“Risk Avoidance” Leads to Over-Classification

When government officials consider whether to classify national security information, they should not aim for perfect security, according to new guidance from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Instead, classifiers should seek to limit unnecessary vulnerabilities, while keeping broader mission objectives in view. “A Risk Avoidance strategy — eliminating risk entirely — is […]

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An Introduction to Defense Policy

Most people are not going to read a book-length study of nuclear weapons command and control, and they shouldn’t have to. But those who need a quick sketch — whether they are reporters, students, or regular citizens — can now find a concise, two-page introduction to the topic from the Congressional Research Service. See Defense […]

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Spy Satellite Agency: Winter is Here

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has modified its classification policies in favor of heightened secrecy, withholding budget records that were previously considered releasable and redesignating certain unclassified budget information as classified. NRO is the U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates the nation’s intelligence satellites. Since 2006, and for most of the past decade, the […]

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Trump Broadcasts His National Security Directives

National security directives are among the most important tools the President has for managing his administration and for conducting U.S. policy on national defense, foreign relations, intelligence, nuclear weapons and other matters of consequence. At the end of last week, President Trump publicly issued his first three national security directives, designated National Security Presidential Memoranda […]

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Security Clearances and Presidential Authority

“Security clearances are not mandated for the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, or other constitutional officers,” a recent Congressional Research Service report explains. “The criteria for election or appointment to these positions are specified in the U.S. Constitution, and except by constitutional amendment, no additional criteria (e.g., holding a security clearance) may […]

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Garwin to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

The celebrated and accomplished individuals selected by President Obama to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor — include figures such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill and Melinda Gates, Robert Redford, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jordan– and Richard L. Garwin. As noted by a November 16 White House news release, “Richard Garwin […]

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Patents Granted to Two Formerly Secret Inventions

Two patent applications that had been subject to “secrecy orders” under the Invention Secrecy Act for years or decades were finally granted patents and publicly disclosed in 2016. “Only two patents have been granted so far on cases in which the secrecy order was rescinded in FY16,” the US Patent and Trademark Office said this […]

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Intelligence Spending Increased in 2016

The amount of money appropriated for U.S. intelligence increased in 2016 by about 5 percent to a total of $70.7 billion, up from $66.8 billion the year before. The total includes FY 2016 appropriations for both the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which were officially disclosed on October 28, as […]

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On the Use of Presidential Policy Directives

On October 14, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 43 on the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. Aside from the substance of the directive on the future of US-Cuba relations, PPD-43 has several incidental features of interest. First, it is a public document. “The policy directive was notable because it was […]

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JASON on BMD Midcourse Discrimination (2010)

A comprehensive defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles remains difficult — and perhaps impossible — for several reasons, including the difficulty of achieving “midcourse discrimination” to identify weaponized payloads in a cloud of debris or decoys. A newly released summary of a classified 2010 report on the subject prepared by the JASON scientific advisory panel explains […]

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