from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 9
January 26, 2011

Secrecy News Blog:


The new National Declassification Center (NDC) reviewed 83 million pages of classified historical records in 2010, but so far only 12 million of those pages have been declassified and released to the open shelves at the National Archives, according to a new report from the NDC.

At a time when currently classified records are being leaked and published online nearly every day, it may seem quaint that government agencies are investing time and money to painstakingly review records that are more than 25 years old for possible declassification. But the NDC process is more productive than leaks have been to date, yielding millions of newly disclosed pages, not just thousands.

The NDC has been directed by the President to process more than 400 million pages of historical records for declassification and public release before the end of 2013. The results to date, which leave a large majority of records beyond public reach even after review, call into question the criteria that are being used to process the records for declassification. The release rate of 14% (i.e., 12 million pages made public thus far out of 83 million reviewed) seems astonishingly low for 25 year old records.

See "Bi-annual Report on Operations of the National Declassification Center," January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010.

The NDC report also mentions that "We began to coordinate two government-wide special collection reviews for the declassification and release of material associated with the Pentagon Papers (40th anniversary) and the Berlin Wall construction (50th anniversary)."

Remarkably, the bulk of the Pentagon Papers, which were leaked in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, never formally underwent declassification review, as noted recently by historian John Prados. This means that every public and private library in the country that has a copy of the Papers is technically in possession of currently classified material.


If meaningful international agreements are reached to limit or reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming, then it will be necessary to verify compliance with such agreements. This turns out to be a challenging problem, involving technical, analytical and political dimensions. The JASON scientific advisory panel was asked to investigate the options.

"For cooperative countries, the technology currently exists to directly monitor GHG emissions sufficiently well on an annual basis to support U.S. decision-making on international agreements," the JASONs found.

On the other hand, "For non-cooperative countries, there is currently no demonstrated capability to estimate country-level emissions using direct measurements of atmospheric CO2 that has sufficient accuracy to support monitoring of compliance with international agreements."

Measuring devices, including satellite-borne devices, can be used to determine atmospheric concentrations of CO2, a principal greenhouse gas. But to estimate the original emission based on observed concentrations, it is necessary to model the transport of the gas from the point of emission to the point of measurement, a difficult task which in turn depends on accurate meteorological data and a correct understanding of natural CO2 emission and absorption processes. "In many cases, modeling uncertainties will dominate measurement uncertainty," the JASONs noted. "Modeling errors are the most insidious problem as they will often not give any indication of their presence...."

An alternative (or complement) to direct measurements is to monitor changes in the energy infrastructure of countries of interest, including signs of development of alternative energy sources and indicators of fossil fuel consumption. "Technical methods currently exist that can be used to monitor energy infrastructure of large GHG emitting countries. They benefit from, but do not require, the cooperation of the emitting country."

The JASONs recommended that the U.S. government "acquire and maintain a detailed technical knowledge of the energy infrastructure of countries with large greenhouse gas emissions, and identify and observe the signatures needed to quantify their energy use." A new organization may be needed to fulfill this task, they said.

The new JASON report, which was performed under contract to the National Nuclear Security Administration, builds upon a related 2010 study by the National Research Council and an otherwise unidentified "recent study by the MEDEA group," an intelligence community advisory body.

A copy of the JASON report was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Methods for Remote Determination of CO2 Emissions," JASON Report No. JSR-10-300, January 2011.


Economic vitality and national security are now inextricably intertwined, a new report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

"There is scarcely an economic policy issue before the Congress that does not affect U.S. national security. Likewise, there is scarcely a national security policy issue that does not affect the economy."

"The United States has long been accustomed to pursuing a 'rich man's' approach to national security," the CRS report said. "The country could field an overwhelming fighting force and combine it with economic power and leadership in global affairs to bring to bear far greater resources than any other country against any threat to the nation's security.... [In the past,] policies for economic growth and issues such as unemployment have been viewed as domestic problems largely separate from considerations of national security."

"The world, however, has changed. Globalization, the rise of China, the prospect of an unsustainable debt burden, unprecedented federal budget deficits, the success of mixed economies with both state-owned and private businesses, huge imbalances in international trade and capital flows, and high unemployment have brought economics more into play in considerations of national security."

Consequently, "In national security, the economy is both the enabler and the constraint."

The 77-page CRS report examines the intersection of economics and national security across a range of policies, including trade, education, research and development, and so on. The text is occasionally prosaic (e.g., "trade represents an exchange of goods or services between two or more willing parties") but it is also full of detailed and interesting information that may be useful to those who have not already made up their minds on this set of issues.

See "Economics and National Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy," Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2011:


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

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