SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 23
March 18, 2003

NRO WANTS TO "KNOW EVERYTHING"

"Our goal is transparency," said Peter B. Teets, director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which develops, launches and operates the nation's spy satellites.

"We want the ability to see everything and know everything, while simultaneously denying our adversaries both the ability to do the same, and the knowledge that such capabilities are being used against them."

These are busy days for U.S. military space programs. "We have 12 national security space launches scheduled for 2003, compared to only one conducted in 2002," said Mr. Teets at a March 12 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With increasing bandwidth and decreasing classification restrictions, "We have made great progress over the decades in expanding the range of those exploiting these space capabilities from a small set of strategic users to multiple government agencies and virtually the entire warfighting force," Teets said. "But we need to do more."

Mr. Teets, who is also an Under Secretary of the Air Force, provided a rare public description of Air Force "offensive counterspace" (OCS) programs for disabling other countries' satellites.

"We currently have two OCS projects underway. The first is the Counter Communication System (CCS), a capability intended to disrupt satellite-based communications used by an enemy for military C3, and scheduled for first delivery in FY04. The second is the Counter Surveillance Reconnaissance System (CSRS), intended to impair an enemy's ability to obtain targeting, battle damage assessment, and information by denying their use of satellite imagery with reversible, non-damaging effects. CSRS is currently in the initial design phase, with operational units scheduled by FY07," Mr. Teets testified.

See the prepared testimony of Peter B. Teets from the March 12 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing here:

Other testimony from that hearing on national security space programs may be found here:

"We are so dominant in space that I pity a country that would come up against us," said Air Force director of space operations Major General Judd Blaisdell at a March 12 Air Force press briefing on military space. See:


FOIA IMPLEMENTATION IN DISARRAY

The federal government's infrastructure for processing Freedom of Information Act requests is in "extreme disarray," according to a study conducted by the National Security Archive.

"Agency contact information on the web was often inaccurate; response times largely failed to meet the statutory standard; only a few agencies performed thorough searches including e-mail and meeting notes; and the lack of central accountability at the agencies resulted in lost requests and inability to track progress," the Archive found.

Among other things, the report provides some empirical data on the impact of the October 2001 Ashcroft memorandum on FOIA policy, finding that most agencies did not alter their FOIA procedures in response.

See the March 14 National Security Archive assessment here:


HOMEFRONT CONFIDENTIAL

A new study from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press examines "how the war on terrorism affects access to information and the public's right to know."

Beginning with a comprehensive chronology of official actions to curtail public access to government information since September 11, the study discusses a spectrum of issues affecting freedom of the press and public access.

See the March 2003 report entitled "Homefront Confidential" here:


IN CONGRESS

The "Freedom to Read Protection Act" (HR 1157) would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to exempt libraries and bookstores from any requirement to comply with foreign intelligence investigations. The new bill would "protect libraries, bookstores and their patrons from unjustified government surveillance into what books Americans are reading and buying, and what websites they may be visiting when using a library computer," said Rep. Bernie Sanders, the bill's principal sponsor. See:

The "Military Tribunals Act of 2003" would replace the Bush Administration's military commissions, that were established unilaterally by executive order, with statutorily-based military tribunals. The bill (HR 1290), introduced March 13 and sponsored by Reps. Adam Schiff, Barney Frank and others, would "preserve the basic rights of habeus corpus, appeal, and due process," Rep. Schiff said. See:


IN THE NEWS

The state of government secrecy policy was critically surveyed at a March 14 conference sponsored by the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center on the occasion of National Freedom of Information Day. See "Press Not Spotlighting Government Secrecy 'Cloak'" by Harry F. Rosenthal, March 17:

The awkward attempts to integrate intelligence, domestic surveillance and homeland security functions are reviewed in "Intelligence reorganization spotlights fabled FBI-CIA rift" by Drew Clark, National Journal Technology Daily, March 17:

The shocking claim that the 1953 Supreme Court ruling which established the "state secrets" privilege was based on false government affidavits is updated in the newsletter Inside the Air Force, which notes that the privilege was recently invoked to block a whistleblower lawsuit alleging fraud in the missile defense program. See "Supreme Court Filing Claims Air Force, Government Fraud in 1953" by Hampton Stephens, Inside the Air Force, March 14, reposted with permission here:

******************************

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

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to [email protected] with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to [email protected].

OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/index.html