[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 07/06/09
IntelForum Mailing List
intelforum at lists101.his.com
Mon Jul 6 11:57:15 EDT 2009
Format Note: If you cannot easily read the text below, or you prefer to
receive Secrecy News in another format, please reply to this email to let
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 57
July 6, 2009
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** PENTAGON INTEL OPS "OFTEN" EVADE OVERSIGHT
** YOTTABYTES AND THE DATA ANALYSIS CHALLENGE
** OTHER NEWS AND RESOURCES
PENTAGON INTEL OPS "OFTEN" EVADE OVERSIGHT
Last month, the House Intelligence Committee complained that the
Department of Defense has blurred the distinction between traditional
intelligence collection, which is subject to intelligence committee
oversight, and clandestine military operations, which are not. Because
they are labeled in a misleading manner, some DoD clandestine operations
that are substantively the same as intelligence activities are evading the
congressional oversight they are supposed to receive.
"In categorizing its clandestine activities," the Committee said in its
report on the 2010 intelligence bill, "DoD frequently labels them as
'Operational Preparation of the Environment' (OPE) to distinguish
particular operations as traditional military activities and not as
intelligence functions. The Committee observes, though, that overuse of
the term has made the distinction all but meaningless."
Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE) is an elusive, somewhat
mysterious concept, variously described as a form of foreign intelligence
collection, covert action, unconventional warfare, or a prelude to any of
these. The phrase does not appear in the otherwise comprehensive DoD
Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. It was mentioned in passing
in the 2006 Posture Statement of the U.S. Special Operations Command, but
not in subsequent posture statements.
Some say OPE closely resembles human intelligence collection. OPE refers
to "the ability of Defense to get into an area and know it prior to the
conduct of military operations," said Gen. Michael Hayden at his 2006
confirmation hearing to be Director of CIA. "An awful lot of those [OPE]
activities... are not, in terms of tradecraft or other aspects,
recognizably different than collecting human intelligence for a foreign
intelligence purpose," he said. "They look very much the same. Different
authorities; somewhat different purposes; mostly indistinguishable
>From another point of view, OPE is more akin to covert action. "There is
often not a bright line between [covert action and] military activities to
prepare the battlefield or the environment," said DNI Dennis C. Blair in a
written response to questions about OPE in advance of his confirmation
earlier this year (pp. 15-16).
Though it was neither intelligence collection nor covert action, "U.S.
support to and in some cases leadership of irregular resistance to
Japanese forces in the Philippine archipelago [in 1942-1945]... stands as
a premier example of what military planners today call operational
preparation of the environment," according to a historical survey of
unconventional warfare in the September 2007 Irregular Warfare Joint
Perhaps the most extensive unclassified treatment of OPE (then still known
as "operational preparation of the battlespace" or OPB) appears in a 2003
U.S. Army War College research paper, which noted that the term is "seldom
used outside of Special Operations Forces channels." OPE "consists of both
pre-crisis activities (PCA) and, when authorized, advance force operations
(AFO)," both of which are described by the author at some length. See
"Combating Terrorism with Preparation of the Battlespace" by Michael S.
Repass, U.S. Army War College, April 2003:
Further discussion appeared in "Leveraging Operational Preparation of the
Environment in the GWOT," by Maj. Michael T. Kenny, U.S. Army Command and
General Staff College, 2006.
OPE should be reconceived as a stand-alone mission with its own doctrine,
argued another research paper. See "Ending the Debate: Unconventional
Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, and Why Words Matter" by D. Jones, U.S.
Army Command and General Staff College, 2006:
In any event, "DoD has shown a propensity to apply the OPE label where the
slightest nexus of a theoretical, distant military operation might one day
exist," according to the House Intelligence Committee report last month.
"Consequently, these activities often escape the scrutiny of the
intelligence committees.... In the future, if DoD does not meet its
obligations to inform the Committee of intelligence activities," the House
report concluded weakly, "the Committee will consider legislative action
clarifying the Department's obligation to do so."
YOTTABYTES AND THE DATA ANALYSIS CHALLENGE
The increasing capability of high-resolution military and intelligence
sensors is producing ever growing quantities of data that could overwhelm
the capacity to analyze them without new approaches to data management and
analysis, according to a newly released report from the JASON defense
"As the amount of data captured by these sensors grows, the difficulty in
storing, analyzing, and fusing the sensor data becomes increasingly
significant," the report said.
Extrapolating from current trends, data production could hypothetically
reach the Yottabyte range by 2015. (The Yotta- prefix means ten raised to
the twenty-fourth power. Mega- means ten to the sixth power, Giga- means
ten to the ninth power, and Tera- is ten to the twelfth power.) If one
byte of data were used to image one square meter of the Earth's surface,
then 1.6 Yottabytes would be generated by imaging the entire surface of
the Earth every second for a hundred years, the report explained.
While the data management challenge is daunting, it is not unmanageable in
principle, the JASONs said, nor is it entirely unprecedented. "Important
parallels can be drawn with data intensive science efforts such as high
energy physics and astronomy." These efforts show how data filtering
approaches can be applied to reduce data storage and processing
requirements well below the Yottabyte range.
The report suggested several research and development strategies for
improving data management and analysis. The JASONs also proposed a series
of "grand challenges" that would set ambitious technical goals and provide
monetary rewards for their achievement.
The December 2008 JASON report was initially withheld from public access,
but a copy was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act
request from Secrecy News. See "Data Analysis Challenges":
OTHER NEWS AND RESOURCES
A new Joint Chiefs of Staff publication presents updated doctrine on
intelligence preparation of the operational environment -- which,
confusingly enough, is not the same thing as "operational preparation of
the environment" (OPE). See "Joint Intelligence Preparation of the
Operational Environment," Joint Publication JP 2-01.3, June 16, 2009:
The Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines last week became
the 181st State to have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,
which prohibits all nuclear explosive testing.
Public discussion of proposed or desired changes to national security
classification and declassification policies continues this week on the
web site of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
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:
To UNSUBSCRIBE, go to
OR email your request to saftergood at fas.org
Secrecy News is archived at:
Support the FAS Project on Government Secrecy with a donation:
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists
email: saftergood at fas.org
voice: (202) 454-4691
More information about the IntelForum