SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 50
June 8, 2009

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

SOMETHING "VERY WRONG" IN STATE DEPT HISTORY OFFICE

An Inspector General review of the State Department Office of the Historian (HO) last month confirmed that there were serious management defects in the Office and recommended reassignment of its Director as well as other changes.

The Office of the Historian is responsible for production of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, which is the official documentary history of U.S. foreign policy and one of the most important vehicles for declassification of historical records.

Allegations of mismanagement and declining performance had surrounded the Office for years until the Chairman of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee, Prof. Wm. Roger Louis, resigned last December to dramatize his concerns that the FRUS series was "at risk." (See "State Dept: Crisis in the 'Foreign Relations' Series," Secrecy News, December 11, 2008).

"In varying degrees, nearly 75 percent of the present HO employees interviewed ... were critical of the way the office is run," the IG reported. "They alleged favoritism, cronyism, a lack of transparency, lack of interest in the FRUS, disparagement of the staff, suspicion, an absence of leadership, and, in general, the creation of an unhappy workplace."

With plummeting employee morale and departures of experienced staff historians, "something in HO is very wrong," the Inspector General concluded. "HO is suffering from, and has for some time been handicapped by, serious mismanagement for which the director must be held accountable.... Despite any mitigating factors that may exist in favor of the director, this situation cannot be allowed to continue."

"It is a devastating indictment," said Prof. Warren Kimball, a Rutgers historian who chaired an initial review of the situation earlier this year. "Clearly the IG inspectors listened to what we had to say. It does give one some faith in the State Department's internal monitoring system -- slow as it is."

The IG recommended reassignment of the Director, Dr. Marc Susser, to another Department position, and he was in fact reassigned last month. On May 27, the State Department appointed Ambassador John Campbell to serve as the new Acting Director of the Office of the Historian. (See "After Critical Report, State Dept.'s Historian is Reassigned" by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, June 8, 2009.)

See "Management Review of the Office of the Historian," State Department Office of Inspector General, May 2009:

The IG review also underscored the difficulties facing the FRUS series, which is supposed to present a "thorough, accurate, and reliable" documentary account of U.S. foreign policy within 30 years of the events described. In the past, the foreign policy of the Eisenhower Administration was covered in 66 volumes of FRUS. Despite a richer and more complex record, the Nixon-Ford years were allocated only 57 volumes. For the Reagan Administration, which has a fuller record still, only 38 FRUS volumes are planned.

Under present circumstances, the task of the FRUS series, although mandated by law, is "almost unachievable," the IG said.


HOMELAND SECURITY INTEL: OPERATIONS AND OVERSIGHT

The Department of Homeland Security's intelligence mission is to collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence to reduce the threat of domestic terrorism. The somewhat complex structure of DHS intelligence, at DHS headquarters and in six operational components, is illuminated in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

The new report usefully examines how DHS intelligence is organized to address threat warnings, border security, critical infrastructure protection, and information sharing. It also considers congressional oversight of DHS intelligence. See "The Department of Homeland Security Intelligence Enterprise: Operational Overview and Oversight Challenges for Congress," May 27, 2009:

Though it is far from the most urgent or important question facing homeland security intelligence, Congress is pulling out all the stops to investigate the origin of a controversial, inartfully worded DHS intelligence memo on "Rightwing Extremism." Last week, the House Homeland Security Committee approved a formal resolution of inquiry to demand documents related to the preparation of that memo. See:


AFGHAN ELECTIONS: CANDIDATES AND POWERBROKERS

The leading presidential candidates in Afghanistan's upcoming August 20 election are briefly profiled in a chart prepared by the DNI Open Source Center. See "Afghan Presidential Election: Potential Candidates and Powerbrokers," May 4, 2009:

Further background on elections in the region may be found in "Middle East Elections 2009: Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq," Congressional Research Service, May 18, 2009:

(Elections in Lebanon took place on June 7.)


IDENTITY THEFT, AND MORE FROM CRS

Noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"Mexico's Drug-Related Violence," May 27, 2009:

"The 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) 'Swine Flu' Outbreak: U.S. Responses to Global Human Cases," May 26, 2009:

"The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," updated May 15, 2009:

"USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives After 15 Years: Issues for Congress," May 27, 2009:

"Airport Improvement Program (AIP): Reauthorization Issues for Congress," May 29, 2009:

"Identity Theft: Trends and Issues," May 27, 2009:


PETER B. VERSUS THE CIA

Employment disputes are all too common inside and outside of government, including at the CIA. In one pending lawsuit, a former CIA employee claimed that the Agency improperly terminated his employment and communicated negative information about him to another prospective employer, thereby violating his rights.

In this case, however, the name of the aggrieved employee is a national security secret.

"As plaintiff's true name is classified, he has been permitted to file as 'Peter B.'," according to a recent court ruling, in which Judge Richard W. Roberts rejected the CIA's motion to dismiss the case. "Peter B's" attorney, Mark S. Zaid, whose name is not classified, welcomed the June 1 opinion.

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

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