SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 9
February 4, 2003

COLUMBIA AND NASA INFO POLICY

NASA's investigation of the fiery disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1 has been marked to date by a degree of candor and responsiveness that contrasts sharply with the agency's handling of the 1986 Challenger disaster.

"We're still poring over a lot of data," noted Shuttle program director Roger Dittemore at a remarkably detailed press briefing on February 2 adding, with uncommon humility, "It's certainly possible that we'll contradict ourselves from day to day."

NASA has established a web site to "collect and distribute information about the crew, the mission, and the ongoing investigation" here:


HOMELAND SECURITY AND FOIA

"The Freedom of Information Act language [in the Homeland Security Act] has got to be clarified," said Senator Carl Levin at the January 17 confirmation hearing of Tom Ridge to be the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. "We are denying the public unclassified information in the current law which should not be denied to the public."

Furthermore, Senator Levin said, "There could be some very unintended consequences there, which could give protections for wrongdoing that threaten our health and environment which we should not be giving to wrongdoers."

In response, Governor Ridge expressed a willingness to correct the problem. "It certainly wasn't the intent, I'm sure, of those who advocated the Freedom of Information Act exemption to give wrongdoers protection or to protect illegal activity," he said. "And I'll certainly work with you to clarify that language." See:

Senator Levin reiterated his concerns on January 22 when the Senate voted to confirm Gov. Ridge, and added: "I am hopeful that Governor Ridge will help us to remedy some of the FOIA problems caused by the Homeland Security Act and restore the bipartisan compromise worked out in our committee." See:

Meanwhile, the Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy provided an interpretation of the requirements of the Homeland Security FOIA exemption in a January 27 posting here:


USS PUEBLO MOBILIZED FOR PROPAGANDA WAR

As tensions between the United States and North Korea have escalated in connection with the DPRK's nuclear weapons program, both sides have invoked the U.S.S. Pueblo, the American intelligence vessel that was attacked and captured by North Korea in 1968.

In case anyone had forgotten, the North Korean Central News Agency boasted on January 20 that "The spy ship Pueblo, a trophy captured by Korean seamen from the U.S. imperialists, is on display on the river Taedong in Pyongyang." See:

In Washington, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell reintroduced his resolution from last year demanding the return of the Pueblo to the U.S. Navy.

"It is important to note that even to this day the capture of the USS Pueblo has resulted in no reprisal against North Korea, demonstrating remarkable restraint by the United States," Senator Campbell said on January 29. See:


DOD BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS MAY GO TO OPM

Background investigations that are conducted in support of security clearances at the Department of Defense may soon be performed by Office of Personnel Management (OPM) instead of the Pentagon's Defense Security Service.

See "OPM - DoD Announce Consolidation of Background Investigation Services," February 3:

The Defense Department personnel security program has suffered for years from huge backlogs, management problems, and related defects that cumulatively cast doubt on the integrity of the security clearance system.

Under Secretary of Defense Dov Zakheim explained the move as a way to eliminate needless redundancy at a February 3 press briefing:

"We [DOD] do security clearances. The Office of Personnel Management does security clearances. Sometimes they both do them at the same time for the same people. I was one. I had investigators coming to see me within several days of each other. And they went to their bosses and said, 'Why are we both wasting the government's money and the taxpayers' money interviewing the same guy? His address hasn't changed in two days.' And the answer was, because you have to. We're trying to move that out to the Office of Personnel Management," Zakheim said.


NEW RELEASES AND ACQUISITIONS

The early history of the National Reconnaissance Office is examined in new detail by Jeffrey T. Richelson in a National Security Archive monograph entitled "Civilians, Spies, and Blue Suits: The Bureaucratic War for Control of Overhead Reconnaissance, 1961-1965" here:

In recent years, a more standardized classified document marking system has been adopted by U.S. intelligence and defense agencies. The development and application of that system are described in "Intelligence Community Classification and Control Markings Implementation," a 1.5 MB PowerPoint document available here (thanks to B):

Director of Central Intelligence Directive (DCID) 6/9 on "Physical Security Standards for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities" was adopted on November 18, 2002, and replaces the former DCID 1/21. A copy is available here:

Senators John Edwards and Charles Schumer last week introduced a bill to provide access to classified information on terrorist threats to qualified State and local government personnel. See S. 266, the "Antiterrorism Intelligence Distribution Act of 2003," here:

"Left-wing extremism continues... to be a potential threat to U.S. government agencies," according to an assessment performed for the Department of Energy Office of Safeguards and Security in April 2001. See "Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat" here (thanks to MJR):

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

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