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The Washington Post
December 20, 1999

Back Channels: The Intelligence Community

By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer


FINDING ABSURDITY: Less than a month after a federal judge ruled that the CIA didn't have to give him an aggregate total for intelligence community spending in fiscal 1999, Steven Aftergood suffered another setback last week in his quest for greater government disclosure when a government panel refused his request for total intelligence spending 11 years earlier.

Aftergood, who heads the Federation of American Scientists' project on government secrecy, called the latest denial "just ineffably absurd."

While pursuing the 1999 spending total in court through the Freedom of Information Act, last year Aftergood requested the 1988 total through another process for obtaining secret government documents called mandatory declassification review.

When the CIA refused to release the figure, Aftergood appealed to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel.

"I figured, let's go back 10 years . . . and let's see how far budget secrecy goes," Aftergood said.

Now he knows: on Friday, the ISCAP informed him that it was upholding the agency's denial, agreeing that the total spent on intelligence in fiscal 1988 is still too sensitive to release.

"It has to get more absurd in order to get less absurd," Aftergood said. "And we're moving in that direction."

Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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