Rio + 20, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012, June 18, 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): A Legal Analysis, June 7, 2012 (published June 20)

Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival, June 20, 2012

Double-Dip Recession: Previous Experience and Current Prospect, June 19, 2012

Morocco: Current Issues, June 20, 2012

State Secrets Protection Act Introduced in House

A bill “to provide safe, fair, and responsible procedures and standards for resolving claims of state secrets privilege” was introduced in the House of Representatives this week by Rep. Jerrold Nadler and several Democratic colleagues.

Essentially, the bill (HR 5956) would require courts to render an independent assessment of the validity of a government assertion of the state secrets privilege, rather than simply deferring to the claim.  When the privilege is properly asserted, courts would be required to consider the feasibility of introducing non-privileged substitutes for privileged evidence.

Such measures would make it more likely that cases could proceed to adjudication even when discrete pieces of evidence are found to be privileged.

“The ongoing argument that the state secrets privilege requires the outright dismissal of a case is a disconcerting trend in the protection of civil liberties for our nation,” said Rep. Nadler in a news release.  “This important bill recognizes that protecting sensitive information is an important responsibility for any administration and requires that courts protect legitimate state secrets while preventing the premature and sweeping dismissal of entire cases.  The right to have one’s day in court is fundamental to protecting basic civil liberties and it must not be sacrificed to overbroad claims of secrecy.”


National Academy of Sciences: Lecture on Two Scientific Revolutions


The National Academy of Sciences hosted the 2012 Rosenblith Lecture on Monday, June 18 called “The Scientific Revolution: An International Play in Two Stages.”

Academy President, Ralph J. Cicerone, started the event by explaining that the lecture series is in memory of Walter Alter Rosenblith who was one of seventeen people to ever be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Rosenblith was also an Institute Professor Emeritus and former provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his most notable work was his use of computers and mathematical models to map the brain as a biophysical information handling system. Continue reading

DNI Directive Seeks to Tighten Protection of Intelligence

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper issued a directive earlier this month to improve the protection of intelligence information and to help prevent unauthorized disclosures.

The newly revised Intelligence Community Directive 700 requires a new degree of collaboration between counterintelligence and security activities.  While counterintelligence (CI) was scarcely mentioned in the previous version of the policy on protecting intelligence in 2007, it is now being elevated to a central role and integrated with security.

“Together, CI and security provide greater protection for national intelligence than either function operating alone,” the new directive states.

In order to combat the insider threat of unauthorized disclosures, the directive prescribes that “all personnel with access to national intelligence… shall be continually evaluated and monitored….”

But since there are more than a million government employees and contractors holding Top Secret clearances who are potentially eligible for access to intelligence information, it seems unlikely that any significant fraction of them can literally be “continually monitored.”  Still, that is now formally the objective.

A copy of the June 7, 2012 directive on “Protection of National Intelligence” was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under the Freedom of Information Act.

The new directive has been under development for at least several months.  It was not specifically devised as a response to the latest controversy over leaks of classified information.

It serves as a reminder that the implementation of revised policies to address unauthorized disclosures of classified information (including congressional action just last year to establish an “insider threat detection program”) is ongoing, possibly obviating the need for new legislation.

History of Executive Privilege, and More from CRS

A 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service discussed the history of claims of executive privilege, including various unresolved questions surrounding its use.  The Obama Administration asserted executive privilege today in connection with records sought by a House Committee.  See Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments, updated August 21, 2008.

Newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress, June 19, 2012

Free Trade Agreements: Impact on U.S. Trade and Implications for U.S. Trade Policy, June 18, 2012

Madagascar’s Political Crisis, June 18, 2012

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests, June 15, 2012

U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Changing Oil Prices, June 18, 2012

Unauthorized Alien Students: Issues and “DREAM Act” Legislation, June 19, 2012

Federal Taxation of Aliens Working in the United States, May 18, 2012

AEI panel: U.S. must intervene in Syria

President Bashar al-Assad has left the United States with no option other than military intervention, according to a panel hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on June 25, 2012.

Arizona Senator John McCain spoke to a room of about 100 people. He argued that given Assad’s military domination of the opposition, Assad had little reason to consent to diplomatic efforts by the international community. Regarding the violence “the clear trend is toward escalation,” McCain said. Continue reading

The Next Generation in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan: Youth, Politics, Identity, and Change

This Tuesday, Nadia Diuk, Vice President of the National Endowment for Democracy, hosted a panel discussion concerning her book and the topics addressed therein. Also featured was Sharon Wolchik, Professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, and Marc Plattner, who moderated the discussion. Diuk’s book studies the role of youth in politics in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan, through public opinion polling in 2003 and 2009 of youth between the ages of 18-35 and interviews with young leaders, analyzed from a historical perspective. Continue reading

FAS Roundup: June 18, 2012

Potential drone sites, leaks of classified information, new CRS reports and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Not All Leaks of Classified Information Violate the Law: A resolution introduced by Sen. John McCain and twenty Republican colleagues calling for appointment of a special counsel to investigate recent leaks stated flatly that “the unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a felony under Federal law.” Steven Aftergood writes that while some unauthorized disclosures of classified information are indeed contrary to law, it is not the case that all such disclosures violate the law.  In fact, there is no law that categorically prohibits the release of classified information.
  • Pentagon Lists 110 Potential Drone Sites: The Department of Defense has identified 110 sites in the U.S. that could serve as bases for military unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones. The actual or potential drone bases are located in 39 of the 50 states, from Fort McClellan in Alabama to Camp Guernsey in Wyoming, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico.
  • Nuclear Explosives: In the 1950s and 1970s there was a big push to find a way to use nuclear explosives peacefully-in high explosives in road construction, mining, and even some aspects of industry. In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y examines the history of nuclear explosive use for industry.

Continue reading