Air Force Issues Guidance on “Media Operations”

As a rule, U.S. Air Force personnel should not employ physical violence against news reporters who disobey their instructions, newly updated Air Force guidance says.

If reporters are present at the scene of an accident or incident in which Air Force classified information is exposed, Air Force officials should “explain the situation and ask the media to cooperate.”

But “Do not use force if media representatives refuse to cooperate unless declared an NDA [National Defense Area],” the Air Force guidance advises.

“If photographs are taken after a warning is issued, Air Force officials must ask civilian law enforcement authorities to stop further photography of the exposed classified information and to collect all materials with that coverage.”

However, “If no civilian law enforcement authorities are on the scene and media representatives take unauthorized pictures, do not seize the materials or hold the photographer.” Rather, the senior Air Force official at the scene should “immediately contact the managing editor or news director” of the news organization and “request the return of media coverage having suspected classified information.”

That is one of the scenarios envisioned in a newly updated Air Force Instruction 35-104 on “Media Operations,” dated 13 July 2015.

The Instruction generally favors constructive engagement with the news media, both on principle and out of self-interest.

“Releasing official information through the media can help create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of national interest and policies, as well as mitigate any adverse effects from unofficial, misinformed, or hostile sources,” the Instruction states.

Of course, Air Force personnel are directed “not [to] release classified information” to members of the news media. Interestingly, however, the new Instruction also says that there are “circumstances when exposure to sensitive or classified information is allowed.”

“The commander may grant access [to sensitive or classified information] if the reporter agrees to a security and policy review of the communication product. Agreement to a security and policy review in exchange for this type of access is strictly voluntary; however, if a reporter does not agree, then access to sensitive information may be denied. If a reporter agrees to a security and policy review, it will be conducted solely to ensure that sensitive or classified information is not included in the product.”

In general, “the primary responsibility for protecting classified information lies with the Air Force, not the reporter, and the reporter can justifiably refuse any requests for prior review,” the Air Force Instruction said.

FAS Roundup- January 23, 2012

FAS Roundup: January 23, 2012

India’s rejection of nuclear weapons for warfighting, future of nuclear power, reclassificiation of nuclear weapons information  and much more.


From the Blogs

  • Dept of Energy Wants to Reclassify Some Info as “Restricted Data”:  Steven Aftergood writes that the Department of Energy has asked Congress to amend the Atomic Energy Act to allow certain nuclear weapons information that has been removed from the “Restricted Data” classification category to be restored to that category. In a letter to Congress requesting the proposed amendment, Energy Secretary Steven Chu suggested that the current arrangement leaves some nuclear weapons design information inadequately protected.
  • Indian Army Chief- Nukes Not for Warfighting:  On January 15, 2012, General V.K Singh said that India’s nuclear weapons “are not for warfighting.” Hans Kristensen writes that the rejection of nuclear warfighting ideas is a welcoming development in the debate over the role of nuclear weapons in South Asia.
  • Whither Nuclear Power?: In the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, Germany and Switzerland have put a halt to their nuclear power programs, America’s nuclear renaissance has slowed, and Japan is trying to figure out how to substitute alternative energy sources for nuclear power.  Dr. Y writes on the ScienceWonk Blog that it is understandable that the world might feel an aversion to nuclear power at the moment, but it is no more dangerous than any other form of energy.
  • Army Foresees Expanded Use of Drones in U.S. Airspace: The Army issued a new directive last week to govern the growing use of unmanned aircraft systems or “drones” within the United States for training missions and for “domestic operations.” Much of the Army’s UAS activity will be devoted to UAS operator training conducted at or near military facilities. But beyond such training activities, the military also envisions a role for UAS in unspecified “domestic operations” in civilian airspace.
  • Radioactive Tissues?: On January 12, 2012, Bed, Bath, & Beyond announced that it had received a shipment of steel tissue holders (manufactured in India) that were contaminated with radioactive cobalt-60. Dr. Y agrees that the tissue boxes are radioactive, but the question is whether or not they are sufficiently radioactive to cause health problems.
  • Testimony of Reporter Sought in Sterling Leak Case: In a brief filed in the case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling (who is accused of leaking classified information), prosecutors told the U.S. Court of Appeals that New York Times reporter James Risen should be compelled to testify at Mr. Sterling’s trial and to reveal whether it was Mr. Sterling who leaked information to him about a CIA program to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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Nuclear Aftershocks: Upcoming Appearance on PBS’s Frontline

I am excited to tell you that I will appear on PBS’s Frontline on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  In “Nuclear Aftershocks,” Miles O’Brien examines the hazards and benefits of nuclear energy. I will be speaking about the implications for U.S. nuclear safety after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan last March.

For more information on the episode, click here.

You can find a preview of the episode here.

I encourage you to tune in.  Please check local listings for air times of “Nuclear Aftershocks” on your PBS station.



FAS Roundup- November 21, 2011

FAS Roundup: November 21, 2011

Interview with former Iranian nuclear negotiator Amb. Hossein Mousavian, petition to assess nuclear threat, stalled declassification of historical satellite imagery, status of China’s nuclear forces, and more.

From the Blogs

  • Declassification of Intelligence Satellite Imagery Stalled: The eagerly awaited declassification of vast amounts of historical intelligence satellite imagery that was supposed to occur this year did not take place, and it is unknown when or if it might go forward. Earlier this year, government officials had all but promised that the declassification and release of miles of satellite imagery film was imminent. But it didn’t happen. Why not?
  • Pre-Publication Review as a Secrecy Battleground: Steven Aftergood writes that the Obama Administration’s uncompromising approach to punishing “leaks” of classified information has been widely noted. But its handling of pre-publication review disputes with former intelligence agency employees who seek to publish their work has been no less combative.
  • A New Intelligence Org on Climate Change is Needed, DSB Says: According to a new report from the Defense Science Board (DSB), the U.S. intelligence community needs an organization that can assess the impacts of climate change on U.S. national security interests in an open and collaborative manner. The CIA already has a Center on Climate Change and National Security. So why would the Intelligence Community need an entirely new organization to address the exact same set of issues?
  • CIA Sees “Little Likelihood” of Finding Docs on Secrecy Reform: The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) was ordered by President Obama in his December 2009 executive order 13526 (section 1.9) as a systematic effort to eliminate obsolete or unnecessary classification requirements.  It is the Obama administration’s primary response to the problem of over-classification, and it has already achieved some limited results at the Department of Defense and elsewhere. That being said, it can’t possibly work if agencies don’t implement it. And so far there is no sign of the mandatory implementation at CIA.

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My Appearance on PBS Ideas in Action

I am excited to tell you that tomorrow night, Friday, July 22, I will be a panelist on PBS Ideas in Action hosted by Jim Glassman. I will discuss the future of nuclear energy and China’s nuclear power program.

I encourage you to tune in. You can find the exact airtime in your city by clicking here.

Also, please look for a link to the online video of the segment on the FAS Website in the coming days.

My Appearance on NPR’s Science Friday

Today at 2 pm, tune into NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow for an update on Japan’s malfunctioning nuclear reactors and the evolving crisis.  As continued attempts are made to cool the reactors and spent fuel rod pools at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, I’ll discuss the state of the deteriorating nuclear facility. Call with questions toll free at 800-989-8255.