Insider Threat Program Advances, Slowly

The Department of Defense recently demonstrated the “Continuous Evaluation” of approximately 100,000 cleared military, civilian and contractor personnel, in order to validate their eligibility for access to classified information on an ongoing basis. Continuous Evaluation (CE) refers to the automated monitoring of government and commercial databases for signs of criminal behavior, irregular financial activity, or other “triggers” that could lead to suspension of a security clearance. CE is a central feature of the emerging Insider […]

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House Adopts Intel Bill, Senate Affirms Torture Ban

The House of Representatives yesterday approved its version of the FY 2016 intelligence authorization act (HR 2596). The bill includes “several” new reporting requirements intended “to enhance Congress’ role in and understanding of the classification process,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). One of these requirements is for a report to Congress noting each occasion in the past 5 years in which non-compartmented intelligence reporting has been disseminated through a (more restrictive) compartmented channel. The bill […]

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House Intelligence Bill Would Limit PCLOB Oversight

Updated below The House Intelligence Committee inserted language in the pending intelligence authorization bill that would bar access by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to classified information pertaining to covert action. “Nothing in the statute authorizing the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board should be construed to allow that Board to gain access to information the executive branch deems to be related to covert action,” according to the new Committee report on […]

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Reform of Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following. Stored Communications Act: Reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), May 19, 2015 United Nations Reform: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 15, 2015 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Functions and Funding, May 15, 2015 In-Country Refugee Processing: In Brief, May 7, 2015 Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 2, 2015 Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class […]

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Nuclear Weapons Policy, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service on nuclear weapons policy and other issues of topical interest include the following. Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 2, 2015 (See also the 2015 State Department compliance report released June 5, and reported in the New York Times on June 6.) Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments, updated June 2, 2015 Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog […]

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NASA Releases Space Nuclear Power Study

NASA has released a long-awaited Nuclear Power Assessment Study that examines the prospects for the use of nuclear power in civilian space missions over the next 20 years. The Study concludes that there is a continuing demand for radioisotope power systems, which have been used in deep space exploration for decades, but that there is no imminent requirement for a new fission reactor program. The 177-page Study, prepared for NASA by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics […]

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Some New Intelligence Budget Data Disclosed

U.S. intelligence spending remains at the frontier of national security classification and declassification policy, as some new scraps of intelligence budget information are divulged, most other information is withheld, and a simmering demand for greater disclosure persists in Congress and elsewhere. Last month the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) released heavily redacted versions of its annual budget justification books for Fiscal Year 2012 and Fiscal Year 2013. The declassified portions of the NGA budget documents reflect […]

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The Federal Grand Jury, and More from CRS

A Congressional Research Service report on The Federal Grand Jury, May 7, 2015, presents “a brief general description of the federal grand jury, with particular emphasis on its more controversial aspects–relationship of the prosecutor and the grand jury, the rights of grand jury witnesses, grand jury secrecy, and rights of targets of a grand jury investigation.” In Brief: Options to Help Meet a Congressional Requirement for Nuclear Weapon “Pit” Production, May 22, 2015, describes sixteen […]

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Who was Willy Higinbotham?

Editor’s note: The following is a compilation of letters by Dr. William Higinbotham, a nuclear physicist who worked on the first nuclear bomb and served as the first chairman of FAS. His daughter, Julie Schletter, assembled these accounts of Higinbotham’s distinguished career.   Thank you for this opportunity to share with you my father’s firsthand accounts of the inception of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).  After my father died in November 1994, I inherited a truly intimidating treasure of letters, correspondence and most importantly a nearly complete manuscript (mostly on floppy disks) of his unpublished memoirs.  Over the last couple of decades, I have read widely and deeply, collected resources, transcribed and sorted through this material and am planning to publish a personal history of Willy in the near future. Having studied this man from a more distant perspective, I am sure about certain things.  Willy was at his […]

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The False Hope of Nuclear Forensics? Assessing the Timeliness of Forensics Intelligence

Nuclear forensics is playing an increasing role in the conceptualization of U.S. deterrence strategy, formally integrated into policy in the 2006 National Strategy on Combatting Terrorism (NSCT). This policy linked terrorist groups and state sponsors in terms of retaliation, and called for the development of “rapid identification of the source and perpetrator of an attack,” through the bolstering of attribution via forensics capabilities.1)National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, September 2006, pg. 5: Available at http://www.cfr.org/counterterrorism/national-strategy-combating-terrorism-2006/p11389 2)Ibid. pg. 15. This indirect deterrence between terrorist groups and state sponsors was strengthened during the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit when nuclear forensics expanded into the international realm and was included in the short list of priorities for bolstering state and international capacity. However, while governments and the international community have continued to invest in capabilities and databases for tracking and characterizing the elemental signatures of nuclear material, the question persists as to the ability of nuclear forensics […]

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