Federation of American Scientists

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The Federation of American Scientists is a think tank and interest group concerned with issues of science and technology policy, including military policy and government secrecy. Founded in 1945, by members including participants in the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, its work is currently organized into four areas:

  • Biosecurity
  • Earth Systems
  • Educational Technologies
  • Strategic Security

It believes "that scientists, engineers, and other technically trained people have the ethical obligation to ensure that the technological fruits of their intellect and labor are applied to the benefit of humankind. The founding mission was to prevent nuclear war. While nuclear security remains a major objective of FAS today, the organization has expanded its critical work at the intersection of applied science and security to include the issues of bio-security, building technologies, conventional arms sales monitoring, energy security, government secrecy, international science partnerships, learning technologies, and terrorism analysis."[1]

It has an in-house professional staff, and over 70 Nobel laureates have served on its Board of Sponsors.

While the group is officially nonpartisan, and is generally considered to do thorough research, it also has been criticized by national security conservatives. Some refer to it as leftist, although rarely extremely so. It also is used as an objective source of information by other conservatives. [2]

FAS previously was a detailed reference on military technology, and did engage in some exposes, such as pointing out military facilities in public overhead photographs. Much of that activity spun off into the Globalsecurity site, run by John Pike, who had been the FAS project manager. FAS continues to deal with the policy aspects of why to have a weapon or why to do research into a technology, while Globalsecurity is more the place to find the characteristics of a specific weapon. Pike may have been considered too confrontational for the policy emphasis of FAS.

Its Project on Government Secrecy, run by Steven Aftergood, is first focused on the policy aspects of secrecy, such as abuses of security classification. It will release various unclassified reports not readily available, such as research by the Congressional Research Service. It has very selectively, and with deletions, released material that was classified, but on a case-by-case basis, not the mass disclosures of Wikileaks. Cryptome reprints a number of the releases, especially when Pike was active.

Aftergood was first solicited for support by Wikileaks, but the groups are generally at odds. He describes Wikileaks actions as symptomatic of problems with the U.S. classification system, but unfocused as far as real policy objectives. [3]

References

  1. About FAS, Federation of American Scientists
  2. Michael C. Desch (18 May 2009), "Apocalypse Not : Stalin’s nuclear arsenal wasn’t the end of the world. Ahmadinejad’s won’t be either.", American Conservative
  3. Steven Aftergood (29 November 2010), The Race to Fix the Classification System