F-16 fighter jets, armaments, and upgrades for its existing fleet of F-16s. The announcement came five days after the administration officially notified Congress of the sales.

The deal is significant for many reasons. It will help to modernize Pakistan’s aging airforce, and help pave the way for an even larger fighter jet sale to India. The sale also has tremendous symbolic significance. In 1991, the first Bush Administration imposed various sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program, the most high profile of which was the impounding of 28 F-16s purchased by Pakistan in the 1980’s. Pakistan lobbied hard for their release but the Bush and Clinton administrations held firm, and the planes came to symbolize the post-Cold War deterioration of US-Pakistani relations. Following the September 11th attacks, the US hastily sought to mend diplomatic fences with Pakistan, which has provided critical support in the War on Terror. The Bush administration immediately lifted the ban on military aid to India and Pakistan and gradually increased the quantity and sophistication of weapons exports to both countries. The F-16 sale, which still tops the list of weapons sought by the Pakistani government, signifies a completion of the rapprochement between the US and its erstwhile ally.
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Law and the Military

With its decision last week to strike down the Bush Administration’s unilateral creation of military tribunals for trying detainees, the Supreme Court highlighted and reinforced the rule of law in the conduct of military operations.

Several recent publications provide rich background on military law.

The 2006 edition of the “Operational Law Handbook” (pdf) published by the Army Judge Advocate General is “a ‘how to’ guide for Judge Advocates practicing operational law. It provides references and describes tactics and techniques for the practice of operational law.”

The Handbook covers the gamut of issues that arise in the field, from the Law of War to intelligence-related law to detainee operations.

See “Operational Law Handbook (2006),” Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (598 pages, 3.7 MB).

U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the “war on terrorism” have raised a variety of novel legal issues, according to a 2004 study performed for the Army on “legal lessons learned.”

“Whether determining the applicability of the law of armed conflict to non-state terrorist actors, applying traditional and new fiscal authorities to a military occupation, or assisting in the development of rules of engagement (ROE) for an enemy that blended into civilian populations, JAs [judge advocates] and paralegals wrestled with cutting-edge legal issues during OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] and OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom].”

See “Legal Lessons Learned From Afghanistan and Iraq: Volume 1, Major Combat Operations,” Center for Law and Military Operations, 1 August 2004 (454 pages, 7.1 MB PDF).

Volume 2 of that study has recently been made public. See “Legal Lessons Learned From Afghanistan and Iraq: Volume 2, Full Spectrum Operations,” Center for Law and Military Operations, September 2005 (368 pages, 3.3 MB PDF).

Secrecy News is honored to be a recipient of the 2006 Public Access to Government Information award from the American Association of Law Libraries.

Controlling Stress in Combat, and More

Military doctrine on the control of stress in combat is presented in a new Army field manual (pdf).

“In our own Soldiers and in the enemy combatants, control of stress is often the decisive difference between victory and defeat across the operational continuum. Battles and wars are won more by controlling the will to fight than by killing all of the enemy combatants. Uncontrolled combat stress causes erratic or harmful behaviors, impairs mission performance, and may result in disaster….”

See “Combat and Operational Stress Control,” U.S. Army Field Manual 4-02.51, July 2006.

A recent Congressional Research Service report “presents difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan), including those concerning medical evacuations, amputations, and the demographics of casualties.”

“Some of these statistics are publically available at the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) website, while others have been obtained through contact with experts at DOD.”

See “United States Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom,” June 8, 2006.

“Medical Program Support for Detainee Operations” (pdf) is the subject of Department of Defense Instruction 2310.08E, issued June 6, 2006.

FOIA at Forty

The fortieth anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, signed into law by President Johnson on July 4, 1966, was marked with the release of several interesting and informative publications.

The colorful and contentious history behind the adoption of the Act was described by Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive based on documents obtained from the Johnson Library. See “Freedom of Information at 40.” The legislative history of the Freedom of Information Act is newly available from the National Security Archive here.

The FOIA improvement plans that were recently developed by executive branch agencies were critically assessed by in a new report. See “FOIA’s 40th Anniversary: Agencies Respond to the President’s Call for Improved Disclosure of Information.”

“The federal government continues to fall further behind in getting information to people seeking public records under the Freedom of Information Act,” according to a study (pdf) by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. “By far the heaviest use of the Freedom of Information Act comes from the nation’s businesses, seeking government records on contracts or for a host of other commercial uses,” another Coalition report found.

Sixty-eight countries now have freedom of information statutes, according to an updated survey by David Banisar published by See “Freedom of Information Around the World 2006.”

I chatted yesterday with reporter Julie Corwin of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about “40 Years Of The Freedom Of Information Act”.

Army Updates Counterinsurgency Doctrine

Three years into the war in Iraq, the U.S. Army has nearly completed a thorough revision and update of its official doctrine on counterinsurgency (pdf).

“It has been 20 years since the U.S. Army published a manual devoted to counterinsurgency operations, and 25 since the Marine Corps published its last such manual. With our Soldiers and Marines fighting insurgents in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it is thus essential that we give them a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations (COIN).”

The new doctrine begins with a thoughtful presentation of the nature of insurgency and counterinsurgency, their evolution and their characteristic strategies, and proceeds to consider the design of counterinsurgency operations.

“Traditionally, armies have had to unlearn much of their doctrine and (re)learn the principles of COIN while waging COIN campaigns.”

Counterinsurgency “presents a complex and often unfamiliar set of missions and considerations for a military commander.”

Among the “paradoxes of counterinsurgency” are the fact that “the more you protect your force, the less secure you are”; “the more force [is] used, the less effective it is”; and “sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction.”

The new counterinsurgency doctrine has not been publicly released, but a copy of the final coordination draft was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Counterinsurgency,” U.S. Army Field Manual 3-24 (Final Draft), June 2006 (241 pages, 2.4 MB PDF file).

More CRS Reports

Some notable new reports of the Congressional Research Service not readily available to the public include the following.

“Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union” (pdf), updated June 26, 2006.

“Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues” (pdf), June 22, 2006.

“Pakistan-U.S. Relations” (pdf), June 21, 2006.

“Iraq: Recent Developments in Reconstruction Assistance” (pdf), updated June 15, 2006.

“U.S. Policy Regarding the International Criminal Court” (pdf), updated June 14, 2006.

“U.S. Space Programs: Civilian, Military, and Commercial” (pdf), updated June 13, 2006.

“Homeland Security: Defending U.S. Airspace” (pdf), updated June 6, 2006.