China Reorganizes Northern Nuclear Missile Launch Sites

A dozen trucks identified at possible missile launch sites near Delingha in the northern parts of central China resemble the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile launcher. If correct, about a third of China’s DF-21 inventory is deployed within striking distance of Russian ICBM fields.

By Hans M. Kristensen

China has significantly reorganized facilities believed to be launch sites for nuclear ballistic missiles near Delingha in the northern parts of Central China, according to commercial satellite images analyzed by the Federation of American Scientists.

The images indicate that older liquid-fueled missiles previously thought to have been deployed in the area may have been replaced with newer solid-fueled missiles. From the sites, the missiles are within range of three Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) fields and a bomber base in the southern parts of central Russia.
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FAS Statement on Recent Testimony by Surgeon General Carmona

The Federation of American Scientists is profoundly disturbed by the testimony of former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona at the July 10th hearing of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. At the hearing, Surgeon General Carmona described a dismaying number of cases where he was forced to weaken or suppress reports providing public health information that should have been available to the public. He also reported that he was repeatedly instructed not to speak on a wide array of important health issues including stem cells, emergency contraception, and mental health.

While political pressure on government scientists is not new, the size and scope of the effort reported by Dr. Carmona are shocking. This is the first time an official of this rank has described in detail a persistent, long-term pattern of distorting science advice to the public. As America’s “chief health educator,” the Surgeon General’s office has a clear obligation to provide the public with timely, accurate, and accessible information about matters of health and medicine. The public needs this information to provide good care for themselves and their families and they need it to make informed decisions about health care policy. The public should never have to wonder whether statements made by high public officials can be trusted to be accurate and complete.

Dr. James Holsinger, nominated to be the next Surgeon General, will face Senate confirmation this week. FAS urges the Senators examining him to get assurances that he will always provide the public with the most complete, timely, and accurate health care information available to him. And we urge them to get assurances that he will bring important health care matters to public attention without regard to the effect these facts will have on partisan political debates.

Read Surgeon General Carmona’s testimony here.

Durbin Moves to Cut Funding for Vice President

A pending Senate bill would suspend funding for the Office of Vice President next year unless Vice President Cheney agrees to comply with the oversight provisions of the executive order on classification, something he claims he is not obliged to do.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services, included language in the pending appropriations bill to suspend the funding after the Vice President failed to respond to the Senator’s June 25 letter (pdf) urging compliance with the executive order.

A similar measure to cut funding for the Office of Vice President, introduced in the House last month by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, was narrowly defeated on June 28 by a vote of 209-217.

J. William Leonard, the Information Security Oversight Office director whose oversight activities were rebuffed by the Office of Vice President, will testify tomorrow, July 12, at a House Intelligence Subcommittee hearing on classification policy. I will also be among the witnesses at the 1 PM hearing in Rayburn 2216.

SSCI Warns Against Clearances for Ex-Convicts

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence endorsed a statutory prohibition that prevents the Department of Defense from granting security clearances to former convicts who have served a year or more in jail, individuals who are mentally incompetent, are drug addicts, or have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

The Pentagon had requested a repeal of that provision, first enacted in 2000, and the request was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The [Intelligence] Committee understands DoD’s desire to have more flexibility to give clearances to otherwise qualified individuals who are currently barred from receiving or renewing their security clearances.”

“Because of the extremely sensitive nature of DoD’s military and intelligence activities, however, the Committee is concerned that a blanket repeal of section 986 could lead to unintended compromises or mishandling of classified information. Further, the Committee believes that the waiver authority that is currently provided in section 986 is sufficient to give DoD the flexibility and discretion it needs in handling cases involving convictions or dishonorable discharges.”

In a dissenting view (favoring the Pentagon proposal to repeal), Committee Chairman Rockefeller and Senators Wyden and Feingold said they had “no reason to question the adequacy of the security clearance process established under presidential order, nor to question the joint assessment of DoD and the Armed Services Committee that national security can be protected without this one DoD-specific statute.”

See the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Act, Senate Report 110-125, June 29.

The dispute was first reported in “Ex-convicts and addicts may get DoD clearance” by Elana Schor and Roxana Tiron, The Hill, July 10.

Writing in the Danger Room blog, Sharon Weinberger correctly noted that someone like Scooter Libby (mentioned by me in The Hill article) would not technically be subject to the statutory prohibition since he is not going to spend a year or more in jail.

Appeals Court Hears Arguments on President’s Daily Briefs

A federal appeals court yesterday heard oral arguments in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking disclosure of two Vietnam-era editions of the President’s Daily Brief.

