Climate Change Spy vs. Spy?

| Tue Nov. 15, 2011 4:00 AM PST

The CIA has a special climate change task force, but as we've reported here, they don't want anyone to know about it. Now the science advisory board to the Department of Defense is recommending that the government create yet another new intelligence group dedicated to climate change.

A new report from the Defense Science Board, a committee set up to advise to the Secretary of Defense, calls for the creation of a unit within the DOD that would "concentrate on the effects of climate change on political and economic developments and their implications for U.S. national security." This new intelligence program would commission the existing CIA task force on climate to "produce an assessment of regional climate change hot spots." But unlike the CIA, this unit would rely on open sources of information, cooperation with other intelligence agencies in the US and abroad, and sharing of intelligence. This is pretty much the opposite of how the CIA's center seems to be approaching the subject. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy writes, their secrecy has undermined their ability to operate effectively on climate:

The CIA's unyielding approach to classification effectively negates the ability of its Center on Climate Change to interact with non-governmental organizations and researchers on an unclassified basis. Since, as the DSB noted, much of the relevant expertise on climate change lies "outside the government [in] universities, the private sector, and NGOs," the CIA's blanket secrecy policy is a potentially disabling condition.

But then again, in the current political climate, agencies that did try to make a open, transparent effort on climate change have had their budget axed. So maybe that's why the work has stayed underground so far.

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