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Video Won Through FOIA Shows AG Sessions Spar with DOJ Interns Over Marijuana, Gun Control: FRINFORMSUM 12/14/2017

December 14, 2017

Video Won Through FOIA Shows AG Sessions Spar with DOJ Interns Over Marijuana, Gun Control

A video obtained by ABC News through the FOIA shows Attorney General Jeff Sessions taking pointed questions from Justice Department interns during a June 22 department event. While Sessions spent most of his time explaining his policies, the question and answer period found him at times defensive and dismissive. “At one point, he seemed to mock a Justice Department intern for questioning whether marijuana is dangerous. He said cities like Chicago and Baltimore are now plagued with rising crime and murders because they ‘have abandoned traditional police activities.’ And he dismissed another intern’s assertion that many Americans in poor, largely minority communities fear law enforcement officers.” And when an intern challenged Sessions’ stance on tough marijuana laws and lax gun control, Sessions’ argued that “marijuana is not a healthy substance” and referred to the intern who asks the question as “Dr. Whatever Your Name Is.”

FOIA Lawsuit for DOD Sexual Assault Data

The non-profit Protect Our Defenders and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center have filed a FOIA lawsuit against both the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security for military sexual assault data. The three requests at the center of the FOIA lawsuit seek:

  • Data on whistleblower protections in the military.
  • Records related to sexual assault and rape cases in military and civilian courts.
  • Data on the “disposition of claims involving sexual assault cases before the Board for Correction of Military Records in each branch, along with performance evaluation and military discipline records related to gender disparities.”

Protect Our Defenders argued that the DOD improperly withheld documents from the three requests and appeals. The Defense Department, citing ongoing litigation, did not comment on the case to Stars and Stripes.

Air Force Special Access Programs

The Air Force’s most recent policy guidance on its “special access programs” (SAPs – classified programs that are believed to require levels of safeguards beyond other categories of classified information) does not recognize the authority of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) to oversee the Air Force’s SAPs, even though the Executive Order on national security classification expressly grants ISOO that access. Steve Aftergood reports that ISOO director, Mark Bradley, says that the lack of recognition is an error and that his office will “communicate the point effectively to the Air Force.”

The guidance also “makes provisions for internal oversight of its SAPs, as well as limited congressional access to SAP information under some circumstances.”

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in October 2000.

Engaging North Korea II: Evidence from the Clinton Administration

The Clinton administration made plans for war against North Korea during the 1994 nuclear crisis.  While U.S. officials believed they could “undoubtedly win,” however, they also understood “war involves many casualties,” according to documents posted by the National Security Archive.

President Bill Clinton’s negotiators took a tough stance in meetings with North Korean leaders, including warning of “serious, negative consequences” if Pyongyang continued to pursue its “unacceptable” missile program.  At the same time, the administration decided flexibility was critical given the unpredictability of events, including the prospect that a “starving North Korea” might create a “dangerously chaotic situation.”

The posting features declassified cables, background papers, and reports of meetings involving former Defense Secretary William Perry, other senior Americans, and North and South Korean officials.  Together, the documents describe key moments and thinking during the course of the complex negotiations of the 1990s.  Perry and others had hopes the incoming Bush team would carry the effort forward (as Colin Powell indicated they would), but President Bush quickly informed President Kim he would be terminating all talks with the North.

NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard

U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents recently published on the Archive’s website.

The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels.

The documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gates’s criticism of “pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward [in the 1990s], when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.” The key phrase, buttressed by the documents, is “led to believe.”

Read the documents here.

The U.S. Has Way Too Many Secrets

National Security Archive director Tom Blanton recently spoke with Bloomberg about “why historians should be extra-grateful for Hillary Clinton’s private server; what really needs to be declassified; and how history is likely to judge Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.” The wide-ranging discussion also includes the recent JFK release, the reality of automatic declassification, and which country has the best Freedom of Information law (hint: it’s not the United States).

TBT Pick – Kennedy Considered Supporting Coup in South Vietnam, August 1963

This week’s #tbt pick is a 2009 posting from the National Security Archive’s Vietnam project showing that, at a critical moment in August 1963, President John F. Kennedy saw only negative choices on Vietnam. Declassified tapes of secret White House meetings on the possibility of U.S. support for a military coup against President Ngo Dinh Diem show that Kennedy believed that if Diem’s brother Ngo Dinh Nhu remained a major influence, the war might not succeed. Read all the documents here.

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