from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 4
January 12, 2005


In an abrupt reversal, the Department of Homeland Security last week rescinded its controversial policy of requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to gain access to unclassified information that is marked "for official use only" or "sensitive but unclassified."

The non-disclosure agreements, first reported by Secrecy News last November 8, drew opposition from employees' unions and others because, for example, they granted the government extraordinary permission to "conduct inspections at any time or place for the purpose of ensuring compliance."

The revised DHS policy on sensitive but unclassified information eliminates the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) requirement. Such agreements are only rarely used by other agencies for unclassified information.

The change was reported yesterday by Eileen Sullivan in Federal Times.

"Those NDA's previously signed by DHS employees... will no longer be valid," according to a January 11 transmittal memo from DHS Under Secretary Janet Hale. "DHS will take reasonable steps to retrieve these documents and destroy them." See:

A copy of "Safeguarding Sensitive But Unclassified (For Official Use Only) Information," DHS Management Directive 11042.1, revised January 6, 2005, is posted here:

The DHS move does not resolve the challenges posed by the poorly defined information control category "sensitive but unclassified." But it is nevertheless a hopeful sign. It represents an increasingly unusual ability to review existing policies in the light of changed circumstances and to revise them accordingly.

By way of contrast, the CIA's crippling inability to rethink inherited security policies keeps the Agency in litigation seeking to uphold the secrecy of half-century old budget totals.


For the first time during the tenure of Porter J. Goss as Director of Central Intelligence, the CIA last month refused to disclose the total intelligence budget for the current fiscal year.

That was no surprise. But Mr. Goss is also the first DCI to have previously been an advocate of regular annual disclosure of the intelligence budget.

As a member of the 1996 Aspin-Brown Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community, Mr. Goss personally endorsed intelligence budget disclosure as a way of increasing accountability.

"The Commission recommends that at the beginning of each congressional budget cycle, the President or a designee disclose the total amount of money appropriated for intelligence activities for the current fiscal year (to include NFIP, JMIP, and TIARA) and the total amount being requested for the next fiscal year," the Commission's final report stated (Recommendation 14-2).

"The Commission believes this can be done in manner that does not raise a significant security concern.... A number of foreign governments, including the British and Australian, have disclosed their intelligence budgets to the public without adverse effect. The Commission believes it can be done here as well." See:

Although the bipartisan Commission report included dissenting views on other topics, there was unanimity on the recommendation for budget disclosure, as there would be once again in the case of the 9/11 Commission last year.

But that was then.

Today, DCI Goss' words are seen to be weightless and inconsequential. Now that he is in a position to do something about the budget secrecy that he previously decried, no one expects him to do so.

"We trust you can appreciate the necessity of an intelligence agency to protect its budget," wrote CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator Scott Koch on December 28, denying a request for disclosure of the 2005 intelligence budget total.


The numerous and diverse chemical and biological materials that U.S. military forces might encounter on the battlefield are catalogued and described in a new manual issued this week by the Department of Defense.

"The threat or use of CB weapons is a possible condition of future warfare and could occur in the early stages of war to disrupt United States (US) operations and logistics," the manual states.

"In many of the regions where the US is likely to deploy forces, potential adversaries may use CB weapons. Potential adversaries may seek to counter US conventional military superiority using less expensive and more attainable, asymmetrical means. To meet this challenge, US forces must be properly trained and equipped to operate effectively and decisively in the face of NBC attacks."

See "Potential Military Chemical/Biological Agents and Compounds," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-11.9, January 2005 (318 pages, 5.5 MB PDF file):


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

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to [email protected] with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to [email protected].

OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at:

Secrecy News has an RSS feed at: