SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 89
October 12, 2004

HONORING JOSEPH DARBY

U.S. Army Specialist Joseph Darby displayed exemplary courage in exposing the human rights abuses perpetrated at Abu Ghraib prison and is to be commended "for standing up for what is right," according to language in the 2005 Defense Authorization Act adopted by the House and Senate on October 9.

"The need to act in accord with one's conscience, risking one's career and even the esteem of one's colleagues by pursuing what is right is especially important today," Congress found. "Specialist Darby deserves the Nation's thanks for speaking up and for standing up for what is right."

"It is the sense of Congress that (1) the Secretary of Defense should make every protection available to Army Specialist Joseph Darby and others who demonstrate such courage; and (2) Specialist Darby should be commended appropriately by the Secretary of the Army."

The congressional language did not spell out why Darby would be in need of protection, or why acting in accord with one's conscience is "especially important today."

See Section 1094 of the FY 2005 Defense Authorization Act here:

Previously undisclosed portions of the Taguba report on Abu Ghraib were made available last week by the Center for Public Integrity (www.publicintegrity.org).


SCOPE OF FOIA EXEMPTION FOR SATELLITE IMAGERY LIMITED

Congressional conferees narrowed the scope of a new Freedom of Information Act exemption for certain categories of commercial satellite imagery and related products.

As revised, the exemption would apply only to imagery whose sale to non-government customers is already prohibited "for reasons of national security."

The original version of the proposed exemption became somewhat controversial (SN, 09/07/04) because it would have apparently encompassed a vastly broader set of imagery and imagery-derived products.

See the final language in section 914 of the 2005 Defense Authorization Act here:


CONGRESS ENDORSES MEDIA BLACKOUT ON MILITARY COFFINS

The Department of Defense was correct to prohibit news media coverage of the transfer of coffins of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq or their arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Congress declared in the new Defense Authorization Act.

The DoD policy serves to protect the privacy of the families and friends of the deceased, Congress indicated.

Furthermore, "It is the sense of Congress that the Department of Defense policy regarding no media coverage of the transfer of the remains of deceased members of the Armed Forces ... is consistent with United States constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press."

Critics of the DoD policy argue that photographs of flag-draped coffins could not possibly infringe on individual privacy, and that the prohibition on news media coverage tends to obscure the human costs of the war in Iraq.

The news media blackout has recently been challenged in litigation by journalism professor Ralph Begleiter, assisted by the National Security Archive and the law firm Jenner & Block.

See the new congressional provision in section 1082 of the 2005 Defense Authorization Act here:


ILLNESSES AT NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY TO BE PROBED

Employees of the National Security Agency seem to have a disproportionately high incidence of illnesses, prompting Congress to seek a study of the matter.

"The [defense authorization] conferees are concerned with continued reports of work related illnesses among the National Security Agency (NSA) employees at Fort Meade, Maryland. The conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to undertake an epidemiological study and health hazard evaluation related to NSA buildings at Fort Meade."

See the report language from the 2005 Defense Authorization Act here:


DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD ON INFORMATION SHARING

The importance of information sharing in ensuring homeland security is the subject of an extended rumination from the Defense Science Board, which reviewed the obstacles to sharing and proposed some largely familiar solutions.

The DSB found, unsurprisingly, that "classification procedures encourage over-classification and inhibit efficient, standardized processes such as tear sheets for declassifying and sharing information."

The new DSB report called among other things for increased reliance on "sensitive but unclassified" networks for information sharing. Such sharing does not extend to public disclosure, and the public is relegated to the role of passive spectator in homeland security rather than stakeholder.

See "DoD Roles and Missions in Homeland Security," Volume II-B, Information, Sharing and Analysis Panel Report, dated September 2004 (1.6 MB PDF file):


HILL AIR FORCE BASE REMOVES BLOCK ON FAS WEB SITE

Last week, employees at Hill Air Force Base in Utah found that their access to the Federation of American Scientists web site had been blocked on grounds that it contained objectionable "political/religious material" (SN, 10/07/04).

But within a day, the block was lifted in response to employee complaints.

"Fas.org is now open and available to be accessed," Hill AFB network security wrote.

"They were very helpful and it appears they resolved the issue promptly," one such employee wrote to Secrecy News.

A UPI story on the matter didn't hurt either. See "Military Base Blocks Anti-Secrecy Website," United Press International, October 7:

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

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