Event: Short Course on CBRN Weapons, Science and Policy

FAS and George Mason University will host a short course from July 7-9, 2014 as part of GMU’s 2014 summer program in International Security. This three day, non-credit short course is designed to introduce participants to the science, security, and policy dimensions of the threats of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons as well as ballistic and cruise missile.

This course is aimed at professionals in energy policy, nuclear policy, nuclear industry, public health, life sciences, law enforcement, emergency management and national security who have responsibilities for preventing, preparing for, or responding to acts by states, criminals, or terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons.

Date: July 7-9, 2014

Time: 9:00 am- 5:00 pm

Location: GMU Arlington Campus

Fee: $1,300 (early bird rate until June 1)

$1,600 after May 15

Discounts for program alumni and groups of three or more are available

2.1 Continuing Ed Units awarded


Topics that will be addressed during the three day course include:

  • Radiological Threats
  • The Nuclear Fuel Cycle
  • How Nuclear Weapons Work
  • Biological and Chemical Weapons
  • Ballistic and Cruise Missiles
  • Nonproliferation and Arms Control



For more information and to register, visit the course page here. 


Pacific Security Scholars Policy Papers

Pacific Security Scholars (PSS) policy papers are now available, examining  security issues and policy implications of emerging security issues in the Pacific region. Lora Vaioleti examines the impact of climate change on food security in Tonga and Briar Thompson examines the impact of 3D Printing on security in Pacific Island Countries.

The inaugural class of the Pacific Security Scholars (PSS) Program provided leading post-graduate and research degree students from Pacific Island countries with an opportunity to be part of the global discourse on “International Security and the Pacific Islands.” The Federation of American Scientists, Pacific Islands Society, Emerging Science and Technology Policy Centre, Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies (CANZPS) at Georgetown University, and Pacific Society at SOAS joined as official partners for its inaugural year.

Under the close guidance  of leading experts in relevant fields, the participants the unique challenges faced by the Pacific Islands. The papers produced by the program’s inaugural class includes in-depth analyses on a security issues ranging from climate change to food security. Their insights are designed to offer tangible policy recommendations to policymakers and policy stakeholders. In so doing, it is hoped that they will provide a valuable mechanism for empowering young leaders from the region to be recognized as next generation leaders for emerging security issues on the world stage.

About the Scholars:

Briar Thompson is a Rhodes Scholar from New Zealand pursuing graduate study at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She has completed an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, in which her thesis focused on how the protection needs of those vulnerable to displacement linked to environmental stress might be provided, with particular reference to Pacific small island states. Starting this fall, Briar will be reading for the Master of Public Policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where she intends to continue relating her studies to the Pacific region. Briar’s essay examines the impact of 3D printing in Pacific Island countries and security concerns associated with this technology and is available here (PDF).

Lora Vaioleti is a Fulbright scholar who recently worked in a leadership development and strategy role for the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA). A New Zealander of Tongan ancestry, her work has centred on exploring human security challenges within the wider Pacific, especially in regards to climate change and forced relocation. To this end, Vaioleti has led national, regional, and international research projects for a number of Pacific-focused organizations. A continuing research fellow for the Center of Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine, and the Indigenous Maori and Pacific Adult Education Charitable Trust (IMPAECT), she continues to research the latent value of traditional Pacific social practices in increasing human security and social resilience to both abrupt and long-term climate change effects. Vaioleti received a Masters of Management with a concentration in Sustainability from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Lora’s essay examines climate change and its effect on food security in Tonga and is available here (PDF).

FAS Roundup: March 31, 2014

Hard to access declassified satellite images, Nuclear Security Summit, Air Force scandal and more.

From the Blogs

Intelligence Whistleblower Law Has Been Used Infrequently: Per a recently released report from the Inspector General of ODNI from 2009, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) has rarely been relied upon by intelligence agency whistleblowers. From 1999 to 2009, intelligence agency Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) said that only ten whistleblower complaints had been filed.

Security-Cleared Population Rises to 5.1 Million: The number of Americans who have been investigated and deemed eligible for access to classified information rose last year to a total of 5,150,379 as of October 2013. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth in the security-cleared population. Of the 5.1 million persons who were found eligible for access to classified information, 60% had access in fact.

