New Information on Somali MANPADS

The latest report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia contains additional information about the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles used by Islamic insurgents to shoot down a Belarusian cargo aircraft in March. Below is an excerpt from the UN report:

On 23 March 2007, at approximately 1700 hours, an IL-76 cargo plane
belonging to Transaviaexport, a Belarusian company, was shot down after a missile
fired by Shabaab fighters hit the left wing. The plane, with 11 crewmembers and
passengers, was hit at low altitude following take-off. It had earlier delivered
logistics and spare parts for another aircraft that had made an emergency landing at
Mogadishu International Airport. The missile used to shoot down the plane was an
SA-18 (MANPAD, Man Portable Air Defence System). The SA-18 was reported to
be part of a consignment of six SA-18s that had been delivered by Eritrea to
ICU/Shabaab. Two missiles were fired at the plane; one hit the target and the other
missed. The Monitoring Group showed the Committee a video of the actual firing of
the missile, during the midterm briefing on 27 April 2007.

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9/11 Bill Requires Intelligence Budget Disclosure

For the first time since it began debating the issue more than three decades ago, Congress is now poised to adopt legislation that will require — not merely recommend — public disclosure of the total national intelligence budget.

“Not later than 30 days after the end of each fiscal year beginning with fiscal year 2007, the Director of National Intelligence shall disclose to the public the aggregate amount of funds appropriated by Congress for the National Intelligence Program for such fiscal year,” states the House-Senate conference agreement on H.R. 1 (section 601), the massive bill to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Excerpts from the conference report concerning intelligence budget disclosure, declassification and related issues are posted here.

The conference bill has already been approved in the Senate and is expected to win final approval in the House as early as today.

If enacted into law, it would lead to the first authorized disclosure of current U.S. intelligence spending since the aggregate budgets were disclosed in 1997 ($26.6 billion) and 1998 ($26.7 billion) in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists. (Those figures included spending on “national” as well as “tactical” intelligence.)

The Bush White House has expressed opposition to intelligence budget disclosure but is not expected to veto the entire 9/11 bill on that basis.

“The Administration strongly opposes the requirement in the bill to publicly disclose sensitive information about the intelligence budget,” according to a February 28 statement of administration policy (pdf).

“Disclosure, including disclosure to the Nation’s enemies and adversaries in a time of war, of the amounts requested by the President and provided by the Congress for the conduct of the Nation’s intelligence activities would provide no meaningful information to the general American public, but would provide significant intelligence to America’s adversaries and could cause damage to the national security interests of the United States.”

Hardly anyone agrees with that assessment.

The bipartisan 9/11 Commission came to almost the opposite conclusion: “The top-line figure by itself provides little insight into U.S. intelligence sources and methods…. But when even aggregate categorical numbers remain hidden, it is hard to judge priorities and foster accountability.” (Final Report, p. 416)

In a compromise with Administration opponents, the House-Senate conference agreed that, beginning in 2009, the President could waive the disclosure requirement by submitting a statement to Congress that budget disclosure in that particular year could damage national security. The legislation does not allow for a waiver in 2007 or 2008.

The conference legislation also includes provisions to strengthen the Public Interest Declassification Board, and to require declassification of the executive summary of a CIA Inspector General report on events leading up to 9/11.

CRS Reports on Various Topics

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

“U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques,” updated January 12, 2007.

“Zimbabwe: Current Issues,” updated June 21, 2007.

“Haiti: Developments and U.S. Policy Since 1991 and Current Congressional Concerns,” updated June 21, 2007.

“Japan’s Currency Intervention: Policy Issues,” updated July 13, 2007.

“Kosovo and U.S. Policy: Background and Current Issues,” updated July 3, 2007.

“Kosovo’s Future Status and U.S. Policy,” updated July 12, 2007.

“Federal Crime Control: Background, Legislation, and Issues,” updated June 12, 2007.

“Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense — Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 26, 2007.

Government is overzealous with secrecy, Reichert says

Republican Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) is interested in developing legislation to streamline the classification system and to eliminate abuses, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

    Reichert uses personal experience as a benchmark for how overzealous classification can gum up the works and deny important information to those who need it. While investigating the Green River Killer as King County sheriff, Reichert worked closely with a variety of federal agencies and especially the FBI.

    In one instance, he and an FBI agent jointly interviewed a witness. Later, Reichert asked the FBI for a copy of its report on the interrogation to compare it with his own account to see if there was anything he missed.

    The request was denied because the report was classified, Reichert said in an interview.

    “There’s a fear by federal agencies that if they let too much out, it could cause problems,” Reichert said. The irony, he and others say, is that indiscriminately classifying material as secret weakens security because it makes it harder to discern the truly important from those undeserving documents given the status.

    Reichert hopes to develop legislation to streamline and simplify the system to lessen the abuses and to make it easier for government officials at all levels, and especially law enforcement, to be able to share information.

See “Government is overzealous with secrecy, Reichert says” by Charles Pope, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 26.

CRS Views Congress’s Contempt Power

A major new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service provides a detailed account of Congress’s contempt power, including the use of contempt proceedings to coerce compliance with congressional demands for information or testimony and to punish non-compliance.

“This report examines the source of the contempt power, reviews the historical development of the early case law, outlines the statutory and common law basis for Congress’s contempt power, and analyzes the procedures associated with each of the three different types of contempt proceedings. In addition, the report discusses limitations both nonconstitutional and constitutionally based on the power.”

The 68-page report also examines the Justice Department position that “Congress cannot, as a matter of statutory or constitutional law, invoke either its inherent contempt authority or the criminal contempt of Congress procedures against an executive branch official acting on instructions by the President to assert executive privilege in response to a congressional subpoena.”

See “Congress’s Contempt Power: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure,” July 24, 2007.

CRS Reports on Various Topics

Recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include these (all pdf).

“Supreme Court Appointment Process: Roles of the President, Judiciary Committee, and Senate,” updated June 25, 2007.

“U.S.-Japan Economic Relations: Significance, Prospects, and Policy Options,” updated July 9, 2007.

“Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress,” updated June 11, 2007.

“U.S. Army and Marine Corps Equipment Requirements: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 15, 2007.

“Pakistan: Significant Recent Events, March 26 – June 21, 2007,” July 6, 2007.

“Ballistic Missile Defense: Historical Overview,” updated July 9, 2007.

Combating War Profiteering

The U.S. Senate is placing increased emphasis on exposing corruption and profiteering in military contracting in Iraq.

Last week, Sen. James Webb (D-VA) introduced a bill with twenty co-sponsors that would establish a Commission on Wartime Contracting to investigate fraud and abuse in government contracts, including intelligence contracts, in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“We are outsourcing this war in ways we’ve never seen,” said Sen. Webb. “Defrauding the government of millions of taxpayer dollars should not be considered ‘the cost of doing business’.”

There are now more contractors (180,000) than military personnel (156, 247) in Iraq, according to a July 18 news release from Sen. Webb. A list of companies contracted in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom does not exist, it said. Nor has information on how much the government is paying contractors been made available.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on “war profiteering,” the record of which has just been published. See “Combating War Profiteering: Are We Doing Enough to Investigate and Prosecute Contracting Fraud and Abuse in Iraq?,” March 20, 2007.

New Navy Policy on Biological Select Agents

The U.S. Navy has issued its first security policy (pdf) for protection of “biological select agents and toxins” (BSAT) at Navy facilities, a move that may signify heightened Navy interest in research involving these lethal materials.

Select agents are substances designated by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture that “present a high bioterrorism risk to national security and have the greatest potential for adverse public health impact with mass casualties of humans and/or animals or that pose a severe threat to plant health or to plant products.” A few dozen particular biological agents and toxins have been so designated (pdf), including ebola and smallpox viruses, botulinum, etc.

There are currently two Navy facilities in the United States that have possession of select agents and toxins, according to the new policy: Naval Surface War Center (NSWC) Dahlgren and the Navy Medical Research Center.

“The Navy may increase the number of facilities in the future, and other Navy facilities may gain access or possession of BSAT due to non-routine events,” the document states.

The Navy policy implements a 2004 Department of Defense Directive (pdf) on protecting biological select agents, and a 2006 Instruction (pdf) from the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

See “Minimum Security Standards for Safeguarding Biological Select Agents and Toxins (BSAT),” Chief of Naval Operations OPNAV Instruction 5530.16, July 20, 2007.

CRS Reports on Nuclear Weapons

Recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service on nuclear weapons-related topics include these (all pdf):

“Nuclear Warheads: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program and the Life Extension Program,” updated July 16, 2007.

“Nuclear Weapons: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program,” updated July 13, 2007.

“Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” updated July 12, 2007.

“Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union,” updated February 23, 2007.

“North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy,” updated July 2, 2007.

A Caveat on the Special Forces Medical Manual

The 1982 U.S. Army medical manual for special forces presented in Secrecy News yesterday is dangerously misleading and it should not be used in practice, one expert in military medicine warned.

“That manual (pdf) is a relic of sentimental and historical interest only, advocating treatments that, if used by today’s medics, would result in disciplinary measures,” wrote Dr. Warner Anderson, a U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) and former associate dean of the Special Warfare Medical Group.

“The manual you reference is of great historical importance in illustrating the advances made in SOF medicine in the past 25 years. But it no more reflects current SOF practice than a 25 year-old Merck Manual reflects current Family Practice. In 2007, it is merely a curiosity.”

“Readers who use some of the tips and remedies could potentially cause harm to themselves or their patients.”

“I wish you would inform my fellow Secrecy News readers of these issues, correcting any false impressions,” Dr. Anderson wrote.

A completely revised Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook was published in 2001. A second edition of that Handbook is now in preparation, said Gay Thompson, managing editor of the Handbook.