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Secrecy News Blog Posts – Federation Of American Scientists



Science for a safer, more informed world.



Updated: 2017-12-08T20:34:37Z

 



Negotiating with North Korea: History and Options

2017-12-06T20:57:04Z

The alternative to military conflict with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program is to advance some kind of negotiated settlement. But what would that be? And how could it be achieved? A new report from the Congressional Research Service summarizes the limited successes of past nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea, including lessons learned. […]

The alternative to military conflict with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program is to advance some kind of negotiated settlement. But what would that be? And how could it be achieved?

A new report from the Congressional Research Service summarizes the limited successes of past nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea, including lessons learned. Looking forward, it discusses the features of possible negotiations that would need to be determined, such as the specific goals to be achieved, preconditions for negotiations (if any), the format (bilateral or multilateral), and potential linkage to other policy issues.

See Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea: In Brief, December 4, 2017.

See also Possible U.S. Policy Approaches to North KoreaCRS In Focus, September 4, 2017.




US Air Force Updates Policy on Special Access Programs

2017-12-06T20:49:38Z

The US Air Force last month issued updated policy guidance on its “special access programs” (SAPs). Those are classified programs of exceptional sensitivity requiring safeguards and access restrictions beyond those of other categories of classified information. See Air Force Policy Directive 16-7, Special Access Programs, 21 November 2017. The new Air Force policy makes provisions for internal oversight of […]

The US Air Force last month issued updated policy guidance on its “special access programs” (SAPs). Those are classified programs of exceptional sensitivity requiring safeguards and access restrictions beyond those of other categories of classified information.

See Air Force Policy Directive 16-7Special Access Programs, 21 November 2017.

The new Air Force policy makes provisions for internal oversight of its SAPs, as well as limited congressional access to SAP information under some circumstances.

Notably, however, the new Air Force directive does not acknowledge the authority of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) to review and oversee its SAPs.

That’s an error, said ISOO director Mark Bradley.

The executive order on national security classification (EO 13526, sect. 4.3) explicitly says that “the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office shall be afforded access to these [special access] programs.”

Mr. Bradley said that ISOO would communicate the point effectively to the Air Force.




How a Government Shutdown Works, and More from CRS

2017-12-01T18:59:48Z

Short-term funding of the government is currently set to expire on December 8. If funding is not extended by Congress, then most government operations would have to cease. The processes and procedures by which such a shutdown would be executed, as well as its broader implications, were described in a newly updated report from the […]Short-term funding of the government is currently set to expire on December 8. If funding is not extended by Congress, then most government operations would have to cease. The processes and procedures by which such a shutdown would be executed, as well as its broader implications, were described in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service. “Government shutdowns have necessitated furloughs of several hundred thousand federal employees, required cessation or reduction of many government activities, and affected numerous sectors of the economy,” the CRS report said. “The longest such shutdown lasted 21 full days during FY1996, from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996. More recently, a funding gap commenced on October 1, 2013, the first day of FY2014, after funding for the previous fiscal year expired.” It lasted 16 days. See Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects, November 30, 2017. And see, relatedly, Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts, November 28, 2017. *    *    * Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following. Deficits and Debt: Economic Effects and Other Issues, updated November 21, 2017 The Trump Administration and the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, November 29, 2017 Nuclear Energy: Overview of Congressional Issues, updated November 27, 2017 Repair or Rebuild: Options for Electric Power in Puerto Rico, November 16, 2017 Federal Role in Voter Registration: The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Subsequent Developments, November 28, 2017 Social Security Primer, updated November 30, 2017 Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the 115th Congress, updated November 30, 2017 Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview, updated November 14, 2017 Contested Elections in Honduras, CRS Insight, November 30, 2017 Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 14, 2017 Iran’s Expanding Economic Relations with Asia, CRS Insight, November 29, 2017 New Zealand: Background and Bilateral Relations with the United States, updated November 13, 2017 Federal Disaster Assistance: The National Flood Insurance Program and Other Federal Disaster Assistance Programs Available to Individuals and Households After a Flood, updated November 28, 2017 Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 30, 2017 Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 30, 2017 Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 30, 2017 Killing Endangered Species: What’s Reasonable Self-Defense?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 29, 2017 Who’s the Boss at the CFPB?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 28, 2017 [...]



