Jeffrey LewisBetter Controls to Plan and Manage PSI

Classified GAO reports. I knew they existed, but this is one is one that ought to be declassified, at least summary form:

Nonproliferation: Better Controls Needed to Plan and Manage Proliferation Security Initiative Activities. GAO-06-937C. September 28, 2006.

About the only thing I know are two recommendations, as described in H.R. 1:

(A) The Department of Defense and the Department of State should establish clear PSI roles and responsibilities, policies and procedures, interagency communication mechanisms, documentation requirements, and indicators to measure program results.

(B) The Department of Defense and the Department of State should develop a strategy to work with PSI-participating countries to resolve issues that are impediments to conducting successful PSI interdictions.

I am not surprised the issue of metrics is proving nettlesome—Bush Administration officials can’t even agree on whether the interdiction of the BBC China was the most important PSI operation or was merely conducted within the “framework” of PSI. A year and a half ago, I tried to do my best at guessing the 11 “successful” operations that SECSTATE Rice attributed to PSI.

The bill, H.R. 1, also suggests getting a Security Council resolution to affirm the legality of PSI (not a bad idea) and creating a multilateral organization to implement the treaty (a more complicated case to make).

Not surprisingly, the black helicopter crowd has decided that these ideas constitute “placing PSI under UN control”—which suggest either limited reading comprehension, a total disregard for the facts, or both.

Anyway, someone with neither defect could learn a lot about PSI from Jofi Joseph’s June 2004 article in Arms Control Today, Sharon Squassoni’s September 2006 CRS Report, and various fact sheets, interviews and articles written by Wade Boese.


  1. J (History)

    Exhibit A for the black helicopter crowd when it comes to this legislation:

  2. JF

    The whole suggestion of getting an official UN nod for PSI brought down a hail of Republican opposition during the floor debate for H.R. 1. I have a hard time seeing a similar legislative element making through the Senate process.

  3. China Hand (History)

    The black helicopter crowd’s fear that the PSI will fall under the UN’s control is amusingly bass-ackwards. As I argued in a –ahem- not widely-read post, John Bolton’s non-stop gyrations in service of getting the PSI acknowledged by the UN were meant to achieve the exact opposite: UN acceptance of a secondary role as partial executor of PSI policy. In the Bush view, America orders the affairs of the world and then executes its initiatives in cooperation with its allies and with or without the participation of various international organizations. To my mind, getting Security Council buy-in has more to do with extending the defendable scope of US interdiction by criminalizing or even superseding interdiction activities by non-allies that the United States regards as unenthusiastic or inadequate than it does with introducing a modicum of consensus, transparency, or accountability to this intentionally opaque and unilateral thingy (“an activity not an organization”—as the Bush administration would hasten to remind us). And I doubt that China—which detests the PSI—will acquiesce.

  4. TS (History)

    If you’re going to complain that the right is misinterpreting sections of HR 1 as meaning the UN will control the PSI, at least quote the right section of HR 1: “Working with the United Nations Security Council to develop a resolution to authorize the PSI under international law.”Of course this would not cede day to day operation of the PSI to blue helmets. However, it WOULD give the UN the control to define the legal parameters of the PSI. That’s what (some) Republicans dislike about it. Like China Hand says, they prefer the ad hoc nature of the current arrangement, which gives the US and our PSI allies much more wiggle room than a formalized system would. To claim this is merely a concern of the “black helicopter” crowd is disingenuous at best. At the very least, law schools teaching national security courses on the PSI treat the question of codification of the PSI under the UN as a legitimate issue for debate – not “black helicopter” nonsense.

  5. PC (History)

    It is also helpful to keep in mind the negotiations in the Security Council regarding resolution 1540. There was a specific reference to interdiction in one of the drafts considered by the P5 which had to be taken out due to opposition by the Chinese. That led to the adoption of the more innocuous phrasing in paragraph 10: “Further to counter that threat, calls upon all States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials.” In spite of the removal of the reference to interdiction, senior US officials have already established the linkage between this paragraph and PSI: “The PSI and 1540 are complementary. Paragraph ten of the resolution reflects this symbiosis. The October 2003 seizure of the BBC China traveling to Libya with a cargo of centrifuges is one dramatic example of cooperative action to prevent WMD proliferation, which 1540 promotes as necessary and essential.” ( imagine that the US is comfortable enough with that linkage to assert that the Security Council has done all it needs to do to validate an activity such as PSI.

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