SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 124
December 18, 2007

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

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INTEL AGENCIES TO WITHHOLD CONTRACT INFO FROM PUBLIC DATABASE

Several defense intelligence agencies will withhold unclassified information about their contracts from a new public database of government spending.

The new database at USAspending.gov is intended to provide increased transparency regarding most government contracts (Secrecy News, 12/14/07).

But when it comes to intelligence spending, there will actually be a net loss of public information because categories of intelligence contracting data that were previously disclosed will now be withheld.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) argued that online disclosure of their unclassified contracts could present an operational security vulnerability.

"I appreciate your concerns that reporting these actions to the publicly accessible website could provide unacceptable risk of insight to your individual missions and budgets," wrote Shay D. Assad of the Under Secretary of Defense in a December 7 memorandum.

"As such, I concur with your waiver requests to not report your unclassified actions to FPDS-NG [Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation] at this time," he wrote.

The new waiver, which was first reported by Daniel G. Dupont in InsideDefense.com, applies to unclassified contract data for FY 2007 and 2008, and must be renewed each year thereafter.

But it does not apply retroactively, so it is possible to examine detailed contracting information for thousands of intelligence contracts with DIA and NGA from FY2005-2006, ranging in amounts from tens of dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars. (Prior contract information for CIFA is not currently available.)

Those intelligence agencies' past contracts can be examined using the drop-down menu for contracting agency on this page:

The sharp growth in intelligence agency contracting has prompted new concern in Congress and elsewhere. The latest intelligence authorization act (section 307) requires a "comprehensive report on intelligence community contractors."

But while intelligence contracting is going up, public accountability is going down.


U.S. INTELLIGENCE SEEN "RETREATING INTO GREATER SECRECY"

The U.S. intelligence community is reverting to old patterns of cold war secrecy, warned the former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), to the detriment of U.S. intelligence.

"The reality that I see is an Intelligence Community that is retreating into greater secrecy and old cultural habits, even in the short time since I left the NIC in early 2005," said Amb. Robert L. Hutchings in recent testimony.

"Try to get a CIA analyst to go on the record at an academic conference, or participate in an interactive website or blog with experts from outside government or other countries, and you will see how deeply ingrained are the old Cold War cultural habits and mind-sets," he said.

"What this means, additionally, is that the Intelligence Community is not attracting the 'best and brightest' into their ranks. They go elsewhere."

See his prepared testimony from a December 6 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee here:

One of the aspects of the trend towards increasing secrecy is what appears to be a newly restrictive approach to pre-publication review of writings by current or former intelligence employees.

Earlier this year, the Central Intelligence Agency refused to permit former intelligence officer and author Valerie Plame Wilson to publish certain information about her career that had already been disclosed in the Congressional Record.

The publishers of Ms. Wilson's memoir devised a novel and effective solution: They hired journalist Laura Rozen to write an afterword, based entirely on information gathered in the public domain, filling in many of the missing details of Ms. Wilson's account. Laura Rozen, who writes for Mother Jones and for the War and Piece blog, tells the story here:


NARA SEEKS TO SPEED PROCESSING OF PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS

The National Archives says it is exploring new methods to accelerate the disclosure of records at Presidential libraries.

Archivists "decided to undertake an in-house study in the spring of 2007 to review ways to achieve faster processing of Presidential records," stated Emily Robison, acting director of the Clinton Presidential Library, in an October 2 declaration that was filed in a lawsuit brought against NARA by Judicial Watch.

"As a result of this study, a one-year pilot project was initiated to implement the most promising proposals," she said. The pilot project was first reported by Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun on October 4.

In response to a request for further information about the project, NARA released a list of procedural changes it is using or considering to expedite processing of records. These include "cease routine referral of classified items... for classification review" and "halt printing e-mail attachments that do not easily open." See:

An extensive interview with Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries, explores the role of President Clinton and Senator Clinton in the processing of records at the Clinton Library, the genesis of President Bush's executive order on presidential records, and the procedural and resource constraints under which the Presidential records review process operates.

See "Inside the Clinton Archives" by Alexis Simendinger, National Journal, December 17:

The Department of the Navy has updated its "Records Management Manual" with considerable detail on the various categories of Navy records and how they are to be handled. See SECNAV Manual 5210.1, November 2007 (473 pages, 5 MB PDF file):


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

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