OSC Sees Growing Media Monopoly in Venezuela

The Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez “is moving forcefully to silence critics by introducing a Media Crimes bill that would give it sweeping authority to jail journalists, media executives, and bloggers who report on anything that the government considers to be harmful to state interests,” said a new assessment (pdf) by the Intelligence Community’s Open Source Center (OSC).

The Chavez government “is simultaneously moving to shut down more than 200 radio stations,” the OSC report said, and may take over the opposition news station Globovision.  “Silencing his critics would allow Chavez to completely control the media message, but it would also deprive him of his long-standing scapegoat of what he describes as the oligarchic media,” the OSC said.

Like most other OSC analyses, the latest report has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Venezuela — Chavez Moves to Silence Opposition Media,” Open Source Center, August 3, 2009.

Hiroshima: Making the Sixty-fourth Anniversary Special

by Ivan Oelrich

Today is the sixty-fourth anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, which was one of those rare events that divides human history into a before and an after.  That day was the beginning of the nuclear age.  There is nothing special about sixty-four, not like a fiftieth or a centenary.  But, years from now, the sixty-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing may be seen as special:  there is a chance that people looking back on today’s anniversary will see this as the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. Continue reading

Towards a Fresh Start in Classification Policy

The current Obama Administration review of classification policy will almost certainly produce an incremental adjustment to existing practices– though hopefully with provisions for independent validation (or rejection) of agency classification decisions, strengthened oversight, expedited declassification, and so forth.  But it is unlikely to lead to a wholesale replacement of the basic framework of the Cold War classification system that has lingered now for more than half a century.  The “next generation” of national security information policy is still out of reach.

To hasten the development of more efficient and transparent information security policies, the forthcoming Obama executive order on classification could encourage experimental pilot projects in classification and declassification and related activities.

An agency head could be authorized to establish, with the approval of the director of the Information Security Oversight Office, a limited-scale initiative that departs from the otherwise binding requirements of the executive order in the interests of fostering innovation in classification policy.  (ISOO concurrence would be needed to ensure that the pilot projects were designed to promote appropriate efficiency and transparency, not to provide a new pretext for intensified secrecy.)

What kind of initiatives might these be?  One possibility would be to collapse the multi-tiered classification system into a single level, so that information within the domain of the pilot project would either be “classified” or “unclassified” — other classification levels and compartments would not be permitted. Another possibility would be to undertake ambitious bulk declassification projects that have an elevated risk of disclosure of classified information beyond what is normally tolerated.  This would provide a realistic but small-scale indication of the “damage” that could ensue from forgoing expensive, time-consuming declassification review.  Other initiatives could experiment with discretionary releases of classified information, prohibitions against use of the “need to know” principle, and similar deviations from the norm.

One precedent or model for this kind of approach is the congressionally-mandated program for Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratory (STRL) demonstration projects, which are used to promote innovation in Defense Department personnel management policies.  Those projects have been authorized to waive existing laws and regulations on human resources management.

“The STRL demonstration projects are the vehicles through which the… Department of Defense will determine whether changes in personnel management concepts, policies, or procedures would result in improved laboratory performance and contribute to improved DoD or Federal personnel management,” according to a DoD directive (pdf) issued just last week.

“In the most general terms, a demonstration project provides a means for testing and introducing beneficial change in Government-wide human resources management systems,” according to an earlier Air Force Fact Sheet.  The Air Force identified several successful policy innovations that have been developed in this way, such as the Voluntary Emeritus Corps that permits senior scientists to continue their research into retirement while mentoring younger scientists in Air Force laboratories.  Similar creativity is desperately needed in the stagnant realm of government secrecy policy.

The point is to promote unorthodox approaches to security policy that may involve heightened risk, but that also offer significant potential improvements in operational performance, cost reduction and/or transparency.  Most of these efforts could well fail.  But some might prove fruitful, and worth replicating on a larger scale.  In this way, the Obama executive order could help pave the way for the executive order after next, and for a new, more nimble 21st century information policy.

An Updated Intelligence Review from the DNI

“Implementation of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI),” the notoriously secretive program “which was established by President Bush in National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 in January 2008, continues at this time.”

That interesting reminder was mentioned in passing in newly disclosed answers to questions for the record (pdf) submitted by the Director of National Intelligence to the Senate Intelligence Committee in April 2009 following the DNI’s annual threat briefing last February.

