Government Secrecy

The FAS Project on Government Secrecy works to reduce the scope of official secrecy and to promote public access to national security information by seeking reform of national security classification and declassification policies.

The Project also publishes previously undisclosed or hard-to-find government documents of public policy interest, as well as resources on intelligence policy. The Project is directed by Steven Aftergood.

Government Secrecy Links

Government Secrecy

What’s Classified and What’s Not

It is important to understand that there is no rigorous, consensual definition of what constitutes classified information. Instead, in a practical sense, classified information is whatever the executive branch says it is. (A minority of classified information, such as nuclear weapons design information, is specified and protected by statute. The… Read More

Congress Fumbles Over Warrantless Surveillance

On February 16, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller presented a proposal to investigate the National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program. A copy of Sen. Rockefeller’s motion, outlining the scope of the proposed investigation, is here. But Committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts blocked a vote… Read More

In the News

“Selectively applied, the declassification process can become political and sleazy,” according to an editorial in the Buffalo News. See “Cheney misuses expanded powers,” February 18. The spectrum of opinion and analysis on the Vice President’s declassification authority was surveyed in “Cheney’s Secret Powers” by Dan Froomkin, White House… Read More

ABA Urges Review of “Sensitive But Unclassified” Policy

The American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a resolution (pdf) this week calling on the Attorney General to clarify that designating a record as “sensitive but unclassified” does not provide a legal basis for withholding that record. The ABA also called for establishment of a standardized policy for employing… Read More

Homeland Security Intelligence Strategic Plan

Efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to assert itself as a viable member of the U.S. intelligence community have yielded a new strategic plan for homeland security intelligence and a management directive organizing the Department’s intelligence activity. The new strategic plan is a handsome document, but largely devoid of… Read More

CRS Reports on China

Several recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service deal with the People’s Republic of China, including the following. “China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues,” updated January 31, 2006. “China’s Economic Conditions,” updated January 12, 2006. “China’s Trade with the United… Read More

In the News

In discussing the Vice President’s declassification authority yesterday, we should have noted that some categories of information are protected by statute, not just by executive order. Such information, including intelligence sources and methods that are protected by the National Security Act, cannot simply be declassified by presidential (or vice… Read More

SSCI Confirmation Hearings

The records of two confirmation hearings conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have just been published: that of Benjamin A. Powell to be General Counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and that of John S. Redd to be Director of the National… Read More