SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 17
February 26, 2003

SHAKING HANDS WITH SADDAM

Is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld an evildoer? If not, then what is he doing shaking hands with Saddam Hussein?

An innocent person might be forgiven for asking such questions upon seeing a striking photograph of Rumsfeld making nice with the Iraqi dictator in 1983.

In a "debate" over U.S. policy towards Iraq that depends largely on facile slogans and self-dramatization, the Rumsfeld photograph is a discordant reminder that the official version of events is a partial account at best.

The photo is among the neglected resources of the not too distant past that were unearthed and published by the National Security Archive yesterday.

The new Archive collection, edited by Joyce Battle, helps fill in gaps in the record, documenting U.S. partnership with Iraq in its 1980-88 war against Iran and the acquiescence of U.S. officials, including some current Bush Administration figures, in Iraqi abuses. See:

"It would be nice... if prominent Bush officials acknowledged their past moral culpability," wrote The New Republic's Peter Beinart, who favors military action against Iraq, in the February 24 issue of that magazine. "Rumsfeld should have trouble sleeping at night given his role in abetting Saddam's crimes."

But obviously it was never Rumsfeld's intent to abet Saddam's crimes. That, in a way, is the point. A fuller account of the record of U.S. policy toward Iraq provides grounds for healthy skepticism about political ends and means, including the ability of the United States to militarily compel Iraqi disarmament without incurring significant unintended consequences.

Last year, Senator Robert Byrd discussed the Reagan Administration's transfer to Iraq of biological agents including anthrax, bubonic plague and many others, and placed supporting documentation in the Congressional Record on September 20:


POWELL: US "NOT PROUD" OF 1973 CHILE COUP

The 1973 CIA covert action against Chile's President Salvador Allende "is not a part of American history that we're proud of," said Secretary of State Colin Powell last week in another occasion for reflection on how U.S. foreign policy can go astray.

The Secretary's remark came in response to a question from a student at a forum broadcast by Black Entertainment Television on February 20.

"With respect to ... what happened with Mr. Allende, it is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Powell said. "We now have a more accountable way of handling such matters and we have worked with Chile to help it put in place a responsible democracy." See:

The statement met with intense interest in Chile, eliciting reactions ranging from appreciation to contempt. See, for example, "Gobierno alaba reconocimiento de Powell," El Mercurio, February 22:


REPORT ON FISA IMPLEMENTATION

Oversight and implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the law that governs domestic surveillance of persons who are suspected agents of foreign powers or international terrorists, have been hampered by inappropriate secrecy, according to a new Senate report.

"The secrecy of individual FISA cases is certainly necessary, but this secrecy has been extended to the most basic legal and procedural aspects of the FISA, which should not be secret. This unnecessary secrecy contributed to the deficiencies that have hamstrung the implementation of the FISA. Much more information, including all unclassified opinions and operating rules of the FISA Court and Court of Review, should be made public and/or provided to the Congress," said the bipartisan report, jointly authored by Senators Arlen Specter, Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley.

See "FISA Implementation Failures: Interim Report on FBI Oversight in the 107th Congress by the Senate Judiciary Committee" here:

The Senators introduced a new bill, the "Domestic Surveillance Oversight Act of 2003," to increase official FISA reporting requirements. The text of the bill (S. 436), along with introductory statements, and supporting materials introduced into the Congressional Record, may be found here:


FISA AND THE PATRIOT ACT

The Justice Department has continued to slowly respond to congressional questions about the implementation of the USA Patriot Act. The latest installment of official responses, dated December 23, 2002, focused on the changes that were made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the Patriot Act.

The answers, which are often evasive but occasionally interesting, are contained in three letters from Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant to Senators Leahy and Feingold. The letters, which seem to have gone completely unremarked, may be found here:

Out of a series of 93 questions for the record posed by Congress over the past year concerning the implementation of the USA Patriot Act, the Justice Department has now answered 56. Thirty-seven questions remain unanswered.


STATE HISTORICAL ADVISORY COMM MINUTES

The minutes of the December 2002 meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee meeting were approved for release this week. The minutes, which provide some interesting gossip and the odd tidbit of information regarding declassification of historical records, may be found here:


PSYOPS: LEAFLETING IRAQ

U.S. Central Command has published a gallery of leaflets that the U.S. military has dropped on Iraq from November 2002 through as recently as this week.

The leaflets include verbal messages (e.g., "Military fiber optic cables have been targeted for destruction. Repairing them places your life at risk.") together with graphic illustrations.

See the CENTCOM Leaflet Gallery here (thanks to MJR):

The U.S. military's psychological operations campaign against Iraq was described in "Firing Leaflets and Electrons, U.S. Wages Information War" by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, February 24:


UPDATE ON INTEL BUDGET (NON-)DISCLOSURE

Following a series of postponements, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency seeking declassification and disclosure of the total intelligence budget figure for 2002 is now inching forward.

The CIA indicated last week that it will file a motion for summary judgment, including classified and unclassified declarations to support dismissal of the case, on March 20. The Federation of American Scientists, which favors declassification, will respond a month later, and the Agency will reply a month after that.

The continued classification of the intelligence budget total is perhaps the most enduring example of unwarranted national security secrecy. Exposing and correcting this erroneous practice could have an important salutary effect on classification policy generally, or so we believe.


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

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