Some other notable observations from the DNI’s forty pages of wide-ranging answers to Senators’ questions include:

  • “Iran is covertly supplying arms to Afghan insurgents while publicly posing as supportive of the Afghan government.”  “Iran’s policy calculation in Afghanistan currently emphasizes lethal support to the Taliban, even though revelation of this activity could threaten its future relationship with the Afghan government and its historic allies within Afghanistan.”
  • Based on counterinsurgency principles, the DNI said, it would require “roughly 818,000 security personnel to secure Afghanistan” including 325,000 personnel to secure the Pashtun areas where most insurgents are located.  But there are currently only 83,094 soldiers in the Afghan National Army.  To grow to 325,000 soldiers would require $946 million annually, well above the FY2008 Afghan defense budget of $242 million.
  • While Iran has made significant progress in uranium enrichment technology, the State Department’s intelligence bureau (INR) “continues to assess it is unlikely that Iran will have the technical capability to produce HEU [highly enriched uranium] before 2013.  INR shares the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Iran probably would use military-run covert facilities, rather than declared nuclear sites, to produce HEU. Outfitting a covert enrichment infrastructure could take years.”
  • “Some analysts believe that Iraq is more fragile, the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] less capable, and the impact of a drawdown [of U.S. forces] more destabilizing than the majority of the Intelligence Community.”
  • “Hizballah remains the most technically capable terrorist group in the world.”  But “Al Qa’ida is the terrorist group that historically has sought the broadest range of CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear] attack capabilities, and we assess that it would use any CBRN capability it acquires in an anti-U.S. attack, preferably against the Homeland.”
  • In March 2009, the Central Intelligence Agency created a new daily intelligence publication called the Economic Intelligence Brief (EIB), which is “the most visible step we have taken to increase reporting and analysis” on the global economic crisis and its impact on U.S. national security.
  • “Moscow has been in the process of restoring some of the military capabilities it lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union as it downsizes and reorganizes its forces.” “Despite its still considerable capabilities, the Russian military is a shadow of its Soviet predecessor.” “Russia has consistently kept its defense spending at less than three percent of GDP, avoiding the huge defense burden that ultimately choked the Soviet economy.”

    Some of the DNI’s statements are surprisingly flimsy.  For example, he declares (question 17) that “In 2003, the Russian military prepared for an exercise that included attacking U.S. satellites to disrupt the NAVSTAR global positioning system, the Keyhole optical-electronic reconnaissance satellites, and the Lacrosse radar reconnaissance system with the intent of ‘blinding’ the Pentagon and denying it the opportunity to use precision weapons against Russia.”

    This is an odd assertion, first, because intelligence officials rarely if ever use the old Keyhole or Lacrosse satellite names in unclassified public statements.  And on closer inspection, it turns out that the DNI’s statement was simply lifted, almost word for word, from a news story that appeared in the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on May 14, 2003.  (It was also picked up by the online Newsmax.com on May 18, 2003.)  The Russian story lazily attributed its claim regarding the anti-satellite exercise to “certain reports.” The DNI repeated the Nezavisimaya Gazeta item nearly verbatim, presenting it as an established fact, with no attribution at all.

    The Senate Intelligence Committee has renewed the valuable tradition of submitting unclassified questions for the record to senior intelligence officials following the annual threat briefing to the Committee.  Unfortunately, the congressional publication schedule is such that the answers to the questions often do not appear for one or even two years after they are prepared.  The latest DNI responses to questions for the record, transmitted in April, were obtained by the Federation of American Scientists this week through the Freedom of Information Act.

  • Thought for the day, courtesy of Fogbank

    by Alicia Godsberg

    Yesterday’s Washington Post had another article[1] in the ongoing saga of W76 warhead refurbishment Life Extension Program (LEP) and Fogbank – a material that, according to open sources, is an intermediary material between the primary and secondary of a nuclear weapon that is “crucial” to the weapon reaching its designed yield.[2]  The problem for the W76 LEP: the original Fogbank manufacturing facility was closed years ago, at least partly because the material is extremely hazardous.  In addition, due to a lack of record keeping from the original manufacturing process (and the retirement of many knowledgeable scientists involved in that process), the labs found themselves not knowing how to re-manufacture Fogbank or a suitable replacement material for the W76 in a timely manner. The labs tried a three-prong approach to fixing this problem: building a new Fogbank production facility; manufacturing limited quantities at an interim location; and producing a suitable alternative made from less hazardous materials that would not need to undergo nuclear testing.[3]  What we have now is a new $50 million dollar facility at Y-12 to produce Fogbank in either some new form or its older, more hazardous form.[4] 

     That is the brief background – here is the thought of the day, courtesy of many conversations with Ivan Oelrich: there is no longer any justification for retaining complex, extremely high-yield two-stage thermonuclear nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War world.  Our nuclear deterrent would be sufficient with more simple-to-make HEU weapons, even gun-type weapons, the design of which was so scientifically fool-proof that it didn’t need testing before it was dropped on Hiroshima 64 years ago almost to the day.   Continue reading

    Cool Roofs: A Big Deal

    In the ongoing efforts to reduce our nation’s carbon output by improving the energy efficiency of our built environment, a new old idea is shaping up to be a key player: cool roofs.  Used throughout the Mediterranean and tropical climates worldwide, the solar reflectance value (albedo) of a white or light-colored roof has been long understood—the more sunlight the roof reflects, the less the building absorbs and the easier it is to keep the building cool.