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Missing the Open Source Center / World News Connection

The decision by the Central Intelligence Agency to terminate public access to its translations of foreign news reports at the end of 2013 continues to reverberate among frustrated former consumers.

The translations had been performed by the Open Source Center (OSC) at CIA, and marketed to subscribers through the NTIS World News Connection (WNC). Their absence has left a felt void, particularly since the daily products had been continuously available to the public (by paid subscription) since 1974.

“The first three months of 2014 have seen so many crucial international stories that current WNC Daily Report public access could have helped to illuminate,” said one disappointed subscriber. “OSC short-sightedness is mind-boggling.”

An effort to reverse the CIA move and to restore public access is beginning to take shape, but the prospects for success are uncertain.

Besides translations, the Open Source Center also produces original analysis of open sources. Much of this material is unclassified and could be released. Occasionally, some of it leaks.

In a marvelous piece described (but not disclosed) by Michael Rubin in Commentary on March 19, the Open Source Center reportedly performed a critical analysis of the music that was performed at the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics.

“The Open Source Center’s Russia analysts… observed that during the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies, Russian authorities played an instrumental version of a song that called for Alaska’s return to Russia.”

A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Samantha Ravich and Carol Haave praised the value of open source intelligence and called for new investment in this area (“Nukes and ‘Snowden-Proof’ Intelligence,” March 17).

“Crafting new analytic methods for acquiring and exploiting… open-source scientific literature is crucial for understanding the pace, scale and scope of other countries’ nuclear-weapons aspirations,” they wrote, while open source intelligence “can often give us better insight into foreign leaders’ motivation and intent” than some other modes of collection and analysis.

But today’s CIA has proven to be an unreliable custodian of the open source intelligence enterprise, having deprived the public of access to its products for the first time in four decades. If there is ever to be a resurgence of open source intelligence, it probably ought to be managed and housed far from CIA.

US-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress, March 24, 2014

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, March 24, 2014

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests, March 21, 2014

Major U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan Since 2001, March 26, 2014

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, March 27, 2014

Comparison of Rights in Military Commission Trials and Trials in Federal Criminal Court, March 21, 2014

The Trend in Long-Term Unemployment and Characteristics of Workers Unemployed for Two Years or More, March 24, 2014

Selected Characteristics of Private and Public Sector Workers, March 21, 2014

Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: How to Find Documents and Other Resources, March 25, 2014

Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues, March 25, 2014

Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Introducing a Public Advocate, March 21, 2014

Presentation Slides: 2014 Nuclear Security Summit and Verification Capabilities

FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson and Senior Fellow for Nonproliferation Law and Policy Mr. Chris Bidwell spoke at the Radiological and Nuclear Detection Symposium hosted by VIP GlobalNet LLC on March 25-26, 2014 at the Mason Inn at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

Dr. Ferguson’s presentation was on the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit that was held this week in the Netherlands. Ferguson discussed progress with securing dangerous nuclear materials (such as hundreds of tons of HEU that have been downblended to LEU and research and isotope production reactors that have been shut down) and remaining international challenges to securing fissile materials. Dr. Ferguson’s presentation slides are available here (PDF).

Mr. Bidwell spoke about the recent Defense Science Board (DSB) report from January 2014 on monitoring and verification and how they will be used with Iran in the wake of the deal with the P5+1. The DSB report found that nuclear verification and monitoring capabilities  have atrophied, “are either inadequate, or more often, do not exist.” New monitoring technologies need to take into account many factors including: ability to detect smaller programs, monitor for proliferation vs. monitoring for compliance, and issues of crowd sourcing. Mr. Bidwell spoke about other verification concerns and provided recommendations on how to improve current verification tools. Presentation slides are available here (PDF).

Intelligence Whistleblower Law Has Been Used Infrequently

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) has rarely been relied upon by intelligence agency whistleblowers, according to a newly released 2009 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Inspector General.

During the ten year period after the Act came into effect in January 1999, intelligence agency Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) said that only ten whistleblower complaints had been filed.

