Use of U.S. Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2008

Hundreds of times in the last 210 years, the United States has deployed its military forces in conflicts abroad, although the U.S. has only formally declared war on eleven occasions.

A newly updated tabulation of those military deployments (pdf) — which do not include covert actions, disaster relief, or military training exercises — has recently been prepared by the Congressional Research Service.  A copy of the updated report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2008,” February 2, 2009.

Iran’s Uranium: Don’t Panic Yet.

By Ivan Oelrich and Ivanka Barzashka

Last week, the New York Times and the Financial Times USA ran stories that implied that Iran had been hiding enriched uranium and had been caught red-handed during the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) physical inventory inspection. While supposedly based on the IAEA report (GOV/2009/8), the articles more closely followed the ISIS analysis of the report.  [Jeffery Lewis, as usual, also has good analysis and comments on Arms Control Wonk.] The IAEA report itself raises few alarm bells. Yes, the Iranians are continuing to enrich uranium; yes, they claim it is exclusively for a civilian nuclear reactor program, a claim for which no one can provide credible assurances, and, yes, every day they enrich uranium, they are closer to having enough for nuclear weapon capability, once that political decision is made. But the IAEA report does not reveal any sudden jump in enrichment capability or even uranium inventory and it goes out of its way to say that the result of the inspection is consistent with what was previously declared by Iran, within “the measurement uncertainties normally associated with enrichment plants of similar throughput”. So what is the issue here?

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Tunnels Beneath U.S. Borders Proliferate

Smugglers continue to construct tunnels beneath U.S. borders to transport drugs, illegal aliens and other contraband, according to an internal briefing prepared by a U.S. Northern Command Task Force.

Dozens of tunnels have been found in recent years, including some of remarkable sophistication, but it is likely that others remain undetected.  Overall, between 1990 and November 2008, 93 cross-border tunnels were discovered, a Task Force briefing slide stated (pdf).  Thirty-five of those were in California, fifty-seven in Arizona, and one in Washington State.

Some of the tunnels are primitive, “hand dug” affairs.  Others are the product of surprisingly ambitious and complex engineering projects.  In one extraordinary case in 2006 (pdf), a tunnel was discovered near Otay Mesa in California that began with a 90-foot deep vertical shaft on the Mexican side that gradually ascended to an exit point in California more than half a mile north.  Seven feet in height, electrical power and ventilation were provided throughout the tunnel.  “This tunnel was the longest yet found under the U.S. border,” the new briefing indicated.

The Task Force briefing, which has not been approved for public release, was inadvertently posted on the Internet by U.S. Northern Command before being withdrawn last week.  A summary slide from the briefing on “Tunnels Since 1990” is here.

A descriptive tabulation of tunnels that were discovered between 2005 and early 2008 (based on data from the Department of Homeland Security) is available here.

At least six new tunnels were discovered in the first quarter of FY 2009, the Department of Homeland Security reported last December.

“The proliferation of tunnels dug underneath the border” may be “another unintended consequence of the border fencing” that has been erected along portions of the U.S.-Mexico border since 1990, a Congressional Research Service report (pdf) suggested last year.

Last week reported that the same Northern Command Task Force briefing was critical of Canadian immigration policies, which it said were too hospitable to potential terrorists.  See “DOD Officials See Terrorist Threat to America Brewing in Canada” by Sebastian Sprenger, March 20.

OSC Views French News Media, German Think Tanks

A detailed and rather opinionated assessment of French media outlets was prepared last year by the Open Source Center (OSC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“Many of the estimated 37,000 French journalists see themselves more as intellectuals than as reporters. Instead of merely reporting events, they often try to analyze developments and influence readers with their own biases. At the same time, many political or economic journalists are educated at the same elite schools as the politicians they cover…. As a consequence, many reporters do not necessarily regard their primary role as being that of a watchdog or a counterweight to the political and economic powers in place.”

See “France — Media Guide 2008” (pdf), Open Source Center, 16 July 2008.

Another OSC document last year provided a survey of think tanks in Germany.

“German policy research institutes influence decisionmaking of the federal and state governments, and their work is becoming more visible in the German media. Many receive government funding, and most maintain close ties with universities. German think tanks include major foreign policy institutes, peace research organizations, economic research institutes, party foundations, and non-traditional think tanks.”

See “German Think Tank Guide” (pdf), Open Source Center, 05 March 2008.

Like most other Open Source Center analyses, these reports have not been approved for public release.  Copies were obtained by Secrecy News.

The Stimulus: A Final Analysis

On Tuesday, President Obama signed the $787 Billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. The act is estimated to save three and a half million jobs over the next two years.

We’ve kept an eye on it through its development, and I want to give an update as to what made it out the other side and into law. My comments on building related portions are below. A more inclusive evaluation of the stimulus’s green measures by the Alliance to Save Energy can be found here and here.

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AIPAC Case: New Ruling May Lead to Acquittal

A federal court this week ruled that J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, may testify for the defense in the long-running prosecution of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with illicitly receiving and transmitting classified information that prosecutors say is protected from disclosure.