    A recent report by Hashem Akbari, Surabi Menon and Art Rosenfeld titled, “Global Cooling: Effect of Urban Albedo on Global Temperature”, quantifies cool roofs’ potential impact on improving energy efficiency and slowing climate change.  The report notes that painting 100 feet2 of black roof a lighter color offsets the extra heating caused by 1 metric ton of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Scaled up to the national level, converting dark-colored roofs and pavements in urban areas around the world to lighter colors would offset the extra heating caused by 44 billion metric tons of CO2in the atmosphere, effectively offsetting over 6 years of the U.S.’s CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas output and saving the country over $1 billion per year in energy costs.

    Clearly, cool roofs are a big deal.  But from a building technology perspective, just painting the roof a lighter color isn’t enough, since the lighter color only solves half of the cool roof equation.  Calculating the coolness of a roof requires measuring both solar reflectance (the fraction of solar energy reflected by the roof) and thermal emittance (the measure of a roof’s ability to radiate absorbed heat as infrared light); the most useful method available for calculating roof coolness is the solar reflective index (SRI).  This index utilizes both factors to generate a 1-100 SRI rating, where 100 indicates a roof with perfect solar reflectance and thermal emittance.  The higher the SRI, the cooler a roof will be, even in full sunlight on a hot day.

    Much like the HERS index for whole house energy efficiency, this rating index is essential to meeting the goal of retrofitting and constructing new buildings with cool roofs.  Without a scientifically sound method to rate the cooling properties of various roofing materials, consumers cannot make educated decisions and the maximum cooling benefits cannot be harnessed.

    And while many current cool roof materials apply the latest and most advanced technologies, from spray polyurethane foam systems to brightly-colored tiles that reflect infrared energy, our historic understanding of the relationship between color and solar reflectance retains its preeminent importance.  Lighter roofing materials keep buildings cooler than darker materials, yielding more energy efficient structures that have a lower carbon footprint and are less expensive to operate.

    Resources on Cool Roofs:

    Hashem Akbari, Surabi Menon and Arthur Rosenfeld, “Global Cooling: Effect of Urban Albedo on Global Temperature”, 2008.  http://repositories.cdlib.org/lbnl/LBNL-63490/

    Energy Information Administration, “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases Report”, December 2008.  http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/

    The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Cool Roofing Materials Database. http://eetd.lbl.gov/coolroof/

    The Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC).  http://www.coolroofs.org/

    Celeste Allen Novak and Sarah Van Mantgem, “What’s So Cool About Cool Roofs”, GreenSource, March 2009.  http://continuingeducation.construction.com/article.php?L=68&C=488&P=1

    The DOE Cool Roof Calculator provides an estimate of cooling and heating savings for small to medium size facilities that purchase electricity with a demand charge and an alternative version for larger facilities. http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2Bwalls/facts/CoolCalcEnergy.htm

    The EPA Cool Roof Calculator allows the designer to input specific details about a building, including heating and cooling systems as well as location and the cost of energy. http://www.roofcalc.com/RoofCalcBuildingInput.aspx

    A PDF version of this document is available here.

    Energy Efficienct Building Codes in the Waxman-Markey Bill

    The FAS Building Technologies program has just released a policy analysis titled “Implementing Energy Efficiency in Building Codes Based on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009”, written by FAS intern Amit Talapatra.  Link to the full PDF of the paper here.  

    The purpose of this analysis is to provide better understanding of the implications of Section 201 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill. This analysis examines specific provisions of the bill and investigates ways for the Department of Energy and private code-development organizations to implement these policies using existing tools and methods available to them. The topics covered here include: ways to meet new energy efficiency targets, methods for defining cost-effectiveness, procedures to assure state compliance and issues that may arise if private organizations do not meet the requirements of the bill. For each of these topics, this analysis focuses on the relevant language in the bill, determines what questions stakeholders are interested in and answers these by taking both technical and policy factors into consideration.

    French Aircraft Carrier Sails Without Nukes

    The French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle with air wing on deck.

    By Hans M. Kristensen

    France no longer deploys nuclear weapons on its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle under normal circumstances but stores the weapons on land, according to French officials.

    President Nicolas Sarkozy declared in March 2008 that France “could and should be more transparent with respect to its nuclear arsenal than anyone ever has been.” But while the other nuclear powers declared long ago that their naval weapons were offloaded or scrapped after the Cold War ended, a similar announcement has – to my knowledge – been lacking from France.

    The French acknowledgment marks the end of peacetime deployment of short-range nuclear weapons at sea.

