SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 63
July 16, 2002

REPORT ON USA PATRIOT ABUSE CLAIMS

The Justice Department received 458 complaints alleging civil liberties or civil rights violations committed by Justice Department employees since the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, according to the first semi-annual report to Congress on the subject from the Department's Inspector General. The report was transmitted to Congress yesterday.

The complaints, filed between October 26, 2001 and June 15, 2002, included allegations of excessive force, illegal detention, detention without access to an attorney, and detention under adverse conditions.

The Justice Office of Inspector General opened nine investigations of allegations of Patriot Act-related civil rights and civil liberties abuses, according to the new report.

Furthermore, a systemic evaluation of the treatment of post-September 11 detainees is underway, and a public report is anticipated by October of this year, the 18 page report said.

A copy of the Inspector General's "Report to Congress on Implementation of Section 1001 of the USA PATRIOT Act," dated July 15, is posted here:

The letter of transmittal from Inspector General Glenn A. Fine is posted here:


HOMELAND SECURITY STRATEGY

The White House today released its "National Strategy for Homeland Security":

The many-faceted strategy recommends restricting public disclosure of certain "critical infrastructure information":

"Homeland security officials need quick, complete access to information relevant to the protection of physical and cyber critical infrastructure. We must meet this need by narrowly limiting public disclosure of such information in order to facilitate its voluntary submission without compromising the principles of openness that ensure government accountability." (p. 48)


JUDGE REBUKES OFFICIALS IN ENERGY TASK FORCE CASE

A federal judge last week chastised Bush Administration officials for their unwarranted attempt at "aggrandizement of Executive power." The unusually harsh rebuke was published in the latest ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch seeking disclosure of information concerning the Vice President's Energy Task Force.

Administration officials "have repeatedly invoked an incorrect constitutional standard in this case, a standard that would increase Executive power at the expense of the other branches of government," wrote U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in his July 11 decision. (pp. 55-6)

The government's extreme position, Judge Sullivan said, would render the Freedom of Information Act and other open government laws unconstitutional.

"Clearly, this is not the law. Such a ruling would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends." (p. 64)

The decision is available here:


USS LIBERTY, AGAIN

The 1967 Israeli attack on the American spy ship U.S.S. Liberty, which resulted in the deaths of 34 American sailors, remains a source of grief as well as controversy, with some critics claiming that the Israeli attack could only have been deliberate.

That claim is systematically rebutted by A. Jay Cristol in his new book "The Liberty Incident." The book, which relies on primary sources and interviews with the principals to a greater extent than any previous work on the topic, concludes that the attack was "a tragic accident."

See "Book Sees Answers to '67 Israeli Attack on U.S. Spy Ship," by Elinor J. Brecher in the July 15 Miami Herald:

The publisher's notice is here:

Critics, such as Liberty survivor LCDR James Ennes, are not convinced. Cristol's research is "a flawed work, packed with evasions and misleading statements," Ennes wrote recently. "Cristol seems to accept at face value all the arguments that support his case, while he nitpicks, dismisses and ignores entirely the eyewitness reports of survivors and other supporting evidence."

See "The U.S.S. Liberty: Still Covered Up After 35 Years" by LCDR Ennes here:


LEAKS, AND MORE LEAKS

In an unusually aggressive government action, State Department security personnel physically detained National Review reporter Joel Mowbray last Friday while they attempted to determine if he was in possession of a classified cable that he had cited at a Department press briefing.

"The cable was classified," acknowledged National Review editor Rich Lowry, "but contained nothing sensitive to national security, just a politically embarrassing policy recommendation." See Lowry's July 15 letter of protest to the State Department here:

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher defended the move.

"The fact is that anybody in this building, whether you're me or a reporter or some other visitor, who has a classified cable is not allowed to leave the building with it except under appropriate security procedures, and it's our guards' responsibility to make sure that people don't do that," Mr. Boucher said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld renewed his warning that leaks of classified information, which "we continue to see on a daily basis," are damaging national security.

See "Rumsfeld Says Leaks to Media Aid Al Qaeda," by Esther Schrader in the July 16 Los Angeles Times:

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

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