Monday, April 30, 2012

New Army "Information Collection" Field Manual

Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News reports on (and helpfully posts a copy of) a new Army Field Manual, FM 3-55, dated April 23, 2012 entitled "Information Collection."  Aftergood notes:
An Army field manual published last week explains the Army's conduct of information collection activities in military operations.
"In this manual, the term 'information collection' is introduced as the Army's replacement for 'intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance' (also known as ISR)," the manual says.
"This publication clarifies how the Army plans, prepares, and executes information collection activities within or between echelons."
"As the Army fields new formations and equipment with inherent and organic information collection capabilities, it needs a doctrinal foundation to ensure their proper integration and use to maximize their capabilities."


Captured Bin Laden Docs to be Posted Online by West Point's CTC

The AP and other news outlets are reporting that captured Bin Laden documents will be posted online on West Point's Combatting Terrorism Center (which already hosts the Harmony Program of captured documents).  The AP states:
U.S. officials say the public will soon be able to read some of Osama bin Laden's last written or typed words - made available by the U.S. Army's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point military academy this week.
Navy SEALs gathered the documents when they raided bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2 last year.
The trove included correspondence between the terror leader and his far flung affiliates, and a diary written in bin Laden's own hand.
Intelligence officials say the trove shows how the terror group works and evidence that bin Laden was helping plot attacks on American targets.
Jennifer Epstein at Politico adds:
The final words written by Osama bin Laden will become public later this week on an Army website, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said Monday. 
Some of the documents seized curing the raid of bin Laden's Pakistani compound a year ago -- and unclassified -- will be posted online by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, Brennan said during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
The full text of Brennan's Wilson Center speech is available here (thanks Lawfare).  His exact words on the release of the documents are (my emphasis):
With its most skilled and experienced commanders being lost so quickly, al-Qa’ida has had trouble replacing them.  This is one of the many conclusions we have been able to draw from documents seized at bin Laden’s compound, some of which will be published online, for the first time, this week by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.  For example, bin Laden worried about—and I quote—“the rise of lower leaders who are not as experienced and this would lead to the repeat of mistakes.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Timbuktu Manuscripts, UNESCO & the 1954 Hague Convention

Library of Congress
The danger to ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu in an internal armed conflict in Mali between military officers (who overthrew the President in March) and Tuarag rebels, who now control much of the North, have been well-documented in several places (see, e.g., herehere, and here - a petition to protect the manuscripts is here).

I wanted to highlight briefly, however, the recent appeal by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova "for concerted action to prevent loss or destruction of Timbuktu's documentary heritage" which noted
"The citizens of Timbuktu have rallied to protect these ancient documents, and I salute their courage and dedication. But they need our help. I solemnly appeal to all concerned to be especially vigilant and to work together to prevent the loss of these treasures that are so important for the whole of humanity."
UNESCO noted that Bokova contacted "national authorities in countries sharing borders with Mali" to focus on preventing any illegal export of cultural property from Mali pursuant to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on prohibiting the illicit import and export of cultural property.

The UNESCO announcement only briefly noted, however, another rather significant fact: that Mali is also a party to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (which it has been since 1961).  A crucial provision of the 1954 Hague Convention is Article 19, which expressly extends the Convention to "Conflict not of an International Character."  Article 19(1) provides that (emphasis mine):
In the event of an armed conflict not of an international character occurring within the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the provisions of the present Convention which relate to respect for cultural property.
Article 19(3) also states that UNESCO "may offer its services to the parties to the [non-international] conflict."


The significance of these provisions - whose function (roughly equivalent to Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions) is to provide some baseline rules in internal armed conflicts - is twofold.

Binding Rebel Forces

First, because Mali is a Party, "at least" those provisions of the 1954 Convention relating to "respect for cultural property" bind both government forces and the rebels in the conflict.  This is true even though the rebels are not a state (but see "Azawad" below) and did not themselves sign the Convention. Jiri Toman in his 1996 authoritative commentary on the Convention "The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict" cites UNESCO's Commentary explaining that "the basis of this obligation lies in the fact that each of the adversaries 'is bound by the contractual engagements undertaken by the community of which he is a part.'" The corresponding substantive provisions relating to "respect for cultural property" are outlined in Article 4(1), which states that Parties
undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory . . .  by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings . . . for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict, and by refraining from any act of hostility directed against such property.
These restrictions may be waived, but "only in cases where military necessity imperatively requires such a waiver" pursuant to Article 4(2).