    It is not clear when the French offload occurred; it may have been instigated years ago. But it completes a worldwide withdrawal of short-range nuclear weapons from the world’s oceans that 20 years ago included more than 6,500 British, French, Russian, and U.S. cruise missiles, anti-submarine rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, depth bombs, torpedoes and bombs.

    Continue reading

    State Dept Alters Stance on Uruguay History

    In the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration plotted to interfere in Uruguay’s presidential elections in order to block the rise of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition.  But when the State Department published its official history of U.S. relations with Latin America during the Nixon era last month, there was no mention of any such activities.  Instead, the State Department Office of the Historian said that Uruguay-related records could not be posted on the Department website because of “space constraints.”  Following repeated inquiries, however, the Historian’s Office revised its position last week and said it would include Uruguay-related records in its Nixon history after all.

    The United States should work “overtly and covertly” to blunt the political appeal of the Frente Amplio and to diminish its chances for victory in the Uruguayan presidential elections, advised one declassified document (pdf) from 1971.  Several important documentary records of that turbulent period were compiled by the National Security Archive in 2002.  See “Nixon: ‘Brazil Helped Rig the Uruguayan Elections,’ 1971” edited by Carlos Osorio.

    Meanwhile, urban guerrillas who were violently challenging the governments of several Latin American countries drew the worried attention of U.S. intelligence officials.  In particular, the Uruguayan Marxist revolutionary group known as the Tupamaros, which murdered a U.S. AID official in 1970, “has had a spectacular and rapid rise to prominence during the last few years,” according to a 1971 CIA analysis entitled “The Latin American Guerrilla Today” (pdf).

    But none of this concern over Uruguay could be discerned from the State Department’s official history of U.S. policy towards the region.  A July 10, 2009 State Department press release announcing the publication of the latest online volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) on American Republics, 1969-1972, mentioned almost every Latin American country except for Uruguay.  The original Preface of the new FRUS volume (pdf) made the peculiar assertion that: “Due to space constraints, relations with… Uruguay… are not covered here.”  This assertion is doubly strange since the new FRUS volume was only published online, not in hardcopy, so that “space constraints” are hardly a factor.

    By excluding the rather intense U.S. policy focus on Uruguay, the latest FRUS volume was not just practicing bad history, it may also have been committing a violation of the law, which requires that FRUS be “thorough, accurate, and reliable.”

    The State Department did not respond to half a dozen inquiries over a two-week period regarding the decision to exclude Uruguay from the official history of the region or the nature of the supposed “space constraints.”  The State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee did reply that it was unfamiliar with the issue.

    But in a brief email message on July 30, FRUS Acting General Editor Dr. William B. McAllister wrote:  “We have revised the Preface.  This should clarify the situation.”  The revised Preface to the new FRUS volume now states that a chapter on Uruguay “will be added” following completion of the declassification process.  The newly revised Table of Contents includes a placeholder listing for Uruguay. There is no indication of what records may be declassified, or when they might become available.

    Today, the Frente Amplio coalition whose rise alarmed the Nixon Administration leads the government of Uruguay.

    CIA Whistleblower Complaint Declassified

    In May 2001, CIA officer Franz Boening submitted a memorandum to the Agency Inspector General alleging that the CIA’s relationship with disgraced Peruvian intelligence official Vladimiro Lenin Montesinos may have involved violations of U.S. law.

    There is no evidence that the CIA Inspector General ever took any action in response to Mr. Boening’s memorandum, which was presented as a whistleblower complaint. CIA classification officials, however, responded quickly and energetically — to silence him.  Information contained in the Boening whistleblower complaint is classified, declared CIA information review officer Ralph S. DiMaio (pdf), and its disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause damage to national security.”

    Pursuant to the non-disclosure agreement that Mr. Boening had signed upon employment at CIA, Agency officials forbade him from publicly revealing his allegations, though he said they were based on published news reports and other open sources.  And CIA classified most of the substance of his 2001 complaint (pdf), including even (or especially) the name of Montesinos.

    With the assistance of attorney Mark S. Zaid, Mr. Boening went to court to challenge the Agency’s censorship of his allegations as an unlawful act of prior restraint.  Eight years after submitting the document, he emerged more or less victorious, as the CIA withdrew most of its objections, and permitted publication (pdf) of the 2001 whistleblower complaint regarding Montesinos with only a few remaining redactions.

    Mr. Boening is still obliged to comply with his Agency nondisclosure obligations, advised R. Puhl, the chairman of the CIA Publications Review Board, and he must seek a new Agency review if he wishes to make any changes at all to the newly authorized text, including any deletions of material.

    “If you add or delete material to or otherwise change the text the Board has approved for publication, you must submit these additions, deletions, or changes to us before giving them to your publisher or anyone else,” Mr. Puhl wrote (pdf) in a February 13, 2009 letter.