OLC: President May Withhold WMD Info from Congress

Despite an explicit statutory requirement to keep Congress “fully and currently informed” about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the President may withhold proliferation-related information from Congress if he determines that doing so could harm the national security, according to a sweeping opinion from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that was prepared in 2003. The opinion, written by then-OLC deputy John C. Yoo, was released this week under the Freedom of […]

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Security Assistance & Foreign Internal Defense

Through its international security assistance programs, the United States advances its foreign policy agenda, exercises influence, sometimes wreaks havoc or abets abusive conduct, and now and then does good things. Security assistance refers to a variety of programs involving arms sales abroad, military training of foreign security services, and other defense-related activities. A new non-profit website called Security Assistance Monitor presents “all publicly available data on U.S. foreign security assistance programs worldwide from 2000 to […]

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The “Cadillac Tax,” Congress 101, and More from CRS

Several new reports from the Congressional Research Service examine the implications of the 40% excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health care coverage, known as the “Cadillac tax,” that will take effect in 2018. Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: In Brief, August 14, 2015 The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: Estimated Economic and Market Effects, August 20, 2015 The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: Background and Economic Analysis, August 20, […]

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Intelligence Agencies Have a “Duty to Warn” Endangered Persons

Intelligence agencies that discover a threat to a person’s life or safety are obliged to alert the intended target in most cases as long as they can do so without compromising intelligence sources and methods, a new intelligence community directive instructs. A U.S. intelligence agency “that collects or acquires credible and specific information indicating an impending threat of intentional killing, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping directed at a person or group of people shall have […]

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Intelligence Contractor Oversight, and More from CRS

Effective oversight of intelligence community contractors is a particularly difficult exercise since the reliability of official data on contractor activities is uncertain and most of it is classified and inaccessible to outsiders, a new report from the Congressional Research Service explains. “Contractors have been and are an integral part of the intelligence community’s (IC’s) total workforce (which also includes federal employees and military personnel). Yet questions have been raised regarding how they are used, and […]

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Countering the Islamic State, and More from CRS

Some 60 nations and partner organizations have made commitments to help counter the Islamic State with military forces or resources, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. But coalition efforts suffer from a lack of coherence, CRS said. “Without a single authority responsible for prioritizing and adjudicating between different multinational civilian and military lines of effort, different actors often work at cross-purposes without intending to do so.” CRS tabulated the contributions of […]

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Nuclear Weapon Declassification Decisions, 2011-2015

The Department of Energy issued twenty “declassification determinations” between April 2011 and March 2015 to remove certain specified categories of nuclear weapons-related information from classification controls. “The fact that a mass of 52.5 kg of U-235 is sufficient for a gun-assembled weapon” was formally declassified in a written decision dated August 19, 2014. The “total inventory of thorium at DOE sites for any given time period” was removed from the Restricted Data category on March […]

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Regulating US Air Force Contacts with China

The U.S. Air Force last week issued updated guidance both to foster and to limit contacts with Chinese military personnel, based in part on classified Defense Department directives. “With the rise of PRC influence in the international community and the increasing capabilities of the Chinese military, Air Force military-to-military relationship with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is becoming more crucial than […]

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A New Direction for the Library of Congress?

With the impending retirement of the longtime Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, there is an opportunity for a fundamental reconsideration of the function and operation of the Library of Congress. In particular, the time may be ripe for a massive expansion of the Library’s digitized holdings, enabling universal public access to its historic and cultural riches. There are “Great New Possibilities for the Library of Congress!” according to the headline of an article by […]

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Environmental Considerations in Military Operations

The environmental impacts of military operations are increasingly becoming factors in the planning and execution of military activities. “The military has a new appreciation for the interdependence between military missions, the global community, and the environment,” according to a newly revised and reissued Army doctrinal manual. See Environmental Considerations, ATP 3-34.5, August 10, 2015. Of course, military operations by their nature are not environment-friendly. “The primary mission of the military is to fight and win […]

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