SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 46
May 13, 2005

UK MEMO REVIVES QUESTIONS ABOUT IRAQ WAR

Long before the war against Iraq commenced, the Bush Administration had decided to remove Saddam Hussein from power by force, and a case for war was contrived to support that objective, according to minutes of a July 2002 British government meeting that were published earlier this month.

"Military action was now seen as inevitable," the meeting minutes stated. "Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

In a May 5 letter, 89 House Democrats pressed the White House to explain the contents of the British memo.

"If the disclosure is accurate," they wrote to President Bush, "it raises troubling new questions about the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your Administration." See:

The memo itself, obtained by Michael Smith of the London Sunday Times, is available here:

Coverage of the matter has been sparse in the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported on it yesterday, more than a week after the story broke in the UK on May 1, and the Washington Post followed today.


WAXMAN INTRODUCES RESTORE OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced legislation this week that would reverse some of the restrictions on public disclosure of government information that have been imposed in recent years.

The new bill would restore the pre-Ashcroft Freedom of Information Act policy directing agencies to release requested information unless there is some finding of harm; it would repeal the executive order that limited public access to past presidential records; it would prohibit secret advisory committees such as the Vice President's energy task force that meet with industry groups behind closed doors; and more.

Under the present House Republican leadership, Democrats are not permitted to contribute meaningfully to the legislative process. Their bills are not scheduled for hearings or allowed to come to the House floor for a vote.

It is therefore unlikely that Rep. Waxman's bill will become law in the near term. But it may nevertheless serve as a useful reminder of an alternative vision of American government, and as a trail of bread crumbs that could one day lead us back the way we came.

A news release and summary of the bill's provision may be found here:


DISCLOSURE OF GRAND JURY INFO TO INTEL AGENCIES

The USA Patriot Act (section 203) directed the Attorney General to establish procedures for providing intelligence agencies with law enforcement information obtained in grand jury investigations and electronic intercepts. Those procedures were disclosed last month.

In response to a question for the record from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Department of Justice on April 1 released a September 23, 2002 Memorandum from Attorney General Ashcroft on "Guidelines for Disclosure of Grand Jury and Electronic, Wire, and Oral Interception Information Identifying United States Persons." See (beginning with question 84):

The guidelines were included in a newly published hearing volume on "FBI Oversight," Senate Judiciary Committee, May 20, 2004. The full volume may be found here (9.2 MB PDF file):


A CLUTCH OF CRS REPORTS

The Congressional Research Service, at the direction of the current congressional leadership, does not authorize direct public access to its reports. CRS reports that were recently obtained by Secrecy News without authorization include the following.

"Iraq's New Security Forces: The Challenge of Sectarian and Ethnic Influences," March 25, 2005:

"Iraq: Frequently Asked Questions About Contracting," updated March 18, 2005:

"Iraq: Oil for Food Program, International Sanctions, and Illicit Trade," updated March 21, 2005:

"Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990," updated March 21, 2005:

"Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview," March 28, 2005:

"Nomination and Confirmation of the FBI Director: Process and Recent History," updated March 17, 2005:

"U.S. Military Dispositions: Fact Sheet," updated March 23, 2005:

"Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: 109th Congress Proposed Refinements," March 11, 2005:

"Balkan Cooperation on War Crimes Issues: 2005 Update," March 28, 2005:

"Organization of American States: A Primer," March 28, 2005:

"Science and Technology Policy: Issues for the 109th Congress," March 28, 2005:

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

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