SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 103
October 18, 2002

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE USA PATRIOT ACT

Last year's controversial anti-terrorism law known as the USA PATRIOT Act has "enabled the Government to respond more efficiently and effectively to the terrorist threats against us," the Justice Department said in a voluminous response to questions from the House Judiciary Committee on implementation of the Act.

The response, released yesterday by the Committee, provides new information on diverse aspects of the complex law including foreign intelligence surveillance, detention of immigrants suspected of terrorism, the sharing of grand jury information with intelligence agencies, and dozens of other topics.

(The Department even mentions the nearly forgotten, undelivered report to Congress on "leaks" of classified information that was due last May 1: "On April 29, 2002, the Attorney General tendered his report on unauthorized disclosures of classified information for Administration clearance. Once cleared through the multi-agency process, the report will be submitted to the Congress." This has not yet happened.)

Some of the Justice Department answers are oblique or unsatisfactory. For example, the number of court orders to compel disclosure of records from a public library, bookstore, or newspaper, if any, is said to be classified. This is hard to understand, particularly since the number of (FISA) court orders for search and surveillance of suspected foreign spies or terrorists is not classified.

The text of the Justice Department response to Congress is posted here:

Information on USA PATRIOT Act implementation that has been withheld from public disclosure is being sought in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. A critical perspective on the USA PATRIOT Act may be found here:


A CANDID STATEMENT FROM NSA

National Security Agency Director Michael V. Hayden presented an unusually frank statement about his normally reticent agency in an appearance yesterday before the congressional Joint Inquiry on September 11. It was, he said, "one of the few times in the history of my Agency that the Director has testified in open session about operational matters."

He outlined "how SIGINT is done" and described the challenges facing his agency in the global environment, in recruiting, and in resources.

He acknowledged the limitations of NSA performance while defending the agency from some of the specific charges leveled against it in connection with September 11. He also called for public guidance on the proper balance between security and civil liberties.

"I am not really helped by being reminded that I need more Arabic linguists or by someone second-guessing an obscure intercept sitting in our files that may make more sense today than it did two years ago," he told the joint congressional committee.

"What I really need you to do is to talk to your constituents and find out where the American people want that line between security and liberty to be."

The text of Gen. Hayden's prepared statement is here:


DCI TENET AND INTELLIGENCE FUNDING

In his lengthy prepared statement before the congressional Joint Inquiry yesterday, DCI George Tenet elaborated on the emergence of the al-Qa'ida threat.

But at one point he also lamented that "during the 1990s our Intelligence community funding declined in real terms - reducing our buying power by tens of billions of dollars over the decade. We lost nearly one in four of our positions. This loss of manpower was devastating."

Arguably, this drop in intelligence spending was exacerbated by the fact that the intelligence budget is classified. As Senator John Glenn pointed out at the time, budget secrecy enabled defense appropriators to raid the intelligence budget with impunity and left proponents of increased intelligence spending effectively silenced. If so, it would be one more mismatch between national security secrecy and actual national security.

DCI Tenet's October 17 statement is here:

A newly declassified version of a statement presented by DCI Tenet at a closed hearing on June 18 is posted here:


FOIA ACTIVITY HIT RECORD HIGH IN 2001

"The total number of Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act access requests received by all federal departments and agencies during fiscal year 2001 was 2,246,212," which is a record high, according to a new Justice Department summary of agency annual reports.

The government-wide backlog of pending requests at the end of the year was 177,969, which is a 5% increase over the previous year.

The Department of Energy reported the longest median processing time of any agency, a withering 2009 days.

Total costs of implementing the Freedom of Information Act throughout all federal agencies was $287,792,041.08.

See the "Summary of Annual FOIA Reports for Fiscal Year 2001" prepared by the Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy here:

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

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