SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 23
March 14, 2005

SUNSHINE WEEK BEGINS

News organizations, openness advocates and others are promoting the week of March 13, dubbed "Sunshine Week," as an occasion for recalling and reinforcing the value of open government.

A variety of links, leads and other resources for reporters and others can be found on the main Sunshine Week web site here:

Among other notable events scheduled for the week are a March 15 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Cornyn/Leahy bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, and the National Freedom of Information Day conference March 16 at the Freedom Forum.

Sunshine Week is sponsored in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which also supports Secrecy News and other open government initiatives.


ENERGY DEPT MAY RELEASE PORTIONS OF URANIUM HISTORY

After a decade of equivocation, the Department of Energy may soon release portions of its long-promised history of highly enriched uranium production from 1945 to 1996.

In January of this year, DOE once again categorically denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the document, which was originally supposed to be published in 1997 (SN, 02/01/05).

But upon appeal from the Federation of American Scientists, DOE officials last week said the blanket denial could not be sustained, and that while some portions of the document were exempt from disclosure, others were not.

So, for example, "information revealing the location and quantity of fissile material can be properly withheld" for security reasons.

However, the report also "contains a great deal of purely factual information, such as facts, figures, photographs and historical narrative...A significant amount of the withheld factual information contained in the Report could be released without revealing the location or quantities of fissile materials."

Accordingly, the DOE Office of Security was advised that it "cannot continue to withhold this information under the cited reasoning" and must either release all such factual information or else provide a new rationale for withholding it.

The March 7 ruling of the DOE Office of Hearings and Appeals is available here:

A previously published companion report on the history of plutonium production, entitled "Plutonium: The First 50 Years," is here:


VANDENBERG TAKES LAUNCH SCHEDULE OFFLINE

The U.S. Air Force has removed its unclassified launch schedule for the Western Range launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California from public access, the Santa Maria Times reported yesterday.

"Although the launches aren't classified, we still must weigh operational security concerns when determining what and how much information to make available and when to make it available," Capt. Todd Fleming, Vandenberg Air Force Base's public affairs chief, said in response to written questions from the Times. "We are currently evaluating the security risks with providing such easy and early public access to launch information."

"Vandenberg's unclassified schedule Web site has evolved from giving detailed information such as launch dates and liftoff times to more recently revealing only the month for a mission. Now even that is gone...," the Times reported.

See "Launch Schedule Off Web" by Janene Scully, Santa Maria Times, March 13:


JOAN GRIMSON NAMED TO PUBLIC INTEREST DECLASS BOARD

Joan Vail Grimson, a former staff member of the Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, the National Security Council, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was named last week as the seventh member of the nine-member Public Interest Declassification Board, a new advisory body.

She was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Frist, as noted in the March 10 Congressional Record:

Two more members have yet to be named to the PIDB, one by the House Republican leadership and one by the Senate Democratic leadership.


SPACE STATION TANGLED UP IN IRAN NONPROLIFERATION ACT

The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, intended in part to curb the transfer of sensitive technologies from Russia to Iran, is now poised to jeopardize U.S.-Russian cooperation on the International Space Station.

The 2000 statute has the "potential to stop the space-station program dead in its tracks," said David Goldston of the House Science Committee in an interview with the Economist, which reported the story in its March 12 issue.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service provides background on the Act and its largely unintended impact on the International Space Station.

See "The Iran Nonproliferation Act and the International Space Station: Issues and Options," March 2, here:


SIHANOUK, KING OF BLOGS

His Peculiar Majesty Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia has joined the blogosphere, opining regularly on current events on his own web site.

The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) of the Central Intelligence Agency "first observed the blog in late February...," according to a FBIS report.

"Since then it has evolved into a daily report on a range of current issues, including some with political content. So far, most of the postings appear without comment while others contain subtle wording, or use question and exclamation marks, to convey Sihanouk's views-- frequently as veiled tangents-- on given issues."

See "Sihanouk Launches 'News From Cambodia' Blog," FBIS Report, March 10, which gives several examples of the King's contributions:

The blog itself, which is mostly in French, may be found here (see "Royal Messages 2005"):

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

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