SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 57
July 15, 2010

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

1968 SENATE SESSIONS ON FOREIGN RELATIONS DECLASSIFIED

Newly declassified transcripts of closed hearings and executive sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1968 were published by the Committee yesterday. The transcripts include an extended inquiry into the official version of 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and which became the object of increasing skepticism, inside and outside of government.

"If this country has been misled, if this committee, this Congress, has been misled by pretext into a war in which thousands of young men have died, and many more thousands have been crippled for life, and out of which their country has lost prestige, moral position in the world, the consequences are very great," said then-Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-TN).

Senator Wayne Morse (D-OR) urged the Committee to take a more assertive and public role in questioning the (Johnson) Administration.

"I hope to God we haven't gone so far that we are now going to operate a government by secrecy in time of crisis," Senator Morse said. "I don't know what has happened to us that we have got the notion that you have got to operate in time of war a government by secrecy. I say you are carrying the very foundations of the Government away if you are continuing this."

See "Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series)," Volume XX, 1968:

It has been three years since the Committee published the previous volume of declassified executive sessions for the preceding year (1967) in April 2007. At the present rate of production, the complete historical record of Committee deliberations should be available approximately... never. On the other hand, the volume before that (1966) was published in 1993, fourteen years earlier, so one could say that the pace of publication is accelerating sharply!

The growing backlog of classified historical congressional records will be discussed by the Public Interest Declassification Board at a special public meeting on Thursday, July 22 at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. The subject will be addressed by Porter Goss, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman and former DCIA, as well as several other scholars and experts. In a Thursday morning session, the Board will also consider the challenges posed by the classification category known as Formerly Restricted Data, a topic that will be discussed by myself and others. For more information and a meeting agenda, see here:


PROJECT BIOSHIELD LOSES MOMENTUM

Project Bioshield, a program that was created by the Bush Administration in 2004 to foster development of new drugs to respond to a potential bioterrorism attack, now faces significant budget cuts from Congress with the acquiescence of the Obama Administration.

Supporters of the program argue that the reductions to Project Bioshield are shortsighted and dangerously unwise. Critics say the Project is a boondoggle that has produced little of value.

The budget cut is "an extremely negative development in our overall efforts to prepare not only for bioterrorism but for other biological events from nature," former Sen. Bob Graham told the Los Angeles Times. ("Bioterrorism experts condemn a move to cut reserve money" by Ken Dilanian, July 13.)

But Project Bioshield reflects a mistaken prioritization of an extreme scenario, said George Smith of GlobalSecurity.org, who added that even within the domain of pharmaceuticals, the money involved would be better spent elsewhere. "The country needs more antibiotics to fight infectious bacterial diseases-- magnitudes more than it needs anything BioShield could theoretically furnish," he said.

A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service says the cuts to Project Bioshield are consistent with its actual expenditures, which have been lower than originally anticipated, and "could be interpreted as Congress and the President adjusting the amount of funds available so that they track more closely with the actual ability of HHS to obligate them." See "Project Bioshield: Authorities, Appropriations, Acquisitions, and Issues for Congress," July 7, 2010:

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

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