from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 95
October 31, 2003
INTEL AGENCIES ANSWER QUESTIONS FOR THE RECORD
- INTEL AGENCIES ANSWER QUESTIONS FOR THE RECORD
- THE "28 PAGES": ONCE MORE WITH FEELING
- MORE LIGHT ON THE DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD
- ARCHIVAL OPENINGS
North Korea has attained a nuclear capability without nuclear explosive testing, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
"There is no information to suggest that North Korea has conducted a successful nuclear test to date," the Agency said, but "we assess that North Korea has produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons and has validated the designs without conducting yield-producing nuclear tests."
That CIA assessment, which slightly amplifies past public statements, appears in a new set of intelligence agency replies to "questions for the record" (QFRs) submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee following this year's annual hearing on the "worldwide threat."
Such QFRs are often overlooked because they are provided to Congress months after the hearing that prompted them, and they are made public months after that. But given the relative sparsity of unclassified intelligence threat assessments, they are usually worth reading.
Some of the notable items in the QFRs resulting from this year's intelligence threat briefing, obtained by Secrecy News, are these:
- In reply to a question about the threat of "cyberterrorism," the CIA says the answer is classified (CIA, p.4). But the FBI provides an extended response (FBI, pp. 2-6).
- In reply to a question about the threat of terrorism against agricultural targets, or "agroterrorism," the CIA again says the answer is classified (CIA, p. 6). But the FBI again provides a substantive response (FBI, pp. 6-9).
- "Since 1992 there have been sixteen seizures of weapons-usable [nuclear] material," according to the CIA, "six in Russia and ten in Europe. None of these seizures have been connected to terrorists and the thefts were opportunistic and smugglers had no pre-arranged buyer." (CIA, p. 26).
- "International terrorists use Thailand -- especially Bangkok -- as a transit hub and location for operational planning, weapons smuggling, and money laundering, as well as a source for counterfeit documents." (CIA, p. 33).
- Potential successors to North Korea's Kim Jong Il include two of his sons, Jong Nam and Jong Chol, according to the State Department (INR). "Because the two have different mothers, there are tensions between their families. To our knowledge, neither has moved through the grooming process far enough to dominate the other." (State, answer 4B).
- How many missiles does China possess that could threaten Taiwan? The answer is classified, says the State Department. But the Defense Intelligence Agency provides a straightforward response (DIA, pp. 9-10).
The four intelligence agency responses to questions for the record from the Senate Intelligence Committee following the 2003 worldwide threat briefing are posted here:
THE "28 PAGES": ONCE MORE WITH FEELING
For the second time this week the U.S. Senate took up the question of whether to endorse declassification of the "28 pages" on foreign support for the September 11 attacks which were censored from the recent report of the congressional joint inquiry on 9/11.
As a consequence of the continued withholding of this material, argued Sen. Bob Graham, "we have taken a substantial amount of the impetus and sense of urgency out of the recommendations for fundamental reform."
Nevertheless, a majority of Senators voted to block consideration of the proposed amendment in support of declassification. See the October 29 floor debate here:
MORE LIGHT ON THE DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD
The Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, is reportedly poised to recommend a major new departure in U.S. defense policy involving development of a new generation of nuclear weapons (as reported by Ian Hoffman in the Oakland Tribune last week, following up on a story in Jane's Defence Weekly).
But who is the Defense Science Board (DSB)? The Pentagon doesn't make it easy to find out, having deleted the names of the membership from the DSB website (Secrecy News, 10/28/03).
A current roster of the DSB membership appears in the October 2003 DSB Newsletter, which also reports on the status of the panel's various studies.
Along with the "Future Strategic Strike Forces" study, which addresses next-generation nuclear weapons, and many other topics, the DSB is also looking at intelligence reform.
Thus, one pending study "will address alternative ways of managing U.S. foreign intelligence endeavors... by focusing not on the means by which intelligence information is collected, but rather the ends it is to serve," according to the October 2003 DSB Newsletter.
The 2003 DSB Newsletters are not available on the official DSB web site, but they are now posted on the FAS web site here:
The latest releases of historical documents by the United Kingdom's Public Record Office address a diverse, rather offbeat cross section of topics, described here:
The Canadian government this week announced the publication of a new volume of declassified "top secret" documents on foreign policy from 1957-58. See:
A daunting list of accessions and openings at the U.S. National Archives for the third quarter of fiscal year 2003 is presented here:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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