SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 93
October 26, 2004

HOUSE/SENATE INTEL REFORM BILLS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS (CRS)

The significant disparities between the House and Senate versions of legislation to reform the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy are mapped out in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Given that the published version of the House bill alone fills more than 600 pages, not many people -- not even members of Congress -- are likely to read the whole thing.

But at 91 pages, the CRS review is somewhat more digestible.

CRS policy prohibits direct public access to CRS publications.

But see "H.R. 10 (9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act) and S. 2845 (National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004): A Comparative Analysis," updated October 21, 2004:


POSTPONEMENT OF STATE ELECTIONS (CRS)

The possible postponement of elections due to terrorist attack or other emergency is addressed in yet another new CRS report (the third to address the subject, by our count).

"Due to the possibility of an emergency or disaster, including the threat of a terrorist attack, occurring immediately before or during a scheduled election, some states have enacted statutes providing for the temporary postponement of elections in their respective states, precincts, districts, or counties. This Report summarizes seven state statutes that provide a mechanism for the postponement of certain elections."

See "State Election Laws: Overview of Statutes Regarding Emergency Election Postponement Within the State," September 22, 2004:


GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES TO PROTECT THE ELECTRIC GRID (CRS)

"The electric utility system is vulnerable to outages caused by a range of activities, including system operator errors, weather related damage, and terrorist attacks," according to another new Congressional Research Service report.

"This report provides a description of initiatives within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, and Defense to protect the physical transmission infrastructure."

See "Government Activities to Protect the Electric Grid," October 20, 2004:


SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE REORGANIZATION (CRS)

Earlier this month, the Senate adopted a resolution that will modify the organization and procedures governing intelligence oversight.

Among the dozen or so changes, the eight-year term limit on intelligence committee membership is eliminated, and the size of the committee is reduced from 17 to 15. The resolution also amends slightly the procedures for publicly disclosing classified information (which have never been used).

The provisions of the resolution are summarized by the CRS in "S.Res. 445: Senate Committee Reorganization for Homeland Security and Intelligence Matters":


UN CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE (CRS)

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been conditionally ratified by the United States, recognizes no circumstances under which torture could be permitted.

But this clarity of principle has been lacking in some quarters of the Bush Administration.

A recent CRS study examines how US policy comports with the requirements of the UN Convention.

See "U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques," June 16, 2004:


INVENTION SECRECY UP SLIGHTLY IN 2004

The total number of patent secrecy orders imposed on patent applications under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 rose slightly last year to 4,885. Most originated in previous years. There were 124 new secrecy orders added during the year.

The Invention Secrecy Act is one of two laws under which the government asserts a right to restrict the disclosure of privately generated information on national security grounds. (The other law is the Atomic Energy Act.) The constitutionality of this practice has never been tested.

While the large majority of secret inventions are produced by government contractors or with government funding, some are not. Secrecy orders imposed on private individuals or businesses who developed their idea without government sponsorship are termed "John Doe" secrecy orders.

Last year, there were 61 new "John Doe" secrecy orders, up from 51 the year before.

A tabulation of the latest statistics on invention secrecy, released under the Freedom of Information Act, is here:

In its FOIA response, the US Patent and Trademark Office observed that the Federation of American Scientists web site makes invention secrecy information available and suggested helpfully if incongruously that "you may wish to consult that site" in the future.

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

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