Somalia: Don’t Forget about the Missiles….

With the war against Islamist fighters drawing to a close, Somalia‚Äôs transitional government and its foreign allies now face several Herculean tasks: bringing to heel the warlords and militias that have terrorized the country for fifteen years, winning over the various clans and sub-clans that dominate Somali politics, rebuilding the nation’s devastated infrastructure, etc, etc, etc.

In the interest of international security, I would add one more: recovering the dozens of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles reportedly distributed to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), and sanctioning the suppliers.
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Automatic Declassification: Did Anything Happen?

The December 31, 2006 deadline for automatic declassification of historically valuable 25 year old classified records has come and gone. Was anything automatically declassified?

Yes, said Bill Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

“Hundreds of millions of pages of records were automatically declassified at the FBI alone,” he said yesterday. Numerous other records were also declassified at some other executive branch agencies.

But he stressed that automatic declassification did not mean disclosure or immediate availability.

Declassified documents may still need to be reviewed for exempt material other than classified information (such as privacy data), and will need to be processed for public access.

Even so, public access to the records should be expedited by the elimination of a classification review requirement, Mr. Leonard said. And the deadline will continue to take new effect as more documents become 25 years old with each passing year.

NRO Releases Unclassified Budget Document

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the National Reconnaissance Office last week released to the Federation of American Scientists the unclassified portions of the NRO Congressional Budget Justification Book for Fiscal Year 2006.

“You have joined a very exclusive club of people who not only win FOIA cases but actually get some documents as a result,” wrote Harry Hammitt, editor of the newsletter Access Reports.

The two-volume, 582-page document was almost entirely blacked out on national security classification grounds. But a few substantive narrative portions were released (and will be posted once our scanner is fixed).

Perhaps more important, the lawsuit successfully countered the claim that such records can be excluded from FOIA processing by designating them as “operational files.”

See “Watchdog wins release of National Reconnaissance Office documents” by Daniel Friedman, Federal Times, January 9.

New Bills in Congress

Several noteworthy pieces of legislation on intelligence and national security have already been introduced (or in some cases re-introduced) in the new Congress, including these.

A Resolution to Enhance Intelligence Oversight (H.Res. 35) by Rep. Obey, January 5.

Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (H.R. 1), January 5.

NSA Oversight Act (pdf) (H.R. 11), introduced by Reps. Schiff and Flake, January 4.

Introduction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Oversight and Resource Enhancement Act (S. 187) by Sen. Specter, January 4.

Introduction of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 (S. 185), by Sens. Specter and Leahy, January 4.

Introduction of the Intelligence Community Audit Act of 2007 (S.82), by Sen. Akaka, January 4.

Selected CRS Reports

Some recent reports of the Congressional Research Service that are not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“Department of Homeland Security Grants to State and Local Governments: FY2003 to FY2006,” December 22, 2006.

“International Crises and Disasters: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance, Budget Trends, and Issues for Congress,” December 21, 2006.

“Cuba: Issues for the 109th Congress,” updated December 19, 2006.

“Russian Natural Gas: Regional Dependence,” January 5, 2007.

and before Jeff Stein calls, take a look at “Islam: Sunnis and Shiites,” updated December 11, 2006.

Lawsuit Against CIA Dismissed on State Secrets Grounds

Declaring that the need to protect government secrets overrides all other considerations, a federal court yesterday dismissed (pdf) a lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency filed by family members of a former CIA clandestine officer who alleged injuries that are largely classified.

The CIA invoked the state secrets privilege in its motion for dismissal, and the court said it had no choice but to grant the Agency’s motion.

Relatively little about the case — captioned Jane Doe, et al v. Central Intelligence Agency — is on the public record. The plaintiffs are the wife and children of a former CIA officer who remains under cover. According to the heavily redacted complaint (pdf), the officer was “summarily separated from his CIA employment.” He and his wife both suffered symptoms of severe depression, but CIA “refused to provide any assistance, medical or otherwise.” The lawsuit sought compensation for loss of income and other damages.

Last March, then-CIA Director Porter Goss invoked the state secrets privilege in opposing the lawsuit.

“No procedures exist that can adequately safeguard the sensitive classified information implicated in this case and prevent its unauthorized disclosure during the course of litigation,” Director Goss wrote.

Plaintiffs disputed that uncompromising assertion. It’s “yet another example of an abuse of the privilege,” said Mark S. Zaid, attorney for Jane Doe.

But yesterday the court sided with the CIA.

“Although the claims that Plaintiffs have attempted to litigate are… very serious ones that appear to go to matters fundamental to the lives of the plaintiff family members, the Court is constrained to dismiss this case,” wrote Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York in a January 4, 2007 order.

“Even the most compelling necessity cannot overcome the claim of privilege if the court is ultimately satisfied that… secrets are at stake,” the Judge wrote, quoting from the 1953 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Reynolds.

An earlier stage of the Doe case was reported in “Citing Security, C.I.A. Seeks Suit’s Dismissal” by Julia Preston, New York Times, April 18, 2006. Selected case files from Jane Doe et al v. CIA are posted here.

“Plaintiff Jane Doe alleges that she … ‘lives in constant fear’,” Judge Swain’s new order noted in passing. But “the reason for her alleged fear is redacted as classified.”

CRS Views EPA Library Closures

Last October the Environmental Protection Agency closed five of its libraries, including the headquarters library in Washington DC, and limited public access at four others.

EPA said the closures were part of an ongoing restructuring and that public demand for EPA records would be increasingly satisfied online. Public interest groups and librarians warned that valuable documentary resources were in danger of being lost or destroyed.

A report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service fleshes out some new details of the library closures and finds some cause for concern.

“EPA determined that the utility of some of its libraries had declined as the agency has made more information available through the Internet, and as heightened security at its facilities has led to fewer public visitors,” CRS observed.

But “Which materials will be retained, dispersed, or discarded, and the amount of time and funding needed to complete this [restructuring] process, are uncertain.”

See “Restructuring EPA’s Libraries: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated January 3, 2007.

More from CRS

Some other recent products of the Congressional Research Service that are not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“U.S. Army and Marine Corps Equipment Requirements: Background and Issues for Congress,” December 20, 2006.

“U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 1998-2005,”
December 15, 2006.

“‘Terrorism’ and Related Terms in Statute and Regulation: Selected Language,” updated December 5, 2006.

“Incapacity of a Member of the Senate,” December 15, 2006.

Various Resources

National Security Agency director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander answered dozens of questions for the record related to NSA surveillance activities following a September 6 July 26, 2006 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “FISA for the 21st Century.” That hearing record has not yet been published, but General Alexander’s 35 page response to Senators’ questions is available here (pdf).

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office “examines the costs and potential performance of four possible designs for a Space Radar system.” See “Alternatives for Military Space Radar” (pdf), Congressional Budget Office, January 2007.

“Joint Operation Planning” (pdf) is a new publication from the Joint Chiefs of Staffs that “reflects the current doctrine for conducting joint, interagency, and multinational planning activities across the full range of military operations.” See Joint Publication 5-0, December 26, 2006.

A newly released opinion (pdf) from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel advises that the open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act do not apply when government officials consult non-governmental individuals (as opposed to committees). Nor do they apply to government meetings with non-governmental groups, says OLC, as long as the members of the groups only provide their opinions as individuals, and not as a collective. See “Application of Federal Advisory Committee Act to Non-Governmental Consultations,” Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel, December 7, 2001 (released January 3, 2007).

A conference entitled “Covering the New Secrecy: The Press and Public Policy” (pdf) and sponsored by the Knight-Wallace Fellows will be held at the University of Michigan on January 8.