No Need to Replace UK Nuclear Subs Now, FAS Board Member Tells Brits

(Updated January 26, 2007)

British Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines have at least 15 years more service life in them, and the U.K. government does not have to make a decision now on whether to replace them with a new class of submarines, Richard Garwin told BBC radio Tuesday.

Garwin, who is a member of the Federation of American Scientists Board of Directors and a long-term adviser to the U.S. government on defense matters, is in Britain to testify before the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

The U.K. government announced on December 4, 2006, that it had decided to replace its current Vanguard-class sea-launched ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) with a new class to enter operation in 2024. If approved by the parliament, the plan would extend Britain’s nuclear era into the 2050s.

According to the U.K. government, a decision to build a new new class must be made now because the Vanguard-class SSBNs only have a have a design life of 25 years. But Garwin says that the submarines have a minimum design life of 25 years, which can be extended by at least another 15 years. A decision made now is premature and unwise, Garwin told BBC, because the large Trident missiles may not be necessary 15 years from now.

New additions: Garwin testimony / House of Lords debate

Background: BBC Today | Garwin Archive at FAS | Britain’s Next Nuclear Era

CRS Director Moves to Restrict Analysts’ Media Contacts

The Director of the Congressional Research Service last week issued a revised agency policy on “Interacting with the Media” that warns CRS analysts about the “very real risks” associated with news media contacts and imposes new restrictions on speaking to the press.

“CRS staff must report within 24 hours all on-the-record interactions with any media to their supervisor, including the name of the reporter, media affiliation, date, time, and detailed notes on the matters discussed or to be discussed,” the new policy states (pdf).

“Violations of the media policy will be addressed promptly,” wrote CRS director Daniel P. Mulhollan.

A copy of the CRS policy on “Interacting with the Media” was obtained by Secrecy News.

The new policy “will obviously have a chilling effect on staff,” said one CRS analyst on a not-for-attribution basis. “That’s what it is intended to do.”

The CRS has gained increasing prominence in the news media in recent years. The number of citations to CRS in the Nexis news database rose from 2,076 in 2004 to 3,101 in 2005 to 4,179 in 2006.

This growing public attention is a source of anxiety for CRS management, which fears that the agency may come to be perceived as having an institutional agenda of its own or that its impartiality will be questioned by members of Congress.

“We have all seen the way in which portions of products can be misquoted and taken out of context, potentially damaging the image of our colleagues and the Service in the eyes of some of our clients,” CRS director Mulhollan wrote.

“To assist CRS in refuting misstatements or misquotations, staff must keep detailed notes of media interactions and report promptly to their supervisor,” he instructed.

But the relative impartiality of the CRS and its analysts’ quasi-official standing make it an attractive resource for reporters covering all kinds of domestic and foreign policy matters.

The new restrictions on CRS contacts with the press will therefore be a blow first of all to reporters and others who rely on CRS expertise.

Over time, however, the new policy may also backfire against CRS itself. If analysts cannot publish or freely comment on subjects of their expertise, some will conclude that CRS is not a hospitable venue for their professional development and they will go elsewhere.

“From my personal perspective CRS is being managed without respect and trust for the staff,” said Dennis M. Roth, president of Congressional Research Employees Association, the CRS employees’ union, in July 27, 2006 testimony (pdf) to the House Administration Committee.

“Leadership can be accomplished in many ways, and we believe that CRS currently practices a style inappropriate, damaging, and destructive for a professional service organization…. It is autocratic, centralized, and secretive,” he said.

The State Secrets Doctrine and the Hatfill Case

In an unusual legal maneuver, the New York Times invoked the “state secrets” doctrine last month in a motion to dismiss the libel suit brought against it by Steven J. Hatfill, the former Army scientist who said he was erroneously linked by the Times to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

The case was dismissed on January 12, 2007 on other grounds (to be spelled out in an opinion that has not yet been published).

But in a sealed motion (pdf) on December 29, the New York Times argued that the classification restrictions imposed on the case were tantamount to an assertion of the state secrets privilege. Times attorneys cited the case law on state secrets to support their argument that the case should be dismissed.

The “state secrets” doctrine, they said, “precludes a case from proceeding to trial when national security precludes a party from obtaining evidence that is… necessary to support a valid defense. Dismissal is warranted in this case because the Times has been denied access to such evidence, specifically documents and testimony concerning the work done by plaintiff [Hatfill] on classified government projects relating to bioweapons, including anthrax.”

“It would be manifestly unjust and improper to require the Times to defend against the claims being advanced by Steven Hatfill without affording it access to critical information concerning his own activities that could serve to defeat those claims.”

“The government has not formally intervened in this case to assert the [state secrets] privilege, as it has typically done in analogous cases,” the Times acknowledged in an accompanying memorandum of law (pdf).

“Nevertheless, … it is now evident that the government has in fact invoked the privilege through ex parte evidentiary submissions by DOD, the Department of Justice and the CIA establishing that information concerning projects worked on by plaintiff and his colleagues were properly ‘classified’,” the Times’ attorneys claimed.

A redacted copy of the December 29 New York Times Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant’s Motion for an Order Dismissing the Complaint Under the “State Secrets” Doctrine was obtained by Secrecy News.

Attorneys for Dr. Hatfill filed a sealed response on January 12 in opposition to the motion for dismissal on state secrets grounds. A redacted copy of their opposition was not immediately available.

Chinese Anti-Satellite Weapon Experiment; What Now?

In a major foreign policy blunder, China reportedly has conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) test. First reported in Aviation Week and Space Technology, China allegedly used a medium-range ballistic missile to launch an unknown payload that slammed into the Feng Yun (FY-1C) polar-orbit weather satellite approximately 865 km (537 miles) above the earth on January 11.

China has long called for international talks to set limits on military space activities, but this has been rejected by the Bush administration, which also wants to develop and deploy ASAT weapons. On January 11, the same day China conducted the test, a senior State Department official told an Air Force military space conference that “there is no arms race in space that needs to be addressed” by arms control treaties.
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An Effort to Restrict Classified Earmarks

The use of the national security classification system to conceal “earmarks” — targeted allocations of funds — that are self-serving or corrupt would be eliminated if a proposal by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) becomes law.

The proposal was offered as an amendment to Senate bill S. 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, which is pending in the Senate.

“The amendment prohibits any bill authorization or appropriation from containing an earmark in the classified portion of that bill or accompanying a report, unless there is unclassified language that describes in general terms the nature of the earmark. The amount of the earmark is disclosed and the sponsor of the earmark is identified,” Sen. Feinstein explained.

“This amendment would provide the public with the assurance that the classified parts of the defense and intelligence budgets–which are indeed large–are subjected to the same scrutiny and openness as everything else.”

“The need for the amendment was made clear by the actions of former Congressman Duke Cunningham. According to a report by the House Intelligence Committee, Cunningham was able to enact a staggering $70 million to $80 million in classified earmarks over a 5-year period. These earmarks benefited his business partners and were not known to most Members of the Congress or the public,” Sen. Feinstein said on January 16.

The fate of the Legislative Transparency bill was uncertain after Republican Senators objected to a Democratic refusal to consider an amendment concerning a line-item veto.

Warrantless Surveillance Cases Go To FISA Court

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales notified the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that President Bush will not reauthorize the controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program and that the surveillance activities conducted in that program will henceforth be subject to authorization by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The Attorney General’s January 17 letter to Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter is here (pdf).

The initial responses of Senators Leahy and Specter are here.

The numerous questions raised by the Attorney General’s letter were asked though mostly not answered in a background briefing for reporters which is transcribed here.

Background on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act may be found here.

Selected CRS Reports

Some noteworthy new reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“Iran: Profile and Statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” January 16, 2007.

“Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy,” January 12, 2007.

“A Joint Committee on Intelligence: Proposals and Options from the 9/11 Commission and Others,” updated December 20, 2006.

“Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense — Background and Issues for Congress,” updated December 19, 2006.

“Federal Emergency Management Policy Changes After Hurricane Katrina: A Summary of Statutory Provisions,” December 15, 2006.

WaPo: How to Bury A Secret

The imposition of a deadline for automatic declassification of most 25 year old, historically valuable classified records on December 31, 2006 rewrote the bureaucratic software that governs the national security classification system. In principle, official secrecy can no longer be indefinite and open-ended.

Nevertheless, declassification will not be translated into disclosure and public access until the severe logistical and financial challenges that are facing the National Archives can be overcome.

The Washington Post took a look at the lay of the land in “How to Bury A Secret: Turn it into Paperwork” by Lynne Duke, January 16, 2007.

Intelligence Science Board Views Interrogation

The current state of scientific knowledge regarding the conduct of interrogation and related forms of intelligence gathering is limited by numerous gaps in theoretical and practical understanding, according to a new book-length study (pdf) from the Intelligence Science Board, an advisory panel to the U.S. intelligence community.

The study was prompted by “concerns about recent U.S. interrogation activities, subsequent investigations, and the efficacy of contemporary tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

The ISB report is somewhat artfully titled “Educing Information,” a term that encompasses interrogation as well as other forms of eliciting information.

The study notes that an accurate perception of the realities of interrogation has been impeded by erroneous preconceptions shaped by wish-fulfillment or popular culture.

“A major stumbling block to the study of interrogation, and especially to the conduct of interrogation in field operations, has been the all-too-common misunderstanding of the nature and scope of the discipline.”

“Most observers, even those within professional circles, have unfortunately been influenced by the media’s colorful (and artificial) view of interrogation as almost always involving hostility and the employment of force — be it physical or psychological — by the interrogator against the hapless, often slow-witted subject.” (p. 95).

A detailed literature review, expert interviews and consideration of the historical record present a more qualified and uncertain picture.

Fundamentally, “there is little systematic knowledge available to tell us ‘what works’ in interrogation. We do not know what systems, methods, or processes of interrogation best protect the nation’s security.”

“For example, we lack systematic information to guide us as to who should perform interrogations. We do not know what benefits would result if we changed the way we recruit, train, and manage our interrogators.” (p. 8).

Dr. Paulette Otis, a contributor to the study (though not an ISB member), summarized her view of its practical conclusions as follows: “(1) pain does not elicit intelligence known to prevent greater harm; (2) the use of pain is counterproductive both in a tactical and strategic sense; (3) chemical and biological methods are unreliable; (4) research tends to indicate that ‘educing’ information without the use of harsh interrogation is more valuable.”

And, of course, “‘more’ research is necessary,” said Dr. Otis, who is Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Irregular Warfare and Operational Culture in Quantico.

The unclassified ISB study was sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Counterintelligence Field Activity, among other U.S. intelligence entities.

See “Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art: Foundations for the Future,” Intelligence Science Board, Phase 1 Report, December 2006 (374 pages, 2.5 MB).