from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 67
July 11, 2008

Secrecy News Blog:

Support Secrecy News:


There are more than a thousand members of the U.S. military who are qualified Chinese linguists, a Defense Department official told the Senate Armed Services Committee last year.

"I have been told that information regarding the number of DOD intelligence analysts who speak Mandarin and/or Cantonese is classified," said James J. Shinn, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, who was confirmed in December 2007.

"At the unclassified level, I can tell you that there are over 5,800 military personnel (officers and enlisted) with at least a basic capability in Mandarin and/or Cantonese. Of those, over 1,000 are considered proficient in Mandarin."

"I would like to see these numbers grow by increasing our investment in Chinese language skills for both civilians and military personnel," Dr. Shinn said.

"The U.S. Department of Defense has a fairly sophisticated understanding of China's growing military capabilities, but we lack insight into China's intent because China's military buildup is occurring in the absence of transparency," he said. "Without greater transparency, the United States and other Asian nations cannot fully determine the degree and type of risk that China's buildup poses."

According to his official biography, Dr. Shinn himself "once spoke good Japanese, passable French, and functional German, but no more."

His remarks appeared in an exceptionally rich new volume of "Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, First Session, 110th Congress," Senate Armed Services Committee (at p. 1247):

Rep. Rush Holt, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Panel on Intelligence Oversight, said in a statement released today that his Panel "is once again recommending a robust investment in foreign language training."

"We must do more to ensure that our education systems -- civilian and military -- place a greater emphasis on language and culture skills and on producing the teachers who can transmit those language and cultural skills to others," he wrote.

More generally, "The funding recommendations that the Panel will forward to the Defense Subcommittee are classified, but I can tell you that these recommendations include an increase to the National Intelligence Program and the Military Intelligence Program from the fiscal year 2008 levels and a significant reduction from the President's request," Rep. Holt stated.


All intelligence and other sensitive information at the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover Building is properly safeguarded, the FBI says.

A June 23 Senate Appropriations Committee report, cited by Secrecy News on July 7, had stated: "The Hoover Building does not meet the Interagency Security Committee's criteria for a secure Federal facility capable of handling intelligence and other sensitive information."

That statement is basically true, an FBI spokesman wrote in response to an inquiry from Eric Umansky of ProPublica (, the new investigative journalism organization.

But he said it doesn't mean that FBI intelligence information is not secure.

"The Interagency Security Committee (ISC) criteria deal only with physical security of federal facilities. The J. Edgar Hoover Building, which is a GSA-owned federal building, does not meet the ISC (physical security) criteria, in terms of standoff distance and other blast mitigation measures. These criteria do not have anything to do with information security or handling intelligence or sensitive information," wrote FBI Assistant Director Patrick G. Findlay to Mr. Umansky.

"From an information security standpoint, FBI information is secure," Mr. Findlay wrote. "All intelligence and sensitive information are properly safeguarded and classified information is properly contained, to include being processed and/or discussed in accredited SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) space."

Despite the Senate Committee's peculiar reference to "handling intelligence and other sensitive information," the Committee was only discussing building security at the FBI and not information security, a Committee spokeswoman told Mr. Umansky.


A newly updated bibliography of published Iranian nuclear science and engineering research documents that country's substantial commitment to the field.

"The Iranian nuclear program appears to be entering a more mature stage of research and development," said Mark Gorwitz, an independent researcher who compiled the bibliography.

In addition to previously cited research on nuclear reactor safety, isotope separation and related topics, the new bibliography also covers Iranian publications on nuclear waste treatment, shock waves, carbon fibers and carbon composites.

See "Iranian Nuclear Science Bibliography: Open Literature References" by Mark Gorwitz, July 2008:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT Secrecy News with a donation here: