SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 6
January 15, 2003

COURT IMPOSES PRISON TERM FOR LEAKING

An employee of the Drug Enforcement Administration has been convicted of theft of government property for leaking confidential but unclassified government information to the London Times. A federal district judge in Atlanta sentenced Jonathan Randel to a one-year prison sentence for the offense.

See "DEA Employee Gets Prison Term for Leaking to Reporter," by R. Robin McDonald, Fulton County Daily Report, January 15:

"The judge's sentence on this man is monstrous," said Alastair Brett, legal adviser to the London Times, quoted in the London Guardian. "Journalists talk to all sorts of people like MI5, MI6, Customs, and we don't expect them to be banged up for it. We did pay money to Mr. Randel but it was a research fee."

The prosecuting attorney in the case said that the action was consistent with the recent recommendations of Attorney General Ashcroft's task force on unauthorized disclosures (of classified information) that called for aggressive action to stem leaks. That task force report may be found here:


SENATORS FUME OVER PENTAGON STRYKER DECISION

In another eruption of Congressional anger at Pentagon high-handedness, two Senators wrote to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz last week to complain about his unilateral action to restructure the Stryker combat brigade program.

"Mr. Secretary, your action on the Stryker brigades is yet another disregard of the Congress, and existing law, by the senior leadership of the Defense Department," wrote Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Ted Stevens of the Senate Appropriations Committee on January 6.

"In this post 9-11 world, the Congress and Executive Branch need to be able to work together in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. We find your repeated actions, from the initial recommendations on the Unified Command Plan, to the cancellation of the Crusader Progam, and now this action on the Stryker brigades, demonstrate an unwillingness by the Defense Department leadership to work with congress in a partnership," they wrote. See:


IN CONGRESS

Sen. Jon Corzine reintroduced the Chemical Security Act of 2003, intended to increase the security of thousands of industrial facilities that use toxic chemicals. Among other things, the bill would exempt certain information on site vulnerabilities from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

"I don't take FOIA exemptions lightly," Sen. Corzine said. "I believe strongly that, in general, the public has a right to information collected by the government. But I think it's pretty obvious that in the case of the information that would be submitted to the government under this bill, the vulnerability assessments and response plans, we simply can't allow the security details in these plans to be publicly available." See:

Sen. Pat Roberts, the incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke out January 14 in defense of the bipartisan character of the Committee staff, even though a sharper division into majority and minority staffs might superficially serve the interests of his own party.

"I think any proposal to split the committee or increase the numbers of strictly partisan staff would represent a break with tradition," he said. "I think it would not be in the best interests of the committee, of the Senate, or of our national security." See:


REHNQUIST ON FOIA (1969)

When Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was Assistant Attorney General in 1969, he co-authored what may have been the first Justice Department policy guidance on Freedom of Information Act policy.

He urged greater agency consultation with the Justice Department so as to minimize the likelihood that the government would lose FOIA lawsuits.

"Although the legal basis for denying a particular request under the [Freedom of Information] Act may seem quite strong to an agency at the time it elects finally to refuse access to the requested records, the justification may appear considerably less strong when later viewed, in the context of adversary litigation, from the detached perspective of a court and from the standpoint of the broad public policy of the Act."

The Rehnquist memo, which is merely a curiosity that has no binding effect today, may be found here:

Even in the past, the Justice Department has rarely declined to defend an agency's denial of a FOIA request. But under the October 2001 Ashcroft memorandum on FOIA policy, which is the latest in a series of successors to the Rehnquist memo, the Department virtually promises to defend any denial of a FOIA request, no matter how absurd the agency position may be.

Have Justice Department attorneys lost all sense of reality? No, a Department official told Secrecy News. Any such criticism reflects "a lack of understanding of the nature and timing of the process by which the Department of Justice might ultimately refuse to defend a client agency, not to mention the rarity of such a step overall."

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

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