SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 126
December 23, 2002

FBI FILES ON NAZI WAR CRIMES TRANSFERRED

The Federal Bureau of Investigation transferred to the National Archives a vast quantity of historical records on hundreds of topics broadly related to Nazi war crimes earlier this year in compliance with the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act.

A list of the file topics, obtained by researcher Michael Ravnitzky, suggests that this will be a resource of considerable historical value if it survives the declassification process.

The transferred records must still undergo review by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department Office of Special Investigations. Also, prior to release, some of the more physically fragile records will have to be placed in protective wrappers.

The list of FBI records not only offers a preview into this collection but will also provide a useful indication of what records are ultimately withheld from disclosure. See the September 10, 2002 list here (thanks to MJR and MK):

A parallel collection of FBI records concerning Japanese war crimes during World War II has also been transferred to the National Archives, according to the October 2002 minutes of the Archives' Interagency Working Group, but no comparable listing of its contents has yet been released.


SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY PANELS GET HOMOGENIZED

The Bush Administration is subjecting its own scientific advisory panels to unprecedented ideological scrutiny, critics say, yielding an unusually homogenous groups of advisors who tend to produce predictable advice.

See "Advisors Put Under a Microscope" by Aaron Zitner, Los Angeles Times, December 23:


NEW VISA RESTRICTIONS IMPEDE US SCIENCE

It would be surprising if the attenuated deliberative process that led to adoption of the USA Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and other new security policies did not have undesired negative consequences. After all, anticipating such outcomes is a large part of the purpose of prior deliberations which normally ought to embrace diverse critical voices.

Now those undesired negative effects are starting to surface, in one domain and another.

"Recent efforts by our government to constrain the flow of international visitors in the name of national security are having serious unintended consequences for American science, engineering, and medicine," according to a December 13 statement from the presidents of the National Academies of Science and Engineering.

"The evidence we have collected from the U.S. scientific community reveals that ongoing research collaborations have been hampered; that outstanding young scientists, engineers, and health researchers have been prevented from or delayed in entering this country; that important international conferences have been canceled or negatively impacted; and that such conferences will be moved out of the United States in the future if the situation is not corrected. Prompt action is needed."

See "Visa Delays Blasted" by William Schulz in Chemical and Engineering News, December 23 (which includes a link to the NAS statement) here:


MUCH SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY ALREADY IN PLACE

"In the Pentagon research effort to detect terrorism by electronically monitoring the civilian population, the most remarkable detail may be this: Most of the pieces of the system are already in place."

See "Many Tools of Big Brother are Up and Running," by John Markoff and John Schwartz, New York Times, December 23:

Of course, increased surveillance does not translate directly into increased security. The basic premise of the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness initiative -- that future terrorist activity could be discerned within the mass of all transactional data -- remains unproven and intrinsically dubious.

The White House has received 9,000 faxes complaining about the Total Information Awareness program, according to a report in the Washington Times' Insight magazine today.


CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF SURVEILLANCE

If there is to be effective oversight of the Bush Administration's burgeoning surveillance activity, much of it will have to come from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department, the FBI, and the legislative underpinnings of government surveillance.

But the impending shift in committee chairmanship from Senator Patrick Leahy to Senator Orrin Hatch will inevitably mean a change in the committee's public profile and a diminution of its critical stance towards the Administration.

See "Judiciary Panel Adds Surveillance Oversight" by Brian Krebs, WashingtonPost.com, December 23:

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

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