SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 14
February 5, 2004

ARMY OFFICIALS UP IN ARMS OVER FAS WEB SITE

U.S. Army security officials became exercised this week at the possibility that a classified Army publication was posted on the web site of the Federation of American Scientists.

One security official called for the FAS web site to "remove all Army publications ASAP," and suggested that he would contact the FBI if prompt action were not forthcoming.

Following review of the document identified by the Army official as classified, FAS declined to remove it from the web because its contents were clearly innocuous.

Furthermore, we added in an emailed response, "We do not recognize the Army's authority to restrict our freedom to publish."

Another Army official intervened to advise the security official that "Unclassified Army publications and documents are in the public domain [and] you definitely shouldn't threaten the owners of these websites...as you have...."

The Army security official shortly retreated with the explanation that the supposedly classified document on the FAS web site was unclassified after all. In other words, nevermind.

The sequence of events is reflected in this exchange of email messages, which occurred on February 4:


TSA TRIES TO ERASE PUBLIC TESTIMONY

In an extraordinary attempt to alter the public record, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is seeking to remove all public traces of certain testimony that was presented at a congressional hearing last November, because the testimony identified specific security problems at an airport in Rochester, New York.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ) Homeland Security reported that the Federal Document Clearing House (FDCH), which produces transcripts of congressional hearings, agreed to delete the testimony from its database.

TSA also asked CQ to delete the testimony from its website, but CQ refused.

"Our position is that any government statement voluntarily made public can't be classified retroactively at a later date," CQ President Robert Merry told CQ Homeland Security.

See "TSA Asks Media to Expunge Public Testimony on Airport Security Problems" by Jeff Stein, CQ Homeland Security, February 4:


SEN. GRAHAM ON SECRECY AND INTELLIGENCE REFORM

The prospects that the latest round of intelligence reviews will lead to significant reforms of U.S. intelligence are not favorable, based on the track record of past Commissions and investigations.

According to Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), "A large number of the problems identified by the [congressional] joint inquiry [into September 11] and a series of commissions which preceded the joint inquiry have not been addressed."

Among the recommendations adopted by 2002 Joint Inquiry -- and ignored -- was a proposal to revise the intelligence classification process so as to permit greater public disclosure of certain intelligence information.

"There is a suspicion among many Americans--and I believe it is justified--that classification is being used to shield politically embarrassing information from public scrutiny, as was the case with the information on the role of foreign governments in the September 11 attack," Sen. Graham said in the second of a series of floor statements on intelligence this week.

"Unfortunately, little progress has been made so far in the task of reviewing the use of classified information, particularly in the area of intelligence. The Intelligence Authorization Act requires the President to report on the barriers to sharing classified information. Congress has not yet given serious consideration to this important topic," he said.

See Sen. Graham's February 3 floor statement here (remarks on classification policy highlighted in bold):


HPSCI REPORT ON PLAME RESOLUTION OF INQUIRY

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week met in closed session and then voted against a proposed "resolution of inquiry" into the leak of clandestine CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

"I am disappointed that the [committee] Chairman [Porter J. Goss] did not even permit an open hearing to allow the public the ability to assess and judge for themselves our deliberations," said Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who had introduced the resolution.

"The fact that much of the HPSCI's oversight work must take place in closed session does not mitigate the importance of, or the probing nature of, the oversight to which U.S. Intelligence Community is subjected by the HPSCI," said Chairman Goss.

See the new Report on the HPSCI action, dated February 3, here:


CIA FILES OPPOSITION TO HISTORICAL BUDGET DISCLOSURE

It is methodologically difficult for an outsider to pronounce a final judgment on the quality and integrity of CIA intelligence analysis regarding recent events. As Agency defenders are quick to point out, critics lack access to the full record on which a fair judgment should be based.

But one can deduce a lot about the intellectual rot at CIA by observing how the Agency stubbornly opposes declassification of fifty year old budget information.

CIA officials assert with a straight face that national security and intelligence methods would be placed at risk by disclosure of this antiquated information.

Is this incompetence? Is it dishonesty? That is not for us to say. But anyone can see that it is nonsense.

This week the CIA filed its pro forma opposition to an amended FAS lawsuit seeking declassification of intelligence budget figures from 1947 to 1970. See:

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

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