SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 92
September 23, 2002

THE PENTAGON'S TOP TEN PRIORITIES

The Pentagon's hands are tied by all kinds of annoying laws that need to be changed, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained a few days ago.

"Every week it seems, a senior official in this Department tells me we are constrained in our ability to do something by an obsolete legal provision. Similarly, I often hear of initiatives we would like to take, but for which we need additional authority," Secretary Rumsfeld wrote in a September 17 memo to senior Pentagon officials.

Rumsfeld encouraged Pentagon officials to identify and request appropriate changes in the law.

Rumsfeld's memo, obtained by Secrecy News, sets forth the Defense Department's top ten priorities for the coming year, including "successfully pursue the global war on terrorism" and "optimize intelligence capabilities."

A copy of the September 17 memo on "Legislative Priorities for Fiscal Year 2004" is posted here:


MORE SEPTEMBER 11 OVERSIGHT HEARINGS

The Joint House-Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry into September 11 continues to yield substantive new information concerning the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to effectively anticipate an attack on the United States.

The second report by Joint Inquiry staff director Eleanor Hill is packed with remarkable details -- e.g., there are 70,000 suspected terrorists on the U.S. government's "watchlist" -- and it illuminates the government's failure to communicate and act on the intelligence that was obtained.

Although the Joint Inquiry has yet to formulate any recommendations, the good news is that many of the specified failures should be susceptible to policy solutions.

Ms. Hill's September 20 report, entitled "The Intelligence Community's Knowledge of the September 11 Hijackers Prior to September 11, 2001" is available here:

Other testimony from the September 20 hearing is posted here:


JUSTICE DEPT INFORMATION SHARING INITIATIVES

"Information sharing" is the order of the day, at least within the executive branch.

The Justice Department has undertaken dozens of initiatives to promote interagency cooperation, as well as information sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies, according to a September 19 fact sheet.

The Justice Department fact sheet, entitled "Overview of Information Sharing Initiatives in the War on Terrorism," is posted here:

The Department's recognition of the value of information sharing does not seem to extend to sharing with the general public. In what may be the most absurd Freedom of Information Act case now pending in federal court, the Justice Department is still defending a CIA claim that declassification of the intelligence budget total from 1947 would damage U.S. national security and compromise intelligence sources and methods. The 1997 budget total was declassified five years ago.


NIMA DECLASSIFIES MORE HISTORICAL IMAGERY

In a coda to the ambitious declassification initiatives of the past Administration, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency last week declassified some 50,000 intelligence satellite images obtained in the 1960s and 1970s, pursuant to President Clinton's 1995 executive order 12951.

"We embrace the spirit of declassification but we remain diligent in protecting our capabilities," said NIMA Deputy Director Joanne O. Isham, as she symbolically transferred the 4,000 rolls of film to Assistant National Archivist Michael J. Kurtz at a September 20 conference at the University of Maryland.

"Take the risk of declassifying even more of your imagery," urged former Senator Bob Kerrey in an eloquent keynote address. "The public could benefit enormously from further declassification." As a Senator, Kerrey helped to initiate the imagery declassification program and to allocate funding for it.

NIMA has posted historical background on overhead reconnaissance, answers to frequently asked questions, and information about accessing the newly declassified imagery here:

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

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