from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 40
April 13, 2007

Secrecy News Blog:

Support Secrecy News


In confronting the threat of terrorism, what would it mean to win? And how would one know?

Terrorist and counterterrorist forces may both believe that they are succeeding in their goals. And depending on their specific objectives, they may both be right.

"Progress may be defined differently by the terrorists and those who oppose them," according to a recently updated report of the Congressional Research Service. "Hence both can claim progress, and both can be correct in their assessments."

So, for example, "Western policymakers often tend to define success by the absence of attacks. When the shooting or bombing stops, for example, that is viewed as success. Yet terrorists sometimes define success in terms of making governments expend limited resources trying to defend an enormous number of potential targets."

Assessing progress by focusing on those factors that can easily be measured may mislead policymakers.

"A common pitfall of governments seeking to demonstrate success in anti-terrorist measures is overreliance on quantitative indicators, particularly those which may correlate with progress but not accurately measure it, such as the amount of money spent on anti-terror efforts."

With the growing realization that the threat of terrorism is a distinct problem from the war in Iraq, a more thoughtful and nuanced approach to counterterrorism may soon become possible.

"As terrorism is a complex multidimensional phenomenon, effective responses to terrorism may need to take into account, and to some degree be individually configured to respond to, the evolving goals, strategies, tactics and operating environment of different terrorist groups."

"Although terrorism's complex webs of characteristics -- along with the inherent secrecy and compartmentalization of both terrorist organizations and government responses -- limit available data, the formulation of practical, useful measurement criteria appears both tractable and ready to be addressed."

The Congressional Research Service does not make its publications directly available to the public, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Combating Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Effectiveness," updated March 12, 2007:


Some new or newly updated products of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: Legal Background and Recent Amendments," updated March 20, 2007:

"Navy Force Structure: Alternative Force Structure Studies of 2005 -- Background for Congress," April 9, 2007:

"Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court," updated April 6, 2007:

"Opening of the International Tracing Service's Holocaust-Era Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany," April 5, 2007:


The Department of Defense has issued several noteworthy new policy Instructions on intelligence and national security matters, including the following.

"Joint Reserve Intelligence Program (JRIP)," DoD Instruction 3305.07, March 27, 2007:

"DoD Counterintelligence (CI) Training," DoD Instruction 3305.11, March 19, 2007:

"Minimum Security Standards for Safeguarding Chemical Agents," DoD Instruction 5210.65, March 12, 2007:


"Today, following over a year of coordinated effort among the Intelligence Community and the Department of Justice a bill is being submitted to Congress to request long overdue changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," according to an April 13 fact sheet on the proposed changes issued by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

The text of the legislative proposal is available here:

"If S. 372 [the FY 2007 Intelligence Authorization bill pending in the Senate] were presented to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," according to an April 12 Statement of Administration Policy. Among the bill's intolerable provisions, the Statement said, are the fact that it would require public disclosure of the annual intelligence budget total. See:


When Secrecy News (04/11/07) gained unauthorized access to a restricted U.S. Army manual on visual identification of U.S. and foreign aircraft, we supposed that it was just one more case of unnecessary and inappropriate secrecy.

But it turns out to be something worse than that, since the document contains a surprising number of technical errors.

The dimensions given in the Army manual for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle are wrong, the Entropic Memes blog astutely noted. And the entry for the B-52, among others, is likewise incorrect.

"Please," Entropic Memes exclaimed. "If they can't get the details of one of their own systems correct, how much faith can you have that they got the details of anyone else's systems right?"

In this case, the secrecy of the Army manual was not just an arbitrary barrier to public access. It also "protected" numerous errors that may make the document worse than useless.

Conversely, exposing the document to public scrutiny may now make it possible to correct its errors so as to fulfill its intended purpose.

Since it was posted on the Federation of American Scientists website 48 hours ago, the Visual Aircraft Recognition manual has been downloaded over seventy thousand times, an exceptionally high rate of access.


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, send an email message to with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to

OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT Secrecy News with a donation here: