Four FRUS Volumes and an Error

The U.S. State Department last month published four new volumes of its official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, documenting the foreign relations of the Nixon Administration:

“European Security”

“Germany, 1969-1972”

“Eastern Europe”

“China, 1973-1976”

Inevitably, it seems, the occasional error creeps in.

Document 13 of the China volume transcribes a February 18, 1973 conversation between Chinese Premier Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger in which Chou cited press reports that “the United States had contacts with Ismail” (on page 148). The FRUS editors inserted Footnote 3 explaining that “Ismail Fahmi was the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1973 until 1977.” That’s true, but that’s not who Premier Chou was talking about. “It is common knowledge that Chou was referring to Sadat’s national security adviser — Hafez Ismail,” wrote A, a Secrecy News correspondent.

SECDEF on Military Law Enforcement Authority Abroad

The authority of a military commander to arrest and detain U.S. civilians suspected of committing a crime outside of the United States and within that commander’s area of responsibility is detailed in a recent memorandum (pdf) from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

“There is a particular need for clarity regarding the legal framework that should govern a command response to any illegal activities by Department of Defense civilian employees and DoD contractor personnel overseas with our Armed Forces,” Secretary Gates wrote.

Ordinarily, civilians who violate U.S. criminal laws are to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice and commanders are to notify DoJ whenever such cases arise.

However, the Gates memo states, “Commanders should be prepared to act, as appropriate, should possible U.S. federal criminal jurisdiction prove to be unavailable to address the alleged criminal behavior.”

See “UCMJ Jurisdiction Over DoD Civilian Employees, DoD Contractor Personnel, and Other Persons Serving With or Accompanying the Armed Forces Overseas During Declared War and in Contingency Operations,” memorandum from the Secretary of Defense, March 10, 2008.

The memorandum was previously reported by Sebastian Sprenger in

Defense Intelligence Agency Mission and Functions

The functions and responsibilities of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) are detailed in a 27-page directive (pdf) that has been newly re-issued by the Department of Defense.

“DIA shall satisfy the military and military-related intelligence requirements of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the DNI, and provide the military intelligence contribution to national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence.”

See “Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),” DoD Directive 5105.21, March 18, 2008.

Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World

A whimsical collection of patches, emblems and insignia associated with classified Department of Defense programs has recently been published in a book by experimental geographer Trevor Paglen.

“Readers of this book will find a collection of images that are fragmentary, torn out of context, inconclusive, enigmatic, unreliable, quixotic, and deceptive,” the author warns. “Readers will find, in other words, a glimpse into the black world itself.”

See “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World” by Trevor Paglen, Melville House Publishing, March 2008.

“Military patches and logos–simply the latest examples of heraldry dating back thousands of years–are by definition symbolic, so it is no surprise that they contain symbols. What is surprising is that these symbols often reveal information about … missions that are otherwise classified,” wrote space historians Dwayne A. Day and Roger Guillemette in an impressive analysis of several such images. See their “Secrets and Signs” in The Space Review, January 7, 2008.

Wired’s Danger Room blog recently featured some of the “Most Awesomely Bad Military Patches.”

Finally, Some Sense About Uranium and Dirty Bombs

The Columbian military recently raided FARC camps just across their borders. The Columbians confiscated lap top computers containing emails between the FARC and dealers offering to sell them explosives, which the emails suggested included uranium that the dealer was willing to sell for about one million dollars a pound. The press has several times bit on these types stories, sensationalizing them and getting the science all wrong.

There seems to be a widespread idea that uranium can be used for nuclear weapons. Well, it can. That is, one isotope of uranium can be, but natural uranium is less than 1% of that isotope and enriching it is a daunting technical challenge. (Many chemical elements have more than one isotope, atoms that have identical chemical properties but slightly different weights.) Since uranium can power nuclear weapons and nuclear bombs, it must be highly radioactive and could at least be used as a dirty bomb, right? Wrong, but you would never know by reading most such stories in the newspapers. So it is refreshing to read a story that gets it right and is properly skeptical. Kelly Hearn of The Washington Times has written that piece. Continue reading

DoD Report on Captured Iraqi Documents

A Defense Department-sponsored report that examined captured Iraqi documents for indications of links between Saddam Hussein and terrorist organizations is now available online.

The five-volume report affirmed that there was “no ‘smoking gun’ (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda.” But it also said there was “strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism.”

Although the report was publicly released on March 13, the Department of Defense declined to publish it online, offering instead to provide copies on disk. The full five-volume study has now been posted on the Federation of American Scientists web site. See “Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents,” Institute for Defense Analyses, November 2007, redacted and released March 2008.

The study was first reported prior to release by Warren P. Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers. The first of the five volumes was previously posted on the ABC News web site. The latter volumes include hundreds of pages of captured Iraqi documents, declassified and translated into English.

