SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 52
June 9, 2004

BIODEFENSE: CROSSING THE LINE

New government initiatives to promote defenses against biological weapons threaten to blur the distinction between defensive and offensive programs, and are placing international restraints on biological weapons in jeopardy, critics say.

"The rapidity of elaboration of American biodefense programs, their ambition and administrative aggressiveness, and the degree to which they push against the prohibitions of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), are startling," wrote three experts on biological weapons in a new journal article.

"Biodefense Crossing the Line" was authored by Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies, former Ambassador James Leonard, chief negotiator of the Biological Weapons Convention for the Nixon administration, and Richard Spertzel, chief U.N. bioweapons inspector in Iraq after the first Gulf War.

The new essay was first reported by Ian Hoffman in the Oakland Tribune on June 8. [Correction added June 14: This essay was first reported in "Biodefense lab in U.S. is questioned" by Scott Shane, Baltimore Sun, May 21, 2004, page 6A.]

It will appear in the forthcoming issue of the journal "Politics and the Life Sciences" (www.politicsandthelifesciences.org) and is reposted here with permission:


LEGALIZING TORTURE

Deliberations over the treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism may or may not be classified, Bush Administration officials say, but in either case they will not be officially disclosed.

But thanks to various media outlets, several such deliberative documents are being unofficially disclosed, to the Administration's discredit.

A classified 2003 draft report that takes a relaxed view of the legal requirements governing prisoners in the "global war on terrorism" was made available by the Wall Street Journal here:

A State Department memo on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions was posted by the New York Times here:

The refusal to properly disclose this material "is a matter of grave concern," the Washington Post editorialized today.

Furthermore, "There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments [regarding interrogation techniques] made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments," the Post said.

"Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of 'national security'."

See "Legalizing Torture," The Washington Post, June 9:

An unofficial student research paper that nevertheless provides a useful introduction to the topic is "Terrorists as Enemy Combatants: An Analysis of How the United States Applies the Law of Armed Conflict in the Global War on Terrorism" by Maj. Scott Reid, US Army, Naval War College, February 2004:


MEDIA COVERAGE OF MILITARY COFFINS AT ISSUE IN SENATE

A pending amendment proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) would direct the Pentagon to devise a protocol that permits media coverage of the return of coffins of American service members killed abroad, while ensuring the dignity and confidentiality of the deceased and their families.

This amendment responds to the recent controversy over the publication of photos of flag-draped coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base (on TheMemoryHole.org) and the Pentagon's refusal to permit further disclosure of similar images.

The proposed amendment to the 2005 defense authorization act awaits consideration in the Senate next week.

Other noteworthy amendments to the same bill address subjects such as: a proposal for a pilot program on cryptologic service training for the intelligence community (Sen. Bob Graham); a requirement for inspector general reports on the Iraqi National Congress (Sen. Leahy); reporting requirements on the Pentagon's detainment of prisoners (Sen. Bingaman); and further reporting on data-mining programs (Sen. Levin).

The texts of these amendments are excerpted here:


INTEGRITY OF STATE DEPT TERRORISM REPORT QUESTIONED

A new report from the Congressional Research Service cautiously notes that the State Department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report suffers from a variety of statistical and methodological flaws, and that for the first time an errata sheet to the latest edition will be provided.

The CRS report was first described in the Los Angeles Times today.

See "The Department of State's Patterns of Global Terrorism Report: Trends, State Sponsors, and Related Issues" by Raphael Perl, Congressional Research Service, June 1, 2004:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) was more blunt about the terrorism report's defects.

"It appears... that the decline in terrorism reported by the State Department results from manipulation of the data, not an actual decline in terrorism incidents," he wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell on May 17.

"This manipulation... calls into serious doubt the integrity of the report," Rep. Waxman wrote. See his letter here:

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

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