SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 34
March 28, 2007

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

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EMBATTLED CRS DIRECTOR SPEAKS OUT ON EARMARKS

A Wall Street Journal column on March 26 reported that the Congressional Research Service "will no longer respond to requests from members of Congress on the size, number of background of [budget] earmarks." The new CRS policy, the Journal article alleged, "is helping its masters hide wasteful spending."

"The article is replete with mischaracterizations of CRS work and policies," wrote CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan in a memo to all CRS staff. "Such attacks on our independence cannot go unanswered."

Mr. Mulhollan defended his agency in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, circulated with his March 26 memo. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

The Journal article "gratuitously alludes to issues related to public access to CRS work," Mr. Mulhollan wrote in his letter. "The restriction on publication of CRS work was established long ago by Congress. CRS internal policies regarding distribution of its products ensure compliance with congressional directives. We leave to Members and committees the discretion to share CRS products how and when they wish."

"CRS has recently been subjected to much scrutiny because we have not shied away from analysis of controversial issues," Director Mulhollan told CRS staff.


AIPAC COURT CONSIDERS "SILENT WITNESS" PROCEDURE

The forthcoming trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are charged with mishandling classified information "won't be a closed trial," said Judge T.S. Ellis III at a March 15 hearing, notwithstanding some "hyperbolic" suggestions to the contrary.

But there is an open question as to whether the prosecution may employ something called the "silent witness" rule. That refers to the practice of providing evidence to the defense and to the jury, but withholding it from the public.

Such a procedure would amount to "closing" the courtroom in effect, the defense argued, "because, once inside, the public and press would not, in any meaningful sense, actually hear the central evidence in the case."

The government proposal is "unworkable, prejudicial and fundamentally unfair," the defense stated in a March 21 motion. It "will not only make meaningful cross-examination of critical government witnesses impossible, but will send a continuous message to the jury that the information at issue is [national defense information] deserving of protection -- the very issue that the jury must itself decide."

"I have to resolve this significant issue about whether this is really constitutional," Judge Ellis said on March 15. He ordered additional briefs on the subject from both parties. The defense brief, filed March 21, is here:

The government brief, due March 28, is not yet available. The transcript of the March 15 hearing is here:

The closely-watched trial is scheduled to begin on June 4.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that "the FBI was considering expanding its investigation into AIPAC and classified information leaks in early 2005 when the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse fired two staffers already under scrutiny."

See "Defense: Feds eyeballed AIPAC until it cut off Rosen, Weissman" by Ron Kampeas, March 27:


MEDICAL CERTIFICATION FOR UNMANNED AIRCRAFT PILOTS

Though it may sound like one hand clapping, an unmanned aircraft must have a pilot -- just not on the plane. And someone has to worry what may happen if the pilot becomes incapacitated.

"Although the term 'unmanned aircraft' suggests the absence of human interaction, the human operator/pilot is still a critical element in the success of any unmanned aircraft operation," according to a new study from the Federal Aviation Administration. "For many UA systems, a contributing factor to a substantial proportion of accidents is human error."

"Regarding the risk of pilot incapacitation, at least a few factors distinguish this risk from manned aircraft," the study noted. Since the pilot is on the ground, the effects of changes in air pressure can be ignored. Also, many advanced UA systems have procedures for communications failures or "lost data link," which is "functionally equivalent to pilot incapacitation." The most advanced systems, such as Global Hawk, "will continue normal flight whether a pilot is present or not."

The study therefore recommended adoption of a minimal medical certification for pilots, including a waiver process that would also permit handicapped persons to be certified. "This process gives individuals who might not be able to fly manned aircraft an opportunity to receive medical certification for flying an unmanned aircraft."

See "Unmanned Aircraft Pilot Medical Certification Requirements," Federal Aviation Administration, February 2007:

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

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