Obama and the Nuclear War Plan

The current U.S. strategic war plan is directed against six adversaries. Guess who.

By Hans M. Kristensen

While the completion of the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review continues to slide, FAS today published an issue paper on how a decision to reduce the role of nuclear weapons might influence the U.S. strategic war plan.

President Obama pledged in his Prague speech last year that he would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons” to “put an end to Cold War thinking,” and reaffirmed earlier this month that the “Nuclear Posture Review will reduce [the] role….”

How to reduce the role in a way that is seen as significant by the global nonproliferation community, visible to adversaries, and compatible with the president’s other pledge to “maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary…as long as these weapons exist” apparently is the subject of a heated debate within the administration. Continue reading

Missile Watch – February 2010

Missile Watch
A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 1
February 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder
Contributing Author: Matt Buongiorno
Graphics: Alexis Paige


Global Overview

Afghanistan: No recent discoveries of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles in insurgent arms caches
Eritrea: UN slaps arms embargo on major missile proliferator
Iraq: Fewer public reports of seized shoulder-fired missiles in Iraq, but MANPADS still a threat
Ireland: Alleged plot to shoot down a police helicopter may have involved surface-to-air missile
Myanmar: 300 shoulder-fired missiles in insurgent arsenal, claims Thai Colonel
North Korea: North Korean arms shipment included MANPADS, Thai report confirms
Peru: Igla missiles stolen from Peruvian military arsenals, claims alleged trafficker
Spain: Failed assassination attempts underscore the risks for terrorists of relying on black market missiles
United States: Congress to receive DHS report on anti-missile systems for commercial airliners in February
United States: Documents from trial of the “Prince of Marbella” reveal little about his access to shoulder-fired missiles
United States: No new international MANPADS sales since 1999
Venezuela: U.S. receives “assurances” from Russia regarding controls on shoulder-fired missiles sold to Venezuela, but questions remain

Additional News & Resources

About Missile Watch

About the Authors

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Moving Beyond “A Declassification System That Does Not Work”

Executive branch agencies have spent more than a billion dollars on declassification of government records in recent years, but the results have been unsatisfactory, requiring a change in declassification policy and procedure.

“Between 1997 and 2007 the Federal Government acknowledges spending $1.343 billion on declassification,” reported Michael J. Kurtz, Assistant Archivist at the National Archives, in a newly disclosed briefing (pdf).  “This does not include the monies spent by the Intelligence Community on declassification,” an amount that is considered classified.

Despite the enormous expenditure of money, there is a large and growing backlog of records awaiting declassification.

“The Federal government has 408 million pages of historical records that are 25 years old and older at the National Archives and Records Administration that are still classified and an estimated 1.24 billion pages of historical records in agency custody which need to be reviewed and declassified over the next 25 years,” Mr. Kurtz said.

“Without reform in policy and process,” he said, “billions of dollars will be spent perpetuating a declassification system that does not work, while the backlog of records awaiting processing for the open shelves will continue to grow.”

Mr. Kurtz spoke at a November 2009 government conference on records management.  Slides from his presentation were released earlier this month.

Having characterized the problem, Mr. Kurtz went on to describe NARA’s conception of the solution — a National Declassification Center.  The Center, he said, will “enable efficient and effective agency review” while improving quality control and productivity.  The Center was in fact established by President Obama’s executive order 13526 on December 29, 2009 and was announced by the National Archivist on December 30, 2009.  It began initial operations last month.

From an outside perspective, the declassification challenge goes at least one level deeper than what Mr. Kurtz described in his briefing.  The problem is not simply one of inefficiency or a lack of interagency coordination.  It is that agencies are adhering to erroneous classification policies that obstruct and defeat the declassification process.

One convenient example of such a classification error is the secrecy of Intelligence Community declassification costs, as noted by Mr. Kurtz.  Any government employee who seriously believes that the disclosure of declassification spending by intelligence agencies could cause “damage to the national security” needs to be reassigned to a non-national security function.  No more public money should be wasted to enforce such obvious misunderstandings.

The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review prescribed in executive order 13526 (sec. 1.9), which requires a top to bottom “scrub” of all agency classification policies over the next two years, may help to streamline the declassification process by eliminating these kinds of errors in classification judgment.

