SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 64
June 21, 2007

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

Support Secrecy News
http://www.fas.org/static/contrib_sec.jsp

CHENEY SOUGHT TO ABOLISH SECRECY OVERSIGHT OFFICE

The Office of Vice President Dick Cheney proposed to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), the executive branch organization that oversees the national security classification system, after its Director insisted that the Vice President comply with reporting requirements that apply to all executive branch entities.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee who revealed the move today, said in a letter to the Vice President that it "could be construed as retaliation" against ISOO.

The proposed change in ISOO's status was ultimately rejected by an interagency review group which is considering revisions to the executive order on classification policy.

The dispute between ISOO and the Office of the Vice President was prompted by a complaint filed with ISOO by the Federation of American Scientists in May 2006 (Secrecy News, 05/31/06). The FAS complaint noted that the OVP had ceased to comply with its obligation to submit an annual report on classification and declassification activity, and asked the ISOO Director to enforce the requirement.

When the OVP continued to resist compliance, ISOO Director J. William Leonard formally asked the Attorney General in January 2007 to intervene and to render an interpretation of the executive that would resolve the dispute in one direction or another.

A truncated copy of the ISOO letter to the Attorney General, with two attachments missing, was released by Rep. Waxman today. A complete copy of the January 9, 2007 letter is available here:

The Attorney General has not responded to the ISOO letter.


ODNI DISMISSES INADVERTENT RELEASE OF INTEL BUDGET DATA

The recent inadvertent disclosure of intelligence spending figures concealed in an official PowerPoint briefing does not reveal the size of the intelligence budget, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said this week.

Close scrutiny of a PowerPoint slide presented by ODNI official Terri Everett at a conference last month turned up budget numbers that were used to create a bar graph showing relative annual spending on intelligence contractors, and suggested that overall annual intelligence spending could be $60 billion or more. (Secrecy News, 06/05/07).

But "the specific bar graphs on the slides and their underlying data were based on a small, anecdotal sample of a portion of Intelligence Community contracting activities. As a result, this data cannot be used to derive either the overall Intelligence Community budget, or a breakdown of any portion of the budget," the ODNI said in a June 19 statement.

"The overall Intelligence Community budget and its components are classified to protect the national security interests of the United States," the ODNI added, a claim that is widely disputed. Legislation pending in the Senate would require annual disclosure of the national intelligence program budget.


EXTRAORDINARY HEARING ON EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing last April on the policy of "extraordinary rendition," referring to the seizure of suspected terrorists and their transfer to a foreign country for detention and interrogation.

The record of the hearing, which has just been published, features the volatile Michael Scheuer, a former CIA official involved in the rendition program. It is exceptionally nasty and occasionally funny.

Mr. Scheuer, veering from outrageous to absurd and back again, attacked John McCain, the Washington Post's Dana Priest and quite a few others in remarkably offensive terms.

See "Extraordinary Rendition in U.S. Counterterrorism Policy: The Impact on Transatlantic Relations," House Foreign Affairs Committee, April 17, 2007:

"Oftentimes," Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) delicately observed, "people aspire to a higher percentage of their thoughts going unspoken than this hearing has demonstrated."

******************************

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

The Secrecy News blog is at:
      http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:
     http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/subscribe.html

To UNSUBSCRIBE, go to:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/unsubscribe.html

OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/index.html

SUPPORT Secrecy News with a donation here:
      http://www.fas.org/static/contrib_sec.jsp