SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
March 15, 2001

RESPONDING TO DOMESTIC TERRORISM

"The ability of the United States Government to prevent, deter, defeat and respond decisively to terrorist attacks against our citizens... is one of the most challenging priorities facing our nation today," according to a recent counter-terrorism planning document.

In the waning days of the Clinton Administration, government agencies developed a plan to coordinate their response to domestic terrorism, and particularly to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

The plan is premised on the assumption that "a terrorist incident may occur at any time of day with little or no warning, may involve single or multiple geographic areas, and result in mass casualties."

The plan identifies the responsibilities and authorities of various agencies and "outlines an organized and unified capability for a timely, coordinated response by Federal agencies to a terrorist threat or act."

The January 2001 "United States Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan" is posted here:


CRS REPORTS ONLINE

"Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Terrorist Threat" is also the subject of a December 1999 report of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that is now available online in PDF format:

After years of fruitless debate over whether the public should be granted direct access to online CRS products, the impasse has been partly overcome as the result of a pilot program in the House of Representatives.

Under the House initiative, the CRS still will not provide direct public access (and therefore remains immune to utterly hypothetical liability lawsuits). But instead, individual members of the House can now grant public access to a select archive of CRS reports through their own web sites. Congressmen Mark Green, Christopher Shays, and others have done so.

At their best, CRS reports synthesize an entire body of literature in concise form, identifying salient issues and key players, and presenting a spectrum of opinion. Even the best reports, however, are short on original analysis and tend to be excruciatingly even-handed.

Less inspired products merely compile and summarize mainstream press reports about a particular issue and are largely devoid of insight. Even so, they can serve as useful introductions to a particular policy topic. Anyway, there was never any good reason why most of them should not be easily available online. A few notable new reports, all in PDF format, include:

"Intelligence Issues for Congress," updated March 2, 2001:

"North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program," Issue Brief, updated February 27, 2001:

"V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft," Issue Brief, updated March 7, 2001:

"China/Taiwan: Evolution of the "One China" Policy -- Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei," updated March 12, 2001:

For links to selected other new CRS reports on national security and foreign policy issues, see:


AVNER COHEN UPDATE

Avner Cohen, the Israeli scholar who has written a political history of Israel's nuclear weapons program, arrived in Israel Monday without incident.

But on Tuesday, he was subjected to over eight hours of interrogation by Israeli security authorities, according to an article in yesterday's Boston Globe. (Israel has not officially acknowledged its possession of nuclear weapons.) And the questioning was still not over. See:

Sources close to Avner Cohen said the Globe article itself reflected a breach of confidence by Israeli Defense Ministry officials, since all parties had agreed to proceed on a confidential basis.

From the Israeli government's point of view, it is not engaging in a campaign of intimidation directed at a critic of its nuclear policy. Rather, it is investigating whether a specific security violation involving the illicit transfer of certain information out of the Defense Ministry took place. Since Avner Cohen did not commit any such violation, the sources said, a speedy resolution to the present ordeal might be anticipated.

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