Date: Thu, 04 Sep 2008 13:13:26 -0400
From: Steven Aftergood <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Secrecy News -- 09/04/08
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 86
September 4, 2006
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** SECRECY: THE MOVIE
** EXPLORING CHINA'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
** PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONMAKING
** US STRATEGIC NUCLEAR FORCES, AND MORE FROM CRS
SECRECY: THE MOVIE
"Secrecy," a well-reviewed documentary on national security secrecy,
begins a theatrical run this month in selected theaters around the
By identifying secrecy as a problem, filmmakers Peter Galison and Robb
Moss implicitly adopt a critical stance towards their subject matter. But
they also make a determined effort to present articulate defenders of
secrecy policy alongside the critics (among whom I play a minor role). And they
do not impose an artificial resolution on the disagreements that
are expressed, as there is none in reality.
Above all, Secrecy does a courtesy to the participants and to the audience
by taking the subject seriously. Also, it's beautifully made.
A schedule of upcoming screenings along with other background information
can be found here:
EXPLORING CHINA'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
A detailed new portrait of China's nuclear weapons program is beginning to
emerge into the public domain following years of pre-publication conflict
between author Danny B. Stillman and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Stillman, a former Los Alamos intelligence officer, was able to learn
more about China's nuclear weapons infrastructure than any other American,
particularly since the Chinese, for their own reasons, welcomed his
attention. Over the course of numerous visits in the 1990s, he was able
to inspect secret nuclear facilities that had been completely off limits
But when he proposed to publish his findings, the CIA stepped in to block
publication. Through the prepublication review process, CIA reviewers
objected to approximately 15% of Stillman's manuscript, which they said
contained classified information. A court later affirmed that view. ("CIA
Blocks Book on Chinese Nuclear Weapons," Secrecy News, April 4,
2007). Now a redacted version of the manuscript is scheduled for
publication early next year.
A preview of some of the book's findings with an overview of Stillman's
interactions with Chinese nuclear weapons scientists appears in the
current issue of Physics Today. See "The Chinese Nuclear Tests,
1964-1996" by Thomas C. Reed, Physics Today, September 2008:
Some specialists dispute certain assertions that appear in the article,
including a surprising claim that China performed hydrodynamic nuclear
tests for France in the 1990s. See "Report Says China Offered Widespread
Help on Nukes" by Dan Vergano, USA Today, August 29, 2008:
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONMAKING
A new report from the National Research Council probes deeply into the
positive and occasionally negative effects of public participation on the
environmental policymaking process.
It is practically an article of faith in democratic societies that
openness and public participation are presumptively good, but that doesn't
mean it's true. On closer inspection, however, including empirical studies
of participatory processes, the new NRC report was able to reach some
"When done well, public participation improves the quality and legitimacy
of a decision and builds the capacity of all involved to engage in the
policy process. It also can enhance trust and understanding among
parties," the report said.
On the other hand, "public participation, if not done well, may not
provide any of these benefits -- in some circumstances, participation has
done more harm than good."
The 250 page report, including a valuable 50 page bibliography, elucidates
some of the conditions for successful participation and those that are
likely to lead to failure.
"Some participatory processes have functioned as a political tactic to
divert the energy of the public away from engaging in dissent on important
differences and into activities that are considered safer by an agency.... This
use of public participation is counterproductive in the long run," the
Instead, agencies inviting public participation must have a "commitment to
use the process to inform their actions."
Also, "The power to define the questions to be addressed and to shape the
public participation approach -- how it is used and by whom -- is
With certain adjustments, the report's conclusions regarding environmental
policy may also be applicable to security policy and other areas of
See "Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making"
by Thomas Dietz and Paul C. Stern, editors, National Academies Press,
US STRATEGIC NUCLEAR FORCES, AND MORE FROM CRS
Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service
obtained by Secrecy News that have not been made readily available to the
public include the following.
"U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues,"
updated August 5, 2008:
"Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for
U.S. Interests," updated August 29, 2008:
"Defense: FY2009 Authorization and Appropriations," updated August 1,
"Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV): Background and Issues for Congress,"
August 28, 2008:
"Distribution of Homeland Security Grants in FY2007 and P.L. 110-53,
Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act," updated January
"Globalization, Worker Insecurity, and Policy Approaches," updated July
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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