Public Interest Report

The Journal for Science and Security

Summer 2013 - Volume 66 Number 3

Election of New Iranian President

  • On June 15, 2013, moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected as the new president of Iran. In an op-ed published by Roll Call, Special Projects Director Mark Jansson writes that with this election, it is time for the United States to start laying the groundwork for compromise and relax pressure on Iran instead of increasing sanctions to resolve the nuclear dispute. The “sanction first, ask questions later” attitude in Congress is guided by the assumption that Iran is planning to build a nuclear weapon, despite claims by members of the U.S. intelligence community (including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.) that Iran is still undecided. Jansson writes that the United States should not repeat past mistakes by pursuing overly aggressive sanctions; instead it should take its time and show Iran that it is ready to be flexible in regards to sanctions relief.


Leaks, NSA and Government Surveillance

In the wake of the classified national security information leaked by Edward Snowden, Director of the Government Secrecy Project Steven Aftergood provided commentary to the media and public on issues related to whistleblowers and government surveillance including:

  • new interpretation of the Espionage Act by a federal judge which makes it easier for prosecutors in leak cases to meet their burden of proof and reduces legal protections for those accused of leaking information.
  • The secret domestic surveillance program by the National Security Agency, and how all three branches of government have evaded public accountability and failed to disclose the scope of official surveillance.
  • The changing secrecy culture, and how the Edward Snowden disclosures have shifted the Obama Administration’s thinking in regards to what information should be classified and what should be made public.


Obama Administration Issues New Nuclear Weapons Employment Guidance

  • On June 19, 2013, President Obama announced the administration’s new guidance on nuclear weapons, pursuing a reduction of up to one-third of the number of nuclear weapons deployed.  The new guidance concludes that to meet its security obligations, the United States needs 1,000-1,100 warheads deployed on land- and sea-based strategic warheads, down from the 1,550 permitted under the New START treaty. This guidance reaffirms nuclear counterforce and retains non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. Director of the Nuclear Information Project Hans Kristensen analyzed the new guidance on the Strategic Security Blog, concluding that it “will likely be used to justify expensive modernizations of nuclear forces and upgrades to nuclear warheads that will prompt many to ask what has actually changed.”


Syria and Chemical Weapons

  • Syria is the first WMD-armed country (but certainly will not be the last) to descend into civil war. The United States has a history of neglecting to follow established standards of scientific analysis when dealing with hostile states that may have weapons of mass destruction, such as Iraq and Sudan. Senior Fellow on State and Non-State Threats Charles Blair writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the way in which the United States and the rest of the world handles Syria will unmistakably affect future dealings in similar situations with hostile countries that possess WMDs. The Obama administration has not produced evidence that Syria has crossed the chemical weapons red line; Blair writes that the United States needs to establish scientific methods and legal standards to confirm the use of chemical weapons in Syria and clearly define the red line before other hostile states follow Syria’s path in the future.


SIPRI 2013 Yearbook

  • In June, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published the 2013 issue of the SIPRI yearbook, a compendium of data and analysis on nuclear weapons, military spending and arms control. The yearbook is translated into Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Ukrainian, in order to reach regions where such information is not available. Featured in the 2013 yearbook is a chapter co-authored by Director of the Nuclear Information Project Hans Kristensen which provides an overview on world nuclear forces.