SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 62
June 25, 2008

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

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HOUSE APPROVES FACA AMENDMENTS IN RESPONSE TO "ABUSES"

The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill amending the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to strengthen the public disclosure provisions of that open government law. The bill was introduced by Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) in April.

"In recent years, FACA has been undermined by the practices of the Bush administration," said Rep. Waxman. "This bill is our response to these abuses."

"This bill says that White House task forces can no longer operate in total secrecy. They must disclose whom they meet with and what recommendations they receive from special interests," he said.

In particular, "This bill says that task forces like the Vice President's energy task force must come out from the shadows," Rep. Waxman said. See:


MISSILE DEFENSE IN EUROPE NEEDS TESTING, PENTAGON SAYS

A proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe to defend against a postulated Iranian missile threat cannot reasonably proceed without time-consuming testing and validation, according to a newly disclosed internal assessment performed for the Department of Defense last year.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency envisions deployment of Ground-Based Interceptors in Poland and an X-band radar in the Czech Republic, a proposal that has elicited significant political opposition from Russia, and some in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"These European assets are planned to provide defenses against long-range Iranian threats to the United States as well as against intermediate-range Iranian threats to Europe."

But "the effectiveness of the European [missile defense] assets cannot be assumed," said the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. "A robust test program is necessary to assess the operational effectiveness of these European [missile defense] assets."

See "European GMD Mission Test Concept," October 1, 2007:

This unclassified Pentagon report was not readily available to the public until a copy was obtained by the Associated Press. Desmond Butler of AP reported on the Pentagon document as well as the emerging consensus in Congress that system testing will in fact be required.

See "Testing Could Delay Missile Defense Plans" by Desmond Butler, Associated Press, June 23, 2008:

Related background may be found in "Long-Range Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe" from the Congressional Research Service:

Richard L. Garwin provided a critical assessment of the Iranian missile program and U.S. missile defense capabilities in "Evaluating Iran's Missile Threat," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2008:


FISA AMENDMENTS AND THE RULE OF LAW

In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) said the current debate over amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is not simply one more dispute over intelligence policy. Rather, he said, it calls into question basic issues of democratic governance and the rule of law.

He presented the case against the pending FISA amendments, particularly the provisions that would immunize telephone companies against lawsuits regarding their participation in domestic surveillance.

"Did the telecoms break the law? I don't know. I can't say so. But pass immunity, and we will never know," Sen. Dodd said.

The President's warrantless surveillance program, he said, is of a piece with other Administration departures from established legal norms including its policies on coercive interrogation and extraordinary rendition, as well as its pervasive secrecy.

"What is this about? It is about answering the fundamental question: Do we support the rule of law or the rule of men? To me, this is our defining question as a nation and may be the defining question that confronts every generation, as it has throughout our history."

Sen. Dodd and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) announced their intention to filibuster the FISA Amendment bill.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) spoke in favor of the bill, including the provisions on shielding telephone companies from legal liability for their actions.

"Those who are opposed to the President's efforts to monitor al-Qaida's communications after 9/11 should take their argument to the President, not to the private companies that patriotically complied with government requests to help this country," he said.

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

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