Go Back   Old Project Avalon Forum (ARCHIVE) > Project Camelot Forum > Project Camelot > Off-Topic


Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-22-2008, 02:28 AM   #1
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

I subscribe to the FAS newsletter and want to share this resource. I receive government secrecy bulletins 3-4x/week. It's free. (As usual they appreciate donations.) I can't say enough about the good, thorough work done by FAS or how much I've learned.

GENERAL from the About FAS page:
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) was founded in 1945 by scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs. These scientists recognized that science had become central to many key public policy questions. They believed that scientists had a unique responsibility to both warn the public and policy leaders of potential dangers from scientific and technical advances and to show how good policy could increase the benefits of new scientific knowledge.

SPECIFIC - The Secrecy News blog
Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists, reports on new developments in government secrecy and provides public access to documentary resources on secrecy, intelligence and national security policy. It is written by Steven Aftergood.


Peace & Goodwill on Earth
or, Let's Clean Up Our (Global) Mess Now!
and try to be orderly...
  Reply With Quote
Old 01-15-2009, 05:56 AM   #2
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Defusing Armageddon: A History of NEST.
Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists

"The mission of NEST is inherently gripping, though its story is not consistently dramatic. It is full of false alarms and potential worst-case scenarios that thankfully never materialize. With the cooperation of some NEST veterans, Richelson provides a painstakingly thorough account, including a previously unpublished list of 103 nuclear extortion threat events from 1970-1993.

"Some of NEST’s exploits were front-page news in their time. I thought I had read (or written) everything worth reading about the 1978 reentry of the Soviet nuclear reactor-powered Cosmos 954 satellite, which rained radioactive debris over northwest Canada. But Richelson, an exceptionally skilled researcher who is a fellow at the National Security Archive, uncovered some interesting and unfamiliar accounts of that episode, known as Operation Morning Light, in which more than 100 NEST personnel participated."

Steven Aftergood, Jan 12-09
  Reply With Quote
Old 01-24-2009, 03:40 AM   #3
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists

In a breathtaking series of statements and executive actions, President Barack Obama yesterday announced "the beginning of a new era of openness in our country."

"For a long time now there's been too much secrecy in this city," he told reporters at a January 21 swearing-in ceremony.

"The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed" (a paraphrase of the October 2001 policy statement of former Attorney General John Ashcroft). "That era is now over."

"Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known," President Obama said.

Moreover, "I will also hold myself, as president, to a new standard of openness.... Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well-grounded in the Constitution."

"Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

Accordingly, the President issued several new policy statements. A new policy on Freedom of Information directed that "All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure" and called for the Attorney General to develop new FOIA guidelines reflecting that principle. A broader statement on Transparency and Open Government directed agencies to "harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public," and ordered preparation of recommendations for an Open Government Directive. A new executive order rescinded an order issued by former President Bush that imposed increased restrictions on public access to presidential records.

The whole package gained immense force from the fact that it was presented on the President's first full day in office. (By comparison, the Clinton and Bush Administrations did not get around to addressing FOIA policy until October of their first year in office.) The actions closely tracked the recommendations of openness advocates, and they represented a personal commitment to openness and accountability that goes far beyond what any previous President has dared to offer.

Inevitably, several caveats are in order. A "presumption of disclosure" really only applies to records that are potentially subject to discretionary release, which is a finite subset of secret government information. Vast realms of information are sequestered behind classification barriers or statutory protections that remain unaffected by the new policy statements. "In the face of doubt, openness prevails," the President said. But throughout the government secrecy system, there is not a lot of doubt or soul-searching about the application of secrecy.

For example, last week Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, Jr., the director of the ODNI Intelligence Staff, denied a FOIA request for declassification and release of the 2006 intelligence budget total, even though the 2007 and 2008 budget numbers have already been officially disclosed (Secrecy News, January 14). According to ODNI, the 2006 number is still classified, and its disclosure would compromise intelligence sources and methods. The problem here is not that doubt mistakenly yielded to secrecy instead of disclosure. The problem is that General Burgess and his colleagues cling to an obsolete and counterproductive classification framework.

Unfortunately President Obama's new directives do not yet encompass the needed overhaul of the national security classification system. That may have to wait another day or two.


"The Bush administration has left in its wake a demoralized national-security press corps, battered by leak investigations, subpoena-happy prosecutors, and a shift in the legal and wider culture away from the previous understanding of journalism's mission and First Amendment protections," writes Laura Rozen in the Columbia Journalism Review. See her story "Hung Out to Dry" along with a series of other articles on openness and secrecy.

"Secrecy" by Peter Galison and Robb Moss, a movie that critically examined the national security secrecy system from several contrasting perspectives, is now available on DVD. It premiered last year to appreciative reviews...

Steven Aftergood, Jan 22-09
  Reply With Quote
Old 01-26-2009, 05:24 PM   #4
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News


"There is a great deal of over-classification," admitted Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the nominee to be the next Director of National Intelligence, at his confirmation hearing last week.

"Some of it, I think, is done for the wrong reasons, to try to hide things from the light of day. Some of it is because in our system, there is no incentive not to do that, and there are penalties to do the reverse, in case you get something wrong and don't classify it."

"So I think we need to do fundamental work on the system," he said in response to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden at the January 22 hearing.

"I'll be working to see if we can come up with a different approach that incentivizes it at the right level and that informs not only those of you who have security clearances on this committee but the wider interested public whose support we need," Adm. Blair said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse pursued the same question. "My experience," the Senator said, "is that, over and over and over again, we have seen official secrecy used not for national security purposes, but to mislead the public and to frame -- or more particularly, mis-frame -- an outside, political debate. Will you pledge to us that you will take this trust of secrecy that you are given as Director of National Intelligence and use it only to protect national security and not to manipulate public opinion or frame or mis-frame political debates?"

