President’s Message: The Nuclear Guns of August

“One constant among the elements of 1914—as of any era—was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true,” wrote Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August.1)Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August (New York: Dell, 1962). Today, the United States and other nuclear-armed states are not addressing the harder alternative of whether nuclear weapons provide for real security. The harder alternative, I argue,  is to work toward elimination of these weapons at the same time as the security concerns of all states are being met. If leaders of states feel insecure, those with nuclear arms will insist on maintaining or even modernizing these weapons, and many of those without nuclear arms will insist on having nuclear deterrence commitments from nuclear-armed states. Therefore, security concerns must be addressed as a leading priority if there is to […]

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Insider Threat Program Advances, Slowly

Nearly two years after President Obama issued a National Insider Threat Policy “to strengthen the protection and safeguarding of classified information” against espionage or unauthorized disclosure, the effort is still at an early stage of development. Only last week, the U.S. Air Force finally issued a directive to implement the 2012 Obama policy. (AF Instruction 16-1402, Insider Threat Program Management). And even now it speaks prospectively of what the program “will” do rather than what […]

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Russia Declared In Violation Of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying

By Hans M. Kristensen The United States yesterday publicly accused Russia of violating the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The accusation was made in the State Department’s 2014 Compliance Report, which states: “The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or […]

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A Look Behind President Clinton’s Veto of an Anti-Leak Bill

In 2000, both houses of Congress passed legislation that would have made any leak of classified information a felony. The provision, contained in the FY2001 intelligence authorization act, was designed “to ensure the prosecution of all unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” said Sen. Richard Shelby, the primary sponsor of the provision, at the time. While some unauthorized disclosures of classified information were already prohibited by statute (including the Espionage Act), others have not been specifically […]

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Wanted: A Chef with a Top Secret Clearance

A secure U.S. government facility in Herndon, Virginia needs a master chef who holds or who can obtain a Top Secret security clearance. The job opening was announced by Sodexo, the international food service company. “Sodexo’s Government Services Division is seeking a strong Executive Chef to manage all the culinary operations at a high profile government dining account in Northern Virginia. The successful candidate must be able to obtain a TS/SCI clearance,” the announcement said. […]

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Secrecy System Shows New Signs of Contraction

In 2012, the number of newly created national security secrets (or “original classification decisions”) dropped by a startling 42% from the year before, according to the Information Security Oversight Office. It was the largest annual drop ever reported by ISOO, yielding the lowest annual production of new secrets since such numbers began to be collected in 1979. (Secrecy System Shows Signs of Contraction, Secrecy News, June 25, 2013). Now it seems that this 2012 decline […]

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The Evolution of the Senate Arms Control Observer Group

In March 2013, the Senate voted down an amendment offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to cut $700,000 from their budget that was set-aside for the National Security Working Group (NSWG). What many did not realize at the time was that this relatively small and obscure proposed cut would have eliminated one of the last traces of the bipartisan Congressional approach to debating arms control. The NSWG first began as the Arms Control Observer Group, which helped to build support for arms control in the Senate. In recent years, there have been calls from both Democrats and Republicans to revive the Observer Group, but very little analysis of the role it played. Its history illustrates the stark contrast in the Senate’s attitude and approach to arms control issues during the mid- to late 1980s compared with the divide that exists today between the two parties.   The Arms Control Observer […]

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A Scenario for Jihadist Nuclear Revenge

The Greatest Threat The weapon was ready, a simple fission device similar to the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It had been finally assembled in a rented storage space on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had spent years quietly contemplating while meticulously planning this diabolical, logistically challenging mission. Among other things, the plot necessitated recruiting and directing a number of operatives, some technically skilled, located in several countries. All were individuals devoted to his cause and committed to the Jihadist goal of detonating a nuclear bomb in an American city. He chose Las Vegas because the city epitomized western decadence. The bomb’s essential component – 140 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HEU) – had been stolen or secretly purchased, bit-by-bit, mostly from Pakistan, but also from India, North Korea, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It took years to collect, hide and safeguard all the necessary HEU in northwest Pakistan. From […]

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FAS Roundup: May 12, 2014

Russian ICBM modernization, ODNI requires pre-publication review of all public information and more. From the Blogs JASON Views Challenges of Electronic Health Data: The ongoing transition to electronic storage of individual health information was examined in a newly released study from the JASON scientific advisory panel. The JASON study addresses the tension between personal health information, which is “sensitive and therefore must be carefully safeguarded,” and aggregated population health data, which are “a highly valuable, and largely untapped, resource […]

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