SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 72
August 3, 2004

PROPOSALS FOR INTELLIGENCE REORGANIZATION, 1949-2004 (CRS)

In 1947, the basic framework of the modern U.S. intelligence bureaucracy was established by the National Security Act.

In 1948, pressure for intelligence reform started to build.

"Beginning in January 1948, numerous independent commissions, individual experts, and legislative initiatives have examined the growth and evolving mission of the Intelligence Community," according to a timely new retrospective from the Congressional Research Service.

"Proposals for the reorganization of the United States Intelligence Community have repeatedly emerged from commissions and committees created by either the executive or legislative branches," according to the report, which reviews and summarizes many of them.

The CRS account includes at least one notable error regarding a prior proposal for intelligence budget disclosure.

The CRS says that "Responding to a longstanding criticism of intelligence budget processes, the [1996 Aspin-Brown] Commission recommended that the total amounts appropriated for intelligence activities be disclosed -- a recommendation that was implemented by the Clinton Administration for Fiscal Years 1997 and 1998."

This is historically inaccurate and misapprehends the way in which past budget disclosures came about.

The Aspin-Brown Commission did recommend that the President disclose both the total intelligence appropriation each year and the total request for the following year. But the Clinton Administration did not adopt this recommendation.

Instead, in an April 23, 1996 White House statement, the President "authorized Congress to make public the total appropriation-- the bottom line figure -- for intelligence at the time the appropriations conference report is approved by Congress." Congress declined to do so, and there the matter stood.

It was only due to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the stalemate was overcome.

In disclosing the 1997 budget figure on October 15, 1997, the DCI cited the FOIA lawsuit, not the Commission recommendation, as the driving factor behind the move. Likewise, the 1998 figure was not spontaneously released, but only in response to a second FOIA request. The annual budget request has never been disclosed.

See "Proposals for Intelligence Reorganization, 1949-2004," Congressional Research Service, July 29, 2004:

The White House indicated last week that further intelligence spending disclosures are likely to be forthcoming in response to the report of the 9/11 Commission.

"The President's senior advisors are currently preparing recommendations on what steps can be taken in this area [budget disclosure] consistent with national security requirements," according to a July 30 White House fact sheet.


THE OTHER DECLASSIFIED ITEM FROM THE PRESIDENT'S DAILY BRIEF

In addition to the now-famous August 6, 2001 President's Daily Brief (PDB) article entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US," one other PDB article was declassified by the Bush Administration in response to a request from the 9/11 Commission.

(Each PDB contains six to eight articles per day.)

A December 4, 1998 PDB article entitled "Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks" was published in redacted form in the 9/11 Commission report on pages 128-129. The text of the article is available here:

"The exact number of persons who receive the PDB varies by administration," the 9/11 Commission noted. "In the Clinton administration, up to 25 people received the PDB. In the Bush administration, distribution in the pre-9/11 time period was limited to six people." (Notes, p. 533).

"Had the contents of this PDB been brought to the attention of a wider group, including key members of Congress, it might have brought much more attention to the need for permanent changes in domestic airport and airline security procedures," the Commission report said (p. 344).


THE BIN LADIN CELL PHONE LEAK

It has often been loosely asserted that U.S. intelligence lost its ability to monitor Osama bin Ladin's cell phone conversations after its ability to do so was leaked to the media.

The 9/11 Commission report has now presented an authoritative account of the matter, and it specifies an unauthorized disclosure to the Washington Times as the event that triggered the loss:

"...Worst of all, al Qaeda's senior leadership had stopped using a particular means of communication almost immediately after a leak to the Washington Times. This made it much more difficult for the National Security Agency to intercept his [bin Ladin's] conversations."

See page 127 in Chapter 4 of the Commission Report:

The Commission footnote (chapter 4, no. 105) refers to a front page story in the Washington Times on August 21, 1998 entitled "Terrorist is Driven by Hatred for U.S., Israel," by Martin Sieff, and to interviews with several intelligence community officials.

That Washington Times story stated in passing that "He [bin Ladin] keeps in touch with the world via computers and satellite phones and has given occasional interviews to international news organizations, including Time magazine and CNN News."


ANTI-MISSILE INTERCEPTOR: IN ONE ERA, OUT THE OTHER

The momentousness of the recent "deployment" of an anti-missile interceptor in Fort Greely, Alaska was overstated in Secrecy News (07/30/04).

The program director did declare that the move signified "the end of an era," but he was exaggerating. The missile is not operational. It is sitting in a hole in the ground. It provides zero defensive capability.

Thanks to two well-informed readers.


ISRAEL HIGH COURT REBUFFS VANUNU PETITION

Israel's High Court last week rejected the petition of nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu who sought an end to the restrictions on his movements imposed by the Israeli government following his release from an 18 year jail sentence (SN, 07/08/04).

The Court reviewed the case and presented its rationale in a lengthy ruling July 26:

Thanks to Yael Lotan for the expert translation.


GHANA: US SHOULD PAY FOR 1966 COVERT ACTION

Ghana's EGLE opposition party declared that the United States should render financial assistance to the African country to compensate for its role in the 1966 coup that overthrew the government of Kwame Nkrumah.

"According to Mr Danny Ofori-Atta, chairman of the party, the Central Intelligence Agency's recent declassified files clearly admit the role of the United States played and it was only fair that it made up for causing Ghana's economy to stagnate ever since." See:


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT ACTIVITY AT ALL TIME HIGH

The annual number of Freedom of Information Act requests to federal government agencies exceeded three million for the first time last year.

"The total number of Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act access requests received by all federal departments and agencies during Fiscal Year 2003 was 3,266,394," according to a new summary report on FOIA activity from the Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy.

"This is 863,456 more than the number of requests received during Fiscal Year 2002, an increase of nearly 36%, and it marks the first year in which the three-million-request level has been reached."

"It also stands as the greatest one-year increase ever in FOIA requests received."

See "Summary of Annual FOIA Reports for Fiscal Year 2003":

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

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