FAS Roundup: December 9, 2013

By December 9, 2013

Radioactive theft in Mexico, 3D printing of guns and  more.

From the Blogs

White House Sets New Goals for Open Government: On December 6, the White House released a new plan which affirms its support for open government values, and set an agenda for the remainder of the current Administration.  A new interagency Classification Review Committee is being established with White House leadership to evaluate proposals for classification reform, and to coordinate their implementation throughout the executive branch. The creation of such a body was the primary recommendation of the Public Interest Declassification Board last year, and it was strongly endorsed by public interest groups.

Radioactive Theft in Mexico: What a Thief Doesn’t Know Can Kill Him: While the theft of a truck carrying radioactive cobalt made international headlines, this was unfortunately not the first time thieves have exposed themselves or others to lethal radiation. Because cobalt is a solid metal, it is hard to disperse, even with explosives. Yet, this incident reiterates the need for better controls on highly radioactive sources. FAS president Charles Ferguson writes that there needs to be more effective means of tracking shipments, training of response forces, developing replacement technologies for phasing out dispersible sources, and increasing government cooperation in sharing intelligence information about threats to radioactive materials of security concern.

ODNI Intelligence Advisory Committees Identified: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence identified the seven external advisory committees that currently support and advise the DNI via a new report to Congress. Ordinarily, government advisory committees that include non-governmental members are subject to open meeting requirements under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Act was intended to provide a check on the government’s many advisory committees, which have sometimes played an influential role in the formulation of public policy. But the Act also provides that committees established by the DNI may be exempted from public reporting requirements, as are all of the intelligence-related Committees listed in the new report. The report was released by ODNI under the Freedom of Information Act, with the names of all committee members redacted.

The Defense Warning Network: A new directive issued by the Department of Defense last week obtained by Secrecy News outlines the structure and function of the Defense Warning Network, which provides  notice “of potential threats posed by adversaries, political and economic instability, failed or failing states, and any other emerging challenges that could affect the United States or its interests worldwide.”

IC Inspector General Report on Activities: The latest report from the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community provides an updated (and largely redacted) snapshot of the IG’s investigative agenda. During the nine-month period from July 2012 to March 2013, the IC IG internal hotline received 70 contacts or complaints from intelligence agency personnel, as well as 77 contacts from the general public. Investigators conducted 75 investigations revealing some occasionally creative forms of misconduct.

That Fracking Radon: There are many concerns about the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale formation. In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y takes a look at hydraulic fracturing and claims that it releases radon.

Intelligence Community Plans for Continuity of Operations:According to a new Intelligence Community Directive, the U.S. intelligence community should continue to provide intelligence support to national leaders even in the event of a catastrophic emergency. The capability to provide continuity of operations depends in part on the geographical dispersion of leadership, staff, communications and facilities.

HPSCI Wants President to Plan for Leaks of Covert Action: The President would have to prepare a written plan for responding to the possibility of an unauthorized disclosure of any CIA covert action program, according to a provision adopted last month by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The measure represents an implicit acknowledgment that the secrecy of CIA covert action today cannot be assured or blithely assumed, particularly when compartmented intelligence programs are regularly reported in the press.

Veterans and Homelessness and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as U.S. response to the Philippines disaster, energy policy issues for the 113th Congress, the 2013 cybersecurity executive order and the Keystone XL pipeline project.

I 3D Printed An AR-15 Assault Riffle

Recently, the city of Philadelphia passed a ban on 3D-Printer guns. There is a debate raging about the impact of consumers using 3D printers to manufacture items such as plastic parts for small arms. FAS Board Chair Gilman Louie writes in the Business Insider about how he used a 3D printer to print a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, and the emerging security threats from this technology.

Read the article here. 

FAS President Elected to Fellowship in American Physical Society

FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson was elected to Fellowship in the American Physical Society by its Council at the November 2013 meeting. Election to Fellowship in the American Physical Society is limited to no more than one-half of one percent of the membership and is based on recognition by peers for outstanding contributions to physics.

The citation from APS reads: “For applying technical knowledge to public policy on nuclear issues, including nuclear energy, nonproliferation, nuclear and radiological terrorism, and nuclear safety and security; and for communicating that knowledge to society.”

Congratulations to Dr. Ferguson for this honor!


Give the Gift of FAS Membership This Holiday Season

Share your passion and commitment to a safer and more secure world by giving the gift of a one-year membership to FAS for $35. Introduce a friend or loved one to the longest-serving organization committed to providing high quality research addressing nuclear weapons risks. The recipient of your gift will be notified on the morning of December 25, 2013.

Click here to give the gift of FAS membership this holiday season. 


Course on Nuclear Nonproliferation

FAS and George Mason University are hosting a three-day short course on nuclear nonproliferation from February 3 to February 5, 2014 at George Mason in Fairfax, VA. The course is designed to introduce participants to the challenges facing the world that result from the proliferation of nuclear technologies, and the scope of nuclear capabilities and arsenals in the world today.

Early bird registration is $1100 and will last until January 10, 2014.

Click here for more information on course registration, instructors and course topics.


FAS in the News

Dec 5: Global Security Newswire“After Mexican Theft, Critics Question if IAEA Radiological Security Rules Are Enough”

Dec 5: Foreign Policy“In Japan’s State Secrets Law, Shades Of Red, White And Blue”

Dec 5: ABC News“Cold, Cold War: Putin Talks Tough Over US Arctic Rivalry”

Dec 5: Al Jazeera America“Nuclear Chutzpah”

Dec 5: The Diplomat“Why The US Shouldn’t Nuke Iran”

Dec 5: The Brown Daily Herald“In Panels, Experts Examine Federal Surveillance Programs”

Dec 4: Washington Post“IG Finds Some Not-So-Intelligent Conduct In The Intelligence Community”

Dec 4: Foxnews.com“Iran Enrichment Capacity Expanded Dramatically On Obama’s Watch”

Dec 3: Time- Swampland“Titillating Tidbits From The Inspector General’s Report On The Intelligence Community”

Dec 3: The Diplomat“North Korea Resumes Construction At Tonghae Missile Launch Site”

Categories: FAS Roundup