FAS Roundup: March 24, 2014

By March 24, 2014

Missing U.S. military nuclear materials, Ukraine and nuclear proliferation, ODNI rethinks openness in intelligence and more.

CIA’s Refusal to Release Softcopy Records Challenged in Court: Even when the CIA possesses a releasable document in a softcopy format, the Agency typically refuses to release the softcopy version in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, and insists on providing a hardcopy version of the document instead. A federal judge said last week that that may be a violation of law. The issue arose in a FOIA lawsuit seeking electronic copies of 419 articles from the in-house CIA journal Studies in Intelligence. The lawsuit was brought by Jeffrey Scudder, an information technology specialist who has worked in the intelligence community for 23 years.

Climate Change Legislation and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as nuclear energy, climate change legislation and NASA appropriations.

ODNI Rethinks Secrecy and Openness in Intelligence: By leaking classified intelligence documents, Edward Snowden transformed public awareness of the scale and scope of U.S. intelligence surveillance programs. But his actions are proving to be no less consequential for national security secrecy policy. “These leaks have forced the Intelligence Community to rethink our approach to transparency and secrecy,” said Robert S. Litt, General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He spoke at a March 18 Freedom of Information Day program. Steven Aftergood takes a look at Litt’s comments and writes that  spontaneous gestures of openness and transparency, are imperfect substitutes for systemic change and external accountability.

Missing U.S. Military Nuclear Material: Missing in Action or Sloppy Practices?

The United States has the gold standard when it comes to accounting for fissile materials especially in the military sector. Yet, for more than 30 years, government reports have sounded the alarm that the accounting system for these materials is not adequate and the United States is still not meeting its most stringent standards. If the nuclear material accounting system is not adequate, what does it imply for nuclear-armed states that are still manufacturing and remanufacturing warheads more frequently than the United States?

FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson examines missing U.S. nuclear fissile materials in a chapter of the new book Nuclear Weapons Materials Gone Missing: What Does History Teach? (published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.) The chapter examines incidents of missing materials (such as missing highly enriched uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania from the 1960s) and provides an overview of U.S. military control and accounting systems and recommendations on how to improve these systems.

Read the chapter here (PDF).

It’s Not Just Ukraine, It’s What Russia May Try Next

On March 19, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial on Russia’s invasion of Crimea, stating one lesson that can be learned from this is that “nations that abandon their nuclear arsenals do so at their own peril,” and that at the end of the Cold War, Ukraine had an estimated 1,800 nuclear weapons which were ready to go in the event of an attack.

In a letter to the editor in response to this editorial, Dr. Robert Norris, Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy, writes that Ukraine was never a nuclear power. Ukraine did have several thousand Soviet warheads deployed within its borders, but the weapon systems were guarded and manned by the Russians and Ukraine had no operational control over them.

Read the letter here. 

Radiological and Nuclear Detection Symposium: An Industry Discussion with Government

FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson and Senior Fellow for Nonproliferation Law and Policy Mr. Chris Bidwell will speak at the Radiological and Nuclear Detection Symposium hosted by VIP GlobalNet LLC on March 25-26, 2014 at the Mason Inn at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. The symposium will bring together government and industry experts to discuss how they can work together on radiation and nuclear detection challenges. Dr. Ferguson will speak about the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands. Mr. Bidwell will speak about the recent Defense Science Board (DSB) report on nuclear verification monitoring capabilities.

Click here for registration and symposium schedule.


Conference: Faith Communities on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons

Soka Gakkai International-USA, the Federation of American Scientists, Abolition 2000, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Pax Christi International, Pax Christi USA and Women’s Action for New Directions invite you to a one-day conference examining the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and means for collaboration between the faith and advocacy communities on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. The event will be held from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Leaders from faith-based organizations, advocacy groups and government will come together to examine topics such as how faith views nuclear weapons, areas for partnership and U.S. nuclear policy.

The conference is free but advanced registration is required.

To RSVP and for conference agenda, click here. 

Essay Contest: How Should Humanity Steer the Future?                             

The Foundational Questions Institute, the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation and Scientific American are holding an essay contest related to safeguarding the future from nuclear risks and climate change. The topic is how should humanity steer the future and how to make the world better while avoiding potential catastrophes.

Possible topics or sub-questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the best state that humanity can realistically achieve?
  • What is your plan for getting us there? Who implements this plan?
  • What technology (construed broadly to include practices and techniques) does your plan rely on? What are the risks of those technologies? How can those risks be mitigated?

Submissions will be accepted until April 18, 2014. For more information and guidelines click here.

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Categories: FAS Roundup