from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 57
May 31, 2007

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The detention of a man infected with tuberculosis who may have exposed fellow passengers on commercial airliners to a particularly resistant form of the disease has generated new interest in the government's power to quarantine and isolate persons who may pose a threat to public health.

A recent report of the Congressional Research Service provides extensive legal, factual and historical background on the subject.

In a nutshell, "state and local governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions, and the federal government has authority to quarantine and impose other health measures to prevent the spread of diseases from foreign countries and between states," the CRS report explains.

See "Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority," updated January 23, 2007:

and, relatedly, see "Quarantine and Isolation: Selected Legal Issues Relating to Employment," updated February 28, 2007:

"The term 'quarantine' is derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni, which refer to the 40-day period during which certain ships arriving at the port of Venice during the Black Death plague outbreaks of the 14th century were obliged to sit at anchor before any persons or goods were allowed to go ashore," the CRS notes.


Students at Mercyhurst College created a wiki-based resource on global disease to support the National Intelligence Council, while demonstrating the utility of the wiki approach for intelligence analysis.

"The fundamental question had to do with the impact of chronic and infectious diseases on US national interests over the next 10-15 years," said Prof. Kristan J. Wheaton, whose class produced the wiki.

"The 26 students in the class worked for the 10 weeks of the course on the project, producing over 1000 pages of analysis on every country in the world. They also wrote global, regional and national interest reports. They even produced a process report that talks about how they did what they did and several videos to accompany the reports. The project was completed using entirely open sources."

"The final product is interesting on a number of levels," Prof. Wheaton told Secrecy News, "not the least of which is the way in which wiki technology facilitated the analysis."

A description of the activity with a link to the final product can be found on the National Intelligence Council web site here:


The significance of China's naval modernization programs and their impact on U.S. national security considerations are explored in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

See "China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities -- Background and Issues for Congress," updated May 29, 2007:

Hans Kristensen of FAS observed that a recent Department of Defense annual report on Chinese military power (pdf) conspicuously declined to endorse press reports (mainly attributable to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times) that China intends to deploy five new Jin-class ballistic missile submarines.

"Are you building five SSBNs or not?" Hans inquired in a followup letter to the Embassy of China. "No one here even knows the answer to your question," the Embassy replied.

See "Pentagon China Report Ignores Five SSBNs Projection," Strategic Security Blog, May 25:


"The chances for a radical change in leadership in Cuba are remote," the Central Intelligence Agency assessed in a 1966 analysis that was declassified last year.

"Fidel Castro is still the undisputed 'maximum leader' of the Cuban revolution and the dominant figure in Cuban politics, despite rumors to the contrary which circulated widely last spring."

See "Castro's Cuba Today," Current Intelligence Weekly Special Report, 30 September 1966, declassified October 2006:

See also "Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances," Congressional Research Service, updated May 3, 2007:

and "Cuba: Issues for the 110th Congress," updated May 1, 2007:


"The United States and Canada maintain the world's largest trading relationship, one that has been strengthened during the past fifteen years by the approval of two multilateral free trade agreements," according to another recently updated Congressional Research Service report.

"But it has been over security-related matters, particularly defense spending, Iraq, and missile defense, that the two governments had their sharpest differences."

"Notwithstanding these controversies, Canada and the United States have been working together on a number of fronts to thwart terrorism, including strengthening border security, sharing intelligence and expanding law enforcement cooperation."

See "Canada-U.S. Relations," updated May 15, 2007:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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