SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 80
August 6, 2007

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

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HOUSE MOVES TO BLOCK INTEL BUDGET DISCLOSURE

One day after President Bush signed into law a bill that requires public disclosure of the national intelligence budget, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to prevent that requirement from taking effect.

The budget disclosure provision appeared in legislation enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which was passed by Congress last month and signed by President Bush on August 3.

If implemented, it would mark the first time that Congress successfully asserted its authority to compel disclosure of currently classified information over the objections of the executive branch. Since 1998, the intelligence bureaucracy has consistently refused to divulge the intelligence budget total. The White House stated on February 28 that budget disclosure "could cause damage to the national security interests of the United States."

The opposing view, adopted by the 9/11 Commission and endorsed by Congress last month, is that budget disclosure is an indispensable precondition to broader accountability and that it is essential to restoring the credibility of a defective classification system.

But despite the fact that the requirement to disclose the intelligence budget has finally passed into law, it may not happen after all.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) offered an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act on August 4 that would prohibit budget disclosure. Without any debate, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) announced that the amendment was accepted.

The Issa amendment will have to be addressed in a House-Senate conference before it effectively repeals the new disclosure requirement.


PUBLIC INFO IN PLAME CASE CLASSIFIED, JUDGE RULES

A federal court last week accepted a Central Intelligence Agency argument that the date on which former covert officer Valerie Plame Wilson's employment at the CIA began should remain classified even though it is irrevocably in the public domain.

The date in question appeared in a seemingly unclassified letter sent by CIA to Ms. Wilson and published in the Congressional Record. But when she sought to include the information in the manuscript of her forthcoming memoir, the CIA objected that it is still classified. Now the Court has agreed.

"To be sure, the public may draw whatever conclusions it might from the fact that the information at issue was sent on CIA letterhead by the Chief of Retirement and Insurance Services," wrote Judge Barbara S. Jones in an August 1 ruling. "However, nothing in the law or its policy requires the CIA to officially acknowledge what those in the public may think they know."

The text of the CIA letter containing the classified information citing the start of Ms. Wilson's employment on November 9, 1985 was published in the Congressional Record on January 16, 2007 and is available here:

In their June 28 motion to overturn CIA censorship, Ms. Wilson's attorneys cited a lawsuit of mine in which the CIA was compelled to disclose its 1963 budget after I showed that the figure had previously been declassified. "As in 'Aftergood'," they argued by analogy, "the Court should reject the CIA's belated and unsupported effort" to deny access to information in the public domain.

But that case was different, the government replied on July 13. The 1963 budget figure was declassified, albeit inadvertently. The information on Ms. Wilson's employment was never formally declassified, inadvertently or otherwise, but was merely disclosed by accident.

An unclassified declaration by Stephen R. Kappes, deputy director of CIA, provided a lucid explanation of CIA's perspective on classification of information about covert employees, intelligence liaison relationships, and related topics.

Other selected case files may be found here:


FOIA REFORM ADVANCES IN SENATE

The Open Government Act, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, passed the Senate on August 3 after objections from a lone Senator were finally overcome.

Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) successfully shepherded the legislation, which is intended to expedite agency responsiveness to FOIA requests and improve the freedom of information regime in various other ways.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who had earlier placed a hold on the bill blocking its advance, explained his concerns in an August 3 floor statement and how they had been resolved. The measure passed on a voice vote.


DOD REPORTS ON CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL DEFENSE

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense released two annual reports on the status of its chemical and biological defense efforts:

"Department of Defense Chemical and Biological Defense Program," Annual Report to Congress, April 2007 (5.9 MB PDF):

"Report on Activities and Programs for Countering Proliferation and NBC Terrorism," Counterproliferation Program Review Committee, Volume I, Executive Summary, May 2007:


CRS REPORTS ON 2008 BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS

Recent reports of the Congressional Research Service on the 2008 budget appropriation cycle obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"Homeland Security Department: FY2008 Appropriations," updated July 17, 2007:

"Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2008," updated July 26, 2007:

"Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2008 Appropriations," July 20, 2007:

"Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2008 Appropriations," updated July 20, 2007:

"Energy and Water Development: FY2008 Appropriations," updated July 13, 2007:

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

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