from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2016, Issue No. 93
November 15, 2016

Secrecy News Blog:


The proper selection and validation of enemy targets in war is a critical function for military planners and intelligence analysts. Errors can result in horrific civilian casualties and may also be strategically counterproductive.

"In extreme cases, failure to exercise due diligence in target development can result in outcomes that have negative strategic repercussions for the United States and its allies," a newly disclosed Pentagon manual on targeting acknowledges (in bold type).

Procedures for correctly identifying and approving targets are described in the manual. See Target Development Standards, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3370.01B, 230 pages, 6 May 2016 (Unclassified, For Official Use Only).

A target is "an entity or object that performs a function for the adversary considered for possible engagement or other action," the manual explains.

"Targets fall into one of five target types: facility, individual, virtual, equipment, or organization."

"Examples include POL [petroleum, oil or lubricant] or PWR [electric power] sites (facilities), the chief accountant of a terrorist group (individual), a Web site (virtual), mobile radar (equipment), or a motorized infantry brigade (organization)."

"A terrorist network is the adversary, not a target. A front company (an entity) that ships lethal aid (a function) for the terrorist network (the adversary) would be a target."

"Collateral effects are unintentional or incidental adverse consequences of target engagement. Such effects are not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the overall military advantage anticipated from the engagement."

"While all targets are entities, not all entities in the battlespace are valid targets. To be validated as a target, the function of the entity must be tied to commander's objectives (operationally relevant) and meet Law of War (LOW) requirements," the manual notes.

The manual applies to the Department of Defense and the military services. It does not govern lethal operations by the Central Intelligence Agency.


"With a change of presidential administrations taking place in January, some in Congress are paying renewed attention to a parliamentary mechanism that might enable the new Congress and the new President to overturn agency final rules of the Obama Administration issued after late-May 2016," a newly updated brief from the Congressional Research Service explains.

"The inauguration of Republican Donald J. Trump as President in 2017 may present a finite window during which the [congressional] disapproval mechanism might be used more successfully." See Agency Final Rules Submitted After May 30, 2016, May Be Subject to Disapproval in 2017 Under the Congressional Review Act, CRS Insight, updated November 9, 2016:

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act, updated November 10, 2016:

"Regulatory Relief" for Banking: Selected Legislation in the 114th Congress, updated November 10, 2016:

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, updated November 10, 2016:

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in Senate Committees, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016:

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in Senators' Offices, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016:

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in House Committees, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016:

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in House Member Offices, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016:

U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners, updated November 9, 2016:

China Issues Decision on Hong Kong Legislative Council Controversy, CRS Insight, November 9, 2016:

Navy Force Structure: A Bigger Fleet? Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 9, 2016:

Gun Control: FY2017 Appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Other Initiatives, November 9, 2016:


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

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