FAS Roundup: June 2, 2014

Global biosecurity engagement, House intel report on surveillance and more.

Examining Global Biosecurity Engagement Programs

Global biosecurity engagement programs are designed to prevent the harmful use of biological agents and pathogens. It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of these programs in improving biosecurity given that there have been relatively few attempts to misuse the life sciences. Metrics that focus on outputs (what was done) as opposed to outcomes (the impact of what was done) have not been helpful in determining how these efforts might be improved in the future. Broadening the scope of biosecurity engagement metrics can help align program goals with a more qualitative approach that prioritizes the international partners’ global health security.

To understand how biosecurity engagement is conducted and evaluated, Michelle Rozo, Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins University, interviewed more than 35 individuals in the United States and abroad (including government officials and their non-governmental partners) regarding current and future programs that can be used to create a cohesive, global health system approach to biosecurity. The results from the interviews are compiled in an issue brief which also provides a strategy for policymakers to focus more on qualitative public health outcomes instead of quantitative security outputs. With this strategy, programs will cost less and be more effective in reducing global threats.

Read the issue brief, Placing Global Biosecurity Engagement Programs Under the Umbrella of Global Health Security here (PDF).

House Intel Committee Needs Oversight of Its Own

In a new op-ed published on MSNBC.com, Steven Aftergood, Director of the Government Secrecy Project, and Rep. Rush Holt, Former Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and Congressman from New Jersey’s 12th District, examine how the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has lost sight of the founding principles of the committee in the wake of the passing of the annual intelligence authorization bill with a vote of 345-59.

Aftergood and Holt write that with this bill, “it should have represented an opportunity for a dramatic overhaul of the intelligence community and for some critical examination of HPSCI’s own role. But it appears that HPSCI has lost sight of its founding principles – that it is, in effect, choosing allegiance to our nation’s spies, rather than to the law-abiding citizens who are being spied upon.” In order to fix the problem of oversight, the authors recommend that Congress establish strong protections for Intelligence Community whistleblowers to ensure that they can approach lawmakers with their concerns without fear of reprisal.

Read the op-ed here. 

From the Blogs

House Intelligence Report: No Second Thoughts: Of the many lessons to be learned from the unauthorized disclosures of classified intelligence information by Edward Snowden, one of them is that the congressional intelligence oversight process did not function properly in the years leading up to those disclosures. in its new report on the intelligence authorization act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) does not pause for any kind of reflection, let alone self-criticism. It does not inquire why the intelligence oversight process has seemed inhospitable to the kinds of public concerns that emerged in Snowden’s wake. It does not consider whether the Committee’s own practices need to be altered to provide for greater public engagement. It does not even mention Snowden’s name, referring instead to “a former NSA contractor.”

Background of Circuit Court Judges and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as cybersecurity, an overview of professional experiences and qualifications of U.S. Circuit Court Judges and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Petition the White House to Ensure a Secure Nuclear Future

FAS and the arms control community urge you to sign a petition asking the White House to reverse cuts to programs that prevent nuclear terrorism. The petition is as follows:

Dear Mr. President:

Your budget request makes deep cuts to vital nuclear security programs. These cuts increase the risk that terrorists could obtain materials to construct a crude nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb.

Your request for the National Nuclear Security Administration reduces funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative by 25% and International Materials Protection and Cooperation by 27%. It also slashes the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program by 27%.

We applaud your leadership on initiating the Nuclear Security Summit process. Still, as you said at the 2014 summit, significant work remains to be done.

Please work with Congress to ensure that these programs have resources to build a secure nuclear future where no American fears the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Click here to sign the petition. 

May 30: Bloomberg News“Snowden’s Damage: More Trust Than Verify From Gov’t”

May 27: Business Insider“Five Alarming Facts About The State Of Nuclear Weapons In Today’s World”

May 26: Boston Globe“US Lags in Airing its Old Secrets”