U.S. to Give Czechs Ballistic Missile Defense

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean will provide ballistic missile defense to the Czech Republic under a commitment contained in the agreement to place a U.S. radar site in that country, according to State and Defense Department officials.

The United States "is committed to the security of the Czech Republic and to protect and defend, by means of its ballistic missile defense system, the Czech Republic against a potential ballistic missile attack," according to the agreement signed July 8, the text of which was released by the Czech government.

In remarks at the signing ceremony in Prague, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Czech-based U.S. radar facility will "help protect" the Czech Republic when linked to an Aegis system, a sea-based antimissile system that combines radar and interceptors and is carried aboard a variety of U.S. Navy ships. Rice did not say at the time that the United States had committed to providing that defense.

Yesterday, a Pentagon spokesman said that an additional U.S. system being developed to be based in Europe, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), will also be available to protect the Czechs from missiles launched from Iran or any Middle Eastern country. Eventually, the intention is to link the Czech radar into a NATO missile defense system that is in the planning stage.

The radar was originally justified as a means for targeting in midcourse flight any long-range Iranian missile aimed at the U.S. mainland or American forces based in Europe.

Under another element in the agreement, the United States also said it will work together with the government in Prague to meet any threats to the Czech Republic related to the radar site "should they arise." The accord also allows for joint research and development on missile defense, a program that Rice said she would discuss further with Czech parliamentarians who must ratify the agreement. The Bush administration has said there is no plan to seek U.S. Senate approval for the agreement.

The United States also agreed to help prevent disclosure of any "controlled unclassified information" (CUI) related to the radar site if the Czech Republic does not want it released. While such information can be disclosed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the agreement says that "each Party shall take all lawful steps, which may include national classification, to keep controlled unclassified information free from further disclosure (including requests under any applicable domestic legislation) . . . unless the originating Party consents to such disclosure."

Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists, who first disclosed the text of the agreement on his Secrecy News, said, "The new agreement surprisingly presents national security classification as an option when facing involuntary disclosure of CUI under the Freedom of Information Act."

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