Other Secrecy News

The politicization of the Department of Justice, the erosion of professional values and the state of Freedom of Information Act policy were discussed with unusual candor by Daniel J. Metcalfe, former director of the DoJ Office of Information and Policy, in an interview with Tony Mauro of Legal Times.

NASA secretly paid $26.6 million several years ago to the families of the astronauts who died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident, reported Jim Leusner of the Orlando Sentinel on April 15.

Measuring Effectiveness in Combating Terrorism (CRS)

In confronting the threat of terrorism, what would it mean to win? And how would one know?

Terrorist and counterterrorist forces may both believe that they are succeeding in their goals. And depending on their specific objectives, they may both be right.

“Progress may be defined differently by the terrorists and those who oppose them,” according to a recently updated report of the Congressional Research Service (pdf). “Hence both can claim progress, and both can be correct in their assessments.”

So, for example, “Western policymakers often tend to define success by the absence of attacks. When the shooting or bombing stops, for example, that is viewed as success. Yet terrorists sometimes define success in terms of making governments expend limited resources trying to defend an enormous number of potential targets.”

Assessing progress by focusing on those factors that can easily be measured may mislead policymakers.

“A common pitfall of governments seeking to demonstrate success in anti-terrorist measures is overreliance on quantitative indicators, particularly those which may correlate with progress but not accurately measure it, such as the amount of money spent on anti-terror efforts.”

With the growing realization that the threat of terrorism is a distinct problem from the war in Iraq, a more thoughtful and nuanced approach to counterterrorism may soon become possible.

“As terrorism is a complex multidimensional phenomenon, effective responses to terrorism may need to take into account, and to some degree be individually configured to respond to, the evolving goals, strategies, tactics and operating environment of different terrorist groups.”

“Although terrorism’s complex webs of characteristics — along with the inherent secrecy and compartmentalization of both terrorist organizations and government responses — limit available data, the formulation of practical, useful measurement criteria appears both tractable and ready to be addressed.”

The Congressional Research Service does not make its publications directly available to the public, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness,” updated March 12, 2007.

And More from CRS

Some new or newly updated products of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: Legal Background and Recent Amendments,” updated March 20, 2007.

“Navy Force Structure: Alternative Force Structure Studies of 2005 — Background for Congress,” April 9, 2007.

“Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court,” updated April 6, 2007.

“Opening of the International Tracing Service’s Holocaust-Era Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany,” April 5, 2007.

Pending Intelligence Legislation

“Today, following over a year of coordinated effort among the Intelligence Community and the Department of Justice a bill is being submitted to Congress to request long overdue changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” according to an April 13 fact sheet (pdf) on the proposed changes issued by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The text of the proposed legislative changes to FISA, with a section by section analysis, may be obtained here (pdf).

“If S. 372 [the FY 2007 Intelligence Authorization bill pending in the Senate] were presented to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” according to an April 12 Statement of Administration Policy (pdf). Among the bill’s intolerable provisions, the Statement said, are the fact that it would require public disclosure of the annual intelligence budget total.

Visual Aircraft Recognition Revisited

When Secrecy News gained unauthorized access to a restricted U.S. Army manual on visual identification of U.S. and foreign aircraft, we supposed that it was just one more case of unnecessary and inappropriate secrecy.

But it turns out to be something worse than that, since the document (pdf) contains a surprising number of technical errors.

The dimensions given in the Army manual for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle are wrong, the Entropic Memes blog astutely noted. And the entry for the B-52, among others, is likewise incorrect.

“Please,” Entropic Memes exclaimed. “If they can’t get the details of one of their own systems correct, how much faith can you have that they got the details of anyone else’s systems right?”

In this case, the secrecy of the Army manual was not just an arbitrary barrier to public access. It also “protected” numerous errors that may make the document worse than useless.

Conversely, exposing the document to public scrutiny may now make it possible to correct its errors so as to fulfill its intended purpose.

Since it was posted on the Federation of American Scientists website 48 hours ago, the Visual Aircraft Recognition manual has been downloaded over seventy thousand times, an exceptionally high rate of access.

Update: “This is not a subject I’ve so far spent a lot of time on, but the entry for every aircraft I’ve looked up in the manual thus far contains errors,” adds Entropic Memes in a new post.

