SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 77
August 4, 2008

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

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ARMY ISSUES NEW REGULATIONS ON "BIOLOGICAL SURETY"

U.S. Army personnel who act in an aggressive or threatening manner towards other people would be denied access to toxic or lethal biological agents under newly revised regulations that were issued by the Army last week.

Other potentially disqualifying personality traits include: "arrogance, inflexibility, suspiciousness, hostility,... and extreme moods or mood swings," according to the new regulations.

See "Biological Surety," Army Regulation 50-1, 28 July 2008:

The late Fort Detrick scientist Dr. Bruce E. Ivins retained his security clearance and his laboratory access through July 10, the Washington Post reported today, despite allegations of erratic behavior and the fact that he was under FBI suspicion in connection with the 2001 anthrax attacks. The credibility of some of those allegations regarding Ivins' behavior, however, is itself open to question, writes Glenn Greenwald in Salon today.


GAO AND INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT

The Government Accountability Office is among the most potent and productive tools of government oversight available. Perhaps for that reason, U.S. intelligence agencies have been reluctant to cooperate with GAO investigations.

Sen. Daniel Akaka introduced legislation last year to reaffirm GAO authority to investigate intelligence agency activities, and that legislation was the subject of a Senate hearing in February. All of the witnesses, including myself and then-GAO Comptroller General David M. Walker, urged an increased role for GAO in intelligence oversight.

See the record of the February 29, 2008 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on "Government-Wide Intelligence Community Management Reforms."

As of March 2008, there were 1,000 GAO employees with Top Secret security clearances out of 3,153 total staff. Of those, 73 held SCI ("sensitive compartmented information") clearances for access to intelligence information, according to a GAO letter supplied for the hearing record.

A bill adopted last week in the House, called the "Government Accountability Office Improvement Act" (HR 6388) did not explicitly address intelligence oversight by GAO.


NEW DETAILS ON NATIONAL CYBER SECURITY INITIATIVE

Almost everything about the Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative (CNCI), established by National Security Presidential Directive 54 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23, is classified.

But following a classified March 2008 hearing on the subject, Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee teased out a few unclassified details about the effort.

"The response includes information on the National Cyber Security Center, how privacy will be protected under the CNCI, how success of the initiative will be measured, and how the Department views the private sector's role in the initiative," the Senators noted in a news release. "The Department chose to redact information relating to contracting at the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD). The senators have asked DHS explain their reasons for the redactions."

See also "DHS stays mum on new 'Cyber Security' center" by Stephanie Condon, CNET News, July 31:

And see, relatedly, the record of a May 21, 2008 hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on "Implications of Cyber Vulnerabilities on the Resilience and Security of the Electric Grid."


DOJ NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION OVERSIGHT INITIATIVE

The Department of Justice National Security Division (NSD) "has dramatically broadened the scope of its national security oversight role," according to a Department news release.

"The National Security Division plays a vital role in ensuring that national security investigations are conducted properly and with respect for the civil liberties and privacy interests of Americans," said Matt Olsen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Intelligence. "Our enhanced oversight efforts over the past year represent a solid foundation from which we will continue to build as we work with the FBI and other intelligence agencies to achieve this goal."

The news release is silent on the results, if any, of the new oversight reviews performed by NSD personnel.

But Division spokesman Dean Boyd told Secrecy News generally that "These reviews were designed to identify compliance issues and they have served that purpose. Where they have identified issues, the reviews have helped provide the factual basis to take appropriate follow-up action."


A BILL TO END COERCIVE INTERROGATIONS AND SECRET DETENTIONS

A bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and several Senate colleagues last week would "end coercive interrogations and secret detentions by the Central Intelligence Agency."

"These practices have brought shame to our Nation, have harmed our ability to fight the war on terror, and, I believe, violate U.S. law and international treaty obligations," Sen. Feinstein said.

"Our Nation has paid an enormous price because of these interrogations. They cast shadow and doubt over our ideals and our system of justice. Our enemies have used our practices to recruit more extremists. Our key global partnerships, crucial to winning the war on terror, have been strained," she said.

"Look at two of our closest allies in the world. The British Parliament no longer trusts U.S. assurances that we will not torture detainees. The Canadian Government recently added the United States to its list of nations that conduct torture."

"This is not the country that we want to be," Sen. Feinstein said.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Rockefeller, Whitehouse, Hagel, Feingold, and Wyden.

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

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