SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 16
February 10, 2004

2002 INTEL BUDGET TOTAL EXEMPT FROM FOIA, COURT RULES

The 2002 intelligence budget total is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal court judge has ruled, because that number, which was around $35 billion, "relates to intelligence sources or methods that the DCI must protect."

The ruling by D.C. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, dated February 6 and disclosed today, came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency brought by the Federation of American Scientists.

Last April, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet swore under penalty of perjury that disclosure of the total intelligence budget for 2002 -- a single number encompassing the intelligence-related expenditures of more than a dozen agencies -- would damage national security and compromise sources and methods.

Given the DCI's personal intervention, the court's ruling was no great surprise. To have ordered budget disclosure would have been to publicly call George Tenet a liar.

And yet the decision is a disappointment, since it means that there is no one in authority who will stand up and say that CIA budget secrecy is wrong on the merits.

By any rational measure, it is simply not true that disclosing the intelligence budget total would damage national security or intelligence methods. That is why a growing number of foreign democracies publish the size of their intelligence accounts. That is also why the CIA itself disclosed the 1997 and 1998 budget totals ($26.6 and $26.7 billion, respectively), in response to previous litigation.

Judge Urbina, who often issues rulings that are models of discernment and empathy, in this case declined to confront the core dispute or to exercise independent review of CIA's substantive claims. His decision is here:


CRS ON SENSITIVE SECURITY INFORMATION

"Sensitive Security Information" (SSI) is a relatively new category of aviation security-related information whose disclosure is restricted, generating disputes over whether and when secrecy concerning transportation security is warranted.

Based in statute, SSI includes "information about security programs, vulnerability assessments, technical specifications of certain screening equipment and objects used to test screening equipment ... and other information."

"The [SSI] regulations are intended to reduce the risk of vital security information reaching the wrong hands and resulting in another terrorist attack," according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

But they "have raised a number of concerns about the management of such information and the accountability of governmental agencies."

The use of the SSI restriction by the Transportation Security Agency and the resulting tensions over public access are explored by CRS analyst Mitchel A. Sollenberger in "Sensitive Security Information (SSI) and Transportation Security: Background and Controversies," February 5:

The House Committee on House Administration, led by Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), opposes direct public access to CRS reports like this one.


CRS ON PATRIOT ACT SUNSET

Over a dozen provisions of the USA Patriot Act regarding certain aspects of foreign intelligence and law enforcement surveillance authority are set to expire automatically on December 31, 2005.

The affected provisions are itemized and explored in this new report from the Congressional Research Service: "USA Patriot Act Sunset: Provisions That Expire on December 31, 2005" by Charles Doyle, January 2:

An abbreviated version of the same report is available as "USA Patriot Act Sunset: A Sketch," January 7:

Direct public access to these reports is provided without congressional authorization.

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

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