SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 86
September 9, 2005

GLOBAL STOCKS OF NUCLEAR EXPLOSIVE MATERIALS

In an exemplary exercise of what might be termed "public intelligence," the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has published a new account of nuclear explosive materials around the world.

The ISIS database provides estimates of national inventories of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (as well as neptunium-237 and americium) for countries from Argentina and Armenia to Vietnam through the end of 2003. More than 50 countries were found to possess five kilograms or more of these materials.

Such information is ordinarily very closely held, not only by the foreign governments themselves but also by U.S. government agencies.

"Some agencies would classify all of this stuff," observed a State Department intelligence official seated next to me at the ISIS briefing on September 7 presenting the new estimates.

But of course classification renders information unavailable for public deliberation.

The purpose of the ISIS publication, in contrast, is "to create a set of data that everyone can use," said ISIS President David Albright.

"We need a common language to discuss this," he said, particularly in light of the threat of diversion of nuclear materials by terrorists.

"There is a lot of fissile material in the world," Albright said, noting that ISIS had estimated the production of nearly 4000 tonnes of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, enough for more than 300,000 nuclear weapons.

See "Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Materials," Institute for Science and International Security, published September 2005:


STATE SECRETS IN A PATENT CASE

Once rarely used, the state secrets privilege is now being invoked by the government with uncommon frequency to limit or block litigation. It surfaced yet again this week in an ongoing patent infringement lawsuit.

In 1998, the Crater Corporation alleged violation of its patent for an underwater fiber optic coupling device, but the government stepped in citing the state secrets privilege. Then-Secretary of the Navy Richard J. Danzig declared that "discovery in this case could be expected to cause extremely grave damage to national security." The case was dismissed, and appealed.

This week, a federal appeals court ruled that the state secrets privilege had been properly asserted, but that the district court nevertheless erred in dismissing the plaintiff's lawsuit.

A copy of the September 7 ruling in Crater v. Lucent Technologies and United States, US Court of Appeals for the Federal District, is here:

See also "Government Secrecy Request Stalls IP Case," Patently-O Patent Law Blog (thanks to MJR):

The state secrets privilege was the subject of a news segment on National Public Radio Morning Edition by Jackie Northam today.


CRS ON KATRINA

The Congressional Research Service promptly prepared several reports related to the aftermath and implications of Hurricane Katrina. Despite congressional prohibitions on direct public access to CRS products, the latest reports were made available courtesy of Pennyhill Press.

"New Orleans Levees and Floodwalls: Hurricane Damage Protection," September 6, 2005:

"Price Increases in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Authority to Limit Price Gouging," September 2, 2005:

"Disaster Evacuation and Displacement Policy: Issues for Congress," September 2, 2005:

"Tax Deductions for Catastrophic Risk Insurance Reserves: Explanation and Economic Analysis," September 2, 2005:

A few other notable recent CRS publications are: "Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy," updated August 24, 2005:

"Argentina: Political Conditions and U.S. Relations," updated August 17, 2005:

"Science and Technology Policy: Issues for the 109th Congress," updated August 22, 2005:


AIR FORCE HISTORY

Air Force history "is an objective, accurate, descriptive, and interpretive record of all activities of the Air Force in peace and war. By recounting lessons learned, Air Force history enables our nations' military and civilian leaders to approach current problems and concerns more intelligently and professionally."

It is the mission of Air Force historians "to provide immediate and continuing historical documentation of [military operations], and to preserve complete, accurate, and useful records for future analysis and study."

The role of the Air Force historian was spelled out at length in two Air Force Instructions that were issued last month. See:

Air Force Instruction 84-101, "Historical Products, Services, and Requirements," 1 August 2005:

Air Force Instruction 84-102, "Historical Operations in Contingencies and War," 1 August 2005:


THE PRESS AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

"Without the media the Civil Rights Movement would have been a bird without wings," said movement veteran Rep. John Lewis in a tribute published yesterday.

"Without the media's willingness to stand in harm's way and starkly portray events of the Movement as they saw them unfold, Americans may never have understood or even believed the horrors that African Americans faced in the Deep South."

"That commitment to publish the truth took courage. It was incredibly dangerous to be seen with a pad, a pen, or a camera in Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia where the heart of the struggle took place," Rep. Lewis said.

His remarks, a timely reminder of the importance of a free press, also carried an implicit suggestion that the summit of journalistic achievement may be something other than the Watergate-style expose.

See "On the Contribution of the Press to the Civil Rights Movement," by Rep. John Lewis, entered in the Congressional Record, September 8, 2005:

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

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