SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 60
July 16, 2003

SENATORS ASK RELEASE OF WEN HO LEE REPORT

The Justice Department has refused to comply with a congressional request for a copy of a recently completed report on the FBI's handling of the Wen Ho Lee case, prompting a challenge from three Senators.

"Your staff has said that we cannot review the report," complained three members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft last week, asking him to release the document.

"The Senate Judiciary Committee has exercised close oversight over the Wen Ho Lee case, including holding three hearings while you were still a member of the committee," wrote Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA).

"Members of the committee would like to continue our oversight role over the Wen Ho Lee case by examining the [Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility] report."

An FAS Freedom of Information Act request for the new report was also recently denied, and the denial has been appealed. It is, in fact, likely that the report contains properly classified information, privacy information, and law enforcement information that would preclude the report's full release to the public.

But withholding it from Congress is another matter. The Senators noted that in the past, similar investigative reports from had been provided to the Judiciary Committee.

Congressional oversight of the Justice Department has increasingly been diverted into a struggle for access for information. To the extent that routine requests for information consume the time and attention of senior Senators, as in this case, fewer resources are available for actual oversight.

A copy of the July 8 letter from Senators Feinstein, Leahy and Grassley is posted here:


IRAQI URANIUM CONTROVERSY GROWS

The President's State of the Union remark concerning an alleged Iraqi attempt to acquire uranium in Africa "appears to be but one of a number of several questionable statements and exaggerations by the Intelligence Community and Administration officials that were issued in the buildup to the war," said Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) yesterday.

In a floor statement, he itemized the growing list of problematic assertions involving intelligence on Iraq.

Part of the problem arises from the careless use of language, which may in turn reflect a deeper confusion. While dramatic linguistic missteps are most common in the pronouncements of President Bush ("We've found the weapons of mass destruction," he said egregiously on May 30), they are not limited to the President.

For example, Senator Levin noted, "Last Sunday, Ms. Rice said 'we have never said that we thought he [Saddam] had nuclear weapons.' But Vice President Cheney said on March 16 'we believe he [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons'."

Senator Levin called for a "thorough, open and bipartisan inquiry" on pre-war intelligence regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and its use by policymakers. See his July 15 statement here:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who has been way out in front on the Africa uranium story, wrote a long letter to the House Intelligence Committee outlining his view of the "four categories of unanswered questions" that the story presents. His July 15 letter, and previous correspondence, may be found here:

The Director of Central Intelligence has responded in writing to the House Intelligence Committee's May 22 request for information on how pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD was developed, said ranking member Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) at a news conference yesterday.

"We are presently working to have that letter declassified," she said.

Based on her own review of the materials provided to the Intelligence Committee to date, she said delicately, "the intelligence case for war relied more than it should have on circumstantial indicators of Iraq's WMD programs, rather than on solid facts."

At the same time, "the Administration consistently omitted the caveats and qualifiers that the intelligence community generally attached to its assessments of Iraq's WMD programs and ties to terrorism."

"The emerging evidence in Iraq does point to WMD programs," Rep. Harman said, "but does not point to the existence of large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons."

The House Intelligence Committee will hold a public hearing on July 24 "in connection with its continuing review of pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorism."

Several members of the Committee went on a fact-finding mission to Iraq last week and reported on their findings in a July 15 release. See:


CONGRESSIONAL 9/11 REPORT IS ON THE WAY

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) said yesterday that the long-promised declassification of the congressional joint inquiry report on September 11 has finally been completed and the report is now "at the printers."

"I would say that we won virtually all of the battles we wanted to win in terms of getting information to the public," Rep. Goss said. "Now, we didn't win it all in exactly the form we wanted it, but the material, the subject matter, is pretty much out there."

"The one case that was the most difficult, it turns out in hindsight, maybe the administration was right, we should have been more prudent. But I will quickly say neither the administration nor we knew that at the time. They were guessing that it could be a problem if we released it, and as it turned out they were right because of events that none of us knew were going to happen," he said without further explanation.

"My hope is that Senator Graham and I are going to be able to have a press conference and get [the report] out as soon as it is back, and we hope that will be in a week or so," Rep. Goss said on July 15.


WHITE HOUSE SEEKS TO SAVE TIA

The Senate is proposing, and the White House is resisting, a provision to eliminate any funding for research and development on DARPA's controversial Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program.

The provision appears in the pending 2004 Defense Appropriations Act. See:

In a July 14 statement, the White House "urge[d] the Senate to remove the provision that prohibits any research and development for the Terrorism Information Awareness Program. This provision would deny an important potential tool in the war on terrorism." See:


BINGAMAN ON ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTIONS

Longstanding American legal principles of due process are being unnecessarily compromised by the Administration's conduct of the war on terrorism, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in a July 14 floor statement.

"The core element of due process law is the requirement that if individuals are taken into custody by the Government, then within some reasonable time, they will be advised of the crimes of which they are accused. They will be charged with those crimes and they will be prosecuted.... Today we are witnessing the abandonment by this current administration of our historic commitment to this most basic legal protection."

See Senator Bingaman's remarks on "Administrative Detentions and Right to Due Process" here:

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

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