Justice department spokeswoman has apparently never actually read the Espionage Act

This is a draft article, not finished yet. Bear with me. Some details might be wrong.

"Former NSA Official Says Mismanagement Continues" From the Washington Times July 2011, by Shaun Waterman

"Ms. Sweeney, the Justice spokeswoman, said: “The department has long valued the legitimate exposure of waste, fraud and abuse if it occurs while at the same time protecting the rule of law.

“There are laws prohibiting government employees who are entrusted with the nation’s most sensitive information from disclosing classified information to anyone not authorized to receive it.”"

Actually there aren't. In 1973 Edgar and Schmidt wrote an article in the Columbia Law Review pointing out exactly this. When Congress has tried to broaden the law, it usually dies in committee. Or the president vetos it. Or even if the president's veto is overridden, like President Truman during the Red Scare and the McCarran Internal Security Act, he writes a scathing rebuke, pointing out the importance of freedom of opinion, thought, and speech.

Jennifer Elsea of the Congressional Research Service has pointed out the lack of such a law as well in her 2011 report, available on the Federation of American Scientists' website. She uses the phrase 'patchwork' to describe how the laws work. There is no one 'blanket' law that outlaws all classified information disclosure. It depends on the person, the circumstance, and the nature of the information - and the entire Espionage Act (save for the almost never used Signals Intelligence portion, 18 USC 798) does not even use the phrase "classified information".

In court cases, judges have also pointed this out. Judge T.S. Ellis III pointed this out in the resentencing hearing of Larry Franklin in the AIPAC case in 2009. So have others. The Espionage Act refers to National Defense Information, which is a narrower category than classified information. Simply being 'classified' is not enough, in and of itself, to make giving out information illegal.

Why is it this way? Because Congress and the President leak all the time, going back to the founding of the nation. They love leaking, some even call it 'white propaganda'. It is how the officials communicate their side of the story to the public, which in turn leads to the public putting pressure on officials to (in theory) support the cause of the "leaker". This article is available on the Federation of American Scientist's website.

And it probably never will be. Not only is there the problem of 'overclassification', with everything from party menus to innocuous and banal memos being set as "For Official Use Only". The real reason is that Congress and the Executive Branch themselves are the biggest leakers, and they are some of the biggest users of our free and independent press system.


how wikipedia articles are born

Jerry Pournelle did an interview (Click here for a link to the Interview) with Pajamas Media in which he implies the following.

The Space Shuttle Challenger blew up because the rocket motors were built in segments, so they could go through Utah's curvy railroad tracks, and that everyone knows you don't build rockets in segments. He implies that government corruption led the motors to be segmented, because certain political interests wanted them built in Utah.

Is this true? I don't know. A basic google finds various ranty websites and message board posts. How does their version of the story go? The Aerojet company wanted to build one-piece booster rockets, which couldn't have broken apart and killed the Astronauts, but instead Thiokol got the job because of senators from Utah, wanting to build it there, and bring jobs and money back home. Sort of like Pournelle's story. Is any of it true? I don't know. Here is an interesting book though.

The Challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA by Diane Vaughan, University of Chicago Press, 1996, Page 431.

She discusses the question over several pages of her book. It is very complicated. But the basic facts are like this: Thiokol was the company that made the solid rocket boosters. According to this book, they based the "segmented design" on the Titan III rockets of the Air Force. She says that the Titan III's were very reliable. And so. It is good to look up 'Titan III rocket'.

Titan Rocket Family, Wikipedia

The first few Titan IIIs used liquid motors, not solid. The later ones, though, used solid booster rockets. That's according to wikipedia. Is there a better source? Yes, yes there is, and you can find it with a bit of digging.

Rocket Propulsion Elements By George P. Sutton, Oscar Biblarz John Wiley and Sons, 2010 p 441

To paraphrase Mr Sutton, there are several types of 'case design' for a 'rocket motor':

Steel Monolithic - once-piece steel case

Fiber Monolithic - high-strength fiber stuck together with plastic

Segmented - 'Case' and 'Grain' (burn-powder) are built and transported in pieces, assembled at launch site

Is that true? I'm going to go and ahead and accept that it is true. What does it tell me about my original question, about Pournelle's assertions?

Nothing. But that's not the point. The point is that I have confirmed the 'magic words' that I can go searching for. "Monolithic" versus "Segmented". Stick them with 'Rocket' and so forth.


Business Week, 1973, Google Books hit.

"Aerojet is the only one of the four bidders to propose a monolithic, or one- piece, block of rocket fuel for the shuttle. It claims that its design would be cheaper and more reliable than the segmented rockets"

Unfortunately I don't have access to a university library, so I'm not able to track down which edition of Business Week this is nor am I able to read the rest of the article.


To reach the high frontier: a history of U.S. launch vehicles By Dennis R. Jenkins, University Press of Kentucky, 2002. page 59.

But not only is the content of the book interesting, so are the bibliography notes, for they list other sources. For example:

Karl Klager, "Segmented Rocket Demonstration: Historical Development Prior to the Use as Space Boosters," in J.D. Hunley, ed., History of Rocketry and Astronautics: Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth History Symposium of the International Academy of Astronautics (San Diego: Univelt, 1997) pp. 159-70

Willbur C. Andrepont and Rafael M. Felix, "The History of Large Solid Rocket Motor Development in the United States", AIAA paper 94-3057, presented at the 30th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, 27-29 June 1994, p. 2;

The content of the book is as follows:

In the early 1960s, "The Air Force added segmented solid rocket motors to create the Titan IIIC. ". They were built by a company named United Research Corporation, which had people with links to Jet Propulsion Lab and the Air Force and so forth and so on. Why did they want to build segments? Because the rockets were getting too damned big, and it was hard to transport them.

Aerojet was the first known company to test segmented rockets. The tests apparently went very well. The same company that allegedly was against them in the 1970s? Little accidents of history like that fascinate me, I guess I am easily amused.

Bingo 2

The book contains another Magic Word to go searching on:

"The Air Force's Large Segmented Solid Rocket Motor Program

That's how new wikipedia articles get started. You can envision the stub article so easily:

Wiki Page Title: Large Segmented Solid Rocket Motor Program

Wiki Intro paragraph: The Large Segmented Solid Rocket Motor Program was a US Air Force program started in the early 1960s to explore the possibility of building rocket motors in segments instead of all-in-one-piece (monolithic). It was used from blah blah blah to blah blah blah. It influenced later blah blah blah and blah blah blah.

History: It grew out of the Air Force's need to build larger and larger rockets; part of the ICBM program during the Cold War. Rockets over size xyz couldn't be transported on existing infrastructure; rocket planets could not be built only at places with access to barges because of xyz.

One of the first companies to test the segmented rocket motors was Aerojet. Blha blah blah lah blahl blah blah


Copy/paste the above mentioned books, quotes, etc.

This is where googles quotation-mark feature comes in handy.

"Large Segmented Solid Rocket Motor Program"

gives much different results than

Large Segmented Solid Rocket Motor Program

In fact, it gives only 7 results. This indicates a wikipedia page might be good - it's a "thing" that almost nobody knows about, that there is very little publicly available, easy to read summarization-style information about. But it's a fascinating topic; it's directly related to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. There are probably a lot more documents buried in paper archives somewhere, waiting for a librarian to dig them out and give them to somebody interested in looking at them.

Then the ideas start bubbling. What other information is out there? Where? Once you read it, how do you break it down into sections? What did the Soviets do with their rockets? What is the Russian word for 'solid rocket motor'? What happens when you google search it? What Soviet books were written about the topic? Was the first test really in the 50s? Why did Aerojet want a monolithic instead of segmented, if they had tested segmented rockets earlier?

You could go on for days, weeks, months, answering such a question. But to start the wikipedia article, you only need a handful of reliable, verifiable sources, and a few paragraphs to string together, and the '{stub}' marker.

And so. There it is. That, dear reader, is how Wikipedia articles are born.

And this is where I run out of gas and bring an end to this little internet adventure.

The End.

Still leakin' after all these years

The executive branch has leaked again. As usual for the federal government, it is for purposes of public relations, to support their point of view, and get their message out. Also known as 'white propaganda'. Requoting Barbara Starr from CNN.com, by way of Glenn Greenwald's article on Salon.com:

""The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, stressed any suspects were under the control of Somali forces and the CIA was present only in "support" of interrogations in recent months. He described the number of times the CIA was present as "very small," adding that he would only say it was "one or two times.""[1]

Well. If they weren't authorized to speak publicly, then why were they doing it? Isn't this bit of information a bit more consequential to national security than, say, a state department memo about Icelandic bank fraud, for which Bradley Manning is under 3 serious criminal counts?

As with Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Eisenhower, Johnson, and just about every other administration, and countless Congress people, the disclosure of information continues under president Obama - but it doesn't really seem fair that the only people who get to divulge government information are the ones in the driver's seat - who then turn around and put other people in jail for doing the same thing. Isn't that the very essence of what made people gasp in the movie theatres during Frost/Nixon - the phrase "If the president does it, it's not illegal"?

I can only wonder what people like Daniel Ellsberg, Jesselyn Radack, Stephen Kim, Thomas Drake, and Shamai Leibowitz would think about when reading a story like this.


[1] How the U.S. government uses its media servants to attack real journalism
BY GLENN GREENWALD JUL 15, 2011 07:16 ET Salon.com