SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 30
March 31, 2005

WMD COMMISSION: US INTEL ON IRAQ WAS "DEAD WRONG"

The Silberman-Robb Commission on WMD Intelligence released its massive report today, which featured blunt criticism of U.S. intelligence agencies and of nearly every aspect of the intelligence production cycle. A copy is posted here:

"We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the Commission stated in its letter of transmittal to the President.

Contrary to some early media reports, the Commission did not absolve the Bush Administration of mishandling or misrepresenting intelligence on Iraq.

"We were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community," the Commission Report said (page 8).

President Bush welcomed the report in a White House news briefing, and commended its authors for presenting an "unvarnished" review.

But then the President stated inaptly that "in an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives."

The whole impetus for the Commission was the fact that intelligence had overestimated the threat from Iraq, not underestimated it. Thousands of Americans and many more thousands of innocent Iraqis lost their lives or were seriously injured as a result of the ensuing war.

On information policy, the Commission took a particularly aggressive stance against unauthorized disclosures ("leaks") of classified information, but also complained that authorized disclosures have compromised intelligence sources and methods as well (pp. 380-383).

Two examples of problematic authorized disclosures were offered: Intelligence that is shared with foreign countries (though not the general public), and public announcements of classified satellite launches.

Of the various types of satellite launch information that are sometimes disclosed, "time of launch and azimuth are probably the most important for placing the payload in track and providing clues to mission type, followed by booster type/configuration," mused Allen Thomson, an independent space policy analyst.

"There are things the government might do to make things more difficult for analysts, particularly in the pre-launch period, but I'm skeptical that they could preclude acquisition and tracking of LEO [low Earth orbit] payloads by such measures without going to a very great deal of trouble and expense," Mr. Thomson said.

The Report's strong focus on "leaks" may be due in part to the participation of Commission staff member James B. Bruce, an unsurpassed hawk on leaks who in 2002 memorably stated that "We've got to do whatever it takes -- if it takes sending SWAT teams into journalists' homes -- to stop these leaks." See:

The Commission presented perfunctory passing criticism of the classification system: "the rules governing classification of national security information are antiquated and overly complex" (p. 443) and cited "persistent incentives for overclassification" (p. 546), but had no other insights or recommendations to offer on the subject.

At one point, the Commission itself appeared to succumb to mindless overclassification.

Referring (on p. 383) to a December 9, 2002 DCI Directive concerning unauthorized disclosures, the Commission said in a footnote (p. 386, footnote 35) that the Directive's "title [is] classified."

The Directive in question is DCID 6/8 and its title is "Unauthorized Disclosures, Security Violations, and Other Compromises of Intelligence Information (SCI)." There is no indication in other government sources that this innocuous title is classified.


NSC STAFF REORGANIZATION

On Monday, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley circulated a new organizational chart reflecting changes to the structure of the National Security Council staff.

Changes in staff structure were made to reflect the President's five national security priorities, two of which are "Winning the war on terror" and "Explaining the President's strategy at home and abroad."

The staff reorganization chart was first reported by InsideDefense.com.

A copy of "National Security Council Staff Reorganization," March 28, 2005, is here:


THE MISSING ABU GHRAIB TORTURE IMAGES

Last year, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had viewed the contents of three compact disks containing "blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman" acts of torture and abuse committed by some U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Almost none of those images have been released into the public domain, and they may never be if the government has its way.

The Pentagon's successful efforts to deflect Freedom of Information Act requests for disclosure of the images -- with identifying features obscured if necessary -- are traced by Matt Welch in the latest Reason Magazine.

See his article "The Pentagon's Secret Stash: Why we'll never see the second round of Abu Ghraib photos," Reason, April 2005:

Most recently, the Army has said that it has no idea what images are being requested, and that requesters must supply more details.

"Please provide the date, location, and names of persons involved in the abuse and we will attempt to conduct a search," wrote Phillip J. McGuire, Director of the Army Crimes Records Center on March 7.


A VISIT TO TWO IRANIAN NUCLEAR FACILITIES

Iran's President Khatami took reporters on a tour of two Iranian nuclear facilities yesterday, and some of the resulting photographs were helpfully collected by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service.

See "Iranian President Visits Uranium Conversion Facility of Esfahan," Iranian Students News Agency, March 30, 2005:

and "Tehran TV Shows Khatami Visiting Natanz Nuclear Facility," Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, March 30, 2005:

The Bush Administration dismissed the tour as "a staged media event."

"If there was a commitment to transparency, there are ways -- there are real, effective, meaningful ways to demonstrate that commitment beyond a staged media event like is being reported," said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli yesterday.

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

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