SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 97
September 14, 2006

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

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CONFLICTING BILLS ON WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE ADVANCE IN SENATE

The Senate Judiciary Committee set the stage for further congressional debate over warrantless electronic surveillance by reporting out competing bills that are mutually contradictory.

A bill (S. 2453) sponsored by Committee Chairman Arlen Specter would sharply diminish judicial oversight of intelligence surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and expand unilateral presidential authority. On the other hand, a bill (S. 3001) sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein would reaffirm that FISA is the exclusive mechanism for conducting domestic intelligence surveillance, while making certain modifications in the Act. A third bill (S. 2455), sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine, was also reported out.

"The [Specter] bill makes compliance with FISA entirely optional, and explicitly validates the President's claim that he has unfettered authority to wiretap Americans in the name of national security," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a critical commentary.

"I have been briefed on the terrorist surveillance program," said Sen. Feinstein, "and I have come to believe that this surveillance can be done, without sacrifice to our national security, through court-issued individualized warrants for content collection on U.S. persons under the FISA process."

"So I have offered this provision to ensure that the program is carried out under the law and to make it clear that FISA remains the exclusive authority for the content collection on U.S. persons," she said.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) charged that the Bush Administration had deliberately withheld information about the surveillance program from Congress to frustrate congressional oversight.

"This refusal to respond to legitimate information requests from the Oversight Committee, combined with the administration's over-restriction of member and staff access to the NSA program, is part of a cynical White House strategy to prevent Congress from either acting or forcing it to legislate on vital national security and privacy issues in the dark," he said.

Sen. Russ Feingold concurred that due to excessive secrecy, "The Judiciary Committee was left to legislate in the dark, with many members blindly seeking to legalize illegal behavior without even an understanding of whether those changes are actually necessary."

Meanwhile, in the House, a bill sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) faced opposition from the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies, as well as from civil libertarians.

The bill was examined in detail in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See "H.R. 5825 (109th Congress): 'Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act'," September 8, 2006:

The various competing bills were discussed, and notably analyzed by James X. Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a September 6 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. See:

The full hearing record of three Senate Judiciary Committee hearings earlier this year on "Wartime Executive Power and the National Security Agency's Warrantless Surveillance Authority" has just been published (908 pages). See:


HOUSE APPROVES DATABASE OF GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS

The House of Representatives approved a bill to establish a publicly searchable database of federally-funded grants and contracts. The Senate adopted the measure last week, and the White House indicated that the President would sign it.

"This bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to create a Web site listing all grant awards and contracts in a manner that would be easily accessible and free of charge. In a nutshell, this is about [providing] information to taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are being spent," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).

"The legislation we are passing today is not comprehensive reform; it will not restore honesty and accountability in government," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). "It's a modest, bipartisan step in the direction of open government. But in the climate we're currently in, even a small step forward is worth supporting and celebrating."

See the September 13 House floor debate on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006:


REID PROPOSES FURTHER DECLASS OF SENATE INTEL REPORT

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Minority Leader, proposed an amendment that would require the declassification of certain classified portions of a Senate Intelligence Committee report regarding pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Carl Levin charged last week that portions of the controversial report had been withheld from public disclosure in order to evade accountability or to conceal "highly offensive" information unrelated to national security.

See the text of Sen. Reid's proposed amendment to the pending maritime security bill here:


SELECTED CRS REPORTS

Some notable recent reports of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News that are not otherwise readily available to the public include the following.

"Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority," updated August 16, 2006:

"Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications," updated August 11, 2006:

"Cuba: Issues for the 109th Congress," updated August 8, 2006:

"Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress," updated August 7, 2006:

"Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy," updated August 3, 2006:

"Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development," updated August 3, 2006:

"The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)," updated July 28, 2006:


SEA SHADOW, HUGHES MINING BARGE AVAILABLE FOR DISPLAY

The U.S. Navy announced today that the "Sea Shadow" (IX-529), an experimental naval craft, and the Hughes Mining Barge (HMB-1), which was originally developed as part of the CIA's 1974 Project Jennifer to help raise a sunken Soviet submarine, are available for donation to a suitable museum or organization.

"Ex-SEA SHADOW is contained inside HMB-1.... The donee may display the two vessels as currently configured as a single unit, or display them individually," according to a notice in the Federal Register.

"If the Navy receives no interest by an eligible recipient within two years, the Navy reserves the right to remove the vessels from donation consideration and proceed with their disposal."

See "Notice of Availability for Donation of the Test Craft Ex-SEA SHADOW (IX-529) and Hughes Mining Barge (HMB-1)," Federal Register, September 14:

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

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