SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 56
July 3, 2003

GUIDELINES ON "SENSITIVE" INFO WILL BE ISSUED FOR COMMENT

Procedures for implementing a new information control category called "sensitive homeland security information" (SHSI) are still under development but "will be published for public comment prior to adoption," a Bush Administration official told Secrecy News yesterday.

In last year's Homeland Security Act, Congress directed the President to prescribe procedures to "identify and safeguard homeland security information that is sensitive but unclassified" (section 892). See:

But in an act of what might be termed legislative malpractice, Congress failed to specify what it meant by "sensitive." This raised fears in many quarters that the provision would only encourage the Bush Administration to indiscriminately impose new access restrictions on otherwise unclassified information.

In part to allay such fears, Administration officials held several outreach meetings last year with interested non-governmental organizations, and promised that the public would have an opportunity to comment on the new procedures, a promise that was reiterated this week.

First, however, the draft guidance will be circulated to executive branch agencies for their comment, which is expected to happen later this summer.

For related background, the most comprehensive resource is "'Sensitive But Unclassified' and Other Federal Security Controls on Scientific and Technical Information: History and Current Controversy" by Genevieve Knezo, Congressional Research Service, April 2003:


PURSUIT OF HISTORICAL INTELLIGENCE BUDGET DATA GOES ON

A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking declassification of historical intelligence budget data led to a Central Intelligence Agency assertion June 27 that it was "unable to locate" aggregate intelligence budget figures for fiscal years 1947 and 1948.

In response, the plaintiff (yours truly) this week asked the Court for leave to expand the scope of the lawsuit to encompass subsidiary agency budget totals as well as aggregate figures, extending from 1947 through 1970. See this July 2 Motion for Leave:

Groping for an explanation as to why the CIA would resist disclosure of budget data from 1947, UFO aficionado and author Whitley Strieber proposed that it might be part of a continuing coverup of the July 1947 crash of an unidentified flying object in Roswell, New Mexico. See his "More Evidence of a Roswell Coverup?":

Roswell mythology aside, this presumes that official secrecy is purposeful and calculated to achieve a specific end. More often than not, it appears that such is not the case. In fact, when it comes to CIA records, it is often more instructive to inquire why particular information -- such as the disputed CIA-DIA report on those Iraqi trailers -- has been publicly disclosed, not why most other information has been withheld.

CIA historian Michael Warner recently observed that in the 1940s and some time thereafter, the U.S. government fiscal year ended on June 30, not September 30 as is the case today. This means that the Roswell crash, the enactment of the National Security Act and the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency, though they took place in calendar year 1947, all occurred in fiscal year 1948.


DOE WILL REVISE AND RELEASE HEU REPORT

The Department of Energy now says that it will release a revised version of its report on the history of highly enriched uranium (HEU) production that has been eagerly sought for years by nuclear non-proliferation advocates, National Academy of Sciences panels, environmental groups and others.

The report must first be revised, however, because the authors believe that the current version "contains unclassified but sensitive security information that terrorists could use as a road map to the locations of DOE fissile nuclear materials," wrote Joseph S. Mahaley of the DOE Office of Security on June 9. See:

Mr. Mahaley was responding to an inquiry from Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) on behalf of Roger Heusser, one of those seeking the report's release. Ironically, Mr. Heusser is a former director of the DOE Office of Nuclear and National Security Information.

"I am quite familiar with the document and signed the declassification of it," Mr. Heusser noted with some irritation.

"This report will provide assistance to worldwide nonproliferation efforts by revealing where United States highly enriched uranium resides in the United States as well as in other nations," DOE said of the HEU report in 1997, in what now seems a different era. "It will also assist regulators in environmental, health, and safety matters at domestic sites where this material is stored or buried." See:


RECENT FOIA DECISIONS

Recent rulings in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits provide an interesting but none too encouraging snapshot of how the courts are dealing with such cases. See "New FOIA Decisions, April-June 2003" helpfully provided by the Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy:


WHITE HOUSE REPORT ON DRUG KINGPINS

In a July 1 letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, President Bush summarized a new report on foreign narcotics traffickers and identified and identified seven persons and entities newly designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. See:


DOD ON PROJECT SHAD

The Defense Department announced on July 1 that it had concluded its investigation into the biological and chemical warfare testing program known as Project 112. The Project, conducted from 1962 to 1973, included the use of actual biological and chemical agents on U.S. military personnel as part of the Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) program.

See the DoD announcement here:

Several members of Congress criticized the move.

"Thousands of veterans unknowingly participated in SHAD tests that could have exposed them to serious health risks," said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) in a June 30 statement.

"A decision by the Department to discontinue its investigation would be premature and would put thousands of veterans at further risk," Rep. Thompson and others wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. See:

See also "Pentagon Reveals Secret Bio, Chem Tests" by Robert Gehrke, Associated Press, June 30:

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

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