SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 20
February 15, 2006

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

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NUCLEAR SECRECY IMPEDES OVERSIGHT OF HEU EXPORTS, CRITICS SAY

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is no longer disclosing the amounts of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that are sought for export to foreign research reactors, prompting complaints that the new non-disclosure policy undermines effective oversight of the traffic in nuclear weapons-grade material.

"Under prior longstanding policy the Commission publicly disclosed such information, and this enabled the public to submit comments that in several cases demonstrated to the Commission that an applicant had requested an amount of HEU exceeding its documented need," wrote Alan J. Kuperman of the University of Texas at Austin and Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute.

"In these [prior] cases, either the application was withdrawn, the Commission reduced the amount approved for export, or the Commission required that the approved amount be exported only in small tranches as the applicant subsequently demonstrated imminent need -- to avoid the accumulation of surplus HEU by the applicant."

But the opportunity for meaningful public comment on two pending applications for export of HEU -- to Belgium and to Canada -- "has been vitiated by the Commission's new policy of withholding from the public both the amount of HEU requested and the applicant's documentation that its existing inventory of HEU is insufficient to satisfy its imminent needs," wrote Kuperman and Leventhal.

See their February 13, 2006, letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:


DOE MANUAL ON INFORMATION SECURITY

The Department of Energy recently approved a comprehensive manual on procedures for protecting all manner of classified or controlled information in the Department's possession.

From RD (Restricted Data) and FRD (Formerly Restricted Data) to SAPs (Special Access Programs) and SPECATs (Special Category programs), it's all in there. (Or almost all. A complete roster of all of the "sigma" categories of nuclear information is not included.)

The manual has not been readily available online, but a copy was obtained was obtained by Secrecy News and posted on the Federation of American Scientists web site.

See "Information Security," DOE Manual 470.4-4, approved August 26, 2005 (2 MB PDF file):


PUBLIC INTEREST DECLASSIFICATION BOARD TO MEET

Equipped with a one million dollar budget for the current fiscal year, the Public Interest Declassification Board will hold its first meeting on Saturday, February 25.

The Board, which serves a purely advisory function and does not have independent declassification authority, is chaired by L. Britt Snider, the former CIA Inspector General, and supported by the Information Security Oversight Office, which serves as executive secretariat.

The first meeting will be devoted mainly to administrative matters and will not be open to the public. A press release may be issued following the meeting, an official said. The Board is not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The Bush Administration requested $655,000 for the Public Interest Declassification Board in Fiscal Year 2007.


IN THE NEWS

The challenges posed by so-called "sensitive but unclassified" information, and Administration efforts to bring order to this problematic policy area, were explored in "Government withholds 'sensitive-but-unclassified' information" by Lance Gay, Scripps Howard News Service, February 2, 2006:

The consequences of the government's unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to prosecute non-governmental employees for mishandling classified information in the AIPAC case were considered in "Big Impact Seen In Israel Spy Case" by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, February 13, 2006:

http://www.nysun.com/pf.php?id=27429


CRS REPORTS ON INDIA, PAKISTAN

The Congressional Research Service has recently issued several newly updated reports on India and Pakistan, including the following, obtained by Secrecy News.

"India: Chronology of Recent Events," updated February 7, 2006:

"India-U.S. Relations," updated February 9, 2006:

"Pakistan: Chronology of Events," updated February 7, 2006:

"Pakistan-U.S. Relations," updated February 10, 2006:


A HEARING ON WHISTLEBLOWERS

The House Government Reform Committee held an extraordinary hearing yesterday on the vulnerabilities of national security whistleblowers who challenge what they see as agency misconduct.

"Breaking bureaucratic ranks to speak unpleasant and unwelcome truths takes courage and risks invoking the wrath of those with the power and motive to shoot the messenger," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), who chaired the hearing.

In an unusual move, Chairman Shays gave pride of place to several whistleblowers who testified in the first panel of the hearing, while agency representatives waited to testify in the third panel.

All of the prepared testimony from the February 14 hearing may be found here:

Today, "there are no meaningful protections for [national security] whistleblowers," wrote former FBI linguist Sibel Edmonds in response to a New York Times op-ed last week by DCIA Porter Goss.

See "Porter Goss' Op-ed: 'Ignotum per Ignotius'!" by Sibel Edmonds, February 11:

"Ignotum per ignotius" is a Latin expression referring to an explanation which is harder to understand than that which it is meant to explain.

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

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