SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 41
May 14, 2003

PENTAGON SEEKS NEW EXEMPTIONS FROM OVERSIGHT

In the name of "transformation," the Department of Defense has advanced an audacious series of legislative proposals that would "substantially reduce congressional oversight and public accountability," four Democratic congressional leaders warned in a May 13 letter.

The Pentagon seeks the repeal of over 100 reporting and notification requirements, including essential and widely utilized reports on cost overruns, technical failures and schedule delays.

"In addition to the outright repeal of these reporting requirements, [the DoD proposal includes] a sunset provision that would eliminate all remaining Defense Department reports after five years," wrote Reps. Henry Waxman, Ike Skelton, David Obey and John M. Spratt.

The only exception would be the Secretary of Defense's annual report to Congress. "Notably, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld failed to submit even this report in two out of the last three years."

The Pentagon also seeks wholesale changes in DoD employment policy that would enable it to waive existing statutory requirements while curtailing oversight of civil service laws. It further proposes significant exemptions from environmental laws. And it would collapse government spending on missile defense into a single budget line item.

"The Department's proposal would reduce oversight of the Missile Defense Agency's budget and give it unprecedented spending authority enjoyed by no other federal agency," the congressmen wrote.

See their May 13 letter to House Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Pelosi here:

These DoD proposals "would not be in the interests of ensuring the financial transparency and oversight of billions of dollars in weapons systems development and acquisition," wrote Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, understating the matter in a May 2 letter to the House Armed Services Committee:

Thirty-five of the most important annual reports that the Pentagon proposes to eliminate were culled from the larger list and posted by Daniel Cornwall of the Alaska State Library along with his brief comments here (thanks to PM):


POST 9/11 PENTAGON SPENDING UNACCOUNTED FOR

One might think that as a matter of good public policy, oversight would increase as spending increases. But incredibly, what is actually happening is closer to the opposite, as billions of defense dollars vanish into unaccountable thin air.

Writing in Defense Week this week, John Donnelly notes that "In the year after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress gave the Pentagon $28.5 billion in 'emergency-response' money to fight terrorism. The Pentagon has spent almost all of it. But nothing on the public record shows in any meaningful way how the money was actually used. And even confidential reports to congressional staff about the spending leave defense-budget experts wondering exactly what was bought in many cases."

See "Key Details Lacking On Post-9/11 Billions" by John M. Donnelly, Defense Week, May 14, here:


ANNUAL REPORT ON ECONOMIC ESPIONAGE

"Some 75 countries -- a mix of rich and poor, high- and low-tech, friend and foe -- targeted US technologies in 2001 using a wide range of collection techniques," according to a new "Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage" prepared by the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX).

Particular targets of foreign espionage included information technologies, aeronautical systems, sensors and lasers and, in fact, all eighteen of the technologies on the Defense Department Militarily Critical Technologies List.

On closer inspection, however, the espionage threat appears somewhat less ominous.

"The efforts were not, as a rule, directed against the 'crown jewels' of US technological supremacy. Instead, much of the sought after information and technology was dated military-related or infrastructure-supportive technologies that are no longer classified and that often have both military and civilian applications," according to the NCIX annual report, which is the eighth in a series.

A copy of the 2002 Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, dated February 2003 but only published on May 6, is posted here:


RELIANCE ON COMMERCIAL IMAGERY TO GROW

The United States Government will "rely to the maximum practical extent on U.S. commercial remote sensing space capabilities for filling imagery and geospatial needs for military, intelligence, foreign policy, homeland security, and civil users," according to a new statement of U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Policy.

The new Policy, approved by the President on April 25, is the culmination of a review process that was initiated by National Security Presidential Directive 15 in June 2002.

A fact sheet that describes the Policy is available here:


A FOIA CASE GOES TO THE SUPREME COURT

A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking disclosure of graphic crime scene photographs of the death of former White House Counsel Vince Foster will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next fall.

The photographs have been withheld up to now based on the privacy interests of the Foster family. Their disclosure is sought by Allan J. Favish, formerly associated with conservative watch dog organizations Judicial Watch and Accuracy in Media. The death of Vincent Foster was the focus of discredited conspiracy theories in some sectors of the political right.

The circumstances of the case are described by the Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy here:


NSA INFORMATION OPERATIONS

The "potential role of RF [radio frequency] weapons in IO [information operations]" will be among the topics discussed at a June 17-18 conference on National Security Agency Information Operations, jointly sponsored by NSA and the Association of Old Crows.

"This is a conference not to be missed for IO professionals or those in related fields," according to a notice on the Federal Business Opportunities web site (thanks to MJR). "The conference will focus on IO and IO applications that are critical to the ongoing success of NSA's mission."

"The classification of the conference will be TS/SI/TK, U.S. ONLY." See:


KEEP A SECRET, GO TO JAIL

It sounds like a spoof, but it's not:

"A former president of the Florida Senate reported to jail Tuesday for violating the state's open-government 'sunshine' law, one of the toughest in the nation.

"W.D. Childers ... is the first elected official ever sent to jail for violating the 1967 law's open-meeting section, records show. He was sentenced to 60 days."

See "Ex-president of Florida Senate goes to jail for 'sunshine' violation," Associated Press, May 13:


NIMA NEWS

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) will be inelegantly renamed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, to be abbreviated NGA, upon the enactment of the 2004 Defense Authorization Act (see section 902 of S. 1050).

The latest two issues of Pathfinder, the NIMA public affairs newsletter, and other recent NIMA releases may be found here:


BLABBERMOUTH NEWS

Secrecy News was parodied as Blabbermouth News on UFO Update, a mailing list devoted to UFO news and views. See:

"I was full of suds when I belched up that bit of foam," the author amiably advised.

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

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