SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 97
October 2, 2002

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE TEST

The Central Intelligence Agency's refusal to declassify the intelligence budget totals from 1947 and 1948 -- on grounds that to do so could supposedly damage national security -- has a significance far beyond the limited historical interest of the budget figures themselves.

The function of intelligence is to anticipate and assess threats to the national security. So when an intelligence agency makes such a radical error in judgment about a national security threat, it is failing in its primary mission.

It remains unclear whether CIA officials honestly believe that publication of the 1947 and 1948 budget totals could damage the security of the United States, in which case they are remarkably incompetent, or whether they are simply using bogus national security claims to evade the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, in which case they are acting in bad faith and in violation of the law.

Either way, the dispute serves as a reminder that CIA threat assessments are not intrinsically reliable and must be scrutinized for bureaucratic self-interest.

A Federation of American Scientists lawsuit seeking to compel declassification of intelligence budget information was spotlighted in a Washington Post editorial today entitled "Central Intelligence Test":


INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY ANNUAL REPORT

The Director of Central Intelligence quietly issued "The 2001 Annual Report of the United States Intelligence Community" last month.

The report, dated February 2002 and stealthily published in early September, acknowledges "the catastrophic events of 11 September 2001" but does not include anything resembling the phrase "intelligence failure."

The unclassified report surveys the diverse activities of the intelligence community's component agencies in supporting national policymakers, military operations, law enforcement and counterintelligence.

Along with a generous amount of boilerplate, the new report includes a number of interesting observations and a few new details of intelligence agency operations.

See "The 2001 Annual Report of the United States Intelligence Community" here:

The National Intelligence Council, which is distinguished by its open interaction with researchers outside of the intelligence community, continues to produce useful and interesting publications including, most recently, these:

"The Next Wave of HIV/AIDS: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, India, and China," September 2002:

"Workshop on Information Technology in Africa," May 2002 (3MB PDF file):


JOINT INQUIRY ON INFORMATION SHARING

"The U.S. government spends about $50 billion per year on information technology, but the systems purchased are not compatible between the agencies of the federal government, or with state and local entities," observed Eleanor Hill, staff director of the congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11.

The assorted obstacles to the effective sharing of vital security information leading up to September 11 were explored in Ms. Hill's October 1 testimony on "Counterterrorism Information Sharing With Other Federal Agencies and with State and Local Governments and the Private Sector," available here:

Other testimony from the October 1 hearing on this vital topic, including a statement for the record from the General Accounting Office, may be found here:

"The intelligence oversight process certainly has its 'moments' (one of which is right now), but its overall performance seems designed to protect a dinosaur," writes Russ Baker in a critical review of congressional oversight of intelligence. See his article "Chill on the Hill" in the October 14 issue of The Nation here:


NEW RESOURCES FROM THE JUSTICE DEPT

A new Justice Department Inspector General report finds that "The FBI has never performed a comprehensive written assessment of the risk of the terrorist threat facing the United States. Such an assessment would be useful not only to define the nature, likelihood, and severity of the threat but also to identify intelligence gaps that needed to be addressed." See the report's unclassified executive summary here:

The FBI responded to the new Inspector General report in an October 1 press statement here:

Attorney General John Ashcroft engaged the critics of his Department's policies in a defiant speech to a U.S. Attorney's conference on October 1. "The critics call for a return to a culture of inhibition, which, in fact, existed prior to September 11, 2001. It was a culture whose law gave terrorists a technological advantage over law enforcement," he said. See:

A considerable number of significant and interesting judicial decisions in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits were issued in the last three months. See "New FOIA Decisions, July-September 2002" published by the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy:


TWO FACES OF ISLAM

"I want to live among Muslims for a good long time, especially where their faith is most devout," Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in a March 13, 1881 letter. "In this way I expect to hone my appraisement and my eye for all that is European."

The philosopher never realized this surprising plan. But in a somewhat similar maneuver of distancing, immersion and altered perspective, journalist Stephen Schwartz went to live in the Islamic communities of the Balkans for several years and came away with an unfashionable love for Islamic tradition and the possibilities it offers for human greatness.

From this vantage point, he also became a fierce critic of Wahhabism, the influential puritanical strain of Islam sponsored by the Saudi government and linked through radical clerics to extremism and violence.

Schwartz makes his provocative case in a new book entitled "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud From Tradition to Terror." The book's political valence may be gauged from the fact that it carries admiring blurbs from both William Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Christopher Hitchens, formerly of The Nation.

For more information, see:

Secrecy News welcomes review copies of new books on non-UFO-related topics.

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

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