from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
October 3, 2000


The files downloaded by Wen Ho Lee are the “crown jewels” of the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Or they are not. A Senate Judiciary Subcommittee this morning heard testimony from witnesses arguing both sides of this threshold question.

Under the skillful questioning of Senator Arlen Specter, the two conflicting views converged somewhat, but not completely. Weapons designer emeritus John Richter acknowledged that the weapons design parameters downloaded by Wen Ho Lee, unlike the computer "source codes," were indeed sensitive and properly classified. Los Alamos Associate Director Stephen Younger acknowledged that to build a bomb, far more would be required than the information contained in the downloaded files, and that the files were not classified at the highest level. But there the matter stood.

Former Los Alamos counterintelligence chief Robert Vrooman and former DOE Intelligence Director Notra Trulock each provided vivid testimony in this unusually interesting hearing. The witnesses’ prepared statements are posted here:


With minimal debate or deliberation, the U.S. Senate on Monday night passed its version of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2001.

The Senate bill includes a provision that would criminalize leaks of classified information, above and beyond the penalties that already exist for disclosure of intelligence agents’ identities and certain communications intelligence and cryptographic information.

Under the new Senate provision, consequently, disclosure of the amount of the intelligence budget -- which is around $30 billion and nominally classified -- would be a crime. One would have to commit a felony in order to comply with the Constitutional requirement of publishing “a regular statement and account” of government spending.

The new bill also exempts U.S. intelligence agencies from laws implementing treaties and international agreements; modifies the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; establishes a new advisory board on declassification matters, as advocated by the retiring Senator Moynihan; and creates a redundant new Working Group to promote declassification of records concerning Japanese Imperial Army war crimes.

The full text of the Senate bill, which now goes to a House-Senate conference, and the associated statements are posted here:


The Central Intelligence Agency boasted of having declassified 5 million pages of records last year. “This is the largest release of formerly classified CIA documents ever,” said DCI George Tenet on October 2.

The CIA declassification program is widely disdained for its insistence on obsolete classification criteria, and its consistent failure to fulfill its commitments and obligations.

Despite its latest declassification achievements, CIA declassification activity remains far below the levels required by President Clinton in executive order 12958. That order required that each agency declassify 15% of its non-exempt holdings of permanently valuable 25 year old records each year between 1995 and 2000. In CIA’s case, that requirement translates into about 9 million pages annually, a level it has never achieved.

CIA’s October 2 announcement was reported by Toby Zakaria in a Reuters dispatch posted here:


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