SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
December 7, 2000

SENATOR SHELBY DEFENDS THE ANTI-LEAK STATUTE

In his first extended response to President Clinton’s widely-admired veto of the legislation that would have made it a felony to disclose classified information, Senator Richard Shelby yesterday lashed out at the Administration and at critics of the anti-leak provision, of which he was the principal sponsor.

"After 8 years of subordinating national security to political concerns, the Clinton-Gore administration now exits on a similar note," Sen. Shelby said on the Senate floor before the Senate approved a revised version of the FY 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act with the anti-leak provision deleted.

Sen. Shelby criticized the President for overruling his national security experts and vetoing the bill based on a "hysterical, largely inaccurate, but extremely well-timed media lobbying blitz" mounted by opponents. "This carefully drafted provision would not have silenced whistleblowers," it "would not have criminalized mistakes," and "it would not have eroded first amendment rights," Senator Shelby insisted. He did not discuss his intentions with respect to similar legislation in the coming year.

Sen. Shelby’s comments in yesterday’s floor debate on the FY 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act may be found here:

This debate also included a colloquy on activities under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, described misleadingly as "the largest declassification of U.S. government records in American history," and the related declassification of records related to war crimes of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Because the Senate adopted an amendment by Senator Wayne Allard concerning NRO contracting practices, the revised Intelligence Authorization Act must now go back to the House for its approval.


THE PERILS OF CLASSIFIED HISTORY

Historian Dwayne A. Day reviews several declassified histories of the nation’s spy satellite programs in latest issue of the quarterly journal Quest (vol. 8, no. 2).

He concludes with reflections on the defects of classified history as a category. He notes that "there are some practices represented in these histories that would not be tolerated at all in an academic setting." So, for example, he notes "the use of entire paragraphs from another work without quotation marks or attribution." And due to inadequate peer review, "some pretty basic mistakes... went uncorrected."

Most interestingly, Day criticizes the insularity of the official historians and their ignorance of, or indifference to, mainstream unclassified historical research. "The situation is steeped in irony. Normally it is the civilian, public historical community that has difficulty accessing classified material. But in several of these works, the outside literature is ignored by the classified community, leading to serious historical misunderstandings," he writes.

This provocative article is not available online, but order information for Quest magazine may be found here:

The National Security Archive has posted an updated web page on the classified CIA history of the 1953 Iran coup, derived from the New York Times' disclosure of the document last spring. Along with the text of the still-classified history itself, there is introductory material by Malcolm Byrne of the Archive’s Iran Declassification Project and by Iran scholar Professor Mark Gasiorowski. See:

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