FAS Roundup: April 19, 2016

From the Blogs

Counting Casualties in Syria & Iraq, and More from CRS: The number of people killed in Syria since March 2011 is variously estimated to be between 250,000 and 470,000. The number of estimated casualties in Iraq ranges from 19,000 to 41,650 deaths since January 2014. A new report from the Congressional Research Service somewhat clinically discusses “the difficulties of collecting war-related casualty data in both countries and provides an overview of some of the current estimated figures available through selected organizations.”

Next U.S. National Military Strategy to be Classified: In a number of national security policy areas, there is a long-term trend in favor of greater transparency and disclosure. For example, the U.S. Army openly published a manual last week on Techniques for Information Collection During Operations Among Populations (ATP 3-55.4). It supersedes and replaces a previous publication from 2007 (FM 2-91.6) that was for restricted distribution and was marked For Official Use Only. But in some other areas, the arrow of transparency is pointed backwards and previously unclassified categories of records are becoming newly restricted or classified.

Preparing for the Presidential Transition, and More from CRS: The transfer of presidential power from one Administration to the next “is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking” that actually begins several months before the general election, an updated report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

DoD: Some FOIA Requesters “Try to Monopolize the System”: Criticism of the Freedom of Information Act is frequently directed at the way that agencies implement the FOIA process, or the ways that they fail to do so. Requesters complain that responses to requests are delayed, often for years, that exemptions from disclosures are interpreted too broadly or in self-serving ways, and that fee waivers are arbitrarily withheld. It sometimes seems to be necessary to file a lawsuit just in order to get an agency’s attention. But it turns out that government agencies also have complaints of their own, including what they consider to be abusive behavior by some FOIA requesters. See the latest report from the DoD Cheif FOIA Officer.

DNI Establishes Intelligence Transparency Council: The notion of “intelligence transparency,” which once would have been considered an oxymoron, is instead becoming institutionalized with the establishment of a new Intelligence Transparency Council. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed the Charter of the new Council on April 5.

Brazil in Crisis, and More from CRS: New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service.

FAS in the News

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