from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2019, Issue No. 9
March 13, 2019

Secrecy News Blog:


If the Attorney General decided to withhold portions of the pending report of the Special Counsel, he might justify his decision by citing legal protections for grand jury information and for executive privilege.

But there are exceptions to both of these categories, and Congress has tools of its own to pursue the desired information, the Congressional Research Service said in a new assessment.

With respect to grand jury information in the Special Counsel report, "Congress could opt to seek documents or testimony from grand jury witnesses themselves," CRS said.

As for executive privilege, it "is generally qualified, and can be surmounted (in court) if Congress can show an overriding need for the information." See The Special Counsel's Report: Can Congress Get It?, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 8, 2019:

And see, relatedly, The Special Counsel's Report: What Do Current DOJ Regulations Require?, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 7, 2019:

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

Membership of the 116th Congress: A Profile, March 7, 2019:

Foreign Agents Registration Act: An Overview, CRS In Focus, updated March 7, 2019:

United States European Command: Overview and Key Issues, CRS In Focus, March 12, 2019:

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice, updated March 8, 2019:

Strategic Competition and Foreign Policy: What is "Political Warfare"?, CRS In Focus, March 8, 2019:

Defense Primer: A Guide for New Members, updated March 8, 2019:


Military contractors are such an integral part of U.S. military forces that "most military operations will include contracted support," a newly updated Pentagon manual explains.

In fact, "While some limited-duration operations, such as noncombatant evacuation operations, may use limited contracted support, all major operations will involve significant contracted support."

Aside from their prominent role in logistics, contractors also provide linguist, signal and security services.

In some circumstances, contractors may even substitute for US military forces. "The use of contracted support as an alternative to deploying US forces may have other benefits, including minimizing the military footprint in the operational area, reducing force operational tempo, and improving domestic US political support or buy-in," the manual said.

Contractors are considered indispensable, and they can sometimes be used to circumvent policy restrictions on military deployments. "The continual introduction of high-tech equipment, coupled with force structure and manning reductions, mission-specific force cap restrictions, and high operating tempo, means contracted support will augment military forces in most operations."

Among the various types of military contractors are armed private security contractors (PSCs) that are used to guard personnel and facilities. "PSC-provided services, more than any other contracted service, can have a direct impact (sometimes a very negative impact) on civil-military aspects of the operation," the Pentagon manual cautioned.

As a general matter, vigilant oversight is needed to ensure the integrity of the contracting process, since "the procurement of supplies and services in support of military operations can be prone to fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA), even more so in a foreign contingency where there are many contracts with local firms." See Operational Contract Support, Joint Publication 4-10, March 4, 2019:


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

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