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Pentagon Sees Climate Change as Immediate National Security Risk, CIA Rebel Training Largely Unhelpful, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/16/2014

October 16, 2014
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday at a meeting in Peru. Credit Paolo Aguilar/European Pressphoto Agency

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose views on climate change have changed considerably since 1997, on Monday at a meeting in Peru. Credit Paolo Aguilar/European Pressphoto Agency

This week the Pentagon released an unclassified report definitively stating climate change poses an immediate risk to U.S. national security, and announced plans to integrate climate change risks across all aspects of Pentagon operations. This report marks a shift from earlier Pentagon analyses, which addressed the future, rather than immediate, risks of climate change. The emphasis on current climate change issues “is aimed in part at building support for a United Nations agreement, to be signed next year in Paris, that would require the world’s largest producers of planet-warming carbon pollution to slash their emissions.” The report also signifies a shift in Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s views on climate change – as a Republican Senator for Nebraska he helped write a bipartisan resolution urging the Senate not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Rebel fighters in Nicaragua in 1987. Credit John Hopper/Associated Press

Rebel fighters in Nicaragua in 1987. Credit John Hopper/Associated Press

A classified CIA review commissioned by the Obama administration to help determine whether or not the U.S. should intervene in the Syrian civil war has found that covertly arming and training rebel groups rarely works, and that the training is often less effective than “when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.” The CIA has been training and arming rebel groups “from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba” throughout its history, and the classified review found that the rare successful exception was the 1989 training of mujahedeen rebels – some of whom went on to be instrumental in the forming of Al Qaeda – to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The report attributed the 1989 success largely to the “Pakistani intelligence officers working with the rebels in Afghanistan.”

Trials are beginning this month concerning the Pentagon’s Navy intelligence office, the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration. The case concerns a civilian Navy intelligence official from the little-known office, which consists mostly of retired military personnel that are characterized by other Navy officials as “wanna-be spook-cops,” and a California auto mechanic “who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.” While most of the case documents are withheld to prevent damage to national security, “According to the records that have been made public, the crux of the case is whether the silencers were properly purchased for an authorized secret mission or were assembled for a rogue operation.”

A FOIA request submitted by the New York Times (NYT) has garnered the release of intelligence documents revealing U.S. troops found more than 4,990 chemical weapons in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Information about the chemical weapons stockpiles has largely been withheld, from both Congress and the public, with Army soldiers ordered to be evasive when recounting what chemical weapons they uncovered. In the course of investigating the weapons stockpiles, NYT found “In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.”

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos has asked the government to provide a written argument why it should not “have to publicly explain its reasons for invoking the state secrets privilege” in a private defamation lawsuit brought by Greek shipping mogul Victor Restis against United Against Nuclear Iran. The Department of Justice invoked the state secrets privilege in the Restis case last month, a privilege normally reserved for cases involving government surveillance and espionage, and if granted this would mark the first time the privilege will be used without a public explanation for it.

The National Security Agency (NSA) said in response to a FOIA request that a report on authorized disclosures of classified intelligence to the media is classified. The FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act requires the intelligence community to notify Congress in the event of “authorized disclosure[s] of national intelligence” to help intelligence committees distinguish between authorized disclosures – a common practice in national security reporting – and leaks. Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists notes, “If something is classified, how can its disclosure be authorized (without declassification)? And if something is disclosed by an official who is authorized to do so, how can it still be classified? And yet, it seems that there is such a thing.”

Former NSA head Michael Hayden told CBS’ 60 Minutes he was “conflicted” about whether or not NYT reporter James Risen should be compelled to reveal his source for a story on a CIA plot to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Hayden said that ultimately, however, it would be wrong to compel Risen to reveal his sources if “the method of redressing that actually harms the broad freedom of the press.” At issue is Risen’s refusal to testify in former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling’s leaks trial that resulted from his disclosures regarding Operation Merlin, a Clinton-era CIA effort to sabotage Iranian nuclear research, which was the subject of a chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, State of War. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen in June over his refusal to testify, and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder sent mixed messages on whether or not the government will pursue jailing Risen for his refusal to testify.

A recently declassified CIA Studies in Intelligence article shows the U.S. was “largely in the dark about something that might have been central to the Shah’s calculations during the critical final years of his rule” – the extent of his lymphatic cancer. The author notes, “Had we known the Shah was suffering from cancer of the lymph nodes since 1973, our government’s judgements as to his ability to deal with the revolutionary forces that swept through Iran would probably have been quite different. Serious doubts would have replaced the guarded optimism concerning his ability to weather the storm.”

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 - 03/27/1951)

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 – 03/27/1951)

David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother who admitted to lying in his testimony in the Rosenberg espionage trial to protect his wife Ruth, died earlier this week at the age of 92. To commemorate the central lie behind the “trial of the century,” this week’s #tbt document picks are the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg grand jury transcripts, released in 2008 thanks to legal action brought by the National Security Archive and a coalition of historians. The transcripts support David’s post-trial claim, with FBI records showing David and Ruth only mentioned that Ethel –not Ruth – typed the information David obtained from his job at the Los Alamos nuclear installation for passing to Julius Rosenberg and the Soviet Union. Stay tuned, because the Archive will have more on the Greenglass case very soon.

Happy FOIA-ing!


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