"Absolutely, Senator," Adm. Blair replied.

The DNI-nominee also told Sen. Kit Bond and Sen. Whitehouse that he favored prosecution of leakers of classified information. "If I could ever catch one of those it would be very good to prosecute them."

He suggested that there might be new technical steps that could be taken to identify leakers.

"If confirmed," he added, "I would like to come to talk to you about some ideas where we can build in some technical, some procedural safeguards into agencies so that it's not a case of going back afterwards and trying to get records and question people but we have some tools that will let everybody who works for the government know that if you are going to pass classified information to a reporter or to someone, there will be a trace of it which will make it relatively quick to identify you as the one who did it," Adm. Blair told Sen. Whitehouse.

Presumably this refers to improved tracking of classified intelligence "records," not of "information."

In answers to pre-hearing questions (pdf, 84pp), Adm. Blair said that he favored continued publication of the annual intelligence budget total. "It has not, to my knowledge, caused harm to the national security, and provides important information to the American public," Blair said.

He also endorsed declassification review of 25 year old classified intelligence records.

"While much intelligence information remains sensitive even at 25 years, that which can be released to the public should be. Intelligence -- especially the intelligence that informed key policy decisions -- can and should ultimately become part of the country's historical record." [at p. 55]

The profound confusion that prevails in intelligence classification policy was recognized last year in an internal report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (Secrecy News, April 10, 2008). Even the most basic concepts of classification policy, it said, are open to question and interpretation.

"The definitions of 'national security' and what constitutes 'intelligence' -- and thus what must be classified -- are unclear," the ODNI report stated (18pp, pdf).

A new directive signed by outgoing DNI Mike McConnell on January 21 is intended to "foster an enduring culture of responsible sharing and collaboration within an integrated [intelligence community]" and to breakdown traditional "stove pipes" that inhibit communication within the government. See "Discovery and Dissemination or Retrieval of Information Within the Intelligence Community," Intelligence Community Directive 501 (12pp, pdf), January 21, 2009.

The continuing classification of obsolete Cold War intelligence satellite imagery, to the disappointment of space historians and others, was examined in "A ray of sunshine into a dark world: the future declassification of satellite reconnaissance information" by Dwayne Day in The Space Review, January 26.


Secrecy News last week misquoted a line in President Obama's inaugural speech. He did not say: "And those of us who manage the public's knowledge will be held to account...." What he said was "And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account...."

The erroneous reference to "public knowledge" was also published by the Washington Post, United Press International, and other news outlets. It may have originated with a mistake by the FDCH transcription service.

The text of the inaugural address on the White House web site says "public dollars," not "public knowledge," and it is clear from the tape of the speech that that is correct. Thanks to reader LD for questioning the discrepancy.

There must be lots of historic events that were mistakenly transcribed and reported.

"You can't make an anomalous rise twice," said J. Robert Oppenheimer, according to the official record of his momentous hearing before the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954.

But what Oppenheimer actually said was "You can't make an omelet rise twice" (as noted by Philip M. Stern). Oh well.

The Oppenheimer case is to be reviewed once again in the latest episode of PBS's American Experience tonight.

Steven Aftergood, Jan 26-09

Last edited by no caste; 01-26-2009 at 05:29 PM.
  Reply With Quote
Old 02-03-2009, 06:42 AM   #5
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News


Attorney General-nominee Eric H. Holder, Jr. said that, if confirmed, he will review current litigation in which the Bush Administration has asserted the state secrets privilege and that he will seek to minimize the use of the privilege.

"I will review significant pending cases in which DOJ has invoked the state secrets privilege, and will work with leaders in other agencies and professionals at the Department of Justice to ensure that the United States invokes the state secrets privilege only in legally appropriate situations," Mr. Holder wrote in response to pre-confirmation questions for the record from Sen. Russ Feingold.

He also affirmed a general commitment to open government.

"I firmly believe that transparency is a key to good government. Openness allows the public to have faith that its government obeys the law," Mr. Holder told Sen. Feingold.

More particularly, he said he favored maximum public disclosure of Office of Legal Counsel opinions.

"Once the new Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel is confirmed, I plan to instruct that official to review the OLC's policies relating to publication of its opinions with the [objective] of making its opinions available to the maximum extent consistent with sound practice and competing concerns," Mr. Holder wrote.

Last week, the ACLU called upon the Justice Department to release OLC opinions concerning Bush Administration policies on surveillance, detention, and interrogation.

"Releasing the memos would ... signal to Americans, and to the world, that you intend to turn the page on an era in which the OLC served not as a source of objective legal advice but as a facilitator for the executive's lawless conduct," the ACLU wrote.

The news organization Pro Publica has prepared a database of pertinent OLC opinions from the Bush Administration. See "The Missing Memos" by Dan Nguyen and Christopher Weaver, January 28.


In a January 21 memorandum, President Obama directed the Chief Technology Officer to coordinate the development of an Open Government Directive that would implement the Administration's principles of transparency.

But there is no Chief Technology Officer (CTO), so far.

And there are fundamental questions about the nature, role, authority, budget, and status of such a position that remain to be answered. Many of the uncertainties involved are usefully delineated in a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.

Up to now, the CRS report said, it is unknown "where a CTO would be located organizationally; whether a CTO would be a single position or supported by a staff, office, or agency; and how the duties and authorities of a CTO would be aligned and integrated with existing offices and agencies charged with similar responsibilities."

