Director, Government Secrecy Project
Steven Aftergood
National Security,
Classification Policy,
Secrecy

Steven Aftergood directed the FAS Project on Government Secrecy from 1991-2021. The Project aimed to reduce the scope of national security secrecy and to promote public access to government information.

In 1997, Mr. Aftergood was the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency which led to the declassification and publication of the total intelligence budget for the first time in fifty years ($26.6 billion in FY 1997). In 2006, he won a FOIA lawsuit against the National Reconnaissance Office for release of unclassified budget records.

Mr. Aftergood joined the FAS staff in 1989. From 1992-1998, he served on the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council.

His work on challenging government secrecy was recognized with the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the James Madison Award from the American Library Association, the Public Access to Government Information Award from the American Association of Law Libraries, and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation.

publications
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
A Push to Elevate Open Source Intelligence

Open source intelligence — which is derived from open, unclassified sources — should be recognized as a mature intelligence discipline that is no less important than other established forms of intelligence, the House of Representatives said last month in the FY 2022 defense authorization act (sec. 1612). The House directed the Secretary of Defense and the […]

10.04.21 | 2 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
Energy Dept Issues More Declassification Decisions

The formerly classified fact that one metric ton of plutonium metal was to be moved from the Savannah River Site in 2019 for use in nuclear weapon pit production at Los Alamos was declassified in 2018. This recently disclosed declassification decision was one of a handful of such actions that are taken each year by […]

10.04.21 | 2 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
US Army Views Chinese Military Tactics

How would China fight a war against the US? A new US Army publication sets out to answer that question, offering a detailed account of the military tactics China could employ. See Chinese Tactics, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 7-100.3, August 9, 2021. The 250-page document is mainly intended to help provide a realistic basis for […]

08.23.21 | 3 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
New Declassification Reforms Are Classified

Legislative measures to improve the process of declassifying classified national security information were introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden in the pending intelligence authorization act for FY2022. But they were included in the classified annex so their substance and import are not publicly known. “I remain deeply concerned about the failures of the Federal Government’s obsolete […]

08.23.21 | 1 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
Pentagon Sees “Increased Potential” for Nuclear Conflict

The possibility that nuclear weapons could be used in regional or global conflicts is growing, said a newly disclosed Pentagon doctrinal publication on nuclear war fighting that was updated last year. “Despite concerted US efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international affairs and to negotiate reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, since […]

07.06.21 | 4 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
DoD Again Presses for New FOIA Exemption

The Department of Defense is once again asking Congress for an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for certain unclassified military information including records on critical infrastructure and military tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). The latest proposal was included in the Pentagon’s draft of legislative language for the Fiscal Year 2022 defense authorization act (section 1002, […]

06.08.21 | 2 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
Nuclear Secrecy: In Defense of Reform

One of the stranger features of nuclear weapons secrecy is the government’s ability to reach out and classify nuclear weapons-related information that has been privately generated without government involvement. This happened most recently in 2001. The roots of this constitutionally questionable policy are investigated in Restricted Data, a book by science historian Alex Wellerstein that sheds new light […]

05.26.21 | 5 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
A Self-Correcting Classification System?

Those persons who have authorized access to classified information that they believe is improperly classified are “encouraged and expected” to challenge the classification of that information (Executive Order 13526, section 1.8). Sometimes they do. And every once in a while, their challenges lead to declassification of the information. A new report from the Government Accountability […]

04.20.21 | 3 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
A Resurgence of Democracy in 2040?

The world will be “increasingly out of balance and contested at every level” over the next twenty years due to the pressures of demographic, environmental, economic and technological change, a new forecast from the National Intelligence Council called Global Trends 2040 said last week. But among the mostly grim possible futures that can be plausibly anticipated […]

04.12.21 | 4 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
Army Program Seeks to Heighten Soldiers’ Cognition

A properly trained soldier can distinguish a vegetarian from a meat-eater based on their smell, a new Army publication says, since “different diets produce different human odors.” He or she can to determine the age, gender and even the mental state of a target by studying their footprints. Not simply a warrior, the ideal soldier is […]

04.12.21 | 1 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
A New Policy on Setting Intelligence Priorities

Shortly before the end of the Trump Administration in January 2021, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe issued a directive that altered the process for preparing the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, or NIPF, stripping out limitations on signals intelligence collection from the previous policy. The NIPF is perhaps the single most important administrative tool for managing the U.S. […]

03.22.21 | 4 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Blog
FAS Presses for Release of Nuclear Stockpile Data

Updated below For the past three years, the Trump Administration refused to provide an annual tally of the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile or the number of weapons that had been dismantled each year, though that had been the practice under the Obama Administration and through 2017. The Federation of American Scientists […]

03.11.21 | 2 min read
read more