SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 32
April 21, 2010

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

STATE DEPT SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN U.S.

The U.S. State Department is inviting members of the public to present their concerns about human rights in the United States as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, in which the human rights records of all UN Member States are to be reviewed.

"In the pursuit of a transparent and effective UPR process, the Department of State is encouraging the American public, including non-governmental organizations and civil society more broadly, to provide input regarding human rights in the United States directly to the Department of State."

"Your feedback is vital for us to better gauge the U.S. human rights situation now, and how protection of human rights can be improved in our country and around the world," the State Department website said. "We look forward to receiving your comments."

The Federation of American Scientists asked the State Department to turn its attention to those cases where a resolution of alleged human rights violations has been barred by the government's use of the state secrets privilege.

"There are innocent individuals who have been swept up in U.S. Government counterterrorism operations, wrongly detained, 'rendered' surreptitiously to foreign countries, subjected to extreme physical and mental stress, or otherwise wronged," we wrote. "In some cases, like those of persons such as Maher Arar and Khaled el-Masri, efforts to seek legal remedies have been blocked by the Government's invocation of the state secrets privilege. As a result, the alleged abuses committed in such cases remain unresolved, and there is no way for the affected individuals to be made whole."

"If the judicial process in such cases is foreclosed by the state secrets privilege, then an alternate procedure should be created to rectify the wrongs that may have been committed," we suggested.


PRIVACY IMPACT OF INTERNET SECURITY IS CLASSIFIED, NSA SAYS

New technologies could be used to improve internet security but the impact of those technologies on personal privacy is classified information, the director of the National Security Agency told Congress last week.

"How could the Internet be designed differently to provide much greater inherent security?" the Senate Armed Services Committee asked Lt. General Keith Alexander, who has been nominated to lead the new U.S. Cyber Command.

"The design of the Internet is - and will continue to evolve - based on technological advancements. These new technologies will enhance mobility and, if properly implemented, security," replied Gen. Alexander in his written answers in advance of an April 15 Committee hearing.

"What would the impact be on privacy, both pro and con?" the Committee continued.

The answer to that question was "provided in the classified supplement" to the General's response, and was not made public (see question 27).

"It is astounding that Lt. Gen. Alexander's remarks on the impact on privacy of future modifications to the Internet under his command should be withheld from the public," wrote Jared Kaprove and John Verdi of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), especially given the President's declared commitment to upholding privacy protection in the nation's cybersecurity policy.

Consequently, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking disclosure of the classified supplement to General Alexander's answers.

"There is a clear public interest in making known the Director's views on this critical topic," EPIC wrote in its request.


ACTIVITIES OF THE SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, 1976-2009

The Senate Intelligence Committee has posted a collection of its biennial public reports on the Committee's activities, from the first report in 1976 to the latest in 2009, providing a retrospective survey of intelligence controversies past and present.

"The committee has unintentionally produced a profoundly biased political document," complained the late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan in a statement appended to the very first report in 1976. "The committee reports on a world in which very simply, the values which the United States hopefully stands for do not seem to be threatened by any activity save the activities of the U.S. Government.... Nowhere is the Committee for State Security of the Soviet Union (the KGB) even alluded to. There is a pattern of avoidance of the reality of totalitarian threat throughout this document."

"I believe that my colleague misses the point," replied Sen. Joseph Biden in the same 1976 report. "At the heart of what is wrong with the intelligence community and what indeed has caused many of the abuses we have seen is the fact that most officials of the intelligence community do not know what they should and should not be doing.... We will not solve that problem by restating the obvious, that the Soviets operate a very effective intelligence service, unfettered by the restrictions of a vibrant constitution."

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

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