SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 32
April 17, 2002

DOE REPORTS ON INADVERTENT DISCLOSURES

The Department of Energy (DOE) reviewed two million pages of declassified documents at the National Archives late last year and discovered 318 pages among them containing classified nuclear weapons information, according to a new DOE report to Congress.

The inadvertently disclosed information ranges in sensitivity from classified nuclear weapons design information to the locations of nuclear weapons storage depots from decades ago which, while formally classified, do not pose a proliferation hazard.

An assessment of the damage that may have resulted from the disclosures was not provided in the new report. The disclosures appeared in various Defense agency and State Department documents. The documents themselves were withdrawn from public access.

The latest report is the fifth in a series required by the FY 1999 Defense Authorization Act. The classified version of the report was dated November 2001. A redacted (unclassified) version of the report was published yesterday. See the text here:

The report states demurely that "those file series that _may_ contain [classified nuclear information] are being removed from public access" (emphasis added).

What is left unsaid is that the ongoing hunt for inadvertent disclosures has resulted in significant disruption of public access to declassified records at the National Archives.


DOE RENEGES ON COMMITMENT TO RELEASE HEU STUDY

The Department of Energy (DOE) has reneged on its commitment to publish a long-awaited historical account of the production, acquisition and utilization of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from 1945 onwards.

The HEU report was intended to "provide assistance to worldwide nonproliferation efforts by revealing where United States highly enriched uranium resides in the United States as well as in other nations," DOE declared in 1997. "It will also assist regulators in environmental, health, and safety matters at domestic sites where this material is stored or buried."

See the DOE "commitment" which noted that "publication is scheduled in September 1997":

But after years of delay, DOE now says it will not release the promised report.

The decision to withhold the HEU report required some bureaucratic creativity since the document is not classified, and cannot be withheld on national security grounds. Instead, DOE officials are attempting to shoehorn it into the Freedom of Information Act exemption for "deliberative" or "pre-decisional" documents.

"The requested document is a draft record that reflects the tentative views of the authors," wrote DOE FOIA Director Abel Lopez. "The opinions contained in the document are recommendatory.... Thus, the opinions expressed therein are pre-decisional and exempt from disclosure under Exemption 5 of the FOIA." See:

But that claim is nonsense, said Roger Heusser, formerly the head of DOE's Office of Nuclear and National Security Information, responsible for DOE classification and declassification policy.

"The document is an historical accounting of information rather than 'recommendations'," said Mr. Heusser. "I am quite familiar with the document and signed the declassification of it."

Multiple appeals of the decision to withhold the HEU report have been filed, and are likely to lead to a FOIA lawsuit.

A companion report entitled "Plutonium: The First 50 Years" that was released by DOE before the current chill set in may be found here:

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

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