SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 41
May 9, 2002

EPA GETS CLASSIFICATION AUTHORITY

President Bush this week granted "original classification authority," i.e. the authority to designate information as classified national security information, to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA officials have previously been authorized to receive, handle and store classified information but the Agency has never before had the authority to generate new classified information.

Under the President's Order, dated May 6 and published in the Federal Register on May 9, the EPA Administrator (and whichever other EPA employees she may designate) may now classify information up to the Secret level. See:

The Bush order follows on a similar order of December 10, 2001, that granted original classification authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The expansion of the national security classification system into new agencies, especially purely civilian domestic agencies, is cause for concern to the extent that it heralds an increase in official secrecy.

On the other hand, expanded use of the classification system, with its clear boundaries and procedures, is preferable to recent steps in some quarters to impose poorly defined security controls on unclassified information.


CRS REPORTS ON PATRIOT ACT

The Congressional Research Service has issued two new reports on the USA PATRIOT Act, the far-reaching anti-terrorism law that was hastily adopted last year.

"The USA PATRIOT Act: A Legal Analysis," by Charles Doyle, provides a hefty 78 page summary and analysis of the even heftier Act's provisions. See:

The same material, stripped of legal citations and footnotes, is reduced to five pages in "The USA PATRIOT Act: A Sketch" and is available here:

The PATRIOT Act was also the subject of critical commentary in the current issue of "Human Rights," the journal of the American Bar Association Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section (as noted on Declan McCullagh's Politech list) here:


GAO QUESTIONS ACCESS TO SPACE DATA

Could public access to space surveillance data that describes the locations of objects in Earth orbit and that is published by NASA on the world wide web pose a national security threat?

In 1999, the Defense Department examined that question and concluded that there was no risk. But in response to a General Accounting Office inquiry, DoD and NASA agreed to revisit the issue.

GAO reported to Congress on the matter on April 22. A copy of the report was made available online not by GAO but by Cryptome.org here:


CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE INFO AND FOIA

A legislative proposal to create a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for certain "critical infrastructure information" was the subject of a hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on May 8.

The proposal, supported by industry and some in government, drew opposition from public interest groups.

David Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center argued that there was no justification for a new exemption and that such an exemption could in fact be counter-productive.

"I have heard no scenario put forth that would result in the detrimental disclosure of information under the current provisions of the FOIA," Mr. Sobel testified. "Overly broad new exemptions could, however, adversely impact the public's right to oversee important and far-reaching governmental functions and remove incentives for remedial private sector action."

Rena Steinzor of the Natural Resources Defense Council advised that "Secrecy is not the best way to protect critical infrastructure, and this Committee should abandon that approach." She also provided a detailed critique of pending legislation on the subject (S. 1546, "The Critical Infrastructure Information Act" introduced by Senators Bennett and Kyl).

All of the prepared testimony from the hearing is available here:


CIA RECORDS ON NAZI WAR CRIMES RELEASED

The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG) yesterday announced the release of Central Intelligence Agency files on 381 individuals and subjects associated with Nazi war crimes or war criminals.

See this May 8 National Archives press release:


WHY DOD WEB PAGES ARE DOWN

Like countless other government web sites, the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal web site has seen much of its public content taken offline lately.

Why?

The Redstone webmaster removed the pages, he explained with a rhetorical wink, "due to the threat against our nation, our way of life, national security, and because I was told to do so...." See:

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

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