“According to the questionnaire responses we received, since 1 January 1999, 4 IC OIGs received a total of 10 ICWPA complaints,” the October 2009 report said.

“The CIA and DoD OIGs received four complaints, and the OIGs for DOJ and ODNI each received one complaint.”

“Of the 10 complaints, 3 were deemed by the CIA and DOD OIGs to be ‘urgent concerns,’ as defined by the ICWPA, and all 3 were found to be credible. The CIA and DOD OIGs notified Congress of the three complaints, as required by the statute.”

“Of the remaining six complaints, all… were deemed ‘not credible’ by the respective OIGs.”

“Of the 10 complaints received by the IC OIGs during the 10-year reporting period, 3 of them — 2 from CIA and 1 from DoJ — included allegations of reprisal.”

“However, the CIA OIG found no evidence of reprisal when it investigated these allegations. The DoJ OIG referred the complaint to the DoJ Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigated the matter and found no evidence of reprisal.”

“The OIGs also reported that none of the complaints submitted to the IC OIGs was deemed fraudulent or made in ‘bad faith’,” the report said. But the contents of the complaints and any consequences resulting from them were not described in the report.

See the Report to Congress on the use of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act submitted by ODNI Inspector General Roslyn A. Mazer, October 19, 2009.

The creation of an Intelligence Community-wide Inspector General in 2010 included establishment of a new IC IG Hotline, which “provides a confidential means for IC employees, contractors, and the public to report fraud, waste, and abuse.”

During a recent six-month period, the IC IG internal Hotline received 70 contacts from IC personnel as well as 77 contacts from the general public, according to a March 2013 semi-annual report. The results of those contacts, i.e. whether they prompted an investigation and corrective action, were not reported.

By comparison, the Department of Defense Hotline received more than 15,000 contacts during a six-month period ending September 2013. The DoD Inspector General opened 1,341 cases as a result.

DoD has a budget and a workforce that are roughly an order of magnitude larger than those of the Intelligence Community, so the two cannot be directly compared.

But it appears that whistleblower reporting of suspected waste, fraud and abuse has been institutionalized and routinized to a far greater extent in the Defense Department than within the Intelligence Community, where it remains uncommon.

Newly Declassified Intelligence Satellite Imagery is Hard to Access

The declassification of historical intelligence satellite imagery has been a boon to scientists, environmentalists and other researchers since it began with President Clinton’s executive order 12951. So, for example, “The declassification of imagery from CORONA and subsequent intelligence satellite programs has inspired a revolution in landscape archaeology in the Near East,” wrote archaeologist Jason Ur.

But last year’s declassification of imagery from the KH-9 HEXAGON intelligence satellite will be slower to generate any such revolutionary impact because the newly declassified images are so hard to access and to use.

The KH-9 imagery was successfully transferred from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to the National Archives. But in order to protect the perishable film it must be maintained in cold storage, and so it was all sent to a National Archives facility in Lenexa, Missouri Kansas. Researchers must make their best guess as to what images they are seeking, and then order the originals to be transferred from cold storage. It’s a slow and cumbersome process.

The larger policy issue is that the archival burden on the National Archives and Records Administration is growing faster than the available resources. The task of curating the nation’s documentary heritage appears to be escalating out of control. Meanwhile, the Archives is literally running out of space. Last month, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced the closure of three NARA facilities “as part of ongoing budget adjustments.”

*    *    *

Recently, one concerned researcher shared his frustrations about the current procedures for obtaining declassified satellite imagery. Secrecy News forwarded his comments to the National Archives and Records Administration, and a NARA official provided an annotated response, reproduced below.

Researcher: Since the [KH-9 HEXAGON] film is original negative, it was all shipped to Lenexa, Kansas.

NARA: Correct.  There is a potential that some of the film was not acetate and as such didn’t require cold storage but we did not have the resources to review each of the 14,685 cans to determine the base format and we erred on the side of caution in determining where to store it.

Researcher: NGA DID make available to NARA under the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] the imagery, and finding aids, which are image mosaic overlays on maps 1:100,0000.  These are completely useless.

