SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 2
January 8, 2004

BMDO VIEWS THE CHINESE MISSILE PROGRAM (1995)

The People's Republic of China has both the incentive and the capability to develop and deploy countermeasures to U.S. missile defense systems, according to a newly disclosed 1995 study performed for the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO).

"Because the development of BMD systems by both Russia and the United States threatens China's ballistic missile strategy of retaliatory deterrence based on small-scale deployment, China has a clear requirement for countermeasures to missile defenses," the study found.

The study was prepared for BMDO by the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to a former intelligence community official. It provides a fairly comprehensive unclassified account of the history and scope of China's ballistic missile programs.

"It gives a true and accurate, though not necessarily complete, snapshot of what DIA thought about PRC missile stuff at the time," the former official said. In other words, "what's in the unclassified document may not be everything DIA knew, but it's neither knowingly wrong nor misleading-by-omission."

A copy of the document, marked "for official use only" (and missing page 19), was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Country Profiles: China," BMDO Countermeasure Integration Program, April 1995 (1.3 MB PDF file), here:


PRC MISSILES, TAIWAN ELECTIONS AND FAS

The Federation of American Scientists web site figured briefly in political controversy in Taiwan, after FAS was cited as a source by the Taiwanese government concerning PRC missile inventories.

Last November 30, Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian claimed that there is a growing threat to Taiwan from the PRC, asserting that there are precisely 496 PRC missiles aimed at Taiwan and identifying six locations where they are based. He called for a March 20 "referendum" on the Chinese missile threat, a move viewed with alarm by some observers as a possible prelude to a unilateral declaration of independence.

The unusual specificity of his description of the PRC missile threat raised eyebrows, and opponents alleged that he had improperly disclosed classified information, placing Taiwanese intelligence sources at risk.

Not so, insisted the President's Office. The information was found on public web sites such as that of the Federation of American Scientists, officials said.

See "Chinese state media reports arrests of Taiwan spy ring," Agence France Presse, December 24:

In fact, the cited figure of 496 missiles does not appear on the FAS web site. It was evidently inferred from satellite photos and relied upon assumptions about the number of missiles per missile launcher detected and the number of launchers per brigade.

But other information on Chinese theater missiles may be found here:

and, with supplemental satellite imagery, on the GlobalSecurity.org web site here:


CARNEGIE REPORT ON WMD IN IRAQ

"Congress and the public must learn to recognize red flags indicating that sound intelligence practices are not being followed."

That is one of the provocative conclusions of a major new report on the fiasco of U.S. assessments of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that was released today by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Among other things, the new Carnegie study helps fill the void left by the intelligence oversight committees in Congress, which have shown no signs of intelligent life for months.

See "WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications":


NEW FOIA DECISIONS

The latest judicial decisions in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits from the last quarter of 2003 have been compiled by the Department of Justice Office of Information and Privacy and posted here:

Similar compilations now extend back 15 years. See:


DEFECTORS' LAWSUIT AGAINST CIA MAY PROCEED

Two former Soviet nationals, identified only as John and Jane Doe, who say they spied for the CIA and defected to the US, may continue to pursue their lawsuit alleging that the CIA did not fulfill its financial commitment to them, a federal appeals court panel ruled yesterday, affirming a similar decision from last year.

Six members of the panel dissented, and argued their position at interesting length.

"The judicial branch cannot right such a wrong without disclosure of the engagement's existence, which [...] must remain forever secret. It will not do to have word circulating in whatever former Iron Curtain country the Does come from that the collapse of its totalitarian regime was brought about partly by CIA spies and not wholly by its own people's thirst for freedom. Joshua needed spies, Lincoln needed spies, we needed spies to deal with the Soviet empire, and spies will be needed as long as there are men on earth," the dissenting judges wrote.

See the January 7 ruling in Doe v. Tenet here:

The previous appeals court decision on the same matter is here:


REPORTERS ASK RUMSFELD TO REVISE WEB POLICY

The National Press Club (NPC) has written to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to protest a Pentagon policy which would impose sharp limits on web publication policy that go far beyond the normal legal restrictions.

NPC President Tammy Lytle cited a December 5 memorandum from the DoD Inspector General (IG) that would prohibit online publication of any information that has not been specifically approved for public release, or that is deemed to be of questionable value to the general public.

The IG memorandum was first reported by Defense Week (see SN, 12/19/03).

"The classification process and exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act already enable the government to withhold sensitive information when necessary," Ms. Lytle wrote to Secretary Rumsfeld on January 5. "There is no need for individual agencies to add their own restrictions, especially when they are so broadly worded as to likely become susceptible to abuse." See:

While the DoD Inspector General memo is the latest to endorse such far-ranging limits on web publication, they actually originate in a 1998 Defense Department web policy which is available here:


DOD IG REPORT ON TIMBER WIND

The Department of Defense Inspector General played an important role in the development of the FAS Project on Government Secrecy over a decade ago by acting on concerns we raised about the secret development of a nuclear-powered rocket engine for missile defense applications.

In 1991, an anonymous source provided FAS with a bouquet of classified documents regarding a program code-named Timber Wind. This was a Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) effort to develop a nuclear rocket engine powered by a particle bed reactor. And the program was so highly classified that the mere fact of its existence was a secret.

The seemingly self-evident overclassification of Timber Wind led us to file a complaint with the DoD Office of the Inspector General which, to its credit, launched a full investigation that mostly substantiated our concerns.

"We concluded that the DoD was overly cautious in determining that special access safeguards were necessary for Timber Wind," the IG wrote in a 1992 audit report. "SDIO continued to safeguard its association with the particle bed reactor technology for no reasons related to national security."

The IG's Timber Wind investigation contributed to increased oversight of special access programs and procedural changes in the way they are established and terminated.

The willingness of the DoD IG to receive and to seriously consider our concerns in this case helped both to validate our perceptions of the problem of official secrecy and to confirm that we could actually do something about it.

The final report on "The Timber Wind Special Access Program," dated December 16, 1992, is not available on the DoD IG web site, but a copy may now be found here (75 pages, 2 MB PDF file):

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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