SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 15
February 6, 2006

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

SECRECY OF MINE INSPECTIONS REDUCED

In a rare relaxation of mounting restrictions on disclosure of government information, the Labor Department has agreed to reverse its policy of withholding notes taken by mine safety inspectors from prompt release under the Freedom of Information Act.

In a January 11 letter written in the wake of the Sago mine disaster, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) had urged the Secretary of Labor to permit disclosure of these notes (Secrecy News, 01/17/06).

"This unwarranted secrecy may protect the mining industry from embarrassing disclosures, but it undermines accountability and mine safety," Rep. Waxman wrote:

On January 20, three House Republicans, including Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the new House Majority Leader, wrote to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to make the same request.

"We share the concern expressed by some that ... this blanket policy has had the effect of denying important information about mine safety to the public."

In a January 30 letter written to Majority Leader Boehner, a Labor Department official wrote that the disclosure policy would be revised to permit release of mine inspector notes "effective immediately."

Rep. Boehner applauded the move. "Our request to Secretary Chao was made for one simple reason: to get more information, more quickly into the hands of Congress, the families impacted by the tragedies, and all those with a stake in mining and these investigations," he said.

In a January 31 news release, Rep. Boehner and his colleagues took credit for the step. See "In Response to House Republican Request, Labor Department Makes Key Policy Change Impacting Mine Investigations":


SUNSHINE WEEK ON THE WAY

Sunshine Week is a broad-based initiative intended to focus public concern over the growth of official secrecy.

During the week of March 13, 2006, there will be a series of events exploring the diverse and increasing barriers that obstruct public access to government information.

Details and educational resources are available on the Sunshine Week web site here:


PENTAGON ABANDONS REVISION OF NUCLEAR DOCTRINE

The Department of Defense has abandoned plans to revise its Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations.

The draft revision became controversial when it was disclosed last year because of its unusually frank discussion of preemptive use of nuclear weapons.

The decision to cancel the revision was discovered by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists. He described the move last week and provided relevant links in the new blog of the FAS Strategic Security Project here:


CIA ON REMOTE MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS (1979)

A noteworthy article from the CIA's Studies in Intelligence Journal, published in 1979 and declassified last year, describes the use of "remote medical diagnosis" for foreign intelligence purposes.

"Remote medical diagnosis is defined as the identification of the illnesses affecting a person without the benefit of a formal medical examination."

The authors provide capsule accounts of CIA medical diagnoses of various world leaders, including French President Georges Pompidou, Algerian President Houari Boumediene, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin.

The technique, such as it is, is far from infallible, the authors note. Although Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir suffered from malignant lymphoma for more than 12 years, "We had been entirely unaware that she had this lethal disease."

See "Remote Medical Diagnosis: Monitoring the health of Very Important Patients," Studies in Intelligence, Spring 1979 (1.2 MB PDF file) (thanks to AT):

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

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