Article: Russian Nuclear Forces 2007

(Updated May 9, 2007)

At the beginning of 2007, Russia maintained approximately 5,600 operational nuclear warheads for delivery by ballistic missiles, aircraft, cruise missiles and torpedoes, according to the latest Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Russian Notebook, which is written by Hans M. Kristensen of FAS and Robert S. Norris of NRDC, breaks down the Russian arsenal into roughly 3,300 warheads for delivery by strategic weapon systems and 2,300 warheads for delivery by tactical systems.
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Visual Aircraft Recognition (FOUO)

More than 160 U.S. and foreign military aircraft are catalogued in a U.S. Army manual (large pdf) which describes their distinctive physical characteristics in order to permit visual identification of the aircraft in flight.

The manual is nominally a restricted document, marked “for official use only,” and it has not been approved for public release. But a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

Proper identification of aircraft is obviously a matter of military significance.

Incorrectly identifying a friendly aircraft (such as an F-15 Eagle) as an enemy aircraft (such as a MiG-29 Fulcrum) in wartime “could cause fratricide,” meaning the destruction of friendly aircraft, the manual states.

Conversely, incorrectly identifying an enemy aircraft (a Su-24 Fencer) as a friendly one (such as a Tornado) “might allow a hostile aircraft entry into, or safe passage through, the defended area.”

On the other hand, mistaking one type of hostile aircraft (a Su-17 Fitter) for another type of hostile aircraft (a MiG-21 Fishbed) would generally have “no impact” — except “if friendly countries were flying some aircraft types that are normally considered hostile.”

Likewise, mistaking one type of friendly aircraft (an F-4 Phantom) for another (an A-4 Skyhawk) would normally not be a great problem unless “a hostile country was using an aircraft type that is normally considered friendly.”

The manual covers both well-known and relatively obscure systems, but does not include classified aircraft.

Although an earlier edition of the manual was published without access restrictions, the current edition (2006) was not approved for public release.

But as the government imposes publication restrictions on an ever larger set of records, the control system seems to be breaking down at the margins, permitting unauthorized access with increasing frequency.

In this case, contrary to the restriction notice on the title page, the document does not reveal sensitive “technical or operational information,” in Secrecy News’ estimation.

See “Visual Aircraft Recognition,” U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-01.80, January 2006 (413 pages in a very large 28 MB PDF file).

Update: Entropic Memes points out that there is reason to doubt the accuracy of some of the data in the manual.

CIA Personnel Regulations Disclosed

The Central Intelligence Agency has released three of its internal personnel regulations in redacted form as part of a defense against charges that it improperly dismissed a former undercover contract employee.

A 2002 regulation signed by then-DCI George Tenet established the CIA Personnel Evaluation Board (pdf), which is “the primary mechanism for reviewing employee suitability and security cases that may result in the imposition of serious discipline, termination of employment, or revocation of security clearances.”

The “circumstances under which Agency employment may be terminated” are described in another 2002 regulation (pdf).

The role of “contract employees” — which are not the same as “contractors” — is described in a third redacted CIA regulation (pdf).

The regulations were disclosed by CIA in response to a lawsuit filed by “Peter B.” (pdf), a covert contract employee who alleged that he was wrongly terminated and was subjected to unlawful retaliation by the CIA.

The CIA replied (pdf) that the CIA Director “has discretion to terminate a person employed by the CIA for any reason and the decision is not subject to review.”

The newly disclosed CIA personnel regulations were characterized in a declaration (pdf) by CIA information review officer Linda Dove.

In Memoriam: Paul Leventhal, John W. Leonard

Almost every day brings forceful reminders of the transience of all human endeavors, challenging us to consider our own mortality and to act with compassion, if we can.

Paul Leventhal, a tireless advocate for the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, died this week of cancer. As president of the public interest Nuclear Control Institute, he was a relentless critic of nuclear policy, a font of new ideas, and a mentor to a generation of younger activists. He is remembered here.

John William Leonard, who also died this week at age 30, was the son of Bill Leonard, the respected director of the Information Security Oversight Office. “He was more than a good son, he was a good man,” said an obituary notice in the Washington Post today (4/11/07, page B8). The notice stated that charitable contributions may be made to the John William Leonard Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of America, 28250 Three Notch Road, Mechanicsville, MD 20659.