SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 71
July 30, 2004

MOMENTUM BUILDS FOR INTELLIGENCE BUDGET DISCLOSURE

The gathering political momentum to publish the size of the U.S. intelligence budget was reflected and reinforced by a New York Times story July 29, which noted that budget disclosure should be among the simplest recommendations of the 9-11 Commission to implement.

"Of the 40 main recommendations spelled out in the Sept. 11 report, one of the few that the White House could carry out immediately would be to lift the veil of secrecy on how much the government spends on intelligence," according to the Times.

By recommending not only disclosure of the aggregate total but also of individual agency budgets, the 9-11 Commission made it politically difficult to justify the current posture of absolute non-disclosure.

The CIA, which is heavily invested in budget secrecy, was placed on the defensive.

"A C.I.A. spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said Wednesday that the agency would not comment on whether it still believed that the overall intelligence budgets should be classified," according to the Times.

See "White House Considers Disclosing Intelligence Budgets" by Douglas Jehl, New York Times, July 29:

One might reasonably ask: What does intelligence budget secrecy have to do with the events of September 11?

One possible answer is that it is the most visible example of arbitrary secrecy, and that such secrecy has dulled the wits and dimmed the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies, contributing to the failures leading up to September 11.

The point was elaborated in "Agencies criticized for overclassifying information" by Chris Strohm, Government Executive Daily Briefing, July 26:

But another possible answer is that budget secrecy really had nothing to do with September 11, at least nothing more than hundreds of other "cultural" factors that afflict U.S. intelligence.

If so, how did it get on the 9-11 Commission's agenda?

Ironically, former DCI George Tenet may have put it there by suggesting the need to discuss intelligence budget matters with the public.

"For the bang for the buck, the American taxpayer gets a hell of a lot for what we give them," DCI Tenet told the 9-11 Commission last April (SN, 04/15/04). "And you know, we ought to find a way to talk to the American people about it."

It was pointed out catalytically that this view does not correspond to CIA's own budget (non-)disclosure policy, and the Commission drew the logical conclusion.


SENATE BILL LANGUAGE ON MILITARY SPYING MAY BE DELETED

Legislative language that appeared to authorize new domestic intelligence collection by the Pentagon may be deleted from the pending 2005 intelligence authorization act.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, filed a proposed amendment July 22 that would remove the provision from the intelligence bill (section 501 of S. 2386).

Newsweek reported in June that the provision "could vastly expand the Pentagon's ability to gather intelligence inside the United States, including recruiting citizens as informants."


SIBEL EDMONDS AND THE PRICE OF WHISTLEBLOWING

If, as the 9/11 Commission diagnosed, U.S. intelligence suffers from "groupthink," then special attention ought to be given to fostering dissenting views and protecting whistleblowers. But in practice, that lesson has still not been learned.

The allegations of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds "were at least a contributing factor" in the decision to terminate her employment, according to a letter to Congress from FBI Director Robert Mueller, characterizing the findings of a Justice Department Inspector General investigation.

The letter, reported in the New York Times on July 29 and in the Washington Post today, is available on the Project on Government Oversight web site here:

The letter and its significance were analyzed by Fred Kaplan in Slate here:


FIRST ANTI-MISSILE INTERCEPTOR DEPLOYED IN ALASKA

In a momentous act that went nearly unreported, the Department of Defense last week deployed the first Ground Based Interceptor in the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska.

"[It] marks the end of an era where we have not been able to defend our country against long-range ballistic missile attacks," said Maj. Gen. John W. Holly, program director for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Joint Program Office.

"While this system will constitute an initial limited capability, it is a vast improvement over our current defensive posture, which is nonexistent," said Holly.

To the contrary, however, a limited capability may be worse than none at all if it provokes an adversary to bolster its offensive targeting of the U.S.

The arms control argument against limited missile defenses was articulated by Fred Kaplan in "We're Losing the Arms Race With North Korea," Slate, July 27:

While U.S. press coverage of the missile defense milestone was scarce, the event did not go unnoticed in North Korea, which predictably interpreted it as a threat.

"The United States, more than ever before, is frantically clinging to maneuvers to deploy a missile defense system to get ready for preemptive nuclear strike preparations," according to a July 26 radio broadcast from Pyongyang.


FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: THE EARLY YEARS

Let no one say that the Bush Administration has not launched any new initiatives to enhance public access to government information.

A new web page from the Federal Trade Commission features minutes of FTC meetings from March 1915 through October 1917.

See "FTC Minutes: The Early Years" here (thanks to MJR):

The new web site is part of the agency's commemoration of its 90th anniversary this year.

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

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