NARA: There was no MOU for this particular transfer.  Previous transfers had MOUs because there were multiple sets of records which were being distributed between NARA, NGA, and USGS. I think that there is some confusion between the past transfers and this one.  For this transfer we were provided with frame metadata.  The overlays referenced here do not index KH-9 film, they only index the airborne imagery previously transferred from NGA.

Researcher: There is also a CD-ROM which can be loaded onto a flash drive containing an ASCII file with mission date, pass frame, lat-long footprints, in an Excel format. But there is no way to know if the images are fully cloud-covered or not until the film arrives.

NARA: The CD provided for access as described in the KH-9 reference guide is what was provided to us by NGA.  We know we can make it better but it will likely never provide information on cloud cover by image.  All of our film, except for that indexed by the overlays, requires looking at it to determine quality and potential cloud cover.

Researcher: One must submit that data to an archivist who then converts the info into Original Negative Can numbers.  The researcher then must submit a second request including the ON number and the cold storage numbers to an Archivist, who quality controls it and submits the request to NARA Lenexa.

NARA: As with any other transfer of imagery, there is a process involved in going from whatever index exists to identifying the cans of imagery.  In the case of KH-9, once researchers identify imagery from the frame metadata, we have a can locator which converts the information for missions, dates, etc. to an actual can of imagery.  This can locator is available for copying by researchers, and is available through the consultant in the research room who can provide the necessary information.  It is also available on a hard drive for researchers to use themselves.

There is a need to fill out a pull slip for documentation of use and a Lenexa request form but that is done at the same time and does not require much effort other than writing a can number and barcode.

Researcher: The cans show up a few days later, and an Archivist must then quality control the cans for “supply chain management.”

I have spent a week at College Park just to find this out, and I have yet to actually order a can and see imagery.

NARA: The process for requesting cans from Lenexa is the same for any record stored there.   We submit the requests on a daily basis, the Lenexa staff pulls the items and ship them out the next day.   They are potentially available two days after the initial request.  We do have to take time to document where the cans are every step of the way in order to ensure the security of the holdings but that does not slow the process down significantly.

The biggest issues are those simply related to having records stored offsite–timing of requests, ability of staff pulling the items to find the correct items, and the weather which affects the shipments both during the winter and tornado season.  There are sometimes preservation issues identified early before the records are used but that is very rare and they are generally addressed quickly so the researcher does not have to wait.

Researcher: By the next Friday, the researcher can only have the film checked out for 3 business days, Friday, Saturday, and Monday, then the film must be flown back to cold storage.

NARA: All of the research rooms have a 3 business day hold for records.  This is simply to ensure that records are looked at in a timely manner and are available for other researchers.  There is always the opportunity to extend the period of retention but the researcher needs to communicate a need for that.

The NARA official added a rough estimate of the cost of create a duplicate set of KH-9 imagery to facilitate user access:

“At 14,685 cans, and an estimate of $800 worth of film stock per can, the cost is likely more than 11 million dollars.  In addition, we estimate it would take a dedicated employee some 8 years to perform the work (roughly 5 cans/day).”

“Digitization of course avoids the cost of the film stock, but has its own costs and challenges,” the official said. “We have to try and figure out where we focus our limited resources.”

Event: Screening and Panel Discussion of “Garwin: Witness to History”

Screening and Panel Discussion of “Garwin: Witness to History”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Auditorium

1200 New York Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20005

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Syracuse University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) cordially invite you to a screening of the new documentary exploring the distinguished (and controversial) career of Dr. Richard Garwin, “Garwin: Witness to History.”

Dr. Garwin was a principal member of the team that designed the first hydrogen bomb in 1952 and has served as an advisor to every president since Eisenhower on issues of war and peace. He has dealt with important security issues such as nuclear proliferation, arms control, missile defense, and global warming. The filmmakers traveled across the country with Dr. Garwin as he pursued these and other issues.  They have produced an eloquent testimony to Dr. Garwin’s contributions to peace and security.

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with Dr. Garwin and filmmakers Professor Richard Breyer and Mr. Anand Kamalakar.