Prosecutors had sought to prevent Mr. Leonard, a preeminent expert on classification policy, from testifying for the defendants, on grounds that he had briefly discussed the case with prosecutors while he was still in government.  They even suggested that he could be liable to a year in jail himself if he did testify.  To protect himself against such pressures, Mr. Leonard (represented by attorney Mark S. Zaid) moved to challenge the subpoena in the expectation that the court would order him to testify, thereby shielding him from any potential vulnerability.  (“To Evade Penalty, Key AIPAC Witness Seeks to Quash Subpoena,” Secrecy News, September 2, 2008).  The court has now done so.

In a February 17, 2009 memorandum opinion (pdf), Judge T.S. Ellis, III affirmed the subpoena and directed Mr. Leonard to testify for the defendants.

The ruling’s consequences for the AIPAC case are likely to be momentous, because government secrecy policy has become a central focus of the proceeding and because Mr. Leonard is the strongest witness on that subject on either side.

More than almost any other litigation in memory, the AIPAC case has placed the secrecy system itself on trial.  In Freedom of Information Act lawsuits and other legal disputes, courts routinely defer to executive branch officials on matters of classification.  If an agency head says that certain information is classified, courts will almost never overturn such a determination, no matter how dubious or illogical it may appear to a third party.

But in this case, it is a jury that will decide whether or not the information in question “might potentially damage the United States or aid an enemy of the United States.”  Far from granting automatic deference on this question, Judge Ellis wrote that “the government’s classification decision is inadmissible hearsay”!

The dispute over whether or not the classified information that was obtained by defendants Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman qualifies for protection under the Espionage Act will be “a major battleground at trial,” Judge Ellis observed, and it will be addressed at trial “largely through the testimony of competing experts.”

While the prosecutors naturally have their own classification experts, including former CIA Information Review Officer William McNair, none of those experts have Mr. Leonard’s breadth of experience and none of them reported to the President of the United States on classification matters as he did.

Judge Ellis wrote with perhaps a hint of admiration that the defense “understandably characteriz[es] Leonard’s experience and expertise as ‘unsurpassed’.”

As noted in the new opinion, Mr. Leonard will testify for the defense on the “pervasive practice of over-classification of information,” “the practice of high level officials of disclosing classified information to unauthorized persons (e.g. journalists and lobbyists),” whether the classified information in this case qualifies for protection under the Espionage Act, and “whether… the defendants reasonably could have believed that their conduct was lawful.”

In other words, the prosecution probably just lost this case.

The new memorandum opinion has not been posted on the court web site for some reason, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  Other significant AIPAC case files may be found here.

A nominal trial date has been set for April 21, 2009 but that date is likely to slip as a pre-trial appeal by the prosecution remains pending at the Court of Appeals. (Update: The trial has been rescheduled for June 2, 2009.)

OSC on Turkish Newspapers, Polish Think Tanks

The Open Source Center (OSC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence consistently generates a wealth of informative analytic and bibliographic products.  But for reasons that are hard to understand, such materials are generally withheld from public disclosure even when they are unclassified and not subject to copyright.

The following OSC publications (both pdf), which have not been approved for public release, were obtained by Secrecy News.

“Guide to Major Daily Turkish Newspapers,” OSC Media Aid, 7 October 2008.

“Poland — Think Tank Guide,” OSC Media Aid, 18 July 2008.

OSC Ranks the Ten Most Influential British Commentators

The Open Source Center (OSC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently ranked the individuals whom it considers to be the ten most influential political commentators in the British press and profiled them in an OSC publication (pdf).

These commentators — from the BBC, Sky News, the Guardian, and elsewhere — are “listened to and read by cabinet ministers, business leaders, and fellow journalists. Many of them have close links to senior politicians and have been responsible for breaking stories that set the political agenda,” the OSC document said.

The OSC publication, which has not been approved for public release, is marked “for official use only.”  Furthermore, its “authorized use is for national security purposes of the United States Government only.”  What the relevant U.S. Government national security purposes of such material might be was not specified.

A copy of the document was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “United Kingdom — Profiles of Influential Political Commentators,” OSC Media Aid, October 22, 2008.

Interrogation of Detainees, and More from CRS

The shifting legal framework governing the interrogation of detainees held by the U.S. Government was examined in several newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not previously been made readily available to the public (all pdf).

“Interrogation of Detainees: Requirements of the Detainee Treatment Act,” updated January 23, 2009.

“U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques,” updated January 26, 2009.

“The U.N. Convention Against Torture: Overview of U.S. Implementation Policy Concerning the Removal of Aliens,” updated January 21, 2009.

“The War Crimes Act: Current Issues,” updated January 22, 2009.

“Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture,” updated January 22, 2009.

Other Secrecy News

“Despite President Obama’s vow to open government more than ever, the Justice Department is defending Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists,” Michael J. Sniffen reported for the Associated Press.  See “Despite Obama Pledge, Justice Defends Bush Secrets,” February 16, 2009.

David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation described several actions taken by his organization to test and challenge the Obama Administration’s new disclosure policies.  See “EFF to Obama Administration: Time to Make Open Government a Reality,” February 12, 2009.

Excessive classification continues to generate intense frustration within the government and to foster suspicion and hostility on the part of allies, according to Lt. Gen. (ret.) John Sattler, the former director of strategic plans for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  His remarks were reported in “Sattler: Less Classification, More Communication with Coalition” by Rebekah Gordon, Inside the Navy, February 16, 2009.