SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 106
December 1, 2004

MORE NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS FOR UNCLASSIFIED INFO

The use of non-disclosure agreements as a condition for access to certain unclassified government information is becoming more common.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) convened a workshop entitled "Anticipating the Unanticipated" to consider novel weapons and tactics that might be employed by terrorists. The workshop was held on an unclassified basis, yet participants were obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The workshop was sponsored by DHS's Analytic Red Cell, which is part of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

"We are treating this session itself as unclassified but sensitive-- limiting discussion about its focus and contents to the Department and to participants," according to the workshop invitation. "We request that you do likewise and require your signature on the attached Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)."

A copy of the Non-Disclosure Agreement for this round table discussion is here:

The agreement in this case seems more or less unobjectionable. A workshop on the same topic might easily have been held on a classified basis, obviating the need for a meeting-specific agreement. And invitees who did not wish to sign the document were free to decline and not to attend.

Still, this episode illustrates how non-disclosure agreements are increasingly becoming a tool of first resort for government agencies seeking to regulate access to unclassified information.


JUSTICE DEPT INSPECTOR GENERAL REVIEWS POLYGRAPH POLICY

The Department of Justice Inspector General is undertaking a review of the use of polygraph testing throughout the Department.

"Polygraph examinations are used in criminal investigations and counterintelligence operations, as a pre-condition of employment or access to classified information, in background investigations, and in administrative misconduct investigations," the IG noted in a new report to Congress.

"The review focuses on the legal authorities and statutory and regulatory requirements governing the use of polygraph examinations, Department policy and oversight of polygraph examinations, and Department compliance with federal and professional standards for managing polygraph examinations."

See "Top Management Challenges in the Department of Justice 2004," transmitted November 22, which addresses a host of issues facing the Department, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds has launched a petition drive calling for the declassification of a classified Inspector General report on her allegations of misconduct and incompetence in the FBI translation unit. See:


AMICUS BRIEF FILED IN CHENEY TASK FORCE CASE

A "friend of the court" brief filed by several library, journalist, and public interest organizations proposes a new middle ground for achieving resolution of the continuing dispute over access to records of Vice President Cheney's secret Energy Task Force.

That case is pending in federal appeals court in the D.C. District.

See this news release from the National Security Archive with a link to the amici curiae brief filed November 30:


REPORT ON 1949 FORRESTAL DEATH RELEASED

The report of an 55 year old official investigation into the death of James V. Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense, was released earlier this year under the Freedom of Information Act.

Forrestal was appointed Secretary of Defense by President Harry Truman upon the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. He resigned in March 1949 and shortly thereafter fell to his death from a hospital window.

The report of the investigating review board, chaired by Admiral M. D. Willcutts in 1949, was released to FOIA requester David Martin and is posted here (in two unmanageably large PDF files):


CHILE REPORT ON TORTURE

Murder will out, and so it appears will torture.

An extraordinary report from the government of Chile this week admits and describes the systematic use of torture and imprisonment against some 27,000 victims during the period of military rule from 1973 to 1990.

A copy of the report (in Spanish) may be found here:


CRS ON POW/MIA ACCOUNTING

The Congressional Research Service recently updated a report on the question of U.S. prisoners of war held abroad and never fully accounted for.

It is a complex and fiercely contentious topic that seems to be handled by CRS with respectful impartiality.

See "POWs and MIAs: Status and Accounting Issues," updated October 13, 2004:


NUCLEAR TEST BAN RATIFIED BY RWANDA

Rwanda yesterday pledged not to conduct nuclear explosive tests.

It thereby became the 174th nation to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the 120th nation to ratify the Treaty, according to a December 1 news release from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. See:

The Bush Administration opposes a ban on nuclear explosive testing.

For related background, see "Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," Congressional Research Service, updated November 8, 2004:

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

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