Goodbye NAVSECGRU

For several decades the Naval Security Group (NAVSECGRU) Command has been the Navy’s cryptologic organization, with responsibility for signals intelligence and communications security and with NAVSECGRU Activities scattered around much of the world.

But now the NAVSECGRU Command has been disestablished and all NAVSECGRU Activities and Detachments have been renamed as Navy Information Operations Commands (NIOCs) and Detachments (NIODs).

See OPNAV Note 5450, Disestablishing the Naval Security Group Command, December 29, 2005.

The Naval Security Group Command, headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, was designated by that name in 1968, according to Jeffrey Richelson’s The U.S. Intelligence Community (4th edition, p. 84).

Inadvertent Tracking of “Sight Sensitive” Objects

Air Force personnel are warned in a recent instruction not to track low observable (LO) or “sight sensitive” aircraft during test flights at Edwards Air Force Base.

“Low observable” is another term for stealth, and “sight sensitive” refers to objects that yield sensitive information simply by visual inspection.

“It is strictly forbidden to train tracking sensors (e.g. radar, infrared, electro-optical, personal cameras, sound recording devices, etc.) on any LO or sight-sensitive assets,” the Air Force instruction states.

“The single exception to this rule is to promote safety of flight.” Even then, “Recording of data will immediately terminate upon the termination of the flight safety incident.”

See “Security Procedures for Inadvertent Tracking and Sensor Acquisition of Low Observable and Sight Sensitive Programs,” Edwards Air Force Base Instruction 31-17, 14 November 2005 (thanks to RT).

History of Highly Enriched Uranium Released

After nearly a decade of pressure from openness advocates inside and outside of government, the Department of Energy has finally released its landmark history of the production of highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The study “was commissioned [in 1996] to facilitate discussions of HEU storage, safety, and security with stakeholders, to encourage other nations to declassify and release similar data, and to support the national policy on transparency of nuclear materials.”

The newly released report “contains details of the U.S. HEU inventory as of September 30, 1996, and provides a historical material balance that summarizes over 50 years of U.S. activities that produced, acquired, and utilized HEU.”

“This report combines previously released data along with newly declassified information that has allowed DOE to issue, for the first time, a comprehensive report on HEU.”

“From 1945 through 1996, a total of 1,045.4 metric tons of uranium containing 859.2 metric tons of uranium-235 was produced in the United States at three facilities utilizing two different production technologies.”

“As of September 30, 1996, the total U.S. inventory of HEU was 740.7 MTU containing 620.3 MTU-235.”

Rich in detail, the 173 page report has been only minimally redacted (sanitized).

The report was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists.

See “Highly Enriched Uranium: Striking A Balance,” U.S. Department of Energy, January 2001.

CRS, NSA and the Question of Congressional Notification

Last week, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) lashed out at the Congressional Research Service for asserting that the Bush Administration may have had a legal responsibility to notify more than just eight members of Congress regarding the NSA surveillance activity.

Rep. Hoekstra, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not merely suggest that the CRS might be wrong; he claimed that the agency was actually biased against Bush Administration policy (“Mau-Mauing the Congressional Research Service”).

In fact, however, it is increasingly clear that Rep. Hoekstra is the one who misunderstood and misrepresented the requirements of the law.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) put the matter plainly at a February 6 Senate hearing on the NSA surveillance program, explaining that the statute which permits limited notification to eight members of Congress is relevant only to covert actions, and not to the NSA program.

“When you look at that section [50 USC 413(b)], the only thing this references as far as what this Group of Eight does is receive reports in regard to covert action. So that’s really all it is. It does not cover a situation like we’re talking about here at all,” Sen. DeWine said.

“We all have a great deal of respect for these eight people… They’re leaders of the Congress. But there’s no statutory authority for this group, other than the section that has to do with covert operation, and this [the NSA activity] is not a covert operation as defined in this specific section.”

“I don’t mean to be impolite… I guess I’m just kind of a strict constructionist, kind of a conservative guy, and that’s how I read the statute,” Sen. DeWine said.

See, relatedly, “Hoekstra blasts CRS for ‘bias'” by Jackie Kucinich, The Hill, February 7.

DoD on Improving FOIA Operations

The Department of Defense is moving ahead smartly in response to President Bush’s executive order (EO) 13392 directing agencies to improve the processing of Freedom of Information Act requests.

Many outside observers were puzzled by the issuance of the December 14, 2005 order, since the current Administration has been no friend of FOIA or of public access to government information generally.

But even a perfunctory gesture from the President of the United States can have policy consequences, and agencies are now sorting through those consequences.

“Recent heightened interest in the FOIA from the public, the media, watchdog organizations, and the Congress has resulted in the need for the Federal Agencies to re-examine their FOIA programs,” wrote Michael B. Donley, DoD Director of Administration and Management.

“Historically, DoD Component FOIA programs have been under-emphasized, resulting in inadequate staffing and funding,” he wrote.

“To comply with the provisions of the EO, DoD Components must ensure that proper procedures are established and adequate resources are applied to their FOIA programs.”

The Project on Government Oversight obtained the DoD memorandum and provided a copy to Secrecy News.

See “Executive Order 13392 on the Freedom of Information Act — DoD Implementation,” memorandum for senior Department officials, February 1, 2006.

Meanwhile, however, the Pentagon public affairs office has been playing secrecy games with reporters, withholding budget documents from the press until the last possible moment.

See “DOD denies reporters budget prep time” by Pamela Hess, United Press International, February 6, 2006.

Air Force Special Operations

U.S. Air Force doctrine on special operations is presented in a new Air Force publication.

“This publication provides the overarching doctrinal guidance for the conduct of Air Force special operations across the full range of military operations. It describes the characteristics, capabilities, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) core tasks, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) core missions, typical organization, and command and control of AF Special Operations Forces.”

“The doctrine in this document is authoritative, but not directive…. Airmen should read it, discuss it, and practice it.”

See “Special Operations,” Air Force Doctrine Document 2-7, 16 December 2005.

Secrecy of Mine Inspections Reduced

In a rare relaxation of mounting restrictions on disclosure of government information, the Labor Department has agreed to reverse its policy of withholding notes taken by mine safety inspectors from prompt release under the Freedom of Information Act.

In a January 11 letter written in the wake of the Sago mine disaster, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) had urged the Secretary of Labor to permit disclosure of these notes (Secrecy News, 01/17/06).

“This unwarranted secrecy may protect the mining industry from embarrassing disclosures, but it undermines accountability and mine safety,” Rep. Waxman wrote.

On January 20, three House Republicans, including Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the new House Majority Leader, wrote to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to make the same request.

“We share the concern expressed by some that … this blanket policy has had the effect of denying important information about mine safety to the public.”

In a January 30 reply to Majority Leader Boehner, a Labor Department official wrote that the disclosure policy would be revised to permit release of mine inspector notes “effective immediately.”

Rep. Boehner applauded the move. “Our request to Secretary Chao was made for one simple reason: to get more information, more quickly into the hands of Congress, the families impacted by the tragedies, and all those with a stake in mining and these investigations,” he said.

In a January 31 news release, Rep. Boehner and his colleagues took credit for the step. See “In Response to House Republican Request, Labor Department Makes Key Policy Change Impacting Mine Investigations”.

Sunshine Week on the Way

Sunshine Week is a broad-based initiative intended to focus public concern over the growth of official secrecy.

During the week of March 13, 2006, there will be a series of events exploring the diverse and increasing barriers that obstruct public access to government information.

Details and educational resources are available on the Sunshine Week web site.

Pentagon Abandons Revision of Nuclear Doctrine

The Department of Defense has abandoned plans to revise its Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations.

The draft revision became controversial when it was disclosed last year because of its unusually frank discussion of preemptive use of nuclear weapons.

The decision to cancel the revision was discovered by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists. He described the move last week and provided relevant links in the new blog of the FAS Strategic Security Project.

UPDATE: Some of the backstory on the proposed draft nuclear doctrine, with related links, was presented by ArmsControlWonk last year.

CIA on Remote Medical Diagnosis (1979)

A noteworthy article from the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence Journal, published in 1979 and declassified last year, describes the use of “remote medical diagnosis” for foreign intelligence purposes.

“Remote medical diagnosis is defined as the identification of the illnesses affecting a person without the benefit of a formal medical examination.”

The authors provide capsule accounts of CIA medical diagnoses of various world leaders, including French President Georges Pompidou, Algerian President Houari Boumediene, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin.

The technique, such as it is, is far from infallible, the authors note. Although Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir suffered from malignant lymphoma for more than 12 years, “We had been entirely unaware that she had this lethal disease.”

See “Remote Medical Diagnosis: Monitoring the health of Very Important Patients,” Studies in Intelligence, Spring 1979 (1.2 MB PDF file) (thanks to AT).