from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 41
May 5, 2009

Secrecy News Blog:


It is possible to discern potentially significant patterns in terrorist activity through an analysis of geospatial intelligence information concerning terrorist incidents, the DNI Open Source Center (OSC) says.

A recent OSC study of terrorism in Afghanistan illustrates the growing sophistication of geointelligence analysis tools. By analyzing parameters such as location, timing, frequency, lethality and other such characteristics, the OSC study identified "hotspots" for terrorist activity and changes over time. It also provided data for evaluating an OSC predictive model of terrorism in Afghanistan.

The study "revealed spatial patterns and a distribution of incidents that would be valuable to those interested in the dynamics of Afghanistan's security."

Some of the resulting conclusions are trivial or obvious. Thus, OSC found that terrorist incidents are more likely to occur in populated areas of the country than in barren wastelands. Other conclusions concerning seasonal variations and changes in target distributions may have more practical significance.

The OSC study has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Afghanistan -- Geospatial Analysis Reveals Patterns in Terrorist Incidents 2004-2008," Open Source Center, April 20, 2009 (in a very large 19 MB PDF file):

The study features "interactive GeoPDFs" that are embedded in the document. In order to open them, it is necessary to activate the "Layers" function in Adobe Reader. To do so, click on "View," then select "Navigation Tabs" and click on "Layers."


"Tactics in Counterinsurgency," a new U.S. Army Field Manual, expands upon the Counterinsurgency doctrine of the best-selling December 2006 manual on that subject.

The new manual was previously circulated in an interim, draft form and then abruptly withdrawn from public access. ("'Tactics in Insurgency' Again Online," Secrecy News, April 6, 2009). Now it has been finalized and formally released.

"At its heart, a counterinsurgency is an armed struggle for the support of the population," the manual declares. "This support can be achieved or lost through information engagement, strong representative government, access to goods and services, fear, or violence. This armed struggle also involves eliminating insurgents who threaten the safety and security of the population."

"However, military units alone cannot defeat an insurgency. Most of the work involves discovering and solving the populationís underlying issues, that is, the root causes of their dissatisfaction with the current arrangement of political power. Dealing with diverse issues such as land reform, unemployment, oppressive leadership, or ethical tensions places a premium on tactical leaders who can not only close with the enemy, but also negotiate agreements, operate with nonmilitary agencies and other nations, restore basic services, speak the native (a foreign) language, orchestrate political deals, and get 'the word' on the street."

The new manual was previously circulated in an interim, draft form and then abruptly withdrawn from public access. ("'Tactics in Insurgency' Again Online," Secrecy News, April 6, 2009). Now it has finalized and formally released.

See "Tactics in Counterinsurgency," Field Manual 3-24.2, April 21, 2009 (300 pages, 10 MB PDF):


Algeria is one of the Middle Eastern North African nations that has the scientific and technological capacity to develop nuclear weapons if legal, political and other barriers to nuclear weapons proliferation decline and lose their efficacy. "Algeria has the expertise and the means to produce nuclear weapons" should it decide to do so, said independent researcher Mark Gorwitz, and he added that it might be able to accomplish the task in just a couple of years.

Mr. Gorwitz prepared an updated Open Source Bibliography of Algerian nuclear science and engineering publications, which is posted here:


To the shock and bewilderment of those who knew him, Christopher Bolkcom, a distinguished analyst at the Congressional Research Service, died suddenly May 1 at age 46.

Twenty years ago, Christopher was a research assistant working for John Pike here at FAS. He quickly went on to become a national expert on military aviation and other aspects of defense policy. When looking over a bibliography of studies prepared for the secretive Office of Net Assessment, I was impressed to see that Christopher had co-authored several papers for the influential Pentagon group more than fifteen years ago. More recently, as a CRS analyst, he wrote dozens of authoritative reports on military aircraft and all kinds of related topics. He was much in demand. As noted by the Project on Government Oversight, he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee just last Thursday, the day before he died.

But Christopher's testimony and his publications on "Tactical Air Modernization" and the like don't begin to capture the depth and vitality of the man. He knew enough discord in his own life to make him thoughtful and forgiving towards the weaknesses of others. (Well, sometimes.) He had a mischievous sense of humor and he liked to live on the edge. He pursued the martial arts, he rode a motorcycle to work, and he listed me as a reference for his security clearance renewal.

Above all, Christopher was a loving father to his two young children, Jessica and Max. He was also a generous and devoted friend. His family has invited those who remember him to make a donation in his name to the Falls Church Presbyterian Church Youth Program, 225 E. Broad Street, Falls Church, Virginia 22046.


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

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