SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 8
January 23, 2002

INTERNET INFO MAY POSE SECURITY RISK

Those who publish security-related information on the Internet should consider that it may reach an "unintended audience" and could pose a security hazard, according to an official notice issued last week.

"Among the information available to Internet users are details on critical infrastructures, emergency response plans and other data of potential use to persons with criminal intent," the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) said in a new advisory.

The NIPC called on "Internet content providers to review the data they make available online" with this "potential vulnerability" in mind.

The NIPC is a joint government and private sector entity that is responsible for threat assessment, warning, investigation, and response to attacks on critical infrastructures. It is located at the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The NIPC advisory provided a list of criteria for evaluating the suitability of information for dissemination on the Internet, including its utility for destructive or criminal purposes and its availability elsewhere.

"Of course, the NIPC remains mindful that, when viewing information access from a security point of view, the advantages of posting certain information could outweigh the risks of doing so," the notice said.

See the January 17 NIPC advisory here:


CLASSIFIED INFO IN THE NEWS

Information that is nominally "classified" continues to appear with some frequency in the mainstream media. Here are some of the latest examples:

"The history of Iranian collusion with Hezbollah ... is described in secret intelligence reports provided to The New York Times by intelligence officials," wrote James Risen in a January 17 NY Times story based in part on the secret documents. See "U.S. Traces Iran's Ties to Terror Through a Lebanese":

Efforts by the Central Intelligence Agency to cultivate informants among Iranian Americans in Los Angeles were described in the Los Angeles Times on January 15 (and promptly reported the next day in the Tehran Times).

Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet personally intervened to ask the LA Times not to publish the story. But the Times stood firm.

See "CIA Looks to Los Angeles for Would-Be Iranian Spies" by Greg Miller:

Another Los Angeles Times story on January 22 reported that "The National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Va. ... will need 1 million more square feet within the next four years." See "Flood of Wartime Spending Keeps Nation's Capital Flush With Capital" by Johanna Neuman:

The case that too much information is classified is easy to make. Even Pentagon Secretary Donald Rumsfeld conceded yesterday, while defending the handling of military detainees in Guantanamo, that U.S. interests might have been better served by disclosing more information, not less.

Rumsfeld said that a published photograph of a kneeling, hooded prisoner in Guantanamo had been misinterpreted as evidence of a human rights violation. But a reporter suggested that it would have been harder to misinterpret if more information about the detainees and conditions at the site had been made available.

"Maybe. Yeah. That's fair," Rumsfeld replied.

See excerpts from the January 22 Pentagon press briefing on the detainees here:


DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS ON PERU

A new compilation of declassified documents on human rights abuses and political violence in Peru has just been published by the National Security Archive.

The compilation, prepared by Archive analyst Tamara Feinstein, complements the collection of Peru-related documents released earlier this month by the U.S. Embassy in Peru.

Aside from the considerable intrinsic interest of the documents themselves, and the light they shed on U.S.-Peru relations, the new compilation also illustrates some awkward truths about national security classification and declassification policy.

The Archive collection, viewed alongside the recent U.S. Embassy release, makes it possible to compare and contrast what has been considered classified and declassified at different points in time.

In a few cases, the U.S. Embassy this month actually withheld information that had previously been released to the Archive under the FOIA. In many other cases, close examination of the newly declassified information suggests that much of it should never have been classified in the first place.

"It's a wonderful object lesson in the subjectivity of most government secrecy," said Archive director Tom Blanton.

See the National Security Archive release here:


SCIENCE AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM

"Do you have an idea that would help US Military Special Operation Forces? America needs your help!"

That is the pitch to scientists from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and U.S. Special Operations Command in the latest initiative to harness science and technology for the war against terrorism.

DARPA and SOCOM are hosting a by-invitation only conference in March called "Scientists Helping America" to explore innovative approaches to a variety of military needs from signature reduction to directed energy weapons.

See the conference announcement and application information here:

Paradoxically, however, the whole effort to "harness" science toward the solution of a specific problem may be counterproductive, writes physician Siddhartha Mukherjee in The New Republic.

The problem with this kind of programmatic, targeted research, he says, "isn't only that it may be more expensive; it's that it leaves little room for a critical feature of the discovery process: serendipity."

Instead, it might be far more efficient, Mukherjee writes suggestively, to amply fund basic science and let the practical results emerge as they will.

"The point is that scientific discoveries often happen when they are least expected. Disparate nodes in knowledge are inexplicably connected through secret passages. And the danger is that a post-September 11 focus on programmatic research might demolish this Looking Glass universe," writes Mukherjee.

See "Fighting Chance" by Siddhartha Mukherjee in The New Republic (11/19/01):


POPE REFLECTS ON VALUE OF THE INTERNET

Pope John Paul II discussed the uses and disadvantages of the Internet for advancing the mission of the Church in a statement issued by the Vatican this week.

"The Internet radically redefines a person's psychological relationship to time and space," the Pope stated. "Attention is riveted on what is tangible, useful, instantly available; the stimulus for deeper thought and reflection may be lacking."

"Yet human beings have a vital need for time and inner quiet to ponder and examine life and its mysteries, and to grow gradually into a mature dominion of themselves and of the world around them."

"Understanding and wisdom are the fruit of a contemplative eye upon the world, and do not come from a mere accumulation of facts, no matter how interesting," he said.

The Pope's message "Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel" is dated January 24. It is posted on the Vatican web site here (see under "World Communications Day, 2002"):

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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