Some Belated Answers on Electronic Surveillance

The Justice Department has released its responses to questions (pdf) originally posed by the House Judiciary Committee in 2007 about the Department’s views on the legal framework governing electronic surveillance under the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

In questions for the record from a September 18, 2007 hearing, House Committee members probed the potential use of electronic surveillance against U.S. persons, the exclusivity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the claimed scope of independent presidential authority, and the basis for mandating telecommunication carrier immunity.

“If the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) was perfectly legal as has been claimed, why would companies who cooperated in it need immunity?” the Committee asked.  (To protect classified information, among other reasons, the Department responded.)  “Is the President free to disregard any provisions of FISA with which he disagrees?”  (No, not exactly.)  “If an individual in the United States is suspected of working in collusion with persons outside the United States–such that an investigation of one is in effect the investigation of the other–under what circumstances, generally, would you use criminal or other FISA wiretaps?”  (Targeting of persons in the United States can only be done under FISA procedures.)

The Committee hearing volume (pdf) was published in June 2008 without the Justice Department’s answers to these questions, because they were provided to Congress too late to be included in the published record.  A copy of the answers was released last week under the Freedom of Information Act.

Financial Turmoil, Aid to Pakistan, and More from CRS

New reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“Government Interventions in Response to Financial Turmoil,” February 1, 2010.

“International Food Aid Programs: Background and Issues,” February 3, 2010.

“Architect of the Capitol: Appointment Process and Current Legislation,” February 16, 2010.

“Ozone Air Quality Standards: EPA’s Proposed January 2010 Revisions,” February 1, 2010.

“The 2009 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings and U.S. Trade Policy in Asia,” February 4, 2010.

“Direct Overt U.S. Aid and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2011,” February 16, 2010.

“Paraguay: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations,” February 1, 2010.

Nuclear Posture Review to Reduce Regional Role of Nuclear Weapons

The Quadrennial Deference Review forecasts reduction in regional role of nuclear weapons.

By Hans M. Kristensen

A little-noticed section of the Quadrennial Defense Review recently published by the Pentagon suggests that that the Obama administration’s forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in regional scenarios.

The apparent reduction coincides with a proposal by five NATO allies to withdraw the remaining U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

Another casualty appears to be a decision to retire the nuclear-armed Tomahawk sea-launched land-attack cruise missile, despite the efforts of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission.

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Public Input on Open Government Solicited

The Obama Administration’s open government initiative might possibly inspire a transformation in the character of government operations along with an expansion of citizen engagement in policy development.  But in order to succeed, it needs some thoughtful, creative input from members of the public.

All Cabinet level agencies (and a few others) have now prepared Open Government Webpages to document their progress in improving transparency and to solicit public suggestions for how to proceed, including recommendations for development of the Open Government Plans that will define each agency’s transparency program.

What this means is that “openness” is becoming incorporated into the bureaucratic machinery of government.  While executive branch agencies remain constrained by security restrictions, resource limits and other considerations, these rule-driven organizations are being given some new rules to follow.

But the actual contours of the new thrust towards openness — its scope, its content, its urgency — depend significantly on the quality of feedback and support that the initiative receives from the interested public.

Agencies need specific, achievable, actionable suggestions for how to meet their new openness obligations.  Each agency’s openness webpage (linked here) invites readers to “share your ideas” on how to proceed.  There has never been a better time for concerned citizens to help shape the government transparency agenda.  (Actually, there has never been a “government transparency agenda” before.)

And there is a premium on good ideas.  Proposals that are unintelligible, impractical, irrelevant, or inane are effectively endorsements of the status quo because they cannot be implemented.

What kind of ideas would be useful and appropriate?  Those who already interact with each particular agency will be in the best position to say what that agency could and should provide to help advance the Administration’s declared goals of transparency, participation and collaboration.

But one general approach to the issue is to consider the diverse categories of government information that have been removed from public access over the past decade, and to use those as a metaphorical trail of bread crumbs leading back to a more transparent posture.  Restoring access to that missing information could help agencies to reorient their policies and to chart a new direction forward.  And it is clearly within the realm of possibility, since it has already been done.

So, for example, these are some suggestions that we have submitted for agency consideration:

Restore public access to the Los Alamos Technical Report Library.  Until 2002, thousands of unclassified technical reports from Los Alamos National Laboratory dating back half a century and longer were publicly available on the Lab web site.  And then they weren’t.  They constitute an invaluable archive of technological development, historical information, and current scientific research.  A sizable fraction of the sequestered reports have been republished on the Federation of American Scientists website.  But the entire collection, with updated content since 2002, should be restored to the public domain.

Restore public access to orbital element data.  For many years, NASA provided direct public access to so-called Two-Line Element sets that characterize the orbits of the many objects in Earth orbit that are tracked by Air Force surveillance, including active and defunct U.S. and foreign spacecraft, as well as significant debris.  In 2004, open public access was terminated.  That step should be reversed.

Publish the Defense Department telephone directory.  For decades, the Pentagon telephone directory served as a public guide to the complex structure of the Department of Defense, and provided a way to establish direct contact with individual offices and officials.  It was always for sale at the Government Printing Office Bookstore to anyone who cared to buy it.  But in 2001, the DoD telephone directory was designated “for official use only.”  In the interests of “openness, participation, and collaboration,” public access to the DoD directory should be restored.  (Other agencies with national security and foreign policy missions including the Department of Energy and the Department of State already make their personnel directories available online.)

There must be countless other possibilities for moving towards a more open, responsive and accountable government.  Some will be of broad interest, while others may serve a specialized constituency.  Some will be easily achievable, others may require new investments or new modes of operation.  But all of a sudden, “openness” is on the government-wide agenda in a way that it has never been before.  The opportunities are there to be seized.

Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin

Among the untold official resources that have been removed from public access in recent years is the Army’s Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, a quarterly journal on Army intelligence policy and practice.

We have made a commitment to restoring access to the Bulletin, including current and past issues.  The latest issue (pdf), dated April-June 2009, has just been released to us under the Freedom of Information Act.  It is entitled “Operations in OEF: Afghanistan.”

Possibly annoyed by our repeated FOIA requests for the Bulletin over a period of years, an Army official at Fort Huachuca informed us this week that “the Bulletin will soon be published on public web pages again.”

No U.S. Citizens on CIA Hit Lists

It is useful to be reminded from time to time that not every allegation or published report concerning Central Intelligence Agency operations is necessarily true.

A front-page story in the Washington Post on January 27 included the remarkable statement that “Both the CIA and the JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command of the Department of Defense] maintain lists of individuals… whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including [Islamist cleric Anwar al-] Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi’s name has now been added.”

But at least the part about the CIA list turns out to be unfounded.

“The article referred incorrectly to the presence of U.S. citizens on a CIA list of people the agency seeks to kill or capture,” the Washington Post said in a correction published in the February 12 edition.  “After The Post’s report was published, a source said that a statement the source made about the CIA list was misunderstood. Additional reporting produced no independent confirmation of the original report, and a CIA spokesman said that The Post’s account of the list was incorrect. The military’s Joint Special Operations Command maintains a target list that includes several Americans. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said that the government is prepared to kill U.S. citizens who are believed to be involved in terrorist activities that threaten Americans.”

The correction has been appended to the online version of the article.

On February 3, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair testified to his view that U.S. government agencies may use lethal force against U.S. citizens who are involved in terrorist activities.  “We don’t target people for free speech,” he said. “We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.”

“I’m actually a little bit surprised you went this far in open session,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) at the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The reason I went this far in open session,” replied DNI Blair, “is I just don’t want other Americans who are watching to think that we are careless about endangering — in fact, we’re not careless about endangering lives at all, but we especially are not careless about endangering American lives as we try to carry out the policies to protect most of the country. And I think we ought to go into details in closed session.”


Kleine Brogel Nukes: Not There, Over Here!



The U.S. Air Force’s 701 Munitions Support Squadron at Kleine Brogel Air Base must protect and handle the nuclear weapons at the base.

By Hans M. Kristensen

An astounding statement by a Belgian defense official has pointed an unexpected light on the apparent location of nuclear weapons at the Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium.

After a group of peace activists climbed the base fence and made their way deep into an area assumed to store nuclear weapons, Ingrid Baeck, a chief spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Defense, bluntly told Stars and Stripes: “I can assure you these people never, ever got anywhere near a sensitive area. They are talking nonsense….It was an empty bunker, a shelter,” she said and added: “When you get close to sensitive areas, then it’s another cup of tea.” Continue reading