from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2019, Issue No. 3
January 17, 2019
Secrecy News Blog: https://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/
- CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PANEL PUT ON HIATUS
- MORE LIGHT ON BLACK PROGRAM TO TRACK UFOS
- JASON ENDORSES FURTHER FUSION POWER RESEARCH
CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PANEL PUT ON HIATUS
The Historical Review Panel that advises the Central Intelligence Agency on declassification of historical intelligence records said this week that its planned December 2018 meeting was canceled by CIA, and that no future meetings were scheduled.
But CIA said yesterday that the Panel would be reconvened following some administrative changes.
"We have recently been informed that the Panel is being restructured and will not meet again until this has been done," said the Panel of independent historians, chaired by Prof. Robert Jervis of Columbia University, in a January 14 statement published on H-DIPLO. "The reasons for this remain unclear to us, and no schedule for resumed meetings has been announced."
Upon further investigation, it appears that changes may be made regarding composition of Panel membership, term limits, and similar issues but that the scope of the Panel's activities will be unaffected. The reconstituted Panel is expected to meet again sometime this year.
"The CIA is committed to the public release of historical information, and the Historical Review Panel remains an important and valuable resource for this endeavor," said CIA spokesperson Sara Lichterman.
The Panel is purely advisory and does not make or execute policy. But it serves to represent the concerns of historians regarding declassification of intelligence records. It has helped to prioritize records of particular interest for declassification and to facilitate production of intelligence records for the Foreign Relations of the United States series. And perhaps most important, through its periodic meetings with the CIA Director, it has helped to elevate historians' concerns about intelligence declassification within the Agency.
MORE LIGHT ON BLACK PROGRAM TO TRACK UFOS
The Defense Intelligence Agency disclosed this week that it had funded research on warp drive, invisibility cloaking, and other areas of fringe or speculative science and engineering as part of a now-defunct program to track and identify threats from space.
From 2007 to 2012, the DIA spent $22 million on the activity, formally known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. It was apparently initiated at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with most of the funding directed to a Nevada constituent of his. See "Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program" by Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean, New York Times, December 16, 2017:
Yesterday, the DIA released a list of 38 research titles funded by the program, many of which are highly conjectural and well beyond the boundaries of current science, engineering — or military intelligence. One such title, "Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy," was prepared by Dr. Eric Davis, who has also written on "psychic teleportation."
(Dr. Davis responded vigorously to skepticism of his work in a 2006 comment to this Secrecy News post.)
The DIA list of research papers, marked for Official Use Only, was previously provided to Congress in January 2018. It was publicly released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act.
Although many FOIA offices are closed due to the continuing shutdown of the federal government, the DIA FOIA office and at least some others in the Department of Defense are still operational.
A DIA FOIA officer noted with some exasperation that yesterday's release of the list of research papers will, in all likelihood, prompt new FOIA requests to his Agency for each one of the listed papers.
JASON ENDORSES FURTHER FUSION POWER RESEARCH
The JASON scientific advisory panel cautiously endorsed further research into what is known as Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF) as a step towards achieving fusion-generated electricity.
"Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF) is a physically plausible approach to studying controlled thermonuclear fusion in a region of parameter space that is less explored than Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) or Magnetic Confinement Fusion (MCF)."
"Despite having received ~1% the funding of MCF and ICF, MIF experiments have made rapid progress in recent years toward break-even conditions," the JASONs said in a report to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) late last year.
Even so, "Given the immaturity of the technologies, the future ability of fusion-generated electricity to meet commercial constraints cannot be usefully assessed. Rapidly developing infrastructures for natural gas and renewable energy sources and storage will compete with any future commercial fusion efforts."
See Prospects for Low Cost Fusion Development: Executive Summary, JASON Report JSR-18-011, November 2018 (summary only; the full report has not yet been released):
The fusion report is one of two unclassified reports prepared by the JASONs in 2018. (Release of the second is pending.) The other twelve reports from last year are classified.
The New York Times recently provided an overview of fusion research in Clean, Abundant Energy: Fusion Dreams Never End by C. Claiborne Ray, January 11, 2019:
Meanwhile, the Federation of American Scientists warned that the current shutdown of federal agencies threatens many aspects of U.S. science and technology.
"The partial government shutdown is compromising the very research that is important to the health and security of our nation. Important scientific breakthroughs could be compromised or lost with each and every day that the shutdown continues," FAS said in a January 16 letter to the White House and Congress.
"We therefore urge you to open the federal government, send researchers back to work at their agencies, and allow science to flourish throughout the United States."
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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