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FRINFORMSUM 9/1/2011

September 2, 2011

The DF-4, China's oldest operational intercontinental ballistic missile

In June, the first fact sheet for the new START treaty was released with disappointing setbacks for government transparency. Last Wednesday, the Pentagon released its latest report on China’s military. In similar fashion to the START fact sheet, the Pentagon report on China’s military power takes a step back on disclosure, especially when it comes to China’s nuclear delivery systems. In this article from the Federation of American Scientists, a side-by-side comparison of missile counts from last year and this year shows this reduced candidness of the US government. The 2010 report breaks nuclear missile counts down by each particular model whereas this year’s report simply shows aggregate missile counts for each missile type. This shift in reporting, in conjunction with the new START reporting, limits the ability of the international community to monitor the development of nuclear arsenals in China, Russia, and the U.S.

More than two years after President Obama issued his memorandum on FOIA asking agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure,” the Department of Defense has issued new guidance. DoD Directive 5400.07 states that DoD policy is “to promote transparency and accountability by adopting a presumption in favor of disclosure in all decisions involving the FOIA.” This is a promising, if not belated, development from an agency that performed rather well in the 2011 Knight Open Government Survey. Nevertheless, the DoD is still home to the second oldest FOIA request in the government.

The Department of Justice, last week, refused to declassify a 2001 legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel by John Yoo. The legal opinion concerns the legality of the Bush Administration’s warrantless surveillance program and is classified under the deliberative process privilege according to Special Counsel Paul Colborn at the OLC. Strangely, current officials at the DoJ have stated that Yoo’s legal opinion on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and its application to domestic surveillance “does not reflect the current analysis of the department.”

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