UNESCO & Anti-Government Forces

Second, in pursuing the goal of protecting cultural property, UNESCO is expressly empowered by Article 19 to reach out to the parties and "offer its services." The significance of this provision is easily overlooked, but it purports to allow UNESCO to consult directly with anti-government forces, which could have highly-charged political implications.  The rebels, for example, could attempt to exploit a dialogue with UNESCO to assert the international legitimacy of the rebel movement.  Arguably, this possibility also provides UNESCO with leverage in dealing with those forces.  "If you want your movement to be viewed as legitimate in the international community," UNESCO could argue privately, "you should take steps to secure and protect cultural property in territory you control. Allowing looting and destruction will only bring international condemnation." The central government, in turn - and with some justification - could protest UNESCO's meddling in its internal affairs.

Article 19(4) addresses this problem, in part, by stating that Article 19 "shall not affect the legal status of the parties to the conflict" which means that, by offering its services to anti-government forces, UNESCO should not, as a legal matter, be viewed as recognizing the authority or legitimacy of those forces. That legal clarification, however, does not change the perception that might result.

The tension in such situations goes even deeper.  As Jiri Toman notes, UNESCO's involvement in a non-international armed conflict risks "running counter" to UNESCO's Constitution which prohibits UNESCO "from intervening in matters which are essentially within" the "domestic jurisdiction" of States that are UNESCO members.  Toman argues that "to avoid possible and even probable friction with Member States" in such situations, "UNESCO has to refer to its general mandate for the protection of cultural property, which also derives from its Constitution." Toman concludes
In spite of all the difficulties it may encounter, UNESCO must fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to it by its Constitution but it must also comply with Article 19 of the Convention. It must expect criticism and opposition and accusations of interference in the internal affairs of States. But, in acting as it does, UNESCO is simply carrying out its mandate and ensuring respect for what represents the higher interest: the protection of cultural property.
UNESCO, Mali & Azawad?

What about UNESCO's actions in this particular conflict?  One could read the recent UNESCO appeal broadly to be itself an "offer" of UNESCO's "services."  UNESCO reports, for example, that the Director-General "appealed to all relevant authorities, including Mali's warring factions . . . to be on the alert against any attempt to traffic" stolen cultural property and states that UNESCO "stands ready to provide technical assistance to Mali . . . in the application of" relevant treaties, including the 1954 Convention.

It is unclear, however, whether UNESCO has taken more proactive or concrete steps, including a more direct offer of services to, or communication with, rebel forces in accordance with Article 19.  If so, UNESCO may have heeded Toman's wise advice that, based on the extensive experience of the International Committee for the Red Cross in comparable situations of armed conflict, "UNESCO will do well to keep its approaches [to the parties] confidential." If not, UNESCO should consider taking such steps if they could result in greater protection for cultural property.

Finally, both the analysis and the practicalities are complicated yet further by the recent declaration by rebels (who of course have their own website) that the northern portion of Mali is now a new, independent state called Azawad.

Decision in Alsabri v. Obama

A quick note (thanks to Lawfare) that the D.C. Circuit has affirmed the lower court decision upholding detention in Alsabri v. Obama, a case in which captured documents plays a prominent role, which I previously discussed at some length here.

What the court issued today was simply a one-page per curiam judgment.  The full opinion providing the court's analysis and reasoning is still classified, but a public version with redactions should follow in due course.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yet More from the Captured Libyan Documents

The documents captured in Libya as the Qaddafi regime are gifts that keep on giving.  New stories based on the documents are in The Telegraph ("Western allies of MI6 'kept in dark' over mosque sting plan"), The Mail ("Secret documents reveal MI5 agents betrayed Libyan dissidents to Gaddafi spies in London rendezvous just 700 yards from Harrods"), and on the BBC ("Government investigating MI5 Libyan betrayal spy claim").