The Defense Intelligence Agency “made every effort to balance national security concerns, requirements of law, and the needs of an informed democracy and focused the redactions to the necessary minimum,” the report states.

The Iraqi documents themselves are an eclectic, uneven bunch.

One of them, a fifty-page Iraqi “intelligence” analysis, disparages the austerely conservative Wahhabi school of Islam by claiming that its eighteenth century founder, Ibn ‘Abd al Wahhab, had ancestors who were Jews.

In what must be the only laugh-out-loud line in the generally dismal five-volume report, the Iraqi analysis states that Ibn ‘Abd al Wahhab’s grandfather’s true name was not “Sulayman” but “Shulman.”

“Tawran confirms that Sulayman, the grandfather of the sheikh, is (Shulman); he is Jew from the merchants of the city of Burstah in Turkey, he had left it and settled in Damascus, grew his beard, and wore the Muslim turban, but was thrown out for being voodoo” (at page 20 of 56).

The analysis, produced by the Air Defense Security System of Iraq’s General Military Intelligence Directorate, is not a very reliable guide to Islamic or Jewish history, though it may explain something about Iraq’s air defenses.

“The Birth of Al-Wahabi Movement and Its Historic Roots” appears in volume 5 of the Defense Department report and is also directly available in this extract (large PDF).

Some New Intelligence Books

Some noteworthy new books on intelligence policy, reform and history include these.

Former CIA analyst and outspoken CIA critic Melvin A. Goodman decries “The Decline and Fall of the CIA” in his new book “Failure of Intelligence” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

UCLA professor Amy Zegart examines pre-9/11 intelligence failures and their implications for intelligence reform in “Spying Blind” (Princeton, 2007).

Journalist Jefferson Morley traces “the hidden history of the CIA” through the career of Winston Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico City from 1956 to 1969, in “Our Man in Mexico” (Univ. Press of Kansas, 2008).

Various Resources

The National Archives this week announced the opening of approximately 1.3 million pages of historic Central Intelligence Agency records dating from 1947 to 1977. The documents, which are described as open source publications gathered by the CIA’s Foreign Documents Division, are being released as “a part of the National Declassification Initiative program announced by the Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein in April 2006.”

On March 17, 2008, the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) heard public comments on its report Improving Declassification that was sent to the President in 2007. The meeting was covered by Lee White of the National Coalition for History.

Last year the National Intelligence Council, a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, sponsored a conference in Ghana on democratization in Africa. The NIC has now published the proceedings of that conference for broad public consumption and consideration. See “Democratization in Africa: What Progress Toward Institutionalization?” (pdf).

U.S. Air Force intelligence organization and functions are described in “General Intelligence Rules” (pdf), Air Force Instruction 14-202 (vol. 3), 10 March 2008.

Former ISOO Directors to Testify for Defense in AIPAC Trial

In a blow to Justice Department prosecutors, two former directors of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) are expected to testify for the defense in the controversial trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with unlawful receipt and transmission of classified information.

Steven Garfinkel (ISOO director from 1980-2002) and J. William Leonard (2002-2007) have been the voice of classification authority across three decades and five presidential administrations. They inspected, oversaw and reported to the President on the government’s classification and declassification programs. And last week they were listed among eight proposed expert witnesses for the defense in the AIPAC case, formally known as USA v. Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman.

As deeply knowledgeable classification officials, Mr. Garfinkel and Mr. Leonard might have been expected to testify for the government in a case involving classification policy. The fact that they are testifying for the defense is a startling indication that the prosecution’s case has strayed far beyond any consensus view regarding the proper protection of classified information.

The surprising participation of these former classification officials was first reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the New York Sun. See “Key New Witnesses Sign on for the Defense in AIPAC Case” by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, March 17.

In another sign that the government’s case may be unraveling, the lead prosecutor quit last month to take a job in the private sector. See “Top prosecutor in AIPAC case quits,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 28.

Selected case files from the AIPAC prosecution may be found here.

Update: Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency elaborated:

Two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are facing charges that they traded in secrets now have on their side the two most recent arbiters of what is and isn’t a U.S. secret. […]

The agreement of Garfinkel and Leonard to serve as experts for the defense sets up the trial as a precedent-setting fight over the limits of secrecy.

Security Guidance for Lawyers with CIA Clients

Attorneys representing employees of the Central Intelligence Agency who are suing the Agency are obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to comply with CIA secrecy requirements.

The CIA has prepared an introduction to its security policies (pdf) for non-governmental attorneys. It includes answers to questions such as: How do I know when information is classified? What restrictions are there on how I handle my client’s information at my office? And so forth. See “Security Guidance for Representatives,” Central Intelligence Agency, 2007.

The document was filed last week in the case of Franz Boening v. CIA, which alleges unlawful prior restraint by the Agency. The CIA is refusing to provide access to key case documents to the plaintiff’s attorney in the case, Mark S. Zaid, despite the fact that he holds a security clearance.