Net Neutrality Revisited, and More from CRS

2017-11-27T19:35:13Z

The principle of “net neutrality,” which requires telecommunications companies to provide equal, non-discriminatory access to the Internet, is likely to be weakened next month when the Federal Communications Commission takes up a proposal to modify Obama-era regulations on net neutrality. The Congressional Research Service produced a newly updated report on the subject, suggesting that congressional […]The principle of “net neutrality,” which requires telecommunications companies to provide equal, non-discriminatory access to the Internet, is likely to be weakened next month when the Federal Communications Commission takes up a proposal to modify Obama-era regulations on net neutrality. The Congressional Research Service produced a newly updated report on the subject, suggesting that congressional intervention might be appropriate. “The FCC’s move to reexamine its existing open Internet rules has reopened the debate over whether Congress should consider a more comprehensive measure to amend existing law to provide greater regulatory stability and guidance to the FCC,” the CRS report said, adding that whether Congress would do so “remains to be seen.”  See The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks, updated November 22, 2017. * Another new CRS report notes that the 11 remaining signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are moving forward without the US, following President Trump’s January 2017 withdrawal from the negotiations. Twenty provisions of the agreement that had been sought by US negotiators have now been suspended as a result. See TPP Countries Near Agreement without U.S. Participation, CRS Insight, November 20, 2017. * Other new and updated products from the Congressional Research Service include the following. Zimbabwe’s Political Transition: Issues for Congress, CRS Insight, November 22, 2017 Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress, updated November 22, 2017 FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues, November 22, 2017 End-Year DOD Contract Spending, CRS In Focus, November 17, 2017 Keystone XL Pipeline: Recent Developments, November 21, 2017 The Distribution of the Tax Policy Changes in H.R. 1 and the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, CRS Insight, November 21, 2017 FDA Human Medical Product User Fee Programs: In Brief, November 21, 2017 Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence, November 21, 2017 The Campus-Based Financial Aid Programs: Background and Issues, November 21, 2017 Fibbing to Get a Lawyer: Circuits Split on Punishment, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 27, 2017 The Federal Government’s Plenary Immigration Power Collides with the Constitutional Right to an Abortion (Part I), CRS Legal Sidebar, November 27, 2017 Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 22, 2017 Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 22, 2017 [...]



Was Obama Administration the Most Transparent or the Least?

2017-11-20T18:04:59Z

“After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, the Obama administration turned out to be one of the most secretive,” wrote Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan last year. Speaking at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center last month, former ACLU litigator Jameel Jaffer didn’t go quite that far. He acknowledged that Obama had taken […]“After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, the Obama administration turned out to be one of the most secretive,” wrote Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan last year. Speaking at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center last month, former ACLU litigator Jameel Jaffer didn’t go quite that far. He acknowledged that Obama had taken some small steps towards greater transparency, such as making White House visitor logs available and declassifying the Office of Legal Counsel memos on intelligence interrogation (the “torture memos”). But overall, Obama was a disappointment, said Jaffer, a respected figure who now directs the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “Few people today–and certainly very few transparency advocates–believe that President Obama kept his promise,” he said.  See Government Secrecy in the Age of Information Overload, October 17, 2017. That seems wrong. A fair reading of the record shows that in dozens of areas of national security secrecy, the Obama Administration broke down longstanding barriers to public access and opened up previously inaccessible records of enormous importance and value. Some examples: *    In 2010, the Obama Administration declassified the current size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal for the first time ever. Even during the heyday of the Energy Department Openness Initiative of the 1990s, only historical stockpile data from 30 years earlier was released. *    The Obama Administration was also the first ever to publish the amount of the intelligence budget request for the following year. This information had been the subject of FOIA litigation in the Clinton Administration but without success. Remarkably, there is no statutory requirement to publish the budget request for the Military Intelligence Program. But the Obama Administration did so anyway. *     A decade ago, the CIA had claimed in court that the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) was itself an “intelligence method” and therefore categorically exempt from disclosure. Obama rejected that view and ordered that no information be exempt from declassification “based solely on the type of document or record in which it is found.” Thousands of historical PDBs were declassified as a result. *    Prior to the Obama Administration, one had to have “sources” simply to find out the names of the judges who sat on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Now the Court has its own website and it has never been more open to third-party oversight or participation. *    The Obama Administration established a National Declassification Center to facilitate and streamline declassification. Amazingly, the Center undertook the successful declassification of a large collection of records from the US Embassy in Indonesia in the 1960s last year in response to a request from an individual member of the public. These are all discrete policy actions that may be of interest to some people and not to others. Not everyone cares about nuclear weapons or intelligence or Indonesia or other such topics. But under Obama there was also a systemic contraction in the whole apparatus of government secrecy. Thus: *    In 2014, the Obama Administration achieved the lowest number of “original classification decisions” (or newly-generated secrets) that had ever been reported by the Information Security Oversight Office. In 2016, the reported number of new secrets dropped lower still. *[...]



Contracting Adversary Aircraft, and More from CRS

2017-11-20T17:59:28Z

The US Air Force and Navy might choose to train their fighter pilots in simulations using enemy aircraft that are flown by contractors, the Congressional Research Service said in a new brief. “Particularly in the case of the Air Force, which has increasingly publicized a shortage of pilots, using contractors to provide adversary air may […]The US Air Force and Navy might choose to train their fighter pilots in simulations using enemy aircraft that are flown by contractors, the Congressional Research Service said in a new brief. “Particularly in the case of the Air Force, which has increasingly publicized a shortage of pilots, using contractors to provide adversary air may free up experienced uniformed pilots for other duties,” CRS said. Doing so would also “offer U.S. pilots the opportunity to fly against a diversity of aircraft types without the overhead and expense required to maintain a fleet of planes not otherwise in inventory.” See Contracting the Adversary, CRS Insight, November 16, 2017. Other new or updated products of the Congressional Research Service include the following. Zimbabwe: A Military-Compelled Transition?, CRS Insight, November 16, 2017 Private Flood Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), CRS Insight, updated November 17, 2017 The Individual Mandate for Health Insurance Coverage: In Brief, updated November 16, 2017 Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), CRS Insight, November 17, 2017 Monuments and Memorials Authorized and Completed Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia, updated November 17, 2017 Monuments and Memorials Authorized Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia: Current Development of In-Progress and Lapsed Works, updated November 17, 2017 OPEC and Non-OPEC Crude Oil Production Agreement: Compliance Status, CRS Insight, November 16, 2017 [...]



Cybersecurity Resources, and More from CRS

2017-11-16T17:34:50Z

A compilation of online documents and databases related to cybersecurity is presented by the Congressional Research Service in Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources, November 14, 2017. Other new and updated publications from CRS include the following. A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy, November 14, 2017 Defense Primer: Department of Defense Maintenance […]A compilation of online documents and databases related to cybersecurity is presented by the Congressional Research Service in Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources, November 14, 2017. Other new and updated publications from CRS include the following. A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy, November 14, 2017 Defense Primer: Department of Defense Maintenance Depots, CRS In Focus, November 7, 2017 Potential Effects of a U.S. NAFTA Withdrawal: Agricultural Markets, November 13, 2017 State Exports to NAFTA Countries for 2016, CRS memorandum, n.d., October 24, 2017 Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile, updated November 13, 2017 Drought in the United States: Causes and Current Understanding, updated November 9, 2017 Impact of the Budget Control Act Discretionary Spending Caps on a Continuing Resolution, CRS Insight, November 14, 2017 Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 14, 2017 Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 14, 2017 The Latest Chapter in Insider Trading Law: Major Circuit Decision Expands Scope of Liability for Trading on a “Tip”, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 14, 2017 In Any Way, Shape, or Form? What Qualifies As “Any Court” under the Gun Control Act?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 14, 2017 Generalized System of Preferences: Overview and Issues for Congress, updated November 14, 2017 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions, updated November 14, 2017 The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Current Developments, November 15, 2017 [...]



Invention Secrecy Activity Rises Slightly

2017-11-16T17:30:51Z

A total of 5,784 patent applications remained subject to invention secrecy orders at the end of Fiscal Year 17, according to new data provided by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The secrecy orders, issued under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, restrict disclosure of patent applications considered to be “detrimental to national security” if […]

A total of 5,784 patent applications remained subject to invention secrecy orders at the end of Fiscal Year 17, according to new data provided by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The secrecy orders, issued under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, restrict disclosure of patent applications considered to be “detrimental to national security” if published.

That total number was up slightly from the 5,680 secrecy orders that were in effect a year earlier.

Most existing patent secrecy orders are renewed year after year.

In FY17, there were 132 new secrecy orders that were imposed, and 28 existing orders that were rescinded, according to the US PTO data. There were 39 new “John Doe” orders imposed on private inventors who sought to patent inventions in which the government has no property interest.

