SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 58
June 27, 2002

HOUSE ADOPTS HOMELAND SECURITY INFO SHARING ACT

The House of Representatives yesterday approved legislation to facilitate the sharing of U.S. intelligence and other federal homeland security information with state and local agencies.

"This bill will help to eliminate the stovepipes that exist in the intelligence and law enforcement worlds with respect to sharing of vital information and will assist officials across government to communicate with each other," said Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

The Homeland Security Information Sharing Act would generally direct the President to establish procedures for declassifying or redacting classified information so that it could be widely disseminated among officials at all levels. The Act would not substantively alter classification criteria or procedures. Nor would it be likely to result in any increased public disclosure of homeland security information.

The Act calls for development of procedures by which "to identify and safeguard homeland security information that is sensitive but unclassified," a notoriously problematic task that would define a sort of hybrid middle ground between classified and unclassified information.

See the June 25 House Judiciary Committee report on the Homeland Security Information Sharing Act here:

See the June 26 House floor debate and vote on the Act here:

The Bush Administration weighed in favorably but with some caveats in a June 26 Statement of Administration Policy on the bill here:


HOMELAND SECURITY OVERSIGHT QUESTIONED

"The Administration is asking us to put this new Department [of Homeland Security] above the law and outside the checks and balances these laws are put there to ensure," said Senator Patrick Leahy at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on June 26.

Senator Leahy itemized his concerns in a prepared statement available here:

Senator Chuck Grassley raised many of the same issues, from whistleblower protection to freedom of information, in a letter he sent to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge on June 19:

In response, Mr. Ridge stressed yesterday that the proposed Department is a "work in progress."

See also "Security bill bars blowing whistle" by Audrey Hudson in the June 22 Washington Times:


BATTLE OVER CENSUS DATA RENEWED

One of the early pre-September 11 indicators of the Bush Administration's predilection for official secrecy was a needless dispute with Members of Congress over access to certain census data.

In May 2001, several members of the House Government Reform Committee filed suit in federal court to gain access to the contested data. In January 2002, they won.

Now, however, the Bush Administration is appealing that ruling in a renewed effort to block disclosure of the requested information.

House Democratic leaders filed briefs this week in support of their colleagues. (House Republicans side with the Administration.) See:

Background and documentation on the whole dispute is available here:


SENATE SEEKS SHAD DECLASSIFICATION

The Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) Project was a Defense Department experimental program in the 1960s which entailed the use of biological and chemical agents on U.S. servicemen. The existence of SHAD was first acknowledged by the Pentagon in May of this year.

Yesterday the Senate approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would mandate declassification of SHAD-related medical records, and their transfer to the Department of Veterans Affairs. See:

Out of 113 SHAD tests, only twelve have been declassified to date. See the Pentagon's web page on SHAD here:


OTHER SECRECY NEWS

As the congressional intelligence committee investigating September 11 "sifts through Top Secret documents, it faces the dicey task of balancing the country's right to know with the danger of who might find out," writes Bill Adair in today's St. Petersburg Times:

The latest declassified document releases from the UK Public Record Office concerning Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia are announced here:

Recently declassified U.S. government documents concerning Peru's disgraced intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos were published today by the National Security Archive in a briefing book edited by Tamara Feinstein. See:

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

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