from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
October 4, 2000


“I can’t help but think of how a foreign enemy might go about attacking the United States’ national security technology base," said Neal Lane, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, at a National Academy of Sciences workshop last week.

“A particularly insidious foreign enemy might try to destroy morale at our national laboratories, hamstring them with new regulations, isolate them from the international scientific community, drive away their most experienced, knowledgeable workers, and cut them off from promising new hires. As it says in one of my favorite philosophical treatises, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’."

The full text of Dr. Lane’s speech on “The New Security Environment" is now linked from here:


The Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2001, passed by the Senate earlier this week, includes several important provisions that have escaped much notice. Some of these provisions were explored in a colloquy on the Senate floor yesterday.

A. The “Leak" Statute

Most independent observers understand that the classification system is not a reliable index of the sensitivity of information. Yet while everyone else is seeking a new balance between security and openness, Congress is proceeding to enshrine the classification system as the foundation of a criminal statute. In particular, Congress is moving to categorically outlaw the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

In a confused exchange that suggested that classified “pillow talk" might be acceptable, the pending leak statute was discussed by Senators Shelby and Biden here:

B. The Counterintelligence Reform Act

In the first legislative response to the Wen Ho Lee case, a new provision would require the Attorney General to personally review and justify in writing any decision not to approve a request for electronic surveillance or physical search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The new statute would also expand the definition of “probable cause" to encompass factors that may have occurred several years prior to the requested surveillance.

In a sometimes tendentious account of the Wen Ho Lee case, Senator Arlen Specter yesterday explained his view of the need for these and other changes here:

C. Exempting U.S. Intelligence from Treaties

Section 305 of the new Act would exempt U.S. intelligence agencies from criminal laws that implement future treaties and international agreements, unless the intelligence agencies are specifically named in those laws.

“Intelligence gatheringspyingis an inherently deceitful activity," said Sen. Richard Bryan on Monday, by way of explanation. “Treaties that proscribe certain kinds of behavior should not inadvertently restrict ... intelligence activities."

This extraordinary loophole in international law was the subject of rather pedestrian commentary by Senators Biden and Shelby here:

A White House Statement of Administration Policy on the Senate intelligence bill was silent on all of these important issues. The White House Statement, dated October 2, is posted here:


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