Secrecy News

FAS As a “Front Company”

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) is a “front company” that seeks “to expose national security information,” according to a new briefing on classification policy prepared by a U.S. Marine Corps official.  See “Derivative Classification Requirements 2009” (pdf), U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

The 13 page briefing, which pedantically explains the proper marking of derivatively classified records, suddenly veers off at page 10 into a factually mistaken claim that “all classified material is being challenged with a view to declassification.”

Out of nowhere, the anonymous briefer asserts that “The Federation of American Scientists is a good example of a front company trying to expose National Security Information under the pretense [probably should be: pretext] of ‘World Peace’.”

“‘No secrets in government’ is their mantra,” the briefing states.

That’s close, but the correct mantra is “No stupidity in government.”

0 thoughts on “FAS As a “Front Company”

  1. I read your article regarding the Marine Corp briefing paper and it exposes the healthy tug of war between transparency and secrecy.

    The Marines are expressing a frustration with the publication of information that may be detrimental to our and their security.

    It is naive to think that people who are intent on causing us harm don’t read FAS newsletters and get useful information. No one can make a determination of what constitutes useful information unless they have all the information – i.e the information that is classified and not available. I’m sure you are cautious and I’ll bet there are things that you have not published. In reality the decisions concerning what to publish are made in the dark.

    When one takes into account the possible ramifications if you make the wrong decision the Marine Corps’ statement becomes understandable. If transparency is considered more important than the potential for a security problem then I think the Marines are right.

  2. Robert: Perhaps the Marines are right to be cautious and to set their classification procedures in dialectic opposition to the principles of FAS. But to assert that the FAS is a “front company”? That’s hyperbolic enough for the author’s boss to worry about his or her competence.

  3. Robert,

    I think I understand your worries, and I respect them, but:

    As far as I know, Mr. Aftergood has been publishing officially DECLASSIFIED documents concerning not only the U.S. Marine Corps, but many other American state institutions. If the institution – the Marine Corps or any other – has analyzed and decided to declassify a document, the public understands that the document (or, at least, the portion which has been released) was considered not able to harm or threaten the security of the country and/or its officials/officers/soldiers/agents. Of couse, information not important to one may be crucial to others, and a single piece of information may not cause any harm but, combined with other pieces already declassified in the past or from other sources…the set of those pieces together may sometimes produce very “destructive” material. BUT THIS RESPONSIBILITY IS NOT MR. AFTERGOOD’S, nor the public’s…it is part of the responsibilities and major concerns of the analysts in charge of declassifying or not the official papers. They are paid to do that.

    If the Marines are worried about (possibly) compromising information regarding them published at Secrecy News, they should complain to their personnel responsible for declassifying their papers, not to Mr. Aftergood and other people who, like him, struggle to bring to the light (and to the citizens/voters) many “wrongdoings” carried out in secrecy by the governing officials, civil servants and/or the armed forces. Secrecy may be necessary to the building of a realistic and effective security system of a nation, but secrecy can bring many “temptations” with it and too much secrecy can destroy any democracy anywhere…

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