SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 33
March 26, 2007

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

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FORUM: CONGRESSIONAL ACCESS TO CLASSIFIED INFO

The ability of Congress to gain access to classified executive branch information, which is the enabling condition for legislative oversight of national security activities, will be discussed at a public forum on March 30 sponsored by the Center for American Progress and OpenTheGovernment.org.

"What options does Congress have when the executive branch refuses to provide the information it requests? When is it appropriate for Congress to make national security information available to the public and the press?"

These and related questions will be discussed in a keynote address by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who is now chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence.

Her talk will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Mark Agrast of the Center for American Progress and featuring Eleanor Hill, former minority staff director of the congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11; Suzanne Spaulding, former staff director of the House Intelligence Committee; Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times; and myself.

The event, which is open to the public, will be held at the Center for American Progress. For more information, see:

A convenient analysis of the underlying issues was provided in "Congressional Access to Executive Branch Information: Legislative Tools," Congressional Research Service, May 17, 2001:


AWARDS OF ATTORNEYS FEES, AND MORE FROM CRS

Last year a federal court ruled in favor of the Federation of American Scientists in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, finding that the National Reconnaissance Office had unlawfully withheld certain unclassified budget records from disclosure.

Although we won the lawsuit and finally got the records this year, we were not entitled to recovery of attorneys' fees, since we litigated the case without an attorney. Which makes sense. Instead, the government was obliged to reimburse our costs, particularly the $250 filing fee to bring the lawsuit. A check is supposed to be in the mail.

Anyway, the legal practices and procedures governing the award of attorneys' fees in legal proceedings of all kinds are fairly complicated, with numerous exceptions and qualifications.

A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service presents what seems to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject (in 123 pages).

See "Awards of Attorneys' Fees by Federal Courts and Federal Agencies," updated March 1, 2007:

Some other noteworthy CRS products that are not readily available in other public collections include these.

"Intelligence Issues for Congress," updated February 27, 2007:

"China-U.S. Aircraft Collision Incident of April 2001: Assessments and Policy Implications," updated October 10, 2001:


VARIOUS RESOURCES

In the last quarter, the Department of Energy (DOE) reviewed over 690,000 pages of publicly available records at the National Archives and found 590 pages containing classified nuclear weapons information that it said should not have been disclosed, according to a newly released report to Congress.

At Congressional direction, DOE has proceeded on the assumption that absolutely no disclosure of classified nuclear information is tolerable, no matter how old or obsolete it may be. This is a poor premise for security policy and it ensures that scarce resources will be diverted from their optimal use.

See the Twenty-Fourth Report to Congress on Inadvertent Disclosures of Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data, February 2007 (redacted version released March 2007):

The U.S. Navy is seeking to expedite its technology development and acquisition practices to meet "urgent capability needs" arising from the "global war on terrorism."

"The GWOT" -- the expansive Bush Administration term for everything from the pursuit of al Qaeda to the attempted suppression of violent sectarian disputes in Iraq -- "has generated rapidly evolving military needs that require responsive materiel solutions," according to a new Navy Notice.

The March 8, 2007 Notice from the Secretary of the Navy specifies that the Naval Innovation Laboratory (NaIL), a virtual organization, "will bring together, on demand, multidisciplinary teams to develop and deliver rapid, innovative solutions to [an urgent capability need] and will ...develop, integrate, test and deliver fieldable prototypes for use by the warfighter."

See SECNAV Note 5000, "Rapid Development and Deployment Response to Urgent Global War on Terrorism Needs."

Recently published hearing records from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence include the following.

"Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States," February 2, 2006:

"Confirmation Hearing of Kenneth L. Wainstein to be Assistant Attorney General for National Security," May 16, 2006:

"Confirmation Hearing of General Michael V. Hayden to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency," May 18, 2006:

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

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