FAS Roundup: December 3, 2012

B-61 12 bomb contract signed, new CRS reports, and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Classification Decisions are Reviewable by Courts, Gov’t Admits: Executive branch decisions to classify national security information are subject to judicial review in Freedom of Information Act cases, government attorneys acknowledged in a brief filed on November 27. That potentially explosive question arose following an extraordinary ruling by a federal judge ordering the U.S. Trade Representative to release a one-page classified document that had been requested under the FOIA by the Center for International Environmental Law.
  • B-61 12: Contract Signed for Improving Precision of Nuclear Bomb: This week, the U.S. Air Force’s new precision-guided nuclear bomb B61-12 moved one step closer to reality with the Pentagon issuing a $178.6 million contract to Boeing. The expensive B61-12 project will use the 50-kiloton warhead from the B61-4 gravity bomb but add the tail kit to increase the accuracy and boost the target kill capability to one similar to the 360-kiloton strategic B61-7 bomb.The U.S. Air Force plans to deploy some of the B61-12s in Europe late in the decade for delivery by F-15E, F-16, F-35 and Tornado aircraft to replace the B61-4s currently deployed in Europe.

  • White House Advances Insider Threat Policy: In a memo to agency heads last week, President Obama transmitted formal requirements that agencies must meet in order “to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security.” The new standards, which have not been made publicly available, were developed by an interagency Insider Threat Task Force that was established by President Obama in the October 2011 executive order 13587, and they reflect the ongoing tightening of safeguards on classified information in response to the voluminous leaks of the last few years.
  • IG Review of FISA Compliance Completed But Not Released: Steven Aftergood writes that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Justice said it had recently completed a review of the Department’s use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (FAA), but the report is classified and its findings have not been released. A copy of the classified report has been requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • First Do No Harm: The Precautionary Principle states that, if something is potentially harmful and it is not fully understood then we should assume it is harmful until it is proven otherwise. Dr. Y investigates on how principle can be applied to problems such as radiation exposure and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • To Promote the General Welfare: In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y investigates the penultimate function – to promote the general welfare – in the context of issues strongly dependent on science and technology.
  • Autonomy in Weapons Systems: The Department of Defense issued a new Directive last week establishing DoD policy for the development and use of autonomous weapons systems. An autonomous weapon system is defined as “a weapon system that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator.”
  • Evolution of Remote Sensing and National Security: A study performed for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) “chronicles the policy history of civil and commercial remote sensing from 1960 through 2008. The unclassified study was released this week by NGA three years after it was requested under the Freedom of Information Act.


  • Mr. Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, spoke on a panel hosted by BASIC (British American Security Information Council) in Washington, DC on November 13, 2012. Kristensen spoke about nuclear weapons modernization and argued that the priority for U.S. nuclear policy should be to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons and put an end to Cold War thinking. Kristensen’s remarks can be viewed here.


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