Further, "The President has not indicated whether he intends to establish a CTO position by executive order or other administrative process, or whether he will seek legislation."

Even more fundamentally, "What would be the scope of duties and authorities given to this position?"

Finally, the CRS astutely observed, "while the duties envisioned for a CTO may affect President Obama's choice for the [position], the attributes of the person appointed to serve as CTO may, in part, define the role of CTO."

See "A Federal Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration: Options and Issues for Consideration," January 21, 2009.


A new report from the Congressional Research Service provides an extensive overview of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and the choices that confront U.S. policy makers.

"The U.S. Government faces key strategic and operational decisions about its further engagement in the war in Afghanistan. These may include clarifying U.S. national interests in Afghanistan and the region; defining clear strategic objectives based on those interests; determining which diplomatic, economic, and military approaches to adopt, and what resources to commit to support those approaches; prioritizing 'Afghanistan' versus other national security imperatives; and helping marshal a coordinated application of international efforts."

Steven Aftergood, Feb 02-09
  Reply With Quote
Old 02-03-2009, 08:17 PM   #6
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News


Chinese Submarine Patrols Double in 2008

-Expert available for interviews -

WASHINGTON, DC --Chinese attack submarines sailed on more patrols in 2008 than ever before, according to information obtained by Federation of American Scientists from U.S. naval intelligence.

The information, which was declassified by U.S. naval intelligence in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists, shows that China’s fleet of more than 50 attack submarines conducted 12 patrols in 2008, twice the number of patrols conducted in 2007.

China’s strategic ballistic missile submarines have never conducted a deterrent patrol.

Highest Patrol Rate Ever

The 12 patrols conducted in 2008 constitute the highest patrol rate ever for the Chinese submarine fleet. They follow seven patrols conducted in 2007, two in 2006, and zero in 2005. China has four times refrained from conducting submarine patrols since 1981, and the previous peaks were six patrols conducted in 2000 and 2007.

To learn more please visit, http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2009/02/patrols.php.

To interview Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, (http://www.fas.org/press/experts/kristensen.html) please contact Monica Amarelo at 202-454-4680 or mamarelo@fas.org.

FAS Strategic Security Blog, Feb 03-09
Article: http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2009/02/patrols.php
  Reply With Quote
Old 02-04-2009, 08:10 PM   #7
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Note: Usually I just post this information without comment. I have a question today though, for anybody. Is there data or testimony wrt CIA guides for US insurgencies in sovereign countries, i.e. Argentina (Salvador Allende, democratically elected), Iran-Contra scandal, Nicaragua and other nations; and perhaps to whose benefit? I'm particularly looking at the 3rd item here today. All PDF docs and extra links can be found on the FAS website, link below.


Department of Defense intelligence agencies were told last week to consider granting requests from the congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) for access to classified foreign intelligence information.

GAO access to intelligence information has long been a subject of dispute and controversy. By law (31 U.S.C. 716d), the Comptroller General who directs the GAO cannot compel executive branch agencies to disclose intelligence information. The Central Intelligence Agency has generally refused to cooperate with GAO auditors, while defense intelligence agencies have historically been somewhat more forthcoming. (My emphasis.)

A new DoD directive (pdf) states explicitly for the first time that GAO requests for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information may be granted:

"Although the Comptroller General may be prevented from compelling access to this information, such information should not be denied categorically. Such information may be furnished to GAO representatives having a legitimate need to know. Therefore, denials of access to such information must be carefully considered and supported legitimately."

See "Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Comptroller General Requests for Access to Records," Department of Defense Instruction 7650.01, January 27, 2009 (at page 6).

As of last year, 1000 GAO analysts held top secrecy security clearances and 73 were cleared for intelligence information (Secrecy News, "GAO and Intelligence Oversight," August 4, 2008).

Using GAO analysts to audit intelligence agency operations potentially offers a way to augment and improve congressional oversight of intelligence, the Federation of American Scientists and others have argued (pdf).

A bill to affirm the role of GAO in intelligence oversight was introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in the last Congress.

"It is my strong belief that the Intelligence Community could benefit from the Government Accountability Office's expertise in reviewing organizational transformations and management reforms," Sen. Akaka said at a Senate hearing on the subject last year.


The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Reducing Overclassification Act, a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to prepare unclassified versions of intelligence reports that are likely to be of use to first responders and other non-federal officials. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jane Harman, would also mandate improved oversight and training in order to combat overclassification at DHS.

"Though hard to believe, sheriffs and police chiefs cannot readily access the information they need to prevent or disrupt a potential terrorist [incident] because those at the Federal level resist sharing information," Rep. Harman said. "Over-classification and pseudo-classification, which is stamping with any number of sensitive-but-unclassified markings, remain rampant."


A Central Intelligence Agency publication on the analysis of insurgencies that has often been cited but not widely circulated was recently released by CIA under the Freedom of Information Act.

"This pamphlet contains key definitions and analytic guides applicable to any insurgency.... Among other things, this guide is designed to assist in conducting a net assessment of the overall status or progress of a specific conflict," the document (pdf) states. The CIA "Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency" is undated, but may have been written in the 1980s.

U.S. military intelligence agencies should follow the lead of Federal Express and other corporations and use "operations research" tools to guide their investment decisions and resource allocations, according to a new study by the Defense Science Board. See "Operations Research Applications for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance" (pdf), January 2009.

The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AF ISR Agency) is a little-known successor of the former Air Intelligence Agency, and its mission is described in this January 27, 2009 Air Force directive (pdf).


