SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 24
March 6, 2008

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

THE REIMER DIGITAL LIBRARY IS BACK

The U.S. Army today restored public access to the Reimer Digital Library, as it had promised to do in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists (Secrecy News, Feb. 25).

At first glance, the site appears to be complete. Or at least as complete as it was before it was closed to the public last month. But there are some anomalies.

Among the items listed under "New Documents" is Field Manual Interim (FMI) 3-04.155, "Army Unmanned Aircraft System Operations." Oddly, the link to this document is marked as Restricted, and it cannot be downloaded from the Reimer site.

However, Secrecy News obtained a copy independently, and it is posted here (9 MB PDF file):

The document is clearly marked "approved for public release; distribution is unlimited."

Seemingly arbitrary restrictions on public access to online records continue to appear, and we try to swat them down when we can.

Yesterday, the Federation of American Scientists filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the U.S. Marine Corps to release all of the unclassified contents of its online doctrine library. That site, which had previously been available to the public, no longer is.


NON-STATE ACTORS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: A WIKI-BASED ESTIMATE

Using open sources and a wiki-based approach, students at Mercyhurst University prepared an unofficial "intelligence estimate" on the role of Non-State Actors in Sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years.

The resulting product was posted here:

The exercise in collective, collaborative analysis was coordinated by Mercyhurst Professor Kristan J. Wheaton, who described the background to the activity in his blog here:


FREDERICK SEITZ AND THE 1970 TASK FORCE ON SECRECY

The distinguished scientist Frederick Seitz who died this week was not only an accomplished physicist, global warming skeptic and tobacco industry-funded medical researcher, as obituaries in the New York Times and Washington Post observed.

He was also an early, incisive critic of government secrecy.

In 1969-70, Dr. Seitz chaired the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy, leading a stellar panel of defense scientists and technologists such as Edward Teller, Jack Ruina, Marshall Rosenbluth and others, who identified fundamental defects in the secrecy and security policies of the time.

Their Task Force Report on Secrecy presented an acute critique of secrecy policy that remains pertinent.

"When an otherwise open society attempts to use classification as a protective device, it may in the long run increase the difficulties of communications within its own structure so that commensurate gains are not obtained," the Report stated.

"Classification of technical information impedes its flow within our own system, and, may easily do far more harm than good by stifling critical discussion and review or by engendering frustration. There are many cases in which the declassification of technical information within our system probably had a beneficial effect and its classification has had a deleterious one."

"In the opinion of the Task Force the volume of scientific and technical information that is classified could profitably be decreased by perhaps as much as 90 percent through limiting the amount of information classified and the duration of its classification."

"The Task Force noted that more might be gained than lost if our nation were to adopt-- unilaterally, if necessary-- a policy of complete openness in all areas of information, but agreed that in spite of the great advantages that might accrue from such a policy, it is not a practical proposal at the present time."

A copy of the 1970 Final Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy, chaired by the late Dr. Frederick Seitz, is posted here:

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

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