SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 123
December 14, 2007

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

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OBAMA: NEW WEB SITE WILL HELP CHALLENGE "NATION OF SECRETS"

Senator Barack Obama praised the launch of a new government website yesterday that tracks federal contract awards.

The new website -- USAspending.gov -- constitutes "an important milestone on the path to greater openness and transparency in the Federal Government," he said.

"I have been very troubled by the extent to which America has become a nation of government secrets," said Senator Obama. "More and more information is kept secret or made intolerably complicated and inaccessible. More and more decisions are made behind closed doors with access limited to insiders and lobbyists."

"USAspending.gov along with watchdog groups will give us all tools to help buck that trend," he said.

The new website resulted from legislation enacted last year, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, that was sponsored by Sen. Obama and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).

The Office of Management and Budget developed the website with technical support from the non-profit OMB Watch, along with advocacy support from the Sunlight Foundation and other organizations.

The web site does not include information on classified spending and contracting.


DELIBERATING THE INTELLIGENCE BUDGET IN FRANCE

Although last year's budget for national intelligence was disclosed, current year spending remains classified, reflecting a judgment by the Bush Administration that its disclosure would cause serious damage to national security.

So it is interesting to see that current intelligence spending is treated matter-of-factly in some other countries, and publicly disclosed without any fanfare at all.

In France, for example, the intelligence budget is addressed as part of the normal deliberative process.

The latest parliamentary budget report notes the precise staff levels of each of the French intelligence services, their individual budgets, and the total amount of spending on intelligence for the coming year: 743.5 million euros, with a total of 9,500 employees.

Not only that, but the parliament notes that French intelligence resources compare unfavorably with those of key allies such as the United Kingdom (3.3 billion euros, with 13,400 staff) and Germany (16,500 employees, budget not given).

This disparity could become a problem, the report notes candidly, because intelligence sharing with foreign partners is predicated on the ability of each side to provide useful information to the other.

See the French parliamentary discussion of intelligence spending here:

While current intelligence spending remains classified in the United States (though it must be disclosed by the end of next October), the Federation of American Scientists this week asked the Director of National Intelligence to declassify past intelligence spending levels dating back to the beginning of the National Foreign Intelligence Program.

Last October, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he is "hopeful that the top line numbers for previous fiscal years will be declassified so the public can get a full accounting of the government's priorities over the last two decades."


U.S. AFRICA COMMAND, AND MORE FROM CRS

Noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made available to the public online include the following.

"Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa," updated December 7, 2007:

"China's Currency: Economic Issues and Options for U.S. Trade Policy," updated November 29, 2007:

"Belarus: Background and U.S. Policy Concerns," updated November 29, 2007:

"Strategic Airlift Modernization: Analysis of C-5 Modernization and C-17 Acquisition Issues," November 28, 2007:

"Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union," updated November 28, 2007:

"Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector," updated November 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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