SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 62/63
May 26, 2006

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

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SENATE BILL WOULD REQUIRE INTELLIGENCE BUDGET DISCLOSURE

Public disclosure of intelligence budget data would be required under a provision of the 2007 Intelligence Authorization Act that was reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday and disclosed today.

The total amounts authorized and appropriated for the National Intelligence Program would be publicly disclosed each year starting in 2007, the Senate bill states.

After 2007, the bill would also require the President to disclose the aggregate amount requested each year for national intelligence.

The budget disclosure provision was proposed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and approved yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee on a 9-6 vote. All Democrats on the Committee supported the move, as did Republican Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). Other Republicans, including Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), opposed it.

Beyond aggregate budget disclosure, the bill would also require the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a study on the advisability of disclosing the budget of each individual element of the intelligence community.

The disclosure requirement (Section 107 of S. 3237) generally corresponds to a bipartisan recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. A similar measure was approved by the Senate in October 2004, but opposed by the White House and blocked in the House.

"The public ought to know how much money the government is spending on intelligence activities and the Senate has long sought this sensible reform," Senator Jay Rockefeller and other Democratic Senators wrote in a Statement appended to the Report.

"We believe declassifying the aggregate amount of money the nation spends on intelligence would not harm the nation's security."

The new Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2007 includes numerous other significant and interesting provisions including: a requirement for a DNI report on treatment of detainees (section 313); a requirement for a report on alleged clandestine detention facilities (section 314); establishment of a National Space Intelligence Center (section 410); and quite a bit more.

See the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the FY 2007 Intelligence Authorization Act, Senate Report 109-259, May 25, here:

The underlying bill, S. 3237, is here:

The intelligence bill has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee for a ten day period.


VICE PRESIDENT REFUSES TO REPORT CLASSIFICATION ACTIVITY

For the third year in a row the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to disclose data on its classification and declassification activity, in an apparent violation of an executive order issued by President Bush.

"The Office of the Vice President (OVP), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and the Homeland Security Council (HSC) failed to report their data to ISOO this year," the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) noted in its new 2005 Annual Report to the President (at page 9, footnote 1).

The Office of the Vice President has declined to report such data since 2002. Yet it is clear that disclosure is not optional.

"Each agency that creates or handles classified information shall report annually to the Director of ISOO statistics related to its security classification program," according to ISOO Directive 1 (at section 2001.80).

This and other ISOO directives "shall be binding upon the agencies," President Bush wrote in Executive Order 13292 (section 5.1). And an "agency" is not only a statutorily defined executive branch agency, but also includes "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information."

Despite this straightforward language, a spokeswoman for Vice President Cheney told the Chicago Tribune in April that his Office is "not under any duty" to provide the required information.

On prior refusals by the Vice President to disclose classification and declassification data, see "Cheney exempts his own office from reporting on classified material" by Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2006:

Historically, the OVP has "not reported quantitatively significant data," according to ISOO. So the Vice President's current defiance of the executive order does not greatly distort the overall presentation of classification activity.

But it signals an unhealthy contempt for presidential authority and undermines the integrity of classification oversight.


ISOO REPORTS NINE PERCENT DROP IN CLASSIFICATION

The Information Security Oversight Office reported a nine percent drop in overall classification activity in its new annual report for FY 2005.

Total classification activity (including "original" and "derivative" classification) dropped from the record high 2004 level of 15.6 million classification actions to 14.2 million, almost identical to the 2003 level.

"ISOO views the decrease reported in classification, particularly after three years of rising numbers, as a positive step," ISOO Director William Leonard reported to the President.

Declassification increased during FY 2005 by 4 percent to 29.5 million pages.

While the data reported by ISOO each year serve as a useful benchmark, the ISOO methodology for collecting and reporting data is rudimentary and not very illuminating. For example, the annual report provides no way to assess overclassification.

During the period covered by the latest annual report, the 9/11 Commission determined that the amount of the annual intelligence budget was improperly classified and should be disclosed. But House Republicans and the White House blocked declassification (the Senate favored it) and the budget figure remained classified despite an expert bipartisan consensus in favor of disclosure.

But the reality of overclassification is not reflected in the ISOO data. There is no mechanism for determining just what fraction of classification actions are, like intelligence budget secrecy, illegitimate.

Still, the ISOO annual report provides an occasion to reflect on larger trends in classification and declassification.

"A responsible security classification system and a committed declassification program are the cornerstones of an open and efficient government that serves to protect and inform its citizens," Mr. Leonard wrote.

The 2005 ISOO annual report also presents useful information on individual agency performance and related topics such as the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel, the Public Interest Declassification Board, industrial security, and more. See:

In an extraordinary act of public outreach, the Information Security Oversight Office will hold a free public workshop on June 30 on the use of mandatory declassification review as a tool for researchers. See:

ISOO is also offering interested members of the public a DVD recording of an October 2005 Symposium on classification policy that was held to mark the 10th anniversary of executive order 12958. See:

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

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