FAS Roundup: October 22, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, radioactive waste cleanup and much more.

50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis

October marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time when the United States and the Soviet Union almost went to nuclear war. In 2012, with threats from North Korea, Iran, and terrorist groups, could this happen again?

To commemorate this anniversary, FAS solicited and compiled essays from members and distinguished experts. FAS selected 10 of the best articles written by experts who pondered the lasting impact of this historic event and the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons.

To read the essays click here.

Other Resources:

Fifty Years After the Cuban Missile Crisis: Time to Stop Bluffering at Nuclear Poker (Written by Dr. Martin Hellman, co-published by FAS and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation)

The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Nuclear Order of Battle, October and November 1962 (Nuclear Notebook written by Mr. Hans Kristensen and Dr. Robert Stan Norris)


From the Blogs

  • Kiriakou Not Allowed to Argue Lack of Intent to Harm U.S.: A court ruled this month that former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is charged with unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the media, will not be permitted to argue at trial that he intended no harm to the United States, or that his entire career testifies to a deep commitment to national security. Instead, the central question at trial will be whether Kiriakou “had reason to believe” that the information he allegedly released would cause injury to the United States.
  • Post-RDD Radioactive Waste: Radioactive waste disposal is not cheap. Think of how much radioactive waste will be produced in the aftermath of a dirty bomb attack, and how much it might cost for disposal. In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y discusses potential cleanup standards in the case of an attack and potential costs.
  • The Purpose of National Security Policy, Declassified: The most fundamental purpose of national security policy is not to keep the nation safe from physical attack but to defend the constitutional order.  At least, that is what President Reagan wrote in a Top Secret 1986 directive. In a list of national security objectives, the directive does note the imperative “to protect the United States… from military, paramilitary, or terrorist attack.” But that is not the primary objective, according to the Reagan directive.  Defense of the Constitution evidently takes precedence.



  • Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, spoke at a briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association at the United Nations in New York on October 15 regarding options for further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.
  • Steven Aftergood, Director of the Government Secrecy Project, spoke at a conference hosted by the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York on October 16 regarding national security secrecy.
  • On October 18, FAS hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and future nuclear security threats featuring Dr. Martin Hellman from Stanford University
  • FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson will speak at a forum on nuclear regimes hosted by Virginia Tech  University in Arlington, VA on November 5, 2012. Nuclear regimes have their origins in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and continue to have a significant impact on the nuclear power enterprise worldwide. Topics that will be discussed at the conference include: the role of the IAEA, future role of nuclear power and other energy sources and nuclear policy regulations by the government. Registration for the conference is free. The deadline to register is Friday, October 26, 2012. To view the conference agenda and register, click here.
  • Tickets are now on sale for the 2012 FAS Symposium on Catastrophic Threats and Awards Ceremony which will be held in Washington, DC on Friday, November 9, 2012. The next President of the United States and his national security team will need to make urgent decisions about protecting the nation from catastrophic threats. At the symposium, distinguished experts on policy and technological aspects of conventional, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, biotechnology, nuclear safety, electricity generation, distribution, and storage, and cyber security will present their recommendations for preventing and reducing risks from catastrophic threats and for developing an effective energy policy. To purchase tickets to the symposium, click here. 


FAS in the News

Up for Debate: Syria’s Chemical Weapons

Mr. Doug Bandow of The CATO Institute and Mr. Luke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation debate below about whether military intervention by the U.S. to secure Syria’s chemical stockpiles could worsen the situation, leading potentially to the use of those chemical weapons

Debate: Risks and Benefits of U.S. Military Intervention to Secure Syria’s Chemical Weapons

n 2001 testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Governmental Affairs, Jonathan B. Tucker, Director of Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, testified that “Syria has one of the largest and most advanced chemical warfare capabilities in the Middle East.” These include potentially stockpiles of sarin, VX nerve agent, and mustard agent. A 2011 unclassified report to Congress said Syria’s chemical weapons “can be delivered by aerial bombs, ballistic missiles, and artillery rockets.”

The U.S. has monitored closely these stockpiles as the Syrian civil war continues. However, recently, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted that stockpiles have been moved without U.S. knowledge. Some have called for military intervention to secure those stockpiles, which threaten the Syrian people, the U.S., or its allies. Others argue that a military intervention would worsen the situation, leading potentially to the use of those chemical weapons.

Mr. Doug Bandow of The CATO Institute and Mr. Luke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation debate  the risks and benefits of a U.S. military intervention to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.

