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.