Among several allegations are that, as summarized by the BBC:
The Mail on Sunday claims Libyan spies working on UK soil were supplied with intelligence, a luxury safe house in Knightsbridge, west London, and secure mobile phones.  The paper says MI5 "betrayed the confidentiality that refugess are promised when they apply for asylum", citing documents "unearthed from Libyan spymasters' archives" after the Gaddafi regime was toppled last year.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the department did not comment on operational matters because of safety issues. . . .  But she added that parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee was already looking into the government's relationship with Libya "and will take account o any allegations raised by this report." 
 Previous coverage of the captured Libyan documents available here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lt. Gen. Flynn Nominated for Director of DIA

The DoD announced yesterday (thanks Danger Room) that the President has nominated Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to be the new Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  This is of potential interest both generally because of the central role of the DIA in document exploitation and captured document issues, but also because of Flynn's background.

Spencer Ackerman's piece on Danger Room on the nomination is entitled "Military Intelligence Gadfly Will Lead All Military Intelligence," which states that the "first time most people outside the shadows heard of Flynn, he was loudly complaining that military intelligence in Afghanistan sucked." He also states that Flynn
helped transform the culture of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), getting its elite commandos to believe that collecting crucial clues from raids on terrorists was central to their missions. Although Flynn and his patron, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, left JSOC years before the attack on Osama bin Laden, the fact that the Navy SEALs left bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound with hundreds of thumb drives, cellphones and hard drives is part of their legacy.
It might be a bit of an overstatement to attribute the use of the traditional tactic of seizing documents and media to any recent "legacy," but, as fleshed out in more nuance in an earlier interview by Ackerman of Marc Ambinder, Flynn had pushed the importance of using such tactics within JSOC as well as improving their efficacy with a focus both on speed and preserving context.  As Ambinder (author, along with D.B. Grady, of "The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army") stated regarding Flynn,
he would observe your average JSOC operation and you would see insurgents, or whomever, rounded up, put in the same room, with all the stuff they had in their hands, all the pocket litter, would be separated and just kept in a trash bag. And it was brought back to one of the other bases for processing. That was way too inefficient and way too slow for the operational tempo of the insurgents. In his mind, Flynn envisioned the insurgency to be this ever-expanding spider’s web, and the U.S. military would be like this tiny mouse, clawing at one end of it. And you needed to speed up.
*  *  *  * 
Some of the tactics were as simple as equipping your tier-one operators — i.e., a Delta Force shooter or a SEAL Team Six demolition expert, the elite of the elite — with a camera. Instead of rounding up insurgents, bringing them to one area of a house, they’d have pictures of them exactly where they are, and take pictures what they have on them exactly. They’d keep them with their pocket litter until they were processed. And they’d send pictures back in real time to an intelligence fusion center. 
Regarding the nomination, Ackerman quotes the great Steven Aftergood at the Federal of American Scientists speculating that the "appointment may signal a revival of DIA, or at least some upheaval." Ackerman ends by noting that Flynn is "probably not done breaking the spy community's furniture."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Destruction of the Desert Storm Documents

Based in part on records recently obtained via FOIA that have not been previously released publicly, this is a brief account of the fate of records captured from the Iraqi military during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. As described below, the originals were destroyed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2002 due to mold contamination, while digital copies of a portion of the documents are at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, but are not currently open for research.


Capture, Processing & Exploitation of the Desert Storm Documents

The documents captured by U.S. forces from the Iraqi military during Desert Storm have been variously, and inconsistently, measured as "12 million pages" (in a 1994 NARA technical review of U.S. Army operations), "approximately 4 million pages" or "400 boxes" (in a 2002 DIA memo) or "300 cubic feet" (in a 2002 NARA report).

As the latter report noted: "U.S. troops literally swept up these documents as they moved through Kuwait and Iraq, removing paper documents from every possible source, from buildings to the pockets of dead soldiers."  On the extent of the collection, NARA stated:
The documents date from 1978 up until Operation Desert Storm (1991). The collection includes Iraq operations plans and orders; maps and overlays; unit rosters (including photographs); manuals covering tactics, camouflage, equipment, and doctrine; equipment maintenance logs; ammunition inventories; unit punishment records; unit pay and leave records; handling of prisoners of war; detainee lists; lists of captured vehicles; and other military records. The collection also includes some manuals of foreign, non-Iraqi weapons systems. Some of Saddam Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council records are in the captured material.
The collection also "includes records of the Gulf Cooperation Council," which, I earlier speculated, may be documents the Iraqis seized from the Kuwaiti government.

NARA's 1994 review described a military order issued on Jan. 26, 1991 "to develop an imaging system for captured Gulf War documents." Within 24 hours the Army's Decision Systems Management Agency had "developed system specifications and briefed senior officers, who authorized procurement."  Thus began the U.S. Army's DOCEX system.