5:00 p.m.– 6:00 p.m.: Reception

6:15 p.m.– 7:30 p.m.: Film Screening

7:30 p.m.– 8:00 p.m.: Panel Discussion


RSVP: Please reply by April 17, 2014 by emailing [email protected] or contact Katie Colten at 202-454-4694.

Security-Cleared Population Rises to 5.1 Million

The number of Americans who have been investigated and deemed eligible for access to classified information rose last year to a total of 5,150,379 as of October 2013. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth in the security-cleared population.

The new total includes civilian and military government employees (3.7 million) and contractor personnel (1 million), as well as indeterminate others (0.4 million). It represents an increase of 4.7% from the previous year’s total of 4.9 million. Of the 5.1 million persons who were found eligible for access to classified information, 60% had access in fact.

An Office of Management and Budget review said that the continuing growth of the security clearance system is problematic both for financial and security reasons.

“[The] growth in the number of clearance-holders increases costs and exposes classified national security information, often at very sensitive levels, to an increasingly large population,” said the OMB review, which was released last week.

Accordingly, the OMB review recommended that the government “reduce [the] total population of 5.1M Secret and TS/SCI clearance holders to minimize risk of access to sensitive information and reduce cost.”

The number of security clearances is supposed to be reported to Congress each year by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But ODNI said it has not yet filed its 2013 report. [Update: The report is available here.] However, the data were provided in the OMB review.

“Since 9/11, the number of clearances annual approved by DoD [the Department of Defense] has tripled, and continues to grow,” according to an independent review of the Washington Navy Yard Shooting in September 2013 that was also released last week.

“This growth magnifies the challenge of investigating clearance seekers, judging their applications, and periodically reviewing them after they are approved.”

“The continuing expansion of the cleared population has created a culture in which once-rare security clearances are now too often granted by default.” (Actually, security clearances have not been “rare” for quite a few decades.)

The independent review proposed that “DoD should seek to make a 10 percent cut in the number of positions that require access to material classified as Secret.”

“As soon as this reduction is attained, a follow-on review should determine whether further reductions can be realized.”

The independent review also identified “a growing culture of over-classification” as a related issue that “merit[s] additional focused study.” See Security From Within: Independent Review of the Washington Navy Yard Shooting, Department of Defense, November 2013 (released March 18, 2014).

Another review conducted by the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence concurred that there are too many people with security clearances. But it said that reducing the cleared population will not necessarily improve quality control or significantly reduce the burden on background investigators and adjudicators, because they are also responsible for a large number of “suitability” investigations in addition to security clearance investigations.

“The workload challenge will not be eliminated by reducing the number of security clearances because of the pending impacts of the alignment of suitability and security investigations and reinvestigations required by Executive Order 13467 and the 2012 Revised Federal Investigative Standards.”

“The net effect of the new standards will be to increase the Department’s investigative and adjudicative workload, regardless of the number of security clearances.” See Internal Review of the Washington Navy Yard Shooting, Report to the Secrecy of Defense, November 20, 2013.

Last week, the Department of Defense issued updated policy on the DoD Personnel Security Program (PSP), DoD Instruction 5200.02, March 21, 2014.

Among other things, the updated policy dictates that “All personnel in national security positions shall be subject to continuous evaluation,” referring to a process of collecting, reporting and evaluating security-relevant information about cleared individuals on an ongoing basis.

But this policy is aspirational rather than descriptive of current practice, which is limited to small-scale pilot projects to develop such a capacity. Full implementation of the “continuous evaluation” process is at least several years away, according to last week’s OMB report.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said last week that “We will consider reducing the number of personnel holding Secret security clearances by at least 10 percent, a recommendation in line with the October 2013 guidance from the Director of National Intelligence.”

Reducing the number of “personnel” that hold security clearances is a slightly different objective than reducing the number of “positions” that require access to classified information, as recommended by the Independent Review. It is not clear if the Secretary intended to make such a distinction.

In response to a request from Secrecy News, ODNI public affairs refused to provide a copy of the October 2013 DNI guidance. (Update: The DNI guidance was described further in this article from Politico.)