Mr. Doug Bandow, The CATO Institute (CATO)

Syria:  The Wages of Loose WMDs?

The tragic Syrian civil war continues.  President Bashar al-Assad is the most likely loser, but many more people will die before the conflict ends.  Although the usual warhawks are beating the drums for U.S. intervention, Americans have nothing at stake which warrants joining another war in the Middle East.  The U.S. military is not an answer to every international problem.

A Syrian implosion almost certainly would be messy.  Of particular concern is the Assad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons (it also may have a limited supply of biological agents).  However, for Washington the greatest danger would be their use in defending against direct American military involvement.  Weapons leakage in the midst of regime collapse would be of much greater concern to Syria’s neighbors.

Washington policymakers have trouble resisting the temptation to intervene.  However, there is no answer in Syria to the question:  how does it end?  There’s no reason to believe that intervening there would yield better results than in, say, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Nor can the U.S. afford to continue playing globocop.  Being prepared to fight everywhere is why America accounts for roughly half of the globe’s military outlays.  While some conflicts, such as Libya, were relatively cheap, others, most obviously Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to drain the Treasury.  Washington must pare back its military role, force structure, and budget.

The Syrian imbroglio, though tragic, has little direct strategic impact on America.  Nor is there a compelling humanitarian argument for intervention.  Despite significant civilian casualties, the conflict falls far short of genocide.  Moreover, U.S. intervention would more likely transform than end the bloodshed, while sucking American forces into another long-term killing ground.

However, fear over Syria’s chemical weapons remains.  Thankfully, the U.S. would be an unlikely target of any which escaped the control of “responsible” authorities, whoever they may be.  Although classed as WMDs, chemical weapons are less fearsome than either their nuclear or biological counterparts.  The former are less destructive, more difficult to use, and easier to counter.  Americans probably have more to fear from a terrorist assault using anti-aircraft missiles stolen from Moammar Kaddafi’s well-stocked military cupboard than escaped Syrian chemical agents.

Still, if the U.S. could easily sweep up Syria’s arsenal, it should do so.  But those clamoring for intervention offer no such plan.  A ground invasion, the only certain means, is the one scenario under which the Assad regime likely would deploy the weapons—against America.  Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi warned his nation’s WMD stocks “are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Establishing a no-fly zone over the country or “safe” zones for refugees or fighters, or arming the opposition would only make Assad’s fall more likely, loosening control over the chemical arsenal.  However strong the justification for promoting the regime’s overthrow is, Washington could not complain about the consequences if it chose to destabilize Syria.

The better plan would be consider options should the regime disintegrate.  That might warrant an attempt to secure Syria’s chemical weapons—but it should be launched by those nations which are closest and have most at risk.  After all, should Damascus lose control over its WMDs, they are most likely to end up used nearby.

Israel has the greatest fears and capabilities.  In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his nation was “ready to act” to prevent Syria’s weapons from falling into Hezbollah’s hands.  Turkey also has much at stake—imagine Kurdish rebels gaining access to chemical weapons—as well as a competent military.  Ankara seeks greater regional influence; it could achieve this end by helping to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.

Fans of U.S. dominance or hegemony—usually disguised as general calls for American “leadership”—rue the idea of any nation anywhere acting outside of Washington’s control.  However, the U.S. has been bogged down by continuous war over minimal stakes for more than a decade.  The federal government functionally bankrupt.  Rather than attempting to micro-manage the world, Washington must not just allow but expect its populous and prosperous allies to take over responsibility for their own and their respective regions’ security.

There is no good solution for the Syrian tragedy.  Civil wars typically are the worst of conflicts.  Syria’s ethnic and religious divisions make the war unlikely to end well.  But Washington lacks the ability to make things right.

Syria’s possession of chemical weapons merely reinforces that case against American intervention.  The problems and solutions primarily lie with regional parties, not the US.


Mr. Luke D. CoffeyThe Heritage Foundation 

As the security situation in Syria deteriorates, concern about the Assad regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons rises. Will the regime use chemical weapons on its own people?  Will these weapons find their way to terrorist organizations in the region?

These concerns are not without justification. Syria is known to possess a sizeable arsenal of chemical weapons. The exact size, disposition and configuration of these assets remain unknown, but the regime is estimated to have hundreds of tons of blister and nerve agents, with the capability of producing several hundred tons more per year. Further complicating matters, the storage and production sites for these weapons are said to be scattered around the country in dozens of locations. If Libya is anything to go by, the West likely knows less than it thinks it does regarding Syria’s chemical weapons program.

