SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 105
October 23, 2002

NO NEW "LEAK" STATUTE NEEDED, SAYS ASHCROFT

No new legislation is needed to combat unauthorized disclosures ("leaks") of classified information, according to the long-awaited report of an interagency task force led by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

However, strong new administrative measures to discourage leaks should be adopted, coupled with aggressive investigation of violations and vigorous enforcement of existing laws, the task force report said.

Two years ago, Senator Richard Shelby had proposed a new statute that criminalized all disclosures of classified information, to supplement the patchwork of current statutes that apply only to particular categories of classified information. Congress adopted the proposal in the 2001 intelligence authorization act, but President Clinton vetoed the legislation in November 2000 at the urging of press and public interest organizations, who derided the measure, somewhat inaccurately, as an "official secrets act."

Any such comprehensive anti-disclosure legislation would not significantly enhance the government's ability to deter leaks or identify leakers, Mr. Ashcroft concluded:

But, he said, "a wide range of administrative measures" should be activated "to significantly improve our capacity to stem the practice of unauthorized disclosures of classified information."

These notably would include an amended non-disclosure agreement signed by all authorized recipients of classified information that "sets out liquidated damages" in the event of a finding that the person leaked information; and a requirement that a suspected leaker certify under penalty of perjury that he or she had not engaged in a particular unauthorized disclosure.

The Attorney General's Task Force Report on Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information was transmitted to Congress on October 22. A copy of the report, obtained courtesy of Scott Armstrong, is posted here:


FRUS ON US POLICY TOWARDS VIETNAM, 1967

The latest volume of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS] series documents the evolution of US policy towards Vietnam in the fateful year 1967.

"The volume covers a broad range of topics and themes, the foremost of which is the U.S. effort to explore a possible negotiated settlement of the war," according to the preface by State Historian Marc J. Susser. "Another major theme of the volume is the military intensification of the war effort to force the enemy to accept a peace settlement."

The CIA opposed references in the new FRUS volume to US covert support for certain electoral candidates in South Vietnam and the covert support of a political party to support President Thieu. But upon appeal to the interagency High Level Panel, the relevant documentation was included in excised form, which also provides other new intelligence-related records.

"Though it appears to me that the war is by no means over and there are certainly fragile elements in the overall picture," wrote William Colby, then CIA Far East Division chief, on July 25, 1967, "it is very clear that my Soviet or Chinese counterpart's report must exhibit great concern over the Viet Cong's mounting problems and the steady improvement in the ability of both the South Vietnamese and the Americans to fight a people's war. My counterpart can quite properly ascribe a substantial share of responsibility for both Communist problems and anti-Communist improvement to the activities of our Vietnam Station." (Document 254)

The full text of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967, published on October 11, is posted here:


CYBERCEMETERY OFFERS DEFUNCT AGENCY ARCHIVE

The University of North Texas and the US Government Printing Office have established a new web site, nicknamed the "cybercemetery," to provide "permanent public access to the electronic web sites and publications of defunct US government agencies and commissions." See:

The site was reported in "Just Like the Day They Died: Texas Library Preserves Remains of Defunct Agencies," by Christopher Lee in the October 21 Washington Post:

A grim survey of documentary treasures around the world that have been lost due to deliberate acts of destruction, or through incidental, accidental or natural damage was provided in a 1996 UNESCO report.

See "Lost Memory -- Libraries and Archives Destroyed in the Twentieth Century" here (thanks to MR):


NEW CHINESE EXPORT REGULATIONS

Over the past week, the People's Republic of China has adopted a flurry of new regulations governing exports of certain military products, chemicals and dual-use biological materials.

"China has always attached great importance to non-proliferation export control and continues to improve relevant legal systems on the basis of domestic policies and through studying other countries' practices," according to a Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.

The texts of several of the latest regulations are posted here:


CIA-NASA COLD WAR COOPERATION

Historical interactions between the CIA and NASA were the subject of a paper presented by space policy expert Dwayne Day at last week's World Space Congress. See "CIA and NASA Linked During Cold War Space Race" by Leonard David here:


UFO CULT RESURFACES

The UFO cult that is fixated on the notion that "secret government documents" contain "the truth" about otherwise "unexplained aerial phenomena" is, on balance, no friend of freedom of information or government accountability.

Neverending requests for documentation on UFOs, the remains of Noah's Ark, and similar obsessions clog up the narrow channels of public access to government information and make a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act.

Their latest publicity stunt, featuring no less than former White House chief of staff John Podesta, is reported in "Clinton Aide Slams Pentagon's UFO Secrecy" here:

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

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