Harold C. Relyea, a scholar of American government at the Congressional Research Service, retired on January 30 after 37 years of government service.

When I first started exploring government secrecy policy quite a few years ago, the writings of Harold Relyea were some of the first and some of the most informative things that I found to read. He showed how secrecy had deep roots in American history, and he explained that national security classification functioned as a bureaucratic "system" with well-defined rules and procedures as well as characteristic problems. It followed that the system could be confronted and challenged when necessary.

By its nature, most of Dr. Relyea's work for Congress was invisible to the public. Its impact, though sometimes profound, was not broadly advertised. But he leaves a lasting imprint on the published record.

At the request of the Church Committee that investigated the U.S. intelligence community in the mid-1970s, he authored "The Evolution and Organization of the Federal Intelligence Function: A Brief Overview (1776-1975)," which appeared in Book VI of the Committee's Final Report (and which was also published independently).

Among numerous other works of enduring value, he prepared a book-length 1974 report on "National Emergency Powers." A recent, abbreviated version of the same title is here (pdf).

One of his last major reports for CRS explored "Security Classified and Controlled Information" (pdf), expertly describing the management challenges posed by the parallel classified and "sensitive but unclassified" information security regimes.

Another report he wrote on "Presidential Advisers' Testimony Before Congressional Committees" (pdf) was utilized by the 9/11 Commission to cajole testimony from reluctant Bush Administration officials.

Dr. Relyea authored several books, notably including "Silencing Science" (1994), which examined national security controls on scientific communication. He also found time -- during his off-hours, no doubt -- to answer questions from interested members of the public concerning secrecy policy and related topics.

We thank him and wish him well.

Steven Aftergood, Feb 02-09
  Reply With Quote
Old 03-22-2009, 08:22 PM   #8
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

Support Secrecy News



In an awkward and disturbing irony, the most significant bioterrorism incident in the U.S. to date -- i.e., the 2001 anthrax attacks -- apparently originated in a U.S. military laboratory that was engaged in biological defense research. Yet the pursuit of such research, and perhaps the associated threat, has continued to expand.

"No one in the Federal Government even knows for sure how many of these labs there are in the United States, much less what research they are doing or whether they are safe and secure," said Rep. Bart Stupak at a 2007 congressional hearing, the record of which has recently been published. "What we do know is that the Federal Government has been funding the proliferation of these labs on an unprecedented scale."

See "Germs, Viruses, and Secrets: The Silent Proliferation of Bio-Laboratories in the United States" (pdf, 272pp), House Committee on Energy and Commerce, October 4, 2007 (published December 2008).

"High-containment laboratories play a critical role in the biodefense effort, offering the hope of better responses to an attack and a better understanding of the threat posed by bioterrorism," according to a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service. "However, they also could increase the risk of a biological attack by serving as a potential source of materials or training."

One approach to mitigating that risk would be to curtail such research. Another approach, which is explored in the new CRS report (pdf, 33pp), is to expand oversight of biodefense research facilities. A copy of the new report was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Oversight of High-Containment Biological Laboratories: Issues for Congress," March 5, 2009.


"If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public," according to a new memorandum on "Scientific Integrity" that was issued by President Obama on March 9.

Another presidential memorandum promises to limit the use of "presidential signing statements" that raise constitutional objections to provisions of enacted legislation. President Obama said that whenever he issues such a signing statement, he will "make clear the nature and basis of the constitutional objection." By contrast, many signing statements that were produced by the Bush White House employed broad, formulaic objections whose scope and precise application were unclear.


Chinese ships harassed a U.S. ship last Sunday in the South China Sea, prompting a formal U.S. government protest. The Chinese actions were "dangerous" and "unprofessional," according to the Pentagon.

But a Chinese government spokesman rejected the complaint. "The U.S. claims are gravely in contravention of the facts and confuse black and white, and they are totally unacceptable to China," said Ma Zhaoxu of the Foreign Ministry, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

"The time is long overdue for an agreement to regulate military operations" between the two countries, writes my FAS colleague Hans Kristensen in an illuminating blog post that explains the background to the confrontation, including information about the surveillance mission of the U.S. vessel. See "US-Chinese Anti-Submarine Cat and Mouse Game in South China Sea," FAS Strategic Security Blog, March 9.

In fact, there is a 1998 agreement between the U.S. and China that established a "consultation mechanism to strengthen military maritime safety." But it was evidently inadequate to meet the needs of this latest dispute.

If anything good could come out of this episode, it would be to provide a foundation for a negotiated agreement between the United States and China on "Incidents at Sea" like the one between the U.S. and the Russian Federation.

The origins of that 1972 Agreement date back forty years. Prior to 1968, a recent Navy Instruction (pdf) recalled, "numerous [incidents at sea] involving harassment or interference occurred between units of the Soviet and United States Naval surface and air forces." But the subsequent Agreement, which provided procedures for orderly contact and dispute resolution, "greatly reduced friction between the U.S. and Soviet/Russian Navies." See "United States/Russian Federation Incidents at Sea and Dangerous Military Activities Agreements," OPNAV Instruction 5711.96C, November 10, 2008 [19pp].

The new Instruction provides a table of standard communication signals for use in navy-to-navy contacts. Thus "TX2" means "I am engaged in monitoring sea pollution" while "UY2" means "I am preparing to conduct missile exercises."

"ZL3" means "your signal has been received but not understood."

