SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 74
September 10, 2003

AIR FORCE TAKES GULF WAR STUDY OFFLINE

Citing unspecified security concerns, the U.S. Air Force has taken offline the widely circulated text of the 1993 Gulf War Air Power Survey, a highly regarded study of the air campaign in the first Gulf War.

It is merely one instance of a continuing government-wide trend of removing unclassified information from public access on the web, at the National Archives, and elsewhere. The full scope of this unsettling practice has not been clearly recognized or measured.

"The Air Force Declassification Office has requested removal of the ... Gulf War Air Power Survey (GWAPS), all volumes, from this website until a determination can be made on potentially sensitive information that needs coordination with other agencies," according to a notice posted on the web site of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base:

This comes as a bit of a surprise, since the GWAPS "was published in unclassified form a decade ago -- we bought it in hardcopy at that time," recalled John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, who spotted the Air Force notice.

In fact, the Air Power Survey, led by Thomas A. Keaney and Eliot A. Cohen, was something of a best-seller by Government Printing Office standards, and it remains for sale today in hard copy, through the GPO and various online booksellers.

"There is nothing remotely classified in it," acknowledged one Maxwell Air Force Base official today. He said that the Pentagon had directed that the study be taken offline sometime last year and had still not authorized its reposting.

"We do what the Pentagon wants even when we don't understand it," he said.

Secrecy News was able to recover the text of all six volumes of the Gulf War Air Power Survey (minus a few graphics and tables) which are now posted here:


MORE ON THE BUTLER CASE

The aggressive prosecution of the Texas Tech University medical professor Thomas C. Butler on charges of illegally transporting plague bacteria continues to make waves within the scientific community, some of whose leading members view the matter as prosecutorial overkill.

An August 15 letter to Attorney General Ashcroft from the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, expressing concern about the case is now available here:

Among the pernicious aspects of the Butler prosecution is the fact that "it generates pressure for biodefense scientists to be secretive" about their work, said Edward Hammond of the watchdog Sunshine Project.

The case makes it easier for university laboratories and others "to say, apparently accurately, that they are not sure what information they can release, because they can get into major trouble if they err," Mr. Hammond said.

See also "Smallpox expert decries treatment of two scientists" by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, September 5:

and "Plague researcher charged with new crimes" by Peg Brickley, The Scientist, September 4:


TELLER ON SECRECY

Physicist Edward Teller, who died September 9, was a forceful critic of government secrecy, particularly secrecy in scientific matters, which he considered self-defeating and detrimental to the national interest.

"A short time ago, the Soviet Union was the most secretive organization in the world; it no longer exists," he wrote in 1992.

"This puts the United States in the uncomfortable position of holding the record in secrecy. It is urgent that we do something about this situation...." (Issues in Science and Technology, Vol. IX, No. 1, Fall 1992, p. 6).

"Our keeping of secrets has often misled and confused our own people but has been ineffective in denying information to our enemies or competitors."

"Let us pass a law requiring all secret documents to be published one year after their issuance," he proposed, to no visible effect.

Teller was a contributor to the 1970 Defense Science Board Task Force Report on Secrecy, which remains one of the best short critiques of national security classification policy. The text of the Report is posted here:

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

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