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DOE to Review Classification Guidance After Retroactively Classifying Article and Firing Employee Who Wrote It, Problems Mounting at the DHS, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 9/25/2014

September 25, 2014
Los Alamos national lab in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of lanl.gov.

Los Alamos national lab in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of lanl.gov.

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will review its classification guidance for publications after a Center for Public Integrity article, which highlighted the bizarre case of ex-Los Alamos lab contractor James E. Doyle, brought the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) some unwanted attention. Doyle was fired from his 17-year position at Los Alamos earlier this year after DOE officials retroactively classified an article he wrote that was critical of current nuclear policy. The DOE retroactively classified the article despite the fact that Doyle submitted it for pre-publication review even though lab rules didn’t require him to do so and the review found the article contained no classified information. NNSA Administrator Gen. Frank Klotz said that in addition to reviewing classification standards, “I have asked the Department’s Inspector General to examine whether Mr. Doyle’s termination resulted in whole or in part from the publication of an article he authored.”

The Prowler units perimeter.  Image:  Carol Leonnig and Peter Wallsten/The Washington Post

The Prowler units perimeter. Image: Carol Leonnig and Peter Wallsten/The Washington Post

The director of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, will appear before Congress next week and attempt to explain how a man the Secret Service interviewed twice this summer and deemed not to be a security threat was able to jump the White House fence and make it inside the residence before being apprehended. While the fence surrounding the White House has long been known to be vulnerable to jumpers, the greater problem appears to be the systemic ones at the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In May of this year The Washington Post revealed that members of the Secret Service’s elite Prowler unit, which is tasked with patrolling the White House, were ordered by the agency director to abandon their post to watch his personal friend for two months in 2011. The detail, known as Operation Moonlight, sent the agents to a Maryland suburb, nearly an hour’s drive from the White House. The agents involved were concerned about the legality of their re-assignment, and some reported the issue to the DHS, the Secret Service’s parent agency. According to The Post, “People familiar with the operation said a Senate committee’s recent finding that the former DHS ­inspector general softened and delayed investigations  — particularly those critical of administration officials — renewed frustration that the issue may have not been properly investigated.”

In the wake of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found that both the DHS and the Department of Defense do not know how many of their employees have had their security clearances revoked (the DOD in particular has one million contractors eligible for security clearances that aren’t on its payroll), another GAO report is faulting the DHS for its mismanagement of funds building its new headquarters. According to the House Committee on Homeland Security, “The project is over budget and schedule by $1 billion and 10 years.”

The Washington Post recently reported that “An exodus of top-level officials” at DHS is another systemic problem at the agency. According to data obtained by the Office of Personnel Management, annual departures from DHS have increased 31% from 2010 to 2013, compared to 17% across the government, and senior executive departures were up 56% in 2013 from the year before. The exodus itself is blamed on low morale, a dysfunctional work environment, and more lucrative offers in the private sector (particularly in cybersecurity). These vacancies have resulted in the slow implementation of key initiatives and compromised security operations. Another casualty of DHS’s working environment might be the clarity of the agency’s mission itself. When a leading official asked a gathering of high-level DHS officials in 2010 who was in charge of the government’s counterterrorism role, “Five people raised their hands.”

Analysts gathered at the Paley Center for Media earlier this week and asked if President Obama, who has presided over more prosecutions of leakers than all past presidencies combined, can strike a balance between preserving freedom of the press and protection national security. Panelists included former NSA general counsel and CIA adviser Robert Dietz, and The Washington Posts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, Barton Gellman. The panel seemed to be unable to strike a balance itself when, “Responding to a video clip of the late Washington Post Managing Editor Howard Simons suggesting that it’s the government’s job to keep secrets and the reporter’s job to ferret them out, Dietz declared: “It’s the bank’s job to keep your money. It is the burglar’s job to break it out.”

CIA director John Brennan apologized to Sen. Feinstein after an IG report showed the agency spied on Senate staff, then backtracked saying there was no "memorandum of agreement." Reuters photo.

CIA director John Brennan apologized to Sen. Feinstein after an IG report showed the agency spied on Senate staff, then backtracked saying there was no “memorandum of agreement.” Reuters photo.

CIA director John Brennan is continuing to express frustration in his dealings with the Senate Intelligence Committee in the wake of his refusal to tell the Committee who authorized CIA employees to spy on their staff while it worked on a report highly critical of the CIA’s torture program. Last week at an intelligence conference Brennan said, “When the inspector general determined that based on the common understanding between the CIA and the [committee] about this arrangement of computers, that our officers had improperly accessed it, even though these were CIA facilities, CIA computers, and CIA had responsibility for the IT integrity of the system, I apologized to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact that we didn’t have a memorandum of agreement.”

A recent Politico article provides an interesting, detailed account of how the PREDATOR drone failed its first big test in 2001 to kill Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. To learn more about the drone’s origins and its transition from a little-known DOD project to becoming “best known as the CIA’s primary weapon in the war against Al Qaeda,” check out the latest posting form the National Security Archive, which highlights documents obtained by Richard Whittle that both detail the Predator’s origins and confirm key facts about its transformation into the first armed drone used to “stalk and kill individual enemies by remote control at intercontinental range.”

Finally this week, our #tbt document pick is chosen with the current U.N. meeting on climate change in mind. The document is an unclassified September 15, 1997, memo for the President from Gene Sperling, Katie McGinty and Daniel Tarullo [Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs]. The memo lays out a set of “constituent constraints” for President Clinton that would challenge the US’s drafting a climate change policy:

1) An environmental community that is pressing for an aggressive position on reducing greenhouse emissions.
2) International negotiations that have focused on fairly aggressive approaches, meaning a less aggressive U.S. approach would have adverse diplomatic consequences.
3) Economic analyses that recognize the severity of the problem but hold that a more gradual approach can secure similar goals at much lower cost; and
4) Domestic political pressure from major corporations and labor unions to reject a large energy tax increase and aggressive approaches as too costly, as well as to insist on significant developing country commitments to reducing global greenhouse emissions.

Bob Wampler notes, “The challenge facing the Clinton White House is that while the first two constraints are somewhat consistent, as are the second two, the first set is at odds with the second set. ‘An aggressive approach would play well internationally and with environmental groups, but would be sharply criticized by corporations, labor unions, and the Hill. A more gradual approach, however, would garner some support from domestic interests but would be met with derision abroad and by environmental constituents.’”

Happy FOIA-ing!

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