from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 117
November 26, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


In a memorandum to agency heads last week, President Obama transmitted formal requirements that agencies must meet in order "to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security."

Along with espionage and acts of violence, the National Insider Threat Policy notably extends to the "unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including the vast amounts of classified data available on interconnected United States Government computer networks." To combat such unauthorized disclosures, agencies are required to "monitor employee use of classified networks."

The new standards, which have not been made publicly available, were developed by an interagency Insider Threat Task Force that was established by President Obama in the October 2011 executive order 13587, and they reflect the ongoing tightening of safeguards on classified information in response to the voluminous leaks of the last few years.

But the latest issuance also illustrates the superfluousness (or worse) of current congressional action concerning leaks. Executive branch agencies do not need Congress to tell them to develop "a comprehensive insider threat program management plan," as would be required by the Senate version of the pending FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 509). Such plans will go forward in any case.

Sen. Ron Wyden has placed a hold on the pending intelligence bill, citing objections to several of the proposed anti-leak provisions contained in Title V of the bill. He said the proposed steps were misguided or counterproductive.

"I am concerned that they will lead to less-informed public debate about national security issues, and also undermine the due process rights of intelligence agency employees, without actually enhancing national security," he said on November 14.

The most problematic measures in the Senate bill are those intended to restrict contacts between reporters and government officials.

Senator Wyden said that legislative actions to limit the ability of the press to report on classified matters could undermine or cripple the intelligence oversight process.

"I have been on the Senate Intelligence Committee for 12 years now, and I can recall numerous specific instances where I found out about serious government wrongdoing--such as the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, or the CIA's coercive interrogation program--only as a result of disclosures by the press," he said.

* * *

The record of a July 2012 House Judiciary Committee hearing on National Security Leaks and the Law has recently been published.


The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Justice said it had recently completed a review of the Department's use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (FAA), but the report is classified and its findings have not been released.

"The OIG examined the number of disseminated FBI intelligence reports containing a reference to a U.S. person identity, the number of U.S. person identities subsequently disseminated in response to requests for identities not referred to by name or title in the original reporting, the number of targets later determined to be located in the United States, and whether communications of such targets were reviewed. The OIG also reviewed the FBI's compliance with the required targeting and minimization procedures," according to a November 7 OIG memorandum on Top Management and Performance Challenges in the Department of Justice.

A copy of the classified report has been requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Earlier this year, Sen. Ron Wyden placed a hold on reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act "because I believe that Congress does not have enough information about this law's impact on the privacy of law-abiding American citizens, and because I am concerned about a loophole in the law that could allow the government to effectively conduct warrantless searches for Americans' communications."


The Department of Defense issued a new Directive last week establishing DoD policy for the development and use of autonomous weapons systems.

An autonomous weapon system is defined as "a weapon system that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator."

The new DoD Directive Number 3000.09, dated November 21, establishes guidelines that are intended "to minimize the probability and consequences of failures in autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems that could lead to unintended engagements."

"Failures can result from a number of causes, including, but not limited to, human error, human-machine interaction failures, malfunctions, communications degradation, software coding errors, enemy cyber attacks or infiltration into the industrial supply chain, jamming, spoofing, decoys, other enemy countermeasures or actions, or unanticipated situations on the battlefield," the Directive explains.

An "unintended engagement" resulting from such a failure means "the use of force resulting in damage to persons or objects that human operators did not intend to be the targets of U.S. military operations, including unacceptable levels of collateral damage beyond those consistent with the law of war, ROE [rules of engagement], and commander's intent."

The Department of Defense should "more aggressively use autonomy in military missions," urged the Defense Science Board last summer in a report on "The Role of Autonomy in DoD Systems."

The U.S. Army issued an updated Army Field Manual 3-36 on Electronic Warfare earlier this month.


New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

India-U.S. Security Relations: Current Engagement, November 13, 2012:

A Guide to China's Upcoming Leadership Transitions, October 16, 2012:

U.S. Trade and Investment Relations with sub-Saharan Africa and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, November 14, 2012:

Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress, November 9, 2012:

The Congressional Research Service made a humorous appearance in the Doonesbury comic strip on November 24, in connection with the report on tax cuts that was withdrawn in response to criticism from some Republican Senators.

In fact, as often noted, members of Congress of both parties consistently withhold public access to most CRS reports.


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

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