Steven Aftergood, Mar-10-09

Last edited by no caste; 03-22-2009 at 08:34 PM. Reason: added newsletter date; china rebuttal in Times link
  Reply With Quote
Old 03-24-2009, 11:03 PM   #9
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 28
March 24, 2009

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

Support Secrecy News



In a new letter to President Obama, the Public Interest Declassification Board warned that reliable public access to government information, the very foundation of representative democracy, may be in jeopardy.

Although "our Board was heartened by your early statements and actions on openness in Government," wrote Board acting chairman Martin Faga to the President on March 6, "we have to sound a note of alarm about how well the Government is doing in this area."

"In fact, we have concluded that this fundamental principle of self-government" -- that is, citizen access to information about Government -- "is at risk and, without decisive action, the situation is likely to worsen."

The Public Interest Declassification Board was established by Congress in 2000 to advise the president on declassification policy and practice. Board members are appointed by the White House and Congress.

Mr. Faga, a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, identified several structural and procedural factors that he said impede declassification, including inadequate resources, coordination and leadership, as well as poor management of digital records. "Future historians may find that the paper records of early American history provide a more reliable historical account than the inchoate mass of digital communications of the current era."

Although the Board's mission focuses on declassification of historical records, the Board has also taken an interest in classification policy and has called for a revision to the executive order on classification.

"Serious attention to the classification process itself is needed to ensure that it supports declassification and to address the particularly challenging and long-standing issue of over-classification," the Board's letter said.

A presidential directive initiating a revision of the executive order on classification policy is believed to be imminent.


The National Archives and Records Administration is soliciting public input on new ways to reduce the costs of Presidential libraries while improving public access to the records they hold.

"NARA seeks the comments and suggestions of interested organizations and individuals for cost effective ways of modifying the present system for archiving and providing public access to Presidential records," Acting Archivist Adrienne C. Thomas wrote in a March 24 notice.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee is seeking an update on the status of White House email, including the installation of improved information technology systems to ensure the preservation and retention of Presidential email.

"What policies and procedures are in place to ensure that official e-mails subject to the Presidential Records Act are captured and preserved by government information technology systems?" asked Rep. Edolphus Towns in a February 27, 2009 letter (2pp, pdf) to White House Counsel Gregory Craig.


The British foreign intelligence service MI-6 and the British domestic security service MI-5 will both mark their 100-year anniversary this year. Their exploits are the subject of the new book "Secret Wars: One Hundred Years of British Intelligence Inside MI5 and MI6" by Gordon Thomas, published this month by St. Martin's Press.


In a test of the new, more forthcoming Freedom of Information Act guidelines that were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder on March 19, the Federation of American Scientists has asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to reconsider its refusal to disclose the budget total for the National Intelligence Program for fiscal year 2006.

The new FOIA policy is intended to reverse entrenched secrecy practices and to encourage appropriate release of information.

"By restoring the presumption of disclosure that is at the heart of the Freedom of Information Act, we are making a critical change that will restore the public’s ability to access information in a timely manner," said Attorney General Holder last week. The new guidelines (pdf) "strongly encourage agencies to make discretionary disclosures of information" and indicate that the Justice Department will not defend FOIA denials in court unless disclosure would damage a protected government interest.

That all sounds promising, but it remains to be demonstrated in practice.

Adding to several other pending FOIA cases that will test the practical meaning of the newly declared policy, we have asked the ODNI to reverse its recent denial of the 2006 budget total. Although the 2007 and 2008 budget figures have been formally declassified, the 2006 figure remains classified.

This ODNI practice of classifying obsolete budget information while releasing current budget information is "stupid," said Steven Garfinkel, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, at a March 16 conference sponsored by the Collaboration on Government Secrecy at the Washington College of Law.

It also appears to be at odds with the views of the DNI himself. In response to a pre-hearing question (pdf; question 35C) at his confirmation to be DNI, Adm. Dennis C. Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee: "I believe the annual disclosure of the aggregate intelligence appropriation, as required by law, should continue. It has not, to my knowledge, caused harm to the national security, and provides important information to the American public."

Given these developments, we suggested in a FOIA request (pdf) to ODNI today, "it seems questionable either that the Justice Department would defend the continued denial under FOIA of the 2006 intelligence budget total, or that the DNI would supply a sworn declaration to a federal court to try to justify the withholding of this information."
[Note: There are links to these last documents on the FAS website in the blog. It takes too long to insert them all!]

Steven Aftergood, March 23, 2009
  Reply With Quote
Old 03-24-2009, 11:26 PM   #10
Egg's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 727
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

That was one hell of a read, but well worth it. Thank you for taking the time to post all of that.

Heres a secrecy event that will make you laugh (or not as the case may be).

Northrop built a stealth aircraft prototype, it didn't win its competition, so it was the loser and as such got taken out into the desert and buried, and the location never marked at all.

20 years on, the government needed it in a hurry, and there was silence all around as the head of design had to admit they didn't know where it was as all those who buried it took the secret to their graves.
Egg is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2009, 08:36 AM   #11
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

hi egg - i must be dense because i don't really get the northrop story - unless it's like the electric car?

Updates re nuclear arms control/disarmament:

April 2, 2009
For Immediate Release
U.S. - Russian Nuclear Arms Control Talks Revived
- Expert available for interviews -
Washington DC—Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, is available for comment on the estimates for nuclear weapons in the world.

Please visit http://fas.org/press/faq/index.html for information on:
• Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories
• Russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons
• U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons In Europe
To schedule an interview with Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, please contact Monica Amarelo at email mamarelo@fas.org or call 202-454-4680. OR Hans Kristensen (202) 454-4695 hristensen@fas.org

March 30, 2009


In anticipation of future nuclear arms control agreements that would require the dismantlement of nuclear warheads, the Department of Energy undertook a technical study during the Clinton Administration to determine how such dismantlement could be verifiably accomplished. The resulting report, experts say, is still the best available treatment of the subject.

A copy of the unclassified report, marked "official use only," was obtained by Secrecy News and posted online today.

The DOE authors identified ten types of activities that could be used in a warhead dismantlement regime, involving various forms of monitoring at successive stages of the process. One or more of the ten could be employed, depending on the degree of confidence desired.

In principle, it should be fairly straightforward to dismantle a given nuclear warhead with confidence. However, "determining that an item to be dismantled is actually a nuclear warhead is very difficult" without compromising classified information, the report states. The use of x-rays or radiographs to confirm that an object is in fact a warhead "would be highly intrusive and would reveal highly classified nuclear warhead design information" to foreign inspectors, potentially exposing design vulnerabilities and other sensitive information. Such concerns might be addressed by other forms of monitoring, the report says.

The study concluded that "transparency measures for monitoring warhead dismantlement can be applied... with up to a moderate level of confidence that dismantlement has taken place if implemented at the Unclassified to [Confidential] level." Verification that an actual weapon has been dismantled -- which is a more demanding standard than mere "transparency" -- can be achieved with an appropriate exchange of classified nuclear weapons design information.

The report provides a detailed description of the dismantlement process, a summary of previous dismantlement studies (including one by the Federation of American Scientists and another by the JASONs, but not the 1960s-era Project Cloud Gap study), and other valuable information that could serve to inform and accelerate current analyses of nuclear warhead dismantlement.

See "Transparency and Verification Options: An Initial Analysis of Approaches for Monitoring Warhead Dismantlement," prepared by the Department of Energy Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation, May 19, 1997



The Best of Disinfectants...

The Sunlight Foundation is committed to helping citizens, bloggers and journalists be their own best congressional watchdogs, by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and Web sites to enable all of us to collaborate in fostering greater transparency.
  Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2009, 07:00 PM   #12
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Here are 2 of the 4 articles (missing: Cuba, Piracy/ Organized Crime) in today's newsletter.


from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 38 - April 27, 2009
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
Support Secrecy News: http://www.fas.org/sgp/donate.html


Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) last week reintroduced several bills that he said were needed to limit presidential power and to restore the proper constitutional balance among the three branches of government.

The first bill (S.875) would instruct courts not to rely on a presidential signing statement when interpreting the meaning of any statute. (Similar legislation was introduced in previous sessions of Congress, but was not passed.) President Bush used signing statements "in a way that threatened to render the legislative process a virtual nullity, making it completely unpredictable how certain laws will be enforced," said Sen. Specter. "As outrageous as these signing statements are,... it is even more outrageous that Congress has done nothing to protect its constitutional powers," he said.

The second bill (S.876) would substitute the United States as the defendant in place of telecommunications companies in pending lawsuits alleging unlawful surveillance. (Sen. Specter also introduced such a bill in 2008.)

"It is not too late to provide for judicial review of controversial post-9/11 intelligence surveillance activities," Sen. Specter said. "The cases before Judge Vaughn Walker [alleging unlawful surveillance] are still pending and, even if he were to dismiss them under the statutory defenses dubbed 'retroactive immunity', Congress can and should permit the cases to be refiled against the Government, standing in the shoes of the carriers."

"The legislation also establishes a limited waiver of sovereign immunity... to prevent the Government from asserting immunity in the event it is substituted for the current defendants," Sen. Specter explained. (As for the likelihood that the Government would assert the “state secrets privilege” to abort such litigation, that is addressed in another pending bill.)

The third bill (S.877), which is new, would require the Supreme Court to review certain cases concerning the constitutionality of intelligence surveillance, statutory immunity for telecommunications providers, and other communications intelligence activities, and would eliminate the Court's discretion as to whether or not to grant "certiorari." The bill was necessitated, he said, by the Supreme Court's refusal to review an appeals court decision that overturned a 2006 ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor which found the Terrorist Surveillance Program to be unconstitutional.

Sen. Specter discussed his approach to these matters in "The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs," New York Review of Books, May 14, 2009. < *Note* the date from THE FUTURE!!


While official secrecy is a serious impediment to democratic vitality, the continuing decline of news gathering, reporting and editorial capacity could be a potential catastrophe. It is still unclear whether new and nascent forms of information sharing can provide a satisfactory substitute.

The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy is soliciting public input on a series of questions about information access and use, revolving around the most basic question: "Do you have the information you need to accomplish your personal goals and to be an effective citizen?" To participate in the survey, go here.
  Reply With Quote
Old 06-17-2009, 05:52 PM   #13
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

June 17-09
9/11, Info Sharing, and “The Wall”

The rise of “the wall” between intelligence and law enforcement personnel that impeded the sharing of information within the U.S. government prior to September 11, 2001 was critically examined in a detailed monograph (pdf, 35pp) that was prepared in 2004 for the 9/11 Commission. It is the only one of four staff monographs that had not previously been released. It was finally declassified and disclosed earlier this month.

In April 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft testified (pdf) that the failure to properly share threat information in the summer of 2001 could be attributed to Justice Department policy memoranda that were issued in 1995 by the Clinton Administration. That is an erroneous oversimplification, the staff monograph contends: “A review of the facts… demonstrates that the Attorney General’s testimony did not fairly and accurately reflect” the meaning or relevance of those 1995 policy documents. For one thing, those policies did not even apply to CIA and NSA information, which could have been shared with law enforcement without any procedural obstacles.

But if Attorney General Ashcroft was misinformed, he was not alone. The 1995 procedures governing information sharing between law enforcement and intelligence “were widely misunderstood and misapplied” resulting in “far less information sharing and coordination… than was allowed.” In fact, “everyone was confused about the rules governing the sharing and use of information gather in intelligence channels.”

“The information sharing failures in the summer of 2001 were not the result of legal barriers but of the failure of individuals to understand that the barriers did not apply to the facts at hand,” the 35-page monograph concludes. “Simply put, there was no legal reason why the information could not have been shared.”

The prevailing confusion was exacerbated by numerous complicating circumstances, the monograph explains. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was growing impatient with the FBI because of repeated errors in applications for surveillance. Justice Department officials were uncomfortable requesting intelligence surveillance of persons and facilities related to Osama bin Laden since there was already a criminal investigation against bin Laden underway, which normally would have preempted FISA surveillance. Officials were reluctant to turn to the FISA Court of Review for clarification of their concerns since one of the judges on the court had expressed doubts about the constitutionality of FISA in the first place. And so on. Although not mentioned in the monograph, it probably didn’t help that public interest critics in the 1990s (myself included) were accusing the FISA Court of serving as a “rubber stamp” and indiscriminately approving requests for intelligence surveillance.

In the end, the monograph implicitly suggests that if the law was not the problem, then changing the law may not be the solution. The document, which had been classified Secret, was released with some small though questionable redactions. See “Legal Barriers to Information Sharing: The Erection of a Wall Between Intelligence and Law Enforcement Investigations,” 9/11 Commission Staff Monograph by Barbara A. Grewe, Senior Counsel for Special Projects, August 20, 2004.

Jun 17-09
2008 DNI Briefing: Questions for the Record

For the first time in several years, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has once again published unclassified responses from the Director of National Intelligence (pdf) to questions for the record arising from the DNI’s 2008 annual threat briefing to Congress. In the past, such formal responses to Congress have offered an unexpected wealth of information and updated intelligence...

Jun 17-09
Energy Secretary Chu Embraces FOIA Policy

The controversial idea of the “unitary executive” in which all executive power is vested in the President of the United States may be a coherent legal theory. But in reality, things don’t happen within the executive branch simply because the President commands them. In practice, what we have is a “fragmentary executive” the efficacy of which is entirely dependent on the competence and the good faith of thousands of officials who must consciously choose to implement the declared policies of the Administration... [Memorandum for Heads of Departmental Elements, pdf - 2pp, Jun5-09]

Jun 15-09
White House Intel Advisory Board Has No Members

President Obama has still not appointed anyone to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), Secrecy News has learned.

The PIAB has broad responsibility for conducting internal executive branch oversight of intelligence, and it is specifically charged with alerting the President to intelligence activities that may be unlawful or contrary to executive order or presidential directive. Although the PIAB rarely releases its findings to the public, it is positioned to play a potentially important role in the intelligence oversight process. Its actual performance seems to depend on the qualifications of Board members, which have sometimes been minimal, as well as the receptivity of an Administration to the oversight process...

Jun 15-09
“Sensitive” Info in the Congressional Record

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) placed two “sensitive but unclassified” (SBU) State Department documents in the Congressional Record last week, illustrating the informal, non-binding character of this information control marking...

CAIR - Council on American-Islamic Relations

Jun 15-09
A Classified Objection to Gen. McChrystal

Gen. Stanley McChrystal was confirmed by the Senate last week to be the new commander of U.S. (and NATO) forces in Afghanistan, a role that he assumed today. But his nomination was opposed by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) who objected to the General’s advancement on unspecified “classified” grounds...

Jun 15-09
DoD Role During Flu Pandemics, and More from CRS

June 3, 2009. “Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Updated ‘Safeguards’ and Net Assessments” (PDF, 37pp)

June 4, 2009. “The Role of the Department of Defense During a Flu Pandemic” (PDF, 18pp)

“Congressional Oversight and Related Issues Concerning International Security Agreements Concluded by the United States,” June 2, 2009.

“The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy: Issues for Congress,” updated June 3, 2009.

“Landsat and the Data Continuity Mission,” May 22, 2009.

“Geospatial Information and Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Current Issues and Future Challenges,” June 8, 2009.

Jun 10-09
Classification and the “Descent Into Torture”

The public has been significantly misled and misinformed concerning the practice of abusive interrogation by the U.S. government and the resulting damage to American political institutions, said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on the Senate floor yesterday.

“I am very sorry to say this–but there has been a campaign of falsehood about this whole sorry episode. It has disserved the American public. As I said earlier, facing up to the questions of our use of torture is hard enough. It is worse when people are misled and don’t know the whole truth and so can’t form an informed opinion and instead quarrel over irrelevancies and false premises. Much debunking of falsehood remains to be done but cannot be done now because the accurate and complete information is classified,” Sen. Whitehouse said...
  Reply With Quote
Old 08-12-2009, 05:17 PM   #14
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Recent articles -

Inspectors General Chase Leaks at GPO, CRS
August 12th, 2009 by Steven Aftergood

If it wanted to, the Obama Administration could instantly increase oversight of the national security classification system by tasking the Offices of Inspector General (IG) at each of the major classifying agencies to assume some responsibility for secrecy oversight. In coordination with the Information Security Oversight Office, those IGs could perform periodic audits of classification activity to ensure that agencies are complying with declared policies (the urgent need to revise those policies [Overcoming Overclassification] is a separate issue) and they could flag excessive use of secrecy in the course of their other duties, for further investigation by the ISOO...

