Adam Schiff Writes A Letter

The Friday night news dump was unusually late this week.

Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a letter to Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence. Read it – it’s short and to the point.

A whistleblower in the Intelligence Community disclosed a concern to the DNI intended for the congressional intelligence committees on August 12. The Intelligence Community Inspector General then determined that the concern was both urgent and credible. At that point, Maguire had seven days to turn the material over to the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The deadline was September 2. He didn’t. Read More

Not The President’s Right

Referring to President Trump’s “rights,” as in “He has a right to declassify information,” repeats his childish and ignorant thinking and expression.

The presidency is a privilege conferred on a person by the citizens. It carries no additional rights beyond the rights of all citizens.

The President swears an oath of office.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

By doing that, he takes on obligations to the people and Constitution of the United States. No additional rights.

All of a President’s actions should be guided by those obligations.

In the latest case in which the “rights” terminology has shown up, there are certain regulations that apply. The classification regulations give the President certain authorities, not rights. Under the oath of office, these authorities are to be exercised responsibly. And the authorities are exercised under the rule of law more generally.

In particular, the President is the ultimate classification authority. The regulations specify procedures through which that authority is to be exercised. Documents are to be signed, and classification markings are to be properly canceled.

It’s hard to believe that Trump followed any of those procedures in releasing yesterday’s photo. He is very possibly violating his oath of office in releasing national security information impulsively through a tweet. He has no “right” to do that.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice

Two Ways To Die From Radiation

I’ve been asked to do a post on what would make the body of a victim of a radiological accident radioactive.

[Trigger warning: This is an unpleasant subject. Descriptions of seriously damaged bodies follow. I am posting this as a public service for those trying to figure out what happened at Nyonoksa and those writing about it. The link for Louis Slotin is particularly unpleasant.] Read More

Emergency And Medical Personnel On The Nyonoksa Incident

Two accounts of caring for the victims of the accident at Nyonoksa on August 8 were published Wednesday, August 21, in Meduza (English version) and Novaya Gazeta. The sources are an emergency responder and two doctors. The emergency responder was not on duty that day and relies on the reports of co-workers. The sources want to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

I have questions about these accounts and a Washington Post account that seems to refer to another Novaya Gazeta article without linking. But first, let’s see what can reasonably be gleaned from the accounts. Read More

Disinformation Watch: The Open Skies Treaty

Some weird stuff has popped up in my Twitter feed this week. Fortunately, I follow experts who are trying to figure it out.

Steffan Watkins is a Canadian who follows ships and planes via the internet. If you like that sort of thing, I recommend you follow him. He is also very sensitive to disinformation and occasionally given to lectures about it. He is very knowledgeable about the Open Skies Treaty.

The Open Skies Treaty (text, fact sheet) allows the nations that have signed it to fly observation planes over other signatories’ territory. It’s an arms control treaty in that it allows nations to follow up on suspicions or just keep an eye on each other. It says nothing about numbers of weapons. The simple fact that nations are open to each other in this way builds trust, which is needed to negotiate on more difficult subjects. Read More

Update On The Nyonoksa Explosion

First: We have no more information than when I wrote about the Nyonoksa* accident on Monday. If anything, we may have less because the Russian government has gone back and forth in its announcements, contradicting earlier announcements and sometimes coming back to what was said earlier. So everything they say must be questioned. Because the test that caused the explosion appears to be a military secret, it is unlikely that the Russian government will say anything informative unless something happens to make it necessary for them to speak. The funerals of the scientists killed took place quickly.

What could make it necessary for them to speak is the open source intelligence analysis community’s ability to see and decipher evidence relating to the explosion. The New York Times is even getting in on the act. We can expect to see reports of recovery vessels in the area of the explosion, trying to recover the remnants from the seabed. Read More

He Can’t Help Himself

Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted about the Russian explosion at Nenoksa.

DJT 190813

A number of experts hastened to criticize on the grounds that the United States doesn’t have a program like Russia’s Burevestnik [NATO designation Skyfall], or, if we do, it must be highly classified.

But there’s something else worth noting. This may be the first time Trump has criticized Russia in any way.

And of course, it’s a dick-measuring contest. He can’t help himself.

Speculations on the Nenoksa Explosion

On the morning of Thursday, August 8, something exploded at the Nenoksa Naval Base in Russia, not far from the city of Severodvinsk. This article is a good summary of what we knew by Friday. Since then, the Russian government has said that a radioactive source was involved in the explosion, along with liquid rocket fuel. Reports have gone back and forth on whether radiation detectors in Severodvinsk detected anything. Five more people have been reported dead. Sarov/VNIIEF, one of the Russian nuclear weapons laboratories, has released a statement, which some folks are rushing to translate.

Read More

PSA – Mushroom Clouds Are Not Necessarily Nuclear

There have been two notable explosions in Russia this past week.

  1. An arms storage depot exploded at Achinsk, near Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia. Every summer, a couple of arms storage depots explode in Russia. They have a lot of them, and their safety measures leave something to be desired. Explosions have continued for a week. Once they start, it’s dangerous to fight the fire that started them and continues. Better to evacuate the area (which has been done) and let the burning and exploding continue until there’s nothing left.

This event has produced some impressive video. Because of the relative humidity, you can see the shock wave as water in the air condenses and evaporates rapidly. Mushroom-shaped clouds have resulted. Large enough explosions, whether conventional or nuclear, produce mushroom clouds. Mushroom clouds are not a marker for a nuclear explosion. Read More

The Mueller Report – III. Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations

A and B. GRU Hacking and Dissemination of the Hacked Materials

pp 36 – 49

It looks like Jerrold Nadler plans to make the Mueller report a central part of the leadup to impeachment proceedings, so we should continue to pay attention to it. I was concerned that it would go on the ever-mounting pile of Donald Trump’s misdeeds and fade from sight. With Nadler subpoenaing the materials behind the report, we will be hearing more about it. Lawfare continues to produce their podcasts. Here are Part II and Part III.

Section III is long. I am going to take it a bit at a time. We are now getting into the part of the report that describes how the Russians interfered in the 2016 election and how the Trump campaign interacted with them. Read More