SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 7
January 18, 2007

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AN EFFORT TO RESTRICT CLASSIFIED EARMARKS

The use of the national security classification system to conceal "earmarks" -- targeted allocations of funds -- that are self-serving or corrupt would be eliminated if a proposal by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) becomes law.

The proposal was offered as an amendment to Senate bill S. 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, which is pending in the Senate.

"The amendment prohibits any bill authorization or appropriation from containing an earmark in the classified portion of that bill or accompanying a report, unless there is unclassified language that describes in general terms the nature of the earmark. The amount of the earmark is disclosed and the sponsor of the earmark is identified," Sen. Feinstein explained.

"This amendment would provide the public with the assurance that the classified parts of the defense and intelligence budgets--which are indeed large--are subjected to the same scrutiny and openness as everything else."

"The need for the amendment was made clear by the actions of former Congressman Duke Cunningham. According to a report by the House Intelligence Committee, Cunningham was able to enact a staggering $70 million to $80 million in classified earmarks over a 5-year period. These earmarks benefited his business partners and were not known to most Members of the Congress or the public," Sen. Feinstein said.

See her January 16 remarks on the measure here:

The fate of the Legislative Transparency bill was uncertain after Republican Senators objected to a Democratic refusal to consider an amendment concerning a line-item veto.


WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE CASES GO TO FISA COURT

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales notified the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that President Bush will not reauthorize the controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program and that the surveillance activities conducted in that program will henceforth be subject to authorization by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The Attorney General's January 17 letter to Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter is here:

The initial responses of Senators Leahy and Specter are here:

The numerous questions raised by the Attorney General's letter were asked though mostly not answered in a background briefing for reporters which is transcribed here:

Background on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act may be found here:


SELECTED CRS REPORTS

Some noteworthy new reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"Iran: Profile and Statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," January 16, 2007:

"Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy," January 12, 2007:

"A Joint Committee on Intelligence: Proposals and Options from the 9/11 Commission and Others," updated December 20, 2006:

"Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense -- Background and Issues for Congress," updated December 19, 2006:

"Federal Emergency Management Policy Changes After Hurricane Katrina: A Summary of Statutory Provisions," December 15, 2006:


WP: HOW TO BURY A SECRET

The imposition of a deadline for automatic declassification of most 25 year old, historically valuable classified records on December 31, 2006 rewrote the bureaucratic software that governs the national security classification system. In principle, official secrecy can no longer be indefinite and open-ended.

Nevertheless, declassification will not be translated into disclosure and public access until the severe logistical and financial challenges that are facing the National Archives can be overcome.

The Washington Post took a look at the lay of the land in "How to Bury A Secret: Turn it into Paperwork" by Lynne Duke, January 16, 2007:

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

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