Most invention secrecy applies to inventions involving technology relevant to military applications, but the full scope of the invention secrecy program is not described in public documents.




Against Naive Transparency

2017-11-15T17:56:10Z

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” Louis Brandeis famously wrote a century ago in praise of publicity. But in fact there are many better disinfectants, such as iodine and alcohol. And in excess, sunlight itself can induce sunburn or even skin cancer. Likewise, by analogy, “transparency” as a political virtue is rife […]“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” Louis Brandeis famously wrote a century ago in praise of publicity. But in fact there are many better disinfectants, such as iodine and alcohol. And in excess, sunlight itself can induce sunburn or even skin cancer. Likewise, by analogy, “transparency” as a political virtue is rife with questionable or erroneous assumptions, writes law professor Mark Fenster in his new book The Transparency Fix: Secrets, Leaks, and Uncontrollable Government Information (Stanford University Press, 2017). The ideal of a fully visible state subject to rational public oversight and control has never been achieved and is not a realistic objective, according to Fenster. And it’s not for lack of trying. “The distance between ideal and reality is not solely the consequence of a failure of public will, nor is it a reflection of government officials’ lack of moral character. Nor is it a failure to develop, calibrate, and roll out the right set of laws, institutions, and technology.” The problem is more fundamental, and may be intractable. The naive model of transparency in which government discloses itself to an attentive public, thereby enhancing policy deliberation and government accountability, corresponds to reality loosely at best, writes Fenster. To begin with, government “documents” are never a full representation of the reality of official decision-making. They can never be more than a semantic slice of the whole. Disclosure of such documents is not a neutral process either. It may mislead by its selectivity, or it may overwhelm by its abundance. And the “public” that is the intended audience for transparency may be, and often is, distracted, indifferent, and disengaged. It follows that more “Disclosure will not necessarily transform the United States or any Western democracy into a model of popular deliberation, participatory decision making, and perfect governance. Western governments and societies are too complex and decentralized, their publics too dispersed, and their information environments too saturated for transparency, by itself, to have significant transformative potential.” (For similar reasons, he finds, massive unauthorized disclosures of official information consistently do less damage than feared.) “Secrecy is one of many problems that affect government performance, but it occupies too much of our political imagination,” Fenster concludes in this thoughtful and challenging book. But even if many acts of transparency are indeed futile or inconsequential, that does not mean that all of them are. Timely disclosure of environmental contamination saves lives. Exposure of conflicts of interests undoubtedly deters and mitigates corruption. Open government laws enable and facilitate public participation in the policy process to a remarkable extent. In Latin America, more than 100 trials of suspected war criminals have been carried out in recent years using evidence derived from declassified U.S. government documents and Freedom of Information Act requests, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive pointed out lately. Those are just a few of the real-world consequences of well-conceived transparency measures. A skeptical view of transparency that is cognizant of its theoretical and practical limits “does not require abandoning a commitment to open government and democracy,” Fenster affirms. On the[...]



Remembering Jeff Richelson

2017-11-15T17:51:59Z

We were sad to learn that intelligence historian Jeffrey T. Richelson passed away last weekend. Richelson was one of a small number of pioneers of a new genre of public interest research focused on national security and intelligence. He advanced the boundaries of public knowledge and understanding of the far-flung national security apparatus through his […]

We were sad to learn that intelligence historian Jeffrey T. Richelson passed away last weekend.

Richelson was one of a small number of pioneers of a new genre of public interest research focused on national security and intelligence. He advanced the boundaries of public knowledge and understanding of the far-flung national security apparatus through his writing based on official documents, carefully read and digested.

Richelson’s book The US Intelligence Community, published last year in its 7th edition, is so richly detailed as to be hard to read– but enormously valuable as a reference. Other works among the entire shelf of books and articles that he authored, such as Spying on the Bomb on the history of nuclear weapons-related espionage, displayed his story-telling gifts more engagingly.

Richelson had a resolutely independent, almost contrarian streak. In the 1990s when it was becoming conventional wisdom to say that the Central Intelligence Agency failed to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, Richelson wrote an article in The National Interest called “The CIA Vindicated” (with Bruce Berkowitz) in which he argued that the opposite was the case.

Not least important, he was a kind and decent person and a generous colleague.

Jeff Richelson was remembered by the National Security Archive here.