Private Lawsuit Jeopardizes State Secrets, US Says

The U.S. Government asserted the state secrets privilege last week in a private lawsuit to which the government is not a party and moved for dismissal of the case. Greek businessman Victor Restis had filed a lawsuit last year against the private advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), alleging that the group had falsely and maliciously accused Restis of engaging in illict commerce with Iran. UANI, whose advisory board includes numerous former government officials, […]

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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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UAVs: An (unexploited) Seller’s Market

Today, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”), are an ever-present entity in both political discourse and the skies above countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unmanned aerial vehicles can be used for a wide variety of missions. While intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and target acquisition are missions that frequently fall under the purview of basic UAVs, more advanced drones can be used for specialized tasks such as laser targeting, cargo transportation, and precision strike missions. Over 50 countries possess the ability to produce their own UAVs, and those that cannot do so are able to receive UAVs from exporters around the world.1)Drone Wars UK. “Mapping Drone Proliferation: UAVs in 76 Countries.” Global Research. Centre for Research on Globalization, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 27 June 2014. The most valued UAVs in the export market are those capable of long range flight or armed operations, as these platforms are significantly more difficult […]

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The Fallacy of Proven and Adaptable Defenses

It is currently U.S. policy to deploy missile defenses that are “proven, cost-effective, and adaptable.”1)White House Office of the Press Secretary, “Fact Sheet on U.S. Missile Defense Policy,” September 17, 2009. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/FACT-SHEET-US-Missile-Defense-Policy-A-Phased-Adaptive-Approach-for-Missile-Defense-in-Europe/ As outlined in the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review, proven means “extensive testing and assessment,” or “fly before you buy.”2)Department of Defense, “Ballistic Missile Defense Review,” (January 2010): vi, 11. http://www.defense.gov/bmdr/docs/BMDR%20as%20of%2026JAN10%200630_for%20web.pdfAdaptive means that defenses can respond to unexpected threats by being rapidly relocated or “surged to a region,” and by being easily integrated into existing defensive architectures.3)Ibid, 27 While “extensive testing” in the field is an important step towards proven defenses, this article argues that it is insufficient for truly proven—that is, trustworthy—defenses. Defenses against nuclear weapons face a very high burden of proof because a single bomb is utterly devastating. But even if defenses achieve this level of trustworthiness in one context, this article argues that they cannot immediately be […]

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FAS Roundup: July 21, 2014

House amendment to cut NSC budget, nuclear risks and more.  From the Blogs DNI Issues New Policy on Leak Damage Assessments: The Director of National Intelligence has issued new guidance on assessing damage resulting from the unauthorized disclosure of classified intelligence information to ensure that the damage assessments “are produced in an efficient, timely, consistent and collaborative manner.” Leak damage assessments should be used iteratively and the lessons learned from them should be applied “to strengthen the protection of […]

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FAS Roundup: June 16, 2014

New issue of the PIR, DoD report on Chinese military forces and more. Spring Issue of the Public Interest Report The Spring issue of the PIR is now available online; it includes articles on Hezbollah’s use of drones, nuclear terrorism and Pakistan’s energy crisis. Spring 2014 Public Interest Report Volume 67, No 2 CONTENTS: The Evolution of the Senate Arms Control Observer Group PDF Version The National Security Working Group (NSWG) began as the Arms Control Observer […]

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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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American Scientists and Nuclear Weapons Policy

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it,” warned British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke more than 200 years ago. Having recently delved into reading about the history of the first group of American atomic scientists and their efforts to deal with the nuclear arms race, I have realized that Burke was right. More so, I would underscore that the ideas of these intellectual path-breakers are still very much alive today, and that even when we are fully cognizant of this history we are bound to repeat it. By studying these scientists’ ideas, Robert Gilpin in his 1962 book, American Scientists and Nuclear Weapons Policy, identifies three schools of thought: (1) control, (2) finite containment, and (3) infinite containment. The control school had its origins in the Franck Report, which had James Franck, an atomic scientist at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago serve as the […]

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Hezbollah and the Use of Drones as a Weapon of Terrorism

The international terrorist group Hezbollah, driven by resistance to Israel, now regularly sends low flying drones into Israeli airspace. These drones are launched and remotely manned from the Hezbollah stronghold in Lebanon and presumably supplied by its patron and strategic partner, Iran. On the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations since 1995, Hezbollah has secured its presence in Lebanon through various phases. It established a strong social services network, and in 2008 it became the dominant political party in the Lebanese government and supported the Assad regime in the Syrian Civil War.   Hezbollah’s drone flights into Israeli airspace Hezbollah’s first flight of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone, into Israeli airspace for reconnaissance purposes occurred in November 2004, catching Israeli intelligence off guard. A Mirsad-1 drone (an updated version of the early Iranian Mohajer drone used for reconnaissance of Iraqi troops during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War), flew […]

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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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