SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 50
June 16, 2003

HOUSE MOVES TOWARDS ONE PARTY RULE

The nearly fifty percent of Americans who are represented by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are increasingly left without effective representation there, as the House moves towards something approximating one party rule.

"Today, Democrats say they are languishing under the most despotic majority the modern House has seen," writes Michael Crowley in an illuminating cover story in the June 23 issue of The New Republic (subscribers only):

During their own long tenure as the majority party, which ended in 1994, Democrats often showed little consideration for the interests of the minority Republicans. But Congress watchers say past abuses pale compared to what is happening today.

"[Democrats] find themselves a completely subjugated, powerless minority -- routinely barred from offering bills and amendments, shut out of committee deliberations, even denied such basic dignities as private meeting space," Crowley reports.

As a result, the democratic process in the House of Representatives has been effectively short-circuited as the American political system mutates farther and farther away from the textbook ideal.

In this case, the House Rules Committee provides the mechanism for curtailing legislative activity by the minority party. Under stringent House procedures (the Senate is far more liberal), the Rules Committee majority can largely exclude the minority from meaningful participation in the process.

The practice is described without discernable outrage in "Using the Rules Committee to Block Democrats" by Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, June 16:


BINGAMAN ASKS RELEASE OF WEN HO LEE REPORT

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft last week, urging him to release the suppressed report of the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility on the Wen Ho Lee case.

"While I understand that the report is undergoing a classification review to determine the national security issues that may be involved in its release, I am certain that there are significant portions of the report that could, and should, be made public," Senator Bingaman wrote.

See this June 11 release, which was previously reported by Adam Rankin in the Albuquerque Journal (North):


SECRECY OF PRESIDENT'S DAILY BRIEF DEPLORED

The categorical refusal of the Central Intelligence Agency to declassify old copies of the President's Daily Brief (PDB) -- the intelligence digest prepared for the President -- is producing a distortion of the historical record, the State Department's Historical Advisory Committee warned in its latest annual report.

"The Committee must continue to deplore the CIA's blanket denial of declassification of the PDBs especially those that are thirty or more years old. The PDBs for the Nixon period should be included in [the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series], because they provide historians with an invaluable and irreplaceable source for documenting high-level policymaking. The Advisory Committee has never received a satisfactory formal explanation for the CIA's exemption of the PDBs from declassification."

The Committee report also took aim at the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB).

"PFIAB not only refuses to review documents for declassification but it does not allow [State Department] historians access to its records, even though the PFIAB provides direct advice to the President on matters that relate integrally to foreign policy formulation. As the Committee noted last year, access to PFIAB records is essential to maintain the integrity of the FRUS series," wrote Robert D. Schulzinger, chair of the Committee.

See the 2002 report to Secretary of State Powell, publicly released last week:

The minutes of the February 2002 Historical Advisory Committee meeting, approved for release two weeks ago, are posted here:


COLUMBIA ACCIDENT BOARD OPENS UP A BIT

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board took it upon itself to impose unprecedented secrecy on its proceedings and to promise defiantly (and probably illegally) that some of its records "are never going to see the light of day."

But now the Board has relented a bit, and has agreed to grant a few members of Congress and staff limited access to transcripts of confidential interviews that it conducted over the past five months concerning the February 1 loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

See "NASA lets Congress see secret interviews" by Kevin Spear, Gwyneth K. Shaw and Jim Leusner, Orlando Sentinel, June 14:

In accepting the extraordinarily restrictive agreement, the House Science Committee asserted somewhat weakly that it did not signify a new precedent.

"There should be no confusion over the Committee's right to all information in the CAIB's possession. Neither the history of military investigations, various Freedom of Information Act exemptions, nor case law holdings regarding civil privilege provide any grounds for denying Congress information it requests, since none of the aforementioned categories operate against the Congress. The only judicially recognized method to declare documents or testimony beyond the reach of Congress in a matter such as this is the successful assertion of Executive privilege, and case law on Executive privilege strongly suggests that the narrow grounds upon which that privilege may be asserted are absent in this matter."

See a June 13 release with the exchange of correspondence here:


GOVERNMENT SECRECY IN THE AGE OF INFORMATION

The Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy is featured in an interview in the latest edition of Biodefense Quarterly, published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies.

See "Government Secrecy in the Age of Information" by Joe Fitzgerald and Antonia Badway, Biodefense Quarterly, Summer 2003:

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

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