FAS Roundup- December 12, 2011

FAS Roundup: December 12, 2011

Status of China’s nuclear arsenal, new START data, tracking of cell phones and vehicles by law enforcement and more.

From the Blogs

  • No, China Does Not Have 3,000 Nuclear Weapons: Only the Chinese government knows how many nuclear weapons China has. As in most other nuclear weapon states, the number is a closely held secret. A recent example of how not to make an estimate is the study recently published by the Asia Arms Control Project at Georgetown University. The study (China’s Underground Great Wall: Challenge for Nuclear Arms Control) suggests that China may have as many as 3,000 nuclear weapons. Although we don’t know exactly how many nuclear weapons China has, we are pretty sure that it doesn’t have 3,000. In fact, the Georgetown University estimate appears to be off by an order of magnitude.
  • Legislative Secrecy Declines, But Endures: Congress is the most transparent and publicly accessible branch of government, and yet there are many aspects of the legislative process that are opaque and off-limits to public awareness. Secrecy News obtained a recently released CRS report which discusses the transparency of the U.S. Congress.
  • US Releases Full New START Data: Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, writes that the recent release of U.S. aggregate data under New START by the State Department is a good development as it increases transparency of U.S. nuclear forces, and restores the practice under the previous START treaty of disclosing such information to the public. Now, the pressure is on Russia to publish its New START data as well.
  • When Does Public Disclosure Make Secrecy Moot?: The U.S. State Department insists that the publication of many thousands of classified diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks does not alter their classification status. In a FOIA lawsuit by the ACLU for 23 of the cables, the State Department released redacted versions of  11 cables; they withheld the other 12 cables, despite them being available online.
  • CRS Loses Several Senior Staffers: The Congressional Research Service gained a new Director this week, but it has recently lost several of its most experienced and accomplished analysts. Steven Aftergood writes that with the departure of senior staff, CRS is also experiencing deeper changes that will leave it with diminished capacity to provide original analysis and insight to Congress and other would-be consumers.

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US Releases Full New START Data

The Obama administration gets a medal for disclosing its New START treaty numbers.

By Hans M. Kristensen [updated 12 Dec 2011 with new bomber information]

Anyone familiar with my writings knows that I don’t hand out medals to the nuclear weapon states very often. But the Obama administration deserves one after the U.S. State Department’s recent release of the full U.S. aggregate data under the New START treaty.

The release breaks with the initial practice under the treaty of only publishing overall nuclear force category numbers, and re-establishes the U.S. practice from the previous START treaty of providing maximum disclosure of the strategic forces counted by the treaty. This is a good development that has gone totally unnoticed in the news media.

The pressure is now squarely on Russia to follow suit and publish its New START aggregate data as well. Continue reading