SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 12
February 5, 2010

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

LIMITING KNOWLEDGE IN A DEMOCRACY

In testimony this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair declared unequivocally that Al Qaeda would attack the United States within the next six months. "The priority is certain, I would say," he told the Committee.

This recalls nothing so much as the startling August 6, 2001 item in the President's Daily Brief (PDB) that was entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US."

But the 2001 warning to President Bush was classified at the highest possible level and remained secret for years thereafter, until it was finally dislodged at the insistence of the 9/11 Commission. In contrast, DNI Blair's comparable statement was openly presented and was about as public as it could be.

Why should that be so? Clearly the political circumstances for the two warnings are different, as are the venues in which they were delivered. But it is also true that the parameters of official secrecy are subject to change. Yesterday's top secret might not even qualify as today's front-page news.

The boundaries of official secrecy will be examined at a conference at the New School in New York City on February 24-26 on "Limiting Knowledge in a Democracy."

"There is no question that the free access to knowledge and information are the bedrock of all democratic societies, yet no democratic society can function without limits on what can be known, what ought to be kept confidential and what must remain secret," according to the conference overview. "The tension among these competing ends is ever present and continuously raises questions about the legitimacy of limits. What limits are necessary to safeguard and protect a democratic polity? What limits undermine it?"

I will be speaking on February 26 on "National Security Secrecy: How the Limits Change."


TWITTER IN CONGRESS, AND MORE FROM CRS

Some new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not previously been made available to the public include the following.

"Social Networking and Constituent Communications: Member Use of Twitter During a Two-Month Period in the 111th Congress," February 3, 2010:

"Metropolitan Transportation Planning," February 3, 2010:

"Veterans Health Care: Project HERO Implementation," February 3, 2010:


THE STATE SECRETS PRIVILEGE, AND MORE HEARINGS

Several noteworthy new hearing volumes on national security policy have recently appeared. In most cases, the published volumes include valuable new supplementary material for the record.

"Examining the State Secrets Privilege: Protecting National Security While Preserving Accountability," Senate Judiciary Committee, February 13, 2008 (published December 2009) (large PDF):

"Coercive Interrogation Techniques: Do They Work, Are They Reliable, and What Did the FBI Know About Them?", Senate Judiciary Committee, June 10, 2008 (published December 2009) (large PDF):

"Protecting National Security and Civil Liberties: Strategies for Terrorism Information Sharing," Senate Judiciary Committee, April 21, 2009 (published January 2010):

"Chinese Interrogation vs. Congressional Oversight: The Uighurs at Guantanamo," House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 16, 2009 (published December 2009):


< name="4">OSC VIEWS DEFENSE WEBSITES IN TAIWAN

Websites and blogs dealing with military issues in Taiwan were surveyed in a recent report from the DNI Open Source Center that has not been publicly released. See "Taiwan: Unofficial Military Websites," Open Source Center Media Aid, January 12, 2010:

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

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