SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 87
September 12, 2005

DECLASSIFICATION DISPUTE YIELDS 1963 CIA BIOGRAPHY

An extraordinary dispute among senior Bush Administration officials over whether to declassify a forty-year-old CIA document culminated last week in the public release of the contested document -- a one-page 1963 biography of Giuseppe Saragat (1898-1988), leader of Italy's Democratic Socialist Party who would go on to become that nation's president (1964-1971).

Declassification of the document was originally mandated in 2003 by majority vote of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) -- an executive branch body composed of representatives of the Departments of Defense, State and Justice, the CIA, NARA and the National Security Adviser.

But the CIA objected, and Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet exercised the veto power that President Bush had granted to the DCI in a March 2003 executive order in order to block the document's release.

Other members of the Panel appealed to the White House to override the DCI's veto.

"Even [then-Secretary of State] Colin Powell put pen to paper" to urge declassification of the document, according to a U.S. government source.

The White House did not respond.

But last year, the appeal "was rendered moot when the DCI [Porter J. Goss] later exercised his discretion and declassified the document at issue in its entirety," according to the 2004 annual report from the Information Security Oversight Office (at page 9). Still, the document remained undisclosed until this month when it was finally transferred to the JFK Library in declassified form. (The citation is Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Papers, Box WH 12a, Italy, 2/1/63 - 2/28/63.)

A copy of the document, which is about as innocuous as it could be, was obtained by Secrecy News and is available here:

Why did the CIA insist on the document's classification until very recently? Why was it declassified?

To ask such questions presupposes that there is a rational basis to CIA's classification actions. But that may not be so.

CIA classification policy is often unintelligible even to sympathetic observers.

For example, in an attempt to explain how historical intelligence budget figures from fifty years ago could be properly withheld by the CIA even though current budget figures were declassified in 1997 and 1998, federal judge Ricardo M. Urbina was forced to conjecture last year that the DCI may have "made a poor decision in deciding to disclose the intelligence budget totals in 1997 and 1998." But there is no evidence to support such a conjecture.

Like intelligence budget data and presidential briefing papers, among other things, biographical information on foreign leaders has been shielded by the CIA independent of any threat assessment associated with its disclosure. (The National Security Archive sought such biographical information in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit a few years ago.)

The belated release of the CIA biography of Giuseppe Saragat thus marks a small departure from the Agency's otherwise indiscriminate secrecy.

In a separate dispute, the DCI also vetoed an ISCAP decision to declassify a second CIA document in 2003. An appeal of that veto remains pending at the White House.


KATRINA, THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE PRESS

An initial compilation of potentially toxic sites in the industrial areas in and around New Orleans that may require remedial action in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been prepared by OMB Watch here:

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has been slow to respond to requests for information about the environmental impacts of Katrina, according to the Society of Environmental Journalists. See the new SEJ report "A Flawed Tool--Environmental Reporters' Experiences With the Freedom of Information Act":

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has released a newly updated edition of its report on the effects of the war on terrorism on the public's right to know. See RCFP's "Homefront Confidential" here:

Russ Kick of TheMemoryHole.org wonders aloud about the impact of Katrina on the biological research labs in New Orleans and the fate of their inventories of biological agents. See:


SOLAR POWER FOR IRAQ

The feasibility of using photovoltaic (PV) solar power to assist in rebuilding the Iraqi electrical infrastructure is examined in a recent study prepared at the Naval Postgraduate School.

"Iraqi citizens have been forced to live with programmed electrical blackouts because of an insufficient power grid for many years, but solar PV systems could help minimize or eliminate this problem."

While costs are substantial, the authors argue that solar photovoltaics offer significant compensating advantages.

See "Operation Solar Eagle: A Study Examining Photovoltaic Solar Power as an Alternative for the Rebuilding of the Iraqi Electrical Power Generation Infrastructure" by Curtis Austin, Ralph Borja, and Jeffery Phillips, Naval Postgraduate School, June 2005 (187 pages, 2.5 MB PDF file):


SELECTED CRS REPORTS

Some recent reports of the Congressional Research Service include the following:

"Hurricane Katrina: Fishing and Aquaculture Industries -- Damage and Recovery," September 7, 2005:

"Emergency Communications: The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings," updated September 2, 2005:

"'Fast Track' Congressional Consideration of Recommendations of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission," updated September 1, 2005:

"Afghanistan: Post-War Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy," updated August 31, 2005:

"Nuclear Testing and Comprehensive Test Ban: Chronology Starting September 1992," updated August 31, 2005:

"F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program: Background, Status, and Issues," updated August 29, 2005:

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

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