Secrecy News -- 07/28/04 (IF)
saftergood at fas.org
Wed Jul 28 13:26:00 EDT 2004
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 70
July 28, 2004
** NATIONAL RECONNAISSANCE OFFICE DIRECTIVES ONLINE
** EXECUTIVE BRANCH POWER TO POSTPONE ELECTIONS (CRS)
** AN OPEN SOURCE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY?
** SECRECY "PROBLEMATIZED" IN CRITICAL INQUIRY
** THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION ON A CULTURE OF SECRECY
** MILITARY USE OF AIRSHIPS AND AEROSTATS (CRS)
** GLOBALIZING COOPERATIVE THREAT REDUCTION (CRS)
** US ARMY'S MODULAR REDESIGN (CRS)
** PUMBEDITA AND FALLUJAH
NATIONAL RECONNAISSANCE OFFICE DIRECTIVES ONLINE
To be a bureaucracy is to follow a prescribed set of procedures, a
rulebook for every contingency.
The bureaucratic procedures that govern the operation of the National
Reconnaissance Office are set forth in a series of NRO Directives.
Several unclassified and declassified NRO Directives were publicly
released earlier this month in response to a Freedom of Information
Act request. See (thanks to MJR):
The NRO is the U.S. intelligence agency that designs, builds and
operates the nation's reconnaissance satellites, or that administers
the contractors in private industry who do so.
EXECUTIVE BRANCH POWER TO POSTPONE ELECTIONS (CRS)
"Because of the continuing threat of terrorism, concerns have been
raised about the potential for terrorist events to occur close to or
during the voting process for the November 2004 elections," a recent
report of the Congressional Research Service observes.
"For instance, the question has been raised as to whether a
sufficiently calamitous event could result in the postponement of
the election, and what mechanisms are in place to deal with such an
"This report focuses on who has the constitutional authority to
postpone elections, to whom such power could be delegated, and what
legal limitations exist to such a postponement.
See "Executive Branch Power to Postpone Elections," Congressional
Research Service, July 14, 2004:
Direct public access to CRS reports like this one is not authorized
by the U.S. Congress.
AN OPEN SOURCE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY?
In its recent report, the 9/11 Commission adverts to the possibility
of establishing a new "Open Source Agency" within the U.S.
intelligence community (see the chart on page 413). But the
Commission does not otherwise discuss the role or function of the
The barest mention of such a new agency has already prompted some
debate and conflict, beginning with a dispute over where the
hypothetical agency should be housed, inside or outside of the CIA.
Robert Steele of the private Open Source Solutions, who has been
advocating increased appreciation of open source intelligence for
over a decade, takes the position that the new agency should be
completely independent of the existing U.S. intelligence community.
See his assessment here:
SECRECY "PROBLEMATIZED" IN CRITICAL INQUIRY
Critical Inquiry, a journal published by the University of Chicago,
is perhaps the preeminent academic venue for the pursuit of
"theory," which means something like the conceptualization and
analysis of cultural, literary and other problems. Theory is by
definition abstract and is generally one or more steps removed from
everyday life and practical politics.
So it is noteworthy that government secrecy is the subject of a paper
in the forthcoming issue of the journal.
Author Peter Galison, a distinguished historian of science at
Harvard, reviews recent classification practices and then asks what
epistemological assumptions are implicit in the act of censoring, or
classifying, particular items of information. The classifier, he
suggests, relies on a discredited "atomic" theory of knowledge.
"Contra the logical positivists and their allies, it is precisely not
possible to reduce meaningful language to discrete enunciations.
Communication -- at least meaningful, verifiable communication --
cannot be rendered into a sequence of protocol statements. But such
a conception of knowledge is exactly what lies behind the
classifiers' imaginary," he writes.
"At the root of this theory of punctiform knowledge excision stands a
See "Removing Knowledge" by Peter Galison, Critical Inquiry 31,
Autumn 2004. An electronic pre-print, imperfectly encoded in html,
may be found here:
THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION ON A CULTURE OF SECRECY
Given their principled skepticism of big government, political
conservatives ought to be in the forefront of critics of unchecked
government secrecy. Instead, "openness" has often been tagged as a
"liberal" cause, and conservatives have mostly been missing in
action. But that may be changing.
In a new op-ed article, Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation
warns of "a bureaucratic culture of secrecy that has grown over the
decades to encompass the entire government."
The Heritage Foundation is the leading conservative think tank and a
particularly influential voice in the Republican-controlled
"Experts across the political spectrum agree that government keeps
too much information classified for much too long," writes Tapscott.
"And too much is unnecessarily exempted from disclosure under the
The Heritage Foundation is right.
See "Spawning a Culture of Secrecy" by Mark Tapscott, July 28:
MILITARY USE OF AIRSHIPS AND AEROSTATS (CRS)
"The Department of Defense has a history of using lighter-than-air
platforms such as airships (blimps) and aerostats (tethered
balloons)," according to a new Congressional Research Service
"Aerostats have recently been fielded to protect U.S. troops in the
field. Contemporary interest is growing in using airships for
numerous missions. This report examines the various concepts being
considered and describes the issues for Congress."
See "Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats," Congressional
Research Service, July 15, 2004:
At congressional direction, CRS does not make reports like this
directly available to the general public.
GLOBALIZING COOPERATIVE THREAT REDUCTION (CRS)
"Increasingly, Congress and the Administration are looking to utilize
nonproliferation assistance programs, including cooperative threat
reduction (CTR), to help reduce the risk of terrorist access to
weapons of mass destruction," according to another newly updated CRS
"This report analyzes the range of possible applications of CTR funds
and the kinds of assistance might be supplied, and describes legal,
financial, technical, and political constraints on possible
See "Globalizing Cooperative Threat Reduction: A Survey of Options,"
Congressional Research Service, July 2, 2004:
Direct public access to CRS reports like this one is not permitted by
the current congressional leadership.
US ARMY'S MODULAR REDESIGN (CRS)
"In what the Army describes as the 'most significant Army
restructuring in the past 50 years,' the Army intends to redesign
its current 10 active duty division force to a 43 or 48 brigade-level
unit of action or UA force by FY2007," another CRS report
"While the Army cites the need for a more responsive, deployable,
joint, and expeditionary force, others suggest that the primary
reason for redesign is the ever increasing long term troop
requirements to support the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)."
The implications of the plan are explored in "U.S. Army's Modular
Redesign: Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service, July
As a practical matter, Congress would prefer that the public did not
have access to CRS reports like this.
PUMBEDITA AND FALLUJAH
Pumbedita was the site of one of the main rabbinical academies in
ancient Babylon where the Talmud, the repository of Jewish law and
lore, was elaborated a millenium and a half ago.
Fallujah is the city in modern Iraq where some of the most violent
acts of anti-American insurgency have occurred.
Remarkably, Pumbedita was located in what is now Fallujah, writes
Hershel Shanks in the latest issue of the Jewish magazine Moment
(August 2004, www.momentmag.com).
In fact, "According to Jacob Obermeyer, a 19th century scholar, [the
word] Fallujah is the linguistic equivalent of Pumbedita."
"Aramaic Pum-Bedita is Pallughtha in Syriac and Falluga in Arabic, or
Fallujah as current newspapers spell it."
"It is interesting to think about the fact that the Talmud was
created in one of the most violent towns of modern Iraq," writes
Shanks, who also edits the Biblical Archeology Review.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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