CRS Reports on China

Recent reports from the Congressional Research Service concerning China include these (all pdf).

“Hong Kong: Ten Years After the Handover,” June 29, 2007.

“China’s Economic Conditions,” updated July 13, 2007.

“Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990,” updated July 12, 2007.

“China-U.S. Trade Issues,” updated July 11, 2007.

“China-U.S. Relations: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy,” updated June 14, 2007.

“Food and Agricultural Imports from China,” updated July 17, 2007.

“The Southwest Pacific: U.S. Interests and China’s Growing Influence,” July 6, 2007.

“China’s Currency: A Summary of the Economic Issues,” updated July 11, 2007.

CRS Reports on Various Topics

The Congressional Research Service, at congressional direction, does not permit direct public access to its products. Members of the public must connive or contrive to gain such access. So we do.

Some recent CRS reports that caught our eye include these (all pdf).

“Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments,” updated July 5, 2007.

“The Palestinian Territories: Background and U.S. Relations,” July 5, 2007.

“Restructuring EPA’s Libraries: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 15, 2007.

“U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 28, 2007.

“Airborne Laser (ABL): Issues for Congress,” updated July 9, 2007.

Congressional Authority to Limit Military Operations

Does Congress have the constitutional authority to legislate limits on the conduct of the war in Iraq?

The answer may seem obvious. But to resolve any lingering doubt, the Congressional Research Service gave the topic a thorough analytic treatment in a newly updated report (pdf) and concluded that Congress does have such authority.

“It has been suggested that the President’s role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces provides sufficient authority for his deployment of troops, and any efforts on the part of Congress to intervene could represent an unconstitutional violation of separation-of-powers principles.”

“While even proponents of strong executive prerogative in matters of war appear to concede that it is within Congress’s authority to cut off funding entirely for a military operation, it has been suggested that spending measures that restrict but do not end financial support for the war in Iraq would amount to an ‘unconstitutional condition’.”

To rebut any such suggestion, the newly updated CRS report “provides historical examples of measures that restrict the use of particular personnel, and concludes with a brief analysis of arguments that might be brought to bear on the question of Congress’s authority to limit the availability of troops to serve in Iraq.”

“Although not beyond debate, such a restriction appears to be within Congress’s authority to allocate resources for military operations,” the report stated.

See “Congressional Authority To Limit U.S. Military Operations in Iraq,” updated July 11, 2007.

See, relatedly, “Defense: FY2008 Authorization and Appropriations” (pdf), updated July 13, 2007.

and “FY2007 Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Other Purposes” (pdf), updated July 2, 2007.

CRS Reports on Iraq

The Congressional Research Service has produced several newly updated reports on Iraq for congressional consumption. CRS does not make its publications freely available to the public. But the following reports were obtained by Secrecy News (all pdf).

“Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security,” updated July 13, 2007.

“Iraq: U.S. Military Operations,” updated July 15, 2007.

“Iraq: Reconstruction Assistance,” updated June 25, 2007.

“Post-War Iraq: Foreign Contributions to Training, Peacekeeping, and Reconstruction,” updated June 18, 2007.

“Iraq: Summary of U.S. Casualties,” updated July 12, 2007.

“U.S. Embassy in Iraq,” updated July 13, 2007.

“Iraq: Milestones Since the Ouster of Saddam Hussein,” updated June 19, 2007.

“The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq,” updated June 12, 2007.

“Iraq: Government Formation and Benchmarks,” updated July 13, 2007.

“The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” updated July 16, 2007.

Various DoD Resources

Classification guides are used by government agencies and program managers to translate top-level national security classification policy into specific guidance on what information is to be classified and at what level. There are innumerable such guides, many of which are themselves classified. One recent (unclassified) example that provides a notion of the entire class of documents is an Air Force Classification Guide for the Global Broadcast System (pdf), issued in April 2007.

The potential role of nanotechnology for defense and military applications was assessed in unclassified format in a recent report issued by the Director, Defense Research and Engineering. See “Defense Nanotechnology Research and Development Program” (pdf), April 27, 2007.

“Command and control of air and space power is an Air Force-provided asymmetric capability that no other Service or nation provides,” according to a new U.S. Air Force publication on the subject. See “Command and Control” (pdf), Air Force Doctrine Document 2-8, June 1, 2007.

Fewer New Secrets, But More Classified Documents in 2006

For the second year in a row, the number of new national security secrets created by government officials declined, according to a new report to the President (pdf) from the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).

At the same time, however, the number of new classified records incorporating previously classified information increased sharply, ISOO found.

While “original classifications” declined by 10%, “derivative classifications” increased by 45%. As a result, combined classification activity grew from 14.2 million classification actions in 2005 to 20.5 million classification actions in 2006.

Meanwhile, the financial costs of protecting classified information in government and industry also grew to a new record high of $9.5 billion in 2006.

Significantly, reviewers reported a “high error rate” in the documents that they examined for compliance with classification procedures.

The finding underscores the need for additional oversight.

“ISOO found a high percentage of documents with an unknown basis for classification, as these documents failed to indicate the authority or basis for classification, thereby calling into question the propriety of their classification.”

More positively, ISOO found that declassification activity increased to meet the December 31, 2006 deadline for automatic declassification of most 25 year old classified documents.

“While a detailed analysis of the final results is still underway, it appears that all Executive branch agencies have succeeded in meeting their obligations toward automatic declassification,” ISOO director J. William Leonard wrote to President Bush.

More than 1.33 billion pages of classified historical records have been declassified since 1995 (including 37 million pages in 2006, a one year increase of 27 percent). Of these, only around 460 million pages are publicly available at the National Archives. Another 400 million pages await processing at the Archives prior to public release, while the remainder are still in agency custody.

“A task that at times appeared to be unattainable has been brought to a satisfactory culmination,” Mr. Leonard wrote.

But the task is not over, he noted, since each year millions more additional records become 25 years old and subject to automatic declassification.

A copy of the 2006 Information Security Oversight Office Report to the President is here.

Once again, the Office of the Vice President declined to cooperate with ISOO last year and to provide data on its classification and declassification activity. It last reported to ISOO in 2002.

Various Resources

An exceptionally interesting July 12 House Intelligence Subcommittee hearing on national security classification policy, featuring William Leonard of the Information Security Oversight Office, Meredith Fuchs of the National Security Archive, and myself, was recorded by C-SPAN and may be viewed online, at least temporarily, here.

In accordance with new legislative transparency provisions, the Senate Intelligence Committee identified three funding “earmarks” in the pending intelligence authorization bill for FY 2008. See these July 9 remarks of Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

The record of a January 2007 hearing on presidential signing statements that was held by the House Judiciary Committee has now been published.

A 1942 U.S. military intelligence document describes “German tactical doctrine” (pdf), based on the accounts of four American officers who were allowed to study at the German General Staff School from 1935-1939. “From their illuminating reports it is possible to learn the trend of German methods and teachings up to Hitler’s attack on Poland,” according to the 1942 Foreword. Originally published in 1989, the document was recently made available online.

Hearing Advances Classification Reform Agenda

Updated below

There are several practical steps that could be taken to improve national security classification and declassification policy, a House Intelligence subcommittee was told yesterday.

In my testimony (pdf) at the July 12 hearing, chaired by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), I presented a menu of actionable proposals for the subcommittee to consider:

Agency inspectors general could be assigned to help oversee classification and declassification activity. A public database of declassified records could be created to enhance access to such records. A new format for National Intelligence Estimates could be adopted to permit broader dissemination of their contents.

The subcommittee members, including chairwoman Eshoo, ranking minority member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), expressed satisfaction with the proposals. Several of the ideas, the members noted, could be quickly adopted, and would not require new appropriations or establishment of new organizations.

Additional insights into the current state of classification and declassification policy were provided at the hearing by Meredith Fuchs, general counsel at the National Security Archive, and J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

Mr. Leonard’s statement previewed some of the findings of the 2006 ISOO Annual Report to the President, which is due to be released later today or Monday.

Update: The hearing was recorded by C-SPAN and may be viewed here. The 2006 ISOO Annual Report is here (pdf).

Government Secrecy: Decisions Without Democracy

The expansion of official secrecy now poses a challenge to basic democratic processes, argues a new report (pdf) from and People for the American Way.

In a highly readable account, the report explains why openness is a virtue, explores how secrecy impedes public deliberation, and considers what can be done about it.

“As Congress and the White House clash over this administration’s unprecedented secrecy, Americans need to know the full scope of the problem,” said Patrice McDermott, director of “It is up to us, with and through our elected officials, to preserve our heritage of open and accountable government.”

See “Government Secrecy: Decisions without Democracy,” written by David Banisar, July 2007.

Legacy of Ashes

Upon publication this month, “Legacy of Ashes” by Tim Weiner of the New York Times has all at once become the best single source on the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The book synthesizes entire shelves of prior studies, and surpasses them with the fruits of deep archival research and two decades of on-the-record interviews. The detailed endnotes provide pointers for further investigation.

Somewhat oddly, the book is framed as a “warning.”

“It describes how the most powerful country in the history of Western civilization has failed to create a first-rate spy service. That failure constitutes a danger to the national security of the United States,” Mr. Weiner writes.

The implication here is that the standard for excellence has been set by another intelligence agency, one that unlike CIA is “first rate.” If so, it would be interesting to know which agency that is. (Not the KGB, certainly, nor the SIS or Mossad.)

If not, and if there is no consistently “first rate” intelligence service, then the problem may lie in an exaggerated expectation that any secret intelligence service can reliably “see things as they are in the world.”