The most immediate threat is that the regime would use chemical weapons against the opposition forces.  Due to the non-discriminatory nature of chemical weapons, this could have a devastating impact on the civilian population. However, if Syria’s chemical weapons were to fall into the hands of terrorists, it could have horrific consequences for regional, if not international, stability. Consider the repercussions of a chemical attack on Israel, for example.

U.S. targets in the region would also be at risk—from the thousands of American troops based along the Gulf to our troops fighting in Afghanistan. Syrian artillery shells armed with chemical agents could find their way to the roadside bomb making laboratories in Iran or northern Pakistan.  And that wouldn’t be a first either. A roadside bomb containing nerve gas was used against U.S. forces in Iraq in 2004.  Luckily, it was a one-off event and did not start a trend.

The threat extends beyond U.S. military targets in the region to civilian targets of economic importance. Imagine a chemical attack on Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, the Jordanian port city of Aqaba on the Red Sea or even the Suez Canal. With the right weather conditions, an attack involving persistent chemical agents such as blister or VX gas could halt commerce for weeks.

There is no easy solution for securing Syria’s chemical weapons. The Pentagon estimated that it could require 75,000 troops to properly secure the regime’s chemical weapons sites. To most, this seems an unrealistic option. However, prudent steps can be taken to mitigate the risks without deploying tens of thousands of American soldiers.

First, the U.S. must work to build international consensus on this issue—with particular attention to bringing Russia and China on board. Both should be reminded that they face threats from Islamic terrorism inside their borders and that loose chemical weapons in the hands of terrorists could threaten their security, too. The U.S. should also encourage Turkey and the Arab League to make it clear to Assad that the use of chemical weapons would be a redline for regional military involvement. If tens of thousands of troops are required, the ideal situation would be for U.S. chemical weapons experts to augment Arab troops, which should form the bulk of any force.

Secondly, the U.S. should continue to gather intelligence and work with allies such as the UK, France and Israel to increase situational awareness about Syria’s chemical weapons. If any actionable intelligence shows that chemical weapons are being smuggled out of Syria, the U.S. must be prepared to act, using Special Operations forces if required.

Thirdly, as weapons sites fall within the control of opposition forces, the U.S. needs to be prepared to send teams of experts, with the skills required for detection, monitoring, and securing chemical weapons, to assist the opposition forces. Cooperation with Syria’s neighbors to prevent smuggling is also important. This could include training and equipping their border guards. This will take time, however.  It should have been started 18 months ago, when Syria started to implode.

Assad’s chemical weapons present a clear and present danger—not just to Syrian opposition forces, but to U.S. and allied military and economic interests in the region. There is no silver bullet to ensure complete security and accountability of the regime’s weapons—especially in the event of a total breakdown of security in the country—but steps can be taken to mitigate the risks. With so much at stake, adequate measures must be taken now, before it is too late.


About the Debaters:

Mr. Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest,Wall Street Journal, and Washington Times. Bandow speaks frequently at academic conferences, on college campuses, and to business groups. Bandow has been a regular commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. He holds a J.D. from Stanford University.

Mr. Luke Coffey works on U.S.-UK relations as the Margaret Thatcher Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He focuses on defense and security matters, including the role of NATO and the European Union in transatlantic security. Before joining the Heritage Foundation in 2012, Coffey served at the UK Ministry of Defence as senior special adviser to then-British Defence Secretary Liam Fox. He was the only non-UK citizen appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to provide advice to senior British ministers. Until going to the Ministry of Defence in 2010, Coffey worked in the House of Commons as an adviser on defense and security issues for the Conservative Party. He helped develop and implement policy initiatives on security and defense matters, in particular drafting the defense section of the party’s 2010 election manifesto. Coffey’s work in British politics followed his service to the United States as a commissioned officer in the Army. He spent his entire time on active duty overseas and was stationed in Italy with the Army’s Southern European Task Force. In 2005, Coffey deployed to Afghanistan for a year. He was responsible for developing theater-level policies for enemy detainees in U.S. custody, in support of counterinsurgency strategy. Coffey received a master of science degree in the politics and government of the European Union from the London School of Economics. He also holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and an associate of arts degree in military science from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Mo.


About Up for Debate:

In Up For Debate, FAS invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss science policy and security issues. This debate among experts is conducted via email and posted on FAS.org. FAS invites a demographically and ideologically diverse group to comment – a unique FAS feature that allows readers to reach conclusions based on both sides of an argument rather than just one point of view.


Please read the guidelines for the official debate and rebuttal policy for participants of FAS’s ‘Up For Debate.’ All participants are required to follow these rules. Each opinion must stay on topic and feature relevant content, or be a rebuttal. No ad hominem and personal attacks, name calling, libel, or defamation is allowed, and proper citations must be given.

Intelligence Imagery Set to be Disclosed in 2013

A massive quantity of historical intelligence satellite imagery from the KH-9 HEXAGON program is being declassified and will be made public in a series of releases that are scheduled over the coming year, intelligence community officials say.

Declassification of intelligence satellite imagery languished for years after President Clinton ordered the release of product from the Corona, Argon and Lanyard missions in the 1995 executive order 12951.  Although the Clinton order also required the periodic review of imagery from other missions, that requirement was effectively ignored by intelligence agencies and neglected by congressional oversight.

But in a May 2010 memorandum Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair ordered the “re-establishment” of the declassification review of intelligence imagery — though it had never been officially disestablished — with a particular focus on imagery from satellite systems that were deemed obsolete.

In January 2011, DNI James R. Clapper formally declared that the KH-9 HEXAGON program was obsolete, and that declassification review of all program imagery should therefore commence.  KH-9 HEXAGON was operational from 1971 to 1984.

“The process to declassify imagery pursuant to EO 12951 began shortly after DNI Blair’s May 26, 2010 memorandum and has been ongoing, in earnest, with the goal of releasing as much imagery as possible to the public, consistent with national security,” said Michael G. Birmingham of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Accordingly, The KH-9/HEXAGON system was declared obsolete in January 2011 and a phased declassification of its imagery has ensued.”

More than two years after the Blair memorandum, however, next to nothing has yet been made public.

“The notable challenges to this effort are the sheer volume of imagery and the logistics involved in cataloging the imagery and moving it to archive,” Mr. Birmingham told Secrecy News.

“For context, and to grasp the scope of the project, the KH-9/HEXAGON system provided coverage over hundreds of millions of square miles of territory during its 19 successful missions spanning 1971-1984.  It is a daunting issue to address declassification of the program specifics associated with an obsolete system such as the KH-9, which involves the declassification of huge volumes of intelligence information gathered on thousands of targets worldwide during a 13 year time period.”

Daunting or not, the large bulk of the KH-9 imagery is expected to be released, with only perhaps 5% or so remaining classified.

“There is a schedule of multiple deliveries with final delivery of imagery scheduled for September 2013,” Mr. Birmingham said.

Within the intelligence community, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is the executive agent for imagery declassification.  NGA public affairs did not respond to questions about its declassification program.  [Correction:  The comments provided by Mr. Birmingham were coordinated with NGA public affairs and represent a joint response to our inquiry from ODNI and NGA.]

Historian Anna K. Nelson, RIP

We were sad to learn that Professor Anna K. Nelson, a tenacious and effective advocate for improved public access to national security records, passed away last month.

For decades, Prof. Nelson argued for improved declassification practices in almost every venue imaginable, from congressional hearings to the most obscure and transient advisory bodies.  As a professor of history at American University, she insisted that government records were public property and that access to such records was one of the foundations of good citizenship.

Among many other posts, she served as a presidentially-appointed member of the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, which was tasked to oversee the declassification of records concerning the assassination of President Kennedy.  Because of the perseverance of Dr. Nelson and her colleagues, that Board was uniquely productive in overcoming longstanding barriers to declassification, particularly those pertaining to intelligence agency records.

Nevertheless, she was habitually pessimistic about the prospects for meaningful secrecy reform.

“Given past performance, it is highly unrealistic to assume that agencies, particularly Defense and the CIA, will be completely forthcoming or that the Archives will ever question agency decisions,” she wrote in a 2000 letter to Congress. “Agency declassification of selected, heavily redacted records will not serve the public interest. It will only breed more suspicion.”

Prof. Nelson also spoke out in defense of robust investigative reporting on national security matters.  In 2008, for example, she submitted a declaration of behalf of New York Times reporter James Risen, arguing that a grand jury subpoena against him in the pending leak case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling should be quashed.

“If Mr. Risen and other investigative journalists are unable to report effectively on matters of intelligence, the historical record will be incomplete, if not erroneous,” Dr. Nelson wrote.