The digital conversion of the "12 million pages" was performed in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with Kodak scanners and IBM computers.  They were scanned in TIFF4 format and stored on Digital Audio Tapes (DAT).  Translators "perused each document and annotated work sheets with keyword information, such as the date of capture, location where the document was found, and type of document."  An index database was also created that "formed the basis of a paper index" used to "access the records."

The DIA led the analysis and exploitation of the captured documents which resulted in "approximately 495 Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs) . . . while U.S. troops were deployed in Kuwait and Iraq."  After the war, military reservists "produced an unknown number of additional reports under DIA auspices." The importance of the captured documents for intelligence purposes predictably decreased over time and within several years after the war "both the paper records and digital images," which remained in DIA custody, "were largely unused."

U.S. State Department and Iraqi War Crimes

Unfortunately, the decreasing intelligence value also appears to have influenced the plans for maintaining the digital collection. The 1994 NARA report noted under "Migration Plans" that "Due to the short term intelligence value of the DOCEX records, no need exists to migrate the image and/or index data." The long-term value of the digital collection and index for other purposes was apparently not considered, although it was foreseeable.  As a NARA archivist later noted:
These records are of the type which researchers will want to see when working on the Desert Shield/Desert Storm era. Similar records relating to Germany, Japan, Italy, Korea, and Vietnam are heavily used.
In fact, in the "late 1990s" the State Department contacted the DIA and "expressed interest in looking at some of the documents."  It appears this was part of a State Department push, following the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (which called upon the U.N. to establish an international criminal tribunal for Iraq) to build a case for war crimes and crimes against humanity against Saddam Hussein. In a September 2000 speech, the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Clinton Administration, David J. Scheffer, stated that the "primary objective" was to see Saddam and "the leadership of the Iraqi regime indicted and prosecuted by an international criminal tribunal." As part of that project Scheffer described the "archive of millions of pages of documents captured by U.S. forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq during Operation Desert Storm" and stated that the U.S. was "working to declassify these documents."

Digital Corruption, Mold Contamination & Destruction

When the DIA examined the Desert Storm documents in response to the State Department's request, however, it found that "the DAT tapes had become corrupted and that only 60% of the documents could be read."  Moreover, "the database used to track the records had become corrupted and was inaccessible beyond recovery, leaving only the paper index remaining."

Given that the original hardcopy documents were still in DIA custody, the DIA began a new "scanning project to re-scan the 40% of the documents that had been lost." It is unclear exactly where, or under what conditions, the original documents were stored other than in "temporary storage" in the U.S. within DIA "office space." During the scanning project, however,
several DIA staff members were taken ill due to exposure to the records. The Department of Defense conducted a test of the records and determined that the paper documents were contaminated with "U.S. origin mold" that can cause conjunctivitis, rhinitis, bronchitis, skin, rash, asthma, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible individuals.
As a NARA archivist later noted, "the presence of 'U.S. origin mold' does not say much for their maintenance under U.S. Control." A contractor was hired to scan the remaining images and placed all of them (the original 60% plus the re-scanned 40%) in TIFF6 format on 43 CD-ROMS.

Thereafter, the DIA submitted an SF-115 schedule, job number N1-373-02-03, in May 2002 to NARA and requested authority to destroy the contaminated original records.

Monday, April 16, 2012

UNREDACTED on U.S. Navy's "At Risk" History Program

The National Security Archive's blog Unredacted has an important post "U.S. Navy's History Program 'At Risk'" about a recent report of a Command Inspection of the Naval History and Heritage Command by the Naval Inspector General.  The National Security Archive, which obtained the report via FOIA, has uploaded it here.

William Burr summarizes the report's findings stating that
historical records and artifacts are housed in a precarious environment, and invaluable archival material is in danger. The History and Heritage's Command's leadership has not been using due diligence to ensure that naval commands and fleets are creating historical records of their ongoing activities. Moreover, according to the IG report, the Navy's professional historians, archivists, curators, and librarians who work for the history command feel "disenfranchised" because of "their marginalization in decision processes and lack of advancement opportunity.
The Unredacted post also includes analysis of, and comments on, the report by William Burr and John Prados from the National Security Archive and Larry Berman from Georgia State University.

Some noteworthy passages in the report include its discussion of "[s]ignificant frustration" regarding "mission priorities," which notes, as an example, that
a significant investment of time, effort and other resources is being focused on preparing for the War of 1812 bicentennial event; yet historical microfilm war records are being irrevocably lost due to their poor storage environment. The staff of professional historians is frustrated and believes their concerns are being ignored.
The report also notes the "overwhelming backlog" of 68 years for archives and 30 years for art/artifacts for "processing and preservation" and warns of the difficulty of overcoming these issues "in an extremely constrained fiscal environment."


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More Details on Captured Libyan Documents

Ian Cobain had a lengthy special report in the Guardian over the weekend entitled "Rendition ordeal that raises new questions about secret trials" that provides further details on the documents captured in Tripoli as the Qaddafi regime fell (thanks Emptywheel).  Based, in part, on these documents both civil lawsuits and criminal investigations are ongoing.

Cobain tracks in impressive detail the rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, and his pregnant wife, to Libya, relying in part on a captured "secret CIA flight plan." The report is also accompanied by the posting of several other new documents that were previously captured in Libya here, here, and here.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Col. Seymour J. Pomrenze Papers Now Available

Anyone researching the history of captured German documents from WWII or the return of cultural property looted by the Nazis will encounter, with some frequency, references to Col. Seymour Pomrenze.  He was the first head of the Offenbach Archival Depot and was heavily involved in the processing and disposition of captured German archives. Col. Pomrenze unfortunately passed away last year, but thanks to family members and the American Jewish Historical Society his papers are now available for researchers.

Archivist Kevin Schlottmann processed the collection and has created an excellent and detailed finding aid, available here, which also provides a good introduction to Col. Pomrenze's extraordinary career and life.  The abstract states:
The papers of Colonel Seymour Jacob Pomrenze (1916-2011) contain materials relating to his role as the first director of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD) in early 1946, as well as documentation of his career as a records management and archives consultant for the American Jewish cultural sector. It also includes a small amount of biographical material.

The finding aid notes that one of the highlights of the collection are binders entitled "Library Markings found among the looted books in the archival depot" which "contain thousands of photographs of ex libris and library markings found in the books processed by the OAD."

Contact information and details on visiting and accessing the collection through the American Jewish Historical Society are also provided in the finding aid.

As an added bonus, I am posting Col. Pomrenze's great piece "Policies and Procedures for the Protection, Use, and Return of Captured German Records" (large file) which was a paper from the 1968 National Archives "Captured German and Related Records" Conference (full book available on Amazon) (for any copyright police, Col. Pomrenze's piece is expressly (and thankfully) in the public domain as per the Ohio University Press notice reprinted on the last page).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Recent DOMEX/DOCEX Openings

Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) has two Intelligence Specialist positions (both close April 11, 2012).  The first is in the National Ground Intelligence Center, Exploitation Directorate, Media Exploitation Office and duties include serving as:
a staff or project officer supporting Army/national level programs responsible for developing, fielding, coordinating, operating or enhancing resources for the Army DOMEX Program. . . Evaluate ease of use for collectors, processors & information exploiters, validity of translation and language analysis results, suitability under different field conditions, and integration with legacy systems. Provide technical advice, guidance, and assistance on very difficult or unusual media exploitation problems. 
The second is also located in the National Ground Intelligence Center, Exploitation Directorate, but in the Harmony Program.  Duties include serving as:
a staff or project officer responsible for developing, fielding, coordinating, operating or enhancing resources for aspects of the Foreign Facility Infrastructure and Engineering systems (FIRES) Program; the Harmony Program (which provides the central document and media exploitation repository); or the Army DOCEX Program (which develops and implements a document and media exploitation program). Work requires the primary application of intelligence principles in concert with a practical knowledge of information technology principles. You will perform analytical, administrative, and project coordination duties. Plan, design, analyze, and sustain operational support, databases and software tools in support of both strategic and tactical customers. 
DynCorp is looking for a Staff Officer for Media Management for:
the Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Operations Division in the National Media Exploitation Center (NMEC). Responsible for researching, reviewing, compiling, and crafting acquisition details surrounding batches of acquired media for Intelligence, Defense, Law Enforcement, and Homeland Security Communities to include the Combatant Commands. 
Freedom Consulting Group seeks a Deputy Program Manager with "knowledge of DOMEX processes, Sensitive Site Exploitation, the National and Tactical DOMEX communities, and DOMEX IT processes."