SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 7
January 23, 2004

RESOLUTION OF INQUIRY INTRODUCED ON PLAME LEAK

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and several colleagues introduced a "resolution of inquiry" to request that the Bush Administration provide Congress with "all documents... relating to the disclosure of the identity of Ms. Valerie Plame as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency during the period beginning on May 6, 2003, and ending on July 31, 2003."

Ms. Plame's formerly clandestine status was leaked to columnist Robert Novak last summer, in what some alleged to be an act of retaliation directed at her husband, Amb. Joseph Wilson, a Bush Administration critic.

See the introduction of House Resolution 499 on January 21 here:

According to a report on the Time Magazine web site, a grand jury has been convened to pursue the Plame leak investigation. See:


CRS ON RESOLUTIONS OF INQUIRY

The origins and recent history of "resolutions of inquiry" were elucidated in a report by the Congressional Research Service last year.

Such resolutions are a tool that is unique to the House of Representatives for eliciting information from the Executive Branch.

"Resolutions of inquiry are often much more effective in obtaining information from the executive branch than one would expect...," wrote CRS expert Louis Fisher.

See his report on "House Resolutions of Inquiry," May 12, 2003:

Congress has not authorized, and in fact has actively obstructed, direct public access to CRS reports like this one.


WAXMAN ON INCONSISTENCIES IN LEAK INVESTIGATIONS

The Bush Administration has responded to public disclosures of classified information in markedly different ways depending on whether or not the disclosures served the political interests of the White House, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) recently argued.

An investigation into whether former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill improperly disclosed a "secret" document was commenced within a day. In contrast, the Plame leak investigation took months to get off the ground, he said. Meanwhile, journalist Bob Woodward's flattering presentation of classified information in his book "Bush at War" apparently prompted no investigation at all.

"Please explain the process by which the Administration determines whether it is appropriate to provide journalists with access to classified information," Rep. Waxman wrote provocatively to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

See his January 14 letter (flagged by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press at www.rcfp.org) here:


FAS FOIA NEWS

An FAS Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for historical intelligence budget data is poised to move forward after a federal court approved a procedural motion last week.

Last year, the Central Intelligence Agency said that it was "unable to locate" the intelligence budget totals we had requested for 1947 and 1948. In response, we petitioned the court for leave to amend our FOIA complaint to seek declassification of budget data all the way through 1970.

Last week, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina granted the petition:

This week, accordingly, the amended complaint was formally docketed. See:

CIA has not yet responded to the amended complaint. But in a 2000 FOIA denial, the Agency said that disclosure of historical budget figures, even if they are 50 years old, would damage national security and jeopardize intelligence sources and methods.

Also this week, the Justice Department said it may release previously denied portions of its internal investigation into the conduct of the Wen Ho Lee case. The Clinton Administration had promised that results of the investigation would be publicly released, but the Bush Administration refused to do so.

In response to an FAS FOIA appeal, however, Richard L. Huff of the Justice Office of Information and Privacy wrote that classified portions of the report would be reviewed for possible declassification, and that unclassified portions would be processed for possible release. See his January 21 letter here:


AIR FORCE ONE APPROACHES ROSWELL

President Bush yesterday went to Roswell, New Mexico, site of the legendary 1947 crash of something or other.

As Air Force One approached Roswell, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters humorously that "When we land today there are certain things that we may ask you not to report, that you may see."

"I'm not playing that game," replied one unidentified reporter. "If there's a flying saucer, it's going on the wire, man."

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

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