FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

NAS Suppresses Public Documents on Chem/Bio Weapons

Move over ENRON and Arthur Andersen, the US National Academies of Science is vying for the document disappearance award of the year… a very disturbing situation for the Sunshine Project, and one which we think other persons working in the field should know about. And, for those interested, please contact me as we would love to talk about ways to generate pressure for release.

Last year, the Pentagon Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program commissioned a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, Naval Studies Board. The study, which is now in final preparation, is titled “An Assessment of Non-lethal Weapons Science and Technology”.

As part of the study, hundreds of documents on non-lethal weapons were deposited in the public access records file of the National Academies. These records are available for inspection and copying by the general public and form the written record of the basis of the recommendations of the panel in its report(s).

In March of this year, the Sunshine Project contacted the NAS Public Records Office and requested a bibliography of documents deposited for the non-lethal weapons study. We received this bibliography, which identified the title, date, and author of each study as well as its date of deposit, which often corresponded to the date of the Panel meeting at which the documents were apparently discussed.

We identified 77 documents from this list which suggested US interest in chemical and biological “non-lethal” weapons. These include such juicy titles as “Anti-Material Biocatysts”, “Anti-Material Chemical Agents”, “Enhanced Degradation of Military Material” (by the folks at the US Naval Research Laboratory, note the deletion of “Defense” found in the title of similar, publicly-available papers), “Metabolic Engineering”, “Legal Review of Proposed Chemical-Based Nonlethal Weapons”, “Establishment of Odor Response Profiles: Ethnic, Racial and Cultural Influences”, “Antipersonnel Calmative Agents” (by US Army Edgewood), etc… 77 documents in total.

We requested the documents on March 12th and were assured they would be quickly forthcoming after they had been retrieved from the file, copied, the pages counted, and a bill for .25 cents a page paid. Most of these documents are also found on the unclassified Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program CD-ROM, over which we have been locked in a Freedom of Information battle with the Marine Corps for over a year.

After non-responses from NAS for several weeks, today I got on the phone to find out what was happening with our request. The NAS Public Affairs Office said the documents had been checked out by the Program Staff and were unavailable, perhaps for a few more days, perhaps longer. The Program Staff – which the Public Affairs Office did not want me to call – said that this was wrong. According to the panel staff, what really happened was that the NAS National Security Office had placed a “security hold” on the file. This hold came after our request for copies was made and is somewhat disturbing to us, as we did not publicize our request and do not know how or why the National Security Office was alerted to our interest.

I called Mr. Kevin Hale, NAS Security Chief, who confirmed that he placed the “security hold” on the public documents based on “concern expressed” by someone. But Hale refused to say who requested the hold or describe the basis on which he placed it. He also refused to describe, in even the most general terms, what issues has provoked the “security hold”. Hale said the “public” documents would undergo security review and that some may be post-facto expunged from the public record, denying public access to the raw material of the scientific deliberations of the Academy panel. Disturbingly, in contrast to the NAS Public Affairs Office and the Panel staff, Mr Hale had a third story about the documents’ location. According to Hale, the documents might not ever have been physically deposited with NAS. Hale refused to say more, and referred all questions to the NAS General Counsel’s Office.

I called Audrey Mosley, the NAS Counsel handling the situation. Ms. Mosley professed ignorance of detail of the situation and refused to discuss at whose instigation or why this most unusual hold had been placed. She said the documents would be reviewed for “security markings” and reiterated that they may physically have never been in NAS possession. Paradoxically, she also said that “somebody, probably Kevin Hale; but not me” would review the documents and determine if they would be deleted from the public record. This, of course, begs the question of how Hale could review documents he says NAS may not possess!!!!

In sum, it looks like NAS is pulling sensitive documents from the public access file. I am uncertain of the legalities; but am inclined to believe that at a minimum, this will undermine the integrity of panel conclusions and of NAS itself. In addition, some senior NAS staff appear to be lying about possession/location of documents. The differing stories cannot be reconciled. In addition, the “classification” issue is a red herring because the Marine Corps has stated that the documents are not classified (but isn’t releasing them either!).

NAS cannot identify a responsible person to explain its actions. The Public Access Office refers questions to the Panel staff. The Panel staff refers questions to the Security Office. The Security Office refers questions to General Counsel’s office. The General Counsel’s office does not answer questions and refers back to the Security Office. The account of the facts by each office is both lacking in detail and, in the little detail that they provide, contradictory.

It’s all very ugly and disturbing. If these documents disappear from the public record it will be a sad day for the US National Academies and another blow to US transparency on CBW. In some ways a more disturbing one than others, because this involves expunging items previously available for public view and which form the basis of recommendations from a very high, quasi-public US scientific authority.

Let us hope that it doesn’t happen. If it does, we are considering options for fighting it. I’ll be happy to provide the NAS bibliography to anyone interested.

Edward Hammond is director of The Sunshine Project, based in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at: hammond@sunshine-project.org

More articles by:
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail