SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 18
February 16, 2005

CORNYN, LEAHY INTRODUCE "OPEN GOVERNMENT" ACT

In a legislative initiative that heralds the arrival of a new bipartisan congressional coalition in support of public access to government information, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today introduced legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

"Open government is one of the most basic requirements of any healthy democracy," said Sen. Cornyn in a news release. "It allows for taxpayers to see where their money is going; it permits the honest exchange of information that ensures government accountability; and it upholds the ideal that government never rules without the consent of the governed."

"Access to public information in a timely and effective manner is a vital piece of our democratic system of checks and balances that promotes accountability and imbues trust," concurred Sen. Leahy. "FOIA represents the foundation of our modern open government laws and this bill builds on that by updating its protections to include new technologies and refining the process to reduce delays and encourage accessibility."

The new legislation would make a series of changes to the Freedom of Information Act that would bolster requesters' claims to fee waivers, strengthen the position of those who litigate FOIA requests, improve the timeliness and of FOIA processing, and impose disciplinary penalties for arbitrary withholding, among several other provisions.

The text of the legislation, to be known as the "Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005", or the OPEN Government Act, along with fact sheets and related materials may be found on Sen. Cornyn's web site here:

Additional information may also be found on Sen. Leahy's web site here:


ANNUAL SSCI WORLDWIDE THREAT BRIEFING

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held its annual open hearing today on "Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States."

Witnesses included DCI Porter Goss, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, DIA Director Adm. Lowell Jacoby, and State INR director Thomas Fingar.

Their prepared statements, which did not immediately yield any surprises, are posted here:


IRAQ CULTURE SMART CARD

U.S. military personnel in Iraq are presented with a laminated card that summarizes the rudiments of Iraqi culture, as refracted through the understanding of the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity.

"The 16-panel, folded card includes information on religion, religious holidays, clothes and gestures, ethnic groups, cultural groups, customs and history, social structure and Arabic names. Also included are 'Do This' and 'Don't Do This', commands, numbers, questions, and helpful words and phrases."

A copy of the Iraq Culture Smart Card, newly updated in November 2004, is available here (in a very large 6.5 MB PDF file):

An earlier edition from February 2004 may be found here (in a lower resolution 1.0 MB PDF file):

[Update July 2006: These documents have been removed at the request of the copyright holder.]

The blog "Baghdad Dweller" last month reflected on the contents of a similar smart card that might be used to introduce American culture to a foreign visitor. See:


FBIS GRAPPLES WITH KOREAN ORTHOGRAPHY

The CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which collects and translates news reports and other publications abroad, continues to wrestle with how to best transliterate Korean words and names into English. (See "A Lesson in Korean Linguistics," Secrecy News, 07/19/04).

This month FBIS announced the adoption of a series of new standard transliterations of Korean terms, which mostly seem to involve a strategically placed apostrophe or two.

Thus, for example, the North Korean publication previously known as "Kyonggongop" will henceforth be rendered "Kyo'nggongo'p."

See "FBIS To Modify DPRK, ROK Source Names," February 11, 2005:

South Korea recently asked China to stop referring to its capital city Seoul as "hancheng," computational linguist Tom Emerson informs Secrecy News.

Instead, the Koreans asked China to use the characters "shou" and "er," which together sound roughly like "Seoul."

As it happens, Mr. Emerson explains, "these characters, in Chinese, mean 'capital.' So you'll see articles like, "The South Korean capital Capital had a protest today..."


EVEN MORE FROM CRS

With some frequency, the Congressional Research Service puts out fine products that sparkle with insight and new information. More often, CRS reports are syntheses of previously published news accounts and other studies. Occasionally, CRS analysts will introduce new errors all of their own.

But even when they are perfunctory or mediocre, CRS reports have a unique importance precisely because they are used to inform the legislative process. As a result, there is a public interest in gaining access even to second-rate publications.

But for now, direct public access to CRS reports remains wishful thinking.

Here are some more new and newly updated CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News.

"Al Qaeda: Profile and Threat Assessment," February 10, 2005:

"Proliferation Control Regimes: Background and Status," updated February 10, 2005:

"The Department of Defense Rules for Military Commissions: Analysis of Procedural Rules and Comparison with Proposed Legislation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice," updated January 18, 2005:

"Treatment of 'Battlefield Detainees' in the War on Terrorism," January 13, 2005:

"Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws," updated January 18, 2005:

"Federal and State Isolation and Quarantine Authority," updated January 18, 2005:

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

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