“Although our own books and articles are stuffed with footnotes, we historians understand that investigative journalists, as observers of the present, must protect their sources. If they do not, the American people will never learn about corruption, incompetence, excessive government secrecy, flaws in homeland security, or disastrous decisions made by policy makers who are advised by their intelligence chiefs,” she wrote. “We must depend upon journalists and journalists must be permitted to depend upon confidential sources.”

Cuban Missile Crisis: Nuclear Order of Battle

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis blockade, unknown to the United States, the Soviet Union already had short-range nuclear weapons on the island, such as this FKR-1 cruise missile, that would most likely have been used against a U.S. invasion.


By Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris

Fifty years ago the world held its breath for a few weeks as the United States and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of nuclear war in response to the Soviet deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Cuba.

The United States imposed a military blockade around Cuba to keep more Soviet weapons out and prepared to invade the island if necessary. As nuclear-armed warships sparred to enforce and challenge the blockade, a few good men made momentous efforts and decisions that prevented use of nuclear weapons and eventually defused the crisis.

What the Kennedy administration did not know, however, was that the Soviet Union had 158 nuclear warheads of five types already in Cuba by the time of the blockade. This included nearly 100 warheads for short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. If the invasion had been launched, as the military recommended but the White House fortunately decided against, it would most likely have triggered Soviet use of those short-range nuclear weapons against the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo and at amphibious forces storming the Cuban beaches. That, in turn, would have triggered wider use of nuclear forces.

In our latest Nuclear Notebook – The Cuban Missile Crisis: a nuclear order of battle, October and November 1962 – we outline the nuclear order of battle that the United States and the Soviet Union had at their disposal. At the peak of the crisis, the United States had some 3,500 nuclear weapons ready to use on command, while the Soviet Union had perhaps 300-500.

The Cuban Missile Crisis order of battle of useable weapons represented only a small portion of the total inventories of nuclear warheads the United States and Russia possessed at the time. Illustrating its enormous numerical nuclear superiority, the U.S. nuclear stockpile in 1962 included more than 25,500 warheads (mostly for battlefield weapons). The Soviet Union had about 3,350.

For all the lessons the Cuban Missile Crisis taught the world about nuclear dangers, it also left some enduring legacies and challenges that are still confronting the world today. Among other things, the crisis fueled a build-up of quick-reaction nuclear weapons that could more effectively hold a risk the other side’s nuclear forces in a wider range of different strike scenarios.

Today, 50 years later and more than 20 years after the Cold War ended, the United States and Russia still have more than 10,000 nuclear weapons combined. Of those, an estimated 1,800 nuclear warheads are on alert on top of long-range ballistic missiles, ready to be launched on short notice to inflict unimaginable devastation on each other. The best way to honor the Cuban Missile Crisis would be to finally end that legacy and take nuclear weapons off alert.

Nuclear Notebook: The Cuban Missile Crisis: A nuclear order of battle, October and November 1962

Event: Nuclear Regimes Forum

FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson will speak at a forum on nuclear regimes hosted by Virginia Tech  University in Arlington, VA on November 5, 2012.

Dr. Ferguson will speak about nuclear power and nonproliferation regimes.

Nuclear regimes have their origins in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and continue to have a significant impact on the nuclear power enterprise worldwide. Topics that will be discussed at the conference include: the role of the IAEA, future role of nuclear power and other energy sources and nuclear policy regulations by the government.

Registration for the conference is free. The deadline to register is Friday, October 26, 2012.

To view the conference agenda and register, click here.




Event: Science and Technology of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization is hosting an Advanced Science Course, “Around the Globe and Around the Clock: The Science and Technology of the CTBT” from November 12-23 at the Vienna International Centre. The course is also available online and free of charge.

The course will take an in-depth look at the science behind the verification technologies of the CTBT, as well as the conduct of on-site inspections to verify compliance with the nuclear test ban.

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The Purpose of National Security Policy, Declassified

The most fundamental purpose of national security policy is not to keep the nation safe from physical attack but to defend the constitutional order.  At least, that is what President Reagan wrote in a Top Secret 1986 directive.

“The primary objective of U.S. foreign and security policy is to protect the integrity of our democratic institutions and promote a peaceful global environment in which they can thrive,” President Reagan wrote in National Security Decision Directive 238 on “Basic National Security Strategy,” which was partially declassified in 2005.

In a list of national security objectives, the directive does note the imperative “to protect the United States… from military, paramilitary, or terrorist attack.”

But that is not the primary objective, according to the Reagan directive.  Defense of the Constitution evidently takes precedence.

The first purpose of national security policy is “to preserve the political identity, framework and institutions of the United States as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” President Reagan wrote.

This is a remarkable statement, for several reasons.  First, it recognizes that the political identity and institutions of the United States are not simply a given, but that they are vulnerable to many types of threats and must be actively defended and sustained.  This task is not normally assigned the urgency or the priority given to “national security.”

Second, the directive distinguishes between constitutional governance and physical security. Not every measure intended to promote security is constitutional.  And not every act in defense of democratic self-governance is likely to promote public safety.  (The American Revolution was not calculated to increase “homeland security.” Quite the opposite.)  Sometimes a choice between the two is required.  President Reagan indicated what he thought the choice should be.

And third, the directive is remarkable because its rhetoric was so imperfectly realized by the Reagan Administration (and egregiously defied in the Iran-Contra Affair) and has been largely abandoned by its successors.

“Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government,” wrote President George W. Bush in his 2002 National Security Strategy, skipping over President Reagan’s “primary” objective.

Likewise, “As President, I have often said that I have no greater responsibility than protecting the American people,” President Obama wrote in his National Strategy for Counterterrorism.

The Reagan directive invites reflection on what U.S. national security policy would look like if it were truly structured above all “to protect the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

In a section of the directive that was only classified Confidential, President Reagan contrasted the U.S. with the Soviet Union, which was described as its polar opposite.

“Our way of life, founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual, depends on a stable and pluralistic world order within which freedom and democratic institutions can thrive.  Yet, the greatest threat to the Soviet system, in which the State controls the destiny of the individual, is the concept of freedom itself.”

“The survival of the Soviet system depends to a significant extent upon the persistent and exaggerated representation of foreign threats, through which it seeks to justify both the subjugation of its own people and the expansion of Soviet military capabilities well beyond those required for self-defense,” President Reagan wrote.

Numerous Presidential directives from the Reagan Administration have been declassified in recent years and have released by the Reagan Library, though others still remain partially or completely classified. Many of the declassified directives provide a fascinating account that enlarges and enriches the public record of events of the time.

Only last year, for example, a 1985 directive (NSDD-172) on “Presenting the Strategic Defense Initiative” was finally declassified.

This year, NSDD 159 on “Covert Action Policy Approval and Coordination Procedures” (1985) was declassified.

NSDD 207 on “The National Program for Combatting Terrorism” (1986) was declassified in 2008.  Among other things, that directive ordered the Attorney General to “Review the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and determine whether terrorist movements or organizations are abusing its provisions.”

Job Growth During the Recovery, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has not made available to the public include the following.

Job Growth During the Recovery, updated October 16, 2012

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR): Funding Issues After a Decade of Implementation, FY2004-FY2013, October 10, 2012

Statutes of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview, updated October 1, 2012

Venezuela: Issues for Congress, updated October 16, 2012

Georgia’s October 2012 Legislative Election: Outcome and Implications, October 15, 2012

Iran Sanctions, updated October 15, 2012

FAS Roundup: October 15, 2012

NATO and nuclear transparency, Obama directive on intelligence whistleblowers and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Obama Issues Directive on Intelligence Community Whistleblowers: On October 10, President Obama issued Presidential Policy Directive 19 on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.” The directive generally prohibits official reprisals against an intelligence community employee who makes a “protected disclosure” concerning unlawful activity or “waste, fraud, and abuse.” It does not authorize disclosure of classified information outside of official channels to the press or the public. The directive was occasioned by the ongoing failure of Congress to extend the protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act to intelligence community employees.
  • DoD- Strategic Security Not Even Threatened by Greater Russian Forces: A recent DoD report on Russian nuclear forces, conducted in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence and sent to Congress in May 2012, concludes that even the most worst-case scenario of a Russian surprise disarming first strike against the United States would have “little to no effect” on the U.S. ability to retaliate with a devastating strike against Russia.
  • Kiriakou Defense Seeks to Depose Reporters: Steven Aftergood writes that in a new challenge to press independence, attorneys for John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who is charged with leaking classified information, have asked a court for permission to depose three journalists in support of his defense. The Kiriakou defense said the reporters’ testimony was needed because it could be exculpatory for their client, and that the reporters could affirm that Kiriakou lacked any intent to harm the United States or to benefit a foreign power.

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