from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 34
April 29, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


Incidents of fratricide in the U.S. war on terrorism increased in recent years, according to a new report from the U.S. Army.

"Fratricide" -- the unintended killing or injury of friendly forces -- "is a harsh reality during combat operations," the study states. "Over the course of 2004-2007, the number of fratricide incidents increased, and experts speculate this is due to the high operational tempo and the reliance on technology during the current war."

According to official data, "there were 55 U.S. Army fratricide incidents from 11 September 2001 to 30 March 2008. Forty of these were Class A accidents" -- involving damage costs of $2 million or more and/or destruction of an Army aircraft, missile or spacecraft and/or fatality or permanent total disability -- "resulting in the deaths of 30 U.S. Army personnel."

Human error is a primary causal factor in many fratricide incidents, the study indicated, and "therefore, human error must be considered in the design and development of fratricide countermeasures, including both technical and human-centric solutions... Improved supervision and leadership may have the greatest potential to reduce U.S. fratricide incidents."

See "An Analysis of U.S. Army Fratricide Incidents during the Global War on Terror (11 September 2001 to 31 March 2008)" by Catherine M. Webb and Kate J. Hewett, U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, March 2010:


Although the U.S. Constitution assigned the power to declare war to Congress, the use of armed forces has often been initiated by the President without congressional authorization. The enactment of the War Powers Resolution in 1973 was an attempt by Congress to reassert its constitutional role and to regulate military action by the executive branch. For the most part, it failed to accomplish those goals.

"The main purpose of the Resolution was to establish procedures for both branches to share in decisions that might get the United States involved in war," a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) observes. "The drafters sought to circumscribe the President's authority to use armed forces abroad in hostilities or potential hostilities without a declaration of war or other congressional authorization, yet provide enough flexibility to permit him to respond to attack or other emergencies."

"But the record of the War Powers Resolution since its enactment has been mixed, and after 30 years it remains controversial," the CRS report said.

The new report documents that mixed record, listing all of the instances from 1973 to December 2009 in which Presidents submitted reports to Congress under the Resolution, as well as instances of the use of U.S. armed forces that were not reported. See "The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Six Years," April 22, 2010:

For reasons that defy easy comprehension, Congress does not believe that CRS reports should be made readily available to members of the public, so identifying and acquiring reports of interest takes a bit of extra effort. Noteworthy new CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"Monitoring and Verification in Arms Control," April 21, 2010:

"Emergency Communications: Broadband and the Future of 911," April 27, 2010:

"Unauthorized Aliens in the United States," April 27, 2010:

"Bangladesh: Political and Strategic Developments and U.S. Interests," April 1, 2010:

"Guinea's New Transitional Government: Emerging Issues for U.S. Policy," April 23, 2010:


The Department of Defense denied security clearances to 8,065 individuals in 2008, according to a recent congressional hearing volume. "These numbers represent a small percentage of the total number of security clearance investigations. The vast majority of investigations are adjudicated favorably." See "Security Clearance Reform: Moving Forward on Modernization," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 15, 2009 (published April 2010):

Among other recently published congressional hearing volumes on national security topics are these:

"An Uneasy Relationship: U.S. Reliance on Private Security Firms in Overseas Operations," Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, February 27, 2008 (published March 2010):

"Reauthorizing the USA PATRIOT Act: Ensuring Liberty," Senate Judiciary Committee, September 23, 2009 (published April 2010):

"A Strategic and Economic Review of Aerospace Exports," House Foreign Affairs Committee, December 9, 2009 (published April 2010):


The threat of German submarines laying explosive mines off the east coast of the United States was a source of alarm during World War I, but the residual hazards had diminished within a few years of the war's end, according to a comprehensive survey published by the U.S. Navy in 1920.

"The reports of the sightings of submarines have been without number," the Navy said, "and great care has been exercised to try to corroborate or validate the reports, and all have been rejected which do not answer such conditions as to accuracy."

"The information received as to the number of mines in each area and the reports of their destruction leave little or no doubt that the Atlantic coast is free from any danger as to mines," according to the 1920 Navy report, which was digitized by the Combined Arms Research Library at Fort Leavenworth.

See "German Submarine Activities on the Atlantic Coast of the United States and Canada," Department of the Navy, 1920 (very large pdf file):


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

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