ASPI suggests
14 Mar 2014|

Senator Dianne Feinstein discusses the U.S. operation that killed Usama bin Laden.

This week, Chair of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (pictured above), made a bold speech that accused the CIA of hacking into a stand-alone network used for an investigation into the agency’s Bush-era rendition, detention and interrogation program (Senator Feinstein’s full statement is available here, with video here). This is the latest development in an ongoing feud between the CIA and the Senate over a report that demonstrates the CIA misled Congress, the White House and the Justice Department and overstated the program’s success. The CIA believes the Senate Committee took secret documents without permission, prompting the search of the network without the committee’s knowledge. CIA director John Brennan has defended his organisation, stating ‘nothing could be further from the truth. I mean we wouldn’t do that.’ Meanwhile, political satirist Jon Stewart has weighed into the controversy, ridiculing what he sees as Senator Feinstein’s hypocrisy as in the past she has defended the NSA’s surveillance programs and poking holes in Director Brennan’s defence in light of the CIA’s history.

IISS’ Mark Fitzpatrick is calling out what he sees is China’s hypocrisy in objecting to Japan’s stockpile of plutonium, 331 kg of which is weapons-grade. Japan has planned to return the weapons-grade material to the US (an announcement of the repatriation was to be made at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit) yet China accuses Japan of holding onto the material as a nuclear hedge. The irony, Fitzpatrick notes, is that, Japan is compliant with IAEA verification measures but:

China possesses about 200 nuclear weapons and is cagey about nuclear transparency. There are valid reasons to criticise Japan’s stockpile of plutonium, but China’s exaggerations in this regard undermine its own arguments for pursuing plutonium reprocessing.

Read more here.

Sticking with Japan, the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) in Tokyo and the ANU have released a joint study on security relations between Australia and Japan. Available free to download, the report explores how the two countries can work together to ensure peace, stability and a desirable future development in the region. It covers emerging regional threats, national and regional order, maritime security and capacity-building, Australia–Japan defence cooperation and more.

Turning now to Southeast Asia, Indonesian officials (finally) acknowledge that China’s maritime claims include Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, an area with strategic significance for the archipelagic state. The acknowledgement is important as Indonesia has long claimed to be a neutral party in disputes between China and other ASEAN states over maritime claims. In late February, TNI chief General Moeldoko travelled to China to meet with his counterpart yet few details about his meetings were announced—except plans to strengthen Indonesian presence in the Natunas.

Worried about shrinkage? The USN has solved the problem with some new accounting rules for hull numbers. But in the long run, it won’t defeat the apparently inevitable trend.

Lastly, the NSA has an advice columnist: Zelda. According to The Intercept, an NSA official serving for approximately 20 years as ‘a first-line and mid-level Agency supervisor’ has been passing on anonymous advice to fellow employees on a range of issues from office body odour to supervisors not responding to emails. Read more here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy United States Senator for California.