SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 18
February 21, 2008

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

ARMY SAYS IT WILL RESTORE PUBLIC ACCESS TO ONLINE LIBRARY

The U.S. Army said today that it would restore public access to the online Reimer Digital Library of Army publications, after having blocked the site on February 6.

Last week, the Federation of American Scientists filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for a copy of the entire Reimer collection for publication on the FAS website or, alternatively, for renewed public access to the site (Secrecy News, Feb. 13).

The Army chose the latter option.

"TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command] is currently in the process of making it available to the public again," said Mrs. Alverita Mack, a Freedom of Information Act officer at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

"The Army has seen the error of its ways," said another Defense Department FOIA officer. "Also, they want you to withdraw your FOIA request."

The dispute over the shuttered website was reported today in the Washington Post. See "Army Blocks Public's Access to Documents in Web-Based Library" by Christopher Lee, February 21:

By moving the Reimer site behind the password-protected Army Knowledge Online (AKO) firewall, the Army placed the public at a disadvantage, but not only the public.

"The Army has not only restricted access to the public but to everyone else in DoD as well," one Navy correspondent explained to Secrecy News. "So... those working for the AF, Navy, Marines, etc will not be able to access these documents -- unless they are able to get an AKO account -- which isn't a given."

"I happen to have an AKO account but only because I know someone who was willing to sponsor me," the Navy official wrote. "It is getting harder and harder to access information within DoD let alone from outside it!"

The Freedom of Information Act is not often an effective mechanism for changing government policy, nor was it intended to be. But in this case, where the Army had moved to block public access to thousands of releasable documents, the FOIA proved to be the optimal tool for compelling a change in policy.

Mrs. Mack, the Army FOIA officer, said today that she did not know exactly when the Reimer Digital Library would again be accessible. And, she said, it might end up at a different URL than before. We indicated that we would withdraw our FOIA request after public access is fully restored.


JUSTICE SEES NO MISCONDUCT IN CONFLICT BETWEEN VP AND ISOO

The Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility has declined to open an investigation into allegations that Justice Department attorneys improperly refused to respond to the Information Security Oversight Office when it challenged the Office of the Vice President's failure to cooperate with ISOO's oversight of the classification system.

In a January 2, 2008 complaint, the Federation of American Scientists had argued that, under the terms of the President's executive order, the Justice Department was obliged to render an opinion on the executive order's applicability to the Office of the Vice President when ISOO asked for it. Yet Justice attorneys at the Office of Legal Counsel refused to do so. (Secrecy News, Jan. 3).

The Office of Professional Responsibility was not persuaded.

"We have concluded that the facts do not raise an issue of attorney misconduct that requires an investigation by this office," wrote H. Marshall Jarrett, OPR Counsel.

"This matter does not involve an allegation of affirmative malfeasance, but rather, the alleged improper failure to perform an act," he wrote.

Furthermore, the Justice Department's handling of the matter appeared to be consistent with the support of the Vice President's position against oversight that was expressed by the White House counsel, Mr. Jarrett said.

Finally, he suggested, if there are still questions of interpretation of the executive order that remain unresolved, "the ISOO may request an opinion from the Department clarifying the matter."

The Department's prior refusal to render such an opinion was the basis of the original complaint.

See the February 14, 2008 letter from H. Marshall Jarrett, Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Justice, here:

The FAS complaint to which Mr. Jarrett responded may be found here:


US ARMED FORCES ABROAD, 1798-2007, AND MORE FROM CRS

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

"Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2007," updated January 14, 2008:

"The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," updated February 8, 2008:

"Defense: FY2008 Authorization and Appropriations," updated January 23, 2008:

"U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques," updated January 25, 2008:

"Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons," updated January 16, 2008:

"Securing General Aviation," updated January 24, 2008:

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

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