from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
November 1, 2000


With exquisite timing -- though any time would be right -- the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has published a special issue on government secrecy.

It includes a reasonably diverse range of views. (The view that everything is fine is not represented.) As summarized by editor Linda Rothstein:

“Steven Aftergood describes the reasons the American government wants to keep secrets from its citizens and suggests a few ways the habit might be curbed when the government’s reasons are not very good. Bulletin publisher Stephen Schwartz updates us on the twists and turns in the Wen Ho Lee case. Historian Peter Westwick revisits secrecy in the early post-war days. Howard Morland, who beat the censors in the Progressive case, says there is no secret-- or shouldn’t be. Proliferation expert David Albright disagrees. Historian Chuck Hansen updates the record of nuclear accidents."

Three of the articles are available online. The remainder are a sufficient reason to subscribe to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. See:

A story in yesterday’s Albuquerque Journal serves as a reminder that government secrecy can literally be dangerous to your health. In this case, security measures at Los Alamos National Laboratory are preventing completion of a study by the Centers for Disease Control of nuclear pollution at the lab, the Journal reported. (The implications of the story were also analyzed by David Albright in the Bulletin.) See “Security Threatens Inquiry" by Jennifer McKee here:


Opposition to legislation that would criminalize disclosures of classified information has continued to build on several fronts, leading to growing expectations of a Presidential veto of the Intelligence Authorization Act that contains the measure.

“Chief executives of four of the nation's largest news organizations wrote to President Clinton [Tuesday] urging him to veto" the leak statute, reported Raymond Bonner in the New York Times today:

The Los Angeles Times editorial board writes that “Congress, at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency, has moved to reinforce the government's propensity for secrecy.... This is overreach of the worst kind, and it deserves a presidential veto." See today’s editorial, entitled “Fuel for the Secrecy Addiction," here:

The new legislation is not an appropriate solution to any existing problem, suggested Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon at a press briefing yesterday. “It won't make it any easier to find the people who leak information than it is today. It doesn't do anything to give the government more powers to seek out and find those who leak classified information." See:

“The Case for Leaks" is discussed by Fiona Morgan of Salon Magazine and Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists here:


“The New York Times uncritically embraced the outlook of investigators in its breathless coverage of the Wen Ho Lee case. As a result, the nation's premier news organization tarnished not only the scientist but also its own reputation." So says the American Journalism Review in a lengthy article by Lucinda Fleeson in the November 2000 issue:


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