from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2015, Issue No. 52
August 13, 2015
Secrecy News Blog: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/
NUCLEAR WEAPON DECLASSIFICATION DECISIONS, 2011-2015
The Department of Energy issued twenty "declassification determinations" between April 2011 and March 2015 to remove certain specified categories of nuclear weapons-related information from classification controls.
"The fact that a mass of 52.5 kg of U-235 is sufficient for a gun-assembled weapon" was formally declassified in a written decision dated August 19, 2014.
The "total inventory of thorium at DOE sites for any given time period" was removed from the Restricted Data category on March 20, 2013.
The "existence of unlimited life neutron generators" was declassified on October 24, 2013.
As a result of such determinations, the specified information need no longer be redacted from documents undergoing declassification review, and it can also be incorporated freely in new unclassified documents.
So, for example, the fact that "The total United States Government inventory of plutonium on September 30, 2009 was 95.4 metric tons" was declassified on December 20, 2011.
This decision enabled the release of "The United States Plutonium Balance, 1944-2009," a report published in June 2012. ("The aim of this publication is to provide, in a transparent manner, comprehensive and up-to-date data to regulators, public interest organizations, and the general public. Knowledge of the current U.S. plutonium balance and the locations of these materials is needed to understand the Department's plutonium storage, safety, and security strategies.")
The Department of Energy's declassification determinations from 2011-2015 were released by DOE this week under the Freedom of Information Act. They are posted here in reverse chronological order, along with previous DOE declassification decisions:
The DOE declassification actions were performed in compliance with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, in which Congress mandated a "continuous review of Restricted Data... in order to determine which information may be declassified and removed from the category of Restricted Data without undue risk to the common defense and security."
REGULATING US AIR FORCE CONTACTS WITH CHINA
The U.S. Air Force last week issued updated guidance both to foster and to limit contacts with Chinese military personnel, based in part on classified Defense Department directives.
"With the rise of PRC influence in the international community and the increasing capabilities of the Chinese military, Air Force military-to-military relationship with the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), and the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is becoming more crucial than before," the Air Force document stated.
See "Conduct of USAF Contacts with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Government of the Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the PRC," Air Force Instruction 16-118, August 5, 2015.
The Instruction provides a framework for conducting reciprocal US-PRC visits to each other's military installations.
"The success of these visits, whether US or PRC-led, directly affects relationships between the US and the PRC, as well as our relationships with our allies and partners, and is thereby important in support of national and regional politico-military objectives."
But the Instruction also identifies numerous topical areas that are likely to be off-limits for USAF-PRC military contacts.
"[P]rohibited contacts... may involve: force projection operations, nuclear operations, advanced combined-arms and joint combat operations, advanced logistical operations, chemical and biological defense and other capabilities related to weapons of mass destruction, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, joint war-fighting experiments and other activities related to a transformation in warfare, military space operations, other advanced capabilities of the armed forces, arms sales or military-related technology transfers, release of classified or restricted information, and access to a DoD laboratory."
The new USAF Instruction implements two classified DoD Instructions, which have not been released: Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) C-2000.23, Conduct of DoD Contacts with the People's Republic of China (PRC), and DoDI S-2000.24, Conduct of DoD Contacts with the Government of Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the PRC.
The Congressional Research Service produced a related report on "U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress," updated October 27, 2014:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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