SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 30
April 7, 2003

TENET RESISTS INTELLIGENCE BUDGET DISCLOSURE

On the eve of war March 19, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet paused to sign a 28 page statement opposing declassification of the Fiscal Year 2002 intelligence budget total.

"I have determined ... that the FY 2002 intelligence community aggregate budget figure must be withheld because its disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security and would tend to reveal intelligence sources and methods," DCI Tenet concluded.

The Tenet declaration was filed in D.C. District Court on April 4 as part of a government motion to dismiss a Federation of American Scientists lawsuit to compel release of the 2002 budget figure. The government motion and the Tenet declaration may be found here:

Ordinarily, this would be the end of the matter, since Freedom of Information Act case law in the D.C. District generally dictates that courts defer to agency heads such as the Director of Central Intelligence in disputes over national security information. There is, however, an exception to this rule for "contrary record evidence" or "evidence of agency bad faith."

In this case, there is evidence that DCI Tenet has grossly misrepresented the significance of the aggregate budget total. Briefly put, the aggregate figure is an artificial construct that has no intelligence significance or sensitivity whatsoever. It is a composite of several distinct budget categories (i.e., NFIP, JMIP and TIARA) that are independently generated, authorized and appropriated. As a result, its disclosure could have no adverse consequences on national security or intelligence sources and methods, as the declassification of the 1997 and 1998 budget totals demonstrated in practice.

Evidence to rebut the DCI's declaration will be presented in a reply to the government motion that is due on May 5.


MORE BUDGET SECRECY

The Bush Administration is audaciously pushing budget secrecy into new precincts of the congressional appropriations process where it had previously been unheard of.

"In what members said was an unprecedented move, Bush asked for the $2.5 billion [postwar Iraq] reconstruction fund to be appropriated to the White House itself," the Washington Post reported. "A memo prepared by senior GOP staff for the House Appropriations Committee noted that the arrangement would erect a 'wall of executive privilege [that] would deny Congress and the Committee access to the management of the Fund. Decision-makers determining the allocation . . . could not be called as witnesses before hearings, and most fiscal data would be beyond the Committee's reach'."

See "U.S. Plan For Iraq's Future Is Challenged: Pentagon Control, Secrecy Questioned," by Karen DeYoung and Dan Morgan, Washington Post, April 6:

Meanwhile, routine budget justification documents are being inexplicably withheld from congressional appropriators, provoking anger even among Republican lawmakers who are sympathetic to the Administration.

Last week, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) abruptly adjourned a hearing of a House Appropriations Subcommittee because the requisite documents had not been delivered, Jim McGee reported in CQ Homeland Security, published by Congressional Quarterly, on April 4.

"The unusual display of resentment by Rogers, a respected Republican loyalist who takes pride in his congenial but businesslike review of agency budgets, brought to the surface weeks of tension on Capitol Hill over the legislative tactics of the Bush Administration," Mr. McGee wrote.

"We need those [budget] justifications to perform our Constitutional duty," said Rep. Rogers before terminating the hearing.


BEYOND THE BALANCING TEST

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, presents a first-rate account of the recent evolution of government secrecy and the challenges of the present moment in a new paper entitled "Beyond the Balancing Test: National Security and Open Government in the United States."

The 41 page paper synthesizes a whole bookshelf's worth of history and analysis of official secrecy, provides a cutting critique of Bush Administration policy, and concludes with an argument that openness is not something to be contrasted and "balanced" with security. Rather, Blanton contends, "openness is security." It is often literally true, he explains, that openness succeeds where secrecy fails in mitigating or eliminating a threat.

The new paper, which was prepared for a May 5 symposium on National Security and Open Government, is posted here:

The National Security Archive was recently awarded a jaw-dropping one million dollar grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (which also funds the FAS Project on Government Secrecy and other freedom of information advocacy initiatives).

The free flow of information is "important to an understanding of world events," according to a March 19 Knight Foundation news release. "Toward that end, the foundation has given $1 million to the National Security Archive Fund, to encourage federal agencies to maintain standards of openness." It may be the largest grant ever awarded for such activity and reflects the high regard in which the organization's work is held.


MORE ON CIA BIOTERRORISM WORKSHOP

The dustup described in Secrecy News on April 2 over whether the final report of an unclassified CIA-sponsored workshop on bioterrorism would be classified is fleshed out with some attributed quotes and further background information by Peg Brickley in The Scientist online today.

See "CIA openness report to be classified?" here:

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

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