The Central Intelligence Agency refused to disclose the two PDBs to University of California professor Larry Berman, who filed the lawsuit in cooperation with the lawfirm Davis Wright Tremaine and the National Security Archive.

The July 10 hearing was reported in “Federal Court Skeptical of CIA Bid for Secrecy” by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, July 11.

An audio recording of the fairly technical court session can be downloaded from this site. Click on “Audio Files” on the left side of the page and then enter case number 05-16820.

Additional background on the case is available from the National Security Archive.

CRS on Navy Acquisition, Force Structure

Recent Congressional Research Service reports on Navy acquisition programs and related topics include these (all pdf).

“Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 12, 2007.

“Navy DDG-1000 (DD(X)) and CG(X) Ship Acquisition Programs: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress,” updated June 11, 2007.

“Navy CG(X) Cruiser Design Options: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress,” updated June 13, 2007.

“Navy Attack Submarine Force-Level Goal and Procurement Rate: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 11, 2007.

“Navy-Marine Corps Amphibious and Maritime Prepositioning Ship Programs: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress,” updated June 12, 2007.

Even More from CRS

Some other recently updated Congressional Research Service reports that have not been made freely available to the public include these (all pdf).

“China’s Currency: Economic Issues and Options for U.S. Trade Policy,” updated June 28, 2007.

“Military Airlift: C-17 Aircraft Program,” updated June 5, 2007.

“Indonesia: Domestic Politics, Strategic Dynamics, and American Interests,” updated June 20, 2007.

“The Global Peace Operations Initiative: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 11, 2007.

“Conventional Warheads For Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated June 19, 2007.

“War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance,” updated June 12, 2007.

The Rise of Intelligence Fusion Centers

One of the few comparatively new features in the post-cold war landscape of U.S. intelligence is the emergence of dozens of domestic intelligence “fusion centers.”

These are state and local offices across the country that are supposed to integrate (or “fuse”) multiple information streams from national intelligence sources together with local law enforcement and other data in order to enhance homeland security and increase preparedness against terrorism or natural disasters.

A major new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service finds that this aspect of the domestic intelligence and homeland security infrastructure is still far from mature.

“It is unclear if a single fusion center has successfully adopted a truly proactive prevention approach to information analysis and sharing. No state and its local jurisdictions appear to have fully adopted the intelligence cycle.”

In principle, fusion centers represent a conduit “through which federal intelligence can flow across the country.”

But “numerous fusion center officials claim that although their center receives a substantial amount of information from federal agencies, they never seem to get the ‘right information’ or receive it in an efficient manner,” the CRS report stated.

“It could be argued that if information flow into fusion centers is limited, the quality of the information is questionable, and the center doesn’t have personnel with the appropriate skill sets to understand the information, then the end result may not provide value.”

At the same time, “the potential fusion center use of private sector data, the adoption of a more proactive approach, and the collection of intelligence by fusion center staff and partners has led to questions about possible civil liberties abuses,” the report noted.

There are now more than 40 intelligence fusion centers around the country. The 100-page CRS report includes a map and a list of these centers. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress,” July 6, 2007.

More From CRS

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

“Statutory Offices of Inspector General: Past and Present,” updated June 21, 2007.

“Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2007,” updated May 29, 2007.

“GAO: Government Accountability Office and General Accounting Office,” updated June 22, 2007.

“Digital Surveillance: The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act,” updated June 8, 2007.

“Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress,” updated June 8, 2007.

“Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements,” updated June 1, 2007.

Twists and Turns in Pentagon Information Policy

Some of the most important news in Department of Defense information policy has to do with what did not happen.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon asked Congress to enact two new provisions that would have restricted public access to broad swaths of unclassified information. But Congress declined to approve either one.

One provision would have created a new exemption for unclassified information regarding weapons of mass destruction. The other proposed provision would have established civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized publication or sale of “geodetic products” (i.e. maps and images) that the Secretary of Defense had designated for “limited distribution.”

Neither provision survived in either the House or Senate versions of the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Act and, barring extraordinary developments, will not be enacted into law.

Also this year, a Freedom of Information Act exemption for “operational files” of the Defense Intelligence Agency is set to expire. DIA did not request, and will not receive, an extension of the controversial exemption, which was adopted in the 2006 Defense Authorization Act with a “sunset” date of December 31, 2007.

Last week, the Department of Defense issued a final rule setting forth “the policies and procedures … that permit U.S. citizens to perform historical research in records created by or in the custody of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).”