SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 79
July 14, 2006

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

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IMPROVED INFO SHARING: A PATH FORWARD

The need to improve the dissemination of terrorism-related information was among the preeminent policy lessons of September 11.

Yet five years later, "systematic, trusted information sharing remains more of an aspiration than a reality," according to a new task force report from the Markle Foundation.

The report proposes a new conceptual framework for authorizing and promoting information sharing, based on the information's intended uses rather than its bureaucratic origin or other incidental characteristics.

This would permit each agency to get the information it needs to perform its mission, the authors say, while allowing auditing to ensure proper use and instill public confidence.

The Markle task force report also calls for a new approach to national security classification policy that is more tolerant of potential disclosure risks so as to permit more effective sharing.

"Current classification procedures and practices... overemphasize the risks of inadvertent disclosure over those from failing to share."

"We recommend a new risk management approach to handling classified and other sensitive information that gives adequate weight to the risks of not sharing, and provides greater flexibility and more emphasis on mitigating the risks of disclosure."

The authors stress the need for a transparent policy development process.

"In the absence of public confidence that personal information is being used effectively, appropriately, and consistently with both applicable laws and shared expectations of privacy, the necessary public support will not be forthcoming, and even the most promising intelligence systems will fail."

The task force does not envision the general public as a consumer of terrorism-related information and so it does not contemplate measures to improve public disclosure of such information, whether classified or unclassified.

And in an overview of information sharing policy development, the report neglects a few recent innovations that are at least modestly consistent with its recommendations, such as the 2003 executive order provision that permits emergency disclosure of classified information to non-cleared persons, and the "RELIDO" marking that delegates disclosure authority for intelligence information beyond the originator.

Overall, however, the Markle task force report provides an intelligent account of a vexing set of issues. And it has the great virtue of going beyond critique to propose potentially workable solutions as well as a process for implementing and refining them.

See "Mobilizing Information to Prevent Terrorism: Accelerating Development of a Trusted Information Sharing Environment," Third Report of the Markle Foundation Task Force chaired by Zoe Baird and James Barksdale, July 13:

As if to validate the most pessimistic view of the state of information sharing, the Baltimore Sun reported that a White House initiative to strengthen sharing by standardizing the use of "sensitive but unclassified" markings is off track and behind schedule.

See "Turf war hampers war on terror" by Siobhan Gorman, Baltimore Sun, July 13:


CRS ON TERRORIST FINANCING, ARMY OFFICER SHORTAGE

A new Congressional Research Service report provides a resume of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program that was recently described in news stories.

See "Treasury's Terrorist Finance Program's Access to Information Held by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)," July 7, 2006:

News reports on the program elicited furious criticism of the New York Times and other publications from those who believed classified information had been improperly and damagingly disclosed.

But "closely similar" accounts were publicly presented years ago in open congressional hearings, the Washington Post reported today.

See "Watching Finances Of Terror Suspects Discussed in 2002" by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, July 14:

Another new CRS report describes the erosion of the U.S. Army officer corps.

"The Army currently projects an officer shortage of nearly 3,000 in FY2007, with the most acute shortfalls in 'senior' captains and majors with 11 to 17 years of experience."

See "Army Officer Shortages: Background and Issues for Congress," July 5, 2006:


CBO ON IRAQ SPENDING

The Congressional Budget Office has prepared a new account of U.S. spending in Iraq in response to a request from Rep. John Spratt (D-SC).

"The Congress has appropriated $432 billion for military operations and other activities related to the war on terrorism since September 2001. According to CBO's estimates, from the time U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, $290 billion has been allocated for activities in Iraq."

For reasons explained in the report, the estimates are slightly lower than those prepared recently by the Congressional Research Service.

See "Estimated Costs of U.S. Operations in Iraq Under Two Specified Scenarios," Congressional Budget Office, July 13:


THE TRACKING OF DONALD KEYSER

Donald Keyser, who had been a respected State Department expert on China, pled guilty last year to illegally removing classified documents from the State Department, making false statements to the FBI, and concealing his relationship with a Taiwanese intelligence officer.

Now the government says that he is failing to fulfill the terms of his plea agreement, and it told a court that the agreement should therefore be revoked, the New York Sun reported today.

In support of its position, the Justice Department filed a detailed and occasionally sordid account of Keyser's alleged entanglement with Taiwanese intelligence.

"The unusual filing opens a window onto the FBI's counterintelligence tradecraft," wrote reporter Josh Gerstein in the Sun. He also noted that Keyser's attorney denies the allegations and says the new Justice Department memo is unfair and inaccurate.

See "A Novel-Like Tale Of Cloak, Dagger Unfolds in Court" by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, July 14:

The government memorandum places the worst possible construction on Keyser's activities, including many that seem easily susceptible to benign explanations. In any case it remains true that he conducted an improper relationship with a foreign intelligence officer and violated classification procedures.

A copy of the July 5 government memorandum in support of its motion to find Keyser in breach of his plea agreement is posted here:

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

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