[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 04/08/10
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from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 28
April 8, 2010
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** FIRST UNCLASSIFIED NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW RELEASED
** NORTH KOREA'S 2009 NUCLEAR TEST, AND MORE FROM CRS
FIRST UNCLASSIFIED NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW RELEASED
In what may be the Obama Administration's single most significant
reduction in national security secrecy to date, the Department of Defense
this week published the first unclassified Nuclear Posture Review.
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) defines U.S. nuclear weapons policy,
strategy and force structure. As such, it is one of the most important
national security policy documents in government. Two previous Reviews
conducted by the Clinton and Bush Administrations in 1994 and 2001 were
classified and were not meant to be made public.
When portions of the Bush NPR nevertheless leaked in 2002, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld furiously condemned the release. "Whoever
leaked it violated federal criminal law," he said. "It seems that there
are some people who simply have a compulsion to seem important, so they
take classified information which can damage U.S. national security and
give it to people who aren't cleared for it," he added. Even after the
Bush NPR report leaked, another official said, "the last administration
then found it difficult ever to talk about the results of the review,
because it was talking about a leaked classified document."
But this week, in a tangible sign of changing national security secrecy
standards, Defense Secretary Robert Gates held a press conference to
release the latest NPR document himself.
"The report of the Nuclear Posture Review will exist only in unclassified
form," a Pentagon official said at a background briefing on April 6.
"There will not be a classified Nuclear Posture Review from which we have
redacted a lot of information and then just put forward an unclassified
variant. This reflected a decision early in the process.... And in an
effort to be fully transparent in our choices and the thinking behind
them, we did not want to leave big open questions about what might be left
unsaid because it's in the classified domain."
This is not the end of nuclear weapons secrecy, by any means. For one
thing, the exact size and composition of the U.S. nuclear arsenal remain
classified (wrongly, we would say). Also, "you know there are classified
implementation processes, guidance processes," the unnamed Pentagon
briefer said. "So it's not that it's free of classified aspects, but the
[NPR] report as such and all of the policy findings and recommendations
and all of the logic behind them will be presented at the unclassified
Incongruously, even the Obama Presidential Study Directive that initiated
the latest NPR process a year ago remains classified and unavailable. But
with the release of the final Report, that seems like a mere bureaucratic
absurdity of little consequence.
The public release of the NPR report does not guarantee a superior policy
outcome. But it does eliminate a longstanding hurdle to informed debate
on nuclear weapons policy, and it permits the interested public to focus
its attention on the substance of the policy, not on a tiresome pursuit of
In December 1993, Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary undertook her Openness
Initiative, releasing all kinds of previously secret records on nuclear
weapons tests, historical production of nuclear materials, and many other
important topics. Borrowing a slogan from an old cigarette ad, a DOE
spokesman at the time said that the Department's new secrecy policy was to
"classify less, and enjoy it more."
In this instance, at least, the Obama Administration seems to be following
the same joyful path.
The White House yesterday announced the release of dozens of executive
branch agency Open Government Plans, which are supposed to guide the
implementation of the President's Open Government Directive. Several of
the Plans deal, directly or indirectly, with declassification of national
security information and records.
NORTH KOREA'S 2009 NUCLEAR TEST, AND MORE FROM CRS
In May 2009, North Korea announced that it had conducted its second
nuclear explosive test. Although the event generated a seismic signature
consistent with a nuclear explosion, it produced no detectable release of
radioactive gases or particulates (fallout). This either means that North
Korea actually conducted a non-nuclear simulation of a nuclear test, or
else it managed to achieve complete containment of a real nuclear
explosion. Since detection of radioactive emissions provides the most
unambiguous confirmation of a nuclear explosion, the successful
containment of a nuclear test could be problematic for verification of a
treaty banning such explosions.
This conundrum is explored in a new report from the Congressional Research
Service. See "North Korea's 2009 Nuclear Test: Containment, Monitoring,
Implications," April 2, 2010:
Congress has refused to make reports like this directly available to the
public. Other noteworthy new CRS products obtained by Secrecy News that
have not been publicly released include the following.
"Judicial Activity Concerning Enemy Combatant Detainees: Major Court
Rulings," April 1, 2010:
"Federal Building and Facility Security," March 24, 2010:
"The U.S. Motor Vehicle Industry: Confronting a New Dynamic in the Global
Economy," March 26, 2010:
"U.S. Initiatives to Promote Global Internet Freedom: Issues, Policy, and
Technology," April 5, 2010:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
The Secrecy News Blog is at:
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