Tuesday, Aug 4th, 2009

In the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration plotted to interfere in Uruguay's presidential elections in order to block the rise of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition. But when the State Department published its official history of U.S. relations with Latin America during the Nixon era last month, there was no mention of any such activities. Instead, the State Department Office of the Historian said that Uruguay-related records could not be posted on the Department website because of "space constraints." Following repeated inquiries, however, the Historian's Office revised its position last week and said it would include Uruguay-related records in its Nixon history after all.

Declassified PDB Info is Still Classified, CIA Says
Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Even though certain information concerning the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) was redacted and declassified for use in the prosecution of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby in 2006, that same information is nonetheless “currently and properly classified,” the Central Intelligence Agency said (pdf) last week. The Agency denied release of the material under the Freedom of Information Act.

The existence of the declassified PDB material was disclosed in a January 9, 2006 letter (pdf) from Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald to Mr. Libby’s attorney. He wrote: “In response to our requests, we have received [from CIA] a very discrete amount of material relating to PDBs and discussions involving Mr. Libby and/or Vice President Cheney concerning or relating to the PDBs. We have provided to Mr. Libby and his counsel (or are in the process of providing such documents consistent with the process of a declassification review) copies of any pages in our possession… in the redacted form in which we received them.”

Pentagon Intel Ops “Often” Evade Oversight
Monday, July 6th, 2009

Last month, the House Intelligence Committee complained that the Department of Defense has blurred the distinction between traditional intelligence collection, which is subject to intelligence committee oversight, and clandestine military operations, which are not. Because they are labeled in a misleading manner, some DoD clandestine operations that are substantively the same as intelligence activities are evading the congressional oversight they are supposed to receive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The rise of "the wall" between intelligence and law enforcement personnel that impeded the sharing of information within the U.S. government prior to September 11, 2001 was critically examined in a detailed monograph (pdf) that was prepared in 2004 for the 9/11 Commission. It is the only one of four staff monographs that had not previously been released. It was finally declassified and disclosed earlier this month.

  Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2009, 05:20 AM   #15
Avalon Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auroville, India
Posts: 268
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Good thread and link. Thx No Caste
avyaktam is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2009, 06:05 AM   #16
no caste
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

Originally Posted by avyaktam View Post
Good thread and link. Thx No Caste
You're welcome, avyaktam

I read another interesting one this week about 'transparency' in the Obama administration:

Information Sharing as a Form of Secrecy
August 17th, 2009 by Steven Aftergood

The Obama Administration is giving increased attention to the continuing post-9/11 challenge of information sharing, with a newly appointed White House Senior Director of Information Sharing Policy tasked to lead the effort. But this new activity does not imply any reduction in the volume of security and safety-related information that is withheld from the public...

Although information sharing might seem like the antithesis of secrecy, the term has come to be used to refer exclusively to sharing within the government, including state and local officials and certain selected private partners.

It seems the intergovernmental departments are more transparent with each other, yet not with the public. They're still hiding in classification (secrecy) policy.

It's not exactly bold

Another link:
Spotlight on Excessive Government Secrecy
  Reply With Quote
Old 10-16-2009, 02:41 PM   #17
no caste
Avalon Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,375
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

This one p^sses me off so-o-o-o-! much I wanted to post it on a thread of its own. Jeezus bejeezus........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Congress Moves to Bar Release of Abuse Photos
October 15th, 2009 by Steven Aftergood

The Obama Administration, prodded by Senators Lieberman and Graham and with the support of some senior military officials, petitioned (pdf) the Supreme Court last August to overturn the ruling. “The disclosure of those photographs could reasonably be expected to endanger the lives or physical safety of United States military and civilian personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Administration argued. But Congress acted first, and Solicitor General Elena Kagan asked the Court (pdf) on October 8 to suspend its consideration of the petition...

Meanwhile, a new military policy prohibits reporters embedded with forces in eastern Afghanistan from photographing U.S. troops killed in action, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press revealed last week. See “Afghanistan Command Confirms Policy Against Images of U.S. Dead” by John M. Donnelly, CQ Politics, October 14, 2009.

no caste is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-2009, 08:30 AM   #18
no caste
Avalon Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,375
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

I liked the 'as if it did not concern them' bit today.

Openness Initiative Begins to Take Root
December 10th, 2009 by Steven Aftergood

The Obama Administration’s new open government policy has begun to elicit a response from executive branch agencies. The Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and other agencies issued news releases yesterday outlining the initial steps they are taking to fulfill the December 8 White House Open Government Directive (11pp pdf).

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy posted a request for public comment on how to enhance public access to federally-funded science and technology research...

Most national security and intelligence agencies, however, met the new Open Government Directive with silence, as if it did not concern them.

But many such agencies maintain unclassified databases that are potentially of great public interest, and that ought to be broadly accessible. We have nominated two candidates in particular for disclosure under the new open government policy.

Disclosure of TSA Manual Stirs Leak Anxiety
December 10th, 2009 by Steven Aftergood

Meanwhile, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh yesterday lashed out at the Federation of American Scientists in his own commentary on the TSA Manual disclosure....

This is not as gratifying as it might have been, since FAS had nothing to do with the disclosure of the TSA Manual. In fact, had we been the ones to discover the unredacted Manual, we probably would have refrained from publishing it.
no caste is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-2009, 08:57 AM   #19
Avalon Senior Member
Phr0z3n's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Minot, ND
Posts: 59
Default Re: Federation of American Scientists - Secrecy News

I just signed up for the newsletter. Really has a lot of great information on it. Thanks for posting the link about it.
Phr0z3n is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